On 23 April, close to the 65th anniversary of the end of the war the LIFE magazine published a photo series of fifteen pictures on the occupied Berlin, primarily on the bunker of Hitler. The pictures were taken by the renowned photographer William Vandivert – later co-founder of Magnum Photos – who had worked for the magazine since the middle of the 30s. He was the only American photographer who obtained permission from the Soviets to enter the by then already completely sacked bunker where at that time some Soviet military experts were doing investigations.

Move the cursor above the tiles for a small picture or click for a large one.

The captions of a number of the above photos emphasize that they have never been published. I have not checked this, but even if it is so, almost all of them can be found in the public picture archive of LIFE as well. The ones I have found there at the first survey I have included as larger images to be displayed by clicking on the mosaic tiles. But of course the archive contains several photos on the bunker that were not selected for the above set.

The allegedly unpublished photos also include the thirteenth picture of the series which represents the interior of the ruined Reichstag, densely decorated with the names of the winners. Vandivert accurately went around this theme. The inscriptions are mostly of Russian soldiers, but the only one caught red-handed by Vandivert happened to be an Englishman.

Detail of the previous photo

The inscriptions remained intact for fifty years in the closed and isolated Reichstag. It was only in the 90s that they were discovered by Karin Felix, a collaborator of the restorations. She prepared a first, complete catalog of the inscriptions and she has made inquiries about the persons and the stories behind the names.

“To the great Stalin who hoisted the flag on the Reichstag: HURRAH! Saransk–Berlin, L. T.
Torhovin.” – For the blood of our fellow countrymen, those from Nikopol,
Moscow, Orlov, Kuban, Tambov, Orehovo-Zuyevo – we have
taken revenge.” – „I came from Stalingrad to Berlin!”

The inscription on the wall of the Reichstag behind Marshall Zhukov says: “Мишин, мы из
– Mishin, we are from Kaluga!” To the right, the portraits of the
radioman Mishin and the “son of the company” Stasik

The first person to be identified in 2001 was Boris Sapunov from Leningrad, today retired senior research fellow of the Hermitage and doctor of historical sciences. Wolfgang Tirse, President of the Bundestag composed a festive document for the occasion and deposited it in the archive of the Bundestag.

Artilleryman Sergei Ivanovich Platov writes his name on a column of the Reichstag.
Photo by Anatoli Morozov, photographer of the journal Фронтовая
(Pictures from the front), 10 May 1945, from here

Egor Usachev writes his name

Ivan Minovich Tryl writes his name on the top of a living column, from here

“We have defended Odessa and Lenigrad, we have come to Berlin”, from here

Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Mironinko in front of the Reichstag and his signature somewhere at the bottom, a little bit to the right. Two blog posts on this.

Volodya Tarnovski, “son of the company” writing his name on the walls of the Reichstag, and with his companions. from here

The citizens of the Soviet Union, however, never forgot the glory of having reached, in a war that at the beginning almost appeared lost, to the heart of the enemy empire and to have written their names right there in the interieur of the “local Kreml”. Wartime memoires also remember this, such as Ivan Frolovich Klochko’s Мы штурмовали рейхстаг – We laid siege to the Reichstag” published in 1986. This volume even includes a poem written on the way home by artilleryman K. N. Andreev which has become the official song of the company.

Бой затихал. Смолкала канонада.
В Тиргартене еще свинец хлестал,
А на стене разбитого рейхстага
Солдат штыком автограф написал.
С годами надпись на стене поблекла,
Оставленная мной в чужом краю.
Но тех солдат, что были вместе в пекле,
Я сердцем чувствую и всюду узнаю.
И как бы ни был путь солдата, труден,
В каком бы ни был дальнем он краю,
На стройке мирных напряженных буден —
Он созидатель. Он всегда в строю!..
The war is over. The gutfire has stopped.
In the Tiergarten the lead is still whipping,
but the soldier with a bayonet has written
his name on the wall of the collapsed Reichstag.
During the years the inscription fades out
which I have left in a foreign country,
but I always keep in my mind and heart
the comrades that were with me in the inferno.
And however difficult the soldier’s way was,
however far away he was from his home,
of the coming, peaceful workdays
he’ll be a builder. He serves forever!…

Soldiers of the 88th Artillery Division in front of the Reichstag, from here

Day of Victory post card, with a “We will reach Berlin” poster as well as a “We have reached
Berlin!” and “Glory to the victorious people” graffiti imitation in the background.

