Lies and Fakes about the Red Army (Battle for the Bicycle)


This well-known photograph is traditionally used to illustrate articles about the atrocities of Soviet soldiers in Berlin. This theme with surprising constancy rises from year to year to Victory Day.

The photograph itself is published, usually with the caption "A Soviet soldier takes a bicycle from a resident of Berlin." There are also signatures from the cycle "Looting flourished in Berlin on the 45th," etc.

On the question of photography itself and what is captured on it, there is heated debate. The arguments of the opponents of the version of "looting and violence" that I had to meet on the network, unfortunately, sound unconvincing. Among them, one can single out, firstly, calls not to build judgments on the basis of one photograph. Secondly, an indication of the poses of a German woman, a soldier, and other persons caught in the frame. In particular, from the calmness of the supporting characters, it follows that this is not about violence, but about trying to straighten some kind of bicycle part.

Finally, there are doubts that the Soviet soldier was captured in the photo: a roll over the right shoulder, a roll itself of a very strange shape, a too large cap on the head, etc. In addition, in the background, immediately after the soldier, if you look closely, you can see a military man in the form of an obviously non-Soviet model.

But, I emphasize once again, all these versions do not seem to me quite convincing.

We decided to sort this story out. The picture, obviously, must have an author, must have a source, the first publication, and - most likely - the original signature. Which can shed light on what is depicted in the photograph.

If I take the literature, as far as I remember, this picture came across to me in the catalog of the Documentary Exposition on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the German attack on the Soviet Union. The exposition itself was opened in 1991 in Berlin in the hall "Topography of Terror", then, as far as I know, it was exhibited in St. Petersburg. Her catalog in Russian "The War of Germany against the Soviet Union 1941-1945" was published in 1994.

I do not have this catalog, but my colleague, fortunately, was found. Indeed, the desired photo is published on page 257. Traditional signature: "A Soviet soldier takes a bicycle from a resident of Berlin, 1945."

Apparently, this catalog, published in 1994, became the Russian original source of the photograph we needed. At least on a number of old resources dating back to the beginning of the 2000s, I came across this image precisely with reference to the “War of Germany against the Soviet Union ..” and with a signature familiar to us. It seems that from there the photo roams the network.

In the catalog, Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz - Photo Archive of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation is indicated as the source of the image. The archive has a website, but no matter how I tried, I could not find the desired picture on it.

But in the process of searching for stumbled upon the same picture in the archive of Life magazine. In the version of Life, it is called "Bike Fight".

Please note that here the photo is not cropped around the edges, as in the exposure catalog. New interesting details arise, for example, an officer can be seen on the left behind, and, as it were, not a German officer:

But the main thing is the signature!
A Russian soldier involved in a misunderstanding with a German woman in Berlin, over a bicycle he wished to buy from her.
"There was a misunderstanding between a Russian soldier and a German in Berlin because of the bike he wanted to buy from her."
In general, I will not bore the reader with the nuances of a further search for the keywords "misunderstanding", "German woman", "Berlin", "Soviet soldier", "Russian soldier", etc. I found the original photograph and the original caption under it. The picture belongs to the American company Corbis. There he is:
It is not difficult to notice that the picture is complete, the left and right parts contain details cut off in the “Russian version” and even in the Life version. These details are very important, as they give the picture a completely different mood.

Finally, the original caption: A Russian soldier tries to buy a Bicycle from a woman in Berlin, 1945 The misunderstanding occurs after a Russian soldier tries to buy a Bicycle from a German woman in Berlin. After giving her the money for the bike, the soldier assumes that the deal was made. However, the woman doesn't seem convinced.