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Swiss Roll: Hidden for 70 years, these photographs were recovered from an ancient Leica film cassette


Lost and forgotten for two generations. This is the story of how I acquired an old Leica film cassette, kept it for some years and then got curious to see what was on the ancient film. The result was a revelation: An unknown family, a clear location and a feeling of sadness that this talented photographer never saw the results of his labour.

The lovely image below came off this roll of film. Yes, it had been overexposed and is grainy, but the composition and framing are splendid. I am not praising or blaming myself, however, as this photograph was taken about 70 years ago, when I was a small child, by an unknown photographer. What I am trying to do here is to contact the family of the photographer and the person who was with them.

CLICK HERE FOR THE LATEST UPDATE: A stop-by-stop analysis of the journey seen through the roll of film. Plus, all the latest information on the quest so far

Perutz takes a Scheiner

The film had travelled around in a brass Leica FILCA cassette, from owner to owner through the decades. It came to me about five or six years ago with one of my vintage Leicas, of which more anon. I had known that there was a film in the cassette for some time, but it was only recently that I got around to processing it.

It was Perutz film of unknown type but, typically, Perutz black and white film of that era was rated at between 21 and 26 Scheiner (one here for the aficionados) or between 10 and 32 ASA. A new version, rated at 40 ASA was introduced in 1951. Comparable modern ISOs could be around double those numbers because older films had a ‘one-stop safety factor’.

Since the film had been bulk loaded into the FILCA cassette, there is no indication of film speed as the film edge just says “Perutz”. Such old film often loses sensitivity if it has been lying around for a long time.

Many parameters had to be considered. Having discussed the issues with Mella Travers at The Darkroom in Dublin, we decided to give the roll a one-hour stand process with a diluted developer. This involved agitating it for 15 seconds every minute over the hour—which I did while sitting down and munching on Blueberry muffins (the essential ingredient).

The developed roll had 22 exposed frames out of 36, of which about 20 are usable. Not only had the photographer failed to develop the roll, but they also didn’t even manage to finish the course. There were some light leaks on the first few frames where I, and possibly others, had opened the cassette without realising that there was a film inside.

The BMW convertible

The first negative which I scanned was the one showing a mid-1930s BMW convertible (possibly a 303, 309 or a 315—I am sure that car experts will figure it out¹) on a snowy mountain pass. The registration number (AB 52 3287) is more than likely from the American occupation zone in Bavaria, which was current between 1948 and 1956. The second photo of the same car on the right below gave an exact location at La Veduta on the Julier Pass in the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland.

There was an earlier photo, damaged by light leaks, on the film roll which showed the same car parked on Bahnhofstrasse in Zurich. The picture contains a number of the large late 1940s American cars which were used as taxis in Zurich during the early 1950s

Swiss scenery

As well as Zurich, the 20 or so viewable negatives show scenery in the Swiss mountains and around the lakes. I have been trying to identify one of the lakes from the steamer shown above and below

I had thought that it might be near Lugano, but it seems that similar steamers are still used today on Lake Como in Italy. So this might be a Swiss roll with a little Italian dessert on the side.

Seeking the family

The object of writing this article is, however, to trace the families of the two people who appear in the images as I would like them to have the photographs. Given their ages at the time there is a very strong possibility that they are no longer with us. I thought long and hard about showing these photos, even after the long passage of time since they were taken, but there seems to be no other option if I am to find out who they are.

The two people are a woman in her late 20s or perhaps around 30 and a man about 10 years older, to my eyes. And they had a little Dachshund with them who also appeared in the Zurich photo.

It is strange to find people you don’t know, in such personal situations in front of a camera, many years after their photographs were taken. I feel more than a little guilty about this as they belong properly to the people in the photos and/or their families.

As I indicated above, there are photos of various scenic spots, but the one that stood out as having identification possibilities is below, showing the young woman and her dog on a street leading to a church.

Given the signs (Gelateria, for instance) it would appear that this street is either in the Italian speaking part of Switzerland or in Italy itself.

[NOTE: Following publication, the town has been identified as Bellagio, northern Italy, The street is Via Giuseppe Garibaldi and the church is the Basilica di San Giacomo. See comments section for further information]

FILCAs united

I will leave the photos and move on to the other evidence relating to which camera might have taken these photos and where was that camera distributed to.

The Leica Archives will give out information on the dealer to which a camera was first sent but not the name of the ultimate client. I know that they sometimes have this information and have even seen some old photocopies with this type of data, but with GDPR, it is no longer possible to get this type of data from the Archives.

First of all, before we move on to actual cameras, I can hear readers asking what is a FILCA brass cassette. In the early days 35mm, the film stock did not come in the handy cassettes which we know today, but rather in big tins (possibly because of its cinema background) and it had to be reloaded in the dark into small cassettes before use in the new breed of miniature cameras such as the Leica.

Leica’s solution was the FILCA cassette which, in the early versions, was opened and closed by a claw on the base plate of the camera, operated by opening and closing the ring device marked ‘Auf’ and ‘Zu’ (open/close). The objective was to ensure that the cassette was closed when exposed to the light. This was later replaced with a narrow slit with a felt opening. Below, from left to right are Leica FILCA cassettes types A, B and C.

Here is the very FILCA B in which this Perutz film spent the years. It is shown opened, with some of the film still inserted in the spool. Behind is a silver container with a black felt inner lining in which I had kept it, but I’m not sure that I did not put it in there myself. Incidentally, the canister has the name ‘Tom’ written on the bottom. Whatever about that, it can be seen that the film would have been in a pretty secure location for its 70-year hibernation.


I have received quite a few FILCAs with Leica cameras over the years, but I only recall two of my cameras coming with film in FILCA cassettes. One of the FILCAs was in this box which I received with a Leica IIIa with serial number 157423, shown on the front. The box belongs to another Leica IIIa with serial number 157408 (in collecting you cannot always get everything) and it contained FILCAs, some of which were in the silver canisters with the felt lining mentioned above.

The eagle-eyed will have spotted the writing in the marked spaces on the inside of the lid of the box. These show details of photos taken in Britain, Germany and Sweden in June 1935 and, according to a friend, some of it is written in Swedish. I got the camera and box from Sweden and the ever-ready case for the camera contained a lens cleaning cloth marked ‘Okularium, Optisk Affar, Goteborg, Boras’ in a logo similar to that of Ernst Leitz Wetzlar.

I also recall getting a FILCA B containing film inside this camera which is a III with serial number 172472. However, I recall it had colour film inside it and when I opened a second FILCA in the darkroom I found it had only a small piece of colour film inside it, not a roll.

Archivist apply here

Unfortunately, I tend to be unstructured in the way that I keep my camera, lens and accessory collections and things get moved around and interchanged a lot. I need to employ an archivist and/or a filing clerk. I will, of course, check with the Leica Archives about the first delivery of the two cameras and the camera number on the back of the box, but that will just give me dealers’ names and geographic locations.

All three of these cameras are from 1935 and they could have changed hands several times before the 1950s. There is, of course, no guarantee that the camera used to take these photos was one of the three cameras or, indeed, any other camera in my collection.

That car again, parked in Zurich’s Bahnhofstrasse in the late 1940s or early 1950s. The American cars used as taxis help date the whole series of images.

That is about all that occurs to me in respect of the 70-year-old mystery. So many questions remain unanswered—such as why was the film never finished? Was this the reason why the roll remained undeveloped, or is there another reason? Was this a borrowed camera, returned to its owner or a dealer with the film inside? Or, Heaven forbid, was the camera, used for the film roll, stolen at some stage?

I would appreciate any help or ideas from the legions of Macfilosians who often come up with great ideas about photographs and photography in general.

¹ The BMW: The experts have spoken. The editor’s old friend Fred Fruth, formerly of BMW and a keen vintage car enthusiast, says that this is a BMW 315 from between 1934 and 1937. It was a 1500 cc straight-six producing 34 horsepower. Fred says that this vehicle sports a lovely but non-standard two-door cabriolet body, although he isn’t sure on this detail. It’s a wonderful vehicle and we have to wonder if it is still being cherished somewhere in the world.


This article was published in September 2020 and since then a lot has happened, including world-wide publicity spearheaded by the BBC and New York Times and including many articles in the German-speaking and Italian press. Check this update article which will put you in the picture as it is viewed from mid-December 2020.

Read more from William Fagan


    • Thanks Mike P. Yes, the photos do seem to be reaching out to us from the mists of time. Post-war and pre-mass tourism Europe must have been less crowded like that and if you lived in the right place and had a car you would have been able to travel around and see many places in comfort compared to our pre-Covid world. Will it ever get like this again?

      Sebald is a good comparison not only in connection with the content of his writing, but he was born and lived in Southern Bavaria not far from Switzerland. Seeing the photos of Zurich (not shown in the article) reminded me that the Irish writer James Joyce had lived there and, indeed, died there in 1941. I have already suggested to a few people that this story might even form the basis for a short story or play. Let’s see what the second chapter/act reveals.


      • Yes! The whole I was reading this fascinating article and studying the photos, as a writer everything just screamed that this is a beautiful young woman having an affair with an older married man. As the journey progresses she realizes he isn’t going to divorce his wife. There’s a sadness about her. Well anyway, that’s my imagination!

    • Thanks George Appletree. I hope that you enjoyed the article. I identified that location about a month ago when I developed the photographs and I used Google Search and Maps. The locations are only supplementary information, however. This trip was taken about 70 years ago by people who are probably no longer with us, so the itinerary which they took may not be in anyone’s memory. The real point here, as I stressed in the article, is to identify the people and to reunite their families with these images.


        • Thanks. That is probably part of the mystery here. I could have suggested several other reasons as to why the photographs were never developed or discussed what I thought about the photos apart from the lovely image at the top of the article, but I wanted to treat this sensitively as I don’t know anything about the people other than where they were. I was not the photographer here, but this roll of film fell into my hands. There are interesting technical points here, but the important issues are human. They always are.


  1. Although I am in no way a collector I enjoyed this trip into the past William. I think you did a good job in bringing the film into life again and wish you success in your search. In a family album I have photos of a football team’s trip to Europe just after the end of the First World War and it fascinates me to see such memories lasting through the decades.

    • Thanks Kevin. Family photographs are just as important to the families and friends of the subjects in the photographs as are press or ‘art’ photographs. The making of images of family or friends or of places which we visit means a lot to us all. That is why I believe that the families of the people in these photos should be reunited with the images. At the Gallery of Photography, Ireland we had a ‘Family Album’ project some years ago in which we invited people to send in old photographs of their family members and we were overwhelmed by the response and the willingness of people to have photographs of their relatives displayed in our gallery. The project went international and last year we published an Irish American Family Album and an Irish Canadian Family Album is also planned. All of these things are as much at the heart of photography as is the work of, say, the Magnum photographers. I know that great Magnum photographers like Cartier Bresson or Constantine Manos would agree (or have agreed) with this.


  2. YOU SIR, VOTED FOR YOU, ARE HARRY HOUDINI AND SHERLOCK HOLMES , with your quest for identification of photos, reincarnated. I just sorry I can’t help in task of ID. Thank you.

    • Thanks John and thanks for the vote. The real Harry Houdini trick here was the film surviving in the brass cassette for 70 year and then managing to escape in the darkroom. I am working on a number of lines of enquiry, as the police might say, and I will reveal details here as our enquiry proceeds. I want to thank Mike for publishing this article as it gives me something substantial to point to as the enquiry proceeds.


  3. What an amazing article and images. Can’t help you with identifying places. On seeing the last shot I thought of the city of Yvoire on French side of the shore of Lac Leman. The bell tower looks very similar but not the rest unfortunately. Your images reminds me of how pleasant it is to dig through old family images. Thanks

    • Thanks Jean. The credit must go to the photographer and that FILCA cassette for preserving the film for 70 years and my friend Mella Travers for coming up with just the right amount of development time for a 70 year old film of unknown ‘ISO’. I will have a look at Yvoire and Lac Leman on Google Maps and see if I can recognise anything.


  4. Thanks Franco. That is definitely it. Some of the railings and shutters have not changed in 70 years. I suspected that the steamers were from Lake Como as they are still the same type and their funnels are painted the same way. Definitely an Italian dessert was available at the Gelateria on the left, but that seems to have closed today.

    I am most grateful for this.


  5. Brilliant, William. I absolutely love these sorts of finds/stories. The “lost for decades” aspect adds a nostalgic tinge to the story beyond “just” the old locations actually shown, which are nostalgic enough on their own

    There is a man online – Jack Sharp photographs if I recall – who inherited thousands of his grandfather’s unseen negatives and is slowly scanning and publishing them in a similar vein. Well worth a look.

    It makes me wonder. In 100 years from now, will someone declare that they’ve found an ancient SD card and look what Melbourne / London/ Delhi etc looked like back then?! Look at the people!? I’m not sure. And will the outright image quality negate that feeling of age and era? Is it actually the flaws in the tech that adds the romanticism?

    I won’t be around to know. It’s a question reserved for my children’s grandchildren, perhaps.

    • Thanks Jason. In this case the photos were locked up in a brass sarcophagus, provided by Ernst Leitz and Co, for about 70 years until they were released by development on 6th August 2020. I will probably have a few prints made as all I have now are scans and there is worry these days that electronically held data may not last as long as the paper based kind. A real mystery story that is still unfolding. I will look for those Jack Sharp photos which you mention.


  6. the car in the photo is a BMW 315 cabrio-limousine built in 1934-1936, license plate is from Germany, AB letters indicate district main town of registration “Aschaffenburg” in Bayern State.
    AB district cover 31 sub-towns. These cars were sold for the high price of 3.950 Reichsmark in 1934, they were used in racing too. It is possible to search in German Automotive registration Archive for Chronology of the owners of this car. Ask to a german old timer cars expert.

    • Thanks Pit for this very useful information. I will search for this tomorrow and if I do not succeed I will ask someone in Germany to do it for me. Mike, our editor, also has a lot of contacts in Germany.


