The spring of victory. Forgotten Stalin’s crime
The spring of victory. Forgotten Stalin’s crime
"Patriotism is defined by the measure of shame which a person experiences for the crimes committed in the name of his people "
To say that the tight seal of prohibition was attached in the USSR to a discussion of this subject means to say nothing. To say that clumsy excuses were invented in the hindsight means to say a glaring falsehood. There were no excuses. Nobody even attempted to justify anything. The people and the party, the fathers and sons, the “top” and the “bottom” were united in a categorical rejection of the very subject for a discussion and even more so, for condemnation.
There were no questions but there was the answer: indestructible, multi-ton, intended for centuries. Of granite and marble, stood over the Treptov Park in Berlin Soviet soldier-liberator with the rescued German girl in his hands, and every spring live flowers were obediently laid at the foot of the monument. And even when in the first years of “glasnost” rare and desultory recollections began to be published that the German girl could turn out in the hands of the Soviet soldier in a different situation and with different consequences for the girl, nobody wanted to hear these voices. Or rather could not hear. Such truth did not fit the consciousness of a normal Soviet person.
Strangely enough, the help came from the West. The West helped us again. They have already worked out the entire “scientific tradition” within whose framework the subject of violence toward German civilians (i.e., brutal mass murders, torture, robbery, destruction of housing) was playfully denoted by the term “sexual violence”. And that was a way to breathe the sigh of relief. No-no, nobody is objecting that a rape – both legally and even in the thievish culture – is a heavy crime. But it is a crime of a special “kind”. The accused always has a possibility, with the insolent smirk (or with frightenedly shifty eyes, depending on the circumstances) to say: “Come on, drop it… What kind of rape… She came herself… ”
So, the word was found. The further the easier. The only thing remaining was to boil the hardest historical and moral issue down to the theme of the notorious “sexual violence” and then to cast doubt on the mass nature of the phenomenon and on the very fact of the violence. Out of many instances of such “aggressive counter-propaganda” I will only quote one, but a very typical and noticeable one. That publication is also noteworthy in where it appeared (the oldest and one of the heavily-circulated newspapers in the country) and in a high formal status of the persons involved in the discussion.
The pretext for the “discussion” was the publication in Russia of a well-known book by English historian Antony Beevor ”Berlin - The Downfall 1945". On July 21, 2005 a journalist from the “Trud” newspaper S.Turchenko decided to sort out the uncalled-for “foreign consultant”. To sort out in all senses these words have in the Russian language.
The resolute rebuff began from the very first words. From the title of the article: “The rape of the facts”. The subtitle included a very clear hint of whose stooge Beevor was and to whose mill joining him unnamed renegades were bringing grist: “
“Why are the British historian and some mass media retelling Goebbels’ tales?” And at last in journalist’s creative imagination arose a totally infernal picture: “Goebbels in his coffin is happily rubbing hands…”
The first at the podium was Ì.À.Gareyev himself (an Army General, president of the Academy of military sciences, Academician of the Russian Academy of natural sciences, Professor, Doctor of historical sciences, Doctor of military sciences, former deputy to head of the Soviet Army General Headquarters), etc., etc. The eminent scholar did not and does not have any doubts or questions:
"Beevor and his yes-men are banal plagiarists. The real author of the myth of "aggressive sexuality" of our soldiers is Goebbels. Beevor, however, outdid Goebbels… The next lampoon about the Soviet soldier-liberator... I personally participated in the liberation of East Prussia. And I am saying as in confessionary: I’ve never heard then about sexual violence. I remember, we were read in front of the unit formation the sentence of the military tribunal. The deal was that several soldiers broke into the yard of a well-to-do peasant, caught a few chicken and geese and began to cook them. When the fight for the village ended the owners got out of the cellar where they were hiding and raised a cry. The patrol descended upon the noise. The soldiers were detained. The 184th division commander Major General Basan Gorodovikov ordered to set up a show trial of the military tribunal. The soldiers were sentenced to five years of labor camp each. It is easy to assume that the punishment would have been immeasurably more severe should have any of them hankered, say, after the lady of the house”.
The next Army General, Hero of the Soviet Union, Hero of the Socialist Labor I.Tretyak was not so categorical. He was even prepared to admit that not only geese and ducks became the victims of violence:
"Of course, in a huge troops grouping that entered Germany in 1945 various things happened. The duds did not see women for a few years. So somebody could not withstand. But it is now recognized that the sexual connections between our soldiers and German women far from always were violent. A mutual interest also happened. It is strange to read today as some Brit all of a sudden became aware of 60-year-old sexual collisions about which German women do not remember aloud…”
President of the Association of Second World War Historians, Doctor of historical sciences, Professor Î.Rzheshevsky also does not conceal his indignation about the recent attempt “to recreate the image of "Asian hordes" hammered in the heads of Germans by the Nazi propaganda and then a small group of neo-fascist-historians from who they long ago turned away in Germany (emphasis added – M.S.)”. As it was to be expected, especial indignation of the Professor, President of the Association the Historians causes most of all the unsubstantiated nature of the accusations:
"Weighty substantiations, documents should have been shown if one decided to raise such heavy an accusation of the army which carried on its shoulders the main weight of a fight with the Fascist invasion. But Beevor’s book is missing them. The information about the "mass rape" is based on such testimonies as "the Berliners remember... ", "one doctor calculated... ", which is unacceptable for a scientific study which the book is pretending to be”.
The truth, in view of Professor Rzheshevsky, is that “the avalanche of revenge could have engulfed Germany; it did not happen, however. Military personnel of the Soviet and other allied armies on the whole showed humane attitude toward German civilians… the Supreme Command took extraordinary measures for the prevention of outrages toward the German civilian population”. After this statement Rzheshevsky, as a professional historian is supposed to do, quotes a documentally-substantiated fact. Very interesting (but unfortunately inarticulately presented) fact: “In the first months of 1945 4,148 officers and a great number of privates were sentenced by military tribunals for perpetrated outrages toward the civilian population”.
“And a great number of privates”. Great number – how many is it? No response. We have to make assumptions. In the active army there are as a minimum 10 soldiers per one officer. If we swallow the proposition that the cause of the “outrages” was that “the duds did not see women for a few years” then average probability of perpetrating the “outrages” among the privates must have been higher then among the officers. The Red Army officers (especially in the last years of the war) did see women. Comrade Stalin took care of that.
Only in spring of 1942 under “mass voluntary mobilization” (that is exactly how it was called in the GKO decree) were drafted over 450 thous. women. The Soviet historians reported with a particular pride that 70% of them were sent to the active army. Beside those mobilized under the GKO decree, the freelance women were also serving in the active army. Their number in 1944 was 234 thousand. We can remark in parentheses that in 1943-1945 in the rear units and organizations of the Armed forces in the USSR about 5 million men were drafted for the military service, so sending to the front, to the very front line hundreds of thousands of women could in no way have been explained by a catastrophic shortage of personnel …
Coming back to the fact quoted by Professor Rzheshevsky we can assume as a first approximation that there were 10 times of sentenced for the “outrages toward the civilian population” among the privates compared with the officers. If so, the total number of sentenced (not the total number of those committing the outrages but exactly and only those sentenced!) is 40-50 thous. men. In the spring of 1945 it was the personnel of one multiservice army.
But this is far from all. Continuing to demonstrate his “zeal without knowledge” S.Turchenko hurries to amend the information of Professor Rzheshevsky by a quotation from the following document:
“Report of head of the Political department, 8th Guards army, Major General M.Skosyrev of 04.25.45:
In recent days the number of occasions of thievery, rape and other amoral phenomena by the military personnel drastically decreased. 2-3 cases in each settlement are recorded whereas previously the number of amoral phenomena was much greater…”
So, what the respectable, reputable people told us? The word “murder” was not pronounced. Ì.À.Gareyev knows about the stolen chicken but have never heard about the rapes; Army General I.Tretyak admits some "sexual collisions" which, of course, are not worth mentioning or discussing; a historian Rzheshevsky does not know any documents which could have supported the facts of "mass violence" but admits that many thousands of Red Army soldiers and officer were sentenced for the outrages which in Gareyev’s view did not happen at all. The Guards Major General proudly informs that the number of rapes and other amoral phenomena (invented by Goebbels’ propaganda) “drastically declined”, and “in each settlement” only 2-3 cases are recorded. Nothing to talk about. “Previously the number of amoral phenomena was much greater ".
Let us now turn to the documents and facts collected by “a small group of neo-fascist-historians from whom they long ago turned away in Germany”. I must admit from the outset that in this case Professor Rzheshevsky was not that very wrong with his phrasing. In the postwar (and which is especially strange, in the post-Soviet) Germany the historians who disagree that the very fact of a fierce military collision between the brown and red Fascisms may serve a justification for any of these criminal dictatorships remain in a position of “lepers” whom anyone pretending for a political career and state “grants” is afraid to deal with. Nevertheless, during many years of dogged work of researchers a huge bank of facts and documents was collected.
Among the first must be named the 11-volume collection "Documents of German expulsion" (the work began in August of 1949 and lasted over four years). The survivors told about the crimes whose victims became their relatives or neighbors; recorded were the testimonies of teachers, doctors and state bureaucrats. Based on this information the researchers came out with the number of 12 million Germans driven from their places of living, out of those 2 million were still listed as “unaccounted for” (which in the situation of mid-1950’s could be considered a synonym of the word “perished”).
The calculations using the demographic balance technique showed that in the "Eastern areas", which became part of the USSR, Poland and Czechoslovakia after the war, perished 2,484 thous. civilians (the men perished on the front are not included). Certainly, the demographic balance technique in itself is notoriously imprecise so each number may be subjected to justified criticism. It is, however, worth reminding that the now canonized number of the losses by the Soviet Union (27 million) was derived using almost the same technique. The stipulation “almost” relates to the fact that the German historians used the 1948 census data, i.e., the census conducted three years after the war ended, and the Soviet ones used the 1959 census data (14 years after the war) and the data of falsified Stalin’s census of 1939.
The BRD Ecclesiastical search service stated a much lower estimate of the number of perished. In 1964 a report was published from which follows that in all areas from where the Germans were driven out (East Prussia, Pomerania, Silesia, Sudetes) the total of perished was 473 thous. people. True, it needs to be taken into account here that the Ecclesiastical search service did not include into the final total the number of “unaccounted for”. Arithmetically the number 472 is of course only one fifth of the number 2,484. For a legal evaluation of the events the difference is minuscule, however: 473 thous. civilians perished within a few months is large enough to talk about "military crimes and crimes against humanity". It is also important that the list of 473 thous. perished civilians did not include the victims of bombing Dresden and other East Germany (future DDR) cities, did not include those perished during and after the storming of Berlin, did not include tens of thousands of ethnic Germans who “vanished” in the process of banishment from Yugoslavia, Hungary and Romania.
One of the most outstanding representatives of a “small group of historians” was (he passed away in 2002) Joachim Hoffmann. Hoffmann worked 35 years (1960 through 1995) at the research center for military history of the Bundeswehr having made on the service ladder the way up from a young specialist to the scientific director of the center. In 1995 was published Hoffmann’s book "Stalin’s war of annihilation" ("Stalins Vernichtungskrieg 1941-1945") republished four times to the end of the century. The reaction to Hoffmann’s study from the "left circles" in Germany reached such incandescence that 28 February, 1996 deputies of some fractions at the Bundestag directed "six requests and 14 additional questions" to the BDR Government (whose authority, incidentally, does not cover ruling a scientific-historical discussion). Commenting on this deplorable attempt to turn the parliament of a democratic country into some semblance of the inquisition tribunal, Hoffmann writes in the foreword to the fourth edition of his book:
"If a researcher is sometimes forced to speak as if appealing to the wall it is caused by the reasons deeply rooted in the postwar German mentality and for this reason can hardly have reasonable explanation… Many Germans in their self-absorption simply did not notice that they demanded from the Russians that they, the Russians continued to live quietly with Stalin’s propaganda lies as long as the Germans had an alibi in the person of Hitler. They needed to be able to demonstrate themselves in the right light before the entire world, at the expense of the Russians at that, and to demonstrate how wide was now the distance between them and Hitler …"
Included below are large excerpts from three chapters of Hoffmann’s book (J.Hoffmann, "Stalin’s war of annihilation"; the Russian translation È.Ãîôìàí, "Stalinñêàÿ âîéíà íà óíè÷òîæåíèå", Moscow, AST-Astrel, 2006, pg. 305-347), which review the events of winter-spring of 1945. Most episodes and quotations are supported by the reference to the corresponding funds at the Federal military archive in Freiburg but, taking into account low accessibility of this archive for an everyday Russian reader, I did not copy the references. The names of the Soviet military personnel will be in most cases substituted by the first letter. So:
"…What the propaganda of hate perpetrated among the red Army soldiers found its true reflection in the captured letters from the front some of which we will include here. They have been written by the military servicemen of mechanized detachments (field post office 20739) in January-February of 1945. «We are moving every day farther into the East Prussia, - wrote, for instance, S. to his parents to Smolensk, — and we are avenging the Germans for all the infamies they incurred on us… We are now allowed to do with the German scoundrels anything». «The Germans all are fleeing, they are afraid of our revenge, — says the letter written by L. 30 January, 1945 – but not everybody manages to slip out. May the German mother damn the day when she gave birth to the son. May the German women now feel the horrors of the war. May them now pass themselves through what they intended to the other peoples».
"The civilian population are no longer fleeing, — wrote Ê. 30 January, 1945 to the Vladimir province. — What is now going on here is simply terrible». «We are now waging war in the most direct sense of the word, — wrote 1 February, 1945 P. to his parents in Alma-Ata, — we are crushing the bastards in their lair in East Prussia... Now our soldiers can also see how their houses are burning, how their families are roaming and hauling with them their broods of vipers… They probably hope to survive but there is no mercy on them». «There are enough of German women, - wrote Å. on the 3 February, 1945, - they don’t have to be persuaded, you just put the Nagant revolver to her head and command "Lie down!", do your business and go farther». In a letter from captain Ê. of the same date is written: «We are here smoking out the German cockroaches so that the feathers are flying. Our lads have already "tasted" all German women. And a lot of booty…»
Even Yu.U., already mentioned officer, in himself dreamy, almost philosophical person full of humanistic ideals, long ago tired of the war and complaining about the victims and destruction, all the same did not remain untouched by the propaganda of hate. «We hate Germany and the Germans very much, - he writes in his diary 27 January, 1945 in Starkenberg, - in one house, for instance, our lads saw killed woman with 2 children. And in the street you often see killed civilians... Of course it is terribly cruel — to kill children... But the Germans deserved these brutalities …»
… Incited by the Soviet military propaganda and command structures of the Red Army the soldiers of the 16th Guards infantry division (2nd Guards tank corps of the 11th Guards Army) in the last ten days of October, 1944 began butchering the peasant population in a salient south of Gumbinnen. There the Germans recaptured the location and were able, as an exception, to conduct a more detailed research. Only in Hemmersdorf at least 72 men, women and children were killed. Women and even small girls were raped before that, several women were nailed to a barn gate. Not far from this place a large number of Germans and French prisoners of war (who before that were captured by the Germans) fell by the hand of the Soviet murderers.
Everywhere in the nearby settlements bodies were found of brutally murdered residents – in Banfeld, Teihoff estate, Alt Wustervitz (there, the remains of several people burnt alive were found) and in other locations. «Next to the road and in the yards of houses lay heaps of civilian cadavers… - informed Ober-Lieutenant Amberger, - in particular, I saw many women who were… raped and then killed by a shot to back of the head, sometimes the killed children lay nearby».
Cannoneer Erich Cherkus of the 121st artillery regiment during his interrogation by a military tribunal said the following about what he saw in Schillmeichen near Heiderkrug in Memel Province which was taken by the detachments of 93rd infantry corps (43rd army, 1st Baltic Front):
«Next to the shed I found my father who lay with his face to the ground with a bullet hole in the nape of the head... In one room lay a man and a woman, with the hands tied behind the backs, and both tied together with one rope… At one estate we saw 5 children with tongs nailed to a big table. Despite a strenuous search I did not find even traces of my mother… Along the road we saw 5 young women tied up with one rope, the dresses taken almost totally off, the backs severely ripped. It looked as if the women were long drugged on the ground. Besides, next to the road we saw several completely crushed wagon-trains».
It is impossible to reflect all horrible details or even more so to imagine the complete picture of what happened. May some selected examples give the idea of the Red Army actions in the eastern provinces after the offensive was restarted in January of 1945. The Federal archive published in its report "About the banishment and crimes during banishment» of 28 May, 1974 precise data from the so-called “summary sheets” about the brutality in two selected districts: the East-Prussian border district Iohannesburg [currently Pisz, Poland] and in the Silesian border district Oppeln [currently Opole, Poland].
According to these official investigations, in the district Iohannesburg, in the corridor of the 50th army (2nd Belorussian front), together with the other innumerable murders was identified the murder on 24 January, 1945 of 120 (the other data, 97) civilians and several German soldiers and French prisoners of war from a refugee column next to the Nickelsberg – Hertzdorf road south of Arys [currently Orzysz, Poland]. Next to the Stollendorf – Arys road 32 refugees were shot, and next to the Arys – Driegelsdorf at Schlagakrug 1 February on the order of a Soviet officer – about 50 persons, mostly children and youngsters torn from their parents and relatives in the refugee carts. At Gross Rosen, in the end of January, 1945 about 30 persons were burnt alive in a field shed. One witness saw next to the Arys road «dead bodies lying next to each other». In Arys itself «many shootings» were conducted apparently at a gathering point, and in the NKVD torture cellar, «tortures of most horrific kind» up to the death.
In Silesian district Oppeln the military of the 32nd and 34th Guards infantry corps (5th Guards army, 1st Ukrainian front) through end January, 1945 killed at least 1,264 German civilians… In Gottedorf the Soviet soldiers 23 January,1945 shot about 270 residents including little children and 20-40 members of Mariana brotherhood. In Karlsruhe [currently Pokój, Poland] were shot 110 residents including inhabitants of the Anninsk orphanage, in Kuppa 60-70 residents, also including inhabitants of the senior care home and the priest who wanted to protect the women from rape. But Iohannisburg and Oppeln were only two out of many districts in the eastern provinces of the German Reich occupied by the Red Army in 1945.
Based on reports of the field commands’ services the Land Force General Headquarters’ department of “foreign armies of the east” put together several lists “On the violations of international law and brutalities perpetrated by the Red Army on the occupied German territories’. These lists, albeit they also do not provide the total picture, document, in hot chase, many Soviet atrocities with certain degree of reliability.
For instance, Army Group “À” reported 20 January, 1945 that all residents of the settlements Reichtal [Rychtal] and Glausche at Namslau [currently Namysłów, Poland] retaken at night were shot by the Soviet soldiers from the 9th mechanized corps (3rd Guards tank army). 22 January, 1945, according to a report from the Army group “Center” at Grunhein in Welau district [currently Znamensk] tanks of the 2nd Guards tank corps "overcame and pelted with tank shells and machinegun bursts a column of refugees, 4 km long, mostly women and children, and whoever remained were killed by sub-machine gunners". The similar happened the same day not far from there, at Gertlauken where the Soviet soldiers killed, some by a bullet to the back of the head,
50 people from the refugee column.
In West Prussia, in the unnamed settlement, at the end of January a long wagon-train of refugees was also reached by the Soviet tank detachments. As reported by several surviving women "the soldiers threw the carts into the shoulder ditches and attacked women; the children rushing to help were shot. A Soviet colonel directed the traffic of rapists whereas the other officer shot hysterical children and elderly". The tankers from the 5th Guards tank army poured gasoline on the horses and carts and kindled them: “Some civilians, mostly women and children, jumped off the carts and tried to escape (some of them were already like live torches). After that the Bolsheviks opened fire. Very few managed to escape”.
Similarly, in the Plonene area at the end of January tanks of the 5th Guards tank army assaulted the refugee column and pelted it. "Dead bodies of women, elders, children among the mountains of rags and overturned carts covered the road shoulders to the very horizon". All women between ages of 13 and 60 from this settlement located at Elbing [currently Elblong, Poland], were continuously and ferociously raped by the Red Army men. German soldiers from a tank intelligence platoon found one woman with the bayonet-ripped lower part of the stomach and another young woman – on a wooden bunk with the smashed face. Destroyed and robbed refugee wagon-trains on both sides of the road, corpses of the passengers in the road ditch were also found in Meislatein near Elbing.
Intentional destruction by the tank tracks or shelling of the refugee wagon-trains dragging on the roads and easily recognizable as such were reported everywhere in the eastern provinces, for instance from the operating area of the Soviet 2nd Guards tank army. In the Wahlrode district 18 and 19 January, 1945 in several places such wagon-trains were stopped, attacked and partially destroyed; “the fallen down women and children were shot or crushed” or, as another information says, “they killed most women and children”. The Soviet tanks shelled and machine-gunned at Wahlrode a German hospital transport, as a result “it was possible to save only 80 out of 1,000 wounded”. Besides, there are reports of the Soviet tank assaults on the refugee columns in Schauerkirch, Gombin where “about 800 women and children were killed”…
In a forest gate-house at Soldin the Soviet soldiers of the 2nd Guards tank army killed the ranger’s family and all refugees that were there; not far from there was burnt a German soldier who hid in a shed. Only in 1995 at Soldin (now Myślibórz, Poland) was discovered a mass grave with remains of 120 civilians.
Only very few of the atrocities which continued to be recorded in East Prussia can be quoted. For instance, the Red Army men from the 3rd Guards cavalry corps near a small settlement Tollnikken shot a family of 7 including small children because the parents resisted the rape of their two daughters, and also a young man, a farmer and three German soldiers.
More detailed investigations, as at Gumbinnen, Goldap, Elbing and some other places, were possible only in case of retaking the lost territory by the German forces, which rarely happened: for instance in settlements around Preußisch Holland [currently Pasłęk, Poland] recaptured 28-30 January, 1945 by units of the 10th tank corps (5th Guards tank army). A report from the Army Group “North” of 2 February, 1945 says, for instance, that in Götthendorf, Döbern, and Bordenen the residents were killed or shot. “In Götthendorf near Preußisch Holland – says one report – only in one room lay 7 killed civilian persons, among them 2 elderly women, 2 men and a boy of just 14 years. In the corner, hunkered down, is a 9-year-old boy with the totally broken scull and over him a 15-year-old girl with prickled hands and scratched face, the breast and stomach cut by a bayonet, the lower body absolutely naked. An 80-year-old man lay shot in front of the door”.
When the German forces late in January managed to liberate a Pomeranian town of Preußisch Friedland [currently Debrzho, Poland] and the surrounding settlements the forensic and sanitary officers of the German 32nd infantry division conducted the interrogation of survivors. It is stated in the report from the 2nd Army Command of 14 February, 1945: “In Preußisch Friedland and in the village of Ziskau were 29 and 30 January shot after severe torture most of the men who were there. The houses and apartments were robbed, destroyed and burnt. The Bolshevik murderers shot from rifles and machineguns at women and children who wanted to escape”. On a farm two kilometers off the highway in all rooms were found the corpses of children, old people, raped and shot women.
In Preußisch Friedland and the nearby settlements the investigations revealed other atrocities as well. In Linde, 29 January, 1945 were killed 16 residents, raped at least 50 women, minimum 4 women were killed after the rape. In particular an 18-year-old girl was raped and shot in her bed. In three rooms of one big house were found five dead women and three dead girls, all victims with empty wine bottles stuck between their legs.
In Zickau civilian persons were also shot “after terrible tortures” as well as hiding soldiers, including a military sailor, and women raped, some of them numerously, among them “an 86-year-old woman and 18-year-old girl from Bromberg [currently Bydgoszcz, Poland] who passed away in terrible pain”. “In Zickau, says the conclusion by the command of the 2nd Army, officer’s wife was nailed to the floor. After that the Bolsheviks desecrated her until she died”…
The available official material is of course incomplete and, besides, it can be quoted in this context only broadly, briefly and in fragments. But the corresponding reports are available from the entire territory of provinces Silesia, Brandenburg, Pomerania and East Prussia, and everywhere their content is the same corpus delicti: murders, rapes, robberies, marauding and arson, so on the hole they create a true image of the horrible events…
Near the Reich’s border, west of Wieluń Soviet soldiers from the 1st Ukrainian front poured gasoline on the refugee carts and burnt them together with the passengers. Innumerable bodies lay on the roads of German men, women and children, some mutilated – with the cut throat, cut-away tong, ripped stomach. Also west of Wieluń 25 employees of the Todtd Organization were shot by the tank crews of the 3rd Guards tank army. In Heinersdorf all men were also shot, women raped, and at Kunzendorf 25-30 men of the Volkssturm got bullets in the back of the head.
In Beatenhof near Olau [currently Oława, Poland] after it was retaken by the Germans all men were found killed by a shot to the back of the head. The criminals were the military personnel from the 5th Guards Army. In Grünberg [currently Zelena Gura, Poland] 8 families were murdered by militaries of the 9th Guards tank corps. The Tannenfeld estate at Grottkau [currently Grodków, Poland] became the arena of horrible crimes. The Red Army men from the 229th infantry division raped two girls there then murdered them. They gouged the eyes to one man and cut his tong. The same happened with a 43-year-old Polish woman who they then tortured to the death.
In Alt-Grottkau the military from the same division murdered 14 prisoners of war, beheaded them, gouged their eyes and crushed by tanks. The Red Army men from the same infantry division were responsible for the atrocities in Schwartzengrund near Grottkau. They raped women, including nuns, shot a farmer Kalert, ripped the stomach to his wife, cut away her hands, shot a farmer Christoff and his son and a young woman. In the Eisdorf estate near Merzdorf the Soviet soldiers from the 5th Guards army gouged the eyes to an old man and old woman, apparently a married couple, and cut away their noses and fingers. Nearby were found 11 brutally murdered wounded Luftwaffe soldiers.
The same way in Guterstadt near Glogau [currently Głogów, Poland] were found 21 German prisoners of war murdered by Red Army men from the 4th tank army. In the village of Heslicht near Striegau [currently Strzegom, Poland] Maria Heinke found her husband, who was still showing weak vital signs, dying in the Soviet guard-house. Medical examination discovered that his eyes were gouged; his tong cut away, his hand broken in several places and his scull crushed.
The military from the 7th Guards tank corps in Ossig near Strigau raped women, murdered 6-7 young women, shot 12 farmers and perpetrated similar severe crimes in Hirtwisswaldau near Jauer [currently Jawor, Poland]. In Liegnitz [currently Lagnica, Poland] were found cadavers of numerous civilian persons shot by the Soviet soldiers from the 6th Army. In the town of Kostenblut near Neumarkt [currently Środa Śląska, Poland] seized by the units of 7th Guards tank corps they raped women (including a heavily pregnant mother of eight) and young girls. A brother of the pregnant woman tried to protect her and was shot. Also shot were all foreign prisoners of war and 6 men and 3 women…
Not far behind Skampe, next to the road to Renchen [currently Zbonshin, Poland] were found the cadavers of a man and a woman. Woman’s stomach was ripped, the embryo torn away and the hole in the stomach filled with scat and straws. Nearby were the dead bodies of three hanged Volkssturm men. In Kae near Zullichau the military from the 33rd army murdered the wounded by shots to the back of the heads and also the women and children from one wagon-train.
The city of Neu Benchen [currently Zbaszyn, Poland] was robbed and then deliberately burnt by the Red Army men.
Near the road Schwiebus [currently Swiebodzin, Poland] – Frankfurt the Red Army men from the 69th army shot the civilians including women and children so that "the corpses lay one on top of the other". In Reppen all men from the passing wagon-train were shot by the Soviet soldiers from the 19th army and women were raped …
The Vlasov’s army strike group commanded by ROA Colonel Sakharov retook 9 February, 1945 with the German help settlements Neulewin and Kerstenbruch located in the Oder River winding bend. According to the German report of 15 March, 1945 the population of both settlements «was subjected to the most horrific outrages». In Neulewin the burgomaster and a Wehrmacht soldier on leave were found shot. In one shed lay corpses of three raped and murdered women, two with the legs tied. One German woman lay shot at the door of her house. An elderly spousal couple was strangled. In Neubarnim 19 residents were found dead. The inn mistress’ body was mutilated, the legs tied with wire. There, as in other settlements women and girls were desecrated and in Kerstenbruch even a 71-your old woman with amputated legs. The picture of the Soviet army violent crimes in the Oder River winding bend villages, as elsewhere, is complemented by robberies and intentional destructions…
There were relatively few reports in February, 1945 from Pomerania as the breakthrough engagements there began in seriousness only at the end of the month… In Jedersdorf military of the 2nd Guards tank army shot 10 evacuated women and a 15-year-old youngster, killed off the barely alive victims by bayonets and pistol shots … In Gross-Silber near Kallis the Red Army men from the 7th Guards cavalry corps raped a young woman with the broom handle, cut away her left breast and smashed her scull… The terrific event was reported by the commander of a German engineering-tank battalion (7th tank division). Late in February, 1945 Soviet officers from the 1st (or 160th) infantry division north of Könitz pushed, for intelligence, 10-12-year-old children onto a mine field. The German soldiers heard children’s moaning, they were severely wounded by the exploding mines "loosing blood pouring out of the ripped bodies ".
