Yevgeny Khaldei

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Yevgeny Khaldei
Yevgeny Khaldei.jpg
Khaldei in 1946
Born23 March [O.S. 10 March] 1917
Died6 October 1997(1997-10-06) (aged 80)
ChildrenAnna Khaldei, Leonid Khaldei

Yevgeny Ananyevich Khaldei (Ukrainian: Євген Анатольєвич Халдей) (23 March [O.S. 10 March] 1917 – 6 October 1997) was a Ukrainian Soviet Red Army naval officer and photographer. He is best known for his World War II photograph of a Soviet soldier raising a flag over the Reichstag in Berlin, capital of the vanquished Nazi Germany, at the close of the war.


Khaldei was born to a Jewish family in Yuzovka (now Donetsk, Ukraine) and was obsessed with photography since childhood, having built his first childhood camera with his grandmother's eyeglasses. He started working with the Soviet press agency TASS at the age of 19 as a photographer.[citation needed] His father and three of his four sisters were murdered by the Nazis during the war.[1]

In 1945, he persuaded his uncle to create a large Soviet flag after seeing Joe Rosenthal's photo of the flag raising at Iwo Jima while the Soviet army closed in on Berlin and took it with him to Berlin for the Reichstag shot.[2] He later took photographs of the Nazis at the Nuremberg Trials and of the Red Army during its offensive in Japanese Manchuria.[3]

Khaldei continued to work in photojournalism after the war as a TASS staff photographer, but was reprimanded in a 1947 evaluation: "After returning to peacetime conditions, he failed to develop himself at all, and at the present moment he is considered a passable photojournalist ... The reasons for this are several. First, all the praise that was heaped upon him as a military photojournalist finally went to his head, and he rested on his laurels. His growth as a photojournalist stopped. The other reason has to do with Khaldei's cultural level, which is exceptionally low."[4] In October 1948, Khaldei received notice that he was being let go because of the agency's "staff downsizing."[4] Khaldei continued to photograph, now working as a freelance photographer for Soviet newspapers, and focused on capturing the scenes of everyday life. In 1959, he got a job again at the newspaper Pravda, where he worked until he was forced to retire in 1970.[5] Khaldei's wartime photographs were collected in a 93-page book, Ot Murmanska do Berlina (From Murmansk to Berlin), published in 1984.[6] His work continues to be distributed through the Sovfoto agency which has operated in the West since 1932. Khaldei's international fame dates from the 1990s, when exhibitions of his photographs began to be held in the West.[citation needed]


Khaldei's most renowned photographs were taken when he was a Red Army photographer from 1941 to 1946. Khaldei's photographs emphasised his feelings for the historic moments and his sense of humour. One of the more famous anecdotes was during the Nuremberg Trials, where Hermann Göring was being tried. Khaldei says about the Göring shot:

When we received orders to leave Nuremberg, I asked an American colleague to photograph me with Göring. Göring remembered that, because of me, he had been hit with a club, and hence he always turned his head aside when I came into the courtroom. When he noticed I wanted to get into the picture with him, he put down his hand in front of his face.

— Khaldei

[citation needed]

While Khaldei frequently staged or manipulated his photographs, he insisted that this was to signify the importance and add strength to a particular event. His work was also admired by the elites of the Soviet Union and he is renowned for creating commissioned portraits for State leaders such as Joseph Stalin, Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin.[citation needed]

Red Army Reichstag photo[edit]

Khaldei's most famous photo was of a Red Army soldier raising a Soviet flag above the German Reichstag at the end of World War II: the historic defeat of Nazi Germany in a war that cost the Soviet Union twenty million lives; the magazine Ogoniok published the photograph on 13 May 1945.[1] Khaldei had shot an entire roll of film, 36 images. One shot, along with some of its very similar versions, became the most iconic of the event (The Times identified one such version). When Khaldei arrived at the Reichstag, he simply asked the soldiers who happened to be passing by to help with the staging of the photoshoot;[7][8] there were only four of them, including Khaldei, on the roof:[9] the one who was attaching the flag was 18-year-old Private Aleksei Kovalev from Kiev, the two others were Abdulkhakim Ismailov from Dagestan and Leonid Gorychev (also mentioned as Aleksei Goryachev) from Minsk.[8] The photograph was taken with a Leica III rangefinder camera with a 35mm f3.5 lens.[10]

