Iconic Photos

Famous, Infamous and Iconic Photos

The Rape of Lvov

with 25 comments

Photos can speak a thousand words but sometimes it is unclear what they said. Take the above photo for instance. In 1993, Time magazine published it with the caption, “Jewish girl raped by Ukrainians in Lvov, Poland, in 1945.” An angry outcry by the Ukrainian community followed, and Time magazine had to issue a retraction and an apology. The fact was that the photo was one of the pictures with a murkier history to come out of the Second World War.

The photo was not taken in 1945 but in 1941 in Lvov (its Russian name), or Lviv (its name today), Ukraine, shortly after the Germans captured the city from the Soviets on June 30. The photo is one of a series showing women being stripped, harassed and chased by civilians as chaos led to rapes, pogroms and killings. Some scholars claimed that the women in the photo were Jewish victims of the pogroms in Lvov. The Germans spread rumors that Jews were responsible for the murders of several thousand political prisoners found in the cellars of Soviet NKVD buildings, thus fueling the hatred and the acts of revenge against local Jews that followed.

Other historians insist that the majority of the women pictured in the series of photographs were mistresses the Soviets abandoned when they fled Lvov to escape the German troops. The defenseless collaborators were then attacked by resentful residents for consorting with the Soviet enemy. Some suggests the Nazis orchestrated the entire scene to shoot a propaganda film. Some said the women were not raped, but merely public denounced. Over the years, the perpetrators of the atrocities depicted on the photo included the Soviets, the Ukrainians, the SS and local anti-Semites. Yet, even the Jewishness of the women depicted was called into question, and alas, we will never know.

However, the photo remains prominently in many history textbooks, their respective writers’ narratives and assumptions often belying the true mystery behind it. Time-Life: History of the Second World War (1989) captioned it, “A rape victim in the city of Lvov cries out in rage and anguish as an older woman comforts her. Anti-Semitic citizens rounded up 1,000 Jews andover to the Germans. Life: World War II (1990) also used it, in the chapter titled “1941 Rape of Russia.”

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

June 11, 2010 at 7:15 pm

Posted in Politics, Society, War

Tagged with , ,

25 Responses

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  1. its important to edit that even though this spesific girl may not have suffered because she’s jewish the German’s did rape thousands of jew girls just becuase they were jews.
    it implies from your text that the claims may have been not true.

    I hope it’s just my jew imagination

    eliaben

    June 11, 2010 at 7:29 pm

    • Jewmagination, if you will

      eliaben

      June 11, 2010 at 7:50 pm

    • The German Armed Forces generaly behaved well in the countries they occupied. Cerainly much better than the IDF in Gaza and the the West Bank where the heros of the Israeli army daily murder, maim and abuse innocents. In Lebanon the damned Jews strewed the countryside with cluster bombs (very effective at blowing off the legs and arms of children) 24 hours before the predicted announcement of an end to their criminal invasion of that country.

      erno

      March 5, 2011 at 10:06 am

      • Erno:
        While I myself refuse to “carry water” for Israel or consider it in any different light than any other nation, any comparison of Nazis and the IDF mindset is inaccurate. It’s pretty safe to say that the Israeli’s do not seek any liquidation of Palestinians any more than the majority of Palestinians want every Jew dead. Extremists and those with vested interests in maintaining chaos thrive, and it is up to the rest of us to maintain sane balance. If you can’t do that, please go die somewhere.

        john

        July 8, 2011 at 7:33 am

    • Where is the proof of this?

      erno

      March 5, 2011 at 11:57 pm

      • Proof: just read The Lemberg Mosaic by Jakob Weiss (New York: Alderbrook Press, 2011) and you will find all the proof you need.

        Jack

        March 16, 2011 at 6:53 pm

    • wise man don’t bother himself by asking why did the rome burn while his own roof is on fire. only idiots do that.

      nemesis

      July 28, 2013 at 8:24 am

      • oh sorry “doesn’t”

        nemesis

        July 28, 2013 at 8:33 am

  2. You should mention that before 2nd WWar Lviv (and far beyond to east) was always a Polish city. So that was polish citizen raped by Nazi or Russian.

    Kamil

    June 12, 2010 at 5:29 am

    • No, “Kamil”. Nazi or Soviets did not rape in the streets, and victims certainty were not Poles. Nazi have incited local mobs – partially Polish, partially – Ukrainian – to commit atrocities against Jews.