In East Prussia where ferocious engagements continued in February, 1945, the atrocities went on unabatedly despite the orders to the contrary… In Landsberg the Soviet soldiers from the 331st infantry division drove the overwhelmed population, including women and children, into cellars, kindled the houses and began shooting at the panic-stricken running people. Many burnt alive. In a village next to the Landsberg-Heilsberg road the military from the same infantry division 6 days and nights kept women and girls locked in a cellar, some of them chained to the walls, and with the participation of officers raped them many times a day. Because of the desperate cries two of those Soviet officers right in front of everybody’s eyes cut away tongs of two women "with a semi-round knife". German soldiers-tankers were able to liberate only a few of the poor things, 20 women died.
In Hanshagen near Preußisch-Eylau [currently Bagrationovsk] Red Army men from the 331st infantry division shot two mothers who resisted the rape of their daughters, and of a father whose daughter was at the same time dragged from the kitchen and raped by the Soviet officer. Further were murdered: a spousal couple of teachers with 3 children, an unknown young woman-refugee, and innkeeper and a farmer whose 21-year-old daughter was raped. In Peretshagen near Preußisch-Eylau the military from this division murdered two men and a 16-year-old youngster Richard Von Hofmann and subjected women and girls to cruel rapes.
Early in February of 1945 the Soviet troops unexpectedly bloke through into the western Samland and seized a great number of settlements. A few days after that the Germans were able to beat and partially drive back the advance force and to restore 19-20 February, 1945 in the course of a daring large-scale offensive operation the interrupted on-land and offshore communications with Konigsberg. The Command of the Army Group Samland and Army Group “North” with the help from the police conducted an investigation of the fate of the population in the newly liberated territory whose results, unfortunately, are available only for several settlements.
Thus, the military from the 39th army murdered in Georgenvalde 4 civilian persons and threw the dead bodies into the flames of the kindled estate... In Kragau military from the 91st Guards infantry division raped and strangled two young women, in Medenau the military from the 358th infantry division murdered at least 11 civilians. There, in front of one house lay the corpses of two murdered women, little child and a sucking baby. Two elderly men and a 14-year-old youngster were beaten to death as well as two women and two young girls after the rape. The totally naked body of a 30-year-old woman had stabbing wounds on the breast, her skull was cut open and she was peppered by the bullets. In Gross-Ladtkeim the military from the 91st Guards infantry division shot 2 German prisoners of war and 4 civilians including burgomaster and his wife. No traces remained of their 18-year-old daughter. However, a dead body of a girl whose breasts were cut away after the rape and the eyes gouged, was found.
In Krattlau the military from the 275th Guards infantry regiment of the 91st Guards infantry division murdered 6 men and two German soldiers. All women and girls, including 13-year-old, were continuously raped, some women "were subjected to the sexual violence by 6-8 soldiers 5-8 times a day". In Annental the German liberators found the corpses of two women who were desecrated (one on a heap of dung) and then strangled.
In was possible to conduct a detailed investigation in Germau where the headquarters of the 91st Guards infantry division and 275th Guards infantry regiment were located. Found in Germau were corpses of 21 murdered – men, women and children. 11 people could not stand monstrous tortures and committed suicide. 15 German wounded were murdered by breaking their heads, one of them was pushed a harmonica in the throat… Two girls were found next to the Germau-Palmnikken [currently Yantarny] road. Both were shot in the heads from a close distance, one of them had her eyes gauged.
On approach to Metgethen (a resort suburb of Konigsberg) were found several hundred corpses of German soldiers, some of them mutilated beyond recognition. In almost every house and yard lay murdered men, women and children, the women with clear traces of rape, often with cut away breasts, two 20-year-old girls were torn apart by the trucks. At the railway station was standing at least one train with refugees from Konigsberg. In each car were bodies “of brutally murdered refugees of any sex and age”. A tennis court at Metgethen was stuffed tight with German prisoners of war and civilian persons, and then an explosive charge was primed. Parts of human bodies were found as far as 200 m of a giant blast crater.
27 February, 1945 captain Sommer from the fortress commandant headquarters accidentally stumbled in a gravel quarry behind a house across the road crossing near Metgethen the corpses of 12 totally naked women and children dumped together “as a disorderly heap”, they were torn to pieces by bayonets and knives.
Besides individual corpses dispersed over the entire resort settlement, and there were hundreds of those, several large earth hills were discovered under which as it turned out were buried hundreds (according to Captain Sommer and Professor Dr. Ipsen, 3,000) of the murdered. The fortress commander General Lasch appointed a commission to investigate but it went with difficulty because the Soviet military poured gasoline over the heap of dead bodies and tried to burn it. Nevertheless they managed to establish that most victims were not shot but brutally hacked by chopping and stabbing weapons…
West of Metgethen, as Captain Sommer reported, everywhere along the road to Povajen lay dead bodies of civilian persons either killed by shots to the back of their heads or “totally naked, raped and then brutally murdered by bayonets or gun-butts”. Next to the road crossing before Povajen four naked women were crushed by a Soviet tank. Captain Sommer and also Major Professor Dr. Ipsen authenticated nothing less than a symbolic abomination: in a Gross-Heidekrug church a young girl was crucified and the German soldiers were hanged right and left of her.
All these were happening at the gate of the provincial center Konigsberg. Unspeakable atrocities and crimes committed by the incited Soviet soldiers later, after the city was seized 7-9 April, 1945, defy description and could have found only schematic reflection also in the diaries of the doctors Deihelmann and Graf Von Lendorf..."
At this we will stop the kaleidoscope of monstrous events reflected in the documents from German archives gathered by J.Hoffmann. We’ll try now to “adjust the focus” and see how THIS was happening in one specific German city. Not even a city, just a little Silesian town, population 17 thous. people.
Striegau. Until recently this name was of no meaning to anybody (as opposed, for instance, to Hemmersdorf about the tragic events in which plenty of paper was written over). One of many German cities and towns which on Stalin’s will turned out after the Second World War as part of Poland. Before the war about 17-20 thous. people lived in Striegau; by February of 1945 the flow of refugees increased town’s population to 30 thous. (although nobody today would be able to state the exact numbers). 13 February, 1945 the troops of the 1st Ukrainian front seized Striegau. Four weeks thereafter the town turned out again in German hands after one of the last attempts by the Wehrmacht on a counteroffensive.
The German forces found in Striegau 30 (thirty) live residents and about two hundred unpicked corpses. Assumedly, 13-15 thous. people fled from the town prior to its occupation by the Soviet troops, the rest were driven from their homes, partially sent for hard labor in the USSR (total removed from Germany and countries of East Europe for compulsory labor in the USSR was 267 thous. Germans, not counting prisoners of war).
The members of the German criminal police and of the funeral detachments described in their written reports what came before their eyes in the deserted town. Two German historians ("neo-fascists" in terminology of Comrade Rzheshevsky), Martin Bojanovsky and Erich Bosdorf published these testimonies in their book “Striegau. The fate of one Silesian town” which was used by the Scientific commission of the German Federal Government as a documental material.
The reports about the perished in Striegau were separated into “group finds and single finds” with accurate indications of the street and house number. It looked as follows:
- "in a runoff gutter lies the corpse of a youth, about 14 years of age, squashed by a heavy transportation vehicle; shot in the back of the head"
- "on the sofa lies partially naked dead woman; two shots in the mouth"
- "corps of a 72-year-old woman with gouged eyes”
- "the corps of a shot woman pinned down by a box".
- "among the glass and porcelain fragments in a sacked store the cadaver of a shot elderly woman with denuded lower body"
- "three men, two women and a child of about two years, shot"
- "a woman of 30-35 years with the denuded lower body, nearby at a distance of a few meters a woman of somewhat older age, the arms around a tree, all shot"
- "dead body of a man with knife cuts, nearby the wife and child, shot"
- "three elderly women with denuded lower bodies and traces of rape, shot; in the attic of the house, corpse of an elderly man, hanged head down"
- "on a wooden latch hangs the dead body of a man, in the attic lay two naked female corpses with traces of sadistic rape, shot; on the sofa is the shot boy, about 12 years-old, on the bed the naked corpse of a 18-year-old girl with traces of a sadistic rape, shot"
- "in the cellar, a shot elderly spousal couple, eyes gouged..."
Beside numerous brutal murders the funeral detachments recorded in Striegau many cases of suicides, including group suicides:
- "three female corpses and one child’s, suicide by gas"
- "a spousal couple, suicide by way of hanging on a window frame; in the cellar cadavers of one man and two young women of different ages, suicide by hanging"
-"four female cadavers and one youngster, death through poisoning by gas"
-"two female cadavers, suicide through poisoning by gas"
-"mother and daughter, sitting at the table, suicide through poisoning by gas"
-"a woman opened her arteries but before that strangled by a twisted towel her daughter lying nearby"
- "in the attic, next to one another are hanged two elderly women, one young woman, a girl about 20 years old and a girl, 10 -11 years, with traces of rape’.
The details of this collective suicide at the attic of No 5, Ziganstrasse are known, however improbable it is, from one woman who was a participant of the horrible event. A letter from this woman (she was 47 at the time) to the son of one of the perished women was preserved. Omitting out of respect to the reader the description of endless group rapes ("sexual collisions" in the words of Army General I.Tretyak) we’ll switch right away to the end of the letter:
"…About 10 in the morning it got quieter, and we all went to the apartment of a young Frau Ê., her 11-year-old daughter Trautel also was raped. There we prepared some meal. But now we heard the steps and all repeated again. We yelled, we beseeched them to please leave us alone at last but they did not know mercy. We all agreed to hang ourselves. But somebody came again. When at last they left we ran to the attic as soon as we could. Frau R. hanged herself first. The young Frau K. first hanged her daughter Trautel and then hanged herself. Your mother and your sister did the same (i.e., mother hanged her own daughter – M.S.).
And now we remained only two of us, your mother and me. I asked her to make a noose for me; I was incapable to do it out of the agitation. We embraced each other in the end and threw away the road basket on which we stood. My legs reached the floor, the rope was too long. I looked right, then left, all were hanging in a line, all were dead. I didn’t have anything to do but to try to free myself of the rope …"
Is the quoted information reliable? Can we trust documents, reports, testimonies from only one, i.e., German, side? Where is an expert conclusion of independent and impartial witnesses? Alas, there is none. Where are documents of the investigation cases from the Soviet military tribunals? Where are reports of the Soviet military prosecution office? None as well. Why should we trust the statements of one, clearly interested party?
A good question. I can say, a strong question. Quite fitting the “newthink”, the norms and principles of the rule-of-law state. The rule-of-law state, as is known, presumes the availability of a large defense lawyer population. The unshakable principle of the defense lawyer’s job is known: "I am not interested whether or not my client committed the crime he is accused of but I will prove that the charge does not agree with the letter of the law". As many defense lawyers become well-to-do people it is apparent that this tenet works well.
Nevertheless far from always and far from all murderers and rapists with an insolent smirk get released to freedom right from the court room. Fortunately, paid defense lawyer is not the only participant in the proceedings. There are also jurors and judges who have a no less legal right to make decision ex aequo et bono (by conscience and fairness), relying not only on the letter of law but also on the “inner conviction” (this, incidentally, is the term quite legitimate under the Russian Code of Criminal Procedure).
By conscience and fairness it should be clear for anyone that monstrous crimes committed in the years of the Second World War far from always (and even firmer, “almost never”) can be ascertained in the framework of formal bureaucratic procedure. Which “commission of independent experts from neutral Switzerland” established the fact of a brutal murder of residents in a Belorussian village Khatyn? Where are the documents? Where are independent witnesses? Strangely enough, some documents were preserved. In the archive. So, with good reason they may be called "archive documents" (some readers are magically impressed by these two words). In a report by the commander of 118th police battalion (manned by the Red Army men, prisoners of war, in Kiev) the punitive expedition conducted in Khatyn 22 March, 1943 is described so:
"…The village was surrounded and attacked from all sides. The enemy at that rendered a dogged resistance and was shooting from all houses so it was necessary to use heavy weapons (antitank guns and heavy mortars). In the course of the combat activities together with 34 bandits were killed many residents of the village. Some of them perished in the flames..."
You can see for yourselves - archive documents "incontestably" testify: the engagement, the enemy, the bandits, some residents perished in the flames. By accident, one must suppose… and if we – quite fairly – consider such dissertations blasphemous as well as any other attempts to cast discredit on the reality of mass crimes perpetrated by the Hitlerites and their sidekicks on the Soviet land, why then a different standard should be applied to the crimes whose victims became the German women and children?
31 August, 1941 "Pravda" published an article by A.N.Tolstoy "The face of the Hitler’s army". 66 years thereafter was published a book by A.Dyukov where, referring to this article, it is reported that "on the outskirts of a village near Bialystok five women cadavers were impaled with five sharpened stakes. The cadavers were naked, with ripped bellies, cut breasts and heads. The women's heads lay around in a puddle of blood together with the corpses of the killed children..." In what way an outstanding Soviet writer, a thousand kilometers from Bialystok occupied by the Germans in the first days of war, could have ascertained these horrible details of the crime?
And if an article in "Pravda" of the war times (moreover, written by the author known for his "integrity" who two years before that in the same very paper and almost in the same words vividly described the atrocities of the Polish army running under the blows of then friendly Wehrmacht); so, if an article in "Pravda" must be considered a "document", why then thousands of testimonies given under oath by quite specific persons and published on behalf of the Commission of the democratic Germany’s federal government should be considered less reliable?
Sure, each individual report of a war crime may, if checked with due diligence, turn out to be inaccurate, exaggerated and maybe even invented (there is no telling that in most cases the checking in accordance with strict legal norms will be practically impossible). And at the same time the entire aggregation of events recorded in such “archive” cannot but be true.
It is not worth it to believe that the attempts to check (strictly speaking, to refute by any possible means) the reports of the brutal reprisals against the German civilian population were not undertaken. You damn Skippy, they were undertaken. With loud noise and pomp. Here, for example, in 2008 the “Yauza-EKSMO” publishers issued a collection entitled "We have nothing to repent!" (it is an overwhelming appeal for a country three quarters of whose population, if one is willing to believe the sociological polls of recent years, consider themselves orthodox Christians).
