They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and these sad photos from history are no exception.
We can see the thousand yard stare of a shell shocked soldier, witness a pile of dead bodies in the aftermath of the Holocaust, and stare the horror of the atomic bombing.
There’s one thing all these rare historical photos have in common… Horror. Just as a warning, you may find most of these photos unsettling.
1. Russian spy laughing through his execution in Finland, 1942
2. The last Jew in Vinnitsa, 1941
A picture from an Einsatzgruppen soldier’s personal album, labelled on the back as “Last Jew of Vinnitsa”. It shows a member of Einsatzgruppe D just about to shoot a Jewish man kneeling before a filled mass grave in Vinnitsa, Ukraine, in 1941. All 28,000 Jews from Vinnitsa and its surrounding areas were massacred at the time.
3. German soldiers react to footage of concentration camps, 1945
4. Georges Blind, a member of the French resistance, smiling at a German firing squad, 1944
In the end, this turned out to be a mock execution intended to make him talk. Also it was staged for intimidation of other resistance fighters. He was forwarded to a concentration camp, where he was selected for termination on arrival, dying some time in late November 1944.
5. German soldier returns home only to find his family no longer there, 1946
The photo of a German prisoner of war returning to his home town of Frankfurt to discover his house bombed and his family no longer there, shows the kind the depressing moments of dejected subjects we associate with images of war.
6. A Japanese boy standing at attention after having brought his dead younger brother to a cremation pyre, 1945
Joe O’Donnell, the man who took this photo at Nagasaki, was sent by the U.S. military to document the damage inflicted on the Japanese homeland caused by air raids of fire bombs and atomic bombs. Over the next seven months starting September 1945, he traveled across Western Japan chronicling the devastation, revealing the plight of the bomb victims including the dead.
7. The face of war: The first press pictures of dead U.S. soldiers that was presented to the public, 1943
At a time when censors used a heavy hand to keep the American public from knowing and seeing the carnage in the Pacific during World War II, this ground-breaking photograph of dead American soldiers confronted the American public for the first time with the real face of the war.
8. Defiant until the very end, a German Communist being executed in Munich, 1919
9. Job hunting in 1930’s
10. The priest and the dying soldier, 1962
Navy chaplain Luis Padillo gives last rites to a soldier wounded by sniper fire during a revolt in Venezuela. Braving the streets amid sniper fire, to offer last rites to the dying, the priest encountered a wounded soldier, who pulled himself up by clinging to the priest’s cassock, as bullets chewed up the concrete around them.
11. Hans-Georg Henke – 16 Year Old German soldier crying
12. Facing the Death: the different expressions of six Polish civilians moments before death by firing squad, 1939
It’s interesting to see the range of emotions displayed by these men. Anguish, defiance, stoicism, acceptance and fear, the third one from the left is even smiling. This execution happened during the Bloody Sunday in Bydgoszcz (Bromberg), Poland, 1939. Bloody Sunday was a series of killings of members of the German minority that took place at the beginning of World War II.
13. Australian Aborigines in chains at Wyndham prison, 1902
This picture is taken in the early 1900s at the Wyndham prison. Wyndam is the oldest and northernmost town in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. It was established in 1886 as a result of a gold rush at Halls Creek. However the circumstances and the story behind this picture remain unknown.
14. The atomic cloud over Nagasaki, 1945
This is believed to be the earliest photograph from the ground, 15 minutes after the plutonium bomb detonated over Nagasaki. The destruction was so incredible that there is no count on how many people died that day.
15. Hiroshima – Before and After (1945)
16. Bloody Saturday – a crying Chinese baby amid the bombed-out ruins of Shanghai’s South Railway Station, 1937
“Bloody Saturday” – Depicting a Chinese baby crying within the bombed-out ruins of Shanghai South Railway Station, the photograph became known as a cultural icon demonstrating Japanese wartime atrocities in China.
17. 775 confirmed kills in one picture, 1945
Female snipers of the 3rd Shock Army, 1st Belorussian Front. 1st row – Guard Staff Sergeant, VN Stepanov: 20 kills. Guard Sgt JP Belousov: 80 kills. Guard Sgt AE Vinogradov: 83 kills. 2nd row – Guard Lieutenant EK Zhibovskaya: 24 kills. Guard Sgt KF Marinkin: 79 kills. Guard Sgt OS Marenkina: 70 kills. 3rd row – Guard Lieutenant NP Belobrova: 70 kills.
18. German soldier giving bread to an orphaned Russian boy, 1942
19. Executions of Kiev Jews by German army mobile killing units, 1942
Executions of Kiev Jews by German army mobile killing units (Einsatzgruppen) near Ivanograd, Ukraine. The executioner appears to be standing over the body of an already executed person. The gun barrels of other executioners are visible at the left-hand edge of the photograph.