      I don’t blame you for not knowing history – the research was and is not encouraged by either Russians, Ukrainians or Poles. Still, your ignorance of who were the targets for extinction and murderous rage in the WWII is staggering.

      ETat

      June 12, 2010 at 11:51 am

      • Dear ETat, you are wrong either. This is very well-known picture taken on June the 30th 1941 during one of several Lvov’s pogroms performed by Ukrainian civilians on jewish community under Nazi’s occupation of the city. Read also about Nachtigal ans SS-Galizien (both ukrainian ones) to find out more about Ukrainians (not Poles)

        Grzegorz

        June 12, 2010 at 2:41 pm

      • So. Polish Jews are not Poles? Until they live, love and working in Poland (Lwów) back then thay are Poles, isn’t? I’m not ignorant and I do know history. I was on those graves in Lwów. I don’t blame you for seeing history in oposite way.

        Kamil

        June 14, 2010 at 4:21 pm

      • Fucking nazi supporter

        jajajaja

        January 3, 2012 at 12:39 am

  3. TQ,

    Thank you for posting this photo and bringing attention to this painful topic.

    There was a time , in 1980s, when I lived in Lvov (Lwov, Lviv) for about 8 years. I was just married and moved in with my husband and his parents. The family lived in the city since 1947; my FIL was a WWII veteran who lost his leg in the front, in active duty.
    Living there for 50 years the family learned about the history of occupation – actually, that should be plural, occupationS, both by Germans and Soviet Army (twice) – more than any official textbooks or literature were ever allowed to reveal. Multiple groups concealing historical facts have their interests: they want to claim the victim status and/or deny that they were perpetrating atrocities themselves. And they all call themselves liberators.

    That concerns Germans, of course, but also local Ukrainians, some Poles, and Soviets – the Soviet occupiers of 1939, in particular. The only group who doesn’t need to invent lies or fabricate false stories, is Jews. They were exterminated, abused, assaulted and killed en mass by all others -sometimes directly, sometimes using other groups as proxies.

    This latter method was used by Germans in June-July 1941, right after the first vanguard forces entered the city. It was a planned operation with propagandist twist, on a vast scale, with participation of various German military, including special photographers and film crew, to record “spontaneous sacred rage of suffering Ukrainian population against Jewish Bolsheviks”. I am not going to write a summary of everything that transpired, it is too long and frankly, too painful for me to recite; I’ll limit myself to evaluating the picture: there is no doubt whatsoever that women in the photo were Jewish and that they were raped and beaten in the street by the mob of local Ukrainians and Poles, incited and organized by Germans – either directly by the military and SS or through so called OUN -local, Ukrainian “police” force they have hired and trained. Those Jews who were not killed in the street, were gathered in three city prisons and murdered there. Then their remains were redressed and presented to local populace, in sort of a “showroom” fashion, as remains of Ukrainians who were killed by NKVD when they left the city – with the goal to incite another wave of Anti-Jewish pogroms. Nazis succeeded, but only partially. The rest of dirty work, during next 4 years of occupation, they had to do themselves – especially when locals saw their policy against Polish intelligencia (gathered in prison and shot in High Castle), and Ukrainians an Poles they transported to Germany for menial labor.

    Recently a Russian researcher whose blog I read has posted a series of his articles on this subject. He lives in Munich and has access to German archives. He did tremendous job, precise and backed by numerous sources, that proves in meticulous and horrific detail what I just recited. I’ll give you links to his posts; they are in Russian, but the footnotes with sources are in German.

    http://labas.livejournal.com/837209.html

    http://labas.livejournal.com/837623.html

    ETat

    June 12, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    • Hello,I have been trying to understand for years on why? I do not understand the madness that must have taken place,The reason I am writing, to you, is this,Since I was 4 years of age, i have known more about life than most people know in a life time,I have seen and read and knew that I was there,In a previous life,Yes you may be saying I am nuts, but not true, far from being that way.I was one of the jewish girls who was killed and raped by the germans,I not only knew this,But went to a physic for a reading, she strated crying and said please understand that you once were a jewish 16 year old girl, but your life was cut short because of your death.Now as you know you have been hiding that idenity, secerts,only you have kept from everyone,I have thought of this all my life, now I am learning to relize that after hiding the truth from so many it was time for me to become the real person I should have been,I was born in nov 23 1950,My name is Johnny,Yes I am a male, until recently started living as a woman,which i was cut short of back in 1941 or around there,I know I was a jewish girl, but which one, I only wish i could find out, maybe some way find out about her family realtives who must still be a few around,Please feel to contact me, at any time, My e-mail address is jolene2014@hotmail.com.I am living in canada at the time but I am an american citizen, please lets talk, Thanks so much Jolene

      Jolene Douglas

      January 13, 2014 at 3:28 pm

  4. Grzegorz, what exactly am I wrong about?

    You expanded on what I said – with exception of Poles as active perpetrators.

