Facebook Suspends Top Photo Colorist For ‘Dangerous’ WWII Images


One of the world’s leading colorists of historic photos fears she will be banned permanently from Facebook and Instagram after multiple suspensions of her accounts.

Russian photo colorist Olga Shirnina has stunning new work ready to post for her more than 45,000 followers on social media but is unwilling to share three new images on Facebook and Instagram because, as she told RFE/RL, “I would be [suspended] again for sure.”

An image colorized by Olga Shirnina that was finished on May 26. The photo shows a wreath-laying ceremony in Warsaw in 1939, several months before Nazi Germany invaded Poland. This is one of three images Shirnina says would almost certainly result in a suspension of her account if she were to post it to Facebook.
Olga Shirnina. Courtesy photo.

Shirnina, who works under the name Klimbim, is a professional German-Russian translator and considered one of the best in the world at using Photoshop to transform historic black-and-white images into color.

The Moscow-based translator and history enthusiast says she spends hours on her computer researching, then adding vibrance to monochrome historic images “purely for pleasure.” Shirnina has been profiled in leading news and art websites around the world and labels her work free for anyone to use not-for-profit. Photos in her colorized collection are a mixture of daily life, portraits, and historic photojournalism from around the world. None of her captions include political commentary.

A 1916 image of Russian Tsar Nicholas II colorized by Shirnina.

In September 2019, Shirnina received her first notification from Instagram that an image she colorized of senior Nazi leaders had “violated community guidelines” and that her account could be deleted if she posted similar content in the future.

A notification from Instagram that Shirnina had violated Instagram’s rules on “dangerous organizations.”
The image that was pulled from Instagram in September 2019 showing Heinrich Himmler (left) meeting with German Ambassador to Poland Hans-Adolf von Moltke in 1939.

In the following months, several more of Shirnina’s colorized photographs were removed from both Facebook and Instagram, which is owned by Facebook.

The situation escalated when Shirnina’s Facebook account was suspended after she posted the image below of two Nazi soldiers during a battle in Ukraine. No Nazi insignia is visible in the photo, suggesting the image may have been flagged by a person rather than through automation. Shirnina was again warned she had broken Facebook rules on dangerous organizations. It would prove the first and last time she says an appeal was successful.

Two Nazi soldiers in Kharkhiv, Ukraine, in 1943

Facebook’s policy on Dangerous Individuals And Organizations states:

In an effort to prevent and disrupt real-world harm, we do not allow any organizations or individuals that proclaim a violent mission or are engaged in violence to have a presence on Facebook. This includes organizations or individuals involved in the following:

Terrorist activity

Organized hate

Mass murder (including attempts) or multiple murder

Human trafficking

Organized violence or criminal activity

We also remove content that expresses support or praise for groups, leaders, or individuals involved in these activities.

Then in early May, Shirnina’s Facebook account was suspended for three days — this time for posting a colorized version of Evgenei Khaldei’s iconic photo of Soviet soldiers raising their flag above the Reichstag in Berlin in 1945. Her appeal against the decision was rejected and she was able to use her account with more than 20,000 followers only after waiting three days, then sending a scan of her driver’s license, which Facebook requested to confirm her identity.

Shirnina’s colorized version of the iconic photo of Soviet soldiers atop Berlin’s Reichstag in 1945.
The notification Shirnina received that her account had been suspended for posting the Reichstag image.

Shirnina says she has been “puzzled” by the apparent inconsistency of Facebook’s changing rules and says it remains unclear which images could trigger a permanent ban. “I work with real historical photos and they can’t be corrected!”

Several images of Soviet leaders responsible for the deaths of millions of people — as well as photos with Soviet symbols clearly visible — have been published without problem on her pages.

An image of Vladimir Lenin that was published on Shirnina’s Facebook and Instagram accounts — without problem.
Soviet leaders Josef Stalin, Mikhail Kalinin (wearing glasses), Kliment Voroshilov and Lazar Kaganovich (standing, left to right) in 1930. Among other acts of political terror, all four men were behind the 1940 execution of some 22,000 of Poland’s top military officers, policemen, and academics seen as likely to resist Soviet communist rule in the Katyn massacre. Shirnina says this photo was also posted without problem on Facebook and Instagram.

We requested clarification from Facebook’s press department about which historic images represented a violation of their community guidelines on May 28 but did not immediately receive a response.


About the author: Amos Chapple is a New Zealand born, Europe-based photographer and writer whose work has been published in most of the world’s major news titles. You can find more of his work on his website, Facebook, and Instagram. This article was also published at RFE/RL.





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