Colourised images from WWII show Allies celebrating end of the war

When America and Russia were friends: Stunning colourised images from WWII show Allied troops celebrating the end of the war, seizing German bunkers and the horrors they discovered at PoW camps

  • Julius Jääskeläinen from Visby, Sweden, spent several hours researching, restoring and colouring the photos 
  • One shows victorious American and Russian soldiers in Germany embracing to celebrate the end of the war
  • Some show horrors of war, including one that shows children with machine guns at the Siege of Leningrad 
  • Others show a lighter side of the deadly conflict, with one showing a German soldier enjoying a drink of beer 

The Cold War would start just a few short years later and relations between the two countries remain strained to this very day. 

But a colourised photo from 1945 shows smiling American and Russian troops celebrating the end of the Second World War. 

The photo is part of a stunning series that was painstakingly gathered to bring the conflict back to life. 

Photographer Julius Jääskeläinen from Visby, Sweden, spent countless hours researching, restoring and colouring black and white images from the battle for Europe.

Now, he’s amassed a compelling collection of wartime pictures that bring the history into the modern day.

Some serve as a grim reminder of the horrors of war with one showing a man reduced to skin and bone at a concentration camp while another shows children preparing machine guns in Leningrad. 

Mr Jääskeläinen, 20, said that colourising photos had allowed him to close the distance between history and himself.

American and Soviet troops meeting in Griebo, Germany, at the war’s end in 1945. A more celebrated meeting of the two armies is Elbe Day on April 25, 1945. That was the day Soviet and American troops met at the Elbe River, near Torgau in Germany, marking an important step toward the end of World War II in Europe. The Soviets, advancing from the East, and the Americans, advancing from the West, met which meant that the two powers had effectively cut Germany in two. Speaking about his process, Jääskeläinen said: ‘Before I actually start adding any colour I do as much research as I can, like what uniforms are people wearing or what dress colours were popular in this region. The actual colouring takes up the most time of course’

Two girls assembling sub-machine guns during the Siege of Leningrad in 1943. The siege was a prolonged military blockade undertaken by the Axis powers. It started on September 9 1941, when the last road to the city was severed. The siege was not lifted until January 27, 1944, 872 days after it began. It was one of the longest and most destructive sieges in history, and possibly the costliest in casualties suffered. 414,148 children were evacuated during the siege. Speaking about the colourisation process, photographer Julius Jääskeläinen said: ‘It removes a layer of separation between you and the photo. Things seem much more real to me when I actually get to see it in colour and many others have said the same, which makes me feel that I’m actually doing something of value’

A German volunteer enjoying a drink in Kursk, Russia in 1943. Although it is unclear when the photo was taken exactly, the Battle of Kursk between German and Soviet forces on the Eastern Front near Kursk ( 280 miles south-west of Moscow) took place during July and August 1943. The was significant as it was the first time in the Second World War that a German strategic offensive was halted before it could break through enemy defences. Jääskeläinen said: ‘Before, I viewed events like World War II in a wider scope, but working hundreds of hours with hundreds of photos has really given me a more individual outlook’

A man after he was liberated from the Ebensee concentration camp in Austria on May 8, 1945. The camp was established by the SS to build tunnels for armaments storage near the town of Ebensee in 1943. It held a total of 27,278 male inmates from 1943 until 1945. Between 8,500 and 11,000 prisoners died in the camp, most from hunger or malnutrition. Political prisoners were most common, and prisoners came from many different countries. The photographer added that transforming the photos is an exhaustive process, with even a simple photo taking an hour, while complex images might require several sessions spanning a few days



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Luftwaffe Major Clemens Graf von Schönborn-Wiesentheid in the field. He was killed in a flying accident in Sofia, Bulgaria on August 30, 1944. He was a German Air Force officer who commanded Air Command Arad and 77th Dive Bomber Wing (StG 77) during the Axis-led invasion of Yugoslavia in the war. He was planning to attend a General Staff meeting when his aircraft crashed for unknown reasons and he was killed. The photographer said: ‘I always like to think about the life of the person in the photos I colourise. Sometimes they wear their wedding rings so I know they had a wife, and I wonder if they ever made it back to their wife or did they leave them a widow? They certainly become more relatable to me this way’

