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Eye on the Reich: German propaganda photographs, 1939-1942

Over 400 photographs produced by the Nazi Government's Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda depicting the Third Reich at the height of its power, and attributed to the studio of Heinrich Hoffmann, Adolf Hitler's personal photographer.

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[On the seventh anniversary of (his) coming to power, the Führer spoke to the whole nation.] (1940). Digital ID: 3956155 [On the seventh anniversary of (his) coming to power, the Führer spoke to the whole nation.] (1940) Digital ID: 3956155

Collection History

Attributed to the studio of Heinrich Hoffmann, Adolf Hitler's personal photographer, these photographs were originally published in volumes titled Grossdeutschland im Weltgeschehen, Tagesbildberichte, one each for the years 1939-1942. Following a European publishing tradition of albums into which subscribers would paste stickers, art reproductions or photographs, these large-format books featured space for four photos per page with captions already printed under them. In this case, the subject of the books was events in German history from 1939-1942.

An incomplete set of these photographs was found among the Picture Collection's holdings several years ago. The images had been peeled from the pages and their captions cut out separately, the photos and descriptions in two rubber-banded stacks. A system of numbers had been assigned to matching pairs of picture and text, with the presumed idea of mounting them together as individual small items. Picture Collection staff had to match the texts to the items they described, transcribe the old style German "Fraktur" text and finally translate the German into English. The problems of translation were compounded by the fact that the text contained many military terms and names of organizations and ranks peculiar to the national Socialist era.

Background

The photographs of the collection show Nazi Germany as it wanted the world (and its own people) to see it. They show victorious soldiers with mighty weapons, stoic civilians gladly helping the war cause, "atrocities" committed by the dastardly foe, the Fuhrer engaged in military, diplomatic and domestic affairs (aided by senior Nazi and Axis officials) and, most importantly, everyday life under the Third Reich. The photo captions are of equal value to the illustrations, as they give the official "party line" interpretation of the events depicted. In keeping with the purpose of commemorating victory, the collection does not include scenes of hardship on the home front, defeats on the battlefield, or the persecution and murder of Jews, Slavs and others. By the end of 1942, with more bad news than good coming from the fronts, the albums that comprise the collection ceased to be issued.

Related Resources

Baird, Jay W. The Mythical World of Nazi War Propaganda, 1939-1945. (1974)

Bytwerk, Randall and Calvin College, Grand Rapids, MI. Nazi Propaganda: 1933-1945. (revised 2011) <http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/ww2era.htm>

Herzstein, Robert Edwin. The war that Hitler won; the most infamous propaganda campaign in history. (1978)

Kershaw, Ian. The "Hitler Myth": Image and Reality in the Third Reich. (1987)

Hoffmann, Heinrich. Hitler was my friend; translated by R. H. Stevens. (1955)

Welch, David. The Third Reich: Politics and Propaganda. (2002)

Library Division(s)

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