With a camera in the Don Bend

Some people somewhere with a camel, 1943

That the soldiers of the Second World War, in spite to any earlier notion, mass-produced private photos, has become a well-known fact for more than two decades, mainly due to the German war photo exhibitions. We have also written about this, surveying the most important stages of the reception.

Nevertheless, the anonymous author of the Hungarian múlt-kor (past time) historical portal dresses it up as a novelty that art teacher Zoltán Marics, born in 1915, a a soldier of the anti-Soviet Hungarian army took photos in the Don Bend. The bigger problem is that he/she does not tell about these photos more than two anecdotes. The one is that he made extremely many photos, and before jumping off the truck that stroke on a mine, he pushed them all into his pocket. The other is that during the whole campaign he only shot with his camera, and never with his rifle.

This far the story is beautiful and touching. But let’s see the tiger. Where are those extremely many photos? What do they represent, what do they reveal that we have not known so far? And above all: what are those fourteen images included in this article? Trees, trucks, soldiers. In the background some churches and snowy landscapes. About which we will never know anything. Because there is not a single caption under the pictures. It’s clear that Zoltán Marics meticulously documented this whole historical anabasis. It’s clear that he also carefully compiled an album of them, with maps. arrows, the route of the retreat. And it’s also clear that for the editor of múlt-kor the main thing was to quickly publish this fact itself as a fresh sensation. In contrast to the amateur photos of the nineteen-year old Carlo Manfrini, serving at the same place and at the same time, which were published not in this amateur way by the Italian editors, but provided with data and comments, inquiring the photographer and adding his remembrances to each photo. This makes them convincing historical documents.

Amateur photos are these, how else could it be. Their exceptional value is given by the fact that someone took them there and then. He could not represent with an artist’s power what he lived there, and we should not make him accountable for that. We should demand an account of the editor of múlt-kor that, publishing them for the first time, in a hurry, failed to make them convincing historical documents.