A sixteen-year old German antiaircraft-er of the Hitler Youth, Hans Georg Henke, taken prisoner in the city of Hessen, Germany. He was a member of the Luftwaffe anti-air squad who burst into tears as his world crumbled around him. His father died 1938 and his mother in 1944. He joined the Luftwaffe to support himself.
This photo has been in propaganda use for years. Henke either had his facts wrong, or as a member of the SED, was instructed or chose to misrepresent the truth of where the photo was taken. The photo was taken by American Photo Journalist John Florea 1945 in Hessen, in the village of Hüttenberg-Rechtenbach, which is just north of Frankfurt am Main. Young Henke was captured by the Americans and sent back home to Finsterwald. He might have been picked up by the Soviets on the way or interred by them later, or not at all, hard to tell from the sources, English or German, that are available.
The basic gist is that he was crying from combat shock, having been mixed in with a regular infantry unit that had been overrun by the US with hard fighting. The photos from the Series by Florea had more than just his face, and one of them is easily recognizable from the architectural details that are still in place today. There’s a pop up in the article to the pictures, and even though it’s small, the case is very convincing. Bricks don’t lie or forget. That wall that he is sitting next to is in Hessen, not Rostock. And he’s wearing boots and doesn’t have rags on his feet like he says he did in his 1967 version of the story.
In an other version of the story it’s said that the photograph was taken by either a Polish or Soviet war correspondent who informed him, “Hitler kaput. Go home” before he was captured. But there wasn’t a Soviet Correspondent who told him “Hitler kaput. Go home.” Could have been American though. And he wasn’t crying because his world crumbled. He’s crying from the shock of being overrun in a hard day’s fighting because he’s just a kid who has seen the abyss.
Later Hans-Georg Henke joined the East German Communist Party. Luckily, he and his 2 brothers all survived the war. He went on to live a full life and died in 1997.
Hans-Georg Henke as an old man.
Here’s a Herald Journal article about him, published in Mars 26, 1967. Crying soldier of 16 now is an East German communist. . Another article in German from Giessener Allgemeine.