The Soviet flag over the Reichstag, 1945


The picture "Soviet Flag on the Reichstag" is full of symbolism and represents a historical moment. Built in 1894, the Reichstag's architecture was magnificent for its time.

The building contributed greatly to German history and the Red Army considered it a symbol of its enemy. The Soviets finally captured the Reichstag on 2 May 1945.

Next to Joe Rosenthal's photograph of the flag being raised on Iwo Jima, Yevgeny Khaldei's photograph of Soviet soldiers raising the flag on top of the Reichstag building in Berlin is perhaps the most famous photograph of World War II. But unlike the Iwo Jima photo, Khaldei's Reichstag photo was both staged and doctored.

Khaldei's photograph was directly inspired by Rosenthal's Iwo Jima photograph. Mindful of the publicity the Iwo Jima photo had received, Soviet officials (perhaps Stalin himself) ordered Khaldei to fly from Moscow to Berlin to take a similar photo that would symbolize the Soviet victory over Germany. Khaldei took with him a large flag, which his uncle had stitched from three tablecloths for the purpose.

When Khaldei arrived in Berlin, he considered several settings for the photo, including the Brandenburg Gate and Tempelhof Airport, but he decided on the Reichstag, even though Soviet troops had succeeded in hoisting the flag over this building a few days earlier. They went. Khaldei recruited a small group of soldiers and proceeded to reconnoitre the scene on May 2, 1945.

In Moscow, Soviet censors examining the photo noticed that one of the soldiers had a wristwatch on both hands, indicating that he was looting. They did not want to impose that image on their country.

He asked Khaldei to remove a watch. Khaldei not only did this but also deepened the smoke in the background. The resulting photo was soon published in Ogonjok magazine. This became the version that achieved worldwide fame.

Some Soviet sources later claimed that the additional wrist watches were actually Adrianov compasses and that the Soviet military removed the photo because they knew it would be seen as a watch acquired by looting corpses rather than a piece of standard equipment.

The Adrianov compass was a military compass designed by Russian Imperial Army topographer Vladimir Adrianov in 1907. Wrist-worn versions of the compass were then adopted and widely used by the Red and Soviet armies.

After this, changes were continuously made in the photo. The flag was shown waving more dramatically in the wind. The photo was also in colour.

Throughout his life, Khaldei had no regrets about tampering with his most famous photograph. Whenever he was asked about this, he replied.

The German magazine Der Spiegel wrote: “Khaldei saw himself as a propagandist of a just cause, the war against Hitler and the German invaders of his homeland.

In the years before his death in October 1997, he was fond of saying: 'I forgive the Germans, but I cannot forget.' His father and three of his four sisters were murdered by the Germans.

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