    • Further to my earlier reply, I think it is wrong to suggest AB represents Aschaffenburg. According to my research (which is mentioned in the article) it stands for Amerikanische (Zone) Bayern and pre-dates the current system.

  7. This wonderful story reminded me of the Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode, “The Crystal Trench” with reference to glaciers, time, and photography.
    Of the few Leica cameras I have, one is from 1938 and had an original roll of unexposed film in it when it was taken out of a trunk and purchased from the estate by an acquaintance in the late 1970s. He shot 1-2 rolls before sell it to me.

    • Thanks Tom. It is the air of mystery that fascinates, particularly as to why the roll of film was not developed for so long. Hitchcock also made a film called Rear Window in 1954 which featured James Stewart using a German made Exakta camera with the camera name blanked out.


  8. In reply to this point from George Appletree

    “I’d rather write a novel. If all the thing had some thrill, whatever your reason you’ll finally make it disappear. Imagine what if every street photograph you see from HCB or any other you wonder who’s this one, what car is that etc.”

    I am not doing this for a thrill. Something unexpected turned up in something which I own and indeed the roll of film may also have been shot on a camera which I own. So there is relevant provenance for me there already. This is not like looking at a random picture by HCB, although I do admit to looking carefully at a photograph of French nuns which he took in St Stephen’s Green, Dublin in the early 1950s as they were always sitting in that exact location when my father brought me into the park on most Sunday mornings at around that time. Again, there was a relevant connection there.

    In this case, these images would not have been seen if I had not developed the roll of film 70 years later. I now have something more than just a physical roll of film. Images such as these usually mean something to the people involved and to their families. Leaving aside the mystery of why the roll of film was never developed, I hope that it might be possible to unite the images with the people to whom these might mean something.

    The relevance of writing a novel escapes me. If I wanted to write a novel, I would write a novel. As it is, I write about other things and I get great enjoyment out of this and so do other people, at least that is what they tell me.


  9. Steamer in the photo is “BISBINO”, sistership of “BARADELLO” both launched in 1907, owned by “Lariana Navigation Company” operating on Como lake where Bellagio is.
    “Bisbino” still exist today, it was refurbished and slightly modified in 1956, stopped in 1982. Refurbished in 1997 by the new owner to the original shape, today it’s a real attraction on the Como lake for it’s vintage style.

    • Thanks for that, Pit. I had seen photos of some of the Como Steamers, but they seemed to have been somewhat modified compared to the one in the photos.


      • Hi William, just a trace for your rollfilm mistery. The people in the photos are Otto and Helga. Looking at your photos and my grannies similar photo album, it’s evident that Otto and Helga come in Italy with their car and Leica to spend their “honeymoon” in Como lake (just like my granny). They shot several rollfilm, the last not completed remained in the camera at their return in Germany, ready for the next trip. But there was no more trips, destiny decided differently for them. Some weeks later Otto received a Reich communication for military conscription and was sent in Russia. A one way ticket.
        He never came back, declared “lost in battle”, his body was never found. At the end of the war Helga never give up to the Otto’s death and started searching him in Russia basing on his last letters .
        Otto was near the death for icing when he was saved by a russian farmer girl who hidden him. This girl represented his only chance to survive and his mind turned out to cancel his previous life as as surviving technique. A new life, a new wife and a daughter.
        After deep research, asking people by people on the road, Helga met German soldiers that remained in Russia and prefer to be forgotten by everyone. Now they’re Russian.
        Helga finally found the Russian girl and Otto’s daughter understanding the situation. Coming back desperately to the railway station, she met Otto leaving the train she was waiting for. He was coming back home from the factory. His mind sudenly switch out to the old love, but he explained what he have been trough in this terrible war in the ice. “This is the bad of the war” he said, “the war change the people…not only kill them”.
        Helga came back in Germany without talkin anyone about her researching result. Without conviction married another man, sold their beloved BMW 315 she cured for years and the Leica remained in the drawer not being able to use it, neither his husband. At the death of Helga, in the nineties, their relatives gave all her goods (Leica included) to a junk market.

        • I am sure William will reply to all this fascinating detail. But I am still confused over the car registration plate which seems to date the photos to the early 50s. From what you say above, the photographs were taken before the war? If so, I can’t reconcile that with the number plate which, I assume would have started with II (for Bavaria) if it had been before the war. It also seems to me that the fashions are more ‘fifties than ‘thirties.

          On a different tack, it did cross my mind that the couple could well have been on honeymoon and your comment is therefore interesting.

          • Thanks Mary. I did not have to check on Sunflower, which I have never heard of until now, to know that what Pit said above was fictional.


      • That is the time range for the photos, but as some of the cars in the Zurich photo are slightly later than 1948, we are saying early 1950s. The very latest was 1956 when the steamer was altered, but there is no sign of the postwar European cars eg. by the mid 1950s Mercedes taxis had started to appear in Zurich. We know where the people were and how they travelled. What we need now are some visual identifications that we can follow up.


  10. Hi Mike,
    my grannies shot a lot in the 30′-40′-50′ I’ve hundred of photos quite similar. Looking at dresses they looks at the end of the 30’s, look at the large revere of the man jacket and the squared shoulder of the white lady’s jacket. Lady’s suit pattern quite similar (and typical) to my granny in the early 40’s. But a woman perspective could be better.
    Just for information the steamer Bisbino in the photo has perfect vertical bow while in refurbishing of 1956 it was angled like modern ship.
    About license plate you could see :


    in wich some similar plate numbering looks shooted in the 30′ -40’s rather than 50’s but an expert could tell about and I’m open to any solution.

    • Thanks, Pit. I have known all along that this was a mid 1930s BMW cabriolet with a Bavarian registration plate. Recent information from a retired top ranking manager at BMW has confirmed that it was a BMW 315. I had hinted that this might make a nice novel or piece of theatre, but the Otto/Helga/Eastern front story does not hold together. These are post-war pictures. I have mentioned in the article that one of the photographs on the same roll of film clearly shows the BMW 315 and the young woman and the dachshund on Banhofstrasse in Zurich with post-war American cars around them being used as taxis. I had decided to leave the photo out of the article as it has a large bright strip down the middle, probably caused by a light leak. I have given this photo to Mike and I have asked whether this photo can now be inserted here at this stage. Given the evidence available about the Bisbino it would seem that the photos were taken between about 1950 and 1956, with the likelihood being that they were taken closer to the former than the latter. Photos from Zurich in the mid 1950s show more modern post war cars such as Mercedes being used as taxis.

      Still, the names ‘Otto and Helga’ are good ones for the couple until we find out their real names. Also the theory of the photographer (‘Otto’) passing away might be one of the many possible explanations for the fact that the roll was never finished, but, as of now, that is unproven.


    • Thanks, Pit. I believe you are correct about the De Soto being from 1949. I believe the Peugeot could be from 1949 or 1950, certainly pre 1953 when the filler cap, which is visible here, was put under a filler cap. I believe that this trip was made in the very early 1950s, possibly between 1950 and 1952. By about 1954-55 newer European cars had started to appear on the streets of Zurich based on photos that I have seen. And the Bisbino steamer (made 1907) on Lake Como is in its pre-1956 state.

      This means that the ‘Otto’ disappearing in Russia in WWII story has to be fanciful. The man looks old enough to have been involved in WWII, but the woman would probably have been a child/minor prior to the war. The death of one or other of the people is one possible explanation for the unfinished/undeveloped roll of film, but there are many other possible explanations. I would like to be factual rather than speculative or fictional in respect of this.


      • Yes William, mine it’s only a fantasy story circling around the reason of undeveloped film.
        Remaining in factual thinghs you are lucky to have a clear license plate evidence. In this case the most actual action you could do is searching for the car owner. In my camera repair activity, undeveloped film occurrs very often, one of the reasons is the owner’s death, or the camera didn’t rewind and was never retired from the repair shop for the same reason. But very often in the 50’s people switched to the early automatic (or preset) cameras without knowing or considering the value of their previous camera, sometimes inherithed from their parents. Leica wasn’t a point and shot family camera, but a skilled photographer camera, and in the 50’s people wanted a simple and reliable camera that could be used by every family member during a trip.
        At the moment I’m servicing a 1970 Canon Autozoom Super 8 movie camera with undeveloped film inside.

        • There are a few other technical aspects I did not mention. Firstly, the roll of film was wound into the cassette when I got it. The camera base plate closes the FILCA when the base plate is opened, but it does not automatically rewind the film. So the film was rewound after 22 exposures had been made. The first few frames have light leak damage, probably as a result of later opening by myself and others, but that improves as the roll goes on and it disappears after frame 5. The roll of film was very tightly wound and has actually 38 frames on it. It would have been bulk loaded into the cassette from a tin or packet of bulk film. This looks like the beginning of a new tin or packet. The last frame exposed was No 22, which is the picture of the young woman sitting in front a lake, which is shown above. There is nothing after that and it seems that the roll of film was rewound after that frame had been taken, but how long after is not clear, but the roll was clearly rewound while it was still in the camera. The light leaks on the first five frames clearly match the shape of the opening on the FILCA. I deliberately left these technical details out as they might confuse an audience not familiar with film rolls and cassettes.


    • Thanks Dunk. I put the story up there myself in the hope that photo historians might be able to to help. There may be other wider distribution later this week and I will put up a link or links as that happens.


  11. 11/29/20

    My friend, this is a very intriguing story and I’d suggest that you take these stills and place them in a video on YOUTUBE. You may eventually get some results on who these people are.

    Regards, Trade Martin.

  12. I have stumbled across article on a convoluted link from the BBC news website, and alas cannot add any worthwhile information as to the identity of the people in the photographs.
    That aside the topic is fascinating, and have bookmarked this web page and will return to see if any updates lead to the hopeful reuniting of the photo’s with their families.
    Thank you William and all others for a fascinating and yet unsolved insight into European life gone by… please continue to update this page with any news.

    Steve (deepest Buckinghamshire, UK)

  13. Good evening…
    What a captivating story!
    While I am unable to shed any measurable light on the subject matter beyond what has already been established, I thought I would offer a personal ‘perspective’ on your mystery photographs.
    When I first saw the story of your discovery on the BBC News app, my initial thought was that the photos could easily have been taken around the time my mother lived in Switzerland (early 50s from memory). I then got to wondering… Where were these people before or after they visited Zurich and Bellagio? (Clearly, they were on some sort of grand tour; in my imagination, they might have been heading for Milan before returning to Germany, possibly via Lugano or Lago Maggiore. Or perhaps they traveled on to Venice?) Might the couple have unknowingly crossed paths with my mother at some point? The possibility is so incredibly remote, yet stranger things have happened!
    Coincidentally, during our honeymoon some 25 years ago, my wife and I drove over the border from Lake Como to St. Moritz, putting us within just a few miles of Julier Pass. Based on our experience, and judging from the amount of snow in some of the photos as well as the relatively light clothing the couple was wearing, I would venture to suggest they might have been there around late April.
    On a final note, I sent your site’s URL to my mother because I thought she would appreciate the ‘flashback’ to that era.
    I wish you well with your sleuthing.

    • Thanks, Christopher. I never rule out coincidence and I have a number of strange happenings in my own life. Once such as alighting from a Vaporetto at St. Mark’s Square in Venice only to walk straight into a neighbour from London. Neither of us knew we were going to Italy. It crossed our mind that the couple in the photographs could have been on honeymoon.

  14. I found your post in my Facebook feed, and having an interest in photography, I am fascinated by the circumstances that brought these photos to light. It will be interesting to see if there are relatives out there that will recognize them. That thought brought me to think about about the various “ancestry” sites. It may be possible to contact the sites to see if they are willing to add the photos and story to their data for their members to investigate. I have used a couple of these sites, along with other members of my family, and it is amazing how much information there is in accessible archives the members have access to. There are, perhaps, members of this forum who also use those sites, who could help in the search.

      • Thanks Robert. Ancestry data bases might come in later when we have some initial hints about names. The Swiss Ambassador to Ireland has mentioned some kind of a website in the French speaking part of Switzerland where old photos can be shared online, but these people were probably from a German speaking background. He also mentioned facial recognition, but there are so many issues there that I would not know where to start unless we have some initial leads about identity.


  15. Great article. Just read about it via the BBC news website.
    As a history teacher I love old photos and looking at the details in the background. It’s a bit of a mystery isn’t it?
    Surely the German ‘DVLA’ could tell you who owned that car?

    Good luck,


  16. Is there any chance of tracing the ownership of the BMW via the Austrian or German equivalent of our Swansea DVLC licensing centre? Our germanic neighbours are, as we know, very efficient and may still have historic records. Just an idea-

    • Thanks, Peter. We have thought of this, of course, but the plate is from the American occupation zone or, at least, predates the current system. We were hoping that the BBC story would prompt a local researcher to find out.

        • Following today’s influx of comments and emails, I think we’ve nailed that one. See other comments on this. I’ve also seen other examples of ABZ plates which are identical to this one. AB is American-zone-Bavaria and 52 is Munich. There’s also a 48 visible if you zoom in, indicating the car was registered in 1948. it could be that the pictures were taken in ’48 but, from the appearance of the cars in Bahnhofstrase, it seems more likely to be 1950-52.

          • Hi Mike,
            I very much enjoyed rummaging around for similar shots on Streetview and consulted a few maps and car websites. I am still not convinced that the car is a 315/1 model. It seems that in the early days of BMW after the 303 was introduced to the market, there was quite a bit of a mix and match with certain accessories (2 wipers, 6 side air vents, 2-seater etc.) between the 303, the 309 and the 315. In the end, it probably doesn’t matter. The number plate is definitely from the city of Munich, and cars could only be registered to owners within that area. I am certain that the local authorities will have some records somewhere in the cellar! The convertables were produced in rather low numbers (there were only 242 of the 315/1 model!). To me, it looks like this is a fairly well off couple on their holidays.
            One last observation: there is a chance that the picture showing the young woman with an elderly lady in front of a large building (with bicycles parked in front) could be the south-westerly wing of the main station in Zürich. This would go well with the other picture of the Bahnhofsplatz.
            Sorry, can’t help any further!

