Donald Koppel. I saved them for you. Photographs of Estonians in World War II. Published by Inga Koppel Carr and Tartu Art College.
This coffee table book would make a valuable gift for all those interested about the wartime ordeals and tribulations of their parents or grandparents, relatives and family friends. It is a rare and significant collection of photographs that captured without pathos a tragic time in Estonia’s history.
Historian Mart Laar writes as follows in the introduction:
“There are not many surviving photographs of World War II taken by Estonians themselves. Among the few photographs that do exist are the pictures of Donald Koppel (1919-2005). While studying zincography in Tartu before the war, Donald also became interested in photography, and thus it is natural that his camera accompanied him through that immense war. He began his service in the Estonian Defence Forces, but thereafter Donald Koppel ended up in the Red Army and had to march with it to Russia in 1941. After crossing over to the German side with thousands of other Estonians, Donald returned to his homeland in that same year. In 1943 when the mobilisation began into the Estonian Legion formed by Germans, Donald Koppel also went along with it. This was followed by training, battles around Nevel and in the Narva area, and departure from Estonia. Donald’s camera was his inseparable companion throughout the above-mentioned events.”
The collected photographs found in this book also include pictures of his escape and the journey across the Atlantic to freedom. Laar notes that Donald Koppel “ was a normal Estonian man.” For this reason, “his humanely photographed pictures are clearly so familiar to us.”
The often over-used expression “a picture is worth a thousand words” is extremely appropriate here. To this one must add two lengthy written contributions, in Estonian and English, by photographer Peeter Linnap – “Donald Koppel and Estonian Military Photography”, and historian Meelis Maripuu, known for his work on totalitarianism, who provides necessary background in his excellent essay “Estonian Soldiers in a Foreign World War.” Both articles are superb, and should be considered for use in Estonian supplementary high schools abroad.
The text accompanying the photographs is also in both Estonian and English. Top-notch translation is by former Torontonian Peeter Tammisto, one of the many born abroad Estonians who moved to Estonia once that became possible.
The book is, as Laar notes, “memorial to all those Estonian boys who died in that all-consuming war for the freedom of their country and stand before us forever young in Donald Koppel’s pictures.”
Koppel’s daughter Inga K. Carr writes in her foreword: “my Papa wishes that all Estonians, young and old, would not forget what his generation tried to do for them. As he would say, ‘this is history, this is important.’”
Available at a very reasonable price from the estore in the Toronto Estonian House, email .
I saved them for you (2)