Dresden Destroyed

Behind the camera: Richard Peter
Where: Dresden, Germany
Photo Summary: A statue on the City Hall Rathausturm or Tower overlooks a destroyed Dresden
Picture Taken: 1945
This image has some limited copyright rights reserved after it was released by the Deutsche Fotothek of the Saxon State Library / State and University Library Dresden (SLUB).

The logic behind the Allied bombing campaigns was that air attacks would force Nazi Germany out of the war. Working to this goal much of occupied Nazi Europe was laid waste by bombers manned by Allied airmen. One of the most controversial bombing raids was the Bombing of Dresden, Germany in World War II. Between February 13 – 15, 1945 over 1200 Allied bombers dropped their deadly payloads on one of Germany’s biggest cities. After the last bomber flew away the city was left in almost total ruins. It took years to rebuild and in 1945 photographer Richard Peter took this famous picture after scaling the city hall.

On the left Dresden in 1945 by Richard Peter and on the right Dresden in 2005 by Matthias Rietschel (AP)

On the left Dresden in 1945 by Richard Peter and on the right Dresden in 2005 by Matthias Rietschel (AP)

The Statue

The statue in the foreground overlooking the ruins of Dresden is often reported to be Peter Poeppelman’s “Allegory of Goodness” or “Allegorie der Güte” but the statue was actually carved by August Streimueller.

The Bombing Raid

The infamous Bombing of Dresden is still one of the most controversial actions of the Allies during WWII. Between February 13 and 15 1945 around 1,250 heavy bombers of the British and American air-forces dropping huge amounts of explosive and incendiary devices on the mostly wooden city. The resulting firestorm killed around 25,000 people and destroyed most of the historic city center. This happened even though Dresden was of questionable military value.

Richard Peter

Dresden 1945 and Now

Dresden 1945 and Now


Richard Peter was born in Silesia in 1895. While working as a smith and miner he was drafted into the army to serve in the trenches during WW1. After the war, he settled in Dresden and became a photojournalist for various left-wing publications. When the Nazis came to power he was blacklisted and used his skills with the camera to work in advertising before he was drafted into the German Army during WWII.

After the war he returned to Dresden to find the city totally destroyed including all his photo equipment. Using borrowed equipment he began to document Dresden’s literal rise from the ashes. Publishing his work in a book Dresden, eine kamera klagt an (Dresden, a photographic accusation).

Even with his pre-Nazi left-wing credentials, his life under the communist regime wasn’t much better. After investigating corrupt communist officials he was banned from government work but continued to make a living as a freelance photographer. He died on October 3, 1977, at the age of 82.

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Masked Man at the Munich Massacre

Behind the camera: Kurt Strumpf
Where: Israeli apartment in the Munich Olympic village
Photo Summary: The terrorist was never identified and could have been any of 8 hostage takers: Luttif Afif (Issa), the leader, his deputy Yusuf Nazzal (Tony), and junior members Afif Ahmed Hamid (Paolo), Khalid Jawad (Salah), Ahmed Chic Thaa (Abu Halla), Mohammed Safady (Badran), Adnan Al-Gashey (Denawi), and his cousin Jamal Al-Gashey (Samir).
Picture Taken: September 5, 1972

The Munich Olympics looked to be one of the greatest Olympics in games history. Nicknamed the “Happy Olympics” the events that took place in the second of week of events would change all that and forever link the Munich Olympics with the slaughter of 11 team embers of the Israeli team. Of all the pictures taken by media covering the event one taken by Kurt Strumpf of one of the masked terrorists overlooking the balcony of the Israeli team, quarters has stood the test of time. The picture is now synonymous with what is now known as the Munich Massacre.

Black September

The Black September Organization (BSO) was a Palestinian militant group, founded in 1970. The group took their name from the conflict known as Black September when King Hussein of Jordan attacked Palestinian militant groups, killing thousands, after they attempted to take over Jordan. The group was originally formed to take revenge against the King and Jordan’s government but expanded into anti-Israeli attacks. Its members came from various countries with Palestinian refugee camps, and they carried out a number of terrorist activities, including their most infamous attack the, Munich Massacre.

