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False Claim - Colour Photographs of Hitler Taken by American Life Photographer

Outline
Email forward that features a series of colour photographs depicting the life and times of Adolf Hitler before and during the 2nd World War claims that the pictures were snapped by an American photographer working for Life magazine, who subsequently disappeared. According to the message, the images were lost for 70 years before they were discovered by a nurse at a Berlin hospital and eventually returned to Life.



Brief Analysis
The photographs are genuine, but they were not taken by an American Life Photographer who subsequently disappeared. In fact, the photographs were taken by Hitler's personal photographer, Hugo Jaeger. Jaeger hid the photographs for many years but eventually sold them to Life Magazine in 1965 (or 1970 according to some reports). Many of the pictures were published on Life.com in 2009.

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Detailed analysis and references below example.

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Last updated: 22nd November 2011
First published: 22nd November 2011
Article written by Brett M. Christensen
About Brett Christensen and Hoax-Slayer


Example
Subject: Fw: Amazing photos Germany 1939-1940

These color pictures were taken by a Life photographer between 1939 and 1940 in Berlin and were lost for over 70 years because the American photographer disappeared at the beginning of the war, along with his Roliflex camera.

Shown here are the originals (used at that time in the production of magazines). The majority are 6"x 9". A nurse in a Berlin hospital, who kept them put away during all these years, found them.

After her death her daughter returned them to the current editors, who retain the copyrights to Life Magazine, which has not been published since the early '70s.

Editor's note: The email forward come with an attached file containing around fifty photographs. Many of the photographs can be seen in their originally published context on the "Life" website. A Life gallery that contains some of the photographs is included below:



Detailed Analysis
This message, which circulates via email and has also been posted to a great many blogs and forums, features a series of colour photographs depicting the life and times of Adolf Hitler before and during the 2nd World War. According to the message, the photographs were taken by an American photographer working for Life Magazine. The message claims that the American photographer disappeared at the beginning of the war and the images were lost for 70 years until they were discovered by a nurse working in a Berlin hospital and later returned to Life magazine by the nurse's daughter.

The photographs are genuine. However, the story about their history included in the above message is nonsense and was apparently made up by pranksters unknown. Ironically, the real story behind these photographs is just as remarkable as the tall tale told above and certainly needs no fictional embellishment.

The pictures were actually taken by one of Hitler's personal photographers, Hugo Jaeger. Spiegel Online notes that Jaeger concentrated on taking colour shots of Hitler himself along with various Nazi propaganda spectacles. The Spiegal article explains:
When the Allied victory began to look certain, Jaeger carefully packed his negatives into preserving jars and buried them in the ground, fearing that his work would be seen as incriminating by the advancing Allied troops. In 1970, he sold about 2,000 slides to the American magazine Life, making public for the first time some of the best photographs of Hitler. Then his work disappeared from public view, gathering dust in the archives of the Getty Images photo agency, where it has remained unappreciated and largely unknown until now.
A June, 2009 New York Daily News article concurs, although it suggests that the images were sold to Life in 1965 rather than 1970:
The images almost never made the light of day.

In 1945, when the Allies pushed towards Munich, the photographer found himself face-to-face with six American soldiers and feared he would be arrested when they found the thousands of color negatives he had hidden in a leather suitcase.

Instead, the soldiers threw open the case to discover a bottle of cognac, which they eagerly opened and shared with Jaeger, ignoring the transparencies beneath.

To preserve the photos, he buried them in 12 glass jars on the outskirts of Munich, returning over the years to check on them, repack and rebury them.

In 1955, Jaeger finally retrieved all 2,000 transparencies and stored them in a bank vault before selling them to LIFE magazine in 1965.
Life eventually published many of the images in 2009 via several photographic galleries on the Life.com website. The Adolf Hitler, Up Close gallery includes the following description:
Between 1936 and 1945, German photographer Hugo Jaeger was granted unprecedented access to Adolf Hitler, traveling and chronicling, in color, the Fuhrer and his confidants at small gatherings, public events, and, quite often, in private moments. Here, and in several other galleries on LIFE, we present rare and never-before-published photographs from Jaeger's astonishing -- and chilling -- collection.
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References
Hitler in Color
Never-before-seen photos of Adolf Hitler taken by personal photographer Hugo Jaeger revealed
WWII: Women of the Reich
Adolf Hitler, Up Close



Last updated: 22nd November 2011
First published: 22nd November 2011
Article written by Brett M. Christensen
About Brett Christensen and Hoax-Slayer