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> Organized Soviet Atrocities in WWII
mabadesc
Posted: May 17, 2004 09:17 pm
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I'd like to use this thread to gather and discuss examples of the organized atrocities commited by the Soviet Army during WWII as well as by Stalin's government in the early period of the Cold War (shortly after the end of the war).

I'll start with a directive issued in November 1944 by the CO of the Soviet 153rd Infantry Division, Colonel Eliseev, addressed to the division's 1st Battalion:

"We are marching into East Prussia. Soldiers and officers of the Red Army will be permitted the following:
1. To exterminate any living German.
2. To plunder property.
3. To rape women.
4. To commit arson.
5. There will be no arrests of soldiers of the ROA (Russian Liberation Army). Every bullet for them is wasted. They will be beaten to death or trampled underfoot".

Source: BA-MA, Russian Archives, RH 2/2684, 18.11.1944
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Benoit Douville
Posted: May 21, 2004 01:28 am
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That's an interesting thread. I also read that Zhukov said something like Colonel Eliseev but I am wondering if Zhukov really said that. I know that the propaganda journalist Ilya Ehrenburg encouraged rape on German women.

Well, the Soviet Union won the War so it is more easy to blame the Germans than the Soviets for all the atrocities committed during World War II. The first organized atrocities that I can think of by the Soviets is the tragedy of Katyn were they murdered Polish officers in the area of Smolensk in 1940.

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mabadesc
Posted: May 21, 2004 01:55 am
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That's an interesting thread.


Thanks.

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I also read that Zhukov said something like Colonel Eliseev...


Do you remember where you read this, by chance?


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I know that the propaganda journalist Elya Ehrenburg encouraged rape on German women


I can imagine propaganda journalists were especially radical in their comments. Can you give a bit more context of what Ehrenburg said, what paper he wrote for, whether he was punished for this?
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Dr_V
Posted: May 21, 2004 10:39 am
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Several Western front Romanian veterans told me that they received speciffic orders from Soviet officers to kill every civilian they encountered soon after crossing Romanian borders. Thet's strange, as in Yugoslavia the civilians had actively opposed German occupation during the war as guerilla partisans, plus they're related to the Russians as a nation.

It's interesting to know that Romanian soldiers were in their majority so uneducated that they couldn't use a map and often had no clue where exactly are they. I know one veteran who's convinced he fought in Germany and made it through to Berlin, thaugh historical documents show his unit never did so. Many men were thinking they encounter German civilians, thaugh they were probably Czecks, Slovacs or Yugoslavians.

Some Romanian soldiers complied the Soviet orders, but many were reluctant to fire upon civilians and invented ingenious ways to "bent" the rules. Russian NKVD officers were often close by, shooting both civilian survivals and Romanian soldiers for insignificant faults. So some soldiers used to put the civilians to "play dead" amongst the corpses of dead soldiers, sometimes even mesing their clothes with blood to make it appear more real. One told me how they were "smugeling" children out of the battle inside the vehicles used to deliver food to the troops.

From my knowledge, the most common crimes Romanian soldiers commited were stealing and rapes. I've also found out that some Romanian officers tried to stop their troops from committing crimes against civilians and in some cases they were subsequently arrested and executed by the Soviets.

I think the hooror and atrocity of those times can't be fully understood now, let's hope it will remain only as history...
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Chandernagore
Posted: May 21, 2004 11:09 am
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I've read a few works on the fall of east Prussia but never came across written orders to kill civilians. The Russian propaganda boosted the troops with a sense of hatred and revenge (not that it was much needed) that had an evident effect in East Prussia. So murders did occur, rape was sytematic and plunder without limit.

The effects on German morale was to stiffen resistance. So when the Russian finally realized that it was going to make things more difficults and costly to them they attempted to atenuate the effect of their own propaganda and to reverse course a bit. Certainly by the time of the battle of Berlin such behaviour was officialy condemned as counterproductive. However, in spite of the high command starting to care for the future of their relations with allied east Germany, control of the troops remained problematic and rape was still widespread during the final showdown.
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Victor
Posted: May 21, 2004 11:16 am
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Czecks, Slovacs or Yugoslavians.


The Romanian army was never on Yugoslavian soil.
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johnny_bi
Posted: May 21, 2004 12:14 pm
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I can imagine propaganda journalists were especially radical in their comments. Can you give a bit more context of what Ehrenburg said, what paper he wrote for, whether he was punished for this?


I remember one... I don't remember the source: "Kill the unborn German children in the bellies of their mothers!" - Ilya Ehrenburg. Punished? You gotta be joking...
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mabadesc
Posted: May 21, 2004 06:57 pm
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Russian NKVD officers were often close by, shooting both civilian survivals and Romanian soldiers for insignificant faults.


NKVD officers took cruelty to its extreme absurdity. I know NKVD officers pretty much had the right to shoot any Soviet officer without orders, except for Generals. They also killed civilians at will.

But I don't think (I may be wrong) they were allowed to shoot Romanian soldiers, since the troop's discipline was the responsibility of Romanian officers.
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Benoit Douville
Posted: May 22, 2004 03:12 am
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Mabadesc,

As the leading Soviet journalist during World War II, Ehrenburg writings against the German invaders were circulated among millions of Soviet soldiers.

His articles appeared regularly in Pravda, Izvestia, the Soviet military daily, Krasnaya Zvezda ("Red Star"), and in numerous leaflets distributed to troops at the front.

