World War II was the most costly war of all time. Not only did it cause damage worth trillions of dollars, but it claimed the lives of more than 70 million soldiers and civilians worldwide. The war brought about unlikely allies and rocky alliances. Amazingly, the scenes of the war on all fronts were photographed by many. Despite this, many of these photographs didn’t surface into mainstream circles, but we have them for you to see, to think about, and to digest. Some of them will be difficult to digest.
In the years between World War I and World War II, Germany suffered the troubles of hyperinflation. The Paris Peace Conference forced Germany to take full responsibility for the damages caused during the First World War, causing the country’s currency to become worthless. Here children stack bundles of cash that serve a better purpose as building blocks than as money.
Hermann Goering’s Collection
During the Nazis’ swift looting spree of Europe, many artworks and artifacts were stolen from public and private collections and museums. Senior Nazi officer, Hermann Goering had his own private collection of looted art pieces, and this is after their discovery.
Seeing The Truth
Soldiers of the German army claimed that they had no idea of the atrocities being carried out in death and concentration camps. The Allies forced German soldiers and civilians alike to watch video reels of the atrocities that took place in the concentration camps set up by the Nazis.
Berlin was the last standing point of the Third Reich, and Hitler was not prepared to see it fall without a fight. The dictator enlisted the elderly, women and even children to take arms to defend the city from the advancing enemy. This young German boy weeps after the Allies captured him while sweeping the city.
Despite the constant brainwashing of Japanese citizens about the cruelty of American soldiers, this woman accepts an American soldier’s help. The Japanese emperor ordered citizens to kill themselves before falling into the hands of the Americans, who were ‘rapists’ and ‘murderers’ according to his propaganda campaign.
Reversing The Roles
This powerful image shows the start of one man’s hell at the end of another’s. A Jewish man points a rifle at a surrendered German guard at the death camp he was being held captive. Allied troops liberated these death and concentration camps, but even after their liberation, many inmates still died of disease and malnutrition.
Hungarian Mini Tanks
When there’s war, there are giant leaps in the technology sector, and World War II was a great example of this. In this picture you can see Hungarian “mini tanks” which were intended to be fast and hard to track. Unfortunately they didn’t serve the purpose they were intended to and they quickly became obsolete.
Homeless Japanese Citizens
The United States dropped two atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima in August 1945. These bombs would mark the end of World War II, and the start of a challenging stage for Japanese life, as you can see these Japanese men rebuilding their lives with as little as they have.
Adolf Hitler had no trouble living a lavish life and even had himself a number of giant estates. This remarkable photograph shows American planes flying over the hills of Berchtesgaden where one of Hitler’s estates got a bombing of a lifetime.
Female Tank Commander
When it comes to bravery and valor, Aleksandra Samusenko is the name that defines that. She was the only female tank commander in the 1st Guards Tank Army of the Russian Army. She is best known for her successful escape to safety when her commander was killed during the Battle of Kursk. Sadly she was killed on March 3rd, 1945, just two months before World War II in Europe ended.
Close Kamikaze Call
Many argue the success of Kamikaze suicide missions with the percentage ranging between 4% to 19% rate of success. Whether or not these pilots always achieved their goals of destroying American naval vessels, they played a big part in psychological warfare during World War II. The Americans managed to shoot down this Kamikaze plane only moments before it attacked.
Germans posing with people in bear costumes is something that was popular between the 1920’s and the 1960’s. The reason for this strange trend still has concrete answers, but it definitely has many raised eyebrows. These Nazi soldiers pose alongside a friend dressed up as a polar bear, but perhaps it was a special kind of camouflage.
Can’t Destroy His Spirit
The man facing the German firing squad is Georges Blind. He was a member of the French resistance and he was executed in 1944 by the Germans. Despite being only moments away from imminent death, Blind refused to have his spirit extinguished and he smiled until the triggers were pulled.
Burning The Belsen Concentration Camp
When the Allies liberated the Bergen-Belsen concentration in Germany, they did not expect to find the horror that they did. There were tens of thousands of bodies that didn’t receive burial; rather the Nazis dumped them in the nearby forest. The British troops called for Germans to assist them in burying the dead before destroying the camp by fire.
World War II Silence
Before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, many Americans were against the idea of joining the war in Europe. The idea of isolationism was strong in the United States, but that all changed after December 7th, 1941. These American soldier enjoy a very rare moment of quiet during the fight.
An Odd Lighter
These two German soldiers found a unique way of lighting their cigarettes. Their method included lighting up with the help of a flamethrower.
It was on the 4th of February, 1945 that Allied forces completely liberated Belgium from the grip of the Nazis. Here Canadian soldiers enjoy well-earned local beer.
Burying The Dead
From this photograph we can understand that not all soldiers are the same. German soldiers afforded this fallen American soldier a proper burial. When American soldiers found the anonymous soldier’s grave, they decorated it with whatever they could find.
After what was one of the deadliest and most frightening days of World War II, American soldiers rest on the Normandy beach hills. American soldiers lead away surviving German soldiers.
