Wieliczka – World War Two Photo

There was an external display in Wieliczka about the Second World War, and this photo was shown on it. I’ve seen this photo of a boy in the Warsaw ghetto in numerous places and I think it is one of the most harrowing taken during the conflict.

The photo was presented proudly by Jürgen Stroop as part of a book length report, now known as the Stroop Report, he wrote of how he had liquidated the Warsaw ghetto. Stroop was confused about how bravely the Jews in the ghetto had fought back, it didn’t meet his prejudices about how the Jews wouldn’t fight.

Stroop destroyed nearly every part of the Warsaw ghetto after the liquidation, a process that killed 50,000 people. He then ensured nearly every building was demolished and he personally oversaw the demolition by explosives of the Great Synagogue of Warsaw.

Stroop was sentenced to death in the war crimes trials but he hoped that he would be able to get his sentence commuted to life imprisonment, despite his crimes. He was handed over to Poland who commenced a new trial in July 1951, which led to his execution on 6 March 1952. His execution took place in Warsaw, the city which he had tried to destroy.

Anyway, back to the photo. The man of the right of the photo is Josef Blösche and he managed to get away with his crimes because he went unidentified after the war. He was able to settle down and he had two children, but when the photos of him came to light in the 1960s he was identified. He was sent to trial and was executed in Leipzig on 29 July 1969.

Despite some false identifications, the scared boy in the photo with his hands in the air has never been identified. Given no-one has been able to identify him, it’s likely that he died at a concentration camp, probably Majdanek or Treblinka. The boy will likely never be identified, but the image represents the horror that hundreds of thousands of children went through.

The photo of this boy was originally taken proudly by a German officer, but instead it now remains as one of the abiding and enduring images of the horror that was the Holocaust.