Friday, October 30, 2009

JewishGen helps to identify WW2 Photos

(hat tip: Betsy Aldredge)

After 64 years, Bruce Sadler slowly is unraveling the mystery of the haunting Nazi photos his father, Paul, found in the Dachau concentration camp in Germany at the end of World War II.

The images that Paul Sadler never could bring himself to talk about are ones that Bruce Sadler is driven to talk to anyone about, especially if they can help him identify the content.


Paul Sadler, who fought in anti-aircraft during the war, arrived in Dachau as a U.S. security guard on May 1, 1945, two days after the Nazi killing center was liberated by American soldiers. There he found 240 photos from the Nazi era in an album, along with propaganda books in old German script on Adolf Hitler and the 1936 Olympics held in Berlin.

According to his son, Bruce Sadler, "Dad remembers the opening up of train cars at Dachau, with the dead bodies falling out and the stench."

The awful memories kept Paul Sadler from talking about the war until about five years ago. Even then, Paul Sadler would break down crying when he got to Dachau and would talk no further. The elder Sadler, 85, lives in Chicago.

Discovering any further information about the unidentified photos seemed impossible. They had sat in a Chicago attic for years, a virtual mystery, and remained unexplained at Bruce Sadler's Evansville residence for the past 20 years.

That was until six months ago, when Bruce Sadler, 54, became concerned the photos would deteriorate in the original album. He desperately wanted to remove the pictures so he could scan them onto a disc, but was fearful of harming them.

"So I went for broke one day," Sadler laughed.

He slid a ruler under the photos and delicately pried them loose. Much to his surprise, he found German writing on the backs of some. In his zeal to preserve history, he had discovered some history, and his zeal turned into a quest to get the possible identifications translated.

Sadler dug into an Internet search engine to find help, spending hours looking for a translator and posting some of the photos on a Web site affiliated with the Museum of Jewish Heritage.

[Ed Note: The website is JewishGen.org. Our ViewMate feature allows researchers to post photos and documents and ask for assistance in translating or identifying contents.]


He found a translator in Switzerland willing to help, and has received e-mails from people in Russia, France, England and Israel identifying scenes in the photos.

So far, Sadler has information on about 20 of the 240 photos, and vows to continue the pursuit to uncover the nameless soldiers, citizens, buildings and war scenes. (Courier Press)

Click here to read the entire article.

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