Hitler and his schoolgirls: Extraordinary rare colour photographs emerge of Nazi leader celebrating his 50th birthday
|The facade of civility: Hundreds of Nazi officers and their wives attend a classical music concert for Hitler's 54th birthday in 1943 while across Europe, millions of Jews were being shipped to their deaths in concentration camps|
The party atmosphere of the vivid, colourful photographs offer a chilling facade for the horrors perpetrated under the Nazis' monstrous regime.
The rare images were captured by German photographer Hugo Jaeger from the rise of fascism in Germany in the Thirties until the end of the Second World War.
He was given unique access to Adolf Hitler at massive, public rallies across Europe and also in more intimate moments with colleagues. The colour images bring Nazi Germany to life - in one image Hitler salutes crowds at a rally under a dazzling blue sky, while the backdrop is awash with the red of the swastika.
In another picture, Hitler cozies up to a bunch of schoolgirls while they crowd around him in awe. Mr Jaeger was an early pioneer of colour photography, something which pleased the tyrant. According to Life Magazine, Hitler once told Mr Jaeger: 'The future belongs to colour photography.'
The story of how the pictures managed to survive the war is almost as remarkable as the images themselves.
When the Allies stormed Germany in 1945, Mr Jaeger found his home near Munich subject to a raid by American soldiers. They unearthed a leather suitcase in which Jaeger had hidden thousands of copies of the images, which he feared would be destroyed.
However the officers were distracted by a bottle of cognac also in the case, which the proceeded to drink, toasting to the photographer.
Mr Jaeger then buried the images inside glass jars on the outskirts of town for 20 years before finally selling them in 1965 to Life Magazine.
Most of the shots focus on Hitler's birthday parties. His 50th celebration occurs in April 1939 and is marked by overblown military pomp. Just five months later, he ordered Nazi troops to March into Poland, a move which saw Europe erupt into war.
In one picture, also from 1939, the mass murderer looks delighted to have been given a birthday present of a black convertible Volkswagen from Austrian car manufacturer Ferdinand Porsche.
In other images, the fascist leader is captured chatting to a glamorous blonde at a party while in another, hundreds of Nazi officers and their wives dressed to the nines gather for a classical music performance in Hitler's honour.
The Second World War, from 1939 to 1945, was the deadliest conflict in human history and spread to the four corners of the world. There were an estimated 50 - 70 million fatalities. Hitler masterminded the genocide of six million Jews in the Holocaust along with millions of other religious and political opponents.