In spite of the expectations of the artilleryman-poet, however, the inscriptions have not faded out. During the restoration of the Reichstag they were conserved in situ.

7 comentarios:

Araz dijo...

Recent posts related to World War II brought back many memories. This one reminds me a scene from a good old movie by Georgian soviet director Rezo Chkheidze called Father of a Soldier (1964) about a father going to front to see his son, but missing him and meeting after many years in Berlin. A must see classic.

Araz dijo...

This probably is the best scene in the Father of a Soldier.

Studiolum dijo...

A really touching scene.

In my childhood this film was on show in the Hungarian movies, but I did not see it at that time. Now I will.

Megkoronáz A.J.P. dijo...

It's a minor point, considering, but Hitler had absolutely no feeling for interior decoration. If I were interested in how history would judge me, I would have not shot myself on that crumby uncomfortable-looking sofa.

Julia dijo...

Después de tantos días, termino hoy de leer en profundidad este magnífico y detallado post. Diego me hace notar la calidad en los detalles de las fotos que sólo se conseguía con esas viejas cámaras. Nada las ha podido igualar todavía.
Tengo una duda: ¿Con qué material se escribieron los graffiti? La tiza no puede durar tanto...
Vi las escenas recomendadas por Araz, muy conmovedoras aunque no entienda el idioma. ¿En la primera escena, qué descubre el padre en escrito en ese puente? ¿El nombre del hijo o algo semejante?
Me hizo gracia haber pensado algo parecido a lo que dice AJP. Estoy segura de que nuestro amigo inglés tampoco se dejaría ese ridículo bigotito ni usaría peinado tan terrible como Hitler. Eso fue una gran ayuda a los caricaturistas, sin duda. En eso sí que pensó en la posteridad.

Studiolum dijo...

Yes, the inscription on the bridge in the film was left by the son of the Georgian father-soldier: Здесь первыми прошли танки старшего лейтенанта Махарашвили. – The tanks of Lieutenant Makharashvili were the first to arrive here.

I guess that chalk can keep so long in a closed and undisturbed space such as the Reichstag was for fifty years. I have seen it several times in the interior of church towers and other rarely visited spaces when doing art historical topography in the countryside.

A propos topography and cameras: on these occasions we always took photos, intended for long-term documentation, with large-film (9×9 cm) Hasselblad cameras, the type that Diego refers to. The result was in fact comparable in the richness of details to the above pictures.

@ Megkoronáz: You’re absolutely right. The badly composed interior design of the last apartment of the dictator of Europe is already disappointing in itself and seriously questions the cost and value ratio of dictatorship, but the bad choice of the meuble de décès is a clear evidence of bad taste as well as of the lack of concern with historical posterity, especially if compared to so majestically chosen last seats like that of Seneca, Marat or the Rosenberg couple.

Studiolum dijo...

A bekötötte a posztnak ezt az angol nyelvű változatát, és sokan jöttek is át onnan. Magyar olvasók is felfedezték, akik azonban nem vették észre sem az oldalsávban, sem a poszt legvégén, hogy a bejegyzés eredetileg magyar, s ezért most már egy csomó magyar portálon és tumblr szájton az angol változat van bekötve… has linked this post (thanks a lot!), making it available to lots of visitors. Some Hungarian readers have also discovered it, but paying absolutely no attention to the fact – indicated both at the sidebar and under the post itself – that it had a complete Hungarian version (did they read it at all or they only checked the pictures?) they linked this English version to a large number of Hungarian sites, portals and tumblr pages. Nobody is a prophet in his own homeland.