A Brief History
On October 21, 1944, the Soviet Red Army was steamrolling the German army on the Eastern Front, reaching the town of Nemmersdorf, where heartless Soviets massacred at least 74 ethnic Germans, and for good measure slaughtered another 50 French and Belgians being held by the Germans as POW’s.
We have previously discussed why we think the Soviets were not the knights in shining armor trying to deliver a sort of worker’s utopia to the masses, notably our article “10 Atrocious Atrocities Allegedly Arranged by the Soviet Union.” For that matter, the Russia of today that has succeeded the Soviet Union/USSR is still pulling Soviet style rotten tricks, such as assassinations and assassination attempts, largely against political opponents of virtual dictator for life, Vladimir Putin, himself a former KGB agent, the KGB being the infamous Soviet spy and secret police agency rolled into one. (Click the link to see some of our Putin related articles.) In fact, in 2020 a Russian dissident has met with yet another dirty trick/assassination attempt, almost assuredly at the hands of the Russian government.
At the time of the massacre, Nemmersdorf was a German rural town in East Prussia, though today the city finds itself part of Russa as the town of Mayakovskoye. The 2nd Battalion, 25th Guards Tank Brigade of the Red Army fought its way into Nemmersdorf where the Soviets encountered civilians hiding in a bunker. A Soviet officer ordered the civilians killed, and indeed they were killed. Conflicting reports as to the age and gender of the victims exists, as well as the number of victims, with both sides trying to spin the incident to their respective advantage. It is probable all or most of the civilian victims were women and children. German Army witnesses after the war testified that when the portion of Nemmersdorf that had been temporarily held by the Soviets was retaken by the Germans, the German soldiers discovered the massacre, including reports of rape and torture of civilians, as well as the massacre of the French and Belgian POW’s. A particularly gruesome allegation was that the Soviets had nailed some victims to barn doors in a bizarre crucifixion imitation and bashed in the heads of babies and infants. (The barn door story has been criticized in recent years as possibly or even probably German propaganda.) As word of the massacre spread, terrified civilians in the region began to flee to the West to escape the onslaught of the inexorable Red Army.
The various Soviet (and other) conquered people had suffered many atrocities at the hands of the Germans when the Germans had invaded Poland, the Soviet Union, and other Eastern European countries. The bloodlust for revenge was high among many Soviet soldiers, and Soviet Communist Party officials sanctioned and even encouraged terroristic atrocities against German civilians as a matter of Soviet policy. All sides had the shameful experience of some of their fighting men engaging in rape and murder, as well as looting and unnecessary destruction during World War II, and the Soviets seem to have had perhaps more than their share.
While we have a great respect and even affection for the Russian people, we tend to view the Soviet era as a sorry example of inhumanity by people against people, and for good measure disapprove of the current Russian regime’s strong arm tactics in the Ukraine and Belarus, not to mention the persistent meddling with American election processes. Our tremendous relief at the end of the Cold War and hopes for a new era of friendly and mutually beneficial American/Russian (you could say Western Alliance and Russian if you want) has been a major disappointment. Question for students (and subscribers): What do you think? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Gebhardt, Miriam. Crimes Unspoken: The Rape of German Women at the End of the Second World War. Polity, 2017.
Grau, Karl. Silesian Inferno: War Crimes of the Red Army on Its March into Silesia in 1945. Landpost Press, 1992.
The featured image in this article, a map by Toter Alter Mann, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.