In the foreword to the collection the aforementioned A.Dyukov writes (or rather yells):
"…They try to deprive us of the Great Victory. They tell us that the Victory turned out to be the enslavement of the Eastern Europe, that the Soviet soldiers raped Germany… Nothing else remains for Russia but to pay and repent, repent and pay thereby turning from the subject to the object of the foreign politics (in a strange way Mr. Dyukov did not notice that the democratic Germany is paying, repenting and remaining at that one of the most influential subjects of the world politics)… The time is not waiting. If we don’t want for our grandfathers and grand-grandfathers to be called murderers, drunks and marauders, if we do not want for our children to be spitting at the graves of the ancestors…"
After such “artillery preparation" in the collection appears an article entitled "Nemmersdorf: between the truth and propaganda" (the author, I.Petrov). So, where is the truth?
In the beginning of the article I.Petrov quite sincerely admits: "I’ll tell you right away: the materials available at this time practically do not leave room for doubts that the murders of civilian persons in Nemmersdorf were the work of Red Army soldiers and officers". Further on he acknowledges another very strange and undoubtedly deplorable fact: "Even if some archives hold reports of “osobists” about the happenings in Nemmersdorf, the historians so far did not get the access to them". I am reminding: "so far" is 64 years thereafter.
What then the multi-page article is about? The entire clumsy attempt of the “exposure” boils down to the search for small and minuscule imprecisions, misties and inconsistencies in the available German documents and testimonies ("Lieutenant Zirn saw 7 killed, corporal Scheible saw 11 and only Major Braumuller says about 15... not a single report mentions the shot into the right eye which, according to Hinrichs’ report, killed one of the girls… nobody saw the man nailed to the door, the conclusion is made based on the hand wounds and testimony of a heavily wounded witness lady who was then taken in an unknown direction and subsequently was never identified …").
Certainly, there are many such inconsistencies. It could not have been otherwise taking into account the circumstances and the modus operandi of all participants in the tragedy. However, the main “achievement” of the researcher is the assertion that in Nemmersdorf proper “only” 26 civilian residents were murdered and the number 70 accepted by the Western historiography relates to the number of murdered both in Nemmersdorf and the adjacent farms and estates. There is no need to repent the murders of the civilians because… Yes, certainly, because we must now, in 2008, check our words with the deals of Doctor Goebbels:
"Goebbels’ propaganda needed a scarecrow for the population of the Reich’s Eastern provinces, and the Soviet soldiers by having shot the elderly, women and children played in its hands. Lurid colors and bloody details were mostly added by the propagandists themselves..."
Sometimes the desperate unwillingness to call a spade a spade acquires totally farcical nature. For instance, a Russian Internet-portal Infox.ru placed 12 January, 2009 the information that in an ancient Prussian city of Marienburg [currently Malbrok, Poland] a mass burial was discovered during construction. Close to 1,800 people including women and children were buried naked, without dress, shoes, belts, spectacles and tooth crowns. More than 100 sculls bore clear traces of bullet holes. The original article in the British “Guardian” was entitled "Remains of 1,800 German civilians found in wartime mass grave". The subtitle suggests that "men, women and children have been killed as Red Army captured town". It is hard to believe that it was impossible to find in gold-domed Moscow a translator capable of understanding the word combination "German civilians". However, in the Russian Internet-publication the article was entitled "A mass burial of German soldiers were found in Poland", and the subtitle was even more interesting: "The experts suspect that these are the Poles perished by the Soviet weapons"…
Tempora mutantur, however, and in 2008 the article appeared where the monstrous facts were named without any reservations and equivocations, in plain speech:
"…14 million Germans were banished from their houses but only 12 million managed to get in Germany alive… The banishment of the Germans from Eastern Europe was accompanied by a large-scale organized violence… The remaining German population was driven into the concentration camps; the adults used for the forced labor, and the mortality in the camps during the winter of 1945/1946 reached 50%. Such as in Potulice camp during the period between 1947 and 1949 half of the inmates perished from hunger, cold, illnesses and abuse by the guards… One of the most monstrous cases occurred during the night from 18th to 19th June of 1945 in the city of Prerau where 265 Germans were shot including 120 women and 74 children. The oldest murdered was 80 years old, the youngest eight months…”
And note, this article (“Banished and murdered”) was published not in some yellow sheet of the temporarily unfinished-off liberals “scavenging at the doors of the Western embassies” but in a quite respectable, expensive and solid magazine “Expert” (No 30 of 28 July, 2008). Incidentally, magazine’s editorial board is positioning its brainchild as "one of the most influential weekly analytical publications in Russia with the deserved reputation of a clear leader of the business magazine press", and General Director of the media-holding “Expert” (which is close to the "United Russia") Mr. Fadeyev is at the same time director of the Institute of social designing and chairman of a commission at the RF Community chamber.
But the most surprising thing in this story with the publication by the “Expert” was that nobody was filled with indignation! Nobody! Not Comrade Gareyev, who "as in confessionary" never heard about cases of rape (to say nothing of murders), not Comrade Rzheshevsky unfailingly demanding to produce "weighty documental grounds for such heavy accusations", not Comrade Dyukov who is worried very much that Russia would have to "pay and repent"…
And the answer is extremely simple.
After the former allies in the Warsaw pact switched to NATO and besides agreed for the placement of the American anti-ballistic system on their territories memories all of a sudden woke up in some of the Russian historians and journalists. They immediately remembered the long-known facts and hurried to remind Poland and Czechia some forgotten episodes of their postwar history.
The article in the "Expert" is highly "balanced and politically restrained". The main accent is - on the banishment of the German population from Czechia and handed-to-Poland areas of the East Germany, in a brief tong-twister – about events in Hungary and Romania (where the American PRO is not anticipated so far) and not a single word (!!!) about Yugoslavia ("brotherly Serbia standing against the NATO aggression") where in 44-45th 69 thous. people perished – one of each three from 200 thous. Germans who did not manage to flee the country. And what is self-evident – not by a single word did "Expert" remember that in the cities and towns of East Prussia ceded to the Soviet Union the Germans were banished and murdered exactly the same way as in the East Prussian and Pomeranian areas ceded to Poland; that Comrade Stalin also bears some responsibility for the events happened in the Red Army-occupied Czechoslovakian, Hungarian and Yugoslavian territories; that the puppet "Polish Government" of Comrade Berut would not without Moscow’s consent displace from one location to another not only three million Germans but even three chairs in their office…
Completing the sad list of the German population’s mass deportation and mass murder facts I just have to inform the reader that I deceived him. Three times at that. I inserted in the excerpts from Hoffmann’s book quoted above three episodes from the memoirs by L.N.Rabichev (Senior Lieutenant, on the front since December, 1942, ended the war in Prague, awarded two orders of the Patriotic War, II grade, order “Red Banner” and medals). His memoires (published in "Znamya" magazine, No 2/2005) match almost verbatim the testimonies quoted by J.Hoffmann. And at that, the "plagiarism" (or subconscious copying) was impossible in principle: Hoffmann died three years prior to the publication of Rabichev’s memoirs, and his book "Stalin’s war of annihilation" was published in-Russian only in 2006.
Without noticeable "joints" and "seams" the following excerpt from the memo by a CC VLKSM Secretary N.Mikhaylov sent 29 March, 1945 to the CC VKP(b) Secretary G.Malenkov could be inserted among the quotations from J.Hoffmann’s book:
"During the night 23 to 24 February a group of officers and cadets, 35 persons total, showed up drunk at Gutenneng farm, cordoned it off, set up machineguns, shot and wounded a Red Army man who protected the building. After that began a systematic rape of girls and women at the farm..." Such “insert”, however, would be an unacceptable phony as Mikhaylov’s memo was not at all about the outrages toward the civilian German population but about "savage and swinish attitude to the liberated girls and women". With Machineguns in hands "a group of officers and cadets, 35 persons total" stormed the location of a temporary placement of the “Ost-Arbeiters” liberated from the Fascist serfdom.
Regretfully, I know what with growing impatience are expecting to hear now a significant part of the readers. Alas, I must state in all certainty: "In your dreams!" Deliberate brutal murder of women and children can have no justification. None whatsoever. It is said that the 147 dollars per barrel "rising up from the knees" poisoned the consciousness of many my compatriots to such extent that they are no longer capable of understanding all monstrosity of insulting the memory of the perished soldiers in the Great Patriotic by dissertations on the subject that "the Hitlerites ALSO murdered women and children…"
There is no subject for a discussion here and I won’t waste time for hollow moralizing. The normal people will understand me. I won’t be able to dissuade those who grew wild. Still, for those who are not hopeless I will quote a few lines from an article by I.Ehrenburg published 14 March, 1945 in the "Red Star". They explain in layman’s terms the difference between the bestial rage and the noble hate of a soldier-liberator toward the enemy:
"Yesterday, I received a letter from the man who is no longer with us. There are traces of blood on the sheet of paper. Officer Boris Antonovich Kurilko perished on the German soil defending freedom and honor of our Motherland. The letter was sent to me by his comrades and I want for the last words of Comrade Kurilko to reach my readers as they reached me. This is what the Red Army officer wrote before his death:
“The fire of hate supported us in the hardest days. Now we are in Germany. Our hate is leading us to Berlin. The Germans believe that we will be doing on their soil what they were doing on ours. These executioners cannot understand the greatness of a Soviet warrior. We will be stern but just, and never, never will our people humiliate themselves...»
Pride is brimming in my heart when I hold this sheet of paper: on it are the blood of a hero and the words written in blood, lofty, beautiful words. We are vanquishing Fascism not only of the field of battle; we are vanquishing it in the moral confrontation between evil and good… Our hate is a lofty sensation; it demands justice, not reprisals, punishment, not violence… The Soviet warrior came to Germany not for prey, not for the stuff, not for the concubines, he came to Germany for justice… A defender of Stalingrad, a soldier from Yelnya, Rzhev and Sebastopol are higher than the Germans: higher not by “blood” — we will leave to the base “Arians” their base inventions — but higher in consciousness, in conscience, in the heart. He detests the Germans, their trinkets, their stuff, their flags, their newspapers, their women, their yesterday’s arrogance and today’s obsequence. He came here not as the avenger, he came here as a judge..."
Another subject which in view of many it was not possible to hush up were bombardments of Germany by the Anglo-American aviation. Indeed, the massive bombardment (especially – unaimed night "carpet" bombardment) resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of unarmed Germans, women and children; deprived millions of people of their homes and properties, turned into heaps of stone chippings greatest monuments of the European history and architecture. However, in this article I quite intentionally will not discuss this subject. And it is not only because the strategic bombardments of Germany were conducted by the allies at least with total consent of the Soviet side (as for the notorious bombardment of Dresden, it was done on direct demand from Stalin who in Yalta accused the allies in a deliberate unwillingness to destroy transportation arteries in East Germany). There is much more substantive reason.
Bombardment of the German cities by the allied aviation was part of the strategy of WAR. The allied aviation was destroying factories manufacturing weapons for Hitler, was destroying railway stations through which Hitler’s troops were transported, was killing and terrorizing German workers who (maybe not always of their own will) worked for Hitler. The Germans were brought to the notice of the condition upon which the bombardment would stop: total and unconditional capitulation of the aggressor country.
The Western allies unconditionally fulfilled this promise – not a single bomb dropped on any German city after the act of Germany’s capitulation was signed. Moreover, even during the war – to the best of my knowledge – the allies did not bomb even single German city on the occupied/liberated territory. Although they had enough bombs and aviation gasoline, and they could have expressed their "feeling of vengeance for the destroyed Coventry" using such technically-complicated method. On the other hand, brutal reprisals toward the German civilian population in the territories controlled by the Red Army began exactly AFTER the seizure of these territories and suppression of armed resistance.
I am repeating again: crimes against humanity have no justification, no statute of limitation. The purpose of this article is not at all a belated moralizing but the search for genuine reasons which made these tragic and shameful events on German soil possible. A search for explanations, not justifications. In my view, this is not a simple mission.
Of course there was strive to avenge the monstrous atrocities perpetrated by the occupants on the Soviet soil. However, not every desire and not always is implemented in actions, and not every desire of line soldiers is approved and allowed by the commanders. And after all, any person, beside the external controls, possesses self-control. Maybe I am remaining an incorrigible idealist but I have difficulty believing that a normal Russian dude drafted into the army from a Smolensk village, baptized in his childhood, brought up in the family of laborers could nail German children by the tongs to a table and crucify women on church altars. Among many peoples populating the multiethnic Soviet Union were peoples remembering the rites of “blood vendetta” but I have never heard that these rites presupposed brutal group rape of wife or the daughters of the “blood” enemy. And it appears to me that those who ascribe the Red Army soldiers SUCH implementation methods of the feeling of hate toward the enemy exceeded Goebbels himself with his thesis about the "Asian Bolshevik hordes"…
Casting away pathetic we can state a very definite, firmly established fact – and very strange one against the background of everything recited above: the German prisoners of war in the Soviet rear were not shot, tortured, crucified on shed doors or crushed by bulldozers. The attitude of the civil population in the Soviet rear toward captured Germans was surprisingly tolerant. And this is not the "Red propaganda", this is the fact known for certain by millions of contemporaries of the events.
The Soviet captivity certainly was not a “resort”; prisoners of war were used for hard labor, they had to live in cold climate unusual for them and under conditions of hunger and privations customary for the Soviet people. Many German military were taken prisoner wounded; frostbitten and sick, so the hard conditions resulted in enormous mortality: the most modest official estimates are that over 450 thous. German soldiers and officers perished in the Soviet captivity.
Having admitted this not at all joyous fact it is impossible not to see something else: the deliberate, and especially sadist murders of the German prisoners of war were exceptionally rare even in the front zone; in the rear area prisoner of war camps, if they took place at all those were rarest extraordinary happenings. The German captives working in mines and on construction sites were getting 600 grams of bread (standard ration of a Soviet worker, and this is greater than the norm of nonworking "dependents"), and compassionate Russian women sometimes additionally fed unarmed and helpless enemies (which was remembered with surprise and gratitude by the German soldiers many years since). Hundreds of thousands German captives received in the Soviet military hospitals qualified medical help returning them to life.
With all reservations that at war there is no room for the normal human logic it is difficult to reconcile multi-year humane treatment of disarmed German soldiers (many of whom had the blood of peaceful Soviet citizens on their hands) and ostensibly "spontaneous explosion" of a wild hate toward German women and children which for unexplainable reason overcame the army in the last months of the war.
At least as a working hypothesis it should be assumed that the “thirst for vengeance” which overtook the Red Army soldiers at the time they crossed the German borders was not the only and not the most important among the reasons that caused horrible events on the German soil. It is not difficult at all to see other, more significant factors.
As a first one (maybe not the first one in significance but quite obvious and indisputable) should be named a catastrophic decline in the military discipline; this decline certainly did not drop from the ceiling, it was naturally caused by the open and mass marauding by the command personnel.