20. Ukrainian askaris standing near bodies of murdered Jews, Warsaw, 1943
Two Ukrainian Askaris peer into a doorway past the bodies of Jews killed during the suppression of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The original German caption reads: “Askaris used during the operation.” Askaris were Red Army deserters who formed units fighting on Eastern front. During WWII, the Germans used the term “askaris” for Red Army deserters who formed units fighting against the Red Army.
21. Evelyn McHale leapt to her death from the Empire State Building, 1947. It’s famously know as, “The Most Beautiful Suicide”.
22. A German prisoner of war escorted by a Soviet soldier, Stalingrad, 1943
In this photograph, a Red Army solider is seen marching a German solider into captivity after the Battle of Stalingrad. The Germans were being rounded up prior to marched to death. The Battle of Stalingrad was amongst the bloodiest battles ever fought in the history of warfare with more than 2 million casualties.
23. Dr. Leonid Rogozov operating himself to remove his appendix in Antarctica, 1961
Leonid Rogozov was a Soviet general practitioner who took part in the sixth Soviet Antarctic Expedition in 1960–1961. He was the only doctor stationed at the Novolazarevskaya Station and, while there, developed appendicitis, which meant he had to perform an appendectomy on himself, a famous case of self-surgery. In 1961, Rogozov was stationed at a newly constructed Russian base in Antarctica.
24. A pile of bodies awaits cremation after the bombing of Dresden, 1945
The bombing of Dresden in February 1945 has remained one of the more controversial aspects of World War Two. Dresden, a city unaffected by bombing up to that point in the war, lost many thousands of civilians in the firestorm that was created by the Allies.
25. US soldiers pose with the bodies of Moro insurgents, Philippines, 1906
On March 7, 1906, US troops under the command of Major General Leonard Wood massacred as many as 1,000 Filipino Muslims, known as Moros, who were taking refuge at Bud Dajo, a volcanic crater on the island of Jolo in the southern Philippines. The First Battle of Bud Dajo, also known as the Bud Dajo Massacre.
26. The shells from an allied creeping bombardment on German lines, 1916
Lone soldier surrounded by a mountain of empty shell cases, France. This lone British soldier up to his knees in spent shell cases, offers a striking impression of the destruction that took place on the Western Front.
27. Rudolf Hoess the commandant of the Auschwitz concentration camp, is hanged next to the crematorium at the camp, 1947
Rudolf Hoess (Rudolf Höss) was the architect and commandant of the largest killing center ever created, the death camp Auschwitz, whose name has come to symbolize humanity’s ultimate descent into evil.
28. Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Szalasi is given the last rites before being hanged as a collaborator, 1946
Ferenc Szálasi was the leader and all-powerful head of the fascist Arrow Cross movement, the regime that came to power in Hungary with the armed assistance of the Germans on October 15-16, 1944. After that date, the fate of hundreds of thousands of Jews was in his hands.
29. Two Soviet infantrymen frozen to death in their foxhole, Finland, 1940
The Soviets had to bring troops from far away to the Finnish front. Some of the soldiers were from the south and hadn’t ever experienced winter conditions like this before, combine that with Finnish patrols destroying the support lines and the hardest winter in a lifetime. The lack of food and supplies was huge, they did lack winter warfare training and gear.
30. Turkish official teasing starved Armenian children by showing bread during the Armenian Genocide, 1915
The Armenian Genocide also known as the Armenian Holocaust, and traditionally among Armenians, as the Great Crime was the Ottoman government’s systematic extermination of its minority Armenian subjects from their historic homeland in the territory constituting the present-day Republic of Turkey.
31. The lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith, 1930
32. Crossed rifles in the sand placed as a tribute to this fallen soldier, 1944
Crossed rifles in the sand are a comrade’s tribute to this American soldier who sprang ashore from a landing barge and died at the barricades of Western Europe, 1944. Some days after D-Day, Omaha Beach. It had to have been after the artillery was stopped.
33. French female collaborator punished by having her head shaved to publicly mark her, 1944
French women who befriended the Nazis, through coerced, forced, or voluntary relationships, were singled out for shameful retribution following the liberation of France. The woman photographed here, believed to have been a prostitute who serviced German occupiers, is having her head shaved by French civilians to publicly mark her. This picture was taken in Montelimar, France, August 29, 1944.
34. Abandoned boy holding a stuffed animal amid ruins following German aerial bombing of London, 1945
Toni Frissell’s famous image of an abandoned boy clutching a stuffed animal in the rubble of 1945 London. The boy did in fact survive the war. In the photo he’s actually sitting outside where his house used to be. The child is sitting alone in the ruble with his stuffed animal.
35. Shell shocked soldier, 1916
Shell shocked soldier in a trench during the Battle of Courcelette (France) in September 1916. His eyes express the madness of the war. The soldier looks like he has gone insane from what he has seen.