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Leipzig, Germany
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© The Lee Miller Archives

Lee Miller
American, Germany, April 1945
Gelatin silver print
6 5/16 x 6 in.
2004.73.3

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"The love of death which is the under-pattern of the German living caught up with the high officials of the regime and they gave a great party, toasted death and Hitler and poisoned themselves."
-- Lee Miller

Lee Miller captured this scene: Three people lying dead in a dust-strewn office at the close of World War II. Leipzig, Germany's mayor, his wife, and daughter killed themselves fearing reprisals from the Allied troops who stormed the city. Miller's strong flash illuminating the bodies from above, as well as a desk in the foreground. Light only barely reaches the back of the room, where a framed portrait of Adolf Hitler leans against a doorjamb, receding into the darkness. Lee Miller's Surrealist influence is evident here in the photograph's dreamlike quality. At first glance, the three figures appear to be sleeping. Their bodies slump gently onto furniture.

Miller was one of the first photojournalists to enter Germany with the Allies. Her photographs and words from the war were made for Vogue magazine, for which she had been shooting fashion spreads just one year earlier, although they were rarely published. The war, according to her son, Antony Penrose, "gave her a clarity of purpose which focussed [sic] her whole life ... to shape a world based on the principles of justice and truth and compassion."