    Few hours ago I wrote a long comment (before yours appeared), that is still awaiting moderation, for some reason. In it I mentioned the sources you site, too.

    I will duplicate my comment on my blog, Creakypavillion.wordpress.com, so in case it does not appear here you could see it.

    To your concern:
    population of Lwov (or Lemberg, as Germans called it) was mixed for several centuries, at least. In the years before German invasion the city was nominally Polish, as a remnant of Austria-Hungarian Empire, with very large Western Ukrainian majority, some Russians, and several Carpatian minority ethnic groups (lemki, etc). By accounts I read about 30% of its population were Jews. The major groups lived in mutual tension; the only group they were all united against were Jews.
    1939′ occupation by Soviets was relatively peaceful (to your objections: I base this on the book High Castle by Stanislaw Lem.) Gradually, persecution, imprisonments and forced evacuations of locals were perpetrated by NKVD – in the same fashion and against the same social groups, regardless of ethnicity, as it was done in Soviet Russia proper. By the time Germans occupied the city there was a strong anti_Soviet resistance movement, consisting of all local ethnic groups, in different measure.

    You’re right that most of pogroms were instigated by Western Ukrainians, but Poles participated, too. Right until Germans shot Polish professors and other intelligencia in Lwov, Poles were quite resigned and some – actively took part in anti_Jewish pogroms.
    The sooner Poles take responsibility for their part, the better for their psyche.

    ETat

    June 12, 2010 at 3:40 pm

  5. [...] I opened IP’ page and my heart sunk. For the day’s topic TQ has used a picture I’ve seen before – and as much as I’ve wished I never did, it burned into my [...]

  6. Etat: SHUT THE HELL UP

    ripley

    July 24, 2010 at 1:39 am

  7. Can anyone testify in the court of law that this picture is authentic? Is this picture was taken in Lwow? There is no even a street sign to prove the location. Where are any indications that this girl was raped?
    Is this another war time propaganda? By the way, this picture has appeared in 1965 Soviet made documentary “Ordinary Fascism”.
    Everyone discussing the atrocities of Germans, should first and foremost research where this picture came from in the first place. It could be made even in Hollywood.

    Gasan

    April 15, 2011 at 4:58 am

  8. I located and saw two photographs of that same young woman.She’s naked and in an obscene pose, her behind in the air, in a roadside ditch.I thought at first it was a headless body and then realized that the head was at a impossible 90 degree angle.She was obviously stripped abused and killed and her hair is much shorter than in the pleading photo evidencing that it was torn off.Notice her shoes with a little bow. In the post mortem photos you can see one of her shoes next to her if there was any doubt of identity.I gave the info to the Sim Wisenthal center.They thanked me and said there was nothing to do.

    vlm58

    April 23, 2011 at 3:31 am

    • There is another photo of her you can find on the web where she is alive, obviously taken close to the time of this picture. I have never seen the picture you are talking about but would be interested to see it if you still have it.

      Steve

      October 31, 2011 at 12:28 am

  9. I am surprised that no one has ever recognized her given how widely this picture is published.

    Steve

    October 31, 2011 at 12:29 am

  10. I wish the American Army didnt stop at one Million of the Murder of German pows we starved, shot,hung and Beat to death a Million German Pows in 19i45 I also wish we Didnt stop at Dresden and Hamburg the the fire bombing murders of hundreds of 1000s of german civillians I really beleive if the american Military honestly thought they could of gotten away with it they would have turned the country of Germany into a large greasy Stain God bless America Americans love the underdog! and we love to Kill the bad guy I would definately wouldnt want to be a bad guy in 1945 Germany

    Jeffy

    August 28, 2012 at 3:08 pm

  11. [...] the whole story here, here and here. More on Ukraine and on antisemitism. More iconic images of human rights [...]


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