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Candid Reich

In 1939 the Wehrmacht conscripted a man named Rudolf into the Nazi infantry. They handed him a government-issue camera and sent him off to join the German troops en route to the Eastern front. Rudolf was to document what he saw as his company trudged...



In 1939 the Wehrmacht conscripted a man named Rudolf into the Nazi infantry. They handed him a government-issue camera and sent him off to join the German troops en route to the Eastern front. Rudolf was to document what he saw as his company trudged from Munich through Poland and into Russia. Near Moscow, Rudolf’s appendix ruptured. He was immediately flown back to Germany, which spared him from the death sentence that awaited most of the men he’d photographed as the fighting in Russia wore on.

Rather than return all of his film to Nazi authorities upon his discharge, as was the rule, Rudolf stashed a few undeveloped rolls and kept quiet about them. Some 60 years after they were taken—and much to the surprise of Rudolf’s widow—his grandson Nico stumbled upon the forgotten pictures in the family’s attic.

Nico told his friend, photographer Philippe Gerlach, about his discovery, and Philippe persuaded Nico to let Vice publish them. These images offer a rare and candid glimpse behind the seemingly inhuman facade of the Third Reich. It’s strange to see the Nazis this way, and it makes us wonder again how so many average people could have been so thoroughly indoctrinated with the shockingly stupid and evil bullshit their leaders fed them.