Sunday, June 4, 2017

Soviet Brutality Played Huge Role in the Defeat of Nazi Germany

This is not to suggest that the Germans were merely victims, either in Dresden in February of 1945, or in Berlin a few months after that. Clearly, by supporting Hitler and not supporting any kind of coup against him, even when it was clear that he was losing a war and leading Germany to disaster, the Germans have to take responsibility. And let us be clear: Germany was the aggressor that initiated the outbreak of World War II in Europe. They were blamed for the First World War as well, and although they were at least in large part responsible, the other European warring powers were largely as responsible as well. But the outbreak of World War II in Europe was entirely the doing of Nazi Germany.

That said, the Allied powers that got away with blaming Germany solely as responsible for World War I have also conveniently divorced themselves from responsibility with the atrocities that they were responsible for during the war, as well. There were numerous cities, particularly in Germany and Japan, that were bombed to rubble, with enormous civilian casualties - and that does not even necessarily include the two most famous ones - Hiroshima and Nagasaki!

And yes, the Soviets were incredibly brutal and abusive towards German women once they occupied the Reich.

Of course, we all know that the Nazi German Reich were hardly innocent in their own right. Over the course of many decades now, we have learned of the historically unprecedented levels of abuse and downright evil that the Nazi war machine unleashed. There certainly was rape committed by German troops in occupied territories and prison camps, and there were obviously plenty of murders and crimes against humanity. And we all know about the death camps, and Germany remains the sole nation in the history of the world to have built places to send some of their own people with the specific intent of murdering them.

Still, this cannot justify an anything goes mentality when it came to revenge upon Germans, although this is apparently exactly what happened. This is especially true among the invading Soviets. They had seen Germany invade their nation four years earlier, after conquering most of Europe. Indeed initially, the Germans were moving quickly into Soviet territory, as well, and for much of the outside world, it looked like Germany was about to take over the Soviet Union and, indeed, make it a de facto German colony. 

But the forward march was stopped dead in it's track once Stalin and the rest of the Soviet Union got over the initial shock. Stalin was ready for a bloody affair, and he knew what was at stake. To that end, he sent his soldier to the front line with not only German guns and weapons pointed in their direction in front of them, but with Soviet guns pointed at their backs, at least figuratively speaking. It stopped being figurative if any Soviets showed any signs of cowardice or retreat. There was no choice but to fight, and fight with everything you have, fight for your life. 

What followed was the bloodiest war in human history, and that is saying something! The biggest battle took place in Stalingrad. Out of every thousand troops sent there, by both sides, only three came out alive! The Germans sent still more men and supplies there, knowing how valuable those oil fields would be for their cause, but Stalin sent still more Soviet troops. All along the front of Hitler's eastern war, the Germans were stopped dead in their track. They never got much past Leningrad up north, never reached Moscow, even though one German general claimed that they got so close that he could see the towers and spires from inside of the Kremlin. And ultimately, the Germans never took Stalingrad. They were defeated there, and for the first time, Hitler's troops began retreating. They would ultimately continue to retreat all the way back to the borders of the Reich itself in time and, eventually, would retreat all the way back to the capital, Berlin, before the final curtain of the European war fell, ending with Hitler's suicide, and then the unconditional surrender by a beaten foe.

Before the surrender, however, the Soviets entering the German Reich were hungry for revenge. They viewed themselves as liberators, and as such, seemed to feel that this gave them license to act out in any way that they wanted. 

That translated to some horror stories, where German females were abused by Soviet troops.

Of course, the Soviets themselves denied this unsavory role, dismissing it as mere Western propaganda. Even to this day, Russians deny that rape en masse ever took place as the Soviets troops entered the border of the Reich.

However, there is some proof coming from Soviet troops themselves. In Lucy Ash's BBC article, "The Rape of Berlin," she recounts the surprising tale of one young Soviet officer who kept diaries which gave some surprising details about this era and what transpired behind Soviet lines:

Vladimir Gelfand, a young Jewish lieutenant from central Ukraine, wrote with extraordinary frankness from 1941 through to the end of the war, despite the Soviet military's ban on diaries, which were seen as a security risk.

What he documents in his diary is truly horrific, and suggests that the mass rape of German women was more than just a myth, propagated by the West. It was real, and it was horrible. Some German women were raped by as many as 20 Soviet troops on the same night, taking turns, with some coming back for seconds. In some cases, women were raped in front of their children. 

At one point, Gelfand was riding a bicycle through a park in Berlin, when he encountered a group of German women traveling in a pack together, carrying some belonging s and trying to make their escape. He confronted them, and learned that they had suffered these kinds of humiliations and horrors at the hand of Soviet troops. 

Naturally, the Soviets used the horrors of the invading Nazi troops into Soviet territory as justification for their own abuses once the time came when the Soviets entered the Reich. After all, German troops also abused and raped Soviet women en masse, and were guilty of other horrendous actions, as well. Once the Soviets found themselves in German territory, they were ready for big-time revenge. 

The Soviet leadership themselves seemed to take an almost passive-aggressive kind of approach. Officially, the Soviet leadership was against abuses and rape by their troops, and denied it's existence. Yet, at some point, there were posters reminding the Soviet troops that they were now in German territory, and that the hour of revenge was at hand. It was a systematic sort of dehumanizing of the once powerful German nation, as well as revenge.

Also, the Soviet troops were starved for sex, so that German females of almost all ages were seen as ripe for the taking. In Antony Beevor's article in "The Guardian" reports, neither young girls nor elderly women were safe:

Natalya Gesse, a close friend of the scientist Andrei Sakharov, had observed the Red Army in action in 1945 as a Soviet war correspondent. "The Russian soldiers were raping every German female from eight to eighty," she recounted later. "It was an army of rapists."

As we begin to revisit some of the horrors of World War II perpetrated by the ultimately victorious allied nations, such as the various firebombings by British and American forces, we might want to make sure the record of this Soviet brutality is also understood and remembered for it's horrors and excess, as well.

'They raped every German female from eight to 80' by Antony Beevor, May 1, 2002:

The rape of Berlin By Lucy Ash BBC News, Berlin 1 May 2015

No comments:

Post a Comment