by Kathryn Hadley
Last week, to coincide with the 65th anniversary of D-Day, Life published a series of previously unseen photographs of Hitler on its website. The series, which document, for the most part, the Fuhrer’s private life, include over 50 colour pictures from the collection of Hugo Jaeger, Hitler’s personal photographer. Jaeger was granted unprecedented access to Hitler and photographed him from 1936 until his final days in 1945.
The photographs include shots of the interiors of Berghof, Hitler’s mountain estate in Bavaria, his residence in Berlin, scenes from parties and a photograph of him with Chamberlain at Munich. Jaeger also spent time documenting places of Hitler’s youth, including the building in the village of Fischlham, Austria, where Hitler began school in 1895, Leonding, where he grew up, from 1898 to 1905, and the village of Strones in Austria, the birthplace of his grandmother Maria Anna Schicklgruber. To this date, only a fraction of the collection has been published.
The story of the survival of the photographs is extraordinary. Immediately after the war, Jaeger hid the transparencies in a suitcase. However, the case was found by six American soldiers as they searched the house near Munich where Jaeger was staying, in 1945. The suitcase also contained a bottle of Cognac and the soldiers allegedly proceeded to share the bottle with Jaeger and the owner of the house, forgetting the remaining content of the suitcase. After the Americans left, Jaeger hid the photographs in 12 glass jars, which he buried on the outskirts of the town. In the years after the war, he occasionally returned to dig the jars up, repack and rebury them. He eventually retrieved the 2,000 transparencies in 1955, which had all been preserved intact. He stored them in the vault of a bank for ten years and, in 1965, eventually sold them to Life magazine.
The photographs are available online at http://www.life.com/
For further information on Hitler and Nazi Germany, visit our Nazi Germany focus page.