about the book
About the New Photo Section
with additonal photos, notes and commentary
Danzig-Gdansk Then and Now
—Will Keller more reminiscences
Willard Keller's color slides of the destroyed city of Danzig were forgotten for fifty years. By the time he rediscovered them, he had found and read EVA'S WAR, and technology made it easy for him to contact the author through the Internet. Will shared prints of his photos with Eva, and the two corresponded for a while. More recently, the Internet connected Will to Wojciech Gruszczynski and his repository of historic Danzig photos. Wojciech then enlisted the help of Tomasz Strug to document the city as it appears today, and acted as translator and intermediary between Tomasz and Zelda Gatuskin. With the photos and information so generously provided by this far-flung team, along with Krutein family photos provided by Wernher Krutein and his sisters Renate and Ursula, Zelda assembled the 8 pages of black and white photos which complement our new edition of EVA'S WAR.
Our web site allows us to present on-line some of the original color photos provided to us, including a few we did not have room to publish in print form.
We also want to share below some of Will Keller's reminiscences of how he came to photograph Danzig in the aftermath of WWII and what he found there.
Willard Keller Remembers....|
On December 10, 1945, we signed 'articles' in Baltimore. A couple of days later we moved to Pier 9 and commenced loading some 4,000 tons of phosphate, agricultural seed grains, and feed for about 900 horses. Wooden stalls were constructed in the ship's holds and wooden shelters on the ship's main deck for the animals. But, somewhere in Kentucky thirteen carloads of horses were reported sick; so we filled out the empty spaces with cattle. Our sailing was delayed and we finally left Baltimore with 830 animals on board.
Guns and the Naval Armed Guard had been removed from the ship so there was plenty
of room to accommodate about 30 'cattlemen' to take care of the livestock. Most of them
had been conscientious objectors during the war—Quakers, Amish, etc. If I remember
correctly these people worked on the ship for one cent per month. There were also
two medical Vets and a Foreman aboard—paid normally by UNRRA
(United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration).
|The day before Christmas (to avoid losing cattlemen and crew members over the holiday), the ship left the pier in Baltimore and moved downstream to near Annapolis. It was there, on Christmas eve, that I took the picture "sunset." We had a very nice Christmas dinner. We sailed the next day for Gdansk.||
Effective at 0001GMT, January 1, 1946, ships at sea could send and receive private
and/or personal radiotelegraph messages, just as in peacetime. The Atlantic airwaves were filled with such messages. Wireless operators were busy.|
On the 3rd of January we received a message from Lands End Radio telling us to proceed to the Downs and on to Ramsgate—instead of going to Kirkwall. They also asked about our carrying passengers westbound and whether or not there were accommodations for females. We replied that we could carry only four male passengers westbound (after all we had thirty some 'cattlemen', a Foreman and two Vets on board).
On the 7th of January we dropped anchor in the Downs awaiting orders. A pilot came On board and we left at noon for the Kiel canal twenty hours away. Early the next morning, in a thick fog, we missed a buoy, made an 'emergency stop' and drug the anchor. About noon the fog lifted somewhat and the "Elbe Pilot" delivered a pilot to us. A few hours later we entered the western lock to the canal. This gave the pilot his chance to leave the bridge and visit the officer's saloon for all the meat, cheese, fresh rolls, coffee and dessert he could eat. (American tankers and Victory ships were good 'feeders' and Liberty ships not so good.)
By midnight we had passed through the eastern lock of the Kiel canal and tied up in the Kiel anchorage—awaiting orders. English Routing Officers came aboard the next morning and told us we were assigned to leave Kiel for Gdansk at 7A.M. the following morning—January 10th. After the fog lifted, all day we used binoculars to look at the radio towers of :"DBK", the giant, squarish shaft with a huge German eagle spreading its wings, the German cruiser "Hipper" with the stack camouflaged to look like a dwelling—complete with four windows, the harbor filled with ships (some damaged, some not), etc. Sightseeing through binoculars.
As we departed Kiel on the morning of the 10th, "GLD" (Lands' End) faded out, but I could still hear "GKZ", "OSA", "OST", "PCH", "DBK", and "DAN". I think "DAN" might have been running a half million watts. Accuracy of the Berne List (radio stations worldwide) was questionable during wartime and immediately afterwards. I called "DBK" and asked for the call letters of Copenhagen. He told me, but, before I could call him "OXZ" was calling me with a message. We were planning our departure from Gdansk back to the States—with a stop at Copenhagen.
Immediately on leaving Kiel we encountered "sunken" ships—smaller ones upright in shallow water, some lying on their sides, frothy water sloshing through portholes, around stanchions, and masts. In deeper water were larger "sunken" ships, some with just the tip of the mast sticking out of the frothy water. A crooked line of buoys marked a trail for our pilot to follow. Six little knife-bowed mine sweepers sliced through the water. We picked up another German pilot at Travemunde.
We lay off Helapoint for several hours waiting for a local port pilot. The beached "Gneisnau" was nearby. The German pilot sent word down to me suggesting that I lock up the radio facility and that I should 'disappear' as we entered the canal to Newport—otherwise I might be captured and made to serve as the radio station for the Port, the original one having been destroyed during the fighting. All around were foxholes, trenches, pillboxes, ruins, large and small vessels, barges, the "Africaans". And we could hear live gunfire. Not very inviting.
An Agent came aboard ship to brief us: we would get no money 'draw' in this port; don't travel alone; the vodka killed one guy from the ship that left yesterday; two more were in the hospital; not far from the ship was the "Polonia"; the official rate of exchange was 100 Z's for the dollar; the unofficial rate was 400 Z's; a carton of cigarettes (costing us 62 cents aboard ship) was worth 600 Z's. We could hear live gunfire—sometimes machine guns.
Brilliant floodlights shone on the ship all hours of darkness. "Polish" soldiers were assigned to guard the ship. Local people said they could not speak Polish. The soldiers' guardhouse nearby was rather small (I thought), round, thick-walled, and had a spiked roof. A scary sight was to see one of the guards, in a greatcoat, clutching his long rifle, running across the snow under the floodlights, entering that guardhouse and shutting the door.
At night the volume of gunfire increased and sounded closer. This wasn't the
place to hold a picnic.
Willard (Will) Keller retired after 51 years with a major airline. During 1946 he served on a Victory ship carrying United Nations relief supplies to Poland and Greece. His pictures of the ruins of Danzig (now Gdansk) were taken in mid-January 1946. At that time it was not safe in Danzig day or night, and it was not safe to be taking pictures.
|Amador Authors||Amador Home Page|
|Amador Books||How To Order|