WWII Amateur Photo Discovery – Concentration Camp Family Photo Captured by US Soldier

Photo Background

From time to time new information comes along to help identify photographs from my collection.  In this case, I stumbled across an image during research into the liberation of Nordhausen (Mittelbau-Dora) concentration camp.  The image in my collection (seen below) was originally misidentified as having been taken at Dachau, but I just recently learned that it was actually taken at Nordhausen (Mittelbau-Dora) and captures a moment that US Signal Corps photographs also snapped at different angles.  According to information I’ve picked up in the past few days, the young boy was named Michael Kallaur and the father is Walter; both men buried the boy’s grandmother (Walter’s mother) after finding her body in the unfortunate lineup at Nordhausen.  Elizabeth Kallaur was killed at the camp only a few days before the liberation.

According to information at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Kallaur family was sent to Nordhausen as punishment for helping Jews in the Pinsk region.  The coat seen covering Mrs. Kallaur was given to Michael by John Florea, the Signal Corps photographer. Walter and Michael would not allow German citizens to touch the body of Elizabeth, and she was the first to be buried (at a deeper level) in the first burial trench.


A Moment of Sorrow at Nordhausen (photo purchased from eBay that launched this post)


Walter holding Elizabeth’s legs



Michael watches on (note wounded hands)


Extensive Research

After hours of internet research, I came across the following Signal Corps photo and instantly recognized the boy….


Walter and Michael looking over Elizabeth (Walter’s mother)


A lesser quality image

This is the info attached to the image: (Click link for source)

Figure 1.–Here a Polish boy weeps over his grandfather’s body at Nordhausen after it was liberated by the Americans. It was dated April 21, 1945. That may have been when the photographed was released rather than taken. The press caption read, “Weep for the dead: A Polish boy weeps bitterly after he and a man at left buried (the) youngster’s grandmother who had died while a political prisoner of the Nazis in concentration camp at Nordhausen. Germans in the town were ordered to dig graves and bury the 2,500 dead, unburied prisoners found there by occupying American forces. The Polish boy refused to let the Germans touch his grandmother and insisted he bury her himself. Yanks look on in quiet sympathy.” We doubt if his grandmother was a political prisoner, but like the boy a slave laborer at Dora. He probably searched for her after the camps were liberated. Notice the German civilians at the right.


Walter and Michael by John Florea, 1945


An open burial spot (note the depth of Elizabeth’s burial)

And another series of Signal Corps photos showing the burial:

A Polish boy and his father bury the body of the boy's grandmother, who died in the Nordhausen c

A Polish man, Walter Kallaur and his son, Michael, bury the boy's grandmother

Walter and Michael Kallaur

A Polish boy, Michael Kallaur, weeps while helping his father bury the body of his grandmother



Walter buries his mother – note the shallow nature of the other bodies vs. the above image for Elizabeth

German civilians from the town of Nordhausen bury the bodies of former prisoners

A view past Elizabeth’s burial spot


Walter continues to fill the grave

American soldiers walk along an open, mass grave prepared by the German residents of the town of

Walter and Michael at a distance

The boy, Michael,  traveled to the United States after the war ended.  Using the information in the image as a jumping off point, I was able to find some immigration travel information:

Michael Kallaur Arrival

1949 Border Crossing

The information on the card all matches up.  As seen in the previous images, he had a visibly wounded left hand; the card confirms this and the fact that his place of birth was Pinsk, Poland.  At the time of his arrival in the US at Niagara Falls, he was 18, putting his birth year at 1931.  The Signal Corps photographer noted his age in 1945 at 14, which matches up with the immigration card.  A website dedicated to the Kallaur family tree referenced a Walter Kallaur arriving in the Niagara region after the war; this jives with both the Signal Corps caption and the fact that Walter is referenced in the above 1949 border crossing documents.  He arrived in Quebec in April of 1948 on board the MV Beaverbrae (listed as the SS Beaven Bren in the document, a ship that eventually transported over 30,000 European refugees to Canada between 1947 and 1954.

Sadly, it appears that Michael passed away in Decemeber of 2000, so my hopes of reuniting this photo with him has been dashed.  His SSN confirms that he lived in Pennsylvania and was issued his card in 1955, six years after his entry into the US.


Social Security Death Index (he lied about his DOB)


Living Family Identified

My internet sleuthing tends to be obsessive at times, and I’m fairly certain with the following deduction.   I will leave out the details of the research in respect for the Kallaur family; some things are best left unsaid.

From what I can deduce, Michael married Eileen Gallagher at some point in the 1960s. Eileen was born in 1944, and was only five years old when Michael came to the US in 1949.  Ancestry.com doesn’t provide marriage records for the couple, but I’m basing my marriage dates in accordance with the birth of their forthcoming children.

My hopes are that a family member will google themselves, or possibly have a Google Alert set…….. All are originally from the Philadelphia, PA area.


Michael Kaullaur – 1931-2000

Eileen C. Kallaur – 1944 – LIVING

John Kallaur

Robert Kallaur

Christopher Kallaur

Walter Kallaur





Image Details:  Nordhausen Outdoor Generator

The major defining landscape feature of my eBay image is the presence of an outdoor generator.  This can be seen here:


Generator? Most photos were taken on the opposite side



Generator? from the other direction



Casual followers of this blog will know that I never post photos of death or destruction.  My main goal is to present historic photography in a way to help educate internet followers about the world of war.  In this case I will post a photo that may be hard for some viewers to see.  I have hundreds of photos of concentration camps in my collection, yet have never been moved to post any of the photos to the web.

This image called to me.  The composition, the subject, the setting.  It’s all there.  A soldier snaps a shot at Dachau of a man holding the feet of his dead wife while his injured son watches on.  A procession of 3rd Armor Division soldiers file by as this tragic event unfolds; the event captured through the lens of an unknown soldier of an unknown family.  This scene was likely replicated tens of thousands of times at the tail end of the war.





4 thoughts on “WWII Amateur Photo Discovery – Concentration Camp Family Photo Captured by US Soldier

  1. I have seen many photographs from the various concentration camps, but nothing like this series of photographs that historically documents this family’s tragedy.I commend you for sharing these photographs and the story of this family. You mentioned having many photographs of concentration camps. With so many people these days denying that concentration camps ever existed, maybe you could become the conscience of the those unbelievers by displaying and telling the story of those photographs from time to time. Just a thought. I was surprised to see that the soldiers did not remove their helmets or stand at attention showing respect to the family. Again, thank you for sharing these photographs and the story of this family. Respectively, Glenn

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