Eric Schwab

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Éric Fernand Georges Schwab ( September 5, 1910 in Hamburg (according to other information in France ) - 1977 in France ) was a French photographer , photojournalist and war correspondent who worked for the Agence France-Presse (AFP) from 1944 and from the 1950s for UN organizations worked.

In April and May 1945 he documented the atrocities in the concentration camps in Germany and the occupied territories in Poland , thus creating important material for coming to terms with the industrialized mass murder under National Socialism and for denazification .


There are different details about the place of birth: usually Hamburg is given, whereas the WHO names France. He was the son of a French and a German who was persecuted and deported during the Nazi regime because of their Jewish origins. He is said to have come to Paris in the 1930s and worked there as a photographer and reporter. In 1939 he was called up for military service and interned by the Germans after the Battle of Dunkirk in June 1940. After a few weeks he managed to escape and return to Paris, where he resumed his work as a photographer. However, the anti-Jewish laws endangered him, which is why he had to hide. His mother was deported to the Theresienstadt ghetto in 1943.

End of World War II

Schwab was one of the first photographers to be hired by Agence France-Presse in 1944 . Together with the American journalist and writer Meyer Levin , he traveled “into darkness” in a jeep called the Spirit of Alpena , according to Agence France-Presse. The two of them documented the National Socialist crimes in the Buchenwald , Leipzig-Thekla and Dachau concentration camps until Schwab found his mother, who was believed to have been murdered, in the Theresienstadt ghetto . Schwab's photographs are of captivating clarity and simplicity, evidence of murder and dying. The victims speak to the viewer and tell their story in their photo. The loss of shame and dignity is reversed by the picture - even if it is in the last minutes before death, like the portrait of a dying man who actually died a few minutes after being admitted to the Buchenwald concentration camp as a result of the dysentery. At the end of April 1945 Schwab created a documentation about the death train from Buchenwald , followed by a report about Norway .

new York

In 1946 Schwab moved with his mother to New York , where he continued to work for AFP, but devoted himself to cheerful, carefree topics. He observed and photographed the hustle and bustle on Broadway , swimmers in front of Coney Island or the jazz clubs of Harlem . The AFP archives contain recordings of Nat King Cole made in the Apollo Theater in Harlem in 1950 .

In the service of UN organizations

In the early 1950s Schab left the AFP and subsequently produced reports for a number of UN organizations , including the WHO on the Philippines (1959) and Ethiopia (1961). He died in 1977 at the age of 67 - without leaving a report about his trip through the concentration camps that had just been liberated or about finding his mother in the ghetto.


Photographs by Éric Schwab were reprinted by numerous media, often without reference to his authorship, as the rights were held by the AFP. It is known that the German magazine Stern published some of his pictures. Schwab's work has also been shown in exhibitions, including the Photographies des camps de concentration show organized by the Musée national de la Résistance in Luxembourg in 2005 . One of his photographs, a picture of a refugee family from the Punjab , was shown in the 1955 show The Family of Man , compiled by Edward Steichen , at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. This exhibition went around the world as a traveling exhibition, was seen by more than 10 million visitors and has been established as a permanent exhibition in Clervaux , Luxembourg, since 2013 .


For the time being, there is only one picture in the public domain of Éric Schwab:


  • La photographie humaniste, 1945-1968 . Autour d'Izis, Boubat, Brassaï, Doisneau, Ronis…, organized by the Bibliothèque nationale de France et présentée sur le site Richelieu, dans la Galerie de photographie, Paris, on October 31, 2006 and January 28, 2007

Web links

Commons : Éric Schwab  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

References and comments

  1. a b Annette Wieviorka: 1945. Cómo el mundo descubrió el horror. Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial España, 2016, ISBN 9788430618248 ( limited preview in Google Book Search).
  2. a b Elisabetta Ruffini (Ed.): Charlotte Delbo. Une mémoire à mille voix / Una memoria, mille voci. Il filo di Arianna, Bergamo 2014, ISBN 978-88-96119-13-6 , p. 11 ( excerpt online ; PDF; 191 KB).
  3. Bibliothèque nationale de France (Archives et manuscrits): Fonds Delbo, Charlotte (théâtre) , accessed on September 19, 2016. (French)