The Problem that makes all Europe Wonder – Picture Post, 1945

This was the third major story Picture Post published on the Holocaust, after the liberations of the camps in Italy and in Dora. The story concerned Wöbbelin concentration camp, established in early 1945 as a subcamp of the Neuengamme concentration camp cluster, a sprawling system of nearly 100 subcamps housing over 100,000 inmates across northern Germany. As the Allied forces advanced, Wöbbelin was hastily set up to house prisoners evacuated from other camps.

The conditions were dire from on the onset, and when the Americans liberated Wöbbelin in May 1945, they found hundreds of emaciated prisoners and numerous unburied bodies. The conditions were so shocking that the U.S. Army forced local German civilians to bury the dead and witness the horrors perpetrated in the camp, which was the focus of the Picture Post‘s story, which was accompanied by words of the British philosopher, Bertrand Russell.

The first photograph showed German civilians digging graves in the town square for the victims, followed by images that showed the mass graves at the site of the concentration camp. On the following page, the sheeted bodies of the dead awaited re-burial in a lawn that once belonged to a Nazi official.

Other photos focused on the German civilians being led to witness the atrocities of the concentration camp situated on the outskirts of their town. Men and women file past the rows of dead bodies wrapped in white sheets; behind them are the white, wooden crosses erected by troops. The photos complemented Russell’s essay dismissing the notion that “the German nation collectively has sinned, and must be punished,” a view point that the Picture Post would lean towards, and calling for Germans to “be restored to sanity and capacity for partnership in the community of nations.”

Liked it? Take a second to support Iconic Photos on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *