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Evgeny Khaldei: WWII photographer
Evgeny Khaldei: WWII photographer

Evgeny Khaldei went through the entire war - from Murmansk to Berlin. Using a Leica III camera, he chronicled violent battles and brief episodes of peaceful life.

The first snapshot of the first day of the war

On June 22, 1941, at 12.15 pm, the People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs Vyacheslav Molotov made a radio address to the Muscovites. He announced that "at 4 o'clock in the morning, without making any claims to the Soviet Union, without declaring war, German troops attacked our country."

Residents of Moscow listened to the message through loudspeakers installed in the streets and squares of the city. Photographer Yevgeny Khaldei, at that time an employee of the TASS Photochronicle agency, captured the historical moment in the photograph, which became the most important document of the Great Patriotic War.


People stand on the street on October 25 (now Nikolskaya), on their faces - confusion and fear of the inevitable. Khaldei recalled this day: “Literally two or three minutes after the start of the performance, I saw people gathered in front of the loudspeaker. I jumped out of the building and took this picture - the first picture of the first day of the war … Molotov finished his speech, but the people did not disperse. They stood, were silent, thought. I tried to ask what. No one answered. What was I thinking? That there will be the last snapshot of the war, victorious. But, as far as I remember, I didn’t think about whether I’ll manage to do it.”

In the foreground of the photograph are the Muscovites Anna Trushkina, who worked as a chauffeur at the front in wartime, and the future anti-aircraft gunner Oleg Bobryaev. In the 1980s, Chaldeus managed to find them and photograph them again in the same place.

Reindeer on the Northern Front

At the end of June 1941, Yevgeny Khaldei was transferred to military photojournalists. He was sent to the Arctic, attributed to the Northern Fleet.

A photograph of a reindeer grazing by the trenches was taken in Murmansk. During the bombardment, Yasha (as the deer was later called) received a shell shock and went out to the soldiers, fearing to be alone. To enhance the dramatic effect of the image, Khaldei retouched the original shot using a multiple exposure technique that allows multiple frames to be combined in one photo, resulting in an exploding bomb and British Hawker Hurricane fighters flying in the sky.


Yasha lived with Soviet soldiers for another three years - on the Northern Front, deer served as the only horse-drawn transport: they carried the wounded, delivered provisions, weapons, bombs. After the end of hostilities in the Arctic, Yasha was taken to the tundra.

The bombing of Murmansk

In June 1942, after the Soviet troops repulsed the enemy offensive on Murmansk, the city underwent a fierce bombardment - tens of thousands of incendiary and high-explosive bombs were dropped. Wooden Murmansk burned down almost to the ground, only a stockade of chimneys remained from the city. After another bombing, Yevgeny Khaldei met an elderly woman on the street with a single suitcase on her back - the little that remained of her hearth.

He took several photographs, after which the woman stopped and reproachfully said: “Why are you, son, photographing my grief, our misfortune? If only I could take a picture of how our people are bombing Germany! " Khaldei replied that if he reached Berlin, he would certainly fulfill her request.


Three terrible years later, he fulfilled his promise and captured the Reichstag defeated by the Soviet army.


Crimean period

In January 1943, Yevgeny Khaldei was transferred from the Barents Sea to the Black Sea. He filmed battles in Novorossiysk, Feodosia, Simferopol, Bakhchisarai and Sevastopol, and was even awarded the Order of the Red Star for his participation in the liberation of Kerch.In one of the most famous photographs of the "Crimean period", the photographer captured the removal of the swastika by Soviet soldiers from the Kerch plant named after Voikov, which became the scene of fierce battles during the Nazi offensive in 1942.

Chaldey's first trip to Kerch as a military photojournalist took place back in 1941. At the same time, he created a series of photographs in the Bagerovsky anti-tank ditch - the place of the brutal execution of several thousand civilians.

Jubilant Bulgaria

In August 1944, the Red Army's liberation mission in Europe began. Together with the Soviet troops, Yevgeny Khaldei passed through Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Austria and, finally, Germany, taking hundreds of pictures of the battles and victories of the Soviet army. The photograph titled "Jubilant Bulgaria" was taken in the fall of 1944 in the town of Lovech, whose inhabitants were celebrating their liberation from the German invaders.


“Here our 'Studebaker' crowd of thousands of residents lifted and carried them in their arms,” Khaldei wrote. In the center of the picture is a Bulgarian partisan, and in the post-war period - the director of the poultry farm Kocha Karadzhov.

Khaldei tried to write down the names of those whom he photographed, therefore, thirty years after the photograph was taken, he was able to find Karadzhov and, as in the case of the heroes of his first military photograph, photographed him in the same place as in 1944.


Liberation of Budapest

On February 13, 1945, after 108 days of bloody fighting, Soviet troops liberated Budapest. During the filming in the ghetto quarters, Yevgeny Khaldei noticed a Jewish married couple walking down the street - he was amazed that their clothes were still sewn with the six-pointed yellow stars of David - a distinctive sign that Jews were supposed to wear on the orders of the Nazis.

The inhabitants of the ghetto did not dare to remove them even after the liberation of the city. Khaldei approached the couple to take a photograph, but they got scared, mistaking him for an SS man, since he was wearing a black leather coat. When Khaldei explained "in German-Jewish" that he was a Soviet soldier, the woman burst into tears and fell on his chest with words of gratitude for his release.


The photographer said that, having taken a picture, he tore off the stripes with stars from his coat. Khaldei also came from a Jewish family - during the war, the Nazis shot his father and sisters, and their bodies were thrown into the mine. In the USSR, for ideological reasons, a photograph of a Jewish couple was not published and was not presented at exhibitions.

Victory symbol

On May 2, 1945, Yevgeny Khaldei took a picture that became a symbol of Victory and a classic of world photography. The textbook frame was not reportage - the first Victory Banner on the roof of the Nazi parliament building was installed during the Berlin operation on April 30, 1945. At this time, Khaldei was in Moscow, where he flew from liberated Vienna to submit the footage to the editor. On instructions from TASS, he was immediately sent to Berlin. According to the photographer's plan, the point in his military chronicle was to be a photograph of the red banner over the defeated Reichstag.

He brought with him to Germany three red flags, which his friend, Moscow tailor Israel Kishitser, sewed in one night from tablecloths borrowed from the "Photochronicle" warehouse. Khaldei carved the star, sickle and hammer out of the sheet with his own hand. The heroes of the series of pictures "The Banner of Victory over the Reichstag" are Red Army soldiers Leonid Gorichev, Alexei Kovalev and Abdulhakim Ismailov. In the photo, Kovalev is hoisting a banner, and Ismailov is holding his legs so that he does not fall off the burning dilapidated roof.


On the same day, Khaldei returned to Moscow. Considering the negatives received, the editor-in-chief of TASS noticed that Ismailov had two pairs of watches in his hands - this detail could serve as a basis for accusing Soviet soldiers of looting. Then Chaldeus had to scratch out the watch on the fighter's right hand with a needle. Dark plumes of smoke were also added to the retouched image.For a long time, this particular version of the photograph was published in print media.

On the streets of Berlin

In May 1945, Yevgeny Khaldei moved to the center of Berlin along with soldiers of the 8th Guards Army of General Vasily Chuikov, who played a key role in the Berlin offensive. On one of the streets, the photographer witnessed the scene that he captured in the picture.


Khaldei recalled: “Our tanks were continuously moving along one of the streets. Suddenly, several women jumped out of the underground - a refuge. One of them, barefoot, was holding her shoes, the other was holding her “value,” the skin of a red fox. Looking at the tanks, they asked: “What kind of tanks are these? Whose?" I answered: "Soviet tanks, Russians!" “It can't be! - said one. - For several days we sat in the shelter and listened to Goebbels on the radio. He said the Russians would never enter Berlin."

First Victory Parade

On June 24, 1945, the first Victory Parade took place in Moscow. The troops were commanded by Marshal Konstantin Rokossovsky. The parade was hosted by the Deputy Supreme Commander-in-Chief, Marshal Georgy Zhukov. At 10 o'clock in the morning Zhukov rode out on a horse named Kumir from the Spassky Gate to Red Square.


Evgeny Khaldei later recalled: “I took the first picture - the commander was riding along the soldiers with the defeated Nazi banners; I did the second - and I feel: I can't shoot anymore, I'm very worried, I need to collect my thoughts. I remembered the war, I remembered everything that I saw in the war, I remembered those whom I will no longer see …”.

In the next shot, he caught the moment when the horse's four legs simultaneously lifted off the ground and floated in the air. Seeing the photo, Zhukov personally asked Khaldei to take an enlarged photo for his office.

Nuremberg trials

On November 20, 1945, the Nuremberg trials began, during which the former leaders of Nazi Germany were tried. Yevgeny Khaldei attended the meetings as a photo reporter from TASS Photo Chronicle. “I took the first pictures at the end of the break in the court session, when the commandant of the court loudly ordered:“Get up! The trial is coming! " - said the photographer. "The criminals stood up: Goering, Hess, Ribbentrop, Keitel … They commanded an entire people, Europe, - now they got up twice a day at the command of the commandant."

Khaldey wanted to photograph the "successor of the Fuehrer" Hermann Goering on the podium from an unusual angle, but reporters were forbidden to move around the hall. The photographer was able to agree with the secretary of the Soviet judge that after the lunch break he would take his place for several hours in exchange for two bottles of whiskey. Putting the camera on the floor, at the right moment Khaldey quietly pressed the shutter. The resulting image has spread all over the world and has been printed in numerous newspapers and magazines.


Evgeny Khaldei. Hermann Goering on the podium. Nuremberg Trials. Germany, Nuremberg, 1946. Source: Collection of the Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow. Russian Information Agency "TASS"

During the trial, several photographs of Chaldeus taken during the war were used as documentary evidence of the crimes of the fascists against humanity. Goering, along with other war criminals, was sentenced to death. Without waiting for the execution of the sentence, he committed suicide.

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