Usually any attempt to discuss a subject of the violence toward the German civilian population immediately provokes voices hurrying to remind that "the Soviet command issued order after the order…" Downright truth. An order after the order (we will talk about them a little later). But to understand the real situation it is immeasurably more important, in my belief, to quote not numerous orders which threatened terrible punishment of the marauders but this, now widely known search protocol of the dacha of the former Supreme Commander of the Soviet occupation forces group in Germany, "Marshal of the Victory" G.K.Zhukov:
"…two rooms at the dacha are converted into storage where huge amounts of various kinds of goods and valuables are kept. For instance: woolen fabrics, silk, brocade, soleil-velvet and other fabrics, total over 4,000 meters; furs (sable, monkey, fox, fur-seal, broad-tail lamb, caracul, total 323 pelts; top quality goat leather, 35 leathers; large size expensive rugs and Gobelin tapestry taken from the Potsdam and other palaces and homes in Germany, total count 44… valuable classical paintings, large sizes in artistic frames, total count 55, hanging in dacha’s rooms and partially kept at the storage; expensive services, table and tea (porcelain with artistic trimming, crystal) – 7 large boxes; silver sets, table and tea – 2 boxes; accordions with rich artistic trimming – 8; unique hunting rifles by Holland-Holland and others - 20…
All things – from the furniture, rugs, wares, adornments and to the curtains on the windows – are foreign-made, mostly German. Literally no Soviet-made things at the dacha except for the runners in front of the dacha door. The dacha does not have a single Soviet book but the book shelves are full of wonderfully-bound tomes with gold embossment, exclusively in-German. Having entered the house it is difficult to imagine that you are near Moscow and not in Germany..."
This protocol was signed by Minister for the State Security Abakumov 10 January, 1948. 20 January, 1948 the Politbureau CC VKP(b) "having heard the report of the commission which included Comrades Zhdanov, Bulganin, Kuznetsov and Shkiryatov", adopted a special decree "About Com. Zhukov G.K." which, in particular, noted that "Zhukov’s subordinates, cringing before him, took paintings and other valuable objects from palaces and mansions, broke the safe at a jewelry store in the city of Lodz (this is not Germany, this is the "liberated" Poland – M.S.), having withdrawn the valuables in it, etc. As a result of all these Zhukov helped himself with up to 70 valuable gold objects (pendants and rings with precious stones, watches, earrings with diamonds, bracelets, brooches, etc.), up to 740 objects of the table silver and silver ware, and on top of it up to 30 kilograms of various silver articles…" (RGASPI, fund 17, list 3, case 2198, pg. 28 - 29).
Most important for us in this document is the mention of “Zhukov’s subordinates”. Of course the Marshall and Front Commander was not crawling himself in the ruins of “palaces and mansions” in search of the loot, for such deals there were Colonels from his Begleitung. But the Colonels also did not personally broke safes in the jewelry store and did not gather "monkey and caracul skins". Practical work was assigned to Majors and Captains who took with them, for maintaining order and protection, a platoon of sub-machine-gunners commanded by a Lieutenant, and the Lieutenant had the driver of a jeep, a junior sergeant who also was nobody’s fool. The sergeants, alas, had to turn in earrings with diamonds to the boss but some small things were stuck in their pockets… All this "logical chain" for eons has in the Russian language a clear and quite unique explanation: "Fish stinks from the head down".
Exclusively and only from the head. When senior commanders behaved this way any number of any kinds of orders could be read to the junior sergeant. It changes little in the situation where the Field book was tacitly replaced by “concepts”. From this moment on the Red Army began sweepingly changing. Even in appearance:
"…Colorful, picturesque appearance had this avalanche of troops moving east to west. Tanks, smoked, splashed with dirt were covered with motley bright rugs, and on the rugs were sitting grimy tankers in black reefing jackets soaked with lube. Someone would pull a bottle from the bosom and drink with the head thrown back right from the neck, handed it to the next guy and in a hoarse voice, trying to outshout the engine rattle and groaning of the tracks, yelled the words of a song …
Gun crews, whose lot was to shiver on the ammunition boxes, surrounded themselves with silk-embroidered throw pillows and were feeling beautifully: rasped away at the German harmonicas, pulled bellows of accordions richly decorated with mother of pearl and silver.
Sometimes an old landowner’s equipage, closed, with mirror doors and lanterns, or a long landau with lacquered flaps would be seen in the flow of tanks, cannons, automobiles and army carts. In the equipages were sitting young officers and soldiers in trench coats with shoulder boards, sub-machine-guns over the shoulders but in top hats and with umbrellas…"
The appearance was indeed very picturesque. As J.Hoffmann writes, "The Red Army was at a state of growing barbarization… Soviet soldiers, instead of the regulation headwear, donned Napoleonic hats, carried walking sticks, umbrellas, rubberized coats ever more acquiring thereby the appearance of robbers and marauders". Can we believe a German "neo-Fascist historian"? We can and we should as Hoffman further quotes the orders preserved in the German military archive. For instance, order No 006 by Military Council of the 2nd Belorussian front of 22 January, 1945 which said that "together with robberies, marauding, arsons is observed mass drunkenness… the trucks are stuffed with all kinds household items, captured food stuff and civilian dresses to such extent that they became burden for the troops, restrict the freedom of their movement and lower the strike force of the tank groupings". The equipages, top hats and umbrellas were also mentioned in an order by the Commander, 1st Ukrainian front Marshal I.S.Konev of 27 January, 1945, which also read that the inspection identified tanks stuffed with the loot to such an extent that there was no room for the crews.
The epidemic marauding became so customary and ordinary that even in the official report of the Red Army Main trophy directorate on the general list of the "military trophies" were mentioned 60 thous. grand pianos and regular pianos, 460 thous. radios, 190 thous. rugs, 940 thous. objects of furniture, 265 thous. wall and desktop clocks. As for the hand and pocket watches (their “collection” in the spring of 1945 acquired in the Red Army the nature of a mass psychosis), the number of these trophies defies any count…
The military discipline in a certain sense is similar to the pregnancy: it is either here or it is not. Any intermediate state is not envisioned. And if it became “allowable” in the army to knock out a door with rifle butt, break into the house, tear away gold earrings from the ears of scared women, turn everything upside down searching the ill-fated watches and booze, then it is a very thin line between such actions and the next steps in the cause of the “vengeance for the “desecrated Soviet land"”. And the orders? Yes, there were orders; those who to their own cost got "in the heat of the moment" could have been severely punished. One such case was colorfully described in the autobiographic novella by M.M.Koryakov (an excerpt from which was quoted earlier). The fight for discipline looked so:
"…A soldier was standing at attention before the Colonel with lady’s hat pushed to the back of his head. The hat was adorned with flowers and fruits. In a carriage which the soldier brought from the yard of a Silesian landowner was a yellow pork carcass, strangled chickens were tied to the lanterns.
— You want chicken? Pork? You are unhappy with our Soviet ration? — yelled the Colonel and beat the soldier on the cheek by the hand wrapped in a kid glove.
— Have you been read Comrade Stalin’s order of 19 January?
— I have, Comrade Colonel, — replied soldier turning pale.
— Have you been read the front Commander’s order as well?
— I have, Comrade Colonel.
— So what are you, motherfucker! — roared the Colonel and looked around with his drunken bovine eyes searching what could be better done to the soldier. His eyes stumbled across a chicken dangling by the rope from the lantern. He tore off the chicken, grabbed it by the neck and straight-from-the-shoulder hit the soldier’s face with it.
The Colonel was drunk. In his jeep on a seat covered with a rug lay a paunchy bottle braided with twigs. Rocking, widely placing his legs he came to the jeep and, climbing in, threatened the soldier:
— You will respect the orders by Comrade Stalin! I’ll teach you!"
Truth to be told, the Colonel was very lucky: he was drunk and the soldier was sober. It was not advisable to mess with drunken Soviet soldiers in the "prostrate Germany". The same Koryakov (a combat Captain who made through the entire war from Moscow to Silesia) is writing:
"At Wilhemstrasse in Buntzlau I survived the most terrible night in my life. Neither in air-raids, - say, in Volyn where in one night the city of Sarny was totally razed, - nor on the front line, under the fire from German six-barreled mortars, - nowhere did I experience such fear as here, in this peaceful German quarter... We went to sleep at 10 p.m. Door locks were broken, a table and buckets of coal were hauled to the doors. Barely half-hour elapsed as the door rocked, the barricade gave way… Tankers... Six of them. Not only soldiers, also officers. Pistols stuck behind the belts. Paying no attention to me they stamped upstairs. Upstairs, above the ceiling, were heard women’s cries, children’s whining. Agitated, I began to dress. The girl and old couple Wunsch entreated me not to go there: they will kill you! Last night an officer from the city commandant’s office was killed, he tried to prevent the rapes. All night we listened in fear to the yelling of poor women, children’s whining and stamping, stamping of heavy soldiers’ boots overhead…"
M.Koryakov’s personal recollections are fully confirmed by the documents from German military archive. Thus, 10 February, 1945 crossed over to the enemy Captain B., the battalion commander of 510th infantry regiment in the 154th infantry division. His behavior, very unusual for the last weeks of the war, he explained so: he shot dead two of his subordinates caught in the group rape of a German girl, he "could no longer watch how Red Army men were treating the civil population". Captured junior lieutenant from the 287th infantry division said during the interrogation that several officers from his unit who tried to prevent the violence toward the civilians were shot by the inflamed Red Army men. On the contrary, Captain E., a battalion commander in the 4th Guards tank corps 2 February, 1945 shot his subordinate who tried to come to the defense of the woman raped by Captain E. In the town of Germau taken by units of the 91st Guards infantry division the Soviet military commandant, in order to save German women from rape, gathered them in the church and set the armed guards who were ordered to shoot at the Red Army men in case of need …
There was another reason for Red Army’s “growing barbarization”: a radical change in the composition and human “quality” of the drafted contingent.
Russia is large but even she could not endlessly feed millions of young men to the voracious monster of a multi-year war. Close to five million were in the USSR Armed forces by the war start. Under the Decree of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Council of 22 June, 1941 10 million were mobilized. Then, under the GKO decree of 11 August, 1941, 4 million more. In the fall of 41st the men born in 1890, i.e., fifty year-olds, were drafted. Two more million entered the army through the so-called "citizens-in-arms".
The mobilization waves of 1941 consumed down to the ground the entire pool of reservists, trained and gone through active military service, accumulated during the previous decade. But the voracious monster demanded ever more new blood. Between 1 January and 1 March, 1942 were mobilized 700 thous. more people … Certainly, there were many millions of men in the rear, after all the 20th century army could not fight and win with sticks and stones. But in order to fight with tanks, guns and aircraft, in order to provide all these mountains of the military hardware with ammunition, fuel, spare parts at least five workers and grain growers must have worked in the rear behind the back of a single soldier.
By the second half of 1944, by the time when the advancing Red Army approached the borders of Germany and her allies, it had in its composition almost no Komsomol volunteers who lay siege to military enlistment offices in June of 41th. The phrase "got through the entire war from the Bug to the Volga and from the Volga to the Elba", unless it is the next ritual journalese – is applicable to the people of absolutely unique fate who "were born with a silver spoon"… Five months in the infantry. Eleven months in the tank forces. The statistics ruthlessly testifies that after that the next unit of the “personnel” converted to the category of the irretrievable (killed, unaccounted for) or sanitary (wounded, sick, frost-bitten) loses. And this is 1943-1945 statistics which does not reflect catastrophic losses of the first war year!
Nevertheless, by the end of 1944 only in the active army (i.e., without the rear, training, transportation, sanitary units and organizations of the armed forces) were listed 6.7 million people. Where did they come from?
Grew up and reached the draft age military years boys, hungry, bare-boned, grown up in an environment of actual homelessness (father at the front, mother – dawn to dusk at the factory), brought up in the street very much criminalized in the military hard times. During the entire war GULAG was the "special reserve" of the draft contingents. And mostly “blatars”, i.e., common criminals were sent to the active army (Article 58 was considered insufficiently trustworthy). But even this barrel was scraped to the bottom. The main source of the draft contingents in the last war year became the western territory of the USSR liberated from the German occupation.
There were plenty there of those who could be drafted: 1.5 million men born in 1905-1918 who did not get under the first military mobilization (dodged the draft; or the military enlistment office disappeared earlier than the summons could be sent out); 3.6 million men born in 1890-1904 who were left or remained on their own volition in the occupied territories by the time when the second mobilization wave was announced (August of 41st). Plus not known exactly number of youngsters who reached the draft age by 1944. Plus at least 1 to 1.5 million of deserters and those "lagged” from their units. Theoretically, all these people should exist and should have arrived to the newly setup military enlistment offices.
In real life everything was much more difficult: it was not easy for a draft-age male to survive three years of the occupation. He caused too many questions from the German authorities: if he was a former Red Army military man – why isn’t he in a prisoners of war camp? If he is a partisan spy – why isn’t he arrested? Did he dodge the draft – or was left by the NKVD organs to set up the sabotage work? The loyalty to the “new order” had to be proved.
Everyone proved it in his own way. 511 thous. Soviet people were working on the railroads, the same railroads periodically blown up by the Soviet partisans. Hundreds of thousands went to work for police battalions, Cossack regiments, groups of “local self-defense” and all kinds of “national” armed formations organized by the occupants. Thus, only in the notorious "Russian Liberation People’s Army" (later the "Liberation Army" was converted into 29th SS division) of B.Kaminsky more than 10 thous. people fought against the partisans in the Bryansk area. And if those who fought on Hitler’s side with arms in hands were relatively few, there were many more of the former Soviet citizens who managed to "make hay in small things": someone without too much noise denounced his neighbor; someone helped the Germans to find a Jewish family hidden in a cellar. Someone did not betray anybody at all and did not denounce, on the contrary, he risked his health and life by robbing the vacated apartments and fighting in the process other marauders…
The life under the German occupation (if it can be called life) rapidly forced to forget "Katyusha", "Three tankers", "If the war starts tomorrow" and other wonderful Soviet songs. New concepts were much simpler: “homo homini lupus est”, "you die today, I will die tomorrow". And now the Soviet people were not “learning dialectic by Hegel” as starting in mid-1943 began the mass switchover of "Polizei" to the partisans. Mass to such extent that the 7 thousand-strong "Russian national SS brigade" commanded by Gil-Rodionov converted to the "1st anti-Fascist partisan brigade" and by the summer of 1944 the quarter of all Belorussian partisans were former "Polizei" and Wehrmacht "volunteers".