German troops moving through a burning village on the Eastern front. The Eastern Front was a theatre of conflict between the European Axis powers and Finland against the Soviet Union , Poland and other Allies. It encompassed Central Europe, Eastern Europe, Northeast Europe (Baltics), and Southeast Europe (Balkans) from June 22 1941 to May 9 1945. The battles on the Eastern Front were considered to be unprecedented in their ferocity. The front was also the site of nearly all extermination camps, death marches and ghettos. Of the estimated 70–85 million deaths attributed to World War II around 30 million occurred on the Eastern Front. The photographer said: ‘I always start out cleaning the image up. When you deal with such old photos, there’s bound to be some damage’

Victorious Soviet troops atop the Nazi’s Regenwurmlager bunker in Poland. The Regenwurmlager was an extensive underground system of fortifications, built during the 1920s and 1940s near the city of Meseritz, close to the Polish border. The underground system was made up of 50 armored and reinforced concrete blockhouses, more than 20 miles of underground tunnels, 17 freight stations of the underground railway, a system of dams, drawbridges and water canals

German mechanics working at Immola Airfield, Finland, on July 2, 1944. Both before and during the Second World War, the airfield served as a base for the Finnish Air Force. During the Second World War, German leader Adolf Hitler visited Immola on June 4, 1942 to congratulate C. G. E. Mannerheim, the Marshal of Finland, on his 75th birthday. Finland joined Germany in fighting against the USSR during the war. It was dependent on food, fuel and armament shipments from Germany. Speaking about the photos he had to retouch, Mr Jääskeläinen said: ‘Sometimes it’s just small scratches which are easily fixed by a couple clicks of the mouse, then there’s serious damage that needs to be fixed manually which can take hours to clean up’

Captain Yuri Belov and Lieutenant Nikolai Sergeyevich Davidenko at the Champs de Elysses in Paris, 1943. They had the responsibility of organising conferences for the supporters of the Russian Liberation Movement and Russian Liberation Army across German-occupied Europe. These conferences were held throughout occupied Europe without permission from the the High Command of the Wehrmacht which made the Nazi armed forces keen to cut them out. Belov was a Russian emigrant living in Paris before the war and worked as a taxi driver, while Davidenko was a former Red Army officer before joining ROA

Sergeant George A. Kaufman of the 9th US Army replaces an ‘Adolf-Hitler-Straße’ sign with a hand-made ‘Roosevelt Boulevard’ sign in Krefeld, Germany, March 9, 1945. The city of Krefeld was heavily affected by the Second World War. On June 21, 1943 British bombs destroyed large parts of east of the city and a firestorm consumed most of the city centre . On March 3, 1945 US troops entered Krefeld. During the cold war, the city was host to the 16th Signal Regiment of the United Kingdoms Royal Corps of Signals stationed at Bradbury Barracks. Jääskeläinen said: ‘All colours have their own layer in Photoshop and the amount of layers per image range dramatically – one could just have 20 layers while another has over 200’

Five Luftwaffe officers somewhere in North Africa in 1941. In North Africa and the Mediterranean, the Luftwaffe mainly saw action in support of the ground operations conducted by General Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps. The Afrika Korps fought in North Africa from February 1941 to May 1943. Jääskeläinen added: ‘When all colours are in place I do some finishing touches. This involves me just playing around with the saturation, vibrancy, brightness, contrast, etc until I’m happy with the result’

Members of the Polish Independent Highland Brigade taking their oath in Malestroit, France, in 1940. The Polish Independent Highland Brigade was a Polish military unit created in France in 1939, after the fall of Poland, as part of the Polish Army in France. It had approximately 5,000 soldiers trained in mountain warfare and was commanded by General Zygmunt Szyszko-Bohusz. It was named after the region of Podhale in southern Poland. After the beginning of hostilities on the Western Front, the brigade was withdrawn to France, where it fought in the defence of Brittany. After it disbanded, some of its soldiers were evacuated to Britain and Egypt, while others joined the French resistance

A gun mounted on a German Panzerkampfwagen in the Soviet Union in 1942.  Germany developed several different tank designs during its war campaign. In its southern campaigns in the Soviet Union, the Germans took 625,000 Red Army prisoners in July and August 1942 alone. In late 1942, Germany occupied more than half of European Russia, including 40 per cent of its population at 80 million and approximately 2,500,000 square kilometres (970,000 sq mi) of Soviet territory

