Julien Bryan file photo [28060]

Julien Bryan

Given NameJulien
Born23 May 1899
Died20 Oct 1974
CountryUnited States


ww2dbaseJulien Hequembourg Bryan was born in Titusville, Pennsylvania, United States in 1899. In 1916, he volunteered with the American Field Service for the French Army, driving an ambulance in Verdun and the Argonne. Upon his return, he wrote the book Ambulance 464 about his experiences in WW1; the book was illustrated with photographs that he had taken. In 1921, he graduated from Princeton University in New Jersey, United States. He then moved on to complete studies at the Union Theological Seminary, although he chose not to be ordained as a minister. He then spent some time as the director of a YMCA center in Brooklyn, New York, United States. Beginning in the late 1920s, he began traveling with great frequency, writing travelogues and taking photographs; among the countries he had visited included China, Georgia, Russia, Poland, Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. His trip to Germany in 1937 resulted in a rich visual archive of daily life under the Nazi regime, both for non-Jews and Jews. When the European War began with the German invasion of Poland in Sep 1939, he found himself to be in Poland by chance. He arrived in Warsaw, Poland on 7 Sep 1939 and was able to secure an automobile from Mayor Stefan Starzynski. With the aid of interpreter Stefan Radlinski, he took hundreds of photographs and used 5,000 feet of motion picture film, documenting the German air attacks on the city. He recalled an incident at a potato field; one of the photographs he had taken at this field would become an iconic image of the campaign for Poland.

As we drove by a small field at the edge of town we were just a few minutes too late to witness a tragic event, the most incredible of all. Seven women had been digging potatoes in a field. There was no flour in their district, and they were desperate for food. Suddenly two German planes appeared from nowhere and dropped two bombs only two hundred yards away on a small home. Two women in the house were killed. The potato diggers dropped flat upon the ground, hoping to be unnoticed. After the bombers had gone, the women returned to their work. They had to have food. But the Nazi fliers were not satisfied with their work. In a few minutes they came back and swooped down to within two hundred feet of the ground, this time raking the field with machine-gun fire. Two of the seven women were killed. The other five escaped somehow. While I was photographing the bodies, a little ten-year old girl came running up and stood transfixed by one of the dead. The woman was her older sister. The child had never before seen death and couldn't understand why her sister would not speak to her.... The child looked at us in bewilderment. I threw my arm about her and held her tightly, trying to comfort her. She cried. So did I and the two Polish officers who were with me.

ww2dbaseAs Bryan exited Eruope via the German city of Königsberg, he hid his film within various objects to avoid confiscation. Returning to the United States, a number of his photographs from Warsaw were published. 15 were seen in the 23 Oct 1939 issue of Life magazine, and 26 were seen in the 5 Dec 1939 issue of Look Magazine. In 1940, he produced a short documentary, "Siege", on the attacks on Warsaw, released by RKO Radio Pictures; he would later write a book by the same title. During the war, he would be employed by the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs and the State Department to make educational films. After WW2, he founded the International Film Foundation in 1945, which was devoted to the creation of documentary films for the school market. He returned to Poland in 1946 and again in 1958. During the 1958 trip, he published hundreds of his 1939 photographs, and through this effort he met with some of the people he had filmed almost 20 years prior. In Aug 1974, he was awarded the Merit for Polish Culture medal by the Polish government. He passed away in Oct 1974. In 2003, his son Sam Bryan donated his war time photographs and motion pictures to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

ww2dbaseSource: Wikipedia

Last Major Revision: Nov 2018

Julien Bryan Interactive Map


2nd Lieutenant Bernard Larlenque and Julien Bryan at the Larlenque residence, Paris, France, 1917Julien Bryan aboard Ambulance 464, France, 1917Julien Bryan with Ambulance 464, France, 1917American photographer Julien Bryan (left, with fedora), through his interpreter (center, speaking), being questioned by Polish policeman Frank Kotlewski (right), Warsaw, Poland, 9 Sep 1939; the windshield was said to have been damaged by flying debris during a German air attack
See all 6 photographs of Julien Bryan

Photographs Taken by Julien Bryan

A girl holding her dog, 8 Żelazna Street, Warsaw, Poland, 5 Sep 1939Polish family huddling before the Grand Theatre, Warsaw, Poland, Sep 1939Boy with caged canary in ruins, Warsaw, Poland, Sep 1939Polish volunteer policemen watching German aircraft in the sky, Grand Theatre, Warsaw, Poland, Sep 1939
See all 27 photographs by Julien Bryan

Julien Bryan Timeline

23 May 1899 Julien Bryan was born in Titusville, Pennsylvania, United States.
7 Sep 1939 Julien Bryan arrived in Warsaw, Poland.
21 Sep 1939 Julien Bryan departed Warsaw, Poland.
23 Oct 1939 Life Magazine published 15 of war time photographs of Warsaw, Poland taken by Julien Bryan.
5 Dec 1939 Look Magazine published 26 of war time photographs of Warsaw, Poland taken by Julien Bryan.
20 Oct 1974 Julien Bryan passed away in the United States.

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Julien Bryan Photo Gallery
2nd Lieutenant Bernard Larlenque and Julien Bryan at the Larlenque residence, Paris, France, 1917
See all 6 photographs of Julien Bryan

Famous WW2 Quote
"We no longer demand anything, we want war."

Joachim von Ribbentrop, German Foreign Minister, Aug 1939

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