It is a little known fact that celebrated photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt, who was responsible for capturing the iconic V-J Day in Times Square, is also responsible for the chilling photograph of then Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, glowering at the camera. While the former showed a world in August 14, 1945, finally celebrating the end of World War II, the latter would be an ominous glimpse at the evil, perverse man that would perpetrate some of the most heinous war crimes.
Alfred Eisenstaedt was in Geneva in September 1933 to photograph a meeting of the League of Nations. Goebbels was one of the political figures present. He was quickly emerging with a reputation as being fiercely loyal to Adolf Hitler and was known for his “homicidal anti-Semitism.”
Goebbels was initially unaware that the man photographing him was a German-born Jew. At first, Goebbels indulged Eisenstaedt with a few photographs, showing him in a much more pleasant, if not jovial mood. Not long after, it came to Goebbels’ attention and knowledge that Eisenstaedt was in fact, Jewish. It is this information that abruptly changes his demeanor, and it is disturbingly evident as he glares at Eisenstaedt and his camera. The image will come to be known as the man with the “eyes of hate,” one of LIFE magazine’s most renowned photos. Eisenstaedt recalled the circumstances of that unnerving stare:
“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.”
Eisenstaedt continued, “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. “
The prolific lens man passed away in August 24, 1995.