History never forgets people. Over time, some people assume a prominent place in the book of history while some others remain on rather obscure pages. There are only a few people in history who shaped the dynamics of their times, gained popularity, but nothing is known about the actual person behind the story. We recognize them by their acts or faces, but we don’t know their names. How ironic it is to be famous and yet still be unknown!
Here is a list of ten most famous, yet unidentified people in the history.
1. Tank Man
The photograph of a man standing fearlessly before a troop of tanks taken during the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989 has to be included in top one hundred images of all time. The photograph was taken by Jeff Widener who was sent on an assignment by Associated Press.
The Chinese troops had attacked pro-democracy demonstrators camped on the plaza, and the tanks featured in the image are those which were traversing through plaza the next day. The man refused to budge when the front tank tried to move around. He also tried climbing one of the tanks to halt them.
Widener was almost sure that the man’s death was inevitable, but for some reasons the tanks held fire. The man was not armed. He was just an ordinary man returning from shopping, but his heroic act to stand up against the wrong made him immortal.
He became an icon of pro-democracy protests. A U.K.-based newspaper, the Sunday Express, speculated that the man was a nineteen-year-old student, Wang Weilin, who was presumably put to death. However, no news agency or human rights organization has confirmed the identity of the man.
2. The Babushka Lady
The assassination of US President John F. Kennedy in 1963 was a source of perpetual conspiracy theories and doubts. The “Babushka Lady” was an unknown woman present during the assassination who might have photographed the whole series of unfortunate events. She was named after the headscarf she was wearing, “babushka” meaning old woman in Russian.
According to eyewitnesses, she possessed a camera. This was also confirmed by the film records of the assassination. The strangest thing about her was that after the shooting when most of the eyewitnesses ran for cover, she kept standing as if unfazed.
3. The Hiroshima Steps Shadow
On August 6, 1945, the United States dropped a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. The bomb killed 70,000 people instantly. The bomb generated unimaginable heat, so much so that many were incinerated leaving haunting shadows on the objects which surrounded them.
A person with a walking stick, who was perhaps climbing the stairs, was burnt to death in a fraction of a second, and his disengaging body casted a permanent shadow. These “nuclear shadows” tell us that a city buzzing with people doing their morning chores was destroyed in virtually an instance.
There was no way to discover the identity of this person, but he immortalized the animosity of war and frailties of human life. He, perhaps, was just an ordinary man when alive, but after his death, his shadow became an iconic symbol of nuclear tragedy.(1,2)
4. The last Jew in Vinnitsa
During the early 1940s when World War II was at its peak, Nazis planned a systematic genocide of Jews. The regions of Europe occupied by Germany were ethnically cleansed of Jews.
The iconic photograph known as “The last Jew in Vinnitsa” pictures the execution of a Jewish man in the Ukranian town of Vinnytsia. Around 28,000 Jews were killed in Vinnitsa and its surrounding areas.
The photograph was named after the inscription behind it: “Last Jew of Vinnitsa”. The photograph evokes chills. There is a helpless man sitting on the edge of a mass human grave with no expression on his face at all and there is nothing he can do but to accept his fate. He eventually became the face of the helpless Jewish agony.(1,2)
5. Immortal Beloved
Anonymous people who are famous in history and talked about still today are not limited to only wars. The “Immortal Beloved” is the addressee of a letter handwritten by legendary composer and pianist, Beethoven. The ten-page letter was written on the 6th or 7th of July 1812.
Because the musical genius was of the most influential cultural phenomenon of his times, the recipient of letter became a subject of intrigue. Scholars could never zero in on a single person.
The story was the inspiration for a 1994 movie of the same name. From the letter, it is apparent that the two lovers have been in touch but maybe not so often. Apparently, the idea of their living together was something unobtainable. Beethoven’s lady love was a muse to several literary and research works. She exemplified a star-crossed lover of a brilliant musician who he could never have.(1,2)