In one leaflet headlined "Kill," Ehrenburg incited Soviet soldiers to treat Germans as sub-human. The final paragraph concludes:

The Germans are not human beings. From now on the word German means to use the most terrible oath. From now on the word German strikes us to the quick. We shall not speak any more. We shall not get excited. We shall kill. If you have not killed at least one German a day, you have wasted that day ... If you cannot kill your German with a bullet, kill him with your bayonet. If there is calm on your part of the front, or if you are waiting for the fighting, kill a German in the meantime. If you leave a German alive, the German will hang a Russian and rape a Russian woman so rape all German women that you want. If you kill one German, kill another there is nothing more amusing for us than a heap of German corpses. Do not count days, do not count kilometers. Count only the number of Germans killed by you. Kill the German that is your grandmother's request. Kill the German that is your child's prayer. Kill the German that is your motherland's loud request. Do not miss. Do not let through.

Sources:

- Institute for Historical Review
- The Fall of Berlin by Antony Beevor

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mabadesc
Posted: May 22, 2004 08:57 pm
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Thanks for the info in your last post, Benoit.

Ehrenburg's propaganda was outrageous!!!

I think it even surpasses Goebbel's propaganda against the jews.

I may be wrong, but I doubt that German newspapers incited the killing of jews or russians to the same extent as Ehrenburg did against german civilians and soldiers.


P.S. This has no relevance, but just out of curiosity, what was Ehrenburg's ethnicity? His name sounds either German or jewish. It's certainly not a classical Russian/Slavic name.
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johnny_bi
Posted: May 23, 2004 02:51 am
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On April 14, Ehrenburg’s hate propaganda was stopped by a strong attack on him in Pravda by G.F. Alexandrov, the principal ideologist of the Central Committee. According to Ehrenburg’s postwar Memoirs this attack was launched on direct instructions from Stalin. Alexandrov’s article, “Comrade Ehrenburg os Over-simplifying”, took him up on two points: first of all, it was both un-Marxist and inexpedient to treat all Germans as sub-human; “Hitlers come and go, but the German people go on forever”, Stalin himself had said in a recent speech; and Russia would have to live with the German people. To suggest that every German democrat or Communist was necessarily a Nazi in disguise was absolutely wrong. The article clearly suggested that there were now certain Germans with whom it would be necessary for the Russian authorities to co-operate. Secondly, Alexandrov objected to Ehrenburg’s Red Star article two days before, called “That’s Enough!” in which he had raged against the ease with which the Allies were advancing in the west and the desperate resistance the Germans were continuing to offer the Russians in the east. Ehrenburg had said that this was so because, having murdered millions of civilians, in the east, the Germans were therefore scared of the Russians, but not of the Western Allies, who were being deplorably “soft”. They had, he claimed, even ordered Russian and Ukrainian slaves to go on working on German estates during the spring sowing.  
While agreeing with some of this, Alexandrov still said that Ehrenburg was “oversimplifying” the issue:  
“At the present stage the Nazis are following their old mischievous policy of sowing distrust among the Allies...They are trying, by means of this political military trick, to achieve what they could not achieve by purely military means. If the Germans, as Ehrenburg says, were only scared of the Russians, they would not, to this day, go on sinking Allied ships, murdering British prisoners, or sending flying bombs over London. “We did not capture Königsberg by telephone,” Ehrenburg said. That is quite true; but the explanation he offers for the simple way in which the Allies occupy towns in Western Germany is not the correct one.”  
This sop to the Allies was no doubt still intended to be in the good Yalta tradition, but it was perhaps not meant to be overwhelmingly convincing. For, although there was to be genuine rejoicing, especially among soldiers and officers on both sides, when, on April 27, the Russian and American forces met at Torgau on the Elbe, and cut the German forces in two, and although there were friendly demonstrations outside the American Embassy on VE-Day in Moscow on May 9, there continued to be considerable distrust of the Western Allies. True, the Allies did not fall for Himmler’s (or any other) “separate peace” offer, but no sooner had the Germans capitulated than the Russian press was already full of angry screams about “Churchill’s Flensburg Government” - a government which, they later asserted, was not liquidated until the Russians themselves had taken a very strong line about this “outrageous business.”  
But that is a different story. The most significant part of Alexandrov’s attack on Ehrenburg concerned the new official line on “the German people”. Very suddenly the hate propaganda against “the Germans” was stopped. Ehrenburg was no longer allowed to write - at least not on Germany. His hate propaganda had served its purpose in the past, but now it had become inexpedient.


Source of quote:

Alexander Werth, Russia at War 1941-1945, 2000 Second Edition Carroll & Graf Publishers, New York
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johnny_bi
Posted: May 23, 2004 03:01 am
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QUOTE
P.S. This has no relevance, but just out of curiosity, what was Ehrenburg's ethnicity? His name sounds either German or jewish. It's certainly not a classical Russian/Slavic name.


Try a search on the net.
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Benoit Douville
Posted: May 23, 2004 03:07 am
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Mabadesc,

For Ehrenburg it was a complex choices of a cultural identity: Jew, Russian or European? Ehrenburg starts by cutting himself off from his Jewish roots, turning first to Catholicism, then to "Russianism". If later on he reverts to the Jewish heirloom, this is because it represents for him an essential element of challenge to Europe and to Russia, spiritually rent by war and revolution and dominated by the cult of progress, discipline and collectivism. He contrasts them with the "Jewish spirit" which he defines as a quest for universalism, an eternal revolt and loneliness.

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