Red Flag Over the Reichstag
April 12, 2004 12:23 AM   Subscribe

Some very moving Soviet war photography, notably several shots of the famously doctored (not to mention staged) but nonetheless dramatic hoisting of the Red Flag over a burned out Reichstag (a scene which, by the way, recently appeared in a videogame).
posted by rafter (7 comments total)
Here's what Wikipedia has to say:
During the Siege of Berlin in 1945, it became the central target for the Red Army for reasons not entirely clear, since it served no political, military, or strategic purpose at all. In fact, the Nazis had mostly ignored the building.
posted by rafter at 12:24 AM on April 12, 2004

Photofilter, by the bye.
posted by rafter at 12:28 AM on April 12, 2004

I found this photo disturbing. A quick google search turned up some details.
posted by srboisvert at 5:15 AM on April 12, 2004

Nice links - interesting to me at the moment, since I just finished playing the game you mention above, Call of Duty, and in the virtual world, approached, crept into and climbed to the top of the Reichstag. Having walked through the building in the game, somehow I feel that I see more depth in these photos (physically - not emotionally).
posted by kokogiak at 6:31 AM on April 12, 2004

Choice.. nice find, rafter
posted by Pressed Rat at 6:56 AM on April 12, 2004

Great, thanks rafter!
posted by carter at 7:18 AM on April 12, 2004

rafter: Though Hitler's bunker was elsewhere, we surely all recall how the Nazi mythology was built on the Reichstag fire. Additionally, although virulent, genocial racism is the tenet most remembered by Americans, Europeans of the day often saw the war in stark terms of a fight between fascism and bolshevism. It was crucial propaganda to smash the overt symbols of the other ideology.

That said, Wikipedia's account is uninformed in a military history sense. The dynamics of the Soviet campaign passed and encircled Berlin in the drive to meet the Allies at the Elbe river line (which would score a coup by preventing Eisenhower and Montgomery's plans to capture Berlin themselves). The Battle for Berlin proper came as pincer movements from north and south, stomping the defending Panzer divisions, and closing on last-stand defenses in the central city -- the Tiergarten, Potsdam, and Brandenberg neighborhood, which includes the Reichstag by default.

The bridge on the Potsdamerstrasse was seized on the 28th and in the face of fierce opposition from the SS 'Anhalt' Regiment, the attack began on the Tiergarten (Zoo). Maj Gen Perevertkin prepared his 79th Rifle Corps to storm the Reichstag, but first the Soviets would have to overcome some serious obstacles. In front of the Reichstag lay Königsplatz, across which there lay a water-filled antitank ditch and behind this numerous gun pits, artillery emplacements and trenches connected to the Reichstag itself. Additional mortars and artillery pieces were sited in the Tiergarten and the whole area was mined. As with every other building in the area, the Reichstag itself had been heavily fortified with the lower storeys being reinforced with steel rails and concrete and the doors and windows bricked up to provide loopholes. It also had street-level cellar windows, which proved to be natural gun embrasures and the construction site for the abandoned U-Bahn (Underground) tunnel nearby was readily incorporated into the defence system. The area was defended by between 5 and 6,000 German troops of all kinds, including Army regulars, SS, [and] reinforced with large numbers of stragglers and some tanks from the 11th Tank Battalion, the majority of whom were in the Reichstag itself. -- Military History Encyclopedia on the Web

Peripherally, the flag-hoisting became a matter of personal pride for Gen. Shatilov when he sent a false cable to Moscow that the flag had already been raised on the building. Looking at the map one sees how the bend in the river Spree created a natural redoubt (at least had all the bridges been blown), and the parklike expanse before the building a superior no man's land. But the building's defenses alone were superb, and in fact -- astonishingly -- German resistance continued inside the building for more than 36 hours. Thus the Reichstag was, by then, no mere trophy, but a battlefield hard-won with Red Army lives -- possibly in the hundreds.
posted by dhartung at 10:58 PM on April 12, 2004

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