In an interview with Komsomolskaya Pravda, Russian history professor Elena Sinyavskaya in a discussion with Alexey Ovchinnikov disputes the factual provenance of the Red Army rape of Germany.
The Myth of the “Rape of Germany” was Invented by Goebbels
In recent years, Victory Day has unfortunately acquired a not very pleasant tradition: the closer the holiday comes, the more do all sorts of “researchers” begin to broadcast the myth of “raped Germany.”
In this way, over the years the number of German maidens, allegedly victims of the Red Army, simply grows. But for whom is it necessary that the Russian soldier remain in the national memory not as a liberator and protector, but as a rapist and a robber? This is something that we have talked about to a leading researcher at the Institute of Russian History, the Russian Academy of Sciences, Doctor of Historical Sciences, Professor Elena Sinyavskaya.
“The Nazis intimidated people to the point that they committed suicide”
Elena Spartakovna, is all this the result of restructuring? Those years generated a lot of rubbish …
Not really. This nasty story began much earlier, with Goebbels’ propaganda, when it was announced to the population that the Red Army was brutally raping all German women between the ages of 8 to 80 years. And the people were really intimidated to the limit, to the extent that Nazi party activists firstly killed their families and then themselves.
So why was such an Image necessary?
Firstly, to increase resistance against the advancing Red Army, and secondly, so that the population would leave the lost territories and could be of no assistance to the Soviet armed forces.
Goebbels’ line was then continued in the same year of 1945 by the allies, when the first publications appeared in which it was attempted to represent the Red Army as an army of looters and rapists and with absolutely nothing said about the outrages that were happening in the western zone of occupation. With the start of the “cold war” the theme was exaggerated, but not so aggressively and massively as has begun to occur in the last twenty years. The numbers “raped” were initially modest: from 20,000 to 150,000 in Germany. But in 1992, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, in Germany there was published a book by two feminists, Helga Zander and Barbara Jor, “The Liberators and Liberated,” where for the first time a figure of 2 million was arrived at. Moreover, it was derived from a completely flawed premise: statistical data for 1945-1946 were collected in a Berlin hospital in which there were born somewhere around 500 children per year and approximately 15-20 people were listed under “nationality of father” as “Russian”. Moreover, two or three such cases were classified as “raped”. What did these “researchers” do? They arrived at the conclusion that all the cases where the father was Russian were the result of being raped. Then Goebbel’s formula from “8 to 80” was simply factored in. However, the mass distribution of this figure took place in 2002 with the publication of Anthony Beevor’s book “The Fall of Berlin”, which was published here in 2004, and the mythical figure of “2 million” was then taken out for a stroll by the Western mass media on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the Victory.
The Germans are tired of repenting
One can understand those who went on about this topic during the “cold war” years, but then the Berlin Wall fell and, according to Gorbachev, there was established “peace and friendship” …
The geopolitical realities have changed. On the one hand there have been attempts to revise the results of World War II, plus the desire to remove the Soviet Union (and Russia as its legal successor) from the victorious side and all the good that is associated with it. This was one of the steps that led to the fact that in a number of decisions of the European institutions, including the European Parliament, was the equating of Stalinism with Nazism, where the aggressor and victim have been placed on the same footing, shifting the question of guilt and responsibility and forcing us to repent for something that was not.
Does it appear that these “researchers” have not written these essays themselves but have been commissioned by those who have been creating this new geoploitic? ..
Of course. The second reason is that the myth is pleasing to the West – to the psychology of the German people, who are tired of feeling guilty. There we hear the present generation already saying: “Well, why do we have to repent for our forefathers’ sin?” With them there has already arisen a wave of feeling that with the formation of a national consciousness is trying to assert the idea that their ancestors were not that guilty; that there isn’t a collective German responsibility … This is where the geopolitical order merges with the sentiments of the masses.
Leave aside revenge!
And what actually happened to these raped people?
We cannot say that such things did not happen. There were rapes, but not on the scale about which they are now lying today. In documents such facts as “extra-ordinary happenings and immoral events” are considered. The country’s leadership and high command believed that it just wasn’t simply a case of creating a bad image for the Red Army, it also undermined discipline. And they fought against this with all available means, starting with party-political work, explanations, and finally ending with tribunal sentences, up to and including the shooting of looters and rapists.
Are there statistics?
Unfortunately, not all documents have been declassified, but from those that have been, we are able to calculate the scale of the phenomenon. Here is a report from the military prosecutor of the 1st Belorussian Front concerning unlawful acts against the civilian population during the period from 22 April to 5 May 1945. The seven armies of the front consisted of 908,500 personnel and 124 crimes were recorded, including 72 of rape. Only 72 cases per 908,500 …
Your opponents have written that a wave of rapes occurred before the capture of Berlin …
On April 20 there were directives concerning a change in attitude towards the German civilian population and prisoners of war. So here we have our opponents focusing on the fact that the order had come too late, that during the whole period of the winter and early spring of ’45 the Red Army rioted with impunity. This is not true. Because in addition to this order and subsequent directives, there were orders at front, army and individual unit level that were issued before the Red Army entered the territory of other states. Pamphlets were distributed that told the history of a country, its culture and local traditions. In January of ’45, orders were given to Konev, Rokossovsky and Zhukov, saying that they had to control any feelings of direct revenge [that those under their command had] and to prevent any incidents that would be interpreted as negative.
