Historical Photographs

Figure 1.--This photograph more than any other has come to represent the Holocaust. The little Jewish boy was arrested in Warsaw in 1943. Somehow he survived. This was unusual as children and the eldely were the first ones the Germans killed at the death camps. His name was Tsvi Nussbaum. Whilke the focus is usually on Tsvi, there were several other Jewish children in this horrifying image who murdered soon after this photograohwas taken.

HBC in its various pages has primarily used studio portraits and, after the turn of the 20th century, snap shots to chronicle trends in boy's fashions. Photographs like art, however, can engender emotional responses and influence public opinion. HBC can think of several photographs of boys which not only chronicled clothing trends, but have either had a significant impact on contemporary and historical opinion or have served to frame our view of history. Several photographs come immediately to mind. Some of these photographs include several WPA depression era photograhs--I have not yet picked one (1930s), the Jewish boy in the Warsaw ghetto (1943), John Kennedy Jr. saluting his father's casket (1963), the British boy being patted by Sadam Husein (1991), and Radovan Karavk? with a Bosnian boy outside Sebernecia (199?). Somehow the little Jewish boy in the Warsaw ghetto survived. This was unusual as the children and the eldely were the first ones the Germans killed at the death camps. His name was Tsvi Nussbaum. These are the images that stick in our mind. Please let HBC know if you have a photograph which should be added to this list.

Slavery (United States, 1860s)

A Civil War photographer, I think Mathew Bradey, took two portraits of a little balck boy about 13 years old who had run away from his master. The first image was him in the ragged clothes he had worn as a slave. The second image was him resplendent in the crisp blue uniform and brass buttons of a Federal drummer boy. The difference in these two images symbolize in a way words can not describe what the Civil War was all about.

Immigration (United States, 1900s)

America in the 19th and early 20th century stood out as haven for the poor and oppressed of Europe. People as diverse as staving Catholic Irish tenants farmers and terrified Russian Jews fleeing Cossock pograms fled to America. Many images exist of the European immigrants that flowed onto the United States in the years before World War I, after which immigration was sharply curtailed. Many had widly unrealistic expectations of America. Some found conditions as difficult as those left behind. Other managed to make a new life in America and one that their children embraced. We have not yet selected one of these images for inclusion here, however, we have begun a page on immigration.

The Depression (United States, 1930s)

There were many heart-rending phitographs taken during the Depression. Some of the most famous images were taken by Life photographer Margaret Borg? White. Many other telling photographs were taken by Works Progress Administration (WPA) photograhers. I have not yet picked one. Let me know if you have any ideas.

The Holocaust (Poland, 1943)

The NAZis did not like photographs taken in the Gettos or the Concentration camps or of the actual killing of the Jews. The Holocaust was, however, conducted on such a vast scale by such enthusiastic NAZIs that many pgotographic images were taken and quite a few survived the War. This photograph more than any other has come to represent the Holocaust. The little Jewish boy was arrested in Warsaw during 1943. By this time, most Polish Jews had already been mirdered by the NAIZs, including most of his family. Somehow he survived. This was unusual as children and the eldely were the first ones the Germans killed at the death camps. His name was Tsvi Nussbaum. Had it surfaced during the War, this photograph surely would have moved American public opinion unlike the low key reports that appeared in the press. As it surfaced after the War this photograph has, more than any other, has come to symbolize the Holocaust in many of our minds--much more than the endless photographs of the corpses Allied troops found when they reached the concentration camps in Germany.

World War II (Germany, 1945)

One of the striking images of World War II was on Hitler's birthday, April 20, 1945. After the NAZI seizure of power in 1933, Hitler's birtday became a major day of celebration in Germany. Ceremonies were held in which 10-year old German children were inducted into the Hitler Youth--"Given to the Führer" as NAZI publicists put it. The Hitler Youth movement was to pklay an important role in the NAZI regime and in World War II. Hitler Youth leader Axman presented Hitler an entire division of Hitler Youth boys on his birthday in 1943. This was the 12th SS armored division which fought tenaciously in France after the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944. When the Volksstrum was formed, Hitler Youth boys were the most ardent enductees. This last publicised images of Hitler was on his birthday when he emerged from his bunker to decorate some of the Hitler Youth boys that were defending him in Berlin.

President Kennedy's Assasination (United States, 1963)

There are many images taken of President Kennedy's assasination in 1963, both of the car as he was shot and of the people in the area. There is also the image of Mrs. Kennedy in her blood spattered dress standing beside President Johnson as he took the Presidential oath of office abord Air Forrce One. There is also the image of Mrs. Kennedy and her daughter Caroline kneeling down by President Kennedy's casket. The most hear-rending of all these images is that of John F. Kennedy Jr. saluting his father's casket in the funeral procession.

Vietnam War (Vietnam, 1960s)

Perhaps the most searing image of Vietnam was terrified girl running from her village which had just been napalmed by American aircraft.

Kuwait Crisis (Iraq, 1991)

One of the most sinister photographs ever taken was that of a young British boy being patted by Sadam Husein in 1991. He was among a group of Western hostages which Saddam at first thought of using as a shield to prevent the Coalition invasion. Sadam asked the boy if he was getting his milk. Left unsaid was the implicit threat, I have these people in my hands and beware what I will do with them. Finally Saddam realized what a serious error he had made and relased the hostages when he saw the intense hostility such scenes created in world public opinion. Certainly this particular image of Saddam patting an obviously terrified boy affected public opinion more than any other image of the War. The reaction was so intense that the hostages were released a few day after this image appeared on television.

Berlin Wall (Germany, 1989)

Many of these historical photographs of children are tragic images. One of the most uplifting images was one of a German boy, atop the Berlin Wall. The East German had just opened the checkpoints and East Germas came streaming into West Berlin for the first time in nearly 30 years. This West German boy had scaled the wall and was waving the German flag.

Serb Bosnian Attrocities (Bosnia, 1990s)

A photograph was take of Radovan Karavk? with a Bosnian boy outside Sebernecia in 199?). Dutch peace keepers were forced to stand by as the Serbs seized the suposed UN safe haven of Sebernica. We now know that the men and male youths were muirdered. Most of the women and children were allowed to leave.

Palentinian-Isreali Conflict (Palestine, 2000)

The most unsettleing image to compe out of the tragic conflict between Palestinians and Isrealis was a little boy and his father caught in a croosfire between Isreali soldiers and Palestinian fighters.


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Created: June 25, 2001
Last updated: 9:03 PM 7/28/2004