Thursday 7 March 2019

The Propagandakompanien and the Battle of Stalingrad - photo presentation by the ECPA- D

The ECPA-D in Ivry sur Seine, Paris, is one of the world's leading photographic archives. The ECPA-D has a 'German collection' - the so-called "fonds allemand" - of over 1,000 film reels and 350,000 photographic images -with negatives- produced by the German propaganda companies (Propagandakompanien) in charge of communication/film and news-reel propaganda production in the armies of the Third Reich. The archive has a large collection of PK Berichter (reporter) photographs that are being catalogued - very few are captioned - and which are available to view in the archive to personal visitors - no appointment necessary.

Regular ECPA-D visitor and recent contributor to Many Souffan's "Aces" magazine, Remi Tracanelli told the Luftwaffe blog ;

" .. the ECPAD /Etablissement de Communication et de Production Audiovisuelle de la Défense was established in 1915 and is currently housed at the Fort d’Ivry, an old fortress of the 19th century belt built to protect Paris. Their activities are centred around the production of images and films for the French armed forces. Collecting and archiving is a major part of their work. Among their material we find the so-called “ Fonds allemand” the 'German collection'. Constituted primarily from pictures shot by the PK Film-Berichter on all fronts from the summer of 1939 to November 1944, there were 28 PK/Propaganda Kompanien in which at their height some 15,000 people served. These Bildberichter took according to unofficial estimates anywhere from 2 million to 5 million images, although there are no accurate figures. One batch of Bilder was seized by the Allies on a road in Bavaria and shared between the American and French armies, of which the largest part went to the Americans - some one million images, most of which were later returned to Germany (after being copied) and which are now housed in the Koblenz archive. The ECPA-D collection is unique in that the French have the original negatives...

..100.000 pictures of the Waffen-SS PK remain in the US. All the rushes made by PK-Filmberichter used to create the Wochenschau programmes appear to have been lost. Of the 'German collection' viewable at the ECPA-D there are some ca. 350/400,000 images concerning the whole Wehrmacht. In the 1980’s work started to organise photo shoots in big folders. The classifications were made with the time knowledge and broken down into Heer/Kriegsmarine/Luftwaffe = DAT/DAM/DAA with some mixing. There are files devoted to the Fallschirm /FALLAOK 11.Fl.Kps/11FLG D. and the Afrika Korps/DAK and even the individual Luftflotten numbered /LFT 2/5 .. there are also 3 ‘Ordners’ named ZBV/Z.Besondere Verwendung…. In the early 2000’s the scanning of pictures was started although this is a long way from being finished. The files concerning the Luftwaffe show virtually all the fighting units , JG, KG, KGzbv, ZG, F and H recce units , … but also the Axis fighting units such as the Italians, Romanians, Bulgarians, and Croatians …"

FW 190A-3/U4 WNr.35377 was "rote 10" of the 5.(F)/123. In the background, WNr.35346 "rote 9" in which Fw. Oskar Sahre was MIA 13.March 1943. Image provided by Christophe Blanluet..

 The archive also has a policy of making available each year a small number of its many thousands of images to selected web sites. I'm pretty sure though that this does not include FB. The aim in broad terms is to get 'specialists' to assist in providing captions and/or providing identification of places or personnel seen in the images. There have been various attempts to involve 'experts' and other interested parties in indexing the 'German collection'.. According to the 'German collection' archivist Nicolas Férard (or 'documentaliste' in French) who I spoke to recently;

"..many authors have proposed this type of arrangement ... and it is something that following a change of management may well be proposed again, especially as the ECPA-D develops its digital platform. However the institution is not yet inclined to participatory indexation but it could come...I will be doing an internship at the INA (Institut national de l'audiovisuel) in June on this topic. The problem remains and will remain the audiovisual rights to the images.."

Note there is no on-line catalogue as yet. Images can only be viewed in one of two ways. Personal visitors are welcome without appointment, while archivists can undertake 'searches' at a cost of 30 euros per 30 minutes.

The ECPA-D digital platform is at which is where you will find the various on-line 'forms' or "formulaires" for ordering images or searches (under the drop-down menu 'vente d'images' ).

Documentaliste Nicolas Férard is author of a very nice book which is entitled Propagandakompanie and is published by 'Histoire et Collections'..subtitle is 'War reporters of the Third Reich'.

Currently on the ECPA-D website;

The Battle of Stalingrad (17 July 1942 - 2 February 1943) is anchored in the collective memory as the turning point of the Second World War, marking the end of the German army's hegemony. Yet in the summer of 1942, who could say that the armies of the Third Reich would lose this battle?

The German photographs dedicated to the Second World War and kept at the ECPA-D do not show the defeat but deal with the battle from July 1942 to January 1943. These images were produced by the Propagandakompanien. As a result, the German army is portrayed as victorious and still very far from the disaster of February 1943. However, in the absence of progress by Axis troops, the reporter's lenses moved away from the battlefield to focus on the 'heroic character' of the German soldier as an individual. The propaganda erases the Blitzkrieg and the mass effect of the German armoured divisions from its vocabulary to focus on the German soldier (Einzelkampfer), author of feats of arms, photographed alone, often from the front, in close-up. The Einzelkampfer was now the "spearhead" of propaganda until the fall of Berlin in April 1945. This change in tactics in the communication of the battle is indicative of the German military failure.

In addition, the battle of Stalingrad is often mentioned through winter fighting, cold, snow, the distress of German soldiers, compared to the victorious soldiers of the Red Army. It is often forgotten that the battle began in July 1942, in the heat and dust at a time when Germany of the Third Reich was still victorious on the battlefield.

This portfolio that the ECPA-D currently features on their web site presents emblematic images of the Battle of Stalingrad from the point of view of German propaganda. Particular emphasis is placed on the Luftwaffe's participation with a number of little known images from still series recently made available for viewing at the ECPA- D.