The international research network #LastSeen. Images of Nazi Deportations found previously unknown images of persecuted Jews during National Socialism. The original photos, in which Breslau residents can be seen shortly before deportation, were taken in secret by a Jewish photographer in hiding, who took them at great risk during two deportations in 1941 and 1942. The photos have been published on the digital image atlas #LastSeen on January 26, 2024, to mark the day commemorating the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp.
"The archive discovery in Dresden, which is as accidental as it is outstanding, opens up entirely new perspectives on the deportations of persecuted Jews in Wrocław," says Dr. Alina Bothe, head of the international #LastSeen research project. The discovery 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 the Odertor train 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 four days later, all were shot by a task force in Fort IX. There are no survivors of this deportation. The photos are therefore the last testimonies of those murdered. On April 9, 1942, almost a thousand people were once again gathered in the Schießwerder restaurant in Breslau. Four days later, they were transported by train to Izbica. Only two people survived this deportation.
After comparing the possibilities, it can be assumed with a high degree of probability that the pictures were taken by Albert Hadda (1892-1975). Hadda was an architect and a well-experienced hobby 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 pictures were taken secretly by an experienced photographer who had the appropriate equipment. Through his marriage to a non-Jewish woman, Hadda was initially partially protected. He had already been working for the Jewish community in Breslau since being banned from his profession in 1934, and beginning in April 1942, he officially supervised the deportation transports on behalf of the community.
Despite the prohibition, he secretly took several documentary-style photographs, which are now in private possession. Hadda was taken to a forced labor camp in 1944, from which 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 from there, they made their way to Dresden.
What can be seen in the pictures?
Albert Hadda photographed from the shadows. On the newly discovered original prints, it can be seen that the pictures were taken hidden behind wall projections and inside vehicles. His pictures show how people had to gather at the deportation site. They are preparing for the processing and the still uncertain transport. 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 four elderly women, laden with heavy luggage, entering the Schießwerder restaurant and gathering there for deportation.
The #LastSeen research network
Since 2021, the international research network "#LastSeen. Images of Nazi Deportations" has collected around 500 Nazi deportation photos from 60 cities from the territory of the German Reich within the borders of 1937. 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 backgrounds of the photos are being investigated 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 profound involvement of the German population in the murder of millions of people.
#LastSeen is recipient of the Landecker Academic Research Grant.