Victory Flag over Reichstag, Berlin. Evgenii Anan’evich Khaldei, Berlin, 1945. Gelatin silver print. 17–1/4 x 23–5/8. (Gift of the Union of Journalists of the USSR, through the Embassy of the USSR, 1991.24.5, in the Collection of The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.)

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Khaldei, Evgenii Anan’evich

(1917–1997), Soviet photojournalist. Among a small number of photographers whose images have become iconic representations of key moments in Soviet history, Khaldei remains less well-known than his works. His photograph of Russian soldiers raising the Soviet flag above a burning Reichstag has been reproduced countless times, though for many years his name was not attached to it. His photographs of the Nuremberg Trials, of Churchill, Truman, and Stalin at Potsdam, and of the progress of the war from Murmansk to the south of Russia and throughout Eastern Europe were widely reproduced. Khaldei’s photographs are remarkable for their aching beauty (a cityscape of Nuremberg, destroyed; a lone reindeer against a night sky filled with warplanes) and their appreciation of human endurance. While Khaldei also photographed Jews in Budapest during World War II, Soviet censorship prevented their exhibition until recently.

Khaldei was born in Iuzovka (later Donetsk), Ukraine. As a young man, he was accepted into a professional course in Moscow, where he studied under master photographers Semen Fridliand, Arkadii Shaikhet and Max Alpert, all, like him, talented Jews who took advantage of the mobility afforded by the early Soviet state. His prewar photographs reflect the then-dominant constructivist style both in their formal qualities and in their subjects, primarily factories and heroic laborers.

During World War II Khaldei was a staff photographer for TASS, the government press agency. The loosening of ideological restraints during the war gave Khaldei a great deal of freedom, including the freedom to photograph people in their private moments of suffering or idleness. He also photographed world and military leaders. After the war he photographed the Nuremberg Trials, where he had a public confrontation with Hermann Göring, whom he hated and photographed obsessively.

In 1948, in the midst of the government’s “anticosmopolitism” campaign, aimed largely at Jews in positions of influence, Khaldei lost his job. He never resumed his former stature. While most of his postwar photographs are advertisements for the Soviet way of life, some, like his portraits of the poet Anna Akhmatova and the composer Dmitri Shostakovich, reveal their subjects’ inner lives.

Khaldei’s career may be said to follow a classic Soviet Jewish trajectory, in that it moved forward to the extent that the state embraced the upward mobility of Jews and trusted their loyalty. His own Jewish sympathies remained private. His photographs of Jews in Budapest during the war were not accepted for publication. Fifty years after the war ended, Khaldei had his first European exhibition, in Berlin, and received a medal from the French Ministry of Culture. An exhibition at Colgate University in 1995 was followed by retrospectives at the Jewish Museums of New York and San Francisco, and at New York’s Leica Gallery.

Suggested Reading

Evgenii Khaldei, Ot Murmanska do Berlina, 2nd ed. (Murmansk, 1984); Alexander Nakhimovsky and Alice Nakhimovsky, Witness to History: The Photographs of Yevgeny Khaldei (New York, 1997).