          • Thanks, Corrie, all useful help. William did identify Bahnhofstrasse and the Hbf in that picture before we published our article and I think we mentioned it, but not sure.

          • Thanks to all who have replied on this issue. We have identified that the plates were from Bavaria and that the car was a BMW 315. The real difficulty these days is that with data protection and privacy legislation licensing authorities can no longer reveal personal data except to other appropriate state authorities who are carrying out statutory duties such as the police or revenue bodies.


  17. Fascinating! Wow! Thank you for publishing these photos. Just love old pictures like these. I recognized Lake Como as I have been there on holiday. What a lovely couple and their dog. Hope you find out more about them if anyone recognizes them and lets you know. The cars are amazing. What a great find! All the best in finding out more information.

    • Thanks, Patricia. Judging by the enormous interest – I woke this morning to a full mailbox – this is a developing story and we will certainly produce a sequel with all the new information. Mike

    • Thanks, Ian. I will have a look at your site, as I am sure will William Fagan. At the moment, as you can imagine, we are inundated with approaches from all over the world, including from the German and Swiss media. So we’ll have a look at this in the cool of the evening.


      • That’s kind of you.

        There’s a few blog posts I’ve made about collections – Margaret Folland, Roy Haslett – but I can’t always secure copyright permission.

        I can imagine that you are busy! I’ve added to that by posting on the Alamy forum. I often seek help there tracking down locations and am amazed how clever people are!



        • Copyright does not arise here as we are not using these items for any commercial gain or end. Also the items are historical and we are unable to identify the original owners of the film. Our objective here is to find the families of the people and to give them the film. While I technically ‘own ‘ this roll of film, my moral sense tells me that the images properly ‘belong’ to those families.


  18. Hi,

    Came across this from the BBC News website. Fascinating. Sorry if I’ve missed it on an earlier post, but have you tried assistance from the German embassy or Bavarian state? They may be able to trace ownership of the vehicle. They are usually helpful with this sort of thing.

  19. Hi
    Is it possible to see the order that the photos were taken? This would help understand the sequence of events and the progression of the story.
    Thanks, Ger.

    • Thanks Ger. I have the film roll. The sequence gives a rough approximation of journey and we have recognised most of the locations, but that does bring us closer to identifying the people in the photos.


  20. You say you think the car is from Austria, however, the letters AB were used in the American controlled area of Germany – Bavaria during the 1950’s on American owned cars. So potentially you are looking on the wrong continent. He could have been a senior officer or more likely a diplomat he has the bearing to carry either job and she is no run of the mill housewife. There is obviously some serious money behind these two, her cloths are new and expensive based on the amount of material and his suit fits very well at the shoulder so probably taylored. The camera also speaks to money as well.

    Good lucK and I how you find them or there families.

    • I’m not sure where Austria came in? I don’t think we ever mentioned that in the article. When the original article was published we’d ruled out Aschaffenburg (AB) and homed in on the Amerikanische Bezatsungszone (AB). But Bavaria it definitely is…

      • It is definitely Bavaria as A stands for American Zone and the B for Bavaria. That was in use from 1948 to 1956. It was used for all vehicle registrations but not for civilian cars of American soldiers. They had their own system. AB for Aschaffenburg was used in the following system from 1956 on.

        • Thanks to all. In respect of the above, this is a pre-war BMW with post-war Bavarian Plates. The change in registration came post-war at the behest of the American authorities. The photos were taken between 1950 and 1955, we believe, based on the cars to be seen in the Zurich photo and the configuration of the Steamer Concordia on Lake Como. My own guess would be between 1951 and 1953.


        • Ralf, thanks for commenting here. I hadn’t realised you had already seen the article when I wrote directly to you this afternoon. Thanks for input, very useful. We will indeed try to contact the registration office as you suggest in your direct reply.. Mike

  21. I am confident that the buildingny the lake is the original “White Horse Inn” near St. Wolfgang in Austria. The picture on the Wikipedia page looks like the side of the building in your photo.
    I went to the WHI many years ago, shich is why it looked familiar.

  22. The photo of the lake shore and harbour reminds me of Vevey on the shore of Lake Geneva in Switzerland. My grandparents live nearby in Chernex (just outside Montreux) and as a child – and now an adult – we will often visit and take the steam boats which still operate, around the lake to Luzern and Lausanne. I might be mistaken as I suspect there are similarities across the whole of Lake Geneva but it does seem strikingly similar.

    • Well, that’s a good one. They do look rather similar, especially the Marquess of Hartington. A long shot, but it’s in the file. Thanks.

    • I am linked to Turtle Bunbury on LinkedIn. I don’t believe that this couple are related to the Kennedys. The man in the Swiss photo has a pronounced dimple on his chin which was not a Kennedy feature. My late father met both Robert and Ted Kennedy in Washington. My older brother has a photograph of the 3 of them together and I saw Jack Kennedy visiting Ireland when I was about 14. Thanks for link, though.


      • Actually, I was thinking the woman resembled Kick Kennedy and the man resembled Peter Fitzwilliam, down to the cleft in the chin. They were staying as guests in 1948 apparently in the south of France.

      • Oops- commented in wrong place!
        Actually, I was thinking the woman resembled Kick Kennedy and the man resembled Peter Fitzwilliam, down to the cleft in the chin. They were staying as guests in 1948 apparently in the south of France.
        If you look up Peter, you will see the same long face, dark slicked back hair, and cleft chin. Kick has the same curly hair, straight brows, and face shape, would also have been about the same age as the lady in the photos.

        • If it is Kick Kennedy, would she have worn an engagement ring on her right hand as is common in Europe, but not in Britain? I don’t know about the USA but the tradition is more likely to follow British usage.

          • Thanks for the correction, Mia. Even reversing the sexes here, these are not the Fitzwilliam/Kennedy couple who died before these photos were taken. Perutz film did not come back on the market until about 1950. I will contact Turtle Bunbury to confirm, though.


  23. William, Fascinating set of photographs and story. The car must be the biggest clue in this. Perhaps a note to the German Embassy might obtain help and insight. I would have thought they would help. The car is pretty rare as your friend says but this one is for sale currently with the same coachwork. https://m.classic-trader.com/uk/cars/listing/bmw/315/315/1934/173007 Could it be the same car? (different paintwork and some odd fittings missing but maybe). Perhaps they vendors could look at the history they have to check? It would be a great result to find the subjects or relatives and re-unite the photographs, good luck

    • We are on this, as you will see from other comments. We’re now certain that it was registered in Munich and that AB is A(American zone) B(avaria) and that the 52 represents Munich. The car itself is highly likely to be in existence unless it met with some dreadful accident later in life. I think with all the interest now being shown (including by German media) we should be on the way to nailing this.

  24. Dear Sir, the vehicle’s registration number is from Munich.
    AB = American zone, Bavaria
    52 = city of Munich
    3287 = the vehicle’s individual number
    This system was valid only between 1948 and 1956. The car and attire could only have been afforded by a wealthy couple (as could the trip abroad) which narrows the field. Upper middle class, judging by the dressing style and the dog. Small factory owner, top dentist – something along these lines.

    Greetings from Bavaria 🙂

    • …und herzlichste Grüße auch aus London

      Glad you’ve confirmed the details we’ve been getting this morning from readers. The next step is to find the registration records and who owned the vehicle at the time. In theory this is simple, but we will see. Thanks again, Mike

  25. Hello Mike,
    What a marvellous find – congratulations!

    The BMWs was registered in Munich, no doubt about that. The number plate was issued in 1948 or later in US-occupied Bavaria (AB=Amerikanische Zone Bayern). “52” was the identifier of Munich (see: https://www.brezelfenstervereinigung.de/index.php/mitglieder-bfv/geschichten-und-geschichtliches/item/758-woher-kommt-denn-der).

    By the way, the steamer on Lake Como that is depicted in one of the photos still existed in 2012 when I spent a few days in Bellagio. I can send you a photo of it, if you like.

    Best regards from Germany,

  26. Hi, Re. The locations of the photographs. The one of a lady sitting on a wall is I think from the ferry stop in Lenno looking towards the promontory di Lavedo. The one with a bench seat ,ferry, tree and plant is taken from near Griante looking out towards Bellagio and the one with a post in the foreground and a church and building is possibly near Mezzegra. All on Lake Como

    • Thanks, Dave. I’m no expert and that’s why I consulted my old friend Fred Fruth who worked for BMW in the public relations department for much of his time, also with Rolls Royce in England. He owned a similar BMW for many years. We did a footnote after the original publication:

      >The BMW: The experts have spoken. The editor’s old friend Fred Fruth, formerly of BMW and a keen vintage car enthusiast, says that this is a BMW 315 from between 1934 and 1937. It was a 1500 cc straight-six producing 34 horsepower. Fred says that this vehicle sports a lovely but non-standard two-door cabriolet body, possibly from Weinmann, although he isn’t sure on this detail. It’s a wonderful vehicle and we have to wonder if it is still being cherished somewhere in the world.

      The Weinmann body could cause confusion, but I’d be interested if you have more detail on this. it will certainly make it more easy to identify the particular car if it is still around.


  27. The one thing that stands out to me is that dress. Unusual fabric and in the photo without the jacket it has a distinctive collar. Have you thought of sending it round some costume museums?

    • No, but we will add it to the list! The car and the registration details are the main clue, I think, and we’re making progress on that.

    • I did a search for “50’s fabrics” and came across this website http://www.vintagedancer.com/ .
      Sent an email to them with a link to this site and the owner, Debbie, very kindly replied:

      “Well it appears to be a button down shirtwaist dress with a rounded lapel collar of some sort. The dress and hairstyle look about 1951 or so. The coat is a bit older 1947-48
      The print doesn’t help to identify it.
      The man is a bit more interesting. He is wearing a spearpoint collar shirt, collarbar, peak lapel suit with slicked hair- all very 30s . If the date is assumed later he could be still dressing out of date. My grandfather dressed about 10 years before current trends.”

      Although not exactly a ‘Eureka’ moment, her dating of the dress ties in very nicely with what you guys already thought, early fifties.
      Found her comment on the man’s dress style interesting too. It may not be his sense of fashion holding him back, but economic necessity – even though they are obviously relatively well off. The economic recovery of Germany after the war didn’t start until the early fifties.

      • Thanks, Frank. That’s fascinating and more information for when we find out who these people are/were. We seem to have a small army of researchers all around the world. This little project has caught the imagination.

  28. Mike, I think the picture of the paddle steamer with the bench in the foreground is taken in Cully, from the Place d’Armes, near the ferry terminal. This is in Switzerland, on the North shore (Swiss side)of lake Geneva. (The paddle steamer is probably La Suisse which is still running – http://www.paddlesteamers.info/LaSuisse.htm ).
    The other picture of the paddle steamer (moving away from the shore) looks like it leaving from the Territet ferry terminal in Montreux. Looking at the trees in the foreground, I would say the photo may have been taken from the balcony of the the Hotel Du Grand Lax Excelsior.
    Hope that helps.

    • Thanks, Matt. We’ll add this to the list, although Como is featuring in most of the emails we’ve been getting this morning. Several people have identified specific aspects. But it’s all grist for the mill and I’m sure William will be sifting all the suggestions in the cool of the evening..


  29. Have you seen the Danger Man?
    TV series from about the era you have in the photos, that is coincidentally happening in the very same locations, I even recognized some of those in your photos!
    Switzerland, Bavaria, Italy, Munich, NATO. All being part of the mix.

    The question is who is this scientist/prospector vacationing in these locations?
    As those days didn’t have time to waste, what were his other goals, while vacationing, there? Business? Information? Tourism? New partnerships/connections? Or just celebrating their wedding? Even while vacationing in thoise days, people valued their time and money. I’m almost tempted to try to find these people on IMDB, but it may be possible that photos/persons from that era are not recorded with any reliability.

    Both seem like american faces to me, most likely.

    But another side question: does anyone know how Ralph Smart looked like?
    Since the stories he’s been involved with follow the photos to tiny details, even the chairs…

    • Two or three other correspondents have mentioned Ralph Smart, so it’s worth a bit of research. Thanks. Actually, though, I would be surprised if the couple is in any way well known. They are most likely an affluent Munich couple on a trip through Switzerland to Italy. We will learn a lot when we get to the vehicle registration archives, I think.

      What we can say with some certainty is that the man is a talented photographer. These are not just typical holiday snaps of the day and the pictures show excellent composition. It’s all the more mysterious how the camera and roll just disappeared for over 60 years until William bought them.

        • Thanks Brian. It would be helpful if you could direct us towards other photos of Ralph Smart , particularly during the 1950s. I think it is a long shot, but he would have been around the correct age for the man which I would estimate as being between 40 and 45 years, with the woman being about 15 years younger, say 25 to 30 years.


          • Does this explain anything?

            he was travelling around the same areas at the same time and writing all the time!
            “In 1954 joined Hannah Weinstein to produce Robin Hood…” they parted and ‘he went on travels with a caravan, 9 months, austria, germany, switzerland, italy, spain…’

            Not an exact match. Also the Dachshund needs to be accounted for!


            OK, we can discount Ralph Smart for good it seems.
            I is possible he just visited the same locations at the same time and created stories around those, so that is why the association is easily made.

            Still the man in the picture, suppose the young woman is his daughter: they seem like characters in one of the stories.

            This one (Ralph) being off, the connection with Czechoslovakia seems to be more believable explanation, one man in the comments seeing his doppelgangers in a concentration camp and other poster seeing identical visitors/friends of her/his parents.

