Hands Up!

This haunting image of a boy too young to be a menace to anyone is  familiar as a stand-alone portrait. However, it is actually part of a group shot portraying SS men as well as their Jewish prisoners in the Warsaw Ghetto.

About a dozen individuals are potentially identifiable from the original photograph, and there are several candidates for the boy with his hands up. Only one person has been definitely identified in the larger group.

A few years after the end of the war, a nine-year-old Polish boy was identified as the boy with his hands up. Over the years, however, other names surfaced, along with suggestions regarding the identity of many other individuals in the photograph. Israeli newspapers and the New York Times have covered the issue in depth, and author Richard Raskin, in A Child at Gunpoint: A Case Study in the Life of a Photo, examines the evidence in depth. 

Despite the inherent power, the raw emotional appeal of this photo—Israeli President Menachem Begin had a copy on his desk—it was not used for propaganda purposes. It was taken not by a photojournalist but for the internal Nazi Stroop Report and ultimately submitted to Gestapo head Heinrich Himmler. Several photographers contributed to the 53-page report. The Stroop Report was headlined “Es gibt keinen jüdischen Wohnbezirk in Warschau mehr!” ( “The Jewish Quarter of Warsaw is No More!”)

Josef Blosche

One person’s identity is certain: Josef Blösche (1912-1969), a farmhand and waiter before the war, a sadist, rapist and murderer after joining the Gestapo. 

After the war, Blösche lived in East Germany and was exposed in the early 1960s.  Tried, convicted and sentenced to death, he was executed in Leipzig in 1969.

The Stroop Report takes its name from General Jürgen Stroop (1895-1952) and was given to Himmler as a souvenir. After the war, Stroop was tried in Germany, at Dachau, and convicted of killing American prisoners of war.

After being sentenced to death, he was extradited to Warsaw, Poland where he was tried again, this time on charges that included his activities in the Warsaw Ghetto. He was hanged in 1952.

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