- Time photo editor Bridget Harris was shocked when her mother mentioned images of Hitler that her late grandfather had brought back from Germany
- The collection shows Hitler petting animals and meeting workers
- Supporters could collect the set by sending off coupons found in cigarette packets
- Dealing Nazi propaganda became illegal after 1945, making the photos extremely rare in Germany
For years, Bridget Harris had listened intently to her mother’s stories about her late grandfather’s experiences in World War II – but during their last conversation, there was one titbit she’d never heard before.
After surviving the D-Day assault in Normandy, her grandfather, Staff Sgt. Paul T. Lipari, had left Europe with a secret stash of souvenirs – including images of Adolf Hitler as a young man.
Harris sat in amazement as her mother fetched the never-before-seen pictures, which had been stored in a box with other photos, maps and letters upstairs in her parents’ California home.
The images – Nazi propaganda – attempt to depict Hitler as a kind and respected leader.
In one image, he pets a fawn with the caption: ‘The Führer is a friend to animals.’ Another shows him shaking hands with grinning workers, while another shows him meeting wounded SA soldiers.
An even earlier image shows him alongside comrades at hospital in Berlitz. Hitler had spent almost two months at the hospital after being hit by a shell in the Battle of the Somme in October 1916.
There were also photos showing waving supporters at rallies and children marching in the street as part of the Hitler Youth.
Harris discovered that each photo came with a patriotic caption. ‘Drums which call German freedom,’ one image of a parade read. ‘Chancellor and workers hand in hand,’ another says.
The photos are rare because, after 1945, German governments enforced a law making it illegal to deal in Nazi propaganda and literature – leaving few collections like this behind.
The images had been taken for a cigarette picture book entitled ‘Germany Awakes: The Growth, Struggle and Victory of the NSDAP’, Harris reported.
Most of the photographs were made by Heinrich Hoffmann, the official photographer of the National Socialist German Worker’s Party. The party collaborated with the German Cigarette Picture Service to work on the collection.
They prepared books containing text and empty spaces for the photos, and smokers would then find coupons for the images inside their cigarette packages. They would send the coupon to the company and, in return, get the photos.
‘In effect, Third Reich trading cards,’ Harris wrote.
Her article explains that soldiers have long been ‘liberating’ souvenirs from foreign lands, but she has many unanswered questions about the images found by her grandfather, who died 15 years ago.
‘If my grandfather were alive today, I would have so many questions to ask him,’ she wrote. ‘Where did he find these cards? What caused him to pause and pick them up, and why did he bring them back home?
‘I can’t help but wonder if he shared the same instinct that I have when I come across pictures like these: namely, a deep curiosity, as well as a desire to know more and to share that knowledge.’
Her full article and photo gallery can be seen at Life.com.