A 10-minute home movie made by Nazi officers during World War II has been found in a church in rural Devon.
It shows members of the SS running a slave labour camp in southern Russia. In the footage, troops force prisoners to work and officers are seen relaxing.
No one is sure how the film came to be stored at Cullompton Baptist Church but historians say it is unique.
One theory is that a man who ran the church film club was given it by friends from eastern Europe.
The film, thought to have been taken by a senior SS officer, shows several scenes.
One shows prisoners-of-war unloading logs from a truck at gunpoint.
Another shows Nazi officers laughing and joking on a veranda, enjoying coffee and cake with their secretaries.
A further scene shows Russian peasant women bringing in a harvest.
Elayne Hoskin, of South West England Film and Television Archive, said of the harvest scene: “You can’t help wondering what were these women feeling like with men with guns standing watching them and a man with a camera smiling and waving.
“It looks very much like this is something somebody shot to show where they are working to take home to show the wife and kids.”
Experts at the archive are consulting with historians in Germany and Russia. The Imperial War Museum agreed the images were unique.
Although some think the man who ran the church film club was given the reel, some residents believe soldiers based near the village may have brought the film with them.
The church was used as a base by British troops including the Royal Engineers, the Oxford and Buckingham Light Infantry and the Durham Light Infantry during and after the war.
But experts agree that the footage is very different from the usual slick Nazi propaganda films, showing a side of the Third Reich never seen before.
Oct. 24, 2006