Researchers find previously unknown Nazi deportation photos in Dresden

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Unique photos from Wroclaw were taken secretly and at great risk by a persecuted Jew

Researchers find previously unknown Nazi deportation photos in Dresden: two phot
Researchers find previously unknown Nazi deportation photos in Dresden: two photos from the collection showing people from Breslau shortly before deportation. Image source: Saxony State Association of Jewish Communities; Collage: Freie Universität Berlin
The international research network "#LastSeen. Images of Nazi Deportations" presents previously unknown photos of persecuted Jews during the Nazi era. The original photos, in which Breslau residents can be seen shortly before deportation, were recently found in the archives of the Saxon Association of Jewish Communities in Dresden and jointly researched. The photos were taken by a Jewish photographer who had secretly taken them from hiding at great risk during two deportations in 1941 and 1942. The photos were published on the digital image atlas #LastSeen on the occasion of the day commemorating the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp on January 26, 2024.

"The archive find by our colleague Steffen Heidrich in Dresden, which is as accidental as it is outstanding, opens up completely new perspectives on the deportations of people persecuted as Jews in Wroclaw," says Alina Bothe, head of the international research project #LastSeen. The find consists of 13 original prints that were secretly taken by a Jewish photographer at great risk. The pictures show the photographer’s clear intention to document the terrible events for posterity. This is extraordinary, as very few photographs of deportations taken by persecuted people have survived. The photographs show two different deportations: 12 photos are from November 1941 and another from April 1942.

The historical background:

On November 21, 1941, more than 1,000 people from Breslau were arrested by the police and taken to the Schießwerder restaurant near Odertor station, where they had to spend a total of four days in a confined space before being forced onto a train to Kaunas on November 25. Immediately after arriving in Kaunas, all the people were shot by a task force in Fort IX four days later. There are no survivors of this deportation. The photos are therefore the last testimonies of those murdered. From April 9, 1942, almost a thousand people were once again gathered in the Schießwerder restaurant in Breslau and transported from there four days later by train to Izbica. Only two people survived this deportation.

The photographer:

After comparing the possibilities, it is very likely that the pictures were taken by Albert Hadda (1892-1975). Hadda was an architect and very experienced amateur photographer with excellent equipment. After examining the photographs, it is clear that the photographer was not a perpetrator or a random passer-by, as access to the site was forbidden to bystanders. The photographs were taken secretly by an experienced photographer who had the appropriate equipment. Hadda was initially partially protected by his marriage to a non-Jewish woman. He had already been working for the Jewish community in Breslau since being banned from his profession in 1934, and from April 1942 he officially supervised the deportation transports on behalf of the community. Despite the ban, he took several secret documentary photographs, which are now privately owned. Hadda was taken to a forced labor camp in 1944, from where he managed to escape to Breslau in January 1945. He hid in Wroclaw until the liberation. He later arrived in Erfurt with a transport of survivors from Breslau and later lived in Fulda. It can be assumed that Hadda handed over the photos in Erfurt and that they reached Dresden from there.

What can you see in the pictures?

Albert Hadda photographed from behind the scenes. The newly discovered original prints show that the pictures were taken hidden behind wall projections and in vehicles. His pictures show how people had to gather at the deportation site. They prepare themselves for the check-in and the still unclear transportation. Luggage is piled up everywhere. Although the photographer cannot yet know what will happen to the people, it is clear to him that this act must be recorded, that this is a crime worth documenting. This explains his primarily documentary view of the events.

The photographs from November 1941 show the gathering of people in the beer garden of the Schießwerder restaurant, the loading of luggage and other aspects of the so-called "Durchschleusung", the "processing" of people destined for deportation. The picture from April 1942 shows how four elderly women loaded with heavy luggage enter the Schießwerder restaurant and gather there for deportation.

The find:

Steffen Heidrich, historian and employee of the Saxony State Association of Jewish Communities, came across the central archive find with the 13 original prints showing deportations from Breslau a few months ago while voluntarily reviewing the archives of the state association. In a joint work process with the international research project "#LastSeen. Images of Nazi Deportations" and the BKM Junior Professorship "Economic and Social Networks of Germans in Eastern Europe in the 19th and 20th Centuries" at the University of Dresden, the extraordinary photos were catalogued and analyzed. The findings were then validated in an internal peer review process. The Landesverband Sachsen der Jüdischen Gemeinden, K.d.ö.R. represents the interests of Jews in Saxony. Its archives contain administrative documents as well as visual and audio documents that are still largely unexplored.

The #LastSeen research network:

The international research network "#LastSeen. Images of Nazi Deportations" has collected around 500 Nazi deportation photos from 60 cities in the territory of the German Reich within the borders of 1937 since 2021. Many of the persecuted Jews, Sinti and Roma or "euthanasia" victims depicted in the photos can be seen for the last time. As part of the research project, the background to the photos will be researched and scientifically contextualized. A digital image atlas will make the historical photos publicly accessible with scientific classifications. With #LastSeen, the association aims to carry out basic research on National Socialism and make the results freely accessible. It also aims to convey the deep involvement of the German population in the murder of millions of people. Six renowned partner organizations are working together on the international joint project #LastSeen: the Arolsen Archives - International Center on Nazi Persecution, the USC Dornsife Center for Advanced Genocide Research, Los Angeles, the House of the Wannsee Conference Memorial and Educational Site, Berlin, the Hadamar Memorial, Public History Munich and the Selma Stern Center for Jewish Studies Berlin-Brandenburg, which is based at the Free University of Berlin.

Since its founding in December 1948, the academic ethos of Freie Universität Berlin has been determined by three values: Truth, Justice and Freedom.