Imagine the surprise of an American soldier in Europe in the summer of 1945 when he stumbled across photographs from his hometown in the pages of a Nazi propaganda magazine in the rubble of Hitler’s Third Reich. This remarkable occurrence happened to Sergeant David Eisenhauer of Donaldson, Pennsylvania. The images he found were taken in Eisenhauer’s Schuylkill County hometown of Ravine sometime before the Second World War.
The photographs showed anthracite workers in the mountains above Pine Grove, the abandoned Lincoln Colliery, and included propaganda messages about the poor economic situation in the coal fields of Eastern Pennsylvania. This astonishing story was reported on by the West Schuylkill Press and Pine Grove Herald in June 1945.
Ravine Man’s Picture and Photo of Lincoln Colliery Found By Local Soldier in Nazi Propaganda Magazine; Believed to Be Work of Enemy Agent Before War
There are few people in this locality who would not have scoffed at the idea of German propaganda agents working right here in the Tremont-Pine Grove area, taking photographs as long as 11 years ago to be published in German propaganda magazines to lead the German people to believe that America is not the land of plenty and rich opportunity it is reputed to be.
That there were German agents working here has been discovered by a local soldier, Staff Sergeant David Eisenhauer of Donaldson, formerly of Ravine, who, while fighting in Germany with the Seventh Army, picked up a copy of a German magazine called “The Weekly” and, paging through it, came to a full page of pictures taken at Ravine, between Tremont and Pine Grove, and at Lincoln Colliery in Tremont Township.
These pictures and their captions have been reproduced here as good as it was possible to do so. The original pictures were printed in brown ink and the magazine page has become very worn, creased and wrinkled from much handling, both factors making reproduction and not as satisfactory as would be desired.
The amazing facts about this matter are that Raymond Zimmerman of Ravine identifies the picture at top left as being of himself, that he never posed for it, nor can he imagine when the pictures were taken. The truck was his 1933 Ford, and it was at his coal operation that the photos were taken. He estimates that the pictures were taken 11 years ago. The helper who picture also appears here is Daniel Bonawitz of Pine Grove, now in the US Army.
Mr. Zimmerman was shocked when Mrs. David Eisenhauer brought the magazine page to his home in Ravine to find out if the picture was a true one. Mrs. Eisenhauer received the magazine by mail from her husband in Germany two weeks ago.
With the aid of friends who know some German, she has been able to partially the German captions under the photos. The gist of what they say is as follows:
Heading: “THE COAL OF THE POOR”
“Could This Be Possible In God’s Own Land?”
1st picture: “In this quiet situated Pennsylvania coal bank workings, they have worked to give themselves employment, and are situated within the middle of the wild forest. 20,000 workers mine 32 million tons Anthracite coal from the places where the mine is situated. But where does it help democratic America working places when they didn’t have anything themselves? In the early morning the fellow mine workers go into their coal holes. They work 7 hours a day and earn $20 a week.
2nd Picture: “This breaker of the fellow mine workers is abandoned. No one has worked here in many years.”
3rd Picture: “Anthracite coal buildings on Penna. Highway. Rice and barley come from the land. It cost $4.00 a ton, so primitive was the furtherance method that coal was auctioned off.”
S/Sgt. Eisenhauer went oversea in January 1945. He has been in the service two years. His wife is the former Evelyn Morgan of Donaldson. He has three brothers, Charles at home in Ravine, Elmer of Donaldson, and George of Muir. His mother still lives in Ravine.
With the magazine Eisenhauer also sent his wife a very handsome map, made of some special waterproof material, which was taken from a captured Nazi officer, General Altenmarkt. He has marked on the amp where he entered combat at Mons, Belgium, and traced his progress across Europe, marking each town his company helped liberate by drawing a circle around the names of the towns, going all the way to Munich and beyond to Salzburg before the German surrender last month.
The cities Sgt. Eisenhauer’s company helped to liberate were Aachen, Holzapi, Mengerskirchen, Dillenburg, Obendorff, and others.
The Lincoln Colliery had indeed closed a decade before the United States entered the Second World War. The story of how the photographs ended up in a magazine in Nazi Germany remains unclear. This is unlike any other story I’ve discovered for this blog project. I’m left with just this word… Wow.
Featured: A copy of a magazine headline from Nazi Germany in 1945 recovered by Sergeant David Eisenhauer of Schuylkill County.
Read more of our stories about the Second World War HERE.