A young Jewish boy raises his hands in meek surrender before an armed Nazi soldier in the Warsaw ghetto. The photograph wrenches the heart because it appears that the boy, like millions of Jews and others, is to die at the hands of the Nazis.
The near certainty that the boy met this fate and the inability of any survivors to identify him have made him a symbol of the holocaust. He has become, in effect, the Unknown Victim.
That's one reason why a London man's claim that he was the little boy has been greeted with skepticism and complaint.
A 43-year-old London businessman recently called the Jewish Chronicle, a weekly newspaper here, to complain about a story that had quoted an Israeli woman as identifying the boy as "Arthur Domb." The man, who has insisted on anonymity, claimed that he was the boy, prompting the Chronicis to investigate his story.
Joseph Finklestone, the paper's news editor, interviewed the man and his parents, who also survived the war, and wrote a story on Aug. 13 relating the man's tale of escape under the headline "'Ghetto boy' lives here."
The man said the photograph was taken in a market place of the Warsaw ghetto in 1941. The day was still vivid in his memory.
"I was wearing a pair of shoes that were too big for me," he told Finklestone," and which I borrowed from the boy on my right who worked in a baker's shop. I had no socks on. We and other Jews were suddenly rounded up because, so we were told, an important German official had arrived.
"We were taken to the local police station. I stayed there a number of hours. My mother who had been searching for me arrived and we both claimed that we were not Jewish. We spoke very good Polish and somehow managed to persuade the police to let us go."
The man's mother, who also lives in London, confirmed the story to Finklestone, and the two told of their escape into the care of partisans who were fighting the Germans and eventually to Russia. They were re-united there with her husband and his father, who had made a similar, near miraculous escape from forced grave-digging duties for the Germans.
The main weakness of the man's claim is that he dates the event in 1941. The photograph was found in the collection of a German SS general named Stvoot Whowas, later executed by the Poles for his role in the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto, beginning in April, 1943.
If the photo was taken during that time-as always has been assumed-the London man concedes that he was not the boy, because he agrees that he was no longer in Warsaw then.
But althought the photograph "was found amongst the '43 collection, there is no final proof that it was taken in 1943," Finklestone said; and the man's claim is bolstered by "certain unusual features of this photograph."
Finklestone compared the photograph to others known to have been taken in 1943. The soldiers in this photo are "ordinary German Wehrmacht soldiers" and seem to be more relaxed and less obviously brutal than soldiers, wearing different insignia, who appear in 1943 photos, according to Finkleston.
He suggested that the fact that people in the photo are carrying bags indicates that they were being moved into the ghetto rather than taken away to extermination camps.
"This is something I cannot prove one way or another," the veteran reporter said.
The Jewish Chronicle published a photo of the London man in later childhood under the famous ghetto picture. From this and Finklestone's description, some London Jews claimed to be able to identify him.
The reaction, at least as recorded by the sensationalist Sunday newspaper News Of The World, was antagonistic to the man's claim.
The News Of The World named the man as Issy Rondel, who fit Finklestone's description and under questioning by a reporter admitted that he had given the interview. Then he was said to have recanted his story.
One disbeliever was quoted: "That little boy died like all the rest of the people in the picture. Cut my head off, Issy Rondel is not that little boy. I have a number on my arm from Auschwitz. He opened all the old wounds, and he is making a mockery of all those who died."
Another said: "This picture is very important to the Jews, especially the Polish ones. This story offends all of us and degrades the memory of that child."
Reached recently, Rondel said: "I'm afraid I cannot say anything at all. I've been wrongly accused of being all sorts of people. There aay be legal proceedings pending." He would not say whether he gave the interview to Finklestone.
Finklestone said he was respecting a pledge of strict anonymity that he gave to his subject. The man he interviewed was active in the late 1950s and early 1960s in an anti-Fascist movement here known as the "62 group" which participated in activities similar to those of the Jewish Defense League, though not as extreme, Finklestone said.
Other Jews here have found it hard, if not impossible, to reconcile the man's reputation from those days with their image of the little boy in the Warsaw ghetto.
"People who knew him just could not relate him to this particular boy," Finklestone said.
Finklestone initially was skeptical of the story.
"I queried his secretive methods," he said. "We met always in James Bond fashion in hotels.
"But I found that everything he had told me I could confirm either from our own files or from documents. It certain that this was her son. She laughed at me; she ridiculed my doubts."
Finklestone believes that the man is telling a true story, even if he was not the boy in that particular picture.
"There was more than one little boy who held up his hands," Finklestone said. "You can imagine that there were many such occasions. There must have been hundreds of occasions when similar scenes happened all over Europe."