Original Item: A wonderful, carefully assembled collection of professional photographs and personal snapshots from WW2. It is the album of Obergefreiter (USAAF: Corporal; RAF: Leading Aircraftsman) Fritz Behle, and is concentrated in 1940. Photographs are about evenly divided between people and planes, although most of the aircraft photographs also feature Behle’s comrades.
The album cover is an attractive, deeply textured leatherette with a finely detailed Luftwaffe eagle in the upper left and the words Kriegs Erinnerungen (War Memories) in the lower right.
The very first image is the wedding portrait of Obergefreiter Behle and Erika, his bride. Fritz looks very young and innocent. Joining them on this page in a formal portrait is Flieger Karl Behle, with a crucifix symbol and date, indicating that Karl was killed on that date. He, too, looks young and innocent.
The album features numerous photographs of German aircraft of the time, including the Stuka, which is captioned “with such aircraft the French and English have nothing to oppose us. ‘Sieg Heil’”. The young airman’s pride is undeniable in numerous captions.
Other aircraft represented are Ju 52s (“Aunt Ju”), He 111s, other Heinkels, Dorniers, an Me 109, Storches and other, earlier observation planes, and, perhaps most interesting, a British Wellington bomber repainted with German identification. The Wellington is captioned “We also had captured English aircraft.”
Crash-landed aircraft are shown in significant numbers. The landing strip is apparently grass, and the crashed aircraft, most in pretty good shape, show long skid marks up to their stopping point. What looks like an aircraft junkyard is also shown in a number of shots, with a variety of different recognizable aircraft.
Another most interesting photograph is a close-up of a He 111 with a complete cable cutter assembly in place. Design details, structure, and support assemblies are clearly represented. In researching the album, the only other photographs of the cable-cutting Heinkels we could find are of an aircraft crash-landed in the UK.
The end papers of the album are of special interest. They are prints of watercolors by the famous German artist Hans Liske. Liske was born in Vienna in 1907 and was educated as an accountant, but he soon took an interest in art. A gift of art supplies from an American got him started as an illustrator and graphic artist. His work during WW2 is among the most compelling to come out of the Third Reich. After the war, he worked as an artist for Daimler-Benz, and became internationally known for his autoracing images. He was also soon recruited to do a large range of commericial work that was recognized world-wide. The print on the inside of the front cover of the album is a page from his Skizzenbuch (Sketch Book), published during the war. It is of a Ju 52 over the ruins of an anonymous ruined city. The inside of the back cover features another page from the same book, a picture of a Stuka being pulled through a muddy track with the comment that “only planes equipped with floats are allowed to touch down.” The quality of these published prints, undoubtedly cut from the 1944 German edition of the Skizzenbuch, is so good that we thought they were original watercolors until examined under a loup.
A total of fifty-nine photographs fill this album, making it a treasure-trove of images taken from the viewpoint of a young, patriotic German airman. Historical records like this album have become priceless time capsules that provide an incomparable level of insight into the individual experience of the Second World War, now that over seventy years have passed.
Also included is an English translation of all the German writing in the album.