It would be a great simplification of the real picture to believe that the other three quarters did not do anything else but derailed German trains. Some "partisan teams" (we will not be arguing here about quantitative estimates) during the entire war were mostly in the “self-supply” business or simply speaking in mediocre robbery of the local population. Some activists even got going the regular “harvesting“ of the grain from local villages, distilled it into the rotgut on the industrial scale and controlled the "marketing" by arms …
After more or less superficial checking the “organs” handed this entire raggle-taggle people at the disposal of military enlistment offices. Former "Polizei", former deserters, former "partisans" and simply bandits were all sheared skinhead, donned the Red Army uniform and went to the front. I do not know the exact numbers. I cannot be sure if among the Soviet soldiers terrorizing Nemmersdorf and Striegau (and hundreds of other cities and towns in Germany) there were "re-educated" punishers from the 118th police battalion who burned up Khatyn together with the residents. But the battalion number in this case is not so important.
Maybe former punishers, informers, marauders, felons were 5% of the total draft contingent of 1944. Maybe 55%. The historians will have to eventually find out these details. But for the purposes of this article they are of no essential value. In any case, tens (maybe hundreds) of thousands of morally degenerated people who lost any moral compass, who were used to sadist violence over the people joined the ranks of the Red Army. Under certain conditions it was already sufficient for the commitment of those bloody outrages discussed above. Important are not the percentages (social psychology long ago came to a conclusion that the behavioral norms of the human mass are determined by the minority of 5 to 10%); important are exactly the “certain conditions”. Under some situation the scum would try to behave "as quiet as a lamb", and under some other they began to actively impose their criminal "concepts" on the majority. And here at last we are approaching the main thing, approaching him who assigned the mission and set the conditions. The main one without mention of whom any serious discussion of the history of the war is impossible. Comrade Stalin.
The Supreme Commander Generalissimo Stalin bears personal responsibility for the military crimes perpetrated on the German soil albeit by virtue of the obvious and unquestionable rule: the commander is responsible for the actions of his subordinates. I hope this assertion will be immediately accepted by those who like repeating: "Stalin won the war". Well, if he won it then he is the only one to be prosecuted for the military crimes which are not subject to the statute of limitations…
There are, however, more serious reasons to suggest that mass brutal violence toward the civilian population of Germany was with criminal intent organized by Stalin and his sidekicks. What from the first sight may appear as the explosion of "blind element of vengeance" could have been the operation planned in advance and implemented with cynical and selfish design. In order not to waste words anymore we’ll switch right away to the stenograph of the “Big Three” negotiations in Potsdam.
Fifth session, Saturday, 21 July, 1945:
Stalin: «The American and British Governments several times proposed to us not to allow the Polish administration in the western provinces until the issue of the Poland’s western border is finally settled. We could not follow these proposals as the German population proceeded west together with the retreating German forces…"
Truman: "Demarcation of the future borders is a task of the peace conference".
Stalin: "It is very difficult to restore a German administration in this territory, all [Germans] fled".
Truman: "I believe in time we will be able to reach an agreement about the future Poland’s borders, but now I am interested in the issues of these provinces for the period of the occupation ".
Stalin: "These provinces, on paper, belong to the territory of the German state but in actuality these are Polish territories as there is no longer German population there".
Truman: "Nine million Germans – this is a lot".
Stalin: "They all fled ".
Churchill: "…Another remark to the statement of Generalissimo Stalin that all Germans abandoned these provinces. There are other data which say that there are still up to two and a half million people there. This situation must be studied".
Stalin: "The war resulted in that out of eight million Germans there were almost none there… When we came into the zone which was considered as an increment to the Polish territory there were no Germans there. That was how the things were going..."
Churchill: "The immediate resettlement of eight million people is a matter which I cannot support. A large-scale resettlement will be the shock for my country... If the German population is not provided with enough food then in our own occupation zone the conditions will set-in similar to the German concentration camps, only to a higher extent".
Stalin: "But you can by grain from Poland".
Churchill: "We do not consider this area as the Polish territory".
Stalin: "Poles live there, they seeded to fields. We cannot demand from the Polacks who seeded the fields to hand the harvest to the Germans".
Truman: "The impression is that it is fait accompli, that the large part of Germany is given to Polacks... I believe that the Poles have no right to appropriate this part of Germany and tear it off the German economy..."
Next day, 22 July of 1945 the duped western allies tried to change to a diplomatic "offensive". But Stalin firmly held his own:
Churchill: "First. We agreed that the border will be set at the peace settlement. Second. Poland will not get advantages from accepting such a huge German territory. Third. The economic structure of Germany will be torn, and a very heavy overburden will fall on the occupation authorities. Fourth. With the resettlement of large population masses we’ll have to accept a very heavy moral responsibility. I have to say that I consider it wrong to resettle eight and a half to nine million people. Fifth. There are no accurate numerical indices on this point. According to our information eight to nine million people are in this territory. And the Soviet delegation maintains that there are none there. This issue has to be cleared out..."
Stalin: "There is no either eight or six or even three million German in this territory. There was the mass mobilization there and many people perished. Very few Germans remained there, and even those who remained fled from the Red Army…"
So, what did High Contracting Parties argue about?
If there was something Comrade Stalin no way could have been suspected of, it was a love of Poland and the Polacks. It was rather the other way around, exactly to the "Pans’ Poland" (this country was not called by any other name in the Soviet newspapers) and anything associated with her that Stalin was feeling a special, almost open hate. Both in secret CC Decrees and in the newspaper propaganda the notorious "Polish agents" unfailingly appeared as the source of any evil. That is exactly the Polish communists whose was a special doom in 1937-1938: Stalin did not confine himself to shooting the PKP leadership in Moscow, he brought it to the official disbandment of the "wreckers" Polish Communist party (which became absolutely outstanding event even for the Comintern of the late 1930’s). In the summer of 1937 began the notorious "Polish operation" (Order of NKVD Narkom Yezhov No 00485) when 143,810 people were arrested, of them 111,091 sentenced to death by shooting. One hundred and eleven thousand. Every sixth one of the Poles residing in the USSR. This is the record number even for the Great Terror epoch.
In the night of 23rd to 24th August, 1939 over a glass of Champaign Stalin agreed with Ribbentrop to eliminate Poland and to partition its territory, and on 31th October, 1939 through the mouth of his loyal hanger-on V.Molotov he called the Slavic state with many centuries of history "an ugly progeny of the Versailles treaty". The Narkom for the Defense Voroshilov also did not hide his exultation. He declared in his celebratory order of 7 November, 1939: "The Polish state broke into the smithereens in the very first serious military collision as an old rotten dray-cart". After that even the very use of the word "Poland" was under a categorical prohibition; even in the top secret, not for the public eyes documents of the RKKA high command the territory was called "former Poland" or (completely Hitler’s way) "Governorate General".
Everything changed after in the summer of the 41st the cadre Red Army "broke into the smithereens in the very first serious military collision as an old rotten dray-cart", and Comrade Stalin – to his amazement – turned among the ranks of the "anti-Hitler coalition of the democratic countries". The rules of conduct in the "club of the democratic countries" required the compliance with some minimum norms of decency, and Stalin had to, albeit in words only, give up the “booty” he so cleverly acquired in the union with Hitler. 30 July, 1941 an Agreement was signed with "London" Sikorsky government, where paragraph one said: "The government of the USSR recognizes the Soviet-German treaties of 1939 regarding the territorial changes in Poland as void".
A long and convoluted story of how Stalin was step by step getting rid of the consequences of his "momentary hesitation" when he agreed to recognize the "bourgeois emigrant government" as legal and his territorial acquisitions in Poland illegal is way beyond the scope of this article. We’ll turn right away to the result: early in 1945 Stalin did not want even to hear about the "London government" of Poland; the Polish partisan Army Craiova was crushed, in effect, by the joint efforts of the Wehrmacht and SS, Red Army and NKVD forces; in the wagon-train of the advancing Soviet troops the puppet “Polish” government (Polish committee for the national liberation) was brought in Lyublin.
There was even created a pseudo-Polish army ("Voisko Polskoye") into which in the "voluntary-forced" order were drafted not only the Soviet officers but even the privates (in particular, whole tank crews). The security organs of the "people’s Poland" were staffed top to bottom with the Soviet "advisors" and actually were one of the territorial NKVD directorates. The subsequent appointment of Marshal of the Soviet Union Rokossovsky as the Minister for the defense of the puppet Poland was in this context quite symbolic and demonstrative.
In this specific historical situation Stalin with good reason viewed the western border of "his" Poland as the front line for the deployment of the USSR armed forces. And only for this reason he strived to move this line as far west as possible, closer to Berlin and Dresden – there were very many fuzzy things in the postwar destiny of Germany whereas the Polish issue Stalin by that time successfully (in the interests of his expansion into Europe) and finally solved. As for East Prussia, Stalin did not see there even the cause for discussion and briefly informed the “allies” in Potsdam that he was taking the northern (Baltic) part of East Prussia with the cities Konigsberg and Tilsit (now Kaliningrad and Sovetsk).
On the whole the lands subject to annexation (East Prussia, Pomerania, Silesia) with the areal extent of 114 thous. sq. km (which equals Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark together) accounted for a quarter of the German territory within the 1937 borders. However, stating his pretensions for these territories (directly in the case of the northern East Prussia or indirectly, by including them into the puppet Polish state) Stalin also got a huge problem, the multi-million German population. The "allies" hated by Stalin could appeal to some inexplicable "rights" of these Germans, could remind about "Lenin’s concept of nations’ right for the self-determination" and in the final analysis change their favorable attitude to the pretensions of the Kremlin extorter. There was only one way for the radical solution of the problem, and Stalin knew it perfectly: "No person – no problem".
By that time Comrade Stalin had a rich experience in such deals; he has already moved "incorrect peoples" more than once or twice into correct locations. But the Germans were a special case. There were too many of them. The quantity dialectically converted into quality. It is one thing to evict from the so-called “Western Belorussia and Ukraine” 400 thous. Polacks during a year and a half in a quiet peaceful situation; it is a totally different thing to move 8-9 million Germans, and it is during the war when each truck, each liter of gasoline, each railway carriage or locomotive are counted! And where to would have Stalin deported the Germans from Silesia, Pomerania and Prussia? There were exactly two possible directions: either back, eastward, into the depths of the Soviet territory, or forward, westward, i.e., into the Soviet occupation zone of Germany. In either case, the Soviet Union would have to feed 8 million dependents (in the sixth year of the world war the population of the German rear was mostly women, children, invalids and elders).
A hypothesis which I cannot support by any direct documental proof is that Stalin made a decision to evict the Germans. To evict rapidly (faster than the western "allies" had time to understand what is going on and react somehow) and at that put the eviction process on the firm self-funding basis. Stalin decided to create on the territories to be annexed such environment of terror and dread that the Germans would themselves, by their own forces, in their automobiles, carts, bicycles and fishermen’s boats sailed, rode, walked, ran, crawled westward. Westward, nonstop, until they reach the British or American occupation zone. And that was triply “wise” decision: the deportation did not cost the Soviet Union a single ruble; in the process of creating the prescribed “environment” Stalin’s nomenklatura were able to generously line up their pockets and dachas with the loot; and the hated "allies" got (according to the available, far from complete estimates) 7 million hungry, sick refugees deprived of the roof over the head and the property.
Geographical and time restraints of the leadership-sanctioned terror against the civil German population deserve a serious study. There are reasons to suggest (I am repeating again that at this time I have only the question but not an answer) that with the coming of the advancing Red Army into the territory of the future DDR the outrages drastically declined. At least in the aforementioned book by J.Hoffmann all episodes of mass murder occur in Prussia, Pomerania and Silesia, i.e., the areas subject to the annexation. In Berlin (right before the eyes of the Western allied officers and foreign correspondents) the "thirst for vengeance" was limited to the epidemic marauding and rapes.
Worth mentioning is the fact that 14 April, 1945, i.e., two days prior to the start of the Berlin operation (Red Army offensive from the Oder River to Berlin) newspaper "Pravda" published the renowned article "Comrade Ehrenburg simplifies" signed by head of the CC VKP(b) Propaganda and agitation Directorate G.Alexandrov. The article’s style and phrasing (with characteristic Stalin’s repetitions and questions-answers) suggests with high degree of likelihood that Comrade Stalin as a minimum dictated to Alexandrov main talking points of the article (and maybe wrote it himself). And if the authorship of the directive (this was the only way to treat in Stalin’s USSR an article published in the central Party CC press organ) may be disputed, the Directive of the Supreme Command No 11072 of 20 April, 1945 is clearly signed by Stalin.
The Supreme Command directive was addressed to "troop commanders and members of the Military councils of the 1st Belorussian and 1st Ukrainian fronts" but not to the commanders of the 3rd and 2nd Belorussian fronts conducting combat operations in East Prussia and Pomerania!
It is unlikely that the two fronts were missed because of forgetfulness… The operant part of the Directive No 11072 says:
The Supreme Command orders:
1. Demand to change the treatment (emphasis added – M.S.) of the Germans, both prisoners of war and civilians. Treat the Germans better. Cruel treatment of the Germans causes in them fears and forces them to resist doggedly, not surrendering. The civil population, fearing revenge, groups in bands. This situation is unfavorable for us. More humane treatment of the Germans will make easier for us to conduct combat activities in their territory and will undoubtedly lower tenacity of the Germans in the defense.
2. In the German areas west of the line Oder River mouth, Furstenberg, further Neisse River (to the west) create German administration and in the cities put German burgomasters.
Do not bother rank-and-file members of the National Socialistic party if they are loyal to the Red Army; detain only the leaders if they did not escape.
3. The improvement in the treatment of Germans must not result in lowered vigilance and back-slapping of the Germans.
It is remarkable that the Directive was declassified and published (collection of documents "Russian archive. The Great Patriotic. Battle for Berlin", vol. 15, Moscow, "Terra", 1995) without the findings part, i.e., the part describing the real situation. The line indicated in p.2 coincides with the boundary of the Sovietîé occupation zone in Germany, i.e., future DDR. It may be assumed that Stalin did not need the occupied "Socialist Germany" without the population so he ordered "to change the treatment of Germans", i.e., to stop forced eviction.
I repeat again: I did not see any documents signed by Stalin. Most likely they have never existed. Comrade Stalin without doubt did not issue the written order to murder German women and children. And there was no need to issue such order. Two decades after Stalin came to power, seven years after the Great Terror Stalin was surrounded by those who understood Master’s will doggie fashion, without any words. Whoever did not understand was quickly replaced by the others, more apprehensive. Nevertheless the absence of a clear, written order explains much of what we reliably know about the tragic events on the German soil.