Munich Massacre

The 1972 Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XX Olympiad, were held in Munich, West Germany, from 26 August to 11 September 1972. It was the second time Germany had held the Olympics–the first being during the Hitler’s reign in 1936–and the Germans hoped to erase their Nazi past with a happy and free Olympics. The West German Olympic Organizing Committee tried to do this by creating an open and friendly atmosphere. Security was deliberately lax, and athletes and support staff came and went with only cursory checks.
The Black September Organization (BSO) had planned the attack extensively and even had members working in the village. Taking advantage of the lax security, the eight terrorists jumped a fence dressed as athletes and, despite a struggle while entering the Israeli compound, where two Israeli athletes were killed, managed to hold nine Israeli athletes hostage in their Olympic village apartment. After a series of failed negotiations, the terrorists and their hostages were taken to the military airport of Faurstenfeldbruck. There the West German government attempted to rescue them, but they bungled the poorly planned raid, and all the hostages were killed, along with five of the terrorists. The three survivors were arrested but later released in exchange for a German Lufthansa passenger jet that was hijacked in October of that year.
The massacre led Germany to realize the inadequacy of its approach to combat terror and to create the elite counter-terrorist unit GSG 9 to address future incidents. It also led Israel to launch an aggressive counter-terrorism campaign known as Operation Wrath of God, which Steven Spielberg based his movie, Munich
.

Taking the picture

It is often reported that Kurt Strumpf took the picture while covering the event from the Puerto Rican team quarters inside the apartment but Strumpf took the picture from outside the village. It was AP writers Karol Stonger and Bill Ritz who were able to get into the Puerto Rican team apartment.
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Flag on the Reichstag

Behind the camera: Red Army photographer Yevgeny Khaldei
Where: On top of the German Reichstag building in Berlin
Photo Summary: The Soviet flag being raised over the German Reichstag building by Red Army soldiers
Picture Taken: May 2, 1945

In the closing days of World War II, the Communist Russian Red Army smashed its way into Berlin. In the Nazi capital, the German army was overwhelmed into pockets of resistance that either surrendered or fought fanatically to the last man. On the front lines with the Red Army was Yevgeny Khaldei, a Soviet war photographer. In the future, he would say that he spent every 1,481 days of the Russian-German war covering the Soviet battle for the motherland, but in Nazi Berlin, he was looking for one thing, his Iwo Jima shot. Khaldei had seen the pictures of American GI’s raising the flag over the Japanese volcano and before the war ended he wanted to snap a similar scene in Berlin.

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Flag over the Reichstag color

Colorized version

 

Creating his Iwo Jima

Choosing the German Parliament building, The Reichstag, as his Iwo Jima, Khaldei moved to create his Soviet Propaganda masterpiece. With frustration he discovered, he had a place to raise the USSR colors but no Soviet flag. Jumping on a plane back to Moscow he was able to convince employees of his news agency to give him three red tablecloths normally used for official functions. With his uncle, they spent the night sewing on stars, hammers, and sickles before Khaldei returned to Berlin. Even though the Reichstag had been abandoned since the fire of February 1933, which allowed Hitler to take power, it was still heavily defended.

Who raised the flag?

 

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BgTpv397SKo

As Berlin fell in the closing days of the War, Red Army photographer Yevgeny Khaldei gathered some soldiers and had them pose a shot of them hoisting the flag (called the Victory Banner) on the roof of the Reichstag building. The photo represented a historic moment, the defeat of Germany in a war that cost the Soviet Union tens of millions of lives. The photo was published May 13, 1945, in Ogonyok magazine. Out of the 36 Images that Khaldei took and of all the other photographers who took pictures of the flag on the roof it was Khaldei’s images that became iconic.