            Given the Dachshund as well, I’d suggest Czechoslovakian connection. They still cold be german citizens, mind that. There was a lot of movement/resettlement from 1930’s to 1960’s

      • Okay, let me explain the hype about Ralph Smart: he was involved in producing some excellent FICTIONAL stories, but… the facts included in the stories have consistently shown knowledge far beyond publicly available information, and always has been very precise about it. During a story visiting some country or another, the local habits, procedures, customs and even publicly hidden facts are plainly and clearly replicated in the stories.

        So, when I tried to search the man, I got nothing.
        The other thing: the photos show the exact beauty replicated in the films. The train travel from Vienna to switzerland to uncover hidden treasures under the lake. The hotel involved…

        And I even have a possible answer as to why the camera roll had been forgotten: there were TWO cameras in one of the stories, and one of the cameras has only shown NICE family vacation pictures, while the other had the photos of economic importance. I’m too lazy now to check what their camera looked like, but it seemed eerily similar…

        This story you randomly uncovered is just too good.

  30. Hello Mike,

    Just one more detail. Like someone has already mentioned before, the registration plate of the BMW bears the number “48” at the bottom, referring to 1948 when these plates were issued in Germany (this particular one in Munich).

    In my prewar-car blog, you’ll find another BMW 315 with such a postwar number plate where the “48” is clearly legible:


    Since these number plates from the different allied zones were replaced in 1956, we can be sure that the photos were taken in this very period.

    Best regards,

    Michael Schlenger
    Hintergasse 1a
    61231 Bad Nauheim

    • Michael, as the editor of Vorkriegs-klassiker-Rundschau blog you are in an ideal position to comment on this. Thanks. Do you have any views on the bodywork, which my friend Fred Fruth (formerly with BMW in München and Rolls Royce in England) identified as possibly a Weinmann?

      I think there is a good possibility this car is still in existence and wouldn’t it be wonderful to trace it to its new owner (or, perhaps, even a museum)?

  31. Fascinating! Did you notice, Mike, that your beautiful lady on the bench with dog has her ring(s) on the third finger of her right hand. In Germany you wear your engagement and wedding ring on your right hand, not your left. It’s also a very nice piece of jewellery. A wealthy German couple I think, rather than American.

  32. Dear Mr. Fagan,

    I am the author of a published murder mystery novel and upcoming series set in Tangier during the 1930s. The sleuth is an Italian with the International Zone police. In the first novel, a mystery is partially solved through real vintage photographs, though the mystery is fiction. So I immediately identified with your mystery. I was intrigued by your research when I read the BBC article.

    I think it is nothing short of wonderful what you are doing for the people connected to those photographs and I hope someone — family, friends — are found.

    I can’t add much in research tips , such as car registration etc, which many have suggested above. But I wish you well and think their is kindness in what you are doing — apart from a fascinating puzzle. I look forward to reading of any results.

    warmest regards, John Hughes (Canada)

    • Thanks John. We have come across another similar work of fiction today about a Leica with exposed film in it being bought in Venice. My story is real, though, but we have yet to recognise the main characters.


    • I know the BMW 3 was used as the basis for the Kübelwagen but this solution doesn’t seem likely. I’m no expert, but I have spoken to several people who are very closely associated with BMW and classic cars and all seem to be agreed that this is a 315 with a third-party body, probably a Weinmann. How are you sure that this is a (converted) Kübelwagen?

      • It is logged on the website provided. It looks the same, as it is the only version with this bonnet type. Of course it could be anything to look like anything, but this one looks original. Taking into account the type of travel they were doing, it would have been the right choice.

        • What I find really odd is: his clothes are from 1935, his camera is from 1935, his car is from 1935… that man is frozen in time… does he like it? or is it just to save the little money they have?

          I think it is the latter. I think their trip is not only a honeymoon, it is a visit to all the places of her childhood. Maybe seeing their friends as the newlyweds.

          What sense does it make to photo a woman getting out of a car with a dog? Only if the man was infatuated with her and thought she was elegant with her every move and loved her for that. They made a trip of their lifetime on a shoestring budget, most of what they have is 15 years old.

          I missed one thing: does the box with the casettes belong to this photo series? Then the writing could be his! what does it say?

          Did they need to sell the camera to be able to get back home? Strange, but not impossible.

  33. Several pix are in the Engadin. I see Muottas Muragl and Suvretta House. An second one appears to have beenbtaken from Champfer toeards Silvaplana. The couple reminds me of an elderly intrepid British couple who stayed there a lot in the 1970s, they would be the right ages. I know their name.

  34. The very last picture on the BBC website’s article may be taken in Bad Ragaz looking North. (Bad Ragaz has a hot spring and is well known as a resort.)
    In the valley to the right, the Rhein flows toward Lake Constance (Bodensee), whereas the valley to left goes toward the Walensee and on to Zürich.
    The foremost mountain on the left maybe the “Gonzen”.
    Maybe someone could confirm my impressions.

    Great article to read and see the pictures!

  35. The couple remind me of friends of my parents,Johnny & Maria Ratzer from,I think, Czechoslovakia.I would have met them 15-20 years after the photos.The Dachshund was what reminded me as they preferred the breed & always had one.

  36. The last photo in the BBC article is certainly Bad Ragaz in the Swiss Rhine Valley. I can say this with a high confidence level as I live nearby on Lake Constance. The photo is facing north showing the two peaks, Gonzen (1829 above Sea level), left; and Alvier (2341), middle. I climbed both of them and know them very well.

    The journey begins to make sense: In the way from Zürich to Julier Pass, you travel via Bad Ragaz, and the stop in this somewhat mundane place makes perfect sense for a wealthy couple. The trip might have continued via Julier Pass to Upper Engadin Valley (Oberengadin) with I believe is shown in at least one to the pictures (FILCA-16), probably near St. Moritz or Silvaplana. I hade given this suggestion alreays some weeks ago. The couple might have travelled on via Maloja Pass the the Lakes of Northern Italiy. In the 50s this would have been a typcial trip for the well-off, I think, along scenic and relatively easy to drive roads in those days.

    It all falls into place now, I think. And it becomes ever more realistic that swarn intelligence will lift the secret who the these people were.

  37. AB means American Zone Bavaria (Bayern). It has nothing to do with Aschaffenburg. We, near Cologne, had BR, meaning British Zone Rhineland (Rheinland). The first 3 numbers could explain the city or borough.
    You perhaps must find out, when pelple from Germany – in this case Bavaria – were allowed to
    go by car to Switzerland. Hardly before summer 1949, but I don’t know for sure..

    • Thanks, Winfried. As you will have seen from other comments, we know the number plate was issued in Munich in 1948 (on close inspection of the digits). 52 represented Munich. But your suggestion of finding out when Germans were allowed to travel to Switzerland and Italy is a good one, I will investigate. Mike

  38. Hi there. I am very sure that at least 2 of these photos are of a village on the west shore of lake Como called Lenno. I go every year to the next village, Mezzegra, and often walk down to Lenno. The promontory in the background of the woman’s portrait is the Villa Balbianello headland. This was taken from the waterfront by the slipway in front of the main piazza in Lenno. The cafe is on the promenade along the waterfront of Lenno. It was until recently called Bar Sport. Next door to it now is a restaurant called Plinio. I’m sure google will have some reference images of these locations but I could also dig some out of my holiday snaps. Good luck with the rest.

    • Thanks, Nick. If you check our the comments below you will find that we have definitely agreed on Lenno. We even have some current pictures of the same locations sent in by readers.

    • Thanks Nick. The woman who interviewed me for Swiss TV today is from just beside Bellagio and she is very familiar that town and Lenno on the exact opposite side of Como and she recognised all of those places in the photos. They are putting together a short film for Swiss TV to show the locals the people in the locations. Of course, nobody can remember that far back, but there may be something in the photos of the people, the car and the locations that might ring a bell or create a lead of some kind.


  39. Hello,
    I currently work in Zurich. I could ask at the Bibliotek to see if there is anything about the photo at Bahnhofstrasse which could narrow down the year more precisely. Its possible that certain hordings were only in place for a year or two. Also, there are what appear to be some posters on the left hand side of the photo. They could perhaps be be identified…

    • Thanks, Chris. That would be very helpful. Any such detail could allow us to pin these photographs down to a specific year… if we are lucky. That would be a good start and would also be helpful if we can ever get access to the vehicle registration records in Munich. Let us know what you can find. You can write to me at mike@macfilos.com

    • Thanks Christopher. One feature that changed was the box for the policeman directing traffic which is beside the tram near Zigarren Durr in the photo. There is also Zigarren Durr itself which changed over the years and, finally, there is the United Star building on the other side which may have contained a travel agency and, possibly, also a hotel at various stages. I have looked at various photos and cine-films of Zurich since I started work on the article and these are the features that changed. There is a set of photos which is marked 1950 when they mean the 1950s, as features vary in them even though they are all down for 1950. I have been through all of this for months now and my best guess considering all the evidence in Zurich and elsewhere is that it was probably around 1952 when this trip took place. That was my initial guess and I have not had any reason to change it.


  40. Dear William

    They made a tour from Munich (Germany) to Zurich, Bad Ragaz, Julierpass, St. Moritz, Bellagio (near Como in Italy).

    See the position in google maps or similar photo:

    Julierpass in direction to the engandin valley

    Bad Ragaz with the mountains Gonzen and Alvier. View from one of the old hotels in front of the picture. Bad Ragaz is famous for hot springs.

    St. Moritz with the Hotel Waldhaus am See:

    Thank you for sharing the pictures with us.


    • Hi Schorsch, Brilliant suggestion, thanks. We had completely overlooked this, and we will investigate. …..

      Later… I have enlarged the Zurich Hbf picture, which is the one I think you were referring to. Unfortunately, the detail of the bicycle number plates is completely lost (unless William Fagan can work a bit of magic). But the rectangular landscape format definitely points to pre-1954 when the vertical plates were introduced.

      This is a good bit of detective work on your part, though. I suspect that the cars in the Bahnhofstrasse are probably a better guide to date. The dominance of foreign cars and the style definitely points to pre-1951 and, possibly, even 1949. Thanks again…

      • Do you have access to historical Zurich address directories (Adressbuch) ? The adressbuch in Cologne, my home city, were published every year and had a listing

        • Sorry for this malfunctioning. I was about to write that the adressbuch in Cologne had a listing by streets and house numbers and floors within the house. I guess that an economic hub such as Zurich published the same level of information. So you could see which year the owner of a shop changed on a specific street. Could the municipal archives in Zurich help here, or an article in the NZZ ?

  41. Hi Mike,
    I guess you already know that it was the Hotel Tamina in Bad Ragaz where they stayed. Have you tried contacting them to see if they keep the old guest books (maybe it was recorded that they had a dog…)?


    • I emailed Mike about this yesterday after determining the location from a 1942 aerial photo showing the old Rathaus on Lubis viewer. Yesterday evening I contacted the Hotel Tamina and they wrote back to me this morning that they do not have any such old records sadly.

        • Thanks Eric. We have been on that one, too. It’s highly likely that the travellers would have had to register their passports with the hotel. We’ve drawn a blank with two of the hotels identified, and now we have to rely on police records. So far no luck but it is an active line of enquiry. Mike

    • Indeed, Christopher. We have several people checking this. Toby Vickers has established the photograph was taken from the fourth floor of the Tamina and a visit might pin down the actual room. Sadly, as we’ve discovered, they don’t have an old guest book in the cellar. Too much to hope for, I suppose.

      At least, though, we can track the entire journey with accuracy. All the locations have been identified. It’s now just a matter of putting names to the faces.

  42. I also noted on the Bad Ragaz website it states that the Catholic Church was given its current form in 1953/54. Unfortunately it seems to be just out of shot…

    • Thanks, Chris. I had a quick look at the guest book project and it appears to be confined to pre-1914 records (unless you know different). I will have a look at the other site also. Thanks.

      I’ve now written to them. A long shot, but worth it.

  43. Hello Mike
    Thoroughly enjoy your article.
    I think that American car in the background in the Bahnhofstrasse picture is a 1949 DeSoto
    Best regards

      • There is a photo on the Leica Forum Vintage Section which points towards the date as being in early 1951. The person from Zurich who posted a photograph from 31.12.1950 has identified all of the relevant signs advertisements in Bahnhofplatz as being the same as in the photo in the article. The article goes out in a Munich newspaper tomorrow which may be significant as that is where the car was registered. The New York Times still seem to be working on a piece but the local media will be more significant. I have also done a piece for Swiss Italian TV. For what its worth, the BBC online publication of the story has had almost 2 million hits at this stage.


  44. As at Bad Ragaz, it should be possible to work out where they were staying at St Moritz. I have been using ETH Epics platform (http://ba.e-pics.ethz.ch/) and I believe I can see on the image: Bildcode:PK_005643 Titel: St. Moritz-Bad und Dorf – from your image, the house in the foreground on the left with one window at the top of the gable and three underneath that. On the archive image, the house is central vertically and about 1/3 across from the left horizontally. I can send an email directly to you with the image if you like.
    Looking at Google streetview, I can see the building 7 Via Aruons still stands and is a little lower down the hill from the gable ended house. I think your picture might have been taken from Via Somplatz near the “sportgarage” selling jeeps.
    By the way I was using the Museum fur Gestaltung archive to try to find posters that look like the ones on the lampost in the Zurich image. The archive has images of lots of old posters, but I drew a blank.

    • Thanks, Chris. You can send direct messages to mike@macfilos.com. Your efforts on this project are exemplary and both William and I are grateful for your detailed information. While it may not lead to an identification of the people, it provides valuable background which we can use to flesh out the story once we do get as far as identification.

      Incidentally, I noticed you sent the above message twice. I suspect you thought it had gone missing. But any message containing a link to another site is delayed until I can approve it. As you will know, the spam filters manage to suppress 99% of nasties (some 38,000 in the past few months, for instance) and links are one of the ways the filter works. So if posting comments containing links, give it a few hours until I have moderated the post.