Feeding Polar Bears
Soviet soldiers pop out of their tank to feed a couple of hungry polar bears. Regardless of the weather conditions, the war went on and many even died simply because of the cold.
Finding The Humor
During the most difficult times, it is our duty to find the glimmer of light and hope. This American soldier does a humorous impression of Nazi dictator, Adolf Hitler, for the benefit of his fellow soldiers.
Minutes before boarding different airplanes, these photographers pose for a picture. It would be their responsibility to capture scenes of World War II that gave all an insight into the planet’s most deadly conflict.
If you were to visit this plot in Nonat-le-Pin in France, you would see nothing but farmland. But back on August 21st, 1944, it was the place where hundreds of German prisoners of war were held.
Germany’s Railway Gun
Germany’s military experimentation went far during World War II, sometimes successfully and sometimes not. This was Germany’s ultimate long-range artillery canon that could shoot as far as 47 km. It traveled on railway lines and shot a single round every 30 to 45 minutes.
The Railway Gun Captured
It was a proud day for American troops when they captured the “Schwerer Gustav” gun. Even though America’s industry had been booming since the start of the war, the Americans were still surprised by some of the bizarre and advanced German weaponry.
Even though it took until 1941 for America to enter the war, the country provided Great Britain with weapons and ammunition by shipping across the Atlantic. Soldiers were drafted into service before America had even entered the war officially.
Gifts For Hitler
American soldiers write personal messages to Adolf Hitler on Easter. The gifts weren’t especially what he wanted, but they were gifts the soldiers wanted to send to him.
Despite the war being a time of death and stress, the Americans made sure to keep their spirits running high at all times. Here you can see soldiers fooling around aboard a naval vessel.
Hitler In Paris
Hitler was smitten with Paris when he arrived on June 23rd, 1940. After visiting many sites like the Eiffel Tower, the Paris opera, the Champs-Elysees, and the Arc de Triomphe, he was off only three hours later. While in Paris he ordered the destruction of two World War I monuments.
War may have been running rampant in every direction, but that doesn’t mean there was no place for compassion. A young sailor tends to an even younger kitten on a U.S. naval ship.
Overcome With Anguish
The day that the Nazis marched into Paris after successfully defeating the French army, was a sad one for most. This French man is overcome with emotions as he realizes the fate of his beloved city and its people.
On the morning of December 7th, 1941, America was taken completely by surprise. Japanese bombers attacked the naval base of Pearl Harbor and killed some 2,335 Americans. America would then immediately declare war on Japan, Germany on America, and consequently America on Germany.
Remote Controlled Tanks
German tank manufacturers created a tank that was tiny, unmanned, remote-controlled and armed with explosives. Their purpose was to drive underneath full-sized tanks and to explode them by driving underneath them. This project would eventually be scrapped as the tanks were too costly to produce and they traveled too slowly.
This photograph is both heartbreaking and breathtaking. It shows Jewish women and children exiting a train that was transporting them to their deaths at a death camp. The Allies managed to rescue and liberate them.
The German air force, the Luftwaffe conducted nightly bomb raids on London and other cities in England. British authorities feared they would drop gas bombs and therefore ordered all citizens to always have a gas mask handy. Life would go on as close to normal as possible though.
While there was endless fighting with Nazi General Erwin Rommel in the north of Africa, there was time for some Australian humor. Australian troops found it fitting to put up this humorous sign at the El Alamein road on September 14th, 1942.
Whether you believe the story or not, the picture has a story of its own to tell. This is Colonel Anthony Joseph Drexel Biddle and he was a hand-to-hand combat expert. The story goes that he ordered Marine trainees to attempt to kill him with their bayonets, but he disarmed them all.
Time To Nap
A rare scene of a Royal Air Force pilot taking a nap on two chairs. The pilot’s short rest between flights would afford him more awareness during the upcoming dogfights he would have to face.
Germany and Russia agreed to split Poland up between the two of them. They also agreed not to attack each-other, but their treaty was rocky and it wouldn’t last long. Eventually Hitler’s breaching of their treaty would push Russia to side with the Allies. Here you can see an American soldier and a Russian soldier happily posing for a photograph together.
Tanks are built for most terrains, but are their crew members? As the rain pours down on these tanks, soldiers stand out with umbrellas over their heads to protect them from the downpour.
Seeing color photos from World War II is not very common. These soldiers from the Airborne Division of the 295th Squadron of the RAF get ready to join the fighting in October 1942.
The sad and disturbing reality for children who survived concentration camps can be seen clearly in this photograph. At her school, pupils were asked to draw their depiction of “home” – this was her drawing.
Another American soldier provides comic relief for his fellow soldiers. His Hitler impression takes place at the Third Reich’s headquarters in Berlin, Germany.
Approaching Omaha Beach
The Allied attack on D-Day was actually postponed by 24 hours due to bad weather. These American soldiers impatiently wait to reach Omaha Beach, one of five beaches the Allies stormed to liberate France on June 6th, 1944.
