Did a red banner resembling a Soviet flag fly in Berlin over the Reichstag building, the seat of the Bundestag, the German federal parliament, on May 8, 2023 to commemorate the 1945 liberation of Europe from Nazi control? No, that's not true: There is no evidence that this happened -- the photos and videos are manipulated. The small collection of photos and videos appeared first on Telegram from sources known for repeating Russian narratives, but Lead Stories could find no additional corroborating images of this flag, known historically as the "Banner of Victory" ("Banner des Sieges" in German), from early May 2023. Comparison of this collection with live shots and video from the site by German fact checkers and Lead Stories also prove that this flag did not fly over the Reichstag building on the date claimed.
The videos and images were first posted on Telegram on May 8, 2023 by @dimsmirnov175. An Instagram account with the same handle belongs to Dmitry Smirnov, a special political correspondent for the Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda, which identifies him as a Kremlin pool journalist.
The videos then surfaced individually on several additional accounts. One example is a tweet (archived here) published by Pistis Sophia on May 8, 2023. The post was captioned:
Unknown people hoist Soviet banner of Victory over Reichstag Bundestag (German Parliament Building) roof in Berlin, Germany's Capital. Action comes in DEFIANCE to Germany's anti-Russian and anti-Soviet flag measures and in honor of Victory against Nazi Germany 78 years ago.
The "measures" to which this post refers are a ban on Victory Day displays of Russian and Soviet flags and other memorabilia. A Berlin court sustained that ban on May 8, 2023.
This is what the post looked like on Twitter at the time of the writing of this fact check:
(Source: Twitter screenshot taken on Fri May 19 15:25:05 2023 UTC)
May 8, 1945 is known as "Tag der Befreiung" (Liberation Day) in Germany. In the United States and United Kingdom, the day is remembered as "Victory In Europe Day." On May 8, 2020, in "VE Day: The fall of Nazi Berlin in pictures," BBC News elaborated:
Nazi forces were vastly outnumbered and outgunned, and could do nothing but slow the Soviet advance.
On 30 April 1945, Hitler killed himself, the day after marrying Eva Braun. Their bodies were taken above ground and burned in a bomb crater nearby.
Not long afterwards, Soviet forces captured the shell-damaged Reichstag. A famous staged photo shows a Soviet soldier lifting the flag of the USSR above the historic parliament building.
That famous photo (pictured below) by Soviet Army photographer Yevgeny Khaldei shows soldiers raising a huge Soviet flag on the roof of the Reichstag building above Berlin in ruins.
This photo was staged; the flag was the photographer's idea, the International Center of Photography (ICP), a photography education nonprofit, notes. The ICP's biography of Yevgeny Khaldei recounts that the idea for the composition was taken from the famous Iwo Jima photo. The Soviet flag, carried in by Khaldei himself, was pieced together from red tablecloths:
Once the Russians had reached Berlin in the spring of 1945, the photographer rushed back to Moscow to retrieve a flag of the U.S.S.R., which he planned to raise on top of the Reichstag building in celebration of the Russian victory-similar to what photographer Joe Rosenthal had done a few months before in Iwo Jima, Japan. In the war-torn city of Moscow however, no flag could be found. As an alternative, Khaldei supposedly used red tablecloths from the Tass agency office and asked his uncle, a tailor, to sew a Soviet flag. Back in Berlin Khaldei brought the self-made flag and two soldiers up to the top of the building and photographed the victorious scene.
It is this 1945 flag-raising scene to which the recent false-flag videos refer.
On May 19, 2023, Lead Stories contacted the press office of the Bundestag for comment about the claim that someone hoisted a Soviet flag over the Bundestag. On May 20, 2023 we received a reply with this statement:
We had received some inquiries like yours yesterday and you are supposing right: this has never occured at Deutscher Bundestag!
In a May 10, 2023, fact check, the German non-profit fact checking organization Correctiv.org reported that Bundestag spokeswoman Birgit Landskron had denied that a Soviet flag had appeared atop the building:
On May 8, 2023, no Soviet flag was hoisted on the Reichstag.
On the roof of the Reichstag building, on the four towers, only the German and a European flag are flying, as usual.
A reporter from Corrective.org, which has an office in Berlin, drove to the Bundestag on May 8, 2023 and wrote that he saw no flag there. Webcams from the site also did not show it, Correctiv.org noted, adding that the day's balmy weather was not reflected in the photo posted on social media.
The Lead Stories composite image below shows one photo from Smirnov's Telegram post (below left) with the faked Soviet victory banner purportedly flying over the Reichstag building on May 8, 2023. A bare tree is silhouetted in front of the building.
The false caption on the Telegram post, translated from Russian by Google, reads:
German social networks write that the banner of Victory again appeared over the Reichstag in Berlin.
The second image (below right) shows a video of a pro-Russia protest that was filmed in Berlin and posted on Twitter on May 9, 2023. This protest took place near the park between the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag building. The May 9 protest video shows that the trees in the Berlin park are fully leafed out and green.
(Source: Lead Stories composite image with Telegram and Twitter screenshots taken on Fri May 19 21:10:45 2023 UTC)
Additional Lead Stories fact checks of claims related to Germany and Russia can be found here.
Lead Stories previously debunked a claim that a Yevgeny Khaldei photo of an unidentified Jewish couple in Budapest, represented King Christian X of Denmark and his wife, Queen Alexandrine.