Time - 100 Photographs - The Most Influential Images of All Time - USA (2019)

(Antfer) #1


The Polish-born Dmitri Baltermants had planned to be a
math teacher but instead fell in love with photography. Just
as World War II broke out, he got a call from his bosses at the
Soviet government paper Izvestia: “Our troops are crossing
the border tomorrow. Get ready to shoot the annexation of
western Ukraine!” At the time the Soviet Union considered
Nazi Germany its ally. But after Adolf Hitler turned on his
comrades and invaded the Soviet Union, Baltermants’ mis-
sion changed too. Covering what then became known as
the Great Patriotic War, he captured grim images of body-
littered roads along with those of troops enjoying quiet mo-
ments. In January 1942 he was in the newly liberated city
of Kerch, Crimea, where two months earlier Nazi death
squads had rounded up the town’s 7,000 Jews. “They drove
out whole families— women, the elderly, children,” Balter-
mants recalled years later. “They drove all of them to an

antitank ditch and shot them.” There Baltermants came
upon a bleak, corpse-choked field, the outstretched limbs of
old and young alike frozen in the last moment of pleading.
Some of the gathered townspeople wailed, their arms wide.
Others hunched in paroxysms of grief. Baltermants, who
witnessed more than his share of death, recorded what he
saw. Yet these images of mass Nazi murders on Soviet soil
were too graphic for his nation’s leaders, wary of display-
ing the suffering of their people. Like many of Baltermants’
photos, this one was censored, being shown only decades
later as liberalism seeped into Russian society in the 1960s.
When it finally emerged, Baltermants’ picture allowed gen-
erations of Russians to form a collective memory of their
great war. “You do your work the best you can,” he som-
berly observed, “and someday it will surface.”

GRIEF by Dmitri Baltermants

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