And how was this perceived by the soldiers? After all, many had lost loved ones at home; a feeling of revenge had been engendered amongst them. Remember Ilya Ehrenburg and his “Kill the Germans!” And then they came to the lair [of the beast] and all of a sudden were told to “put aside revenge” …
Of course, many were not happy with these explanations as regards this new attitude towards revenge. In reports from commissars there are recorded conversations between soldiers who resented these orders: “First they say one thing, then another and why we should feel sorry for those Germans as if they had behaved well on our territory” … But tough disciplinary measures on the one hand, and the Russian love of children on the other (even the Germans recognized that our soldiers were very nice with German children and fed them not only from central food stores but also from their own rations, sometimes giving them all that they had) prevented acts of revenge from happening. But the main thing, which was emphasized at all levels, was that in their actions “we should not be like the Germans”.
The historian Yuri Zhukov has argued that rape and other crimes were mostly committed not by soldiers of the Red Army but by former Red Army soldiers just liberated from concentration camps and by civilians who had been deported to Germany …
Yes, while awaiting repatriation they were not under any control or command, and they generally were quite a motley crowd of repatriates. They formed gangs and started robbing locals in order to make up for the humiliations they had suffered, and as this happened in the area of responsibility of the Soviet troops, all of this was blamed on our soldiers. There is other evidence of allies liberated from the camps, who were engaged in looting in Berlin, stuffing old cars with junk and being told as they were exiting the city to take it back to where they had got it. Another point: in the same reports from military prosecutors it is often stated that there are cases stipulated in which an alleged rape was not confirmed, where the commanders had to punish the innocent. There is a very interesting diary left by Australian correspondent Osmar White, who accompanied the American army, and visited all the zones of occupation. He did not feel much sympathy for us, but claimed that the Red Army, in contrast to the allies, was very disciplined; that the Soviet administration was very effective not only in its acts to combat crime, but also in the field of urban regeneration and the provision of the necessities of life; and all the horrors that they tell of our soldiers were, on the one hand, rumours and gossip, and that, on the other, these crimes were mostly committed by those who were awaiting repatriation.
The Germans fled from the Anglo-Americans to the Russians
And how did women in those territories relate to our soldiers?
Oh, a whole dissertation could be written about that topic. First of all, there was a colossal difference in mentalities. All of these tales that soldiers, especially those from rural areas, had been de-Christianized and were lascivious by definition are nonsense. On the contrary, most of them had been brought up in a patriarchal tradition; that Hungarians and Austrians routinely had numerous sexual relations before marriage was for them simply animal-like behaviour. From a Russian soldier’s understanding, what kind of woman does that? I shall not say, because that would imply a certain aversion to such women. Commanders were in a state of shock. There are lots of documented reports of groups of women who, led by their “Madame”, immediately offered their sexual services as soon as contact was made with a village. In all such cases, the reaction of our officers was angry and abusive. In addition, it was often revealed that the Nazis specifically allowed a certain number of women infected with venereal disease to cause soldiers to be incapacitated. Is this part and parcel of “raped Germany” as well?
In Romania and Hungary our soldiers visited brothels, but, as a rule, not very many: they went out of curiosity, and then later there were unpleasant feelings and a sense of disgust and confusion. The very idea of buying another person did not fit in the head of the Soviet man.
Do not forget that there existed the very common phenomenon of military prostitution. There have been preserved diaries of German women, where they philosophically argue that prostitution is quite a respectable profession. It was very common, especially in the western zone of occupation, where the Germans, by the way, were very scantily supplied with food (as opposed to the Soviet zone, where children up to 8 years of age were even given even milk). The German daily ration was less than an American breakfast. Naturally, the women were forced to earn a living in the well known manner. In this type of rape there were more than enough cases. And if the Germans make claims of violence, it is not directed towards us but against the Allies, from whom the Germans had fled en masse in terror into the Soviet occupation zone.
And how, by the way, did U.S. commanders react to the crimes of their subordinates?
They often chose not to pay any attention to them. The diaries of the same Osmar White said that crimes against German women were widespread and that they were in no way brought to a halt by the American commanders; that if any kind of reaction did take place, then this happened only in respect of the Negro rapists.
