Raising a flag over the Reichstag

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File:Reichstag flag original.jpg
Raising a flag over the Reichstag, by Yevgeny Khaldei

Raising a flag over the Reichstag is a historic World War II photograph taken during the Battle of Berlin on 2 May 1945, by Yevgeny Khaldei. It depicts several Soviet troops raising the flag of the Soviet Union atop the German Reichstag building. The photograph was instantly popular, being reprinted in thousands of publications. It came to be regarded around the world as one of the most significant and recognizable images of the war.

The identities of the men in the picture were often disputed, also that of the photographer (Khaldei), who was only identified after the fall of the Soviet Union. The photograph is full of symbolism and represents a historic moment.

Erected in 1894, the Reichstag's architecture was magnificent for its time. The building contributed much to German history and was considered by the Red Army the symbol of their fascist enemy. In reality, the Reichstag was a symbol of democracy and representative government. Because of this, the Nazis had little affection for the Reichstag and left it closed and damaged ever since the infamous Reichstag fire in 1933. Instead of being a center of fascist power, the Reichstag had been closed down for 12 years, essentially the entirety of the Nazi era. After very bloody and fierce combat within its walls, the Soviets finally captured the Reichstag on 2 May 1945, drawing closer to the end of a war that had cost the lives of many millions of Germans and Soviets.

Background

File:Soviet flag on the Reichstag roof Khaldei.jpg
Raising a flag over the Reichstag, by Yevgeny Khaldei but with smoke addedTemplate:Sfn

Template:Main The Battle of Berlin was the final major offensive of the European Theatre of World War II and was designated the Berlin Strategic Offensive Operation by the Soviet Union.<ref name="LastOffensive" group="A" /> Starting on 16 April 1945, the Red Army breached the German front as a result of the Vistula–Oder Offensive and rapidly advanced westward through Germany, as fast as 30–40 kilometres a day. The battle for Berlin lasted from late 20 April 1945 until 2 May and was one of the bloodiest in history. As Berlin fell, Red Army photographer Yevgeny Khaldei gathered some soldiers together in the hope of getting a defining photograph like the American Iwo Jima flag picture.

Taking the photo

The events surrounding the flag-raising are murky due to the confusion of the battle to take the number one target in Berlin, the Reichstag. On 30 April there was great pressure to take the building, (seen as symbolic and at the heart of the "fascist beast"), before May Day.Template:Sfn Initially, two planes dropped several large red banners on the roof that appeared to have caught on the bombed-out dome. Additionally a number of reports had reached headquarters that two parties, M.M. Bondar from the 380th Rifle Regiment and Captain V.N. Makov of the 756th might have been able to hoist a flag during the day of 30 April.Template:Sfn These reports were received by Marshal G.K. Zhukov who issued an announcement stating that his troops had captured the Reichstag and hoisted a flag. However, when correspondents arrived they found no Soviets in the building but were in fact pinned down outside by German fire. After fierce fighting a flag was raised at 10:40 PM on 30 April 1945 when 23-year old Mikhail Minin climbed the building and inserted a flag into a mounted statue's (Germania's), crown. As this happened at night, it was too dark to take a photograph.Template:Sfn The next day the flag was taken down by the Germans.Template:Sfn The Red Army finally controlled the entire building on 2 May.Template:Sfn

Template:Multiple image On 2 May 1945, Khaldei scaled the now pacified Reichstag to take his picture. The official story would later be that two hand-picked soldiers: a Georgian, Meliton Kantaria<ref name="altKantaria" group="A" /> and a Russian, Mikhail Yegorov, raised the Soviet flag over Reichstag,<ref name="altYegorov" group="A" />Template:SfnTemplate:SfnTemplate:SfnTemplate:Sfn and the photograph would be often used as depicting the event. However, some authors state that for political reasons the subjects of the photograph were changed and the actual man to hoist the flag was Alyosha Kovalyov,<ref name="altKovalyov" group="A" />Template:SfnTemplate:Sfn a Ukrainian, who was told by the NKVD to keep quiet about it.Template:Sfn According to Khaldei himself, when he arrived to the Reichstag, he simply asked the soldiers who happened to be passing by to help with staging of the photoshoot;<ref name="time20080523">Template:Cite web</ref> there were only four of them, including Khaldei, on the roof:<ref name="epochtimes" /> the one who was attaching the flag was 18-year-old Private Alexei Kovalyov from Kiev, the two others were Abdulkhakim Ismailov from Dagestan and Leonid Gorychev from Minsk.<ref name="time20080523" /><ref name="epochtimes">Template:Cite web</ref>

Aftermath

The photo was published 13 May 1945 in the Ogonyok magazine.Template:Sfn While many photographers took pictures of flags on the roof, it was Khaldei's image that stuck.Template:Sfn

Image censored

Template:Main After taking the symbolic photo, Khaldei quickly returned to Moscow. He further edited the image at the request of the editor-in-chief of the Ogonyok, who noticed that Sen. Sgt. Abdulkhakim Ismailov, who is supporting the flag-bearer was wearing two watches, which could imply he had looted one of them.Template:Sfn Using a needle, he was able to remove the watch from the right wrist.Template:SfnTemplate:Sfn He also copied the smoke in the background from another picture to make the scene more dramatic.Template:Sfn

See also

  • Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima
  • Victory Banner

Annotations

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Bibliography

Notes

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