Mysterious photos from World War II
Emery County Historical Society met at the San Rafael Museum and learned from Dottie Grimes about a Mysterious Photo Album recovered from World War II.
President Evelyn Huntsman opened the meeting with announcing the Antique Road Show and tasting table scheduled for Dec. 12, you are invited to bring and explain some of your antiques.
Huntsman announced that the San Rafael and the Pioneer Museums have a need for volunteers to keep these treasures in Emery County open to visitors.
After a prayer and a pledge Chall Cook singing and his wife Annette playing the piano entertained the group with a medley of patriotic songs in remembrance of Armistice Day. Some of the songs were "This Is My Country" and "God Bless America."
Huntsman introduced Historian Dottie Grimes and she introduced her sister Virginia Hawkins Bryant. Bryant lives in St. George and Bountiful. She spends the winter in St. George and the summer in Bountiful. Bryant came to hear Grimes make her presentation.
Grimes displayed a photo album with a black cover with letters indicating a German military unit. Her dad while serving in Germany discovered the black photo album during World War II.
Grimes reported that her father died when she was 14 years old. When she was 21 her mother married Lauren Hawkins.
Hawkins was 38 years old when he was drafted. Hawkins was an American Soldier in Company B, 56th Armored Engineer Battalion during World War II. He participated in the Battle of the Bulge. After the War was over his company was assigned to Mauthausen to liberate the concentration camp of Mauthausen, Austria. As the soldiers traveled to Mauthausen they looted abandoned houses. In one German Soldiers house they found many medals and a black covered photo album on the floor of the house in Regensberg Germany. On the cover of this album there is an inscription that indicates the soldier was from the German 4th Machine Gun Company of the 42nd Infantry Regiment. Hundreds of these albums were given out to German Soldiers before the war for a record of their service.
Lauren Hawkins recognized the historical value of this German Soldiers album and carried it with him. Later when he took photos he would put his photos in this same album. In the album there are quite a few photos of the invasion of Poland by the Germans. Some of the photos show people being lined up against the walls of buildings to be interrogated prior to being shot, shipped to a labor camp or concentration camp. In the album there were other photos of burning buildings, mass graves, concentration camps, starving prisoners, cremation ovens, German soldiers in formation, German officers on horseback leading infantry and equipment down a road. There were also photos of bodies in stacks outside of a building. Some of the photos display the destruction to buildings, vehicles, people and animals caused by the German invasion of Poland.
Using a laptop computer and a video projector Grimes was able to show many of the photos from the album on a large screen.
Just prior to the German invasion of Poland, Hitler said, "Have no pity, as he ordered commanders to wage war with the greatest brutality and without mercy." In a later speech on that same day Aug. 22, 1939, Hitler said, SS Death Head units stand ready under orders to mercilessly send to death men, women and children of Polish descent." On Sept. 1, 1939 1,600,000 German soldiers entered Poland.
Grimes said, "When the photo album was shown to the Holocaust museum in Washington DC, the people at the Museum discovered some valuable missing information from the photos."
As General Eisenhower and General Patton visited the Mauthausen Concentration Camp the sights sickened them. General Patton later made the citizens of the Mauthausen tour the concentration camp and wear their Sunday best while burying the dead.
At the end of the lecture Grimes entertained questions and comments from the audience.