Having a ball (for the New Year?)

Two Unteroffiziere (sergeants) together with a local woman, possibly in Ukraine, 1941-42. She’s making a snowball. Will she throw it at the guy behind the camera? Like so many other photos, this one has no other context than what I could figure out from the uniforms, the houses, and the embroidery pattern on her blouse, which I think indicates a Ukrainian setting.

As the Germans occupied large parts of Europe, local women had to find ways to manage under the new circumstances. Many men were gone – dead or missing in battle, as prisoners of war, or as forced labor. There were children to feed, so some women found employ as cooks, cleaners, washerwomen, and so on. Some entered relationships with German Soldiers, out of opportunism or real love. A minority became real collaborators, actively supporting the occupying forces and ratting on people they didn’t like. As the Wehrmacht had to retreat, many of the mistresses, girlfriends and wives joined their German men, but those who were left behind had to deal with the consequences of their choices. It could get really ugly…

So, the story of woman with the snowball is one of the millions of untold and unknown stories from World War 2.


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