Pictures of World War I

Each Worth 1000 Words…

The Other Side of History: German World War I Pictures

In 1914 there were less than twenty photographers employed within the German Military. During the period of the war they produced vast numbers of photographs. The ones that were archived were not personalized thus they were captioned as having been taken by a ‘German official photographer’. Many of the pictures were posed and used to document military equipment, uniforms, men and for propaganda.

In 1727 a German professor, Johann Heinrich Schulze, proved that the darkening of silver salts could record words. This combined with the camera obscura provided the basic technology for the development of photography in the early 20th Century. Thus Germany was a leader in the art and science of photography when WW1 started.

Hans Hildenbrand, was one of the official photographers contracted by the German regime to document the war. He was the only practitioner of color photography to record the war from a German perspective. His photos are mostly from Alsace and Champagne in 1915 and 1916.

The Doppel-Sport Panoramic Camera was created in 1912 by Julius Neubronner in Germany to take aerial photographs.It was carried by pigeons and used by the Germans to spy on the French during World War 1.

Strict German censorship prevailed with regard to the photographic records. The photographers had instructions as to what they could picture. They were not allowed, for instance, to photograph weapons systems, strategically sensitive facilities or technological advancements that the Allies could benefit from.


The German photographers produced images, seen on this site, of the military command and regimentation of soldiers ‘marching’ to war, being transported to where the fighting was and the horrors of trench battles along the European fronts. On the eastern front, picture ‘landscapes’ of soldiers in Russia, from the Baltic to the Black sea.

There are pictures of trenches being dug, fortified, lived and died in. Images of the injured; German medical military service was very organized but there were more men wounded than anticipated and at the fronts the doctors had to improvise, thus medical treatment often took place under primitive conditions.

The majority of soldiers killed in World War I were never identified because they were blown apart by shellfire, sucked into the mud or buried under tons of falling earth. Mass grave sites are seen throughout the regions.

There are portraits of men in uniform. One classic picture, from an historical stand point, is of three German soldiers posing for a photograph. The man on the right is Gefreiter A. Hitler. At his feet his pet dog, a small white terrier.


The Luftwaffe aerial combat pilots were seen as chivalrous heroes engaged in honest and impressive one-on-one fighting. Germany had in Manfred von Richtofen and Oswald Boelcke two of the most famous aces of all. Their photographs regularly appeared in newspapers making them the celebrities of their day.

Pictures of the Reichswehr, the Kaiserliche Marine and the Luftwaffe were taken mostly for military recording and propaganda.

The German involvement in Central Power areas; the Ottoman Empire and German territorial regions, was minimal since the German manpower was needed in Europe. Thus wartime German pictures of these regions are rare. For example: The Battle of Tulkarm took place in 1918. The only available German and Ottoman records are Liman von Sanders’ memoir and the Asia Corps’ war diary. Ottoman army and corps records disappeared during their retreat.


Upon the collapse of the Central Powers at the end of the war in 1918 the Germans as well as the winning Allies destroyed and lost many of the German records including the photographs.

The German government did not keep records of surviving soldiers from either of the world wars.

In Germany, there is no culture of remembrance because the war carries the stigma of defeat and is viewed as the precursor to the rise of Adolf Hitler, World War II and the Holocaust.


World War 1 Germany and Central Powers Pictures