I see Stalin standing in front of me,
he looks at me as if to say:
“go ahead, take a photo” I pressed and I got this photo which has been published in all the press. People are still holding it up today in communist demonstrations. This is the famous picture of May 2, 1945. It is still being used all over the world. Of course I’m proud of this photo. All the leaders of the country passed in front of my lens But the most complicated,
the most impressive to photograph was Stalin.
Stalin was like a god to the people,
we perceived it like that. When he appeared in front of us, the photographers, we were shaking. I photographed all the other leaders too. After Stalin, it was Krushchev, Brezhnev,
Andropov, Chernenko, Mikhail Gorbachev and finally Yeltsin. I don’t know who the next leader will be.. nor even if I will still be here to take his photo. I am 80 years old.
I was born on March 10, 1917 in the Donbass, in a mining town: Jouzovka. The year 1917 was quite eventful.
It was the revolution in Petrograd and in Moscow, but there, in Ukraine,
there were still Jewish pogroms. And my family were victims. On March 13 1918, I was just a year old,
the Black Hundreds broke down the door. they started shooting and stabbing they killed my mother, my grandfather,
and two friends of my mother who had come to have tea.
They even killed our maid… A tragedy. My mother held me in her arms.
A bullet went through and came out and was lodged here in my chest. We extracted it from below a rib, I still have the scar. This is how my childhood started. I keep this for memory – it’s my parents. here is my father after his remarriage, a sister… another sister yet another sister. Their fate …? They died during the last war. We threw them alive down a mine shaft when the Nazis occupied Donetsk. It’s painful to bring up those memories, you know. A short break? My grandmother, my babushka,
always asked me to play on the violin “The tears of Israel”
An air from the Jewish repertoire. If I played for a long time
she would give me 5 kopecks to buy ice cream. I still remember this melody. In the 1930s there was famine in Ukraine. I had to go to work in the factory.
I was just a 13 year old kid. I worked in a locomotive depot.
I was cleaning the soot. I received the same ration as the other workers .. 800 grams of bread per day.
such was my childhood. I was also growing more and more exited by magazines of that time, like “Ogonjok”. I liked very much, when there was an event in the world ..
In America, Moscow, or Berlin they let a photographer be there to capture it. Like me at Jouzovka, even after all these years I can still enjoy this work. all this stimulated me, you see .. Its what got me started.
And I fell in love with photography. At the time, a camera was an inaccessible object. It was not like today, where we find plenty of equipment. I had to build my own device
out of a cardboard box and one side of my grandmother’s glasses as a lens. I managed to photograph my first objects. Here it is, it’s interesting. I was developing under my bed
on my stomach, under a blanket. I lit a candle a in a small red lantern. I folded the cover and, there it was, it had developed. the passion was so strong
that by photographing this church for the first time and seeing
the photo, I felt pretty amazed at noting that this church,
located 2 km from here, was now right here on my plate…
There it is. But there was a new revolution The monuments were demolished Jouzovka cathedral was a beautiful church, and look what has become of it.
We blew it up. I perfected my craft and I started getting published in various journals. When I was 36 years old
I was hired by the Tass agency in Moscow The radio speakers are spread out on
the rooftops. People gathered to listen.. That was the photo service of the Tass agency … It is with this photo that the war began. That is why it too made history. Its title: “The first day of the war.” We see the street, Moscow, the Kremlin, the emotional faces of people, I took this picture. Addressing the people, Stalin spoke: With frankness and sincerit he declared that this war was a matter of life and death for the Soviet state. “comrades, citizens, brothers and sisters, soldiers and sailors, It is to you that I speak! My friends, a deceitful armed
aggression by Hitlerian Germany against our homeland began on June 22 and continues. Despite the heroic resistance
of the Red Army, a mortal danger threatens our homeland. ” This photo also has its history.
It’s a reconnaissance detachment, heading to Murmansk, on the right flank of the patriotic battle. These scouts patrol at night. There are seven here. By dawn there were only four left, the other three Are dead. All that remains of them
is this photo. We had bombers…
They put me in the hold, they tied me in place of the bomb,
and closed the hatch and we took off. Somewhere in Bulgaria,
we land on a runway covered in mud .. and when the plane landed – I was in the hold – Wham! – I was riddled with rubble,
with such strong splashes of mud that my cheeks were lacerated. The Germans began to bomb Murmansk. On that day, they dropped 350,000 incendiary bombs. The city, built of wood, was completely burned. Just imagine, there were only chimneys. They were the only thing that remained standing in Murmansk. And then suddenly,I saw this woman walking
with a wooden suitcase. I was there with my camera.