Arming The Planes
Women played many active roles in World War II. Here you can see active duty personnel of the Women’s Royal Navy Service rearming a Hawker Hurricane plane.
Even though the Luftwaffe ripped British cities apart during the Blitz, that didn’t stop locals from going about their regular business when the planes weren’t overhead. Keen book enthusiasts still find that even bombs won’t stop them from visiting their local library.
Battle Of Iwo Jima
On top of Mount Suribachi, American soldiers unite to raise the American flag after defeating an unrelenting Japanese army at Iwo Jima, a Japanese island in the Pacific Ocean.
Celebrating In Moscow
It would be more than a single day of celebrations when the Allies defeated the Germans. This breathtaking view of the Red Square in Moscow is a perfect picture of what celebrations looked like.
Dodging The Sniper
German snipers were known to be very well trained. You can almost feel the tension in this image as an American soldier attempts to keep himself safe from a German sniper, using the cover of an American Sherman tank.
If you were to ask what a soldier looks like the moment he’s off the battlefield, this would be it. These American soldiers sit for a cup of coffee following a couple of days of incessant fighting without food or rest.
Flying Over Egypt
The war in the North of Africa was extremely difficult as the Allies were up against one of Nazi Germany’s strongest generals – Erwin Rommel. This image shows an Allied plane flying above the Egyptian pyramids.
Whether you believe that Adolf Hitler committed suicide or not is a debate that’s still ongoing. But when news spread that he and his mistress had married and killed themselves, some mourned. The German embassy in Sweden lowered their flag, paying tribute to their chancellor.
Haircuts In The Desert
Fighting against Rommel’s Afrika Korps in North Africa was no easy task, but it seems that get groomed was. This Canadian Air Force pilot gets a far-from-standard haircut while waiting for a mission in Tunisia.
If there was ever a photograph best suited for a propaganda campaign, this would be it. A Russian lieutenant raises his pistol as he bellows orders to his fellow soldiers, encouraging them to attack the German front.
At first glance this could look like any tank, but it’s not that at all. A fake division of the U.S. Army was created to fool the Germans, allowing the actual army to attack from another point. Their job was to create a diversion, and they did so by developing inflatable tanks, trucks with speakers making the sounds of tanks and much more.
The Nazis did not just murder millions of Jews during the Holocaust, they also robbed them of their possessions. The Nazi greed took many different forms, from stealing jewelry to removing the little gold fillings in their victims’ teeth. Thousands of wedding rings can be seen here.
There were two major celebrations that took place in America. The first was the celebration of the victory over the Nazis in Europe. And the second would actually mark the end of World War II, in September 1945, when the Japanese surrendered aboard an American naval ship.
Queen Elizabeth the Second led by example during World War II. She served her country as a driver and a mechanic during the war, and she even made sure to practice her shooting skills on the lawn of Buckingham Palace.
“Rip” The Rescue Dog
They called him “Rip”, and they completely fell in love with him. But who was he? He was a rescue dog who aided British rescuers in finding victims after German blitz attacks.
Many attacks from both sides of the war came when the other side wasn’t expecting it. This is the aftermath of an attack by German artillery on an American site.
When the Allies marched through the cities of Europe, they were welcomed in a completely different way to that of the Nazis, and for good reason. These young Dutch girls accompany Allied soldier to a dance.
It was definitely not a time for celebration in Amsterdam. The local population didn’t know that as they sang and danced, German troops opened fire on them. Civilians can be seen hiding, trying to avoid being shot.
The Eagle’s Nest
Hitler’s Kehlsteinhaus was an estate that he spent time with high-ranking Nazis and with his mistress, Eva Braun. American soldiers can be seen enjoying their conquest on the balcony of the beautiful “Eagle’s Nest”.
This rare photo is one that should be the poster for peace around the world. A Jewish woman, forced to wear the Star of David, is protected by a Muslim woman who covers the star as they walk together.
The Russian population suffered the greatest losses during World War II, but they made the greatest impact. Even teenagers were sent to fight against the Nazis – this scout for the Red Army was only 15 years old.
D-Day took the lives of thousands of Allied troops, but when the five beaches were eventually taken, the troops were ecstatic and exhausted. Even though it was a decisive victory, the trauma would haunt many of them until they passed away.
Americans were sure that they would not be involved in the war raging across the ocean. But then out of nowhere on December 7th, 1941, the Japanese attacked Pear Harbor. The USS Shaw is high in flames as sailors can’t believe their eyes.
Hell On Earth
The date is June 6th, 1944 and the location is Omaha Beach. This is exactly what hell would look like. The D-Day attacks were delayed by a day due to bad weather, but the day would turn gray regardless.
Conforming Under Pressure
In March 1939, the Nazis arrogantly marched into Czechoslovakia and took control. The population was split between those who supported them and those who were adamantly against them. A woman raises her in arm in the Nazi salute even though she clearly doesn’t want to.
Fighting The Flames
Many mornings in London were spent with firefighters dousing the flames of fires around the city. German bombers were relentless in their attacks on Britain.