1. I think the camera may be a Leica. As can be seen in the photograph, the upper section of the protective leather carrying case could be separated from the lower half while remaining tethered to allow the camera to stay firmly cradled and protected while still providing full access to the controls, an excellent method for the rough-and-tumble of field use.

    Given the probability that the Russian winter has already set in, that snow parka probably is his most precious single possession, as the caption says. The PPSh appears to be in very good condition — perhaps a newly-manufactured gun he has just captured?


      Maybe that was an unused gun, its owner likely stabbed to death in his sleep before he could use it… since there are no records of Germans producing 7.62 x 25 Tokarev, I assume that the PPSh will be loaded with 7.63 Mauser. Considering the winter weather, how does the camera man keep the lenses from frosting over? Can anyone add to this?

      • The lens won’t frost over if you are careful not to breath on it, and if you don’t take it inside where it’s warm and humid. It’s just like wearing eye glasses. You’re fine outside if you don’t breath on them. It’s when you walk indoors that your glasses fog up.

        When he did take it inside a heated building, he would need to make sure that he kept cleaning and drying it until it reached ambient temperature to make sure that it didn’t sit about wet.

        It’s also quite possible that he would normally just keep the camera inside his parka and pull it out to take pictures. That would keep the film at a known temperature. I don’t know enough about the film of that era to know if that would be an important consideration. The photo is posed, so we don’t know if it represents the way he would normally walk about.

        A good type of fur for the fringe of his hood by the way is supposedly wolf fur. Allegedly, wolf fur won’t collect moisture and freeze to your face. I’ve never been sure whether that is true or not. On the other hand, I’ve never had a problem with ordinary synthetic “fur” fringes on a parka. If you have a beard or moustache though, ice from your breath will collect on it in cold weather.

        As for the PPSh, I imagine that photographers were low on the weapons issue totem pole and got whatever was available. From that perspective, him having a captured SMGs is not surprising.

        • I recall reading that natural furs pretty much all have that benefit whilst synthetics are meant to suffer that problem.

    • Good point Earl, but many photographers I know would rather use the moniker “never-ready-case” regarding the leather case; some German camera manufacturers from this time-frame preferred to build moulded leather cases with a permanently attached upper section (Voigtländer and Zeiss, just to name two), which may be a nice feature for purely protection purposes but not so practical when you need to carry the camera ready at hand (not so nice to have the cover dangling below the camera, as it unbalances it and ends up being a distraction). I do have a few Voigtländer rangefinder cameras from the 50s (excellent shooters, with beautifully crafted lenses and internals) and I always carry them without the case, fitted with a wrist strap that screws onto the tripod bush, well protected inside a shoulder bag.
      As for the camera in the photo, I suspect it is a Leica IIIa, but it can also be a IIIb (whose main difference was a closer arrangement of viewfinder and rangefinder) or even a IIIc (which had a solid, die-cast body instead of the stamped and die-cast separate parts’ bodies of previous types), all classic Leica screw mount from the so-called Barnack model line. Interestingly, Leitz made a special version of the IIIc for low temperature use, with special ball bearing shutter bearings, marked with a capital “K” on the top plate and on the shutter curtain (hence IIIc K).

      • Thanks for the great information and for jogging the memory, Ruy — always good to hear from you! I hadn’t realized you were a photography/camera buff until now. Voigtlander rangefinder cameras from the 1950’s — wow! I hope you will hang on to them as they will only increase in desirability and value as time goes by. My Dad had a vintage Rolleiflex ( the type where the photographer would look down at the image from the top of the camera at a 90-degree angle relative to the lenses and center the image via etched glass cross-hairs ) that was absolutely marvelous. It also had the optional remote plunger-style shutter trigger that could be unscrewed if the photographer chose to trip the shutter directly. I dearly wish I could have hung on to it, but when he passed away in 1998, my step-mother, not realizing its value, gave it away while sorting through his belongings after the funeral. Hardly her fault, of course, since not that many people are knowledgeable about old cameras and it is easy to overlook such a thing during a time of grieving.

  2. Its a matter of allowing the camera to remain unheated as this prevents condensation forming inside the camera. Also the camera is a Leica IIIb or maybe a IIIc which was introduced in 1940 so it is fairly new.

    Not sure where he was getting film from as almost everyone had better uses for Silver salts.

    • There was quite a bit of film manufacturing going on in Germany even during WW2: there were of course the official news and propaganda films, war photographs for magazines, fictional movies for entertainment (quite a lot in fact, since Goebbels believed it essential for home front morale) and needless to say aerial reconnaissance and engineering (weapons and otherwise) needed film as well.

      If we assume that this soldier’s camera was privately owned and he had to purchase the film out of his own pocket, his choice of camera already tells us that he or his parents were quite well-off, so probably they could have bought film from black market. Or he was such an avid photographer that he had bought lots of film before the war started. Furthermore, consumer goods were available and even manufactured in Germany in 1940 (and beyond), so some film for private consumption may have remained legally available in photography shops even later.

