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How Germany was crucified in the First World War: Hidden for 100 years, the astonishing photos by 16-year-old soldier shows how his brothers-in-arms would forever be haunted by the spectre of defeat

Hannah Ellis-peterse

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FW:  Maerch 11, 2014

  • Captivating photographs taken by German soldier Walter Kleinfeldt who fought at the Somme aged just 16
  • The teenage soldier captured the reality of the front line for the German army with his Contessa camera
  • Kleinfeldt's photographs are seen for the first time, having been found by his son Volkmar just three years ago

They lay forgotten in a dank cellar for almost a century. But these remarkable photos, published for the first time, give  a rare and uncensored view of the horrors of the First World War from behind enemy lines.

They were taken by Walter Kleinfeldt who joined a German gun crew in 1915 and fought at the Somme aged just 16. As his haunting pictures, taken with a Contessa camera, make all too clear, life in the  trenches was a harrowing experience. The images provide an insight into the epic machinery of war – and capture the darkest moments of battle, with bodies strewn among the rubble.

Returning home in 1918, Walter set up a photography shop in the town of Tubingen, where he worked until his death in 1945. Walter’s son Volkmar discovered the pictures three years ago.

They are now the focus of a new BBC documentary. Director Nick Maddocks said: ‘It is rare to find such good-quality, honest and often beautiful  photos that show us war through the eyes of the soldier, particularly from one so young.’

Hidden Histories: WW1’s Forgotten Photographs is on BBC4 on Thursday at 9pm.

Carnage: Amid the appalling devastation and bodies of dead soldiers, a crucifix stands tall - miraculously preserved from the shell fire. The powerful image was captured after a bloody skirmish in 1917 - and Walter's son Volkmar says: 'This photograph is like an accusation - an accusation against war'

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