Three recipients of the ‘For the Defence of Leningrad’ medal being honoured in the Russian city in 1943. They were rewarded for their actions during the siege of Leningrad, widely seen as one of the worst sieges ever. By December 1942 2,105 cannibals were arrested in the city.  They were divided into two legal categories: corpse-eating (trupoyedstvo) and person-eating (lyudoyedstvo). The latter were usually shot while the former were sent to prison. However, considering the fact that the siege lasted 872 days and starvation was high, cannibalism was relatively rare. For students of history, his results are fascinating, but Jääskeläinen has personally benefited from transforming the photos too. ‘Colourisation has really been a positive force in my life,’ he said

A group of German soldiers paying their respects to a fallen comrade. It is unclear where or when the photo was taken. 5.53 million German soldiers were killed in the Second World War, while anywhere between 6.6 and 8.8 million German people were killed in total. Speaking about his project, Jääskeläinen said: ‘I’ve gotten to know a lot of wonderful people all over the world because of it and I’m very glad I decided to give it a shot’

A soldier of the Polish Independent Carpathian Rifles Brigade with his monkey mascot on board a Royal Navy destroyer travelling from Alexandria, Egypt, to Tobruk, Libya, on August 27, 1941. The Brigade was a Polish military unit formed in 1940 in French Syria composed of the Polish soldiers exiled after the invasion of Poland in 1939 as part of the Polish Army in France. It was commanded by General Stanisław Kopański. The division fought with distinction in the North African Campaign of World War II, notably during the Siege of Tobruk

A group of German soldiers teasing a comrade in 1940. It is unclear where this photo was taken. In 1940, Hitler invades Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands , Belgium, Luxembourg, and then France. He devastated opposing forces with his infamous ‘blitzkrieg’ a strategy that stressed surprise, speed, and overwhelming force using air planes and mechanized ground forces

German soldiers with French POWs in Maine, France, in June 1940. The Battle of France, also known as the Fall of France, was the German invasion of France. In the six weeks from May 10 1940, German forces defeated Allied forces by mobile operations and conquered France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, bringing land operations on the Western Front to an end until the Normandy landings in 1944

Danish resistance members during the liberation of Denmark in 1945. At the outset of World War II, Denmark declared itself neutral. The decision to occupy Denmark was taken in Berlin on 17 December 1939. Just over 3,000 Danes died as a direct result of the occupation. A further 2,000 volunteers of Free Corps Denmark and Waffen SS, of which most originated from the German minority of southern Denmark, died fighting on the German side on the Eastern Front, while 1,072 merchant sailors died in Allied service

Senior Sergeant Nina Shershneva in 1942; she is credited with carrying 25 wounded from the battfield during fighting in the Crimean and Kerch Peninsula. The Battle of the Kerch Peninsula was a World War II battle between Erich von Manstein’s German and Romanian 11th Army and the Soviet Crimean Front forces in the Kerch Peninsula, in the eastern part of the Crimean Peninsula

Estonian Waffen-SS volunteer Kalju Jakobsoo with his dog Caesar on September 4, 1944. Germany reached Estonia in July 1941. Initially they were perceived by most Estonians as liberators from the USSR and its repressions, having arrived only a week after the first mass deportations from the Baltic States. Although hopes were raised for the restoration of the country’s independence, it was soon realized that they were another occupying power

Photo shows a 3.7 cm Pak 36 firing on a Soviet postion on October 20, 1943, in East Karelia, Russia. After Finland rejected Soviet demands, the Soviet Union attacked Finland on November 30, 1939 in what became known as the Winter War – a bitter conflict that resulted in a peace treaty in 1940, with Finland maintaining its independence but losing its eastern parts in Karelia

Photo shows two Dutch soldiers fighting in the trenches during the Battle of the Grebbeberg in May 1940. The battle was a major engagement during the Battle of the Netherlands, which was a part of the World War II Operation Fall Gelb in 1940. At 03:55 local time on May 10 1940, the German Army Group B invaded the Netherlands. The 207th Infantry Division had been tasked with overrunning the Grebbeberg within a day

A gunner in front of a B-24 bomber in 1944. The Consolidated B-24 Liberator is an American heavy bomber. The B-24 was used extensively in World War II. It served in every branch of the American armed forces as well as several Allied air forces and navies. By the end of World War II, technological breakthroughs meant it was bypassed

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