I take the photo. She stops and says to me: “Aren’t you ashamed to photograph our woes?” Embarrassed by the question, I answer: “grandmother, what else can I do?” “I would rather you photograph our aviators
bombing Berlin!” A woman so simple,
who suggested such an idea to me! I made her a promise: “Grandma, if I get to Berlin I will do what you asked me, I promise you.” And I was lucky. When I got to Berlin, I saw a little old woman walking through the ruins.. and I remembered my promise. These two old men were seated.
A blind man with his armband, and the other, his guide … they looked so sad. I approached them and took this photo. The guide smiled at me and the blind man asked him: “What’s going on?” “We are photographed.”
“to do what ?” “I don’t know, ask him” He calls out to me: ‘Why the picture?” I answer: “For history” And he said to me: “And war is for what,
we have nothing left, no family, no house, no wife, no children..” I then ask him: “Where are you going? Where are you from?” He replies: “We don’t know anything about it ourselves, neither where we came from, nor where we are going.” It was in Budapest in January. We freed up a few neighborhoods.
And it was the old Budapest ghetto. the former ghetto there lived the Jews gathered
I saw atrocities there the synagogue full of corpses, all with their stars, huddled together,
where they had been left. This photo … I saw a man walking
with his wife, They both wore the star. I understood right away
that they were husband and wife. It hit me. The city was already liberated.
but they continued to wear the star. I approach them, but I was wearing a black leather coat and they
looked terrified.. they took me for an SS man!
I approach and I say to them: “Machen zie” short,
in rough Yiddish, I say “Wait ..”
I approached them. I snatched the star from the man and
then from the woman. They were afraid.
I tell them “no, no I’m a soft Jew too.. Sholom Aleichem” As soon as I said “Shalom Aleichem” the woman burst into tears
and threw herself into my arms: “oh, we were terrified, terrified” Puls she said “It was unbearable
to wear it, all the time, this brand,
this star of David ” This photo, you know, has been denied everywhere for 50 years.
In Russia, no exhibition has accepted it. I sought to present it. No !
Finally, when we celebrated 50 years of the victory, it was published abroad, but not with us.
Until now. We don’t want to publish it. It’s alas like that. Now I’m going to tell you about this famous photo
which symbolizes the end of the war and which went around the world Obviously, to do it, I needed a flag Returning to Moscow, boasting of Vienna, my chief said to me “Return to Berlin immediately”
I’ll go right away to the Tass agency depot. There was my friend, Gricha Lioubinsky,
a nice little jew. I tell him: “Gricha, didn’t you have red tablecloths somewhere?”
“Yes why ?” “Usually you put a red tablecloth
when there were Party or Union meetings.”
“Come and see.” I took a look and saw all these red fabrics ..
I said, “Gricha, you lend them to me for a moment.” “Why ?”
“I’ll give them back to you in two days.” just two days
I ship everything, I go home, I call my tailor Israel Solomonovich, and I say to him:
“Israel, tomorrow morning I fly away for Berlin, you have to sew flags. ”
So we measured and cut three flags. The sickle and hammer are also made of fabric,
not just painted in white. I had drawn and cut them. We had been sewing all night.. I followed the troops,
I discovered the remains of an unknown city, in ashes, the ruins still smouldering. The fires, the soldiers,
tanks, cannons … How do I find my way around? I ask the soldiers where they are going. – “To the Reichstag, to the Brandenbourg Gate!”
they answer me The main places of the city.
Troops flocked from all fronts, of all the armies, of the 5th shock army, the 8th Guards
Everyone was walking toward the center direction.
the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag I broke into the Reichstag when it was still dark,
early in the morning at 7 AM on May 2nd.
Everywhere smoke, soot, Gunshots I take out the flag,
the last one I have left. Three soldiers approach me:
“Lieutenant, we’re going to the roof.” I ask him: ”
“Do you know the way?” “Yes. We’re going.”
And on all fours, we crawled and climbed on crushed stones, pebbles.
in short, we arrive at the top, and in front of us, the Reichstag dome But under the dome,
there is a huge fire Impossible to climb that .. “how are we going to put it on?”, I ask.
the fire burned itself out. We find a stick for the flagpole,
we put the flag on and I put myself up to look for the right framing
I have a whole sequence of photos. The soldier stands there, I say:
No, we’re not going to Berlin. “Can you climb higher?” “If the other one holds my legs, okay, otherwise I risk falling.”
I said to him “Go ahead. Do you have it?”
“I have it.” He climbed up there
and immediately I saw the composition. “It’s decided! I’ll do it from here!”
