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.





15 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

  2. Hi. I am Nichole Crowley. Formally Nichole Kallaur. The family in this photo are that of my uncle Michael and my grandfather Walter. I do not have much insight into this time of my families history as you can imagine it was not something that was discussed much. I do believe my father, Charles Kallaur was born in that camp. Thank you.

  3. Hi, Brennan. My name is Amanda Kallaur. I’m the granddaughter of Michael and Eileen Kallaur. Last year I came upon one of the images above, while doing research in a Holocaust class. I, in the end, after talking with my father, Chris and my grandmother, concluded that it was not my grandfather in the photo, but may be a close relative, like a cousin. My grandfather did pass away in December of 2000 and was born in 1940. He and his family were also from the Pinsk area. According to my grandmother, he also had an identification number tattooed on his forearm so, that leads me to believe that he was at one point in Auschwitz-Birkenau and then was transferred. My grandfather was the oldest of two brothers. My great uncle Charlie, was born in a concentration camp in Germany and my great uncle Walter, who was the youngest, was born in Poland. They did immigrate to the U.S. in 1949, but they arrived at Ellis Island. They then went to Michigan before moving to Philadelphia. In addition, my great grandfather’s name is not Walter, but Mikhail Kallaur. The Michael in the photos above, appears to be much too old to be my grandfather, especially when considering that he and my grandmother met when he was 16 in the late 1950s.

  4. There are a number of errors in the write up about the photos of Polish man burying mother with son assisting. That is my father Walter Kallaur and my oldest brother Mike Kallaur. If you want the corrections please contact me. If you like please pass along my email address to any Kallaur member who commented in the above write ups. Dr. Victor Kallaur

  5. Hi there, my name is Piotr, I’m Polish, 23 years old, and I am a part of the Kallaur (spelt Kałłaur in Polish) family. It’s very interesting for me to find so much information about American Kallaurs, being a Polish Kallaur myself. It’s not my last name, but my grandmother’s name was Katarzyna Kałłaur which she changed after she got married. She was one of the Kałłaur family members arrested by the Russian NKVD in the village Wujwicze, Pinsk, and deported to Siberia in 1941. My grandmother was between 11-13 years old at the time. After the war my family came back to Poland, some of them moved to Szczecin (which is my hometown) and some moved to Warsaw. Those are the two Polish cities that I know Kałłaurs live in right now.

    Thank you very much for this post. My mother and I had always known about how the Russians punished our family, but we never knew about the German side until now. She doesn’t speak English so I translated the post for her.

    Please feel free to email me if you want to connect and exchange information: amonigal at gmail dot com

    Thank you very much again,


  6. Hola,mi nombre es Jorgelina Kallaur de Argentina ,mis abuelos llegaron de pilsk,Teodoro Kallaur y Catalina D’zerezun dos años antes del comienzo de la misma,tengo fotos para compartir de su ida y llegada a este país,pero me encantaría saber más de mi familia ya que me llena de curiosidad y orgullo,saludos

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