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... is a freelance photographer working in Middle Georgia

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Angelo Spinelli

I have met some really neat people over the course of my career as a photojournalist. One of my favorites was a little guy named Angelo Spinelli. He was an Army photographer covering the battle of the Kasserine Pass during World War II when he was captured by the Germans. He spent the rest of the war in a German POW camp near Furstenburg, Germany.

Spinelli traded cigarettes from his Red Cross parcels to guards for a Bessa Voigtlander 35mm camera and film. During his time in Stalag III-B he shot more than 1200 photographs, documenting life in a prisoner of war camp, trading packs of cigarettes to have the filmed taken into the nearby town and processed. He hid the photographs in a hole he dug under his bunk.

Spinelli would have been severely punished, possibly executed had he been found out. "As a war photographer, I felt it was my duty to myself and the country that the American people should know how we survived in the prison camp" he told writer Drew Brown in April 2000 when he donated his surviving photographs and equipment to the National Prisoner of War Museum at Andersonville.

After the war he returned to New York City and went into the jewelry business with his brother, only doing photography as a hobby. No one was interested publishing his pictures, they were stored away in a closet.

"Life Behind the Barbed Wire: The Secret World War II Photographs of Prisoner of War Angelo M. Spinelli," was published shortly before he died in 2004. He died two days before his birthday March 14. My birthday, too.

Quite a man from a generation of great men.


Anonymous said...

My Grandfather was in some of his photos. His photos were the only proof my Grandmother had after his death that he was a POW. His records were lost in a fire. I wish I could have met Mr Spinelli before his passing.
Cherie Vallance-Tucker
Granddaughter of Charles W Dreier.

Rose said...

My father was in Mr. Spinelli's book. I got the opportunity to talk with him several times. He was amazing and very dedicated to archiving his days with his fellow Americans in Stalag IIIB. My Dad was the piano player, and he was able to tell me a few things about my dad and tell me about his existence in this particular Stalag. My dad was in 4 other stalags before he settled into Stalag IIIB. We believe my dad was a Ranger. He was in the North African invasion, landing on the beach in Southern Italy. He was captured in Fogia. I do remember his story about landing on the beach. He told me of the massacre and how he guided fellow soldiers on his boat to remove their gear so they could swim on shore, after observing soldiers drowning from the weight of their gear. I wish he was here for many reasons, but especially to ask him about the war and have all the unanswered questions. He was a decorated hero, but all of his records were destroyed in a fire and I have contacted several Presidents to see how we can find out about him. Rosemarie Dreier

Данна said...

My Grandfather Vladimer Beria, from Suchum, Zebelda, was captured in Kerch and then moved to Stalag 3B Furstenberg, and died there. I wish I could have met Mr Spinelli before his passing.
Lika Beria,
Granddaughter of Vladimer Beria.

May 9, 2013, at 6.18 am, Manhattan New York City

Trudy Stuckey said...

I just received Angelo's book today and what a treasure of pictures. My dad is in 2 of the photographs Angelo used in the book. My dad told me only a few things about his time in captivity. Dad did tell me about a fellow who traded with a German guard for film and a camera. I have some of the same pictures of Dads that are in Angelo's book. I can only imagine Angelo must have made some copies for his friends. If anyone out there has any more info or stories about Stalag 111B I would love to hear from you. I will now be making a trip to the national POW museum to view the rest of Angelo's photos.

Mark Stuckey
son of Clarence Stuckey, WWII POW

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