History is Written (and visualized) by the Victorious
Happy VE-Day! This iconic photo of a soldier raising the Soviet flag above the Reichstag in Berlin personifies the end of WW2 in Europe. I was amused to learn that it was retouched by the Russian magazine Ogoniok. In 1945, its editor-in-chief ordered the removal of what appeared to be a watch from the right arm of the solider supporting the flag-bearer, because he was concerned that readers would conclude that the soldier had been looting (and they were) because he had a wrist watch on both arms. Though, it’s also likely the soldier (an officer) was wearing a wrist compass. There are conspiracy theories that one or both soldier’s faces were also replaced because the “real” soldiers were Ukrainian and not Russian. Such suspicions are not without basis, as Stalin’s regime was notorious for retouching photos to suit its political ends, “erasing” people both literally and figuratively from history.
The Economist posted a very insightful piece on why Russia has been increasingly at odds with “The West” and how Putin (himself a product of the Cold War) has capitalized this these feeling of under appreciation and resentment. Granted this history is shared with Ukraine, Belarus but those countries have a far longer resentment of Stalin’s Russia than Hitler’s Germany. Stalin and the Communist regimes that followed during the Cold War, ‘educated’ the Russian population on how Russia won WW2 with almost no aid from Europe and US. The echo’s of still resonate today and Putin has learned from his predecessors that in order to stay in power, Russians need an outside enemy on which to blame their problems. For 1930’s Germany, that enemy was the Jews and Slavic Bolshivism. Bitter irony or not, let us all hope that for Russia, a similar zeitgeist doesn’t necessarily lead down a similar path. http://econ.st/1JU4Ozo
MEMORY IN THE MIND’S EYE
70 years is a long time. There are precious few who were around in 1945 when the “Greatest Generation” brought Hitler’s Germany down. And even with first-hand accounts from an eye-witness, it’s impossible to truly appreciate what happened. Prosperity and progress have changed the landscape of Berlin and cities throughout Europe. Its hard to visualize the devastation wrought by war amidst the glass skyscrapers and iPhone wielding tourists. Here is also a great photo essay by Martin Milinski showing the 1945 victory photos superimposed over modern day Berlin. http://martinmilinski.com/tag/reichstag/