The other holds me by the legs I machine-gun the camera..
I emptied a whole roll to make this photo. There was a story about this photo, of course.
That same night, I returned to Moscow. Editor-in-chief of Tass,
Paigounov, was to sign for the photo. I enter the cabinet,
he shows me the photo in reduced format and ask me, “What is it?”
“The flag .. On the Reichstag …” “Did you not see that the soldier wears a watch on each wrist,
one on the left and the other on the right? ” “No, I only saw the flag on the Reichstag in Berlin..”
“No, it’s wrong, he’s a plunderer. A real Soviet soldier doesn’t plunder,
“Okay, if you have to, I will erase it.” I had to submit it.
I went to the editorial office, I took a needle, I scratched off the watch on the right wrist. What a story !
This photo has been around the world As they say, America is rich and so are its newspapers.
A girl called me: “Are you there? I arrive with an envelope from Time ”
200 dollars for this little ball of nothing at all .. ..for this little shit.
Photo ! Pardon my french! It’s untranslatable into French, right? Excuse me, it escaped me ..
I will lend you my scissors to cut that part out. Ah, here it is, this comes from Time. So you don’t think I’m lying.
I’m spending this on sausages. We’ll spend it all on sausages. It was like that on Red Square. She was not tall enough
To welcome everyone, our beloved Red Square.. On a gray morning on June 24, 1945,
the Victory Parade took place. Here was the orchestra. 800 people!
He started playing “May God be praised ..” the march of Glinka, the composer. The Portal opened and Zhukov appeared. I was thrilled. At the front, during the war
I had never been afraid, I did not tremble. And suddenly.. Zhukov on his white horse. THE Zhukov!
And here there were soldiers. I photographed it for the first time, then it went around
along the GUM. I ran another
ten meters and near this grid
I took this photo, which has gone down in history. Zhukov himself appreciated it very much.
Its interest is that none of the hooves touch the ground.
I took the photo. Then I felt paralyzed, the apparatus hung
on my neck I couldn’t move my little finger.
“We don’t film here.” “Really? What? What’s the matter?”
“do not film.” What? It’s me, it’s me who they are filming. “Do they have an authorization?”
There is an authorization. It was I who photographed here 50 years ago! do you know who he is? he’s a hero! Wait, they film me with my photos made here 50 years ago, you understand?
here are the troops, here is Zhukov, it was called ‘The Victory Parade’ and now
it’s my turn to be filmed. What was that about? this is still our place .. We knew there was going to be a big conference in Berlin,
we did not know very well where, in Potsdam or elsewhere. Suddenly a car stops, a commander gets out and says:
“Hey! The correspondents, is there a certain Khaldei among you?” “A telegram for you.” – “Where from?”
“From Moscow, from the Tass agency: you are accredited to the Conference
you are accredited to the Conference from Potsdam as a photographer
Please contract the staff of Marshal Zhukov. ” They all rush towards me and then ask the commander:
“Why Khaldei? I represent Pravda! And me, The Red Star! ..
And why not me? .. ” “I don’t know, they gave it to the staff of Marshal Zhukov,
it is an official telegram. I have to pass it on to him. ” Before Mr. Churchill left the Conference, the three chiefs
of state lend themselves to the photographers and provided an opportunity for a cameraman
and a photojournalist to film them on on the Palace terrace. We only had 3 minutes to shoot.
climb on a chair, Stalin arrives
and puts away his papers he lowers his head
and looks at what’s on the table. Two minutes pass,
I only have one left. What to do ?
Suddenly Molotov asked Stalin a question. Stalin raised up
and gives him a look .. Clack! it’s in the box !
The photo is yellow. Judge for yourself. Stalin is the winner here. I was then appointed as Soviet representative
to cover the Nuremberg trial. The great trial of Nazi war criminals accused of crimes against humanity.
Gentlemen, the court. October 1, 1946. Goering was criminal No 1
and I absolutely had to photograph him. This is how I did it. Here in this place
A soviet officer was sitting with a secretary of Judge Nikitchenko
I approach him and say: “Vassia, grant me a favor I have to photograph Goering on the platform
If you can linger after lunch, I’ll discreetly take your place
and pretend I am the secretary.” He says .. “OK, what are you giving me in exchange?”
Two bottles of whiskey tonight. ” “Okay. During lunch, I take his place,
and I quietly hide the camera on the ground so that the American guards do not see
Goering enters, sits down in the gallery The soldiers are at attention
with their baton. And gently I press the button. And gently I press the button.
