Ukrainian Nazi Mystery Photo - Please help identify this photo!
September 30, 2014 12:45 PM   Subscribe

A friend of mine purchased a random box of photos from a Brooklyn yard sale over the weekend. Deep within the collection were several photos depicting life during and immediately after WWII. Based on the photos we have been able to piece together that they most likely belonged to a member of the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Galician).

The photos' owner clearly became a POW (and later "displaced person") in the Rimini (Italy) Camp and immigrated to the West rather than be repatriated to the USSR and certain death. Among the photos is one disturbing mystery shot. It appears captioned in an older Ukrainian script that may have been used by older "Galician" Ukrainians and Ukrainian nationalists during the period. None of the other photos show graphic content however this one does, so please be warned. Can anyone help identify the photo's location, when it may have been made, and what it depicts? The deceased do not appear to be victims of a concentration camp; however, are these victims of a massacre (Nazi or Soviet), a bombing or other attack, or something else? The photo is here. Thanks for your help.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot to Writing & Language (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Do you have more links? I can just about make out the text on the last (only?) Picture and think it refers to a water reservoir near Bren,Poland (it says Bren reservoir).

Wikipedia tells me there was a mass grave in that area. On a phone so can't link... but its a start.
posted by larthegreat at 1:15 PM on September 30, 2014

That is the only photo of it's kind in the set. There are more photos and only one other with any captioning depicting POW/DP camp life that we have deciphered as saying "Camp Rimini" in Ukrainian. So I'm afraid that is about all we have to go by in this instance.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 5:51 PM on September 30, 2014

TL;DR: The photos appears to be of Ukrainians massacred by fleeing Soviet officials just before the arrival of German troops in the city of Lviv, in late June/early July 1941.

Here are the details of how I arrived at that conclusion. I don't read Ukrainian or know much about WWII, and have relied heavily on Google Translate, so take with as many grains of salt as needed.

I put your photo into Tineye and, given the source, was fairly astonished to find two matches online. (Search results expire in 72 hours but you can just search again on your photo if they have expired.)

Both matches are to pages on, which no longer exists. However, it does still exist on (direct link to the pages there). It also exists at a new web address,

Tineye links to two particular pages that use versions of this image. The image appears to me to be identical to the one you have scanned, except that the handwritten annotation is missing and the cropping is very slightly different.
  • On this page, the photo is featured on the upper right corner. The page appears to be about the book Dorohamy Druhoï Svitovoï viĭny legendy pro uchastʹ ukraïntsiv u zdushuvanni Varshavsʹkoho povstanni︠a︡ v 1944 r. ta pro Ukraïnsʹku dyvizii︠u︡ "Halychyna" = Along the roads of World War II : legends of Ukrainian participation in the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 and the Ukrainian Division "Galicia" by Vasyl Veryha. (Note that all names/titles can be transliterated various different ways--Basil, Wasyl, Vasyl, etc.) If you click on the photo, a larger version appears, with the caption "Липень 1941. Вид на частину подвір'я львівської тюрми Бриґідки з рядами помордованих большевиками в'язнів." Google translates this as "July 1941 View of the courtyard of the prison Lviv Bryґidky with rows pomordovanyh Bolsheviks prisoners." I'm not sure exactly what that means, particularly the word "pomordovanyh"--I think it might mean something ilke "murdered" or "massacred"--but this page seems to have some relevant info. I believe that it refers to the massacre of many Ukrainians by the retreating Soviets just before the invading German army arrived, in late June 1941, in Lviv. Quoting:
    However, before the Soviet authorities left, they conducted last minute arrests of all people suspected of being anti-Russian or anti-communist or even just for being nationally conscious. Some of the prisoners, regardless of sex or age, were moved eastwards and some were tortured without trial right in the basement cells of the prison. Thousands of their mutilated bodies were uncovered soon after the Soviet rulers had tied! [NB--I think 'tied' is a typo or OCR error for 'fled'.]
    More info on the Lviv massacre here.
  • The other link to the image is shown on this page. The caption is the same there. The text there adds the detail "В 1941 році я бачив багато замордованих НКВДистами українських людей, жінок і мужчин. Їх тіла були скинені до братніх могил, без християнського похорону." or (courtesy Google Translate) "In 1941 I saw a lot of murdered NKVDystamy Ukrainian people, women and men. Their bodies were thrown into the fraternal graves without Christian burial." This is from a book д-р І. Нагаєвський, Спогади польового духовника (Dr. I. Nahayevskyy, Memoirs of a Field Chaplain) - main page here. The Ukrainian wikipedia entry on Nahayevskyy has more information about him--use Google translate to get the gist of it.
In short, this appears to be a very interesting photo indeed, and one that has been reprinted as part of the history of WWII in Ukraine a few times. It would be interesting to know if these photos are from a collection of the original photographer or some kind of reproduction or duplication.

The photos on, particularly this one, which is larger, seem to show more area to the top and left of the photo, making me wonder whether they are both duplicates of another original photo or negative (many times some part of the original negative is lost when transferring to a printed photo--it could be nothing more than that). Did you cut off the photo at all when scanning it, or is that all you have? Yours shows a bit more to the bottom, including the written caption.
posted by flug at 11:33 AM on October 1, 2014 [3 favorites]

Good sleuthing flug!

Regarding the first photo caption: "Вид на частину подвір'я львівської тюрми Бриґідки з рядами помордованих большевиками в'язнів." This would translate more accurately as "View of part of the yard [or courtyard] of the Lviv jail Brygidky with rows of inmates murdered by Bolsheviks."

So Бриґідки (or Бригідки) is what is written across the bottom of the photo. It refers to Prison no.4 "Brygidky"; a jail since the 18th c., and used by the Bolsheviks during the 2nd World War. flug is correct that this is all within the context of the Lviv massacre of 1941. But note that the "relevant info" link above is about the killings in the city of Komorno in Lviv oblast (province), whereas this photo is from the Bryhidky jail in the city of Lviv.

There is a bit more information about Prison no.4 Bryhidky at The Territory of Terror Memorial Museum website. That section is only in Ukrainian unfortunately:
With the outbreak of World War II, Soviet troops occupied Lviv. Having established itself in September 1939, the Soviet authority continued to use "Brygidky" as prison premises. Officially the prison was named "prison number 4." To this prison the Bolsheviks also (attached?) the prison on Yakhovycha Street (now acad. R. Kuchera Blvd.), where from the times of Polish rule could be found the Commissariat of State Police of the City of Lviv. In late June 1941, during the retreat from the city, the Bolsheviks conducted a mass shooting of prisoners in the prisons of Lviv and set fire to the prison.

As of June 10, 1941 there were 706 "prisoners" in prison №4.
324 people were named in the published list of those shot June 24-28 1941 .
posted by Kabanos at 2:33 PM on October 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

Thanks sleuths! Here's your reward - a couple more of the photos from the box!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:58 AM on October 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

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