It is in order "not to forget" that the Archivio Stereoscopico Italiano presents, in this web site, a selection of little known tridimensional images of Second World War. 40 of the 200 stereographs published in 1940 by the German publisher Otto Schönstein in two volumes dedicated to the occupation of Poland and Western Europe by Hitler’s troops.

They are images of great interest, not only because of what they tell or show according to the typical manner of every conflict – that is to say transforming the truth in order to make propaganda - but above all by reason of what they illustrate: war as an atrocious and terrible thing, where death is always hidden not to reveal the brutality of war itself (or maximum it is visible but concealed under tidy heaps of earth with a cross on them). They are pictures taken exactly to narrate a pre-packed truth, as witnessed from the sarcasm of many of their titles, where for instance a burning mattress on a public square is “obviously” the one full of louses of a Jew or where a destroyed town with only the bell tower still staying is the example of the “proverbial German precision” or where scenes and descriptions show the Nazis’ affection for animals in spite of the historical evidences of the atrocities they committed on humans.

It is right to underline this stridor that we choose to report under each picture testimonies from the book: The Second World War, A Complete History, by the writer Martin Gilbert, to give again to images the truth that history, through words, gave them.

There would be many other subjects to be written about these photos, but in this scanty space there is only another thing that we would like to add on their value: the stereoscopic aspect. The two volumes from which these pictures have been taken belong to the publishing work of Otto Schönstein, which cultivated enthusiastically the tridimensional photography and which in the first years of the third decade of twentieth century, quite contemporarily to the political rise of the German National Socialist Party, was seriously thinking about abandoning a certain trade in the textile field to transform his passion in a real job. He officially did this in 1935 founding the company “Raumbild Verlag Otto Schönstein” and publishing, as first volume of a large series, Venice in Stereoscopy, work still unknown in the bibliographies regarding the Serenissima’s ichnography and that includes 100 pages of text and 60 very good stereographs taken by Schönstein himself in 1932 during his honeymoon in Venice.

Many other works followed this one, as for instance: Olympic Games in 1936, The Work Party Congress and Great Germany Congress (for the series “Contemporary History in Stereoscopy”); Vienna: the Kingdom Pearl, German Territories and Images from Wood Life (for the series “World in Stereoscopic Image”) and a series of titles regarding political and historical contemporary events, as Hitler-Mussolini, Führer’s State Visit in Italy, Führer’s Soldiers on Battlefield, Vol.I, Führer’s Soldiers on Battlefield, Vol. II (for the series “Great events in Stereoscopy”), that were precisely the subjects in consequence of which Otto Schönstein had a lot of problems at the end of the war, when he had to defend himself from the accusation of pro-Nazism.

Today examining his works and documents we know about the great conditioning that he had to suffer as publisher from Heinrich Hoffmann, official photographer of the Reich and power-broker of the Party, as well as his sleeping partner in the management of the publishing house, so much that we can deem inevitable for his enterprise the publishing of political propaganda volumes.

In any case and besides the published titles, the whole work of Otto Schönstein essentially proves his impassioned interest towards stereo photographic art, due to whose pursuit he inevitably didn’t renounce to compromises, but always facing the consequences, also with the crash of most of his publishing activities.

Antonello Satta (Translation from Italian to English by Ilaria Manzini)

Each image title is the original.
On the contrary, all the attached texts to images are taken from: Martin Gilbert, The Second World War, A complete History, Herry Holt and Company, Inc., New York, 1989.

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