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Erich Friedrich Wilhelm Ludendorff (09.04.1865-20.12.1937) made history as a talented strategist, theorist of German militarism and founding father of the "Total war" concept. He was arguably the most significant German military leader during the WWI. Soon after the war broke out he was appointed Chief of Staff of Paul von Hindenburg, and since August 1916 became the chief manager of the German war effort.
Bent on a military career, Ludendorff entered military cadet school at the age twelve in 1878, and five years later he was admitted to the Military Academy. His service record looks very impressive: Secondeleutnant (15.04.1882); Premierleutnant (01.07.1890); Hauptmann (March 1895); Major (01.07.1902); Oberstleutnant (01.04.1908); Obesrt (21.04.1911); Generalmajor (22.04.1914); Generalleutnant (27.11.1914); General der Infanterie (29.08.1916).
The entire life of Erhard Milch (30.03.1892-25.01.1972), co-founder and one of the most prominent leaders of Luftwaffe was closely bonded with aviation, whether civil or military. Born to a Breslau-born Jewish pharmacist Anton Milch, Erhard wasn’t admitted to the Kaiserliche marine in 1910 because of his half-German ancestry. Undeterred, he enlisted in the Army and rose to the rank of an artillery officer. Milch ended the Great War as a Hauptmann with the Imperial Air Force unit. Having resigned from the military in 1920, Milch started what turned out to be a breathtaking career in civil aviation. He headed his own airlines Lloyd Ostflug, worked for Junkers Luftverkehr, and was made managing director of Deutsche Lufthansa in 1926.
The future King Alexander I of Yugoslavia (16.12.1888-09.10.1934) spent his childhood in Montenegro and was educated in Geneva (Switzerland). He continued his military schooling in Saint Petersburg and Belgrade.
After Alexander’s elder brother Prince George renounced the throne in 1909, the future King as the new Crown Prince of Serbia reorganized the Serbian army, preparing for the ultimate battle against the Ottoman Empire that still occupied part of the Balkans. Crown Prince Alexander fought victorious battles in both Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913 and was the supreme commander of the Serbian army in the World War I. On June 11, 1916 Crown Prince Alexander became the Regent of Serbia when King Peter I partially transferred his duties owing to ill health.
Heinrich Luitpold Himmler (07.10.1900-23.05.1945) was one of the few Third Reich leaders who never fought during the Great War. Unlike his elder brother Gebhard Ludwig, Heinrich didn’t see any action, though the Reichsführer-to-be enrolled into the Königlich bayerisches 11.Infanterie-Regiment von der Tann at the end of 1917: the war ended while young Heinrich studied in military institutions of Regensburg, Freising and Bayreuth in the hope of being promoted to the rank of an officer. Himmler’s only term as a soldier, or rather commander came at the closing stage of the WWII when he was appointed commander of the Army Group Vistula (Heeresgruppe Weichsel) formed on January 24, 1945.
Reinhard Tristan Eugen Heydrich (07.03.1904-04.06.1942) made history as one of the most sinister personalities of the Third Reich and is often regarded as probably the darkest figure of the National Socialist elite feared throughout Germany. During his short life Heydrich held several key posts in the state machine – director of the Reich Main Security Office (RSHA), head of Gestapo, acting protector of Bohemia and Moravia and even president of Interpol. His professional military career began in the Reichsmarine of the Weimar Republic where he was finally promoted to Oberleutnant zur See on July 01, 1928.
Franz Xaver Epp, the son of the painter Rudolf Epp (30.07.1834-08.08.1910) and Katharina Streibel (died in 1912) was born on October 16, 1868 in Munich. Having left public school in Augsburg and humanitarian gymnasium in Munich, Epp joined Royal Bavarian army as Fahnenjunker of the Königlich Bayerisches 9.Infanterie-Regiment “Wrede” on August 16, 1887. He entered the military school in Munich (Kriegsschule München) and was awarded a rank of Fähnrich on March 09, 1888 and Sekondelieutenant upon graduation, on October 30, 1889.
This article aims at classification of German photos of the WWII as nearly each type of the under-mentioned pictures could be easily found in collections of all who are interested in paper artifacts of the bygone era.
