We see every photograph as a small historical document with valuable sociological and other information. Unfortunatly for many photographs archived on HBC we do not have full details about the basic questions: who what, where, and when. Even so we are often able to estimate when the photograph was taken and extract useful insights. Here we know where this photograph was taken--Horní Planá / Oberplan in NAZI occupied Czechoslovakia. We think it was taken in the Summer of 1939. It was taken for propaganda purposes. What we are not sure about is just what is gping on here. Some HBC readers have provided useful insights and we welcome readers to provide any further insights that they may have.
The photograph looks o us to have been taken in summer 1939 (just before the outbreak of the War) or 1940. Germany invaded Czechoslovakis (March 1939). As it is clearly a late-Spring or Summer scene, we would guess that the photograph was taken in 1939 or 40. We do not think it is 1941 because with the Wehrmacht conducting Barbarossa with enormous logistical problems, we doubt if very many trucks like this would have been used to pass out soup in Bohemia.
The photograph was taken near the small town of Horní Planá (Oberplan). The town is located in southern Bohemia. At the time it was the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (NAZI occupied Czechoslovakia). It is now part of the Czech Republic. It is located nwar the Austrian frontier. Austria at the time had been absorbed into the German Reich as a result iof the Anschluss. the town is most notable as the birth place of Austrian poet Adalbert Stifter.
Color photography was developed before World war II by both Agfa and Kodak. It was very expensive and not yet very widely used. A few American fils were made in color ("The Wizard of Oz" and "Gone with the Wind")--both major productions. A few people took color snapshots and films. In Germany most color photographs or films were used for official purposes by the NAZIs or well to do individusls with connectsions. Eva Braun for example shot color film at Berchesgarten. The photograph here was probably shot by a NSV photographer from Goebbels Propaganda Ministry to show the good work that the NAZIs were doing.
NAZI policies in Bohemia and Moravia were much more begin that later implemented in Poland, but became more severe as the occupation progressed, especially after the appointment of Reinhard Heydrich as Governor. The Germans created the Protecorate of Bohemia and Moravia were declared a protectorate of the Third Reich. Czech officials were maintained as figureheads. All were directed by the NAZI appointed governor or Reich Protector, Baron Konstantin von Neurath. German officials manned all the government departments, cabinet ministries. Local German control offices were established throughout the Protecorate. The Gestapo assumed control of the police. One of the first in a series of NAZI decrees was to dismiss Jews from the civil service and made non-citizens. The NAZIs banned Communists. The Communists and Jews who could fled the country. NAZI authorities mobilized labor for the German war effort. Occupation officials established special offices to supervise the management of industries found to be useful for the war effort. Czechs were drafted to work in keys industies such as coal mines, the iron and steel industry, and armaments production. Some conscripts were sent to Germany for work there. Production of consumer goods was shgarply curtailed and production when possible reoriented toward war poduction. While a small country, Czechoslovakia had heavy industry and played an important role in the German war effort. Authorities instituted very strict rationing. The Czechs as the first occupied country, were the first to be drafted for forced labor in Germany. Czech protests in 1941 angered the NAZIs. Hitler convinced that the Czeches were being treated to lightly, appointed Reinhard Heydrich to replace the first NAZI governor. His assasination by British-trained patriots were the cause of horendous reprisals by the SS.
The NAZIs did project a image of social welfare. Part of the concept of ein Volk was a Reich which looked after the welfare of its people. The NAZIs ended unemployment in Germany. (The Depression was not ended in America until 1939 when war orders poured in from England and France.) The NSV became the second largest NAZI organization and provided services to large numbers of Germans. To the German people at the time, the image of the NAZIs was very different than the modern one. This photograph was probably taken by a NSV employee to dicument their good work.
The NSV at first helped poor families with financial benefits, a kind of welfare. The NSV gradually shifted to performing services aiding poor families like organizing and managing day care centers, caring for children, assistance to youth and pregnant women, and various family health and nutrition programs. The NSV was established (May 3, 1933). There may have been an early program, but until the NAZIs seized power and had the authority of the German Government at its disposal as well as swelling ranks of Party members could the NSV run significant programs. The NSV was the umbrella organization for a range of social and welfare programs. It was organized on the same basis as the NAZI Party. There was a central office in Berlin and then regional offices in each Gau. Germany in 1933 was severely affected by the Depression. With the NAZI rearmament program as well as the RAD program, the unenployment proble disappeared. As a result by 1938 the NSV began shifting from welfare programs to promoting services. A major effort was day care for worker's families. Here there was some competition with day care programs run by churches. A a major slogan at NSV day care centers was "Hände falten, Köpfchen senken - immer an Adolf Hitler denken"--Hands folded, head lowered - always of Adolf Hitler thinking“. With the advent of the War, the NSV became the principal national effort devoted to children and youth welfare efforts.
We thought at first this was a NSV soup kitchen. One of the soldiers wearing an apron certainly suggests that soup was beding distributed. The signs read "Verteilungsstelle". That means "apportionment place". We are not sure precisely what was meant by that. We think it may be land sized from Czechs was being handed out to ethnic German families. A reader writes, "I read Verteilungstelle to mean Distribution Point." As the sign is in German, that suggests to me that land seized from Czechs is being given out to German settlers. Now this was much more common in westernthat something is being distributed to ethnic Germans. Clearly something is being distributed. The question is what. Notice the rather crude construction of the sign ans background. I think it is clear they are in a rural area. Now the apron does suggest food meaning a soup kitchen. But you don't set up a soup kitchen in the middle of nowhere. This suggests to me that something is being distributed allotted other than soup. The soup may be incidental to the distribution. Now allotment in English suggests land. I have no idea to the connotations of the German word. We know that the NAZIs expelled Poles from farms and business in Poland. This was not a major effort outside the Sudetenlans, but expulsions did occur and a major ethnic cleansing campaign was being planned. In fact when SS Reich Protector Heydrich was assasinated, he was on his way to Berlin for discussions on justvthat (1942). .
Notice that there are three children in the photograph. Two of them ae wearing wooden shoes. This suggests to us that they were from farm families.
The men look to be regular Wehermacht (Heer) soldiers.
The truck is a German military vehichle, a 6x6 Einheits-Lkw 2.5 tonner. These trucks were built during 1937-40. As this one looks in very good condition, this helps to date the photograph.
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