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Pearl Harbor surprise: Photo of female firefighters wasn't from Dec. 7

Bill Dedman on MSNBC’s Open Channel blog:

In the 70 years since the attack on Pearl Harbor, a dramatic photo of female firefighters has been published many times in magazines, history books and online as a depiction of action on Dec. 7, 1941. We published it this past week on Now, with the help of our readers, we’ve located one of the women, who says the photo was definitely not taken on that day.

Really awesome piece involving crowdsourcing, personal history, and politics.

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In Hours, Online Readers Identify Nazi Photographer

On June 21, The New York Times’s Lens blog and Der Spiegel’s EinesTages site posted photos taken during World War II from an unnamed album by an unknown photographer. In less than three hours, the internet had collaborated to identify the photographer.

This week the photographer was identified in less than three hours, thanks to the collective expertise of online readers. He was Franz Krieger, who joined — and then quit — a Wehrmacht propaganda unit known as the Propagandakompanie. Seventy years ago this August, when he was in his mid-20s, the unit sent him on a tour of the Eastern Front.

There was little to go on in the album itself. No name was scribbled inside the front cover.

The first clue came from Harriet Scharnberg of Hamburg, Germany, who spotted the photographs online, identified them as Krieger’s and said they were taken during his trip to Minsk, in what is now Belarus, in 1941. On the way back to Berlin, she said, he took the pictures of Hitler meeting with Adm. Miklos Horthy, the regent of Hungary, in Marienburg (now Malbork, Poland).

Ms. Scharnberg said that in her research for a Ph.D. dissertation on German propaganda photographs depicting Jews, she had come across Peter F. Kramml’s 2008 book, “The Salzburg Press Photographer Franz Krieger (1914-1993): Photojournalism in the Shadow of Nazi Propaganda and War.”

Dr. Kramml all but confirmed that the photographs were Krieger’s when he sent The Times a copy of a Krieger self-portrait taken in a rear-view mirror. It was identical to one in the album.

There’s a lot to love about this story. The pictures are fantastic. Krieger’s story is compelling. The power of the internet is awe-inspiring. It’s just a great piece that ties the past and the present together.