This photo album is another step in
the understanding of military disasters as universal, supranational tragedy. The
life and actions of any person on this war (on any side) are subject to that terrible
power, comparable only to that of the biblical Moloch, whose fire obliterated countless
victims. This concerns those who killed, were killed in the battle, was in captivity or
got out alive from the ruins of his own house. Can you say, looking at pictures of children
without parents, whose tears are bitter: Belarusian girl or boy from Berlin?
The book presents works by first class
Soviet and foreign photographers and features the epic that was the Great Patriotic War (1941–45),
which is better known in Western Europe as the Eastern Front or the Soviet German Front –
the main theatre of World War II. The works selected come from the Russian State Archives
of Cinematic and Photographic Documents that preserve an immense amount of truly invaluable
material. The publication is not meant to serve as an illustrated historic chronicle: many
key episodes of the war are only briefly outlined while many others are not included at all.
Yet the material itself is of course arranged in the order of historical events and their importance.
The book is divided into three large chapters
corresponding to the three periods of this war epic and features military operations, numerous
redeployments of troops, views of destroyed towns and villages, and many other aspects of the war.
At times history follows the trajectory of a boomerang. The idea of world supremacy, launched
by the Nazis from Berlin, boomeranged on Germany several years later. This peculiar ‘mirror image’
of events is vividly conveyed by the photographs presented.
Focusing on people who were involved in military
operations or lived in the enemy occupied districts, the compilers of this album have limited the
visual section almost exclusively to photographs made at the front, in the nearest front line
areas and in the areas under German occupation. The publication covers the period from 22 June
1941 to May 1945. The final photographs – in fact, an epilogue of the book – show the Victory
Parade on Red Square in Moscow in June 1945. The majority of photographs are so expressive that
they hardly need any commentary. Nevertheless the compilers have deemed it necessary to provide
even such photographs with as full information as possible. Each photograph has captions in
Russian and English. The preface has also text in English.