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Photo Gallery: Siege of Warsaw, Poland 1939 Browse

Elderly Religious Jews Dig Trenches

Elderly Religious Jews Dig Trenches

Under the supervision of Polish soldiers, elderly religious Jews dig anti-tank trenches to try to impede the German invasion. This photograph has been so widely used that it has become iconic of the early days of the war in Poland. Unfortunately, it is very often misused. It is usually seen without attribution to Julien Bryan and regularly described as Jews at forced labor under guard of an armed German soldier. In fact, the man holding the gun on the left is a Polish soldier overseeing civil defense work. Soon after Julien Bryan returned to the United States, he had more than 150 of his original black and white negatives produced as hand-colored glass lantern slides at Edward van Altena’s studio in New York City. Lantern slides are positive images on glass that were intended to be projected for viewing. Before color film became widely available, these slides were often hand-painted to create vivid color works. Lantern slides became popular in the United States in the late 1800s and continued to be widely used until the 1930s, when they were gradually replaced by more convenient 35mm slides. US Holocaust Memorial Museum, gift of Julien Bryan Archive