Solve a WWII mystery!
March 25, 2014 4:59 AM   Subscribe

It's a long shot, but does anyone have any ideas about this drawing from WWII?

My grandfather was a Technician Fifth Grade with the 723rd Railway Operating Battalion, Headquarters Company. At some point, the story goes, he befriended a German POW who drew this picture for him. He sent it back to his wife living in the US. Unfortunately, something was written in the lower left corner that the censors snipped out. We assume it was either the POW's name, the name of the area where they were stationed, or the POW's hometown.

There appears to be some writing on the back. Unfortunately, my grandmother glued it to a thick sheet of cardboard. She also added their names above and below the drawing; you can see a bit at the top and bottom of the image. We took it to a paper conservator about two years ago and they said there was nothing they could do about removing the cardboard.

The image is 4x5 3/4 inches or 10.5x14.5 cm.

Also, my grandfather was second generation American and his family was from south-central Germany. We've wondered if the artist could have possibly been from the same area. As far as we know he never smoked, so we've also wondered if he might have traded for the drawing with his cigarette ration.

I know this is a long shot, but does anyone have an idea of what the drawing is showing? Even longer, any idea who the artist might be? Any ideas of where else I might look for more information?
posted by lharmon to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I have seen people in reddit post a picture of old family photos with the question "where is this place" and seen amazing results. I'm not sure if there is a specific subreddit for it but it is worth a try.

edit- there is a subreddit "". It's not a very trafficked subreddit but glancing as recent posts they seem amazing!
posted by beccaj at 5:55 AM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

All I've got for you is anecdata: that looks a lot like an old painting from Stuttgart my own German grandparents used to have hanging on their wall.

(Sorry, I don't know what happened to it, so I can't confirm the resemblance.)
posted by easily confused at 7:15 AM on March 25, 2014

Best answer: I think its this building in Dreux. The photo is from here
posted by interplanetjanet at 7:45 AM on March 25, 2014 [14 favorites]

Interplanetjanet has it, for a view that includes the clock:

Look here

For sale as a postcard on ebay as well.
Search for 'hotel de ville dreux' on google for plenty of other pictures.
posted by Akke at 7:50 AM on March 25, 2014

I found it by doing a google image search for every town that unit history mentions the German prisoners being in. I thought the prisoner probably drew a building he saw. (if he'd copied a photo we'd be stumped)
posted by interplanetjanet at 7:55 AM on March 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

Here's some from Wikimedia Commons - Belfry of Dreux. This is probably the clearest.
posted by zamboni at 8:40 AM on March 25, 2014

Another copy of the old postcard on etsy.
posted by mareli at 8:59 AM on March 25, 2014

Response by poster: Interplanetjanet, you are AMAZING! I've checked several other pictures of the area, and they seem to match it in every way. That's great!

In response to hal_c_on, the names that were added to the picture are my grandparents'. She had someone draw them on in a gothic-style script. Not sure why she did.

Going by the unit history posted above it looks like the picture was probably done sometime after September 1944. Here's some information about the building (in French) from the French Ministry of Culture.
posted by lharmon at 9:15 AM on March 25, 2014

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