    • Hello Christopher, I came to a similar conclusion the day about St Moritz. I think the address is Via Somplaz 37. The modern-day Google street view shows the date “1900” on the side of the building.

    • It looks smaller because the rear roof section has since been removed, which was an attached, open shed area (based on original photo). The same mound of earth and gravel still exists in the foreground.

      • Thanks Andy and Lisa. I will use this information for the exercise I am doing with the numbered frames on the roll of film. Ospizia La Veduta is still very recognisable with the bank of stones and even the flag/comms pole.


  45. Mr Evans or Fagan

    You should easily be able to identify the at-that-time owner of the BMW. BMW collectors can identify this car’s owner/s historically almost instantly. I am close to internationally renowned collectors of classic cars, who can identify riight down to the engine number. I will not give contact information without their permission. I am a photographer. These photos look to be a honeymoon tour. In love with her and his car. She is dressed that I assure you we were wearing in the early 1960s, I do not think this is 1950s. The car seems a collectors car. Perhaps bought as such. I can suggest you Google Ivan Dutton, you will find him on internet. although not much IT he and and I both know someone who could identify this car with only a few clicks, a friend of Ivan Dutton and on line, but he is a very busy man. As a photographer myself , the Leica was highly valued in the ’60s. This guy to have one may been a photographer: the street photo of his lady is MAGIC. Good Luck!

    • Many thanks for your input and for the recommendations. We are now 99% certain that the photos were taken in the spring of 1951. No way could this be the 1960s. The number plate was issued in 1948 by the American Occupation Zone authorities. In 1956 the current German system took over.

    • Thanks. The trip has now been narrowed down to the Spring of 1951. There are features in the photos which did not exist after 1952. As for tracking down the car, we are not so sure that the car still exists. Finally the film cassette only works on cameras which were made up to the 1950s. The current leading contender for the camera used is one that was delivered in September 1935. I’ll leave it at that for the moment.


      • I might add that we pretty well know where these people were, even down to what seats they sat on. The real question to be answered is what happened at the end of the trip after the last photo was taken in Lenno on Lake Como. It is the photo of the young woman with the lake behind her.


  46. I’d like to add that I resonate with your comment that these photos are of a moment uniue, the moment taken can never be replicated, nor will it eveer be repeated. My photographic sentiments indeed!

  47. This article has been fascinating to read as I enjoy looking at old family pictures, of any family. I love what others have found re the cars and the possible locations. What came to my mind is the picture of the lady. To me she looks like a woman who is very much deeply in love.

    • That was my first impression when I saw these pictures four months ago. I have assumed all along that they were engaged or married but, so far, no concrete information. In one of the unpublished pictures (because of poor quality) the young woman is outside the Zurich main station with an older woman who, we have assumed, is her mother. We’ve worked on the hypotheses that she could be Swiss rather than German and that the man is German (or, at least he was living in Munich because of the car registration).

      • I can agree with that… I checked and her face is very familiar to me, and can occur in germany and in switzerland as well. the man is a softly spoken gentleman, look at his hands. They have a dog, and no children, you can safely assume they didn’t have children even many years later. The car could be borrowed, or bought with the sole purpose of the trip and selling after. The car had been already really old at the time the photos were taken, so while luxurious, not really very expensive.

        I do not think either of them had been wealthy, they just don’t act wealthy, they act content with what they have. Admiring an old car and hotel? Taking a photo of your spouse getting out of the car with the dog? That’s not wealth, that’s the life or an ordinary man. A suit 20 years out of fashion is no issue as long as it’s clean. …The face of the older woman can’t be seen, whoever that is.

        The man is an intellectual, but hardly a rocket scientist. Maybe a doctor or a scholar.

        In those days, the clothes you see, could have been their wedding clothes, so this trip is very likely one of their honeymoon. (moon = month)
        So we are looking at someone who is not working for a week or several weeks, married in 1951 or 1952.

        See how the man holds his hands and arms… this is a professional stance of a clerk/scholar profession. In all likelyhood, they both died decades ago, best way to find them would be their friends.

        But most of all: we need an educated guess of the date/year/hall they were wed in, and we are done. The beautiful sun shining in many of the photos points also to a nice spring wedding season. Ideal weather, even for a honemoon.

  48. Very curious to me that in different countries in Europe the woman seems to wear the same dress in each photo. Are there pictures where she is wearing a different outfit?

  49. I have been reading thru all this and have tried to reach you via the NY Times. Can confirm your place info…Zurich to Bad Ragaz to Lake Como via the Julier. Also agree that spring 1951 date sounds plausible but you need to check opening date of the Julier pass that year. Might be 1952. Probably not 1950 due to construction near the Zurich Bahnhof in 1950.

    Jungfraujoch would be way out of the way. The Julier Pass was/is still very popular as an adventure driving route. Would be the kind of road someone with a “hot” car like this would want to do.

    I happen to know an older German woman who lived in Bad Ragaz, as a teenager, in early 1950s. Maybe lived in Hotel Tamina (we have talked about the hotel, but I forget if she lived there.) She now lives in Canada. I can contact her about this if you have anything more to go on.

    good luck, interesting project.

    • Peggy, I have replied to your email which came via the NYT link. We need all the help we can get and, after a week of many coincidences and a welter of facts, we now just need someone to recognise those faces.

    • Do you happen to have more information regarding the closure of the Julier Pass during the 1950 season due to road construction? Might you know the exact dates when the mountain pass closed and later reopened? It goes with my theory that the couple was on holiday just prior to the outbreak of the Korean conflict.

  50. I have a very different explanation. During this time, still some former Nazis fled Europe. Not only from Germany, but Austria, Croatia as well. Switzerland was for a while a place where those looking for a “rat-line” transport waited, and in most cases, money was not a problem. Also I am shure, the licence-plate of the car might be indentified, I already asked a friend at a Munich Newspaper to assist.
    best regards

    • Thanks Werner. We have no evidence of any Nazi connection. The young woman was picked up at the Zurich station in the company of an older woman, possibly her mother, before going on the trip. We have a damaged photo which shows that. Both ourselves and a Munich newspaper and have asked the relevant authorities about car registration details, but it seems that none are available for that period. It is possible that any such records were actually hand written.


    • As William says, this has been investigated as far as we can at the moment. Both Sueddeutsche Zeitung and the Bavarian Land authorities have told us that automobile registration data for that period is not available. In any case, it would have been the responsibility of the American Occupation Zone. The current German registration system didn’t come into force until 1956.

  51. I came here from the New York Times article. I’ve been collecting vintage photos for over 20 years and enjoy making up stories about the people in them and identifying the sites if I can. I posted a link to that article in a Facebook group “Ephemera – Vintage Paper Buy Sell Trade” where a member from Hungary has posted many pictures for sale that these remind me of – people in European cities posed with old cars, in uniforms, in rural scenes, private homes, and all sort of other things that reveal the past. i think that’s a reason we collect: they’re a time machine. Thanks for these photos and the Facebook group is here if you want to look. https://www.facebook.com/groups/977630542266663

  52. Bellagio church:

    and also the big building by the lakeshore looks familiar, maybe one of the hotels along Via Lungo Lario Manzoni in Ballagio, as seen from the Ferry at the landing.

    One of the mountains is the same as this one, accross from Bellagio:

    I’d speculate that the glacier is somewhere near the Julier pass, or above St Moritz, as they seem to have driven from Munich to Italy

  53. Facial features:
    The man is more likely to be swiss, or residing in switzerland during the war, someone with these ears would have ended up in a concentration camp very soon, or exiled while it was still possible.

    The young woman has very prominent facial muscle groups, the exact opposite of atrophy of the 21st century. She must have been very alive and very talkative.

    The old woman is more likely the mother of the man than of that young woman. She is old-fashioned, much like the young man himself. And she likes the young woman, while the young woman stands very straight. Also the eye-mouth distance is much more related to the man than to the young woman.

    The camera or cameras could have been bought with the car at an auction or as a surplus, or confiscated items or items without an owner/abandoned.
    Tens of thousands of germans were sent away from the country for many years, some with complete families, and some permanently (brain drain).
    It is likely that their items were sold off by the occupying forces then.

    In my memory, I have 2 records of the face of the young man, one was swiss and the other had a german sounding name. Both died long ago. Scratch that, make it three, one of my professors had those hands, body posture and face. And hair. And classicism all around his aura. Thus, all three similar faces were researchers/clerks/intellectuals, medical/health/scholar areas.

    I have a record of the ham-face young woman, but I am not able to recall where I could have seen her face at all.

    (explanation: ham was tied in a net, and the protruding meat carried the marks of the ropes, the same way there are visible “strings” in her face, but the only thing that can be deduced from that is that she uses her face a lot, and has a genetic predisposition to that. Also strange ears as well. Possibly jewish related.)

    But, if he is swiss (or other), how come he drives a german plate car? It could be borrowed or company owned or something like that. We need to keep in mind he lost his camera and film as well, so they weren’t as well off as one could assume they would be.
    While I repeatedly stumbled upon genetic features more frequent in a certain group, I do not believe they would have names much typical in that group, I assume their names would be as bland as possible and local/national. If possible, it is likely his name especially would be written in the most archaic way possible.

    A small technical note: when compressing JPEG images, can you set the FFT to floating point calculation and smoothing to 100%?

    PLEASE? Smoothing is to adjust the low frequency components so that the 8×8 jpeg tiles stack seamlessly without creating artifacts. Thank you! (It doesn’t really affect the file size at all!)

  54. I have a mystery roll of film whose rightful owners I’d dearly like to return it to. My family lived in Sarajevo in the early 1960s (in the building that was later the first Olympic Museum) when my father was the American consul there. While we lived in Sarajevo, my father sent several rolls of family photographs through the diplomatic pouch to Frankfurt, to be developed at the Kodak processing plant there. When they were returned, they included a roll of photographs from another family who we have never been able to identify. I have no idea who they are or where they were from (maybe Bosnian? Croat? Serb?) but I would very much like to figure out how to find them and return their photographs. I imagine the parents in the photos are very old and probably passed away, but there’s a little girl in them who would be in her early 60s now and I imagine she would greatly appreciate having these photos. Do you have any idea what venue might maximize the chance of someone recognizing the family and helping me return the pictures to their rightful owners?

  55. Hi Mike,
    I sent you some emails over the weekend. I hope you got them, if not perhaps check your spam folder. I think I found the posters on the lamppost. I sent examples of the posters.

  56. Hi William,
    have you ever tried to trace the dog? Sounds too funny? But are you aware that people have to pay dog tax in Germany, which is a city tax? However, if Munich discarded the automobile data, they probably did not keep the dog data. But maybe the https://www.dackelklub-muenchen.de/? Or did you try to find the guest registration data in the places were the couple spent their holidays?
    Greetings from Bavaria

    • We did think of this but put it on the back burner. However, as with motor vehicle registration data it is possible that it all disappeared at the end of the occupation. We also tried one hotel where we know they stayed and there is no record.

      • The dog looks like it belongs to the woman. The woman and her mother may have met the man at Zurich main station and thus perhaps been resident in Switzerland. There is also a dog tax here too and maybe records. Question is then, where in Switzerland did she live?

      • Hello. I just do not know how to contact you so I use this reply.
        The dress the lady is wearing is definitely 1940’s fashion: the epaulette (which disappeared) in 1950, the collar, the length of the dress and the printed leaf (very much 1948). I have photographes of my grand-mother with similar dress in 1942 and she died in 1949. Also, the man’s costume: very large.
        On top, being in the 40s would explained the use of cars and camera from the 1930s.
        It could very well be early 1940s: Switzerland was neutral and Italy opened to tourism depiste Mussolini be head of state. And travelling for health reasons would have been permitted. The cars are very common ones for this period and do not need to be American surplus, especially in Switzerland, where there was no war.
        As for what happened, I would suggest that one of them had tuberculosis and went to Switzerland for a cure, visiting nearby Italy on good days. It was very common at the time. Then death occurs and souvenirs would have been unbearable, so the film stayed in the camera. Just to what happened to my grand-mother.
        I hope it helps.
        Do not hesitate to contact me if you wish: I am a historian. Ingrid

        • Thank you. I received your email and have replied. I suggested you look at our update article which was published yesterday. It covers some of the points as I outlined.

  57. Trying to trace the dog is a good concept, but without any kind of linking name or an address, I think it would be difficult. In Switzerland dogs are registered in the town where you live, and most towns (being Swiss) probably keep old records — somewhere. I also think young woman could have been living in the Zurich area, and met the car guy at the main station. I checked the major Dachshund Club for Zurich area, and they only formed in 1955–later, probably, than this project’s timeline.

  58. I am of German and Swiss ancestry but my ancestors came to Canada in the 1830’s to escape the upheavals of the Napoleonic wars. I studied sociology at university and have read widely of the history of World War 2. Given this couple pictured on film, their time in history and their apparent social class, which strikes me as upper middle class, I would conclude they are people who somehow escaped the rigors of the war remarkably unscathed. They don’t appear to have had to pick up the pieces of their lives; rather they appear to have resumed a life style previously enjoyed before the war, recognizing that he was an adult at that time and she was only a child. In 1951, Germany was under military occupation and Britain, if she is indeed British, was still living under rationing, as was the case two years later when Queen Elizabeth was crowned, This couple does not look pinched at all. I would conclude the man, who is more likely German than Swiss, somehow avoided military service in the war and the woman, who could be Swiss or even Irish, came from a country with a neutral background in the war. Just my own suppositions.

    • Many thanks. We are working on the hypothesis that he is German and she is either German or Swiss. I don’t know where the idea of her being British came in. We have never thought that and, as several people have pointed out, she wears her engagement ring on her right hand, which would not be the case if she were English. I agree that they look to be upper middle class. The car would have been a luxury, even though 15 years old, and everything fits that assumption. He would have had to be fairly well off to afford that car, a 1935 Leica (probably worth today’s equivalent of $3,000) and fuel and hotels. Check out today’s update post for more information on where we are.

