The New York Times just unlocked a mystery about a photo album taken during the Nazi era. The album is about 70 years old. The mystery was solved in about four hours.
The Times‘s photography blog Lens came upon the album’s 214 photos on Tuesday morning, EST. All but one was uncaptioned. The photos provided unfettered access to the Nazi war machine. One shot was only a few feet from Adolf Hitler. Others are from the Bavarian countryside and Munich and appear to be vacation pictures.
On Tuesday evening, the blog and a Spiegel Online site called EinesTages asked readers to help identify the photographer. Within a short time, a woman named Harriet Scharnberg wrote from Hamburg, Germany, claiming the photos were taken by Franz Kreiger, an Austrian photojournalist who had photographed Marlene Dietrich, among others, before the war. (See image.) Kreiger later joined the Nazi party and the SS, but left in 1941 to become a member of the Propagandakompanie, which disseminated propaganda on behalf of the Wehrmacht, the German home defense force.
Scharnberg knew of Kreiger because she is writing her Ph.D. dissertation at Martin Luther University on German prograpanda photos. In particular, Scharnberg had read a 2008 book The Salzberg Press Photographer Franz Krieger (1914-1993): Photojournalism in the Shadow of Nazi Propaganda and War by Peter F. Kramml. Kramml also responded and sent solid evidence that of the photos’ creator: A self-portrait taken by Krieger that’s identical to one in the album.
Though the photographer has been identified, there’s still a question of how the album made its way to the U.S. The blog notes that a New York-based garment executive lent the album to The Times, but the unnamed exec apparently doesn’t know the album’s origin. Kramml speculated that a U.S. soldier took the photos home after 1945.
Image courtesy of Salzburg Municipal Archive
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