Last days of war:
Berlin in May 1945

Georgi Petrusov (1903 – 1971)

Photograph by Georgij Petrussow, silver gelatin paper, 38,7 x 58,2 cm
© Alex Lachmann

Berlin, 1945, a street in ruins vanishes in a cloud of smoke and dust in the background of the black-and-white photograph. In the street: isolated people, rubble, a lifeless body, army vehicles. Left foreground: two men approach. Right foreground: a third man with a child on his arm, followed by a woman who turns to look back.

Georgi Petrusov (1903–1971) arrived in Berlin in late April 1945 as a Soviet soldier. He was shadowing the Red Army’s advance as a photographer and recording street skirmishes amid the rubble of the German capital. The pictures he took during the final days of the war and the ensuing ceasefire are spooky, almost theatrical – an effect not entirely due to the motif. Petrusov reinforced the inherent drama by manipulating the “original” image in the dark room. This picture shows a street lined by ruins. People are fleeing the gunfire; one woman dares to glance back. The end of the street is blurred by smoke that even darkens the retouched sky.

Petrusov intention was not merely aesthetic. He wanted to record the historic situation and the plight of these people, but also to convey an emotional message. His photographs are a clear statement denouncing war and the suffering it causes for all concerned.

Berlin, May 1945
Gelatin silver print
38,7 x 58,2 cm
Purchased with funds from DKLB by Senatsverwaltung für Wissenschaft, Forschung und Kultur (Artists Support Programme, Fine Arts), Berlin 1993

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