First of all, recorded documentally and in people’s memory extreme "nonuniformity" of the situation. In some German towns incomprehensible atrocities were committed whereas in nearby towns relative order was maintained. We will turn again to J.Hoffmann’s book:
"…Sometimes Soviet officers were able to successfully resist the uniformed criminals – possibly because they had similarly thinking bosses. For instance, even in the 91st Guards infantry division the behavior was not uniform. Whereas the division headquarters and 275th infantry regiment committed in Germau and vicinities horrible atrocities, there were no reports of murders and rapes from such towns like Wilkau which were taken by other units of the division... Whereas, for instance, the 3rd battalion of the 14th infantry regiment (72nd infantry division) committed terrible crimes, the Red Army men in the 3rd battalion of the 187th infantry regiment (the same division) have been warned against license regarding the population… Major General Gelen to whom all corresponding reports flowed also recorded in some cases a "correct behavior" of the Soviet officers and soldiers…"
In the absence of a written order (replaced, as I understand, by verbal guidance) a lot depended on the position of specific commanders. The farther from the Kremlin and the closer to the front line, the greater was the number of middle-level commanders who did not understand (and maybe did not want to understand) the "sovereign will". Far from everybody lost human face then, and it was more difficult to scare a front commander than a Moscow bureaucrat. And after all any regiment or battalion commanders understood well that first of all they would be asked of the fulfillment of the combat task, and to fulfill it with the tanks stuffed “up to the eyeballs” with the captured stuff and with the drunken soldiers who donned “Napoleon hats and female coats” was becoming difficult. Due to all these reasons many commanders at all levels in the Red Army actively resisted "barbarization of the troops".
On the other hand, the ubiquitous (at each location without exceptions) terror was not needed for the compliance with the directions of Comrade Stalin about the eviction of Germans from the territories subject to the annexation. In order for the population to flee in panic abandoning the houses and the property it some limited amount of brutal punishment was sufficient. In other words, the quantity of outrages could with total success of the set assignment be replaced by the “quality”, i.e., egregious cruelty. And here we are approaching the “hypothesis No 2”. Which is even less documentally substantiated (under the environment of till this day maintained closedness of the NKVD/NKGB archives) but still quite trustworthy.
Hypothesis No 2 is in that special terrorist groups ("special militia" of the NKVD) were created for the punishment of civilians; reports about the children nailed to the table by their tongs, about the women crucified in churches and other unspeakable hideousness are associated exactly with the consequences of their activities. I will emphasize at once that hypothesis No 2 does not exclude but only complements the aforementioned suggestion of the deliberate and sanctioned at the very "top" demoralization of the Red Army (the same way as not at all hypothetic but quite real and active participation of the OGPU organs in the dekulakization did not exclude but only amended and reinforced violence by the village lumpen crowds).
This hypothesis may appear absolutely impossible but only if judged within the concepts of the old Soviet (or the other way around, the newest Russian) school textbooks. In context of the real USSR history the proposed hypothesis is quite mundane. Lies, provocations and terror went hand in hand from the first days of the Bolshevik dictatorship: from the attempt on Lenin’s life of which half-blind (and immediately shot) F.Kaplan was accused; from the directives of Lenin himself who appealed to use “the beneficial moment” (when the bodies of those who died of starvation lay on the roads) and hang under this pretext as many “counterrevolutionary Jack Priests” as possible ; from the operation “Trust” when the GPU set up a fake anti-Soviet organization as a “poisoned bait”…
The existence in the NKVD of “special militias” who, disguised as UPA partisans, terrorized the West Ukrainian population, long ago stopped being a hypothesis. The documents were found and published which testify both about the extent of the provocative activities (as early as by June of 1945 156 special groups, total of 1,783 people were created) and methods of their operation which exceeded even patience of the military prosecutor in the Ukrainian District MVD forces Colonel Kosharsky. 15 February, 1949 he sent a memo to the First Secretary of the CC CP Ukraine N.Khrushchev "about the facts of gross violations of the Soviet legality in the activities of the so-called special MGB groups".
The memo informed that the "crude provocative and clueless work of a number of special groups and the outrage and violence their members commit toward the local population not only do not make the struggle easier but, on the contrary, make it more difficult … Not having sufficient data the so-called MGB special groups act blindly, and as a result the persons often become victims of their outrage who have nothing to do with the Ukrainian bandit nationalistic underground…"
The prosecutor Kosharsky then includes a long, in many pages list of occurrences of "outrage and violence" ("…in March of 1948 a special group headed by MGB agent "Krylaty" twice visited the house of Palamarchuk G.S., 62, and, pretending to be the UPA bandits, brutally tortured him and his two daughters… In the night of 23 July, 1948 a special group took from the village of Podvysotskoye to the forest a woman, Repnitskaya N.Ya., born in 1931. In the forest she was tortured. The special group members heavily beat her, hanged legs up, stuck a stick into her vagina and then raped her in turn …") and ends as follows: "Similar facts in the activity of MGB special groups are unfortunately far from singular".
Turning back to the events of the spring of 1945 and from the Carpathian forests to the ruins of German cities, it is worthwhile to mention that the “organs” had a much easier task there. The “special militias” disguised as Banderovites theoretically had to conduct a complex secret operational “game”; they had to be specially trained, prepared, manned by personnel fluent in the West-Ukrainian speech, had to know local customs. On the other hand, in Germany everything was much easier. What was needed was just to “scare the Fritzes”. For this purpose it was necessary to find in a multimillion army a few thousand persons tainted by the former cooperation with Hitler’s occupants, threaten them with exposure or shooting and then offer to "redeem the guilt with blood". And not with their own blood at that but with blood of German civilians. In the fourth year of the war there were enough scum with the needed biography and rich experience in brutal executions of women and children.
It is sinful to say that but it is impossible to deny that the “level of tolerance” was totally different in Germans. Not like ours. They did not happen to have a genuine “Bolshevik conditioning”. Germany in the XXth century did not suffer either perennial civil war with endless procession of pogroms and shootings or dekulakization or holodomor; and the year 1937 remained in the memory of a German philistine as a year of economic prosperity and not the year of “Black Marias” and nightly disappearance of neighbors, friends and acquaintances. This philistine was not prepared to the real mass terror, and that is why Stalin’s design played well: after the very first encounter with cutthroats in the Red Army soldier uniform the civilian population from the eastern German provinces panicky turned tails. Only in one respect a brilliant integrated Stalin’s design fell through:
"Stalin’s intent was for the approved by him ruthless eviction of the Germans from the eastern territories drive the Germans in the western occupation zones to despair, discredit the Western powers so that in the end the people would turn to Bolshevism… Children of the people grew in poverty and looked into the future where they would not be able to break out of it. The revolutionary situation was at hand. But the revolution did not happen. The East’s political calculation took into consideration almost all factors except one, the human factor. Millions of Germans fled from the Red Army. The millions became witnesses of what was perpetrated when the Soviet troops came. The millions experienced the communist rule and suffered from it. Humiliated and insulted, they were lost for the communism no matter which mask it donned or in which disguise it appeared and which arguments it forwarded…"
I cannot finish my article with these words by a German historian and journalist Gunter Beddecker because a Russian historian has no right not to mention the most numerous victims of Stalin’s forgotten crime. The Red Army soldiers.
In the end of 1944 Germany, her industries, transportation system and armed forces were in death throes. Hitler’s "thousand year’s Reich" lost all allies, lost all external sources of raw materials (in particular, the Romanian oil, Swedish iron ore, Finnish and Ukrainian nickel). The Anglo-American aviation with air domination over any point in Germany was methodically destroying a city after the city, a factory after the factory. In every single air-raid several kilotons of bombs were dropped on a target. There was no longer any safe rear for the German army. After in May of 1944 the main target of the air strikes became the transportation system and chemical industry (manufacturing the synthetic gasoline, nitrogen and explosives) the military production in Germany collapsed. The factories hidden underground and scattered over the remaining territory could still produce tanks and aircraft but all these turned into heaps of useless scrap metal before even having left the assembly line as their fuel tanks were empty. But even the loss of fuel stores, territory, transportation lines, experienced fliers and tankers could not compare with the loss of the main thing, the sense of purpose. What could the combat activities bring to Germany except for multiplying the number of victims?
In September of 1944 the Red Army came to the Vistula River and the Western allied armies were sweepingly advancing to the Rhein. The outcome of the war was in no doubt. Prior to the Tehran conference Hitler’s leadership could still hope for a "political solution", i.e., the split in the enemy camp and the separate peace with one of them; prior to July of 1944 it was still possible to hope that it would be possible to encircle and destroy the Anglo-American forces landed in Normandy. The bomb explosion sounded 20 July, 1944 in Hitler’s General headquarters broadcast to the entire world that the Wehrmacht command cast off the last illusions. And this was not only the matter of the generals-conspirators. The German army Headquarters chief of staff Colonel General À.Jodl testified during his interrogation 17 July, 1945:
"Approximately in February of 1944 I reported to the Fuehrer that in case the British and Americans land in France and we will be unable to throw them off into the sea we will lose the war. This report was submitted in writing… Hitler admitted that my view was correct but prohibited sending this memo to the air force, army and navy commanders".
The last two desperate attempts by the Wehrmacht at the time boundary of 1944-1945 to go on the counteroffensive (in the Ardennes against the western allies and at Lake Balaton area in Hungary against the Red Army) ended in a crushing defeat and the loss of the last battle-worthy tank and aviation units. The collapse of the German military machine became absolutely clear.
And all of a sudden drastic changes happened on the Eastern front. The German troops as if got the "second breath" which immediately reflected both on the Red Army advance tempo and level of the losses.
We will now turn to a totally official and solid source, the statistical collection “The secrecy seal is removed” published in 1993, Editor Colonel General G.F.Krivosheyev. Pages 157-159 include Red Army daily irretrievable losses by the war periods and campaigns. The numbers are horrible: each day of the war carried off thousands of Soviet soldiers’ lives. We will, however, step aside from the understandable emotions and pay at last attention to the evolution of these numbers:
1. The summer-fall campaign of 1943 (07.1 – 12.31.43, the Kursk Battle, liberation of the left-bank Ukraine, Kiev and Smolensk); the irretrievable losses were 7.6 thous. people a day.
2. The winter-spring campaign of 1944 (01.1 – 05.31.44, liberation of the right-bank Ukraine and Crimea, Leningrad and Novgorod Provinces); the irretrievable losses were 5.3 thous. people a day.
3. The summer-fall campaign of 1944 (06.01 – 12.31.44, the largest Red Army offensive operations: Belorussian, Lvov-Sandomir, Yassy-Kishinev, Baltic, Belgrade); the irretrievable losses were 4.5 thous. people a day.
So: 7.6 – 5.3 – 4.5
The skills of Red Army soldiers and commanders grows, its numerical and fire power advantage over the enemy increases, Wehrmacht’s material and moral resources thaw. A result is ever more massive offensive of the Soviet forces on all fronts and unswervingly declining level of daily losses.
The year 1945 begins. The Red Army numerical advantage in tanks and aviation reaches double digits, the German command throw on the front untrained boys from the “Volkssturm"; and with all this the Red Army human losses do not shrink but noticeably grow!
6.2 thous. people. These are daily losses in 1945. Finishing up the agonizing Wehrmacht the Red Army suffers the losses one third higher than in 1944.
Now we will review the hardware losses (pg. 355-356).
In 1943 the Red Army was losing on average 64 tanks and SAU per day, in 1944, 65 per day. So, in two years of the war average daily losses of the tanks and SAU remained almost constant. The year 1945 arrives. 1 January through 10 May, 1945 were lost 13,700 tanks and SAU. 105 (one hundred and five) per day. The average daily loss almost doubled.
What happened with the Soviet armored hardware? Did it become worse than in 43-44th? Nothing of the kind: exactly by 1945 was mostly completed the rearmament with the new, much more powerful modification of "thirty four" (Ò-34/85); the forces began receiving greater numbers of the modern heavy tanks (series IS) and heavy self-propelled guns armed with monstrous 122-mm and 152-mm cannons (not to be confused with the short-barrel 152-mm howitzer in the prewar KV-2) capable of piercing the front armor of any German tank including the "King Tiger". The statistic indicates that whereas as of 1 January, 1944 Red Army had 1.6 thous. heavy tanks and 0.8 thous. heavy SAU, by 9 May, 1945 the respective numbers were 5.3 thous. and 2.7 thous. units.
On the other hand, the Germans did not get any antitank "wonder weapon" in 1945. The rumors of a turnaround in the armament technology due to bazookas (“Faustpatrone”) were very much exaggerated. Opening the publication hot on the trail of the war by Colonel P.Igumnov ("Study of the domestic tanks vulnerability", 1947) we find the following tank loss distribution in the last war months:
- 1st Belorussian front, January-March, 1945; by Faustpatrone 5.5%
- 1 st Ukrainian front, January-March, 1945; by Faustpatrone 8.9%
- 4 th Ukrainianèé front, January-May, 1945; by Faustpatrone 9%
- 1 st Belorussian front, April-May, 1945; by Faustpatrone 10.5%
Major means of killing tanks was and remained the tube artillery (over 90% of all losses). Even in the Berlin operation (i.e., under conditions of ferocious street fighting in a huge city) the tank losses in the 2nd Guards tank army were: from the tube artillery, 77%; from the Faustpatrones, 23%.
As for the artillery, nothing new appeared on the Wehrmacht inventory in 1945. Same 75-mm and 88-mm "barrels". If there were some changes they were to the detriment of the Germans: the shortage of tungsten forced by the end of 44th total discontinuation of the manufacturing of sub-caliber armor-piercing shells; gasoline shortage drastically decreased the number of battle-worthy tanks and SAU; thus, the most common means of fighting the Soviet tanks again, as in the beginning of the war, became towed antitank cannon whose crew was protected against bullets and fragments only by the tunics and trench-coats. And with all these – double increase in the loss of Soviet tanks!
However, the most paradoxical events occurred, as it appears to me, not on the ground but in the air. After the Ardennes flop the German aviation practically "ended". The gasoline and fliers were enough only for a few hundred aircraft but those remaining were used for Reich’s antiaircraft defenses.
In the spring of 45th a German fighter in the skies over the Eastern front was a rarity. And with all these average daily losses of the Soviet aircraft in the category "downed in a dog-fight" almost did not decrease: 7.95 aircraft in 1944 and 7.49 in 1945 (the information here and thereafter is taken from the collection "Soviet aviation in the Great Patriotic war of 1941-1945 in numbers"; put together under the "Top secret" seal by the USSR Main Air-force Headquarters in 1962). If, however, we look more carefully into the loss statistics we will see that total losses in the fights of bombers and strike-fighters even increased (3.3 daily in 1944 and 4.3 in 1945). And the bomber strike-fighter losses in the category "by flak fire" increased by the factor 1.7 (5.8 daily in 1944 and 10.0 in 1945).