Press photos, or Publishing photos are undoubtedly one of the widely available and most affordable collectible paper items sought after either as separate or secondary subject of collecting. Originally intended to portray current events and latest developments without bias, press photos with their once primary mission of impartial description turned soon into a tool of displaying a subjective approach. Countless press photos distributed worldwide were aimed at achieving ideological and propagandistic goals of the world powers. However, above mentioned statement is true with regard to numerous publishing photos depicting political and military events.
Hermann Wilhelm Göring (January 12, 1893, Rosenheim – October 15, 1946, Nuremberg) might be regarded as one of the most colorful personalities of the Third Reich in terms of passion for various awards and decorations. Generally recognized ace fighter pilot of the Great War who covered himself with fame and was decorated with the highest Prussian order of merit, Pour le mérite, a.k.a. the “Blue Max”, Göring ended as the victim of his own foible soon after he rose to power in the beginning of the 1930s. Keenly aware of fascination of the all-powerful Reichsmarschall with awards, governments of allied countries showered Göring with the highest classes of their national orders.
The Great War, hastily determined as “the war to end all wars” never actually managed to achieve that aim, but quite the contrary did recarve the map of the world, led to numerous conflicts including the most bloody one thirty years later and resulted in millions of casualties and sufferings across the Europe. However, WWI contributed a lot to development of industries, military science and, last but not least, amended theory and practice of the medical service of the Great Powers. Although evolution of medicine by the beginning of the Great War in comparison with that during the European wars of the XIX century was incommensurably higher, trench warfare as an integral part of the WWI did take military medics by unpleasant surprise. Galloping technological advance not only gave birth to hitherto unseen armored monsters, nicknamed “tanks”, but also suggested a flagrant idea of utilization of toxic agents to gas enemy troops en masse.
Wire photos, or Wirephotos are one of the common types of vintage archive photographs that emerge occasionally in militaria market and are often mistakenly considered to be low-quality press-photos. Wire photos could be easily identified as such judging from the following criteria: relatively large format – slightly less than standard A4 size, 8x10 inch approximately; glossy surface; poor contrast; defocused blurry image; sepia or brown tone color; thin paper sometimes; credit line or stamp of a photo agency on obverse or reverse.
German remembrance cards, a.k.a. death cards (Sterbebilder) from both world wars that should not be mistakenly referred to as KIA notices are still widely available in the market and represent a narrow though quite popular niche in collecting of militaria due to their relatively low cost in comparison with photos or documents. Significance and main elements of remembrance cards will be dealt with in this article. Remembrance cards being religious tributes to a deceased member or members of family represent historical tradition not only in Germany but other European countries as well as in the USA.
Universal remedy that could be safely used to detect fake photo hardly exists, but following several recommendations set forth below might prevent disappointment that inevitably accompanies purchase of forgeries. Nevertheless, a wealth of knowledge seems not to be useful enough without experience as only years of collecting and studying of thousands of photos bring wisdom.
Kurrent represents an old form of the German language handwriting based on late medieval cursive writing. It is also widely known as Kurrentschrift or Alte Deutsche Schrift (“Old German script”). One can easily find dedications written using various forms of Kurrent script on the reverses of portraits from the pre-war and WW1 era as well as whole letters executed in this elegant form of handwriting.
Hand-written abbreviations of various units commonly found on the backside of photos are in fact an invaluable source of information for identification purposes. These inscriptions made nearly a century ago and sometimes representing hardly recognizable numerals and digits either in half-erased pencil or faded ink could help modern-day collectors to dig into the story behind a photograph.
Every collector of old German photos dating from the Imperial era till the last days of the Third Reich is undoubtedly familiar with a traditional way of putting date a picture was taken, i.e. mentioning of a certain major religious holiday or its eve instead of the exact date. The role religion played and still plays in Europe made it unnecessary for soldiers and officers to duplicate dates as they were naturally clear for their relatives and friends who received long-awaited photos.
By the beginning of the XX century the German Empire consisted of four kingdoms, six grand duchies, five duchies, seven principalities, three free Hanseatic cities and one Imperial territory. The Kingdom of Prussia was the largest and the most powerful of all those states. Each component of the Empire had its own constitution, state machine, legal system as well as executive, representative and judicial bodies.