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March 23: The Red Army Photographer

March 22, 2016

300px-Reichstag_flag_originalYevgeny Khaldei, a Jewish Red Army photographer who took the iconic photograph of a Soviet soldier raising a Soviet flag above the German Reichstag at the end of World War II (published in the magazine Ogoniok on May 13, 1945), was born in Donetsk, Ukraine on this date in 1917. Khaldei was in love with photography from boyhood and went to work as a cameraman for TASS at the age of 19. After seeing Joe Rosenthal’s famous photo of Marines raising the American flag at Iwo Jima, he got a family member to make him a large Soviet hammer-and-sickle flag with the intention of creating his Reichstag photo — which was staged, as the original Red Army takeover of the Reichstag took place two nights earlier. Khaldei lost his father and three sisters to the Holocaust. He later took photographs of Nazis on trial for war crimes in Nuremberg, and created official portraits of Joseph Stalin, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Boris Yeltsin before dying at 80 in 1997.

“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.” —Michael Specter, Photo Booth