Three Flags of Khaldei
Yesterday I posted about Khaldei and three tableclothes-cum-flags he took from Moscow to Berlin. Here’s how they went up in Berlin:
The first flag was raised next to the Nazi Eagle at the Templehof Airport. The Eagle was dismantled at the end of the war and taken to West Point in 1960. It was quietly returned to Templehof in 1985, and has since been serving as the Berlin Airlift memorial on the airport grounds.
The second flag was hoisted next to the destroyed Quadriga on the Brandenburg Gate. The series of photos above suggest that there was some confusion as to which side of the Quadriga should the flag go. In the third picture, we see the flag already flying (on northside), and Khaldei himself poses before the Quadriga. The gate, which was badly damaged, but miraculously still standing by the end of the war, was restored by the governments of two Berlins — although at the Communists’ insistence, stood without Iron Cross and Prussian Eagle until 1991.
The raising of the third flag became the iconic image of Nazi Germany’s final defeat. Note two watches on the soldier supporting the flag-bearer. Despite being the primary scene of the Soviet airstrikes and the symbolic flag raising, the Reichstag was a mere symbol. It had remained unused since the Fire of 1933.
The photo here suggests that Meliton Kantaria and Mikhail Yegorov raised that flag. It remains a mystery whether the duo (along with a third man, Alexei Berest) were the first soldiers who raised the original flag 2 days earlier, or whether propaganda was given to them just because they were a Georgian and a Russian respectively, two of Stalin’s favored nationalities. (And as I noted yesterday, Yegorov died in 1946, from drunk-driving).