      • And if she were Irish, I would probably know her. Not even six degrees of separation apply when you cross the Irish Sea. I have just posted a summary addendum to the latest update.


  59. Hi Mike, the photo we thought might be from the Jungfraujoch is clearly not that. My husband has identified it as on the Julier, from the road, looking towards St. Moritz. Will send you direct coordinates. So eveything on the trip hangs together.

    • Thanks, Peggy. That ties up one loose end at least. The journey is now well documented and I suspect nothing more substantial will come until we find the cat and/or the names of the individuals. I can second William’s thanks for all the work done by you and dozens of others in bringing us to this point.

  60. The picture with the post in the foreground and the building with the balcony in the background is Lenno, the La Fabbrica Del Gelato. It not far from where the James Bond movie scenes were taken on Lake Como.
    If you have the chance to visit this area go and have a meal there. The food is very good and the views are fantastic.

  61. A small piece of the puzzle: The shop where the lens cleaning cloth is from is still going strong and is owned by a grandkid of the owner in the early 50’s. It is an optician and the cloth may have originated from a set of glasses and put in the case. The store’s website (Borås, Sweden): https://www.okularium.se/om-oss.html

    Wish you luck with finding the couple or relatives!

  62. This is a fascinating read and follow. May I add that in the picture with the woman talking to someone in that car that person in the car does not look like the man at all. It looks like another woman. This may change many things. This may be friends off having fun or a mother and daughter trip the man could be a random man or a relative. In this day and age maybe a trip for forbidden lovers. A many thoughts but since only the woman is prominent in the photos it seems to me she is not with a man on this trip. Just a hunch.

    • Thanks Noel. We have an unpublished photo of the young woman with the dog posing on the pavement in front of the station with an older woman, who may be a relative of either herself or the man eg a mother. She may have got into the car or even arrived in it.


      • To your second point, the man appears at a cafe/bar in Bellagio on Lake Como and the young woman was also at the same premises. The photograph of the young woman and the dog on a seat was taken just across the street. The seat is still there almost 70 years later. No other woman appears in the photos apart from the two I have mentioned.


        • I have the roll of film which clearly indicates the sequence of events and is starting to make sense particularly after the many posts which we have received here and elsewhere.


  63. Question about the comment Noel left on 11th December 2020 At 6:51 am. Which picture is he referencing? The Zurich Bahnhoffstrasse picture? Everyday I check your site for updates. Thank you for keeping us informed. Fascinating 🙂

    • It is the photo of the young woman with the dog apparently talking to somebody in the car in Bahnhofplatz in Zurich. The next photo on the roll is a photo of the young woman with an older woman which has not been published. This photo was just taken a few metres away on the pavement in front of the Bahnhof. I intend, when I get time, to put all of the photos together in the actual sequence of the roll of negatives which I have here. There is also an unscanned frame which is badly light damaged, but I will see what I can extract from it. It may feature people outside the Bahnhof.


  64. Many times, the film gates of individual cameras may leave unique imprint on negatives because of slight imperfections of the 24×36 metal — the way that Hasselblad standardized this with the double notches on the left of each negative and also how wire services used files to add notches — you see that in full frame (with black border) prints/contact sheets from this era; but even without that, sometimes there’s a tiny pattern of the way the metal gate isn’t perfect rectangular, especially at the corners.

    Also, different focal length lenses “project” a slightly different total full frame negative area size — many wide-angles project a bigger frame than a standard 50mm lens, and longer lenses a smaller one. These look like a 50mm, of course, but, also — as this impacts negative spacing between each frame…and individual cameras often have slightly different distances between each frame due to slight default adjustments of the film advance knob/winding mechanism…

    So : if a modern roll of film is run through each of the possible cameras that this roll may have originated from, you COULD possibly narrow down which camera exposed this roll … or rule out all the candidate cameras you have. If you do get a match, that would narrow down your camera provenance search.

    Have you thus been able to identify the specific camera?

    • This is one for William, Alan, and no doubt he will reply. I think we’ve been working on the assumption that the lens was most likely the 5cm f/3.5 Elmar until we know any different. But, I agree, a fifty is the most likely.

    • Thanks for that information. The camera was probably the black III in the original article. This was imported by Perrot of Nidau near Bern in September 1935. I have written to them (and to Koch of Zurich) but have not received any response. Perrot are no longer Leica dealers but Koch are. Leaving aside GDPR considerations, neither of them are likely to have kept records of sales for 85 years.The other camera which was bought in Berlin ended up in Sweden in spring 1935 where I bought it from about 5 years ago. We have traced the travels it took on in its early months and we have a photo it may have taken of the Crown Prince of Sweden on 2nd June 1935. It does not matter, however, which camera took the photos in this article unless that can lead us to the photographer. The photos in my article were taken with a Leica, of course, as only Leica LTM cameras can use FILCAs. That is where the camera identification side of the story stands right now.


      • Does Leica itself have records beyond what dealers the cameras were originally shipped to? In the last decades, they have the Leica “passport” warranties that accompany each new camera and owners are supposed to register the camera for it to be serviced — did they have any such system in 1935? I’m imagining a dusty ledger in Wetzlar with such records — serial number of camera, owner. Of course by the early 1950s the camera may have changed hands already one or more times — or not…and comparing the film gate and modern negative shot with camera with the found negatives would indeed give ironclad proof that it was that camera. Good luck on this fascinating story!

  65. Very interesting article and pictures. I just stumbled across these. I have not read all of the comments, but has anyone suggested running down the license plate in the one picture? I did a quick search and the AB part of the plate along with the numbers suggest that the car is Spanish.

    • Ah! Wish we’d thought of that! Seriously, though, thanks for writing. We did analyse this back in September when William and I saw the pictures of the car. It isn’t Spanish, of course, but it is an unusual one. The registration is from Munich in 1948 and was issued under the American Occupation Zone authorities. That’s why we can’t find the records. Mike

      • That is correct and the records no longer exist in Munich. We might try US authorities, but it would be a long shot. I am also going to try BMW clubs, but it is likely that the plate might have changed, even as early as 1951.


  66. Being from USA and not familiar with social norms with Europe of that period, I have a few questions.
    Is it common to be on your honeymoon and not have any pictures taken with your new spouse? Here if you were on your honeymoon, traveling, most pics would be of the two together.
    My other question would be about the camera and how it came to be with film undeveloped is very perplexing. If something happened tragically to one, I think you would ultimately want your pictures of a loved one. And being it’s a valuable camera, you wouldn’t wittingly give it away. So was it lost on the trip? Or did something tragic happen to both? Which leads to my next question. Now that you have identified the last photo location and potential time period, would their be anything in that locations newspapers of a tragic event, or loss of a camera?
    Just my curiosity.

  67. I realized I made the assumption that he was the photographer and not a third person, which is more likely, since no couple shots? So I would postulate the possibility that if something happened, it would be him? Because he would have developed the film if he could?

  68. What about focusing on the woman? Could she have been an actress in Munich, filming there, ten on spring vacation to Schweiz etc? The American occupation zone was a good spot for film production in the post-war era. The clothes seem to indicate some sort of access to higher-end tailors. They might have access to the car through the studio as well. When would a film made in 1951 come out? Here are films made in Munich. Lots of possibilities there and possible photos to compare

  69. Her ring looks like it could be an engagement ring. On the right hand that would make them German rather then Swiss. I can’t tell from the picture if he is wearing a wedding band or not. Maybe you can make it out on the original or have more pictures showing their hands. Just a thought.

  70. I honestly must admit that when I saw the photo of the woman for the first time she immediately reminded me of Eva Braun, the mistress of Hitler…could she be her younger sister or niece ? looking like a typical Bavarian “hubsches maedel” 😉 Who knows ? The couple is definitely European upper middle class and somewhat showing off: she is well dressed and made up but not overdone yet showing her ring; undoubtedly a gift from her boyfriend/husband as well as her cute dachshund. And he in his double breasted suit even on their trip in the Swiss Alps staying in fancy hotels, which few people could afford at the time: Europe was still much in rubble (except of course for Switzerland) What were they doing there ? Many Europeans who were becoming prosperous-again- opened tax free bank accounts there. We can come up with all kind of scenarios: he has the looks of a German army officer; is he on a mission to retrieve hidden Nazi loot in Swiss banks; is he familiar with the Italian Swiss Alps as a former officer of the German army in neighboring Italy speaking some Italian ? Do they feel safer traveling in their fancy car in un-occupied Switzerland without fearing getting stopped at a road check by American soldiers looking for Nazis on the run…I agree with Mr Holmes’ advice to look first of all at the most obvious and in this case it is for sure the CAR : it is the most identifiable subject in the photos and even has its own identification -license registration- plate. The history of these particular cars is quite interesting: pre-war they were very popular in Germany, especially with the upper middle class younger folks and also with Nazi bigwigs as a sporty play mobile (Again Eva had one as a gift from Adolf; and Albert Speer also owned one- beige colored- and loved driving his kids around in it..)
    But more relevant what I am driving at (pun intended) is that many of these folks used them to compete in the Hitler sports cars clubs ( for some of this class members an excuse to join the Nazi party; as Prince Bernard of the Netherlands did, eventually receiving his SS tattoo; and later when ordering his Ferraris making Enzo comment:”and your highness as usual in German army green ?”) And they continued this after the war by driving their surviving (ie not GI’s confiscated…) BMW’s in sports -rally- competition events; there were not yet window stickers or bumper medallions as you were not supposed to show off but remain discreet. And yet a great way to meet old buddies again and to let them see how well you were doing in das Wirtschafts Wunder. Again in my estimate that fits this couple perfectly ! He clearly likes showing off his car and his much younger girlfriend/wife: she gets the shining ring and the car gets an extra pair of fog lamps and the correct tires on snowy roads (though they maybe army surplus…); driving the challenging winding mountain roads and enjoying hotel nights looking out in the mornings from their bedroom window to snowy peaks. It may well be that he “lost” his camera and these photos because they could be compromising as he was having clandestine fun with a type of woman who walks the street with that type of doggie; and closing his eyes when she takes the only picture of him. A clean reputation was all that mattered back then !
    So what if you check any RALLY CLUBS in and around Munchen Bavaria and ask if they have still records of the events they organized from after the war (please not pre-war !) : the type of car driven must be registered and since so few were produced this may narrow down the identity of the owner. OMG: his escapade may still get public ! Sorry for this longwinded expose but it sure is fun to see so much of the world being engaged in this a bit silly pursuit but what else can we do in these idle times ?

  71. Bellagio, Italy and Zurich, Switzerland are only 101 miles apart. This couple were day tripping it seems from this distance easily travelled as well as the fact that the woman is wearing the same outfit in all the pics. They were a married couple probably since she seems to be showing off her hand with the wedding ring on in the pic on the bench with the dog and her husband most likely was the photographer. Not newlyweds on a honeymoon would explain why either one of them took pics of the other separately. They were having fun with a new toy, a recent purchase perhaps and hobby which they discovered was too much work to explore any further, given the loading of the film, and developing the film. They left it aside when they got back home and as they probably weren’t artists they didn’t think twice about it. They also seemingly were financially comfortable given the clothes, car, dog and leisure time so this was no big deal to neglect the camera. I had a Canon EOS back in 1990 and took a couple rolls of pictures, had them developed by a friend in art school and then let it sit for a decade before ever doing anything with it again. Why? Because it was too difficult for me (19 years old not having taken photography classes) to load the film correctly, and I really didn’t know what I was doing with the lenses. This was no tragedy in my life and there probably was no tragedy in the life of this couple. When solving a mystery I have heard it said that it’s best to start with the mundane.

    • Thanks Landria. I am about to do some maps and set them alongside the frame numbers on the roll of film which I have. At the moment I am looking at an outward journey of about 300kms to cover all of the locations on the roll of film on the outward journey which would imply a round journey of about 600 kms. I will do a story showing how the frame numbers match up with the map. The roll of negatives is the only hard evidence. I think we are talking about a 3 or 4 day trip here.


  72. Has anyone discussed DNA? Was there any hair in the case or hair caught in the strap. Has anyone discussed using facial recognition technology and contacting any of the possible matches who may be relatives. Fingerprinting the film canisters or camera? I know these are longshots. Were any initials written on anything?

    • I don’t think this aspect has been investigated. We don’t have the resources, for one thing. And, for another, the brass cassette and the camera have been through many hands since the 1950s. It seems a long shot to me but, if we had unlimited resources, perhaps something worth considering.

      • DNA is only of use if you have identified a person. The camera and the brass cassette will not be tested unless an issue requiring a test arises. The length of time and the many other hands handling these items are also issues.


  73. Dear William and Mike,
    I can not tell about who they were but the picture of lady sitting on the stone wall could be the view to the ship station Treib at the Lake Lucerne (Vierwaldstättersee), behind there might be the Mountain Fronalpstock. In 1950 probably you see there no trees anymore because every tree was chopped down because swiss had to plant potatoes during WWII. But now there are trees. The Horizon on the left seems the same to me.


    All the best and greetings from Switzerland, Claudius

  74. My comment about his old and/or ill-fitting suit: he hadn’t needed one during the war. So was he in uniform, in prisoned, or in hiding? All are plausible. I do also think it’s plausible he was a non-German working in the occupied zone. As someone who has had a camera either stolen or misplaced AND lost a role of film (both in the UK!) that’s my guess!


  75. Photo number 14 is of a town on Lake Como called Menaggio which is directly across the lake from Bellagio. Halfway up the mountain on the left in this photo is a little church called San Martino. Every summer I vacation in Bellagio and this particular hike is one of my favorites.

    • Thanks Laura
      I am doing another story relating the numbered frames on the roll of film to the journey and I will do some maps as well. We know the exact location of most of the photographs. For some of the ‘on the road’ photos we only know the road, but that is more or less sufficient for the article.


