Henry Ries (1917–2004), a celebrated American-German photojournalist, was born into an upper-class Jewish family in Berlin. He immigrated to the U.S. in 1938 to escape Nazi Germany. As a new American citizen, he joined the U.S. Air Force. After the war, Ries became photo editor and chief photographer for the OMGUS Observer
(1946–1947), the American weekly military newspaper published by the Information and Education Section of the Office of Military Government for Germany (OMGUS). One photograph by Ries that first appeared in this newspaper in 1946, and a second, in a different composition and enlarged format, that he included in his 2001 autobiography, create significant commentaries on postwar Germany. The former image accompanies an article about the first post-WWII German feature film: Wolfgang Staudte’s The Murderers Are Among Us
. The photograph moves from functioning as a documentation of history and collective memory, to an individual remembrance and personal condemnation of WWII horrors. Both reveal Ries’s individual trauma over the destruction of Berlin and the death of family members, while also conveying the official policy of OMGUS. Ries’s works embody a conflicted, compassionate gaze, conveying ambiguous emotions about judgment of Germans, precisely because of his own identity, background and memories.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited