Sunday, March 31, 2013

‘Eyes of Hate’ Captured in Portrait of Nazi Politician by Jewish Photographer

In September 1933, LIFE magazine photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt traveled to Geneva to document a meeting of the League of Nations. One of the political figures at the gathering was Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, one of Hitlers most devout underlings and a man who became known for his “homicidal anti-Semitism.”
Eisenstaedt was a German-born Jew. Not knowing this at first, Goebbels was initially friendly toward Eisenstaedt, who was able to capture a number of photos showing the Nazi politician in a good and cheerful mood (as in the photograph above).

However, Goebbels soon learned of the Jewish blood flowing through Eisenstaedt’s veins. Subsequently, when Eisenstaedt approached Goebbels for a candid portrait, the politician’s expression was very, very different. Instead of smiling, he scowled for the camera, and the famous photo that resulted shows the man wearing “eyes of hate”:
Eyes of Hate Captured in Portrait of Nazi Politician by Jewish Photographer goebbals scowling
Here’s what Eisenstaedt later shared regarding experience:
I found him sitting alone at a folding table on the lawn of the hotel. I photographed him from a distance without him being aware of it. As documentary reportage, the picture may have some value: it suggests his aloofness. Later I found him at the same table surrounded by aides and bodyguards. Goebbels seemed so small, while his bodyguards were huge. I walked up close and photographed Goebbels. It was horrible. He looked up at me with an expression full of hate. The result, however, was a much stronger photograph. There is no substitute for close personal contact and involvement with a subject, no matter how unpleasant it may be. [#]
He looked at me with hateful eyes and waited for me to wither. But I didn’t wither. If I have a camera in my hand, I don’t know fear. [#]
This powerful photograph would become one of Eisenstaedt’s most famous images, though he did shoot an even more iconic just months after Goebbels committed suicide at the end of World War II.
On August 14, 1945, Eisenstaedt photograph a sailor celebrating Japan’s surrender by kissing a random nurse in New York City. The photo came to be known as “V-J Day in Times Square.”
(via Iconic Photos and Erik Kim)

P.S. This photograph reminds us of Yousuf Karsh’s famous portrait of Winston Churchill, in which Karsh elicited a scowl from Churchill by stealing the cigar that was in Churchill’s mouth.


  • September 1933, Germany was in the middle of an unprovoked international Jewish boycott of German goods, because Jews did not like the democratic will of the German people who elected Adolf Hitler. Everywhere that Jews exercised great wealth and power, such as Paris, New York ,etc, sales of German goods were forbidden or suffered dearly. There was a counter-boycott by the Germans of Jewish businesses, that is iconic and constantly referred to as racist, but never is the actual context provided. The more you know-..
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    WillToPower  an hour ago
    Goebbels looks more angry at the fact that there is a jew continuously photographing him, while he's busy with the man to his right. "Eyes of hate", ever read what the Talmud says about gentiles?
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      Brendan Tonkin  5 hours ago
      Thanks for posting both of these articles Michael. I love that both of these figures are in their own ways the most terrifying people to photograph, but to get these shots the photographer had to impose themselves into the scene - even if the photo itself doesn't show there part of the story.
      I'm sure that this is the key to brilliant portrait photographers, but it's hard to imagine other examples where you would need that much guts to do it.
      • Avatar
        Christian Bartsch  6 hours ago
        scary how ideologies poison souls - but great to see photographs are able to show it..
        • Avatar
          Evropa  34 minutes ago
          You forgot the 'trademark' symbol after the word 'hate'.

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