The Harsh Realities of War

These images were taken by German soldier, H. A. Reinhold and are part of the H.A. Reinhold Papers, 1908-1997. A native of Hamburg Germany, Reinhold chronicled his war experience by taking pictures throughout Europe. Although many of his images captured the routine, day-to-day happenings of a soldier’s life, the ones below were chosen based on the extreme destructiveness that they exhibit. These images can serve as a sharp contrast to the government-produced propaganda images that we have been seeing. The fact that each image was taken in a different location helps to emphasize the overwhelmingly destructive nature of this conflict and the harsh reality of war.

This image was taken in an unknown city sometime during the war; likely in France due to the French writing on one of the buildings. Soldiers can be seen marching through this badly damaged city. Like in many of Reinhold’s other photos, it is quite apparent from this photo that destruction was ubiquitous during the war.


Box 25, Folder 1, H. A. Reinhold Papers, MS.2003.60, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Cities were notoriously plagued by aerial bombardment, but not ground attacks, and this building, most likely an apartment complex, was destroyed by bombs from the sky. Millions were displaced from their homes and forced into underground safe areas, or removed entirely from the city to neighboring rural areas not occupied by opposing troops. This is another example of the taxing effect war had on civilians, often referred to as noncombatants. After the war, cities needed to be rebuilt due to the destruction of war and the price of reconstruction was far greater than just the cost of brick and mortar.


Box 25, Folder 1, H. A. Reinhold Papers, MS.2003.60, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

This image was taken by Reinhold in 1917 in Memel, Germany. Unlike the other images, this one features a more rural setting. Nevertheless, the destruction here is just as devastating as it was in the urban communities around Europe. The small, wooden fortress had potentially several uses; decoy, surveillance, or just simply protection from the hellish rainstorm of artillery emerging from the horizon of No Man’s Land. The fortification in this picture is an illustration of the isolation created by the conditions of World War One, alone outside of the trenches unsure of what lies next.

ms03-60 box 25.jpg

Box 25, Folder 1, H. A. Reinhold Papers, MS.2003.60, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

  • Emily Spain, MCAS ’17 and Matthew Killip, MCAS ’16 Spring 2016 Making History Public students

The images and content in this blog post are from the exhibit Propaganda & the Great War, which is now on display in the History Department, Stokes 3rd Floor South.    This exhibit was curated and organized by Professor Robert Savage’s Spring 2016 Making History Public class, in collaboration with the Boston College University Libraries.

About John J. Burns Library of Rare Books and Special Collections at Boston College

The University’s special collections, including the University’s Archives, are housed in the Honorable John J. Burns Library, located in the Bapst Library Building, north entrance. Burns Library staff work with students and faculty to support learning and teaching at Boston College, offering access to unique primary sources through instruction sessions, exhibits, and programming. The Burns Library also serves the research needs of external scholars, hosting researchers from around the globe interested in using the collections. The Burns Library is home to more than 200,000 volumes and over 700 manuscript collections, including holdings of music, photographic materials, art and artifacts, and ephemera. Though its collections cover virtually the entire spectrum of human knowledge, the Burns Library has achieved international recognition in several specific areas of research, most notably: Irish studies; British Catholic authors; Jesuitica; Fine printing; Catholic liturgy and life in America, 1925-1975; Boston history; the Caribbean, especially Jamaica; Nursing; and Congressional archives.
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