Celebrated as the image is, it was a reconstruction of a moment that had happened earlier but had been missed by the cameras. The events surrounding the flag raising are murky due to the infamous, “fog of war” caused by the confusion of battle. On April 30th there was great pressure from the Soviet leadership to take the building seen as the “den of the fascist beast” before May day celebrations. First, two planes dropped several large red banners on the roof that appeared to have caught on the girders of the bombed out dome. Also, a number of reports had reached Red Army headquarters that two parties, M.M. Bondar from the 380th Rifle Regiment and Captain V.N. Makov with the 756th might have been able to hoist a flag on the afternoon of April 30th. These reports made it back to Marshal G.K. Zhukov who issued an announcement stating that troops had captured the Reichstag and hoisted a flag. However, when correspondents arrived they found no Soviets in the building and in fact they were pinned down outside the Reichstag by Nazi fire. Zhukov’s announcement that the building had been taken was already broadcast to the world. When the local commander found out that the Nazis still controlled the building contrary to the official Soviet version of events he was frantic to get a flag up and ordered a push to get one somewhere, anywhere on the building.
Soviet soldiers were able to use mortar rounds, fired horizontally, to punch through one of the bricked up doorways. Splitting up into small teams to hide their purpose the Soviets slowly gained more and more control of the Reichstag interior. Even with the hold-out defenders a small Soviet five-man strike team was able to find a stairway and make their way to the top. At one point they had to use a tree to ram down a door. Making their way to the roof they chose the mounted statue of Germania, a woman representing Germany, on the roof of the Reichstag to attach their banner. At first, they were going to use their belts to hold it in place but then noticed that the crown on the statue had holes where a flag pole would fit. So at 10:40 PM on April 30, 1945, a 27 years old Mikhail Petrovich Minin climbed the statue and inserted the flag in Germania’s crown. But this first-night flag raising wasn’t captured on film.

The real raising of the Reichstag-painting

A painting in the Russian Voronezh Museum showing Mikhail Petrovich Minin and his strike team raising the flag

The next day the German troops attacked when they saw the Soviet Victory Flag flying above. Only with Soviet reinforcements was the Red Army able to beat off the counter-attack. While the Nazi’s didn’t force the Soviets from the building they did manage to bring down the flag. Two days later the Germans that remained trapped in the basement finally surrendered and on the morning of May 2, 1945, they left the building under a white flag.

Finally, Khaldei was able to scale the now pacified Reichstag to take his picture. The official story was that two soldiers: Georgian Meliton Kantaria (to please Stalin who was also Georgian) and the Russian Mikhail Yegorov had raised the flag on April 30. Further conflicting events made things even more confusing when reports emerged that a group of men led by Sergei E. Sorokin made it to the roof and also planted another flag.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, it emerged that due to political factors the subjects of the photo were changed and the actual man to hoist the flag, in the picture, was Alyosha Kovalyov. Accounts would emerge that Kovalyov, a Ukrainian, was told by the NKVD to keep quiet about his role in the flag raising. The other man supporting Kovalyov was revealed in 1996 to be Abdulkhakim Ismailov. In addition to officially naming him as the man in the photo, the Russian government gave him a Hero of Russia medal. Ismailov died on February 16, 2010, in his native village of Chagar-Otar, in the restive southern Russian province of Dagestan.
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Reichstag and location of the flag raising copy

The circle indicates where, on the East side of the Reichstag, the flag raising took place. Clicking on the image will show the Google Map location of the picture

Yevgeny Khaldei

Yevgeny Khaldei was born into a Ukrainian Jewish family on March 23, 1917, in Donbass, a Ukrainian steel town. He was still an infant when his mother was killed in an anti-Jewish pogrom in 1918. A true survivor, during the Soviet-designed famines that killed millions in the Ukraine, Khaldei learned to eat grass to stay alive. Despite Stalin setting in motion the events that led to millions of his Ukrainian countrymen dying in the Famine, he was still loyal to the state.

Original Image

From a young age, Khaldei was fascinated by photography. As a young teenager, he built his first camera from a lens of his grandmother’s glasses. Soon his pictures started to appear in a local paper the, Socialist Donbass. A few years later he would join the Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union (TASS) as a press photographer. On assignment, photographing children reciting poetry, as part of the celebrations for the 100th anniversary of the famous poet Mikhail Lermontov, he first heard the news that Germany had invaded. One of his most famous pieces, “War is announced” was taken on that day on June 22, 1941.

Photographer of the Soviet Army

 

Edited version with smoke added

Commissioned into the Soviet army as a lieutenant he was sent out to photograph the war. Sent into the field with just 160 feet of film because his editor thought that Hitler would be defeated within two weeks. Khaldei was first stationed in the Arctic city of Murmansk with a squadron of British pilots sent to protect the Soviet Union’s lifeline to the West, the Arctic convoys. As the war progressed he shot the liberation of major Soviet cities including Kerch and Sevastopol. At Yalta, he captured the Allies leaders planning post-Nazi Europe. He was part of the red wave that swept across Europe and crushed Berlin. His shot of the Soviet Hammer and Sickle flag over the Reichstag is one of the most significant of World War II. Symbolizing Soviet victory and revenge; not only did Khaldei immortalize the moment: he created it.

