Iconic Photos

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Dora Concentration Camp

with 6 comments

Although many of his photos and film have been shown repeatedly on television across the world, the name Walter Frentz remains unknown. Hitler’s photographer, Frentz had been there all along — from the beginning of Hitler’s dictatorship to those hectic final days in the Fuhrerbunker. In between, he took photos of Hitler and his dog, the private lives of top Nazi leaders, party rallies in Nuremberg, the 1936 Olympics, von Ribbentrop’s historic mission to Moscow and Hitler’s triumphant entries to Warsaw and Paris.

Yet, notably absent were the atrocities; Frentz reportedly witnessed a massacre of Jews in Minsk while traveling with SS leader Heinrich Himmler. There is no photographic evidence of this incident, and Frentz himself was sworn to secrecy. In taking photos of forced labor in the construction of the V–2 missiles at the Dora concentration camp and Mittelwerk underground factory near Nordhausen, Frentz came closest to the harsh realities of Second World War but they too were sanitized versions of history — a history Nazi leaders wanted to see.

Today, the slave labor behind V2 rockets is almost forgotten — in fact, 2,000 prisoners, worked on it and almost half of them didn’t survive. When the first V2 rocket hit Britain in 1944, it was one of the most complex weapons ever employed. However, after 15 years and huge sums of money, it did not prove to be the decisive weapon that Hitler had hoped would force Britain out of the war. The prisoners working on the missiles sabotaged some of them that around 20% of rockets that left Dora had flaws.

Frentz’s close friend, Armaments Minister Albert Speer sent him to film the Dora mines in the summer of 1944. Speer hoped the photos would persuade Hitler to maintain support for the V2 program. In an early use of Agfa color film, Frentz took staged photographs to showcase the efficiency of forced labor. Instead of stick-wielding kapos, back–breaking excavation and construction work, piles of emaciated dead bodies, corpses burning on open pyres, and public hangings, the Nazi leadership were instead shown skilled assembly work and healthy prisoners in clean clothing. The photographs also omit the presence of the SS and Wehrmacht in the factory. These Dora photographs lay forgotten in an attic for more than 50 years until February 1998, when Frentz’s son discovered them in a suitcase.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

June 12, 2010 at 6:06 am

6 Responses

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  1. Thank you for this picture.

    My father was at Nordhausen, never told us what he did there, but ended up at Bergen Belsen where he was liberated. He never mentioned the V2 at Dora, and I only know he was in Dora-Nordhausen because we came across documents he had written after the war, describing his time from capture to his liberation. It was in scant detail,i.e. he did not detail what he did, outside of saying he was a slave laborer, but did mention the camps he was in.

    He would have been in the area around the summer of ’44. His parents, my grandparents, were murdered in Auschwitz in June ’44.

    Are there more pictures like the one above?

    Regardless, thanks.


    June 14, 2010 at 2:57 am

    • Frentz took a couple of pictures of Dora and fellow prisoners made some sketches of the camp conditions — Dora is in fact one of the better documented concentration camps.
      it is interesting that you brought up your father’s taciturnity over the camps. recently, i saw a professor from my university – himself a survivor, but too young to remember most events – who told me about how culture of heroism transformed into culture of victimization after the war. survivors didn’t want to claim themselves heroes, but couldn’t accept the outside world’s categorization of them as victims because up until that point, wider culture was unkind to victims.
      well, of course my prof put it more eloquently than that but ….


      June 15, 2010 at 2:44 am

  2. Interesting point. My dad never shied away from letting anyone know he was in the camps…but never tried to bring it up, either. And yes, he couldn’t go into detail, except when he became terminally ill, when he told me some details, but even then, not many.

    He didn’t consider himself a hero..I think a lot of survivors, including him, had “survivor guilt”; why did they live when so many others did not? He was glad, though, that someone such as Elie Wiesel could write about the Holocaust. He and Wiesel met some years after the war and compared tales of growing up; they were from towns about 100 miles apart.

    My dad also refused German government reparations. He became very successful in his professional life, had 2 children who both became physicians, and carried on as religious Jews, which was important to my dad…and those two things, a good life lived and continuing on the Jewish people, overcame a lot of that survivor guilt; he had at least some idea of why he felt he was “allowed” to survive.

    BTW, I have one “complaint” about the blog. The night you put this post up, I started looking at the rest of the entries…and I was hooked! I couldn’t stop looking. I went through so many of the fascinating entries…wonderful stuff. I don’t even remember where I originally found the link to your site…but I’m glad I did.


    June 15, 2010 at 3:43 am

  3. I’ve just been watching a programme on Peenenmuende on the BBC. Although I was born in 45, I realise what man has done to his brother, having been to WW2 sites throughout Europe as a whole, as well as the former USSR, over the last 40+ years.
    The sacrifice of untold millions and the courage of so many will never be forgotten.

    Keith F. Aldred

    July 16, 2012 at 9:04 pm

  4. The above photo scared me beyond belief. While although most of the faces are mostly obscured and many people can resemble each other, one of the men looks very much like the prisoner picture I have seen of my father durng the war. My Father and Uncle were both survivors of Dora. The rest of their family were murdered in Treblinka shortly after the evacuation of Czestochowa ghetto in 1942. They handled their experiences very differently. They went through the war side by side. My Uncle was very verbal about his experiences, had friends mostly of Shoah survivors and was very active in the Survivors groups. My Father only on persistant questioning from his children, told us some of the details. In later years he became more open about it and began visiting his grandchildren’s classrooms talking about his experiences. Until the end of his life in 2004 he was haunted and had nightmares. My Uncle wrote his memoires and it was only then were we able to read of the horror and experiences they went through, although I know my Father had disagreed with some of the details. Survivor guilt was hugh in my Father and he took it out in many ways -none violent, although his anger could get intense- including lashing out at his brother. My Father was chosen to work in a small group of 10-12 that was to be the nucleus of a new department directly under Werner Von Braun to develop a new weapon system. We should all thank G-d that the Allies were advancing and they were never able to start the project. It disgusts me that Werner Von Braun and his cronies went on to work and become big machers in the US Space program. They all knew what the conditions in at least Dora were. How did they live with themselves? Baruch Dayan Emet. Alav ha Shalom to all who perished and may their be no rest for their tormentors.

    Marilyn Becker

    July 30, 2012 at 11:31 am

    • I have just recently started looking at WW2 atrocities. I am not Jewish or Christian but a human being.
      That one human could do this to another human is beyond my imagination. No amount of rationalization will ever erase this monstrous treatment. I pary for all the souls tormented.



      January 10, 2016 at 5:48 pm

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