I have had Henri Cartier-Bresson’s Gestapo Informer in media files for years. His World War II experience was much different than that of Erwin Blumenfeld. At the outbreak of the war he joined the French Army’s film and photo unit.

Cartier-Bresson was captured a year later and spent three years at hard labor. He tried to escape two times and succeeded at a third attempt, returning to France with forged papers. Before being captured, he buried his beloved Leica in farmland in France – one of the first things he did after escaping was to return to the farm and dig it up.

Henri Cartier-Bresson, Gestapo Informer, Dessau, Germany, 1945.

Henri Cartier-Bresson, Gestapo Informer, Dessau, Germany, 1945.

He photographed the liberation of Paris in the summer of 1944 while working as a war correspondent. The following year, the American Office of War Information asked Cartier-Bresson to make a documentary film about French prisoners of war and refugees at a transit camp in Dessau. 

One sequence, shot in April 1945, shows the interrogation of a Gestapo informer in front of a crowd. Cartier-Bresson shot the scene with his Leica while the cameraman filmed the unfolding events. 

Subsequent pictures in the sequence show the accuser following the increasingly beleaguered and shamefaced informer and striking her with a stick as the crowd looks on. That part was edited out of the film.

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NOTE: I know this because I’m referencing a piece in  Amateur Photography on the moment’s background: DESSAU 1945 (Informer)

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