In his heroic Soviet propaganda style, he is probably the only journalist to arrange, choreograph and then capture such a symbolic event. He defended posing most of his pictures by insisting that the shot taken should match the importance of the event. As was the case with many Soviet and other journalists during the war, once the picture was taken and developed, that did not mean it was finished. Censors at the Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union (TASS) noticed that on the wrists of the solider in the picture there was not one but two watches indicating a common practice by all parties during World War II, looting. The officials thought the sight of looting members of the Red Army would look badly and told Khaldei to edit them out. Not stopping with the watches, Khaldei also added smoke to the background to add to the drama of a wartime shot. In a recent Art show commemorating his work, only one of his shots was actual taken during combat and not posed. In defense of Mr. Khaldei, he might have been too busy to actually take pictures during combat. Unlike their fellow Allied journalists, Soviet reporters carried arms and were soldiers first, journalists second.

Smoke over Berlin

The smoke that was added to the image

 

After the War

After the surrender of Germany, Khaldei covered many events including the Nazi war-crimes tribunals, the Nuremberg trials. In 1947 Robert Capa traveled to the Soviet Union with his friend, John Steinbeck. When he was leaving the country Soviet officials wanted to look through his undeveloped images. Capa refused to give them access unless Yevgeny Khaldei developed them. Capa had befriended the photographer while the two covered the Potsdam Conference and the Nuremberg Trials together and photographed one another there. Both men were hard-drinkers and recognized as playboy lady killers.
Khaldei worked with TASS until 1948, when increased Stalin sanctioned antisemitism of the time or his support of Tito, who went against Stalin, forced him from the job. He struggled to find work as a lot of Jews did during that period, until Stalin died in 1953. After Stalin’s death, the antisemitism was brushed under the Soviet carpet and he was able to find work again at the Russian Newspaper giant, Pravda. While it was official state doctrine that everyone in the USSR was equal and there was no race problem like America, Khaldei still felt the ever-present antisemitism that has dogged Russian culture for centuries. He was allowed to take pictures of Russian musicians but forbidden to give coverage to Jewish artists. These double standards continued until finally in 1972 when he was again, because of his background, forced from his job at Pravda. Even though Russian antisemitism caused the death of his mother and Soviet antisemitism forced him from two jobs he still supports the Soviet communist dream:

I was a son of Communists, and we were pioneers by the time I was 8. I was invited to Albania and flown there in President Enver Hodja’s plane at age 9. I militated for almost everything possible until I was 17. From then on, my conscience has been drawn inward and as a result, I can’t stand groups, organizations, and dominating ideologies anymore. This doesn’t mean that I don’t deeply respect the socialist ideal, and I’m a far cry from wanting to harp along with everyone else about the curse of communism. At least the respect for values and ideas exists in this ideal, which is terribly lacking nowadays. It’s no coincidence that most members of the Resistance movement were communists if they weren’t Jewish communists.
Credit he deserved

Antisemitism almost buried Khaldei into oblivion as his photos including his shot of the Soviet Flag over the bombed-out ruins of Berlin were published without credit. It was only till after the cold war and the collapse of communism that professors Alexander and Alice Nakhimovsky came across his name in the Russian archives and created a book showcasing his work, WITNESS TO HISTORY: The Photographs of Yevgeny Khaldei. Now the Khaldei Exhibition has a retrospective in major cities all over the world. The book even led to a movie about his life, Evgueni Khaldei: Photographer Under Stalin. Before he was discovered, Khaldei was surviving on a $35 monthly pension from the State. Just after the film was finished on Oct 6, 1997, at the age of 80 he died. He never made any money from royalties of his work but his son-in-law Yuri Bibichev said Khaldei didn’t care, “He was glad that what he had done over 80 years was of use to someone”.

Copyright Status

This image used to be copyright free but in 2006 the Russian State changed their copyright laws. So now images:

  • taken after 1943 (Image was taken in 1945)
  • images whose author wasn’t discovered before 1995 (Khaldei’s role was discovered in 1991)
  • the author died 70-years-ago (Khaldei past away in 1997)
  • the image was published 70-years-ago (This photo was published May 13, 1945 in the Ogonyok magazine.)

Pictures that fit one of these conditions, like this picture, are all covered by copyright laws and not public domain images.

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