Thursday, March 17, 2016

Through the Enemy's Lens.
World War I Photos Taken by a Captured German Officer

Historical photos treasures are still waiting to be uncovered around the world.

A German officer photographed Be'er Sheva before its capture by Australian Light Horsemen in October 1917
(Mitchell Library, New South Wales State Library)
Presented here are photographs of World War I in Palestine that we found in the Australian New South Wales State Library. The photographs were taken by a German officer who was captured by Australian troops.  Details about the officer are not available, but his camera contained pictures from Nazareth in the north to Jerusalem, Hebron, Gaza, and Be'er Sheva in the south. The officer also took several gruesome pictures of a military hanging across the Jordan River in Salt.

Be'er Sheva before its capture (1917, Library of Congress)
The German and Austrian armies were allied with the Ottoman army in their attempt to force the British army from the Middle East.  German officers commanded the joint forces.  On the other side, the British army included forces from Australia, New Zealand, India, Hong Kong, and Jewish soldiers from Palestine -- all under a British commander.



In the north, the German officer took the picture below of the Turkish and German soldiers' muster at their Tiberias headquarters.



Turkish and German soldiers at muster in Turkish Tiberias headquarters.
(Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales)

He also took several pictures of the shoreline of the Sea of Galilee which can be viewed here.



In the Spring of 1917, the British army, traveling north from the Sinai Peninsula, attempted two frontal assaults on Turkish lines holding Gaza.  The results were disastrous for the Brits, and Gaza was left in ruins.  Compare the picture on the left by the German officer before the battle and the colored one on the right, taken by an Australian soldier. Both show the central mosque in Gaza.




Gaza before the British attacks, a photo from the German's camera
(Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales)































Australian Light Horsemen after the capture of Gaza, note the remains of the mosque.
(Hurley Collection, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales)


Turkish infantrymen holding the line in Gaza, photo by German officer
(Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales)
The following pictures may be difficult for some viewers.


Photos by German officer of German soldiers "hanging
spies" in Salt, east of the Jordan River
(Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales)


Photos by German officer of German soldiers "hanging
spies" in Salt, east of the Jordan River
(Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales)















Caption: "Hangings outside Jaffa Gate, Jerusalem. Arabs, Armenians, Bedouins, Jews - official Turkish photo"

Click on photos to enlarge.
We thank librarians and archivists for preserving their photographic treasures by digitalizing them.

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