So, what happened on the Eastern front in the spring of 45th? How to explain such an increase in the Red Army losses?
The traditional Soviet historiography tried not to notice these facts and not to ask unavoidable questions. But on occasion could have sounded words about "fanatics SS-men ready to defend Hitler to the last", about the "inborn discipline" of the German soldier who could not stop shooting without the order… These are all valid facts. But they should not block the main thing from our attention: the “wonder weapon” Stalin handed to the German soldier. Yes, that is exactly what it was: Goebbels yelled about a mysterious "Wunderwaffe" which would turn the course of the war but he lied. At the same time Comrade Stalin kept his end up, he gave Wehrmacht the main thing – the purpose.
After Hemmersdorf (and hundreds of similar “dorfs”) a German soldier on the Eastern front did not need to be explained what he was fighting for. The purpose was obvious (visible by the naked eye) and – which is very important – quite reachable. The soldier saw endless caravans of the refugees walking westward, a boundless sea of people at harbor walls of the Baltic ports, saw the ships sailing one after the other with thousands of refugees to the shores of Denmark and Western Germany. Each day and each hour of the delay in the Red Army advance increased the number of German women, elders and children saved from violence and death. Since that moment on the Wehrmacht again acquired the sense of purpose in continuing the fight.
By the end of January, 1945 the forces of the 1st Ukrainian front crossed the Oder at Breslau (currently Wroclaw, Poland). 15 February the ring of encirclement closed around Breslau. The city garrison (total of 50 thousand people including the Volkssturm) was fighting the entire February. Then the entire March. Entire April. 13 Soviet divisions were participating in the combat for Breslau. Far in the west surrendered Berlin, committed suicide the bloody tyrant Hitler but among the charred ruins of Breslau the fierce battle continued. The city capitulated only 6 May, 1945. Breslau military commandant General Niehoff survived the war, survived 10 years of the Soviet concentration camps. He maintains in his memoires that the prolonged defense of the city enabled 1.5 million German refugees from Silesia to flee west.
5 March, 1945 the forces of the 1st Belorussian front began storming a small coastal city of Kolberg in Pomerania. At that time 85 thousand civilians accumulated in the city (residents and refugees). Kolberg’s garrison was 3 thous. soldiers. This handful of people restraint the brunt of the 1st Guards tank army and three divisions of Voisko Polskoye till the morning of 18 March. There was nothing left of the city but ruins, the garrison lost 2,300 soldiers (killed). The German navy ships removed 70 thous. refugees from Kolberg.
13 January of 1945 the forces of the 2nd and 3rd Belorussian fronts (117 infantry divisions, 7 tank corps, 9 nonintegrated tank brigades, 1,590 thous. people altogether) began the offensive of the East Prussia. Late in January the Konigsberg grouping of the Germans was surrounded from the west and northeast and pinned down to the sea. Further advance was stopped by violent resistance of the Wehrmacht units which were numerically exceeded by the advancing enemy at least 6 or 7 to 1. 19-20 February the Germans began a counteroffensive, broke the encirclement in the west and restored the land communications between the East Prussia and not yet occupied areas of East Germany.
The German forces held this "road of life" during the entire March until a new offensive of the Red Army began early in April. Konigsberg was seized after the fierce engagements only 12 April, 1945. But even after that the Germans continued for two weeks to hold the last point in the East Prussia, port Pillau (currently Baltiysk) from whose marine terminals up to 27 April continued to depart vessels with refugees and wounded.
After the loss of Pillau the only “haven of hope” was a bay-bar Hel (north of Danzig in Pomerania). The East-Pomeranian Red Army offensive operation began 10 February, 1945. The defense of Danzig (currently Gdansk, Poland) continued until 30 March. The Germans held a minuscule, shot-through by the artillery band of the bay-bar Hel until 8 of May! During this time 400 thous. people were brought out over the sea. Total number of the evacuated by civilian vessels and the navy to the West from ports of East Prussia and Pomerania reached 2 million people – the largest "marine de-landing operation" in history.
In the mass consciousness "the spring of Victory" is associated with the offensive on Berlin. This operation indeed is viewed by an unsophisticated "man from the street" to be the major (and maybe the only) event in the last war months. Alas,this is a deplorable delusion.
In the Berlin operation (and this was not only storming the city proper but also the combat activities during the offensive from the Oder to the Spree and encircling of Wermacht’s Berlin grouping) from 16 April through 8 May, 1945 perished 78 thous. Soviet soldiers and officers. But in the process of the East Prussian operations perished 126 thous. Red Army soldiers and officers. Plus 53 thous. killed in the closely related East Pomeranian operation. Total irretrievable losses of the four fronts which "liberated Germany" (3rd Belorussian, 2nd Belorussian, 1st Belorussian and 1st Ukrainian) in 1945 were 411 thous. people. And the total Red Army, air-force and navy irretrievable losses on all fronts from 1 January through 10 May of 1945 were 801 thous. people. Eight hundred thousand killed. The Berlin operation is less than one tenth (!) of this terrifying number.
Gross Admiral Ê.Donitz appointed by Hitler to the position of the "Reichs-President" was no "bigoted SS-man". Moreover, he never was member of Hitler’s NSDAP.
Besides, by the time Donitz assumed the authority and responsibility for what remained of Germany Hitler was no longer alive. Nevertheless, the ward on the East front did not stop. Speaking at 22:00 on the 1st of May, 1945 on the German radio, Donitz stated:
"My foremost task is to save Germany from annihilation by the Bolsheviks. Only for the sake of this purpose alone the armed combat will continue. Until such time when the British and Americans stop hampering this objective we will have to continue the defensive combat also against them..."
Bloodletting did not stop. The German forces in the East continued to conduct combat activities. The guns roared at Potsdam, Breslau and Danzig. The Wehrmacht grouping encircled as early as in November of 1944 in Kurland (the coastal band of the present-day Lithuania) continued its resistance to 10th (tenth) of May, 1945. At that, losses of the 1st and 2nd Baltic fronts in 1945 only in killed were 62 thous. people.
A strange story with the "people’s uprising" in Prague (patience of the people who six years tolerated the German occupation for some reason burst exactly at the moment when the American forces were 80 km from Prague) and the Red Army’s battle march to help the insurrection increased the Red Army losses by 11 thousand more killed. Only the ruthless position of the Supreme allied commander in Western Europe US General D.Eisenhower ("I ordered to tell Jodl that if they immediately don’t stop bringing any pretexts I will close the entire allied front so no German refugees will henceforth be allowed through our front line" – emphasis added, M.S.) forced Donitz to stop combat activities on all fronts…
The corresponding chapter in the statistical collection by Krivosheyev is entitled "The cost of the liberation mission". Maybe the time has come in the 21st century to start thinking about adequacy of such titles?
The Anglo-American allies liberated Italy, Greece, France, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, almost entire Austria, part of Czechia, more than half of Germany (more than half within the 1937 borders; in the present-day borders – four fifths). In 1938 the population of these territories was over 170 million. And still the human losses of the allied army turned out to be by the order of the magnitude less than the Red Army losses (in 1945 the Americans lost in the European theater about 55 thous. people, the Anglo-Canadian forces - 15 thousand).
Yes, sure, three quarters of the German army was on the East front; yes, sure, in April of 45th on the Western front German soldiers surrendered in throngs. Nobody argues with this; the question is WHY Wehrmacht soldiers surrendered in tens of thousands in the West and fought to the last bullet and to the last drop of blood in the East? Is this drastic distinction due to the "class solidarity of the world bourgeoisie, its mortal hatred of the state of workers and peasants"? Or maybe there were other, much more earthly and relevant reasons? 800 thousand perished – is it the "cost of the liberation mission"? Or the payment for Stalin’s intricate geopolitical games?
The statistics needed and unavoidable in any military-historical study turns, alas, immeasurable suffering of the millions into neat columns of numbers. This is no good, so I want to end my article with unsophisticated story of what one Hungarian woman, Alen Poltz, lived through. Who is Alen Poltz? A kind person. A very kind person (she even found the appropriate job for herself, a psychotherapist doctor in a hospice). Before I read her memoirs "A woman and the war" (published in "Neva" Magazine, No 2/2004) I thought that only incorporeal angels could possess such kindness and humility. Regretfully, this quite earthly woman of 19 years turned out by the end of the war in a small Hungarian town which became a front zone for a few months.
Alen Poltz is saying about what she saw and survived with a surprising humility and compassion to all people. Even what I would treat as a disgusting play on “politcorrectness” if coming from a present-day journalist sounds naturally and humane when coming from her. Naturally, she does not forget to remind the reader continuously that “the Hungarian soldiers behaved not much more decently in Russian villages”. She manages to come up with explanations and justifications of anything ("I found out we are accused of being spies because exactly to a T after the bell tower clock chimed a bomb hit the Russian headquarters and many people perished. They thought that we gave signals from the church. It was impossible to explain them that the tower clock chimes regularly because it is wound up, it is a simple coincidence. All in all, many things were impossible to expound to the Russians. They lived in a different world; they had a totally different experience. Their logic was also distinct. They did not know what the tower clock was… ")
Even for this she finds a justification:
"By the daybreak I understood how the spinal fracture happens. They do it so: they put a woman on her back, fling her legs to her shoulders and the man enters from above staying on his knees. If he pushes too strong, the woman’s spine will break. It is not done intentionally: it is just that in a frenzy of the rape nobody restrains himself. The spine twisted in a snail is compressed all the time, rocked at one point and they just do not notice when it breaks..."
And she ends up the story of a next rape with a very commendable for the Soviet authority note:
"The Russian officer in the mean-time lighted a match, first touched my eyes with his finger – to make sure they are open. Having assured himself he began his business. It was slightly painful. But as I did not move, did not give a yell he lighted another match – to see if I am alive. He rocked his head. Must be I did not give him too much pleasure. But when I began gathering myself to take away the mattress he sent to the cellar his orderly who also used me. I did not think then why he sent in his orderly. Now it appears to me that they are more democratic than our officers..."
And she immediately rejected vengeance at the moment when the real possibility to avenge appeared:
"They set a lineup of soldiers in front of me; I must have pointed the one who raped me. I remember vaguely: in a frosty winter morning I am walking before the lineup, the soldiers are standing at a stretch, to attention. On my left I am accompanied by two officers. While I am walking along the lineup they hold somewhat aback. I saw fear in the eyes of one soldier. He had blue eyes, a very young boy. I understood from this fear: this is he. But so strong, so eerie was what blinked in his eyes that I felt right away: I must not. There is no sense in killing this boy. What for if the others will remain unpunished? And why this one, the only one from all of them?”
As it should be in the lives of kind people, the story ended happily: Alen Poltz survived, preserved her sanity, managed to get to Budapest, found her mother alive… and even the house where here parents lived was destroyed by the bomb on the other side and their apartment maintained traces of the prewar abundance and plenty of food. Isn’t it a Christmas fairy tale?
"Of course, my mammy cried and was happy, and embraced me. And I also looked at her and rejoiced her. I was glad that they were alive, but I did not rejoice too strongly.
I did not strongly rejoice anything now and did not believe anything too strongly. I already bore a disease in me, gonorrhea and because of it I could not have children. And I did not know yet whether or not I have syphilis. I had a suspicion that I was very contagious, and I did not want to infect anybody.
We were sitting at the table. Tong under tomato sauce was served. I was looking at it wonder-struck and eating slowly, soundlessly. The conversation was that the Russians rape women.
"And in your places as well?" — mommy asked
"Yes, — I said, — in our places as well".
"But they did not touch you?" — mommy asked.
"Nobody was spared", — I said and continued to eat.
Mommy looked at me and said in surprise: "But why did you allow?"
"Because they beat", — I said and continued to it. I did not see anything important or interesting in this issue.
Then somebody asked easily and jokingly: "How many were they?"
"I could not count", — I said and continued to eat.
After the supper mammy took me to the side and said: “My dear child, please don’t joke so rudely, they may really believe it!" I looked at her: "Mammy, this is the truth!" Mammy cried then embraced me pleading: "Dear child, say this is not true…"
Is there any need to quote further? Of course, Alen Poltz pitied her poor mother and told her the words she wanted to hear. Alas, I cannot and do not want to console our "zero patriots" (Russian chauvinists of the expensive oil in the zero years of the 21st century) in such a way. What is written above is truth. Horrible, disgusting truth.
And Messrs. patriots will have to define themselves – who are they? Masters or slaves? A slave does not have the feeling of responsibility. He who rejected the freedom and personal decency is not responsible for his doings. However, he may even further enjoy raspberry peal of the words of gendarme corps chef Graf Benkendorf: "The past of Russia is wonderful, her present is more than magnificent, and as for her future, it is above everything which the boldest imagination can draw. That is exactly the point of view from which the Russian history must be considered and written ".
The free people are free to disagree with the gendarme version of the Russian history and with the monopoly right of gendarmes to rule the present and future of Russia.
The free people should not be scared of their history. They will have to collect their courage and admit the obvious. And share with their country the responsibility for everything.
 Extraordinary organ of state power in the USSR during the war with full authority over the matters both military and civilian
 In Russian, a Prussian and a German cockroach are the same word
 Russian liberation Army
 In-Russian, “âíóòðåííåå óáåæäåíèå”
 Special agent of NKVD
 PRO (ÏÐÎ) is Anti-ballistic defenses
 CC VLKSM is Central Committee of All-Union Leninist Union of he Youth
 CC VKP(b) is Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks)
 RGASPI is Russian Federal Archive of Social-Political History
 íàðîäíîå îïîë÷åíèå
 Article 58 of the USSR Criminal Code included punishments for “counter-revolutionary” (political) crimes
 A quotation from a poem by Mayakovsky:
Ìû äèàëåêòèêó ó÷èëè íå ïî Ãåãåëþ, We did not learn dialectic by Hegel,
Áðÿöàíèåì áîåâ îíà âðûâàëàñü â ñòèõ. It rushed to the poem with rattle of the battle.
Figuratively: it is about the absence of the systematic, real education the lack of which ostensibly substitutes over and above the life experience (from Yandex.ru).
 "landowners’ Poland"
 Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army
 OGPU (initially GPU), Special State Political Directorate, a predecessor of the KGB
 UPA, Ukrainian Insurgent Army
 MVD, Ministry for Internal Affairs
 Members of military-political units in the Ukrainian Insurgent Army in the West Ukraine in 1943-1947. Yandex.ru
 SAU is self-propelling gun