The celebrated image is a re-enactment of an earlier flag-raising of which no photograph was taken, as it happened at 10:40 p.m. on 30 April 1945 while the building was actually still held by German troops. A group of four Soviet soldiers fought their way to the roof, where 23-year-old private Mikhail Minin climbed up on an equestrian statue representing Germany, to fasten an improvised flagpole to its crown. As that occurred at night and under fire, no photo could be taken. The next day German snipers shot down the flag. The surrender of the Reichstag came on 2 May 1945, and only after that did Khaldei scale the building along with the three soldiers which he had picked up randomly on his way. He was carrying with him a large flag sewn from a red tablecloth by his Jewish friend in Moscow for this very purpose.[11] The seams are indeed visible on the picture.

Honours and awards[edit]


  1. ^ a b Sontheimer, Michael (5 July 2008). "The Art of Soviet Propaganda: Iconic Red Army Reichstag Photo Faked". Der Spiegel. Archived from the original on 11 May 2012. Retrieved 3 June 2011.
  2. ^ Griffin, Michael (199). "The Great War Photographs: Constructing Myths of History and Photojournalism". In Bonnie Brennen & Hanno Hardt eds., Picturing the Past: Media, History & Photography. (pp. 122–157). Urbana: University of Illinois Press. p. 144. ISBN 0-252-06769-X.
  3. ^ "Yevgeni Khaldei short biography". Jewish Virtual Library. The American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise. 2007. Archived from the original on 17 July 2011. Retrieved 3 June 2011.
  4. ^ a b Schneer, David (2011). Through Soviet Jewish Eyes: Photography, War, and the Holocaust. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press. pp. 213–214. ISBN 978-0-8135-4884-5.
  5. ^ Grosset, Mark (January 2006). "Close up: Yevgeni Khaldei"., Enter #3. World Press Photo. Archived from the original on 26 July 2011. Retrieved 3 June 2011.
  6. ^ Khaldei, Yevgeny (1984). Ot Murmanska do Berlina. Murmansk: Murmanskoye knizhnoye izdatelstvo. (in Russian)
  7. ^ "Legendäre Foto-Manipulation Fahne gefälscht, Uhr versteckt, Wolken erfunden - SPIEGEL ONLINE". Spiegel (in German). 6 May 2008. Archived from the original on 1 October 2009. Retrieved 20 May 2012.
  8. ^ a b "Remembering a Red Flag Day". Time. 23 May 2008. Archived from the original on 28 May 2008. Retrieved 20 May 2012.
  9. ^ "Знамя Победы над Рейхстагом". Сенсационная история фото. The Epoch Times (in Russian). 8 May 2006. Archived from the original on 19 January 2012. Retrieved 20 May 2012.
  10. ^ "An historically important Leica III". Bonham's. Archived from the original on 9 October 2017. Retrieved 18 January 2018.
  11. ^ Nakhimovsky, Alexander; Alice Nakhimovsky (1997). Witness to History : The Photographs of Yevgeny Khaidei. New York: Aperture. ISBN 0-89381-738-4.

Further reading[edit]

  • Volland, Ernst (1994). Krimmer, Heinz (ed.). Von Moskau nach Berlin: Bilder des Fotografen Jewgeni Chaldej (in German). Berlin: Nicolaische Verlagsbuchhandlung. ISBN 3-87584-522-6.
  • Nakhimovsky, Alexander; Alice Nakhimovsky (1997). Witness to History : The Photographs of Yevgeny Khaidei. photographs by Yevgeny Khaldei. New York: Aperture. ISBN 0-89381-738-4.
  • Grosset, Mark (2004). Khaldei: Un photoreporter en Union Soviétique (in French). Paris: Chêne. ISBN 2-84277-548-1.