      • The town where the last 3 photos were taken is identified as Lenno on Google maps. I can trace the locations of all 3 photos (I have the negatives) in Lenno on Google maps and the photos were taken in a logical sequence of walking. The Italian locations have changed very little in 70 years. The same applies to Bellagio across the lake where we can identify pretty well where all the photos were taken. There are a couple of photos taken on the way into Bellagio, but their location is not that important. One of them features the Steamer Bisbino, which also features in a photograph taken in Bellagio. There is also a photo of the lake which must have been taken on the lakefront in Bellagio because of its place in the sequence. I will publish an article soon showing the exact sequence of the film roll which is the only hard evidence which we have.


  76. I thought it interesting that the woman’s sunglasses, which appear to be Ray Ban brand, are a frame style from the 1940s. She does not wear the newest cat eye or rectangular frame style, but had access to purchase sunglasses popular in America. Ray ban sunglasses were contracted the the US Armed Forces, especially pilots, during WWII. As an American company, Ray Ban would be sold at the commissary in US-occupied areas of Europe. A long shot, but Ray Ban once offered a lifetime warranty and kept a detailed warranty registry. Also, the commissary would have mercantile supply records. I am aware it is likely impossible to retrieve such information, same as the situation with the Leica rangefinder and somewhat rare BMW 315. But it is worth noting, the woman does not wear the latest optical wear fashion. I have read other comments regarding these photos which also mention the same scenario for the woman’s dress jacket, and the man’s suit attire. I believe there is some frugality involved with this couple, even if they took a spring holiday road trip. Hotel stays after the war were somewhat inexpensive, and the gentleman uses a fifteen year old camera. The man who took these photos is quite experienced with composition, lighting and the technical skills needed to operate a professional grade camera. He likely used the same camera since it was purchased as new. The only photo lacking is the one taken by the woman, in which composition and ISO suffers. Possibly, he was a photographer and war correspondent for the military?

    • Very interesting, especially about the American Ray Ban sunglasses. See my comment below, from today, December 20, 2020, about the saguaro cactus on the print of the dress. Saguaro only grow in southwest U.S.A. or northern Mexico. So I agree that the woman likely has a southwest U.S.A. connection.

  77. Just a theory: the Korean War officially started June 25, 1950, whereas the United Nations Command was formed and forces from twenty-one countries were sent into Korea. If this skilled photographer was with the military, it could be the reason for the partially used roll of film that was stored in a drawer when he left, but he never came back home.

  78. The young woman has a striking resemblance to Elizabeth Short. The Black Dahlia murder. That was my first thought when I saw her picture. Her coat is a 1940’s style. Prominent shoulder pads went out of style in the 1950’s. I referred to pictures of Elizabeth Short in the internet. The resemblance is uncanny! I shared the pictures with a friend. And she thought the same thing. Striking resemblance! Hair, eyebrows, nose, chin, skin tone, body build and height. Her smile.

  79. In photos such as the Bad Ragaz one which show sun shadows of fixed objects like buildings, the exact positioning of the shade can give both the time of day and the time of year. Either someone close to those buildings can watch for a similar shadow pattern, or someone could build a sketchup 3d model, locate it properly then use the sun tracing feature to try different dates to find a match.

  80. Have you tried enhancing these images with products like topaz gigapixel? It won’t help you identify the couple but it will make the image more clear. I have a version that can process them, if you are interested.

  81. Sorry for my bad english

    The man really looks like freyheer Frederich Von der heyde. Officer of the 6th fallschjaegers regiment of the luftwaffe. He lived in Bavaria and was, after war, a member of the local administration.

  82. I would suggest a request through the Freedom Of Information Act here in the USA to ask where and how if any data around the car is accessible—-much information is now available 75 years later due to the staggered release of facts, history, personal journals, drafts, letters, etc

  83. The village with the lake is St. Moritz. (FILCA 16)
    They likely passed the Julier Pass to St. Moritz and the drove to the Lago di Como. Its Lenno, where the Lady sits on the stone wall, with the lake and in the background the hill (and a small farm house). Also the picture with the post in the middle of the photo (the post stand in the lake) looking towards some big houses and on the left the promenade with trees: that is Lenno too.
    I know that, because I live in St. Moritz and we have a sommer house in Lenno.

    • Barbara, May I ask where you read this story? We are trying to compile a list of links. We have had coverage all over the world and there are undoubtedly many articles we have not seen. Mike

  84. How is it that the auto appears so clean? No trace of snow on the tires, nor on the insides of the fenders. Same with the windshields, no wiper blade residues. It almost seems the car was driven to a desired place, then cleaned for an advertising photo. Fascinating story!

  85. Love this story! Ideas not previously addressed… She may have visited the Basilica. Perhaps they have visitor records from April-May 1951. Also, local area newspapers may have info regarding visitors to the area during that time and/or any potential natural disasters, auto accidents or other possible explanations for the camera being out of their possession.

  86. Some light reading in response to the MACFILOS ‘Perutz’ film quagmire:

    I took to task the researching of photographers, journalists and war correspondents that were killed in action or went missing during the Korean War (June 25, 1950 – July 27, 1953). In sifting through the many names of that are publicly available, I came upon Christopher Thomas Rede Buckley (May 22, 1905 – August 12, 1950), who was killed in the early months of the war when a land mine exploded beneath his jeep. Christopher was a war correspondent who reported from battles and the front lines, and was an author of two military novels, “Rain Before Seven” (1947) and “Royal Chase” (1949), in addition to other publications and papers.

    Christopher married Cecilia Streeten when he was forty-two years old (July 1947) and had a step-daughter named Chloe. I was able to come up with several tidbits of information by scouring the internet and reading a preview of the book, “The Trio: Three War Correspondents of World War Two,” published in 2015 by Richard Knott. Additionally, I sifted through records at ancestry.com and was able to verify details about Christopher, his wife Cecilia (August 25, 1908 – October 1996) and his step-daughter Chloe (January 19, 1929 – April 1970). Interestingly, one family tree at ancestry.com lists Cecilia Buckley as a journalist, too.

    The BMW 315 roadster was registered in the American Zone Bavaria in 1948, which would coincide with the period Christopher was writing a novel and the early years of his marriage. We don’t know if the car was in fact his own, or if it was a loaner from an acquaintance or the press.

    I found two ‘Getty Images’ photos of Christopher that were taken in 1944 while on assignment with the British Daily Telegraph:



    I have been unsuccessful finding one photo of Cecilia, which would solve whether this is the correct person. Based on “The Trio: Three War Correspondents of World War Two,” Cecilia destroyed or got rid of all of Christopher’s papers and personal effects after he died. She may have gotten rid of her own photos from that time period as well.

    I am probably terribly wrong, but the photos from ‘Getty Images’ could be the man in the mystery photo: slim build, shape of hands, sandy-colored hair, cleft chin, receding hairline, and large ears. Six years later, the man sitting in the cafe would have removed his glasses, which is likely the reason for one eye being slightly crossed in the photo. I believe his eyes are closed not due to flash photography, but rather his wife was a poor photographer and snapped the capture at the wrong time. Also, he would have shaved off his small mustache (mustache was shaved off in a photo from Knott’s book). The photo at the cafe would have been taken during a period when he had opportunity to live a more normal life after WWII: get married, gain a few pounds, enjoy himself in his wife’s company, before leaving to report on the war in Korea.

    In attempting to find an answer to the quagmire, I have learned a lot about the many photographers, journalists and war correspondents who covered the Korean War. At the time Christopher TR Buckley lost his life in the second month of the war, already ninety individuals within his occupational group were killed. And by the conclusion of the war, over three hundred others were killed or went missing while reporting from battles and the front lines.

    • Thanks Lisa. That is an interesting and detailed response, indeed. The photos of Christopher make him a ‘could be’ at best. If there are other photos of him from a front view I would be delighted to see them. The other thing that would be needed would be a placement of Christopher in Southern Germany or Switzerland during the Spring of 1950. The woman looks too young to be Cecilia, but she might be the age of his step daughter Chloe. There is an older woman photographed with the young woman outside the station in Zurich. This photo is badly damaged and did not appear in the original article, but it will appear in an article that I am finishing. It is difficult to see her clearly but the woman seems to be older than 41 or 42. Your suggestion would take account of the Bavarian US zone registration and the unfinished roll of film, but if the camera had been Christopher’s might he not have brought it with him to Korea? The main ‘suspect’ camera I have here does not look like it it has been in a war zone. Thanks for sharing and if you get any more information please share it with us. You know where to find us.


      • From what I gather, there are not many photos floating around of Christopher and his family. The author, Richard Knott, made mention there was little documentation (photographs, manuscripts, papers, etc.) left to study, relative to the life of Christopher TR Buckley. Instead, meetings with friends, acquaintances and colleagues were conducted in an attempt to fill in the blanks.

        At first glance, I thought the brunette in the various photos to be younger than the man pictured in the single photo. But as I studied her face and expressions, I realized she is not greatly younger, in my opinion. She looks happy, vibrant and therefore young, smiling with her little dog, while sitting on the bench. But if you look at the last photo of the film roll, you will see she does not appear particularly young. People who smile tend to look younger than their years.

        Cecilia had four different husbands and likely remained attractive throughout her years.

        The older woman standing next to the brunette looks to be her mother, or possibly even her grandmother, as women in the last century tended to marry and have offspring at an earlier age. Also, look at the style of the older woman’s clothing, and you will see that she dates herself by wearing a dress suit from the 1940s (possibly the late 1930s) with a hat from an earlier time frame (possibly the 1920s). The older woman is gray-haired, and looks to be in her seventies based on the way she is standing. I am not a women’s fashion history expert, but I do notice these sorts of things.

        I understood the ‘Perutz’ film was part of a used Leica rangefinder equipment purchase, and it is not known whether the film is part of the provenance of the camera. Do you know whether this film is the *actual* film which recorded light seventy years ago within your camera, to produce these images? Was this roll of film not part of odds and ends of Leica equipment which accumulated at a camera shop or with a collector, and sold as a bundle rather than as an original unit?

        • What is important is photographic evidence which is ‘in period’. The older woman could be anywhere from her 50s to her 70s, but, unfortunately, there is a light leak over her face. In those days people above a certain age did not ‘dress young’ as they do today and remember that this was just after the war and many people were still wearing older clothing from their wardrobes. My belief is that the two woman had arrived on the train together, but I could be wrong about that. Many readers have not seen the photograph you are talking about, but it will appear in my next article which Macfilos will publish next week. It will show all of the exposed frames on the roll of negatives in the exact order in which they were taken and there can be no doubt about that as the frames are numbered and they are in the sequence of the roll of negatives which only I have.

          As the person who both developed and owns the roll of negatives I can assure you that it is Perutz film which was contained in a Leica FILCA brass cassette which came with a Leica camera, but I am not certain which one it was, but it is probably one of the cameras mentioned above. I did not buy it either with the knowledge that there was film inside or with the intention of finding it. It was just there when I got it. The film had been rewound and the cassette was locked (a feature of such brass cassettes – a spring clip must be pulled back to open it). As I indicated above, it is Perutz bulk film of unknown film speed. The camera that was used has to have been a Leica as the FILCA brass cassette can only be used in a Leica. Whether it was one of the Leicas, that I have shown above, that was used is impossible to say. I hope that this rather long explanation clarifies the matter for you. I had thought that I had explained this fully in my article above. The search for the owners of the two cameras may be a complete dead end, but has to be done as the cameras are part of the only physical evidence. What is on the roll of negatives is the main evidence, of course.


          • Thank you for the explanation. Yes, I have read all your posts, along with every post within two entire blogs and the newspaper articles. But what I gleaned was that the film does not have an absolute provenance to the camera. As a photography enthusiast, I know vintage camera gear can be sold in bulk with other compatible accessory items, but not necessarily original to the camera. Such is the story for lenses, which are interchangeable, too. Sometimes, lenses can leave behind a signature, as can film. Possibly, there is an expert photographic film historian who can take a look at your photos and camera?

            Not all women wear clothes on one single day from a three-decade span; my Dresden grandmother lived to be one-hundred-and-one years old, and still tried to dress within the decade. And, she lived through two world wars.

          • There may always be a doubt about the camera used unless we get absolute provenance, but that is difficult after a 70 year gap and, indeed, possibly an 85 year gap to the first point of sale. There will be more about this in my next article about this story which will appear early next week. This will feature some of the original Leica Archive records for one of the cameras. Tracing the cameras is, however, only a means to an end as it is the families of the people in the photos that we want to trace and not the cameras per se. As regards the cameras, I have consulted the world’s leading authority on vintage Leicas, my friend Jim Lager, who is the author of many standard texts on the subject. As regards the film, Mella Travers who advised me on the development of the roll is as good as you can get in my part of the world. I also know a thing or two about vintage Leicas myself and if you look elsewhere on this site you will find a link to a Zoom presentation on Old Leicas which I did for the International Leica Society (I am a Board Director of that Society) during the Summer. I own perhaps about 40 vintage Leicas myself and I have many other vintage camera makes, including some dating back to the 19th Century. I also regularly get requests for advice on matters relating to vintage Leicas.

            As for clothing I admit to knowing more about cameras and cars than about period clothes. We have received some photos of people in period clothes as part of this exercise and even with my limited knowledge in some of the photos we can see people wearing clothing styles from several different periods in the same photo. It is, however, the people that we want to identify and not their clothing.


      • The gentleman is definitely not Christopher Buckley who was my uncle and whilst I have only one photo of Cecilia I certainly do not believe it to be her.
        Lisa did some very good research, but unfortunately the wrong burrow. I spent nearly five years researching Christopher starting with the information that my father left after he had also died and that was little. As Richard Knott rightly states in his book, Cecilia destroyed all his papers and photographs following his death in Korea and unfortunately Richard had completed his book before I could add to what he had been able to gather.
        Happy hunting from here on.

        • Thanks Patrick. Richard Buckley was only a ‘could be’ at best and we were not researching him as a possible person in the photos.


