Fact check: No, there was no Soviet victory flag at the Reichstag in Berlin

Fact check: No, there was no Soviet victory flag at the Reichstag in Berlin

78 years after the capitulation of Nazi Germany, the Soviet victory flag is said to have been hoisted again at the Reichstag building in Berlin – that’s what videos and pictures on the Internet claim. What is it? A fact check.

On May 2, 1945, one of the most famous photos in the world was taken: Red Army soldiers hoist the Soviet flag on the Reichstag building after conquering Berlin. The capitulation of Nazi Germany a few days later is still an extremely important event for Russia today, which is traditionally celebrated on May 9th as “Victory Day”. On the 78th anniversary, the striking red flag with hammer and sickle is said to have waved over the building again, according to pictures and videos published on the Internet.

We took a closer look at the recordings and discovered some inconsistencies. A fact check.

Claim: Unknown persons hung a Soviet flag (“Banner of Victory”) on the Reichstag building in Berlin on the occasion of the 78th anniversary of the Russian victory over Nazi Germany.

Evaluation: Incorrect. The pictures and videos circulating are manipulated and none of them show any current footage from Berlin. The administration of the Bundestag denied the alleged incident.

The facts: During the course of Monday morning (May 8, 2023) first went to the Telegram channel of the Russian Kremlin journalist Dimitri Smirnov , which later also ended up in other social networks such as Twitter, Tiktok and Facebook. All of the photos – including those published later and elsewhere – show a red victory flag of the Soviet Union allegedly waving on the roof of the Reichstag. In his post, Smirnov claims without proof that the pictures and videos came from German social media accounts and are now the topic of conversation in Germany.

We contacted the administration of the Bundestag. There we were told by telephone that they knew nothing about a Soviet flag hung on the Reichstag. Even an RTL reporter team that was near the building could not discover the flag.

Evidence of Russian disinformation campaign

However, just an hour after Smirnov’s publication, the first Russian media reported on it. “It’s 2023. The victory banner is waving over the Reichstag again. No joke,” wrote the , who refers to Smirnov’s post. The news site also reported. as well as 1:1 its claim to the alleged origin.

We reverse searched the recordings to find out since when they were shared and where first. The result: before Smirnov’s posting, who, as a Kremlin journalist, has exclusive access to government information in Moscow, the recordings cannot be found online. Only then did the first Russian media and other, mostly much smaller, pro-Russian (fake) profiles on various social networks pick up on the “story”. The claim that it was German users who circulated the recordings is therefore incorrect.

In addition to the retouched flag, there are several inconsistencies in the recordings that suggest a disinformation campaign directed against Germany.

Absurd soundtrack, bare trees, false shadows

Audio track in the videos: All three popular videos contain a sound track – and this is very absurd in each case. In one of the videos, the woman who is supposed to be filming says in an apparently artificial, at least very choppy voice: “O-ha-ha. Did you see that? That’s the banner of victory.” Then she pauses to continue without a question being heard: “Yes, exactly. In the center of Berlin.”

In video two, apparently filmed from inside a car, a male voice comments, “Fucking shit! You’re watching that too, aren’t you? What the hell…”. Then the recording stops.

Video three also comments a man’s voice: “Damn it! What kind of flag is that?”

All three comments appear unnatural in terms of content, pronunciation and intonation and seem to have been added to the recordings afterwards – apparently to give the claim more emotionality and authenticity.

Vegetation in Berlin: In the scene filmed from the car and in one image, trees can be seen in front of the Reichstag building. These are mostly bare, only a few flower. In fact, spring has also arrived in Berlin and the vegetation in the city is already much greener than in the video, as a photo published yesterday (May 7, 2023) by the German Press Agency in the “Picture Alliance” image database shows, even if it is it was not taken at the exact location of the fake video.

Fact check: Soviet flag on Reichstag

Contrary to what was claimed, the video was definitely not recorded on Monday morning, but in advance.

Fact check: Soviet flag on Reichstag

Flags blow in different directions: In the video filmed from the car, the allegedly attached Soviet flag flies more in a southerly direction in one shot, while the German flag is more towards the west. In view of the small distance between the flagpoles, a conceivable gust of wind does not seem to serve as an explanation.

Puddles in front of the Reichstag: Puddles can be seen on three common recordings. In Berlin, however, it has not rained significantly since Saturday morning, as a look at past weather data for the capital shows. There is no plausible explanation for the fact that the puddles are still there, especially since it was increasingly sunny in Berlin on Sunday.

shadows: All postings claim that the pictures and videos are up-to-date recordings from Monday morning. Accordingly, the sun would have to shine from an easterly, maximum southeasterly direction. However, there are scenes in the videos in which the sun shines from the west, which suggests that the recordings were not made in the morning but rather in the afternoon.

Fact check: Soviet flag on Reichstag
Fact check: Soviet flag on Reichstag

Same place, different look: All videos show the western side of the Reichstag building – sometimes filmed from the front, sometimes approaching from the west. So you see the same part of the building. What is striking here is that in one of the shots filmed from the front, a concrete base, site fences and red and white barriers can be seen, which are completely missing in the other shot. It can therefore be ruled out that both videos were recorded on the same day.

Fact check: Soviet flag on Reichstag
Fact check: Soviet flag on Reichstag

New quality of disinformation

The attempt to spread disinformation with several examples of the same “incident” from different perspectives in order to feign authenticity has a new quality. The makers of the manipulated recordings even made sure that the weather on the pictures and videos is almost identical. All of this makes it much more difficult to unmask the fake. Nevertheless, the creators obviously didn’t have an eye on all the details – whether they wanted to or not. It is also noticeable that the “news” initially spread more or less simultaneously on clearly pro-Russian channels – started by a Kremlin journalist.

If you like, the fakes that have now been published also come full circle: The photo of the Soviet flag from May 1945 mentioned at the beginning is not only one of the most famous photos in the world – but also one of the best-known examples of manipulation. The action that was actually carried out on April 30th – because it happened at night – was not only re-enacted on May 2nd in daylight. A second wristwatch was also subsequently retouched from one of the Red Army soldiers photographed so as not to tarnish the image of the selfless liberators. In fact, the soldier had taken the watch from a German while looting.

Source: Stern

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