NOT a WW2 soldier with a mobile phone

This photo has been shared online with the claim that it showed an 1930s-1940s German soldier using a modern mobile telephone.

©Richard Tanton

It does indeed show a man in an 1930s-1940s German soldier uniform on a modern telephone but the photo was not taken during the Second World war, it was taken in 2016.

Many people will look at the photo and wonder why people would even for a second believe that this could be a genuine 80+ year old photo, the man is clearly holding a modern telephone and if you look closely you’ll see evidence of Photoshop being used.
But you’d be surprised at how often pictures like these end up on time travel conspiracy websites and sooner or later start to lead their own life.
And even if most people will realise the photo isn’t quite as the description often suggests, I still wanted to figure out what was going on.

The first copy of this photo that was uploaded to the internet was relatively easy to find, it brought me to Mr. Richard Tanton’s Flickr account where the photo had the following description;
“Finally Proof!
From deep in the Czech photo archives, finally proof of the rumor that a few German soldiers were issued prototype iPhones in the last years of WWII. However, due to the limited number of repeating towers, “low bars” was a constant problem.”

The tags used on Flickr were quite an obvious clue;

So if the information connected to the original upload was reliable it seems that the photo was taken during the filming of a World War Two movie in Prague.
With a little detective work it wasn’t difficult to find the location of the photo; 5 Plavecká in Prague, here is what it looks like today;

But as Prague (a gorgeous city) is a very popular location for filming, especially historical drama, it turned out to be tricky to exactly find out which film was being shot when the photo was taken.

While I was still working on the case Italian website Open published an article on the photo, coming to many of the same conclusions I reached.
But they too couldn’t find the original unedited photo or figure out which movie was actually being shot.

And this is where the quest might have ended had Mr. Tanton not contacted me.
I send him a message on Flickr last year but had not received an answer and eventually assumed he perhaps stopped using Flickr and would never reply.
I was wrong, he did.

So I can now finally show you the original unedited version of the photo above, online for the first time, kindly provided by Mr. Tanton;

©Richard Tanton

Mr. Tanton confirmed that the photo was taken in Prague at the corner of Plavecka and Podskalska streets and that it was taken on May 29, 2016.
But he wasn’t sure which movie was being filmed that day so that mystery remained.

There were two movies being filmed in Prague in 2016;
The man with the Iron Heart and Anthropoid.
Most people who have been trying to find out more about the photo got stuck here, it would be very difficult to find out for which film the shooting was on that day in Prague, especially as the films are set in the same era and have similar themes.
To make things even more complicated there are also annual re-enactment events in Prague where people in historical clothes and uniforms recreate the liberation of the city.
For this guns and vehicles are used as well and the media is always filming, so it could have even been that.

One new clue in this case was a van parked in the street behind the soldier, although the text on it was faded and damaged, it did’t take long to realise it belonged to Česká Televize, a public television broadcaster in the Czech Republic.

Just as I was looking into how Česká televize might have been involved in those movies or re-enactment events, Mr. Tanton informed me that his wife had taken a few other photos and send them to me.

Here are the photos Jitka Tanton took;

As I looked though these photos I didn’t find many new clues, the scene was filmed in the same neighbourhood, there was a tank, a Kübelwagen, some Germans, that’s about it.
But then I spotted one man giving German soldiers directions.
Was he the director?

© Jitka Tanton

He didn’t look like Cédric Jimenez, director of ‘Man with the Iron Heart’.
He didn’t look like Sean Ellis, director of ‘Anthropoid’ either.

So like a police officer I went around the internet with this man’s photo hoping someone could identify him.
I hoped that a director who gets to film a big World War Two production in the heart of Prague would have gotten his face in the media a few times.
I was right, I found him.

The man is Robert Sedláček, a director from the Czech Republic who has been making quite a few big TV series there in the last couple of years.

Having found the man in charge of the production it was relatively easy to find what was being filmed on that day in 2016.

The show that was being shot on that day in Prague is called ‘Bohéma‘ about the film industry in Czechoslovakia from 1938 to 1953.
You can watch the entire series online (click here to check the series out) and because I wanted to be 100% sure, that’s just what I did, even though I don’t speak Czech.
But it was visually speaking a very nice TV show and eventually the actual scene was found.

In episode 5 called ‘Vyhrát za každou cenu’, at the very beginning there is a scene where there’s a confrontation between civilians and German soldiers in a street.
It involves a German tank (a rather bad replica of the Tiger I) and the Kübelwagen, just like in the photos we’ve seen.

© Česká televize

I am sure that this is the scene that was being filmed when Mr. & Mrs. Tanton took their photos.
We’ve seen the tank and the Kübelwagen in the pictures and one of the tags mentioned Podskalska.
By exploring the neighbourhood on Google Maps I soon found the location, the vehicles crossed the street at Podskalská and Plavecká street.

So although it was of course already quite clear that the photo was not really from the 1940s and didn’t show a time travelling German soldier sending a text home, now, thanks to Richard & Jitka Tanton and a bit of detective work we also know exactly what was being filmed.

Thanks Mr. Dommershuijzen and other pals who helped out.

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Picture(s) found online, used for (re-)educational purposes only.
I do not own the copyrights to these images, I only share them here for educational purposes to try and make sure the real story behind it becomes known and people will stop spreading false information.
If the copyright owner objects to the sharing here, kindly contact me and I shall alter the article.
If you’re interested in using any of the images here get in touch with the copyright owners mentioned in the article.
Feel free to contact me with questions.

3 thoughts on “NOT a WW2 soldier with a mobile phone

  1. You can also see how obviously and clumsily some elements of the background were cloned to get rid of the van in the background. Look at the gaps in the wall (partition?) behind the soldier. The one to the left of the soldier is clearly a copy of the one to his right. A graphic designer or photographer would spot it immediately. Graphic designers and photographers can be an invaluable resource for historians looking to prove or disprove the authenticity of photos.


  2. The “original unedited” photo that you have posted is not the same image, although it was fairly obviously taken on the same occasion. You will notice, for instance, that the man’s feet are not in the same position.


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