      • I have a Rolleiflex camera which went (almost) to Stalingrad and back with my grandfather, an officer in the Hungarian 2nd Air Brigade. It still has its leather case, with a drop-down flap at the front to enable the camera to be used without taking it out of the case. My mother has a sheaf of photographs kicking around somewhere too, taken during the journey.

        He was a pilot, flying a Ju 86 (and later, Ju 88 I think), but during the winter of 1942-3, like his fellows, was engaged in ground fighting near Ilovskoye, which grew in intensity as the Russians attacked the Hungarian 2nd Army in January 1943. He had good ski pants and a parka, and also swore by silk underwear – he reckoned it helped to avoid lice (a big problem, evidently). Nonetheless he carried permanent black marks on his lower legs, from the frostbite he suffered during the withdrawal from Russia, as well as a mangled forefinger from being shot down earlier in the war. He also spoke of the experience of advancing through the snow, pockets full of grenades, while enemy tracer was zipping past, and of the elation of capturing a truckload of Russian medical supplies, so sorely needed by the troops.

        He was very lucky to survive though. The Hungarian Second Army with which he went to Russia fought very bravely but suffered massive casualties.

        • Lice were a big problem in WW2, although I imagine it was the same in previous wars as well, especially if the conditions prevented regular hygiene and washing of clothes. After a request, the Finnish Army even provided blueprints for the Germans for an effective delousing sauna built from simple materials. It is unclear how widely the Germans used them, possibly only by troops stationed in Finland. For quick delousing of people without access to showers, a sauna is the most effective method, or at least was before effective and well-tolerated delousing agents became available.

  3. War photography is priceless trade. It gives us picture of misery of war as much it shows cunning ways how people managed to survive until the end, that being one way or the other.

    As I mentioned at least at one occasion before, I had in past several years of Die Wehrmacht war pictorial magazine. It opened my eyes then, how it all looked like. Picture is indeed worth of thousand words.

  4. Perhaps the weapon is a MP41r, a PPSh-41 converted to 9mm para? Ian, have you ever done a review of the PPSh-41 and it’s use
    by German forces? Great photograph! .

    • Yes. Woff65 and R. Aballe have positively identified it as a Leica III ( a, b or c sub-type ) in their comments above.

  5. Since when only one’s own-manufactured ammo could be issued with weapons? Anyone metal detecting on the Eastern Front knows how much Soviet PPSh ammo in tar-paper brickets are still found there even now, 70 years afterwards. When the former owners were still warm, one didn’t even had to dig long for the ammo – it was everywhere. Soviets were famously spendthrift with ammunition supply, as were Tsarist Russians before them. And I’ve dug out enough zinc-plated tins of Russian Mosin ammo, both M91 roundnosed and L spitzer, dated 1904-1913 at the WW1 battlefields at Masurian Lakes (ca. 50% still firing 90 years later) to attest to that being a well-established tradition, indeed.

    • What I meant before going off at a tangent, was that Germans had readily available Soviet stock and I doubt if captured weapons have ever seen the 7.63, be it in brass of green-lacquered steel cases.

  6. “It was quite common to use 7.63 Mauser in the various Russian guns.”

    andré bayle (a french wwaffen ss who died in 2010) related in an interview that they feed the “papashas” with russians captured cartridges in littles cardboard boxes.

  7. I agree as to ammunition supply. However, PPSh-41 were captured by US troops on the Western front modified to fire 9 x 19 ammunition.
    The German designation for this modified sub machine-gun was MP41r. An article from The Small Arms Review, March 1998 can be found here:


  8. You need to be careful when buying Leica II cameras or M39 lenses, the Russians made a similar cameras called the FED and ZORKI. When the wall came down someone decided to take these worthless russian cameras and NAZIfy them with swastika’s, eagles, Olympic symbols claiming to be from the ’36 olympics etc, they would polish off the russian engraving and replace them with German logos. Sellers sometimes claim they are pre-production cameras or from special military contracts with very limited production runs.

    Anyone offered an old Leica which is pimped out should be very careful and research it carefully first.

    • True, but to any reasonably educated camera aficionado, the differences in craftmanship, quality of finish, etc, between original Leicas, on one hand, and FED/Zorki Soviet cameras, on the other, are too obvious so usually only non-informed buyers with perhaps too much cash on their pockets end up fooled by such fabricated “special Leicas”.

  9. What’s quite interesting is that there seem to be more photos of germans using soviet weapons early in the eastern war, and rather less in the reversal phase. Easy supply of captured weapons and (more particularly) ammunition in the first half, and reduced supply when falling back on one’s own logistics train in the second half would account for this.

  10. Given this guy’s unit affiliation, that camera was no doubt witness to a good number of atrocities. A picture can tell a thousand words.

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