Monday, December 12, 2016

Eyes of Hate – Joseph Goebbels Scowling At Photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt After Finding Out He's Jewish, 1933

If any picture from the pre-World War II era captured the sheer malevolence animating the Reich’s ideology and actions, it was Eisenstaedt’s photo of Goebbels at the Carlton Hotel in Geneva in September 1933.

Hitler's Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels glowers at photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt in the garden of the Carlton Hotel during a League of Nations conference, Geneva, September 1933.

The unsettling image of the Third Reich’s propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, glaring at photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt during a League of Nations conference in 1933 remains one of the signature—and certainly one of the most unflattering—portraits ever made of any high-ranking Nazi figure. In the photo, Goebbels’s bony hands grip the arms of his chair. His tense posture transmits an almost palpable enmity. Hunched, wary, Goebbels resembles a seething homunculus.

Joseph Goebbels was cheerful and without a care when he first met photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt. In a close-up image the Third Reich politician was caught off guard smiling at the League of Nations meeting. But when Goebbels found out LIFE magazine photographer Eisenstaedt was Jewish his expression was quite different.

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”. His tense posture transmits an almost palpable enmity.

In the 1985 book, “Eisenstaedt on Eisenstaedt: A Self-Portrait”, the photographer discussed how the Goebbels picture came about:
“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.”
At another point, Eisenstaedt noted that “this picture could be titled, ‘From Goebbels With Love.’ When I went up to him in the garden of the hotel, he looked at me with hateful eyes and waited for me to wither. But I didn’t wither.”

But how did Goebbels found out that the photographer was Jewish?

No one know for sure but maybe the surname is what gave it away and Eisenstädt is a distinctly Jewish surname. It’s entirely possible that Goebbels was told his name and drew the easy conclusion that he was Jewish or at least of Jewish heritage.

A quote from Joseph Goebbels diary showing his hatred toward Jews: “The Jews are now being deported to the east. A fairly barbaric procedure, not to be described in any greater detail, is being used here, and not much more remains of the Jews themselves. In general, it can probably be established that 60 percent of them must be liquidated, while only 40 percent can be put to work […] A judgment is being carried out on the Jews which is barbaric, but fully deserved”.

Joseph Goebbels (center) walks with the German delegation at League of Nations conference, Geneva, 1933.

Joseph Goebbels in garden of the Carlton Hotel before delivering a radio address, Geneva, September 1933.

Hitler's Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels glowers at photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt in the garden of the Carlton Hotel during a League of Nations conference, Geneva, September 1933.

Joseph Goebbels in garden of the Carlton Hotel before delivering a radio broadcast, Geneva, September 1933.

Joseph Goebbels (center) with unidentified men in garden of the Carlton Hotel before delivering a radio address, Geneva, September 1933.

Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels delivers a radio address, Geneva, September 1933.

Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, Geneva, September 1933.

Joseph Goebbels in garden of the Carlton Hotel, Geneva, September 1933.

(Photos: Alfred Eisenstaedt—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)

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