Why the Soviets doctored this iconic photo

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This photo conceals a clue to a brutal story of vengeance.

Correction: Many of you pointed out that we erroneously used “Russia” and “Russian” interchangeably with “Soviet Union” and “Soviet” in this video. The Soviet Union was a multiethnic federation, and indeed many non-Russians bore the brunt of Hitler’s initial invasion in 1941. We regret the error — especially in reference to the Soviet soldier raising the flag in the photo, Alexei Kovalev, who is Ukrainian.

Additionally, we inaccurately stated that Rosenthal’s photo was taken following the Battle of Iwo Jima. While the capture of Mt. Suribachi was a significant point in the battle, it was not the end, and in fact three of the six Marines pictured were later killed in action on Iwo Jima.

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“Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima” and “Raising a Flag over the Reichstag” are similarly iconic photos from World War II. They’re both beloved images of victory, and they’re both taken after the fighting ended in significant battles. But the Russian one is different, because parts of it are altered.

Specifically, a watch being worn by one of the soldiers is edited out, to cover up the possibility that he had been looting. The Soviet invasion of Germany saw brutal acts of civilian murder, rape, and looting as a vengeful act following Operation Barbarossa, Hitler’s 1941 invasion of Russia that left millions dead, including women and children.

Darkroom is a new series from Vox producer Coleman Lowndes that digs into stories of the past, one photograph at a time. Watch all the episodes here: http://bit.ly/2U4qGDI

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