Iconic Photos

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Stalingrad | Emmanuil Evzerikhin

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Emmanuel Evzerikhin stalingrad 1942

The Battle of Stalingrad was one of the bloodiest battles in history. For six months in 1942/43, Nazi Germany waged a total war on the city; over 1,000 tonnes of explosives were dropped on the city in the initial assaults alone, reducing Stalingrad’s city centre into rubble. These scenes of devastation were covered by Emmanuil Evzerikhin, among whose most memorable photos was that of Barmaley Fountain, a miraculously intact statue of children playing in front of a destroyed city square.

Evzerkhin was a Soviet Jew who had already been disgraced once, for a surreal Soviet offense.  In 1939, he was purged for staging a photo: while photographing factory workers, he wrote down that he took photos at 1 p.m. However, the time on the clocks suggested 7 a.m. By “staging” the clocks, Evzerikhin was guilty of subverting the system: the purpose of his assignment was to prove that all workers were already at their places at 7 a.m. When the war with Germany began, he was rehired as a war photographer. His poignant photos from Stalingrad — such as a musician saving his instrument (below) and a girl sheltering in bombed ruins — were widely printed in the press; he received an Order of the Red Star and “For the Defense of Stalingrad” medal.

After Stalingrad, Evzerikhin went on to document Ukrainian and Belorussian fronts. He saw the liberations of Minsk, Warsaw, Konigsberg, and Prague. On his return to Russia, however, he found opportunities fast evaporating. He was after all, a Jew; soon afterwards, he demoted again in anti-Semitic purges . 

Russians viewed and remembered the Second World War differently, not in sallow faces of Holocaust survivors or the horrors of concentration camps freed, but in sieges endured, and fathers, husbands, and sons lost. Victories at battles of Moscow and Stalingrad were refashioned as truly ‘Russian’ victories, as opposed to Soviet victories. Soviet Russia did not suffer total occupation, as had the Baltics, Belarus, or Ukraine, nor was it much marked by the Holocaust compared to Ukraine or Belarus. This distance from the horrors of the Holocaust was to deny Russia certain lessons; when the war ended, Stalinist antisemitic pogroms were just around the corner.

Soon after the war, Stalin cancelled a Soviet documentary on the Holocaust, which highlighted that the “victims of fascism” were primarily Jewish. By 1953, the Soviet leadership was drafting Jewish denunciations which lifted phrases straight from Nazi propaganda. A fitting epigraph was penned by Vasily Grossman, a Jewish writer soon to be denounced; in sequel to his monumental novel of the Battle of Stalingrad, For a Just Cause, he had a Gestapo officer quip, “Today you’re appalled by our hatred of the Jews. Tomorrow you may make use of our experience yourselves.”


Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

December 20, 2013 at 2:56 am

8 Responses

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  1. Outside of the liberation of the camps, this is one of the more heartbreaking images from out of WWII. How tragic to read about the photographer’s experiences


    December 20, 2013 at 3:01 am

  2. This stops me in my tracks and gives me reason to respect the atrocities of the past.


    December 20, 2013 at 3:56 am

    • “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” — George Santayana


      December 20, 2013 at 4:11 am

      • For the past 65 years simular bloody wars have been been unleashed on people all across the planet. THE CAPITALIST SYSTEM WILL NEVER DO BETTER THAN THIS!!!

        Dave Blalock

        December 20, 2013 at 8:33 am

  3. ‘Liberation of Königsberg’ – what did I just read. ಠ_ಠ (Other than that, though – a great post on great photos, thanks!)

    Piotr Szotkowski

    December 20, 2013 at 12:28 pm

  4. Buenas me ha gustado con tu post no te conocía pero a partir de ahora.
    Mi más sincera felicitación tienes un blog fantástico Gracias por compartir con todos.


    September 1, 2014 at 8:45 am

  5. The man carrying the bass viol is also seen in a film clip in the movie “Battle of the Volga.” The location appears to be by the north side of Gogolya Ulitsa, near the intersection with Kommunisticheskaia Ulitsa. The water tower by the main railyard shows up low in the background as the camera pans left.

    Mark Prange

    April 16, 2015 at 8:21 pm

  6. I have been corrected! The scene of the man carrying the bass viol was on Oktyabrskaya Ulitsa! The white cylindrical structure in the distance was a boiler near a children’s theater.

    Mark Prange

    April 21, 2015 at 11:54 pm

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