For 1,418 days, Jewish photographer Yevgeny Khaldei documented the harsh scenes of World War II. Khaldei, who was sent on a mission by the Soviet news agency TASS, became famous for the famous photograph of soldiers of the Red Army waving the Soviet flag over the Reichstag building in Berlin with the fall of the Nazis in May 1945.
Khaldei’s photos are being republished after his daughter recently won a 15-year legal battle over the copyright of thousands of negatives and printed photographs of her father. He documented survivors of the Budapest ghetto, Russian combat squadrons, and scenes of horror on the Eastern Front.
Professor Moshe Zimmerman of Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s History Department, referred to the Red Army soldiers who were recorded on Khaldei’s camera: “The Soviet Union stunned its great rival by integrating women in the field, which is prominent in two places in the world: the Soviet Union and Israel.
“During the war, women in the Soviet Union had equal rights on the battlefield. The pictures show women in the air force, but they were also in tanks. Something that always comes up in the stories of the German soldiers is when they hit a Soviet tank that caught on fire and some a lady exited instead of the male soldier they were expecting, they didn’t know how to react.”
Khaldei went to the front armed with a camera only after his family was murdered in the invasion of the Soviet Union. He photographed the liberation of Europe from the Nazis and concerned citizens searching for their relatives among those killed in the streets.
During the Nuremberg Trials, Hermann Göring was enraged that a Jewish photographer was photographing him and strived to hide his face.
Three years after the war, Khaldei was fired from the news agency. He then worked for seven years for the state newspaper Pravda, from which he was eventually forced to retire. He died in 1997.
(Translated and edited by J. Herzog)