  87. Since Barbara Schellenberg lives in St Moritz, then just to make absolutely sure that the couple did indeed just take a picture by the roadside and not stay in the little apartment underneath (admittedly doubtful), then perhaps she could be so kind as to wander over to Via Somplaz where the car wash and sports garage is and take a photo from the same spot, that would help finalise this. The location of the photo is given on another article on this site:

  88. I believe that the photo that shows the boat on the lake with the large building in the background is Lake Como. The building is a famous villa – Villa Oleandra in Laglio. On the opposite shore from the villa is the town/city of Bellagio, which is one of the street photos that you have shown. So, it might help to confirm the location.
    Fun story and good luck

  89. I have really enjoyed seeing this story gain traction through the coverage of SZ, BBC, CNN, NYT and others. Amazing to see a global community of volunteers trying to solve the puzzle.

    I suggest taking a closer look at the US National Archives in College Park, Md. This is where most remaining records of the US military administration in Bavaria are kept. A quick search shows me that Record Group 260 may be the most promising one.

    It’s been a long time since I conducted research at the National Archives, but my experience with World War II records was that the US military kept an astonishing amount of files. I wouldn’t be surprised if you found vehicle registration information. If the BMW was a restituted vehicle and/or one temporarily used by the US military, the odds of finding relevant records are even better.

  90. I am very interested in following this mystery.
    After studying the woman in the pictures I feel as though she could be mine and my sister’s ancestor. We have a lot of the same features.
    Good luck on this story!

  91. One of the clear photos of the young woman looking directly at the camera appears to show Saguaro cactus in the pattern. Saguaro only grow in the southwest U.S.A. and northern Mexico. Since no cactus grow naturally anywhere in Europe, I believe it is very unlikely that the dress comes from Europe. We need experts on dress prints to contribute to this quest to solve the mystery. Also, the expression on the woman’s face seems to be genuine joy, not fake, like from a paid escort. Perhaps a wealthy Swiss gentleman sent his daughter to the U.S. mainland to escape the war, and she had returned? Dress print experts, please contribute your views.

    • One of the biggest attraction in Zurich, since 1931, is Since 1931, Zurich has housed one of the largest international collections of water-storing plants called succulents, which includes cacti. Called Sukkulenten Sammlung (‘the succulent plant collection’), it features over 20,000 plants from 6,500 species. Located on the shores of scenic Zurich See (Lake Zurich), the seven greenhouses make for a fascinating visit, and attracted around 58,000 visitors in 2018. Since 1996, an association called Förderverein der Sukkulenten-Sammlung Zürich has supported the collection’s educational projects and outreach. It hosts exhibitions such as the ongoing project called ‘Green on the building: How plants conquer space,’ on the crawling, climbing and even flying behaviours of plants and seeds. The garden has its roots in the collection of cacti gardener Jakob Gasser a century ago; the collection was acquired by store owner Julius Brann Gassersche and gifted to the city of Zurich in 1929. Originally consisting of around 1,500 plants, the collection has grown considerably over the decades and is now one of the world’s largest collections of succulent plants. The arboretum was opened in 1931, and educates researchers and the public on the diversity of succulents and their adaptability to a range of habitats. It attracts scientists, nature lovers, tourists, educators, and children, and also has a specialised reading library of books and research publications.

      Read more at: https://yourstory.com/2019/09/zurich-succulent-plant-collection-cactus

  92. To William Fagan, thank you for the photo story and the exciting worlwide mystery. Please see my previous comment about the saguaro cactus on the print of the white dress. Also compare with Lisa’s comment about the RayBan Americzn made sunglasses.

    • Isn’t it a coincidence? or is it just me? The mystery woman is wearing a print dress that some believe has saguaro cactus on it. Zurich has a huge botanical museum complex of succulents, world famous, since 1931. It started out with 1500 plants a Swiss farmer offered the city of Zurich to establish the place. His name was Jakob Gasser. His offer was rejected but another man took on the project and it eventually became a big success.

      While researching the family of the gal I believe is the mystery woman, Emily Udahl who came from France to Nevada, I discovered Jakob Gasser on the same passenger list coming into New York on the same ship that the mystery woman’s great uncle and grandmother were on.

  93. Hi William.

    I’m a journalist at the Danish national media TV 2 Denmark. I would like to write an article for tv2.dk about this very fascinating story and the search for the people in the photos.

    I would like to use your photos in the article. Can you give permission for that?

    I hope to hear from you.

    Astrid Skov Andersen

    • Hello Astrid. I am Richard M Evans, the author who wrote the messages before yours at Macfilos and the article about the 70 yr. Old photos. After we all solve this mystery, I have a potentially larger mystery that you, and perhaps Mike Evans and Mr. Fagan will be interested in. I have a photo of my dad, Colonel Ivor Parry Evans, ex-base commander of the Air Force base at Roswell, New Mexico shaking hands with Major General Douglas Nelson, ex- commander of Area 51. The photo is the last page of my current book, and there will be many other photos in my next book which is about the Roswell, Area 51, UFO subject. Richard M Evans, Amazon author.

  94. This is the second time I have sat and read your articles and gazed at the magnificent photos. Thank you for catching some of us up! I was struck by the new photo which was at the station with the Younger Woman and the Older Woman. In my lifetime of taking photos, this seems to be a photo taken when a person is leaving others that they love. We call it the “Italian Goodbye”! My husband and I visited his French uncle that lived in Parma, Italy in 1992. When we left, the whole family followed our car from the back of the house, down the drive, waving madly the whole time! Thank you for your insistence that the story be about the people in a particular place and time that has captured all of our imaginations.

  95. hello,
    sorry for not reading through all the comments.

    my suggestion would be: maybe the american army holds record of this car? or maybe (if the guy in the photos owned it) it was purchased directly from the manufacturer as it was a rare build.

    The name Tom, could mean empty in danish.

  96. In a previous comment C.N. Coy says the following:

    I was struck by the new photo which was at the station with the Younger Woman and the Older Woman. In my lifetime of taking photos, this seems to be a photo taken when a person is leaving others that they love.

    and I believe he or she is right. This would seem to me to be a farewell or a send off. But they are at a tram stop at the Bahnhofplatz in Zurich, probably seeing aunty or mum off on her way home.

    • We have been aware of this photo since I developed the roll of film and that it showed an older female with the couple outside the main station in Zurich. It did not make it into my first article because of the light damage. There is nothing ‘new’ about this.


  97. Note from the editor:

    We have become increasingly concerned at the degree of conjecture surrounding possible identities of the mystery couple in the photographs. After discussing with William Fagan, I would ask all commenters to avoid mentioning names or appending links to personal sites or other sources which would identify speculatively any individual or individuals.

    At the moment, all is indeed pure speculation and attempts at identity-based on similarities to old photographs are at best unlikely and could be misleading. More concrete evidence is needed, including reliable confirmation that the individuals were in southern Germany/Switzerland in the early summer of 1950. This is now quite specific. While I do not normally change comments, I will go back to remove specific names and links.

    Also, please refrain from posting links here unless they are necessary and focused. Any posts with links are held for moderation (because spam comments almost always contain links) and moderation is becoming something of a burden.

    If you have specific information which might help with identity, please do not post publicly but send the details to info@macfilos.com.

    Many thanks,


  98. Dear Mr. Fagan or Evans, I´m a journalist and photographer from germany. I do not believe that the people are European. Five years before, the war was over. The man, had he been German, would have had to be a participant in the war. He should not be older than 34 years.
    In addition, he appears to be wearing an American “peak lapel blazer”. The wide lapels were fashionable in America at that time. The woman is not wearing any clothing from the booth, looks very fashion conscious. Almost as if tailor-made. The older lady’s hat can be seen a bit and I also think that they didn’t wear hats like that in Europe. Overall, the two look very confident, at peace with themselves, as if there had never been a war. Very unusual so soon after the war. Unless you belong to the occupying forces. It is also unusual that the article in the Süddeutsche Zeitung gave no clues.
    Best regards
    Bernd H.

    • While I agree with your observation, as it was also my own, his clothes can be dated to about 1935 fashion, so he is wearing something that not only does not fit his body, but is also horribly out of date.

      After the war, the US economy was the ONLY economy in the world, and intentionally donated or manufactured goods for other countries to help the world economy out of stagnation. Both the man and woman wear clothes most likely manufactured in the USA as many people have noted. Those could still be bought or donated by any means. Nothing unusual there.

      But we do not have any serious hint as to what exactly is his job, so that we can’t know whether he/she or both emigrated from germany to USA before the war. But… as the young woman has specific facial features, we can reliably place her origin to be near Switzerland.

      But I’m more interested in the old lady: what is her occupation, according to you, by her clothes and hat?

      Or: could you think of the reasons why the man cut the trip short so suddenly not to take any more photos and forget the wound-back film in the cartridge and IN the camera?

      I posted my thoughts on that under all three articles, but there isn’t anything anywhere to hold on to.

      BUT: I read about one of the successful german business (matbe a shopping center or something, I forgot) that wasn’t even nationalized during the war, that was even owned by some jewish owner who emigrated before the war, and just everyone kept things very secret and stayed under the radar. That means: if ONE business was able to do that… …how many others there were all over the germany? This could have been one of such cases, my suggestion was that the man may be involved for example in one of the ceramics/glass factories in Bavaria. There are just too many reasonable, believeable scenarios to explain everything we see in the photos.

      Just read all three articles and the comments under those and you will see.

      We need more hard facts, or to start making calls to people and showing them the photos. One of the persons I found died recently, and on my! She looked almost the same as the young lady, the same hair, even, just white. But I don’t speak ‘able’ german. Maybe you could do it. I’m not sure the links are there as the admin said that links to people will be deleted.

      • We haven’t deleted any of the old links so far. It’s a big job! But we will be taking a close look at future posts and, as I said in the comment, it’s best to pass any names or suggestions to me by email rather than making it public.

    • Thanks Bernd

      Wherever they came from, the couple seem to have been comfortably off with a nice car, nice camera and nice clothes and staying in nice hotels etc. A trip to Como on a fine day in June 1950 would have put a smile on anybody’s face, even if they had come through a war 5 years earlier.

      We thought that we might hear more from Martin Zips at Süddeutsche Zeitung. We might contact him soon, but you could also do likewise.


    • Thanks, Bernd. You are right that the SDZ article produced absolutely no clues, with the proviso that we are reliant on the editorial staff to pass on any approaches. Most publications included our email address so we have had direct contact from many people. Your points are worth considering. Many correspondents in America have been convinced the couple was American, particularly since there was a big US hospital (I believe) at Garmisch. But this is all conjecture. And if they were service personnel they would not have been using a car with a civilian number plate (unless borrowed or rented).

  99. Jaimen, I know the picture you mean, and also thought – that’s her, just older. Without naming names, is this just a picture you found randomly on the internet or was there some specific connection you were following? It’s hard to be convinced by any random photograph, as there are an infinity of them out there

    • Hi Andrew.

      I was following the face of the man: because I found out that one Sudeten Deutsch politician had the same facial features, nose, ears, lips, hair, chin, etc. So I tried to go on from there by their clan name and instantly found many people that shared the features of chin, nose… etc. She was there just in the list of surnames.
      Both our man and woman and the dog have features also available in the Czech republic (possibly the Sudeten link as well), so that is the east-north edge of the geographical area where you could naturally find both people looking the same.

      But then, there is a very old B&W photo of some founder of an industrial company with the same name and facial features from Austria, that also shared similar features. (He was in a plain Austrian empire soldier uniform)

      My method was to find something probable and see if it goes well with what we have. It did.

    • Hello Andrew, again, I find this fascinating: (!!!)

      “1950, about 2 million expellees had come to Bavaria, thereby accounting for more than 20 percent of the Bavarian population. The majority of expellees in Bavaria came from territories in Czechoslovakia known as the Sudetenland. Pre-war Sudetenland had been highly industrialized, demanding a profound level of education. In addition, Sudeten Germans assigned a high value to education since it also enabled them to preserve their cultural identity in Czechoslovakia (Lemberg 1959, pp. 370-2). Hence, displaced Sudeten Germans brought along specific preferences toward education, or more precisely,
      secondary education of a practical, business-oriented, and general type.”

      from “Immigration and educational spillovers: Evidence
      from Sudeten German expellees in post-war Bavaria”

      That could explain both their careless attitude, wealth (for example a senior business position) and lack of war in their faces like some people here said. In that case, these two could be two out of 1 MILLION people!

  100. Hello all,
    Thank you very much for the nice answers. Of course, my comments are also only speculations. I have talked with a few compatriots about the man and the woman and we were of the opinion that especially the faces do not reflect the war time at all. This is very unusual. Please, my father was in Russia, was badly wounded, in captivity. His brothers were killed in the war. Carelessness was only possible with the help of a lot of alcohol. Unfortunately. There were 12 million refugees and displaced persons in Germany alone at that time, who had to be integrated into the war-torn German life. That was an unimaginably difficult task. Carefree times were reserved for only a few people. Nothing of it is to be read in the faces, as if there had never been an apocalypse. I just find that very remarkable. I work as a journalist for a large daily newspaper in the south and could try to suggest that topic. But please, I can’t promise it, because it was already in the Süddeutsche Zeitung. I will get back to you. Until then and maybe someone will get in touch before and tell: I know who they are!
    Best regards
    Bernd H.

  101. I find this fascinating… the photos of the man and woman… My first thought was that they looked like siblings. I have pics of my parents taken with old camera. My parents had a friend, who traveled with them and took photos. My parents said he was a “good photographer”. My parents were both born in 1914. My father: 100% Croatian My mother: Scotch,English,Irish on her mother’s side and Austrian on her father’s side. My parents were the same age…but my father looked a bit older because of the hair line etc. I’m just thinking that the photo you found may be siblings as they have similar brows, and the smiles and the eyes!
    Best to you, Elizabeth


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