Yevgeny Khaldei’s Wartime Photographs

The Soviet Photographer, Yevgeny Khaldei, worked for the Tass news agency between 1935 and 1948, and then worked for the Pravada from 1959 to 1976. As Michael Specter wrote in Photo Booth last year, Khaldei “photographed every Soviet leader from Stalin to Yeltsin, and he documented the plight of Shostakovich as he struggled through the Siege of Leningrad. Khaldei, a Jew, (purged twice) photographed other Jews as they were liberated from the ghetto of Budapest. Then he ripped the yellow Stars of David from their chests. His picture of Hermann Göring gives form to the idea of evil,” as reported by the New Yorker.

Although Khaldei’s photographs are now seen as embodying a crucial perspective on the Second World War, his most famous image, “Raising a Flag Over the Reichstag,” was uncredited for many years. The photo depicts Soviet troops raising a large Soviet flag over the Reichstag building in Berlin, on May 2, 1945. (Khaldei died in October, 1997; a few months later, the photo was published in The New Yorker.) Khaldei, who took inspiration from Joe Rosenthal’s iconic photograph at Iwo Jima, brought his own flag to Berlin, shot thirty-six versions of the picture, and later admitted to manipulating some parts of the image—he added dark clouds of smoke, and erased a watch from a soldier’s wrist. The image quickly became an icon, both in the U.S.S.R. and abroad. “This is what I was waiting for for fourteen hundred days,” Khaldei said later. “It was scary, but I was euphoric, so I didn’t notice.”

Evette Champion

Evette Champion is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE