Thursday, June 05, 2014

Pictures Taken From Fallen Nazis In the Invasion of Normandy, 1944 -- by My Uncle Who Was There

Here are some of the photos that my uncle recovered from fallen German soldiers during the invasion of Normandy (D-Day), seventy years ago.  These photos have not been published before -- they are the personal photos of German families and friends, carried by German troops who died in France on and after D-Day.  Click on each photo to see it full size.

Corporal Franz Schmid.  This photo was found in the wallet of a friend or relative at Normandy.  This soldier probably died on the Russian Front, perhaps in the Battle of Kursk.  He is painfully young in this picture.

The verbiage is from a death announcement that also bore this photo, found in the same wallet.  It was printed in German and translated by a German friend of mine.

Click to view full size.

UPDATE:  I found the German Military Graves Commission website and database online, and Franz Schmid is listed.  He did indeed die in the battle of Kursk, Russia and is buried at the German cemetery there, Besedino.  The database gives a slightly different birthdate for Franz, Oct 18, 1920 rather than Oct 20, 1920.  Here is the online record:

Unknown boy, wearing the uniform of the Hitler Youth.  This pic of this young man was found in one of the wallets my uncle recovered from the body of a fallen Nazi soldier at Normandy -- probably a relative of the fallen soldier who owned the wallet.

I have been researching this uniform for a couple of hours, and have learned that the uniform is that of the the German Reichsarbeitdienst (RAD), or German National Work Service.  It is not of the Hitler Youth as I originally thought, though the jacket is almost identical, and the hat similar, to those of the Hitler Youth.  The RAD was formed in July of 1934 as the official state and party labor service.  It was an auxiliary service to the military, but was not part of the military, even though it's members wore military style uniforms.

German youth between 18 and 25 were obligated to serve six months in the RAD or other national service, and then two years in the military after that.  

The cool hat being worn by this man is a Robin Hood RAD cap.  The RAD symbol on the front of the cap is the head of a shovel.

Alfred Schmid, probably the brother of Franz Schmid above.  Papers in the wallet identified this man.  He too fell in battle, also on the Russian front.

He is wearing a dress uniform complete with white gloves and a ceremonial sword.

It appears the photograph was taken in his living room.

German soldiers in an army barracks, possibly during basic training.  They are goofing off, mugging at the camera and striking poses.  Look at one man holding crossed bayonets, and another with a bayonet in his teeth.

I wonder how many of these young men survived the war.

This photograph always seemed sad and poignant to me.  A German soldier is kissing his sweetheart, perhaps before shipping out.  His name and that of his sweetheart are unknown.

Update:  Reader Doug Kursk says the eagle on this soldier's arm indicates he was a member of the SS, presumably the Waffen SS, who went into battle like other troops.

Two German soldiers on a motorcycle -- names and location unknown.

German soldiers on a train.  The little boy among them is interesting and puzzling.

Undoubtedly someone's mom, tending chickens back home while her sons went off to fight and die in Hitler's war.  Name and location unknown -- undoubtedly somewhere in Germany.

Some German soldier's sister, sweetheart or wife.  She was cute and had a nice smile.  Name and location unknown -- undoubtedly somewhere in Germany.

I have additional photos from the wallets, but not all are interesting.  There's a group of boys in Bavarian dress, playing accordions outside a shop; pictures apparently from Russia, and others.


Doug Kursk said...

A few notes I made while looking at your pics..

The first picture shows the Cpl. as a regular soldat, no evidence of rank shown in the pic. It was quite often the case in the Wehrmacht that the deceased was promoted to his next rank posthumously.

Your second picture shows a young man in the uniform of the RAD (the paramilitary national labour service) and not the HJ. Very distinctive Robin Hood cap!

The soldier kissing his sweety is an NCO in the SS as evidenced by the eagle situated on his arm .


Stogie Chomper said...

Doug, you are quite correct about the young man in the RAD outfit with the Robin Hood cap. I have been researching that uniform for a couple of hours and have found a lot of information on the RAD. I will correct my explanation.

Always On Watch said...

While I am one to demonize the enemy, I do try to remember that those who fought for enemy forces had their own lives and their own loved ones too.

War is a terrible thing, but it's not the most terrible thing. The most terrible thing is to allow evil to triumph.

I do realize, of course, that many of those conscripted by the Third Reich were not themselves evil.

Always On Watch said...

The eyes of the young man in that first photo are haunting.

Stogie Chomper said...

Yes, it's hard to understand how any German could have believed in the righteousness of the Nazi cause. However, their early aims were understandable, to retrieve lost territory from World War I and repudiate the grossly unfair armistice signed at Versailles, which greatly impoverished Germans for a war they were no more responsible for than the allies. Hitler achieved this without war, but then he got greedy and started invading other European countries, and began the Holocaust. When a people (like the Germans) cede complete political power to a single man or a single party, the result is likely to be totalitarianism, tyranny and aggression.

Stogie Chomper said...

I agree -- there are worse things than war. Living under abject tyranny would be worse than death, i.e. "I'd rather die on my feet than live on my knees." Yes, probably most German soldiers were there because they were drafted, and to refuse meant death. No doubt many, if not most, of these believed in Hitler and trusted his leadership. I do not know how many hated Jews, but probably most of them did. Yes, they were human, like us, though under the influence of a mass psychosis and an evil culture. In a sense, they too were victims of Hitler. However, on D-Day they were shooting our troops, and all psychological ruminations and philosophical musings had to be put on hold, and the Nazis had to surrender or die. I can offer them no sympathy.

Always On Watch said...

I don't really have sympathy for them. Not exactly. But I do have an older friend who was a child in when Hitler came to power, and she expressed the powerlessness to stop him. Her brother was, in effect, kidnapped and forced into the army. He was killed in action, and she has already wondered if he refused to fire his weapon. The family secretly helped a few Jews to escape, but doing so was very difficult to accomplish.

I agree with you that there may well have been a "mass psychosis."

Stogie Chomper said...

The German lady who translated Franz Schmid's death announcement told me that her uncle has been pressed into the German army at age 17, near the end of the war when the Germans were desperate. The uncle was promptly killed in action, and she still resents it.

travlr009 said...

sociopaths are often charming, charismatic and very manipulative