By April 1945 Germany was finished: the final battle would be for Berlin.
Stalin ordered the Red Army to take Berlin by May 1st
That was International Workers Day.
It was, to Russian Communists, what July 4th was to Americans.
The Allies could have taken Berlin first, but they didn’t.
They stopped on the outskirts, they knew the war was over.
They estimated taking Berlin would cost 100,000 dead soldiers.
They knew Stalin wanted Berlin badly, so let him sacrifice that many dead Russians if he thought it was worth it.
And Stalin did.
He ordered General Zhukhov to throw a million men at Berlin.
The Germans fought like madmen.
They had nothing to lose; they knew what would happen when the Russians won.
And it did, only worse.
As the Allies predicted, over 80,000 Russian soldiers died capturing Berlin for Stalin’s May Day.
And around 100,000 German soldiers, by now mainly pensioners, invalids and adolescents.
Also around 125,000 civilians: women and children.
But the numbers didn’t convey the scale of the carnage.
The Red Cross estimated the Red Army raped two million women in the process of taking Germany.
The destruction continued until there was nothing left but rubble.
And Stalin wanted a photograph as proof of the final victory.
Yevgeny Khaledi was the photographer sent to get the shot.
He dyed a tablecloth and sewed a hammer and sickle to one corner.
Then he found two soldiers to raise the ‘flag’ over the Reichstag.
They climbed onto the shattered roof and Khaledi took the photo.
He sent it to Moscow, but Moscow had a problem, they couldn’t show it to Stalin.
Khaledi wondered what he’d missed: was it something in the background – bodies, rape, torture?
One of the soldiers was wearing two watches, one on each wrist.
This showed Red Army soldiers had been looting.
It portrayed their glorious, victorious army in a bad light.
Khaledi had to hurriedly take a needle and scratch off one of the soldier’s watches before Stalin saw it.
So the Red Army would be seen in an honourable and noble light.
What Yevgeny Khaledi did to his picture was propaganda.
That’s what we do.
Here are two dictionary definitions.
One is for ‘propaganda’ one is for ‘advertising’, see if you can tell which is which.
Definition 1: “The spreading of ideas or information for the purpose of helping an institution, a cause, or a person”
Definition 2: “The action of calling something to the attention of the public in order to persuade them of something.”
Hard to tell them apart isn’t it?
You see propaganda/advertising can be used for good or bad.
It is not, in itself, either beneficial or harmful.
That’s entirely up to each of us, what we each choose to use it for.