Here is the result. A remarkable photo A remarkable photo that has been published
in many newspapers around the world. Americans especially loved the powerful image
of American soldiers with their batons Nobody made such a photo
neither the Americans nor the French yet they had many photographers there.
No, no one had this idea of doing it like me thanks to 2 bottles of whiskey. did I throw away one where Goering is eating …
Goering saw me and thought it was dishonorable that a Soviet photographed him
eating out of a bowl. Here is Goering’s lunch When we were leaving Nuremberg,
I got photographed with Goering to keep as a memory.
Goering, seeing that I wanted to be photographed with him,
did not want to be used as a keepsake. He took revenge by hiding his face in his hands. 50 years ago, I walked faster. They want to show that I’m dragging myself .. This way.. It was here. 50 years have passed but I see it again
as if it were yesterday I arrived, I installed my tripod here,
to see the tribune. Okay, this is where I’m going to take the photo. I didn’t have a Leica,
no, I had a big American “Speed Grafic” camera With a 400mm telephoto lens.
Presented to me in Berlin by Robert Cappa
At first sight, it had to go. Stalin appeared, Molotov, all the leaders of the Party.
On that day there were guests in the gallery, Czech friends, Novotny and a few others
I knew that a boy and a girl had to offer flowers to Stalin
and to Molotov. So, I was ready. Suddenly, I hear. The applause of the athletes, shouts ..
“Hoorah! Hoorah!” I turn around..
the children run with their bouquet of flowers. Schoolchildren from Moscow have delegated
these two children to hand over their presents to comrades Stalin and Molotov Comrade Stalin thanks Comrade Youra Volnov for the flowers.
So Stalin takes the boy
and hoists him on the podium. Then it’s Molotov
But I could only take one photo, a plate. It was not like today,
with a Nikon at 15 frames per second. When should I press? I can only press once!
so it canalsoSo Stalin raises the kid who got to him first
the boy closed Stalin and then stood Then the girl arrives at Molotov, Molotov grabs her and
clack, I press the button. I’m starting to feel bad, I tremble, eyes closed,
I close the box .. Is it good? Is it good?
I lean on the parapet. The stadium burst into applause hooray, hooray – everyone shouts and I have only one thought:
“My God, is it successful? This is what is important.” I return to the agency I pull the chassis.
I develop. Stalin, Molotov.. ..flowers, children, everything is there.
my God! And this photo has been around the world.
And none of my collegues, like Izvestija or Pravda.. had anything successful. “Fighters, soldiers and officers”
– these were the words of Stalin, after the victory – “life will begin for you,
beautiful, wonderful, comfortable, you will be happy to have won the war.”
Me too, I reasoned thus. I didn’t ask for much.
I got married, then my daughter was born in 47,
family life was built little by little, when suddenly .. In 1948, all over the country,
a kind of popular excitement has begun. This and the Jewish question emerged.
Some didn’t like the more the jewish consonance of their name,
we started to chance our name, layoffs have started, especially on the ‘ideological front’
At the agency, all the cameramen, veterans
but who were Jewish, were relieved of their duties,
it was a mass phenomenon, we were all fired, not even “warnings” .. Fired! The remarkable collective of the Jewish theater of Mikhoels,
Mikhoels himself, Zouskine, the Jewish writer Perets-Markich,
the whole committee. anti-fascist Jews were exterminated,
all were exterminated. How could I keep their photos, I had all their photographs, Mikhoels and the others .. Obviously I was afraid to keep these photos .. I had to burn them.. and I broke the glass negatives. Yes, the list of what could not be kept at home is very long. One day in 48, I was summoned.
I was told there was less work, that there was nothing more to do in the photo department and that we were going to reduce the workforce. 5 people will be dismissed. One of which was me. Well, the other four people that were fired were Russian. I was the only Jew. At the time I didn’t even understand that it was because of my origins that I was fired. Apparently a month after the layoffs they rehired the other four but not me. I finally understood that it was written in my passport. The five pointed star. Cain’s seal. Here is that damn passport. This is the ‘jewish passport’ and that’s Cain’s seal. All this tormented me, butt what could I do then? Many of my friends suffered the same fate .. Despite everything, I sent a letter to the Central Committee, a complaint. I am a qualified photographer ..
Nothing .. No answer .. Until recently, the Khaldei case, heard at the Central Committee, was kept secret. The researchers did not have access to it. Today, study and research
on such subjects is just beginning. Here is Khaldei’s letter dated January 1950.
It is addressed to Souslov, the secretary of the Central Committee Having received such a letter,
Souslov ordered his agents to make him a report, and within 2 months, the information was provided to him bringing to his knowledge in particular
..that the special examination carried out by the authorities
of the Ministry of State Security demonstrated that
Khaldei should not be employed in the media and had been dismissed
in accordance with KGB recommendations. Aisni Khaldei received no clear answer
and could not receive any at the time. this answer at the time about why
Why was he fired from Tass without any explanation? Today it is possible to answer this question being a hundred percent: the end of the year 1948 marked the start
of the campaign against cosmopolitanism. They would no longer shake my hand,
they would call me cosmopolitan. he had those who called me a ‘youpin’, a Jew what ..
Can you imagine? But it was like that, there was nothing to do. And I remember very well who it was,
and and how. This time, it was the Jews
who were the enemies of the interior. It happened gradually,
step by step. First, the elimination of Jews from the governing bodies of the Party
and the state. Then we moved on to the industry.
We discarded the most illustrious directors
who had distinguished themselves during the war, but who were also Jewish ..
Then came the turn of science, art, literature. science, art, literature.
Then a new euphemism was invented: cosmopolitanism. We couldn’t dismiss someone because he was Jewish, no, but because he was cosmopolitan, unpatriotic, more attached to world culture
than to Soviet culture.filled something somewhere in something
institutionsandanyway no no no noWhen I filled out questionnaires to apply
a job, it was the same refrain each time: – Khaldei? No, no thanks, we don’t need it.
They fled to me as if I were plague-stricken. Do you know what is ‘Plague’ ? I don’t know how we say in French.
The word “Jewish” began to mean outlaw.in that
Finally, I managed to get hired by Club magazine, a union newspaper, which was pretty good.
Here is my work after Tass. A photo that speaks volumes.
This was my repertoire: dance-chvances, libraries and all the rest..
to tell Sad, these were very sad conditions.
But you had to survive, And I survived.
Today I tell you as a historian: in the end,
we arrived at a massive deportation plan for the Jewish population of
Central Russia to Siberia and in Central Asia.
The concentration camps were ready, the Gulag was ready to welcome Soviet Jews.
Fortunately it didn’t happen, the plan was interrupted by Stalin’s death.
the atrocious measures of the Stalinist genocide against the Jewish population at People can’t hold back their tears anymore
farewell to the one whose name for each is incompatible with the very idea of death. And I too was moved,
because I found myself .. .. How to say, because all my life ..
In 53, how old was I? I was in my thirties …
And I grew up under Stalin, in addition it was not yet clear,
the crimes he had committed … Nobody wanted to know their faults
Everything he had done was considered necessary, It was necessary, yes, it was necessary; so it was very difficult ..
Yes, I was moved like everyone else, but I was still taking pictures .. In 57 I was hired at Pravda.
I crisscrossed the country, I photographed sports, industry,
the artists and composers. I followed life as it was going,
what was happening in the country I participated in the building of communism.
I first built socialism, but it never reached
the stage of communism. I was photographing what was going on in the country, what there was
better, of course. Negative things, I did not photograph them.
No photo of drunkards, queues in front of bakeries. For me it was only a passing episode that would change.
But the ques for red or black caviar, I photographed them.
I photographed them. The new personnel manager has arrived,
a notorious anti-Semite – there are hidden anti-Semites
but told him – and he said, “I won’t be quiet as long as there is only one Jew in the Journal” Can you imagine?
There is nobody left. And then it was my turn.
I’ve been looking for stories … And one fine day I was kicked out.
It is said today that the Jews are responsible for all ills.
Starting with the revolution of 1917, as if it were them
the culprits and not just Lenin. And for everything else
everything that happens We don’t pay wages
to the teachers, it is the fault of the jews the miners are not paid for more than 5 months? its still the jews
This is how it is, ask anyone, they will tell you: say yes yes of courseall tass when“Yes, of course …” Unfortunately, it’s like that. Down with the agents of the world judeo-masonic government Cosmopolites with dual nationality, whores of government! All this was fomented by the Jews it was their goal:
divide our Soviet Union. And now they’re going to break up Russia. There are only Jews in government,
and here is the result! But when we finally wake up,
we will drive them all away in israel and it will immediately be better with us
and all over the world! To your good heart ladies and gentlemen.
Here, I finished with “The tears of Israel” It was the favorite air
from my grandmother When I was little, I played it for her,
and she gave me 5 kpecks to buy ice cream . Yes, it is sad. So very sad.
There is no more grandmother, no more grandfather, no more father
A generation of good people is leaving, mine. A generation full of wise and courageous people,
who were building communism, who were all mad.