Yes. In the minds of U.S. commanders, Negros dared not raise a hand against a white woman; if they did, they would be treated in the customary way back in the USA. It was different for French troops. In the U.S. Senate after the war there was described the behaviour of native [African] French forces, the Senegalese, in Stuttgart. Cited figures say that within one to two days there were about three thousand raped in the Stuttgart underground alone. To this very day the Italians claim that the Anglo-American military were responsible for the atrocities that took place on Italian territory and committed by Moroccans. These men raped not only women, but also young men …
Trophies – bolts of fabric and needles
We are also accused of looting. Those trophies, by the way: where did they come from?
This is very interesting. There are complete documents stating that it was chiefly the Anglo-Americans who were engaged in looting and according to a thoroughgoing programme as well: possessions were loaded onto ships, and gradually they began to cause bottlenecks in ports. Basically, they were collecting an assortment of things of various value. As for the Red Army, there was such a thing as “baraholstvo” [odds and ends].
It wasn’t a question of robbery, but the collection of abandoned property in abeyance: open houses, smashed shops, abandoned suitcases … even when they were fighting and during a lull in the combat. At certain times their commanding officers let them send parcels back homes. But they didn’t send back diamond encrusted watches, but what was necessary in a war-ravaged economy: valued sets of sewing needles – they could be bartered for a good selection of food products; bolts of cloth, because there was no clothing left back home; many sent back tools: hammers, pliers, planes: the front line troops knew that they would soon be back home and would need something to rebuild burnt down villages with. You cannot point an accusing finger at them for doing that. In all the letters enclosed with the parcels, the soldiers try to justify themselves in front of their wives and relatives for taking these rags and junk. They were very disgusted with themselves for doing this …
By the way, do you remember the famous photo taken of the Reichstag being discussed on the Internet recently, where on one of the officer’s wrists there are two watches?
I have had that picture for a while now. They’re actually a watch and a compass that I believe a commanding officer wears. And do you remember the photo, where a Soviet soldier is robbing a Berliner of her bike and how the Web Liberals were screaming about the looting? But what was shown was a soldier confiscating a bicycle needed by the army. Do you see the difference in the way this action is looked at?
History is blackened free of charge
By the way, about our home-grown liberals: have they some interest in lying about their forebears?
In fact, there are people who are fully aware of what they are doing. Let’s just say that there is a price, though we are not necessarily talking about a financial reward. There are other means of encouragement: a trip abroad, grants, citizenship … But there is a large stratum of Internet professionals who mindlessly repeat a lie behind the first group. Their minds are so muddled that they are willing to believe any nonsense.
And it’s not only the network hamsters that are involved in this, but intellectuals as well. Here is a lecturer from the North Caucasus Federal University, Pavel Polyan, speaking on the air from a very liberal radio station, after having been asked about the fate some of our women who had had intimate relationships with the occupiers. He says: “There has been rape, but it was not a massive wave of rape. In any case, it is not commensurate with the mass rapes, which the Red Army undertook when entering Germany … ” By the way, is there a lot of disagreement between Russian historians on this issue?
I should not want to focus on specific colleagues. There are historians of the professional community, and there are people who have positioned themselves as such: we call them “folk-history” and they are amateurs trying to impose their views on the public. So, amongst the professionals there are no differences of opinion concerning this subject and there cannot be…
“This is an attempt to deprive the people of their history”
It’s bad enough that this image of a drunken and rapacious Russian soldier appears in Western movies, but we do the same thing in our own films!
This hasn’t just begun now. Remember how many of those films there were after the collapse of the Union. And the first picture that showed the war not from the point of name-calling, but from a patriotic point of view, came only in 2002, “Zvezda” [The Star]. All that came before was full of myths about Stalin’s tyranny, the “bloody” NKVD, SMERSH, the Special Department of which, it appears, only did shootings of good officers in the back and terrorized the troops. And we were fed the idea that victory came despite our leadership, and in a number of films you could sense the hidden suggestion that perhaps we might not really have won …
What was the reason for this?
The Great Patriotic War [in the West: The Russo-Soviet War 1941-1945, the Eastern Front (Europe) of World War II – trans. ME] is still in our history; it is that episode that unites the people, and not just ours, but the other nations of the former Soviet Union. And when on May 9 they try to erase it from memory or to tarnish it, the aim of this is quite obvious: it is an attempt to deprive the people of their history, and to show that we have no past to be proud of. If the majority of the population can see this, then such people will have no future. Understanding the history of the Great Patriotic War has long turned into a major field of the information battle.
Are we losing this battle?
In general, yes.
Why does not one historian oppose these attacks on our history? Doesn’t the state talk about the need to protect history from falsifications, and don’t films in which Russian soldiers continue to appear like frostbitten cattle, and don’t the liberals quietly continue to broadcast on the government channels about the “crime” of the Red Army…
Do you want to hear what I think about this? Because there really is no anti-falsification at state level. And you’ve got to be really tough about this issue. And it should be brought up with the person at the very top. One of the Russian emperors, Nicholas I, having somehow found out that there was to be performed in Paris a play that would blacken the name of the Russian army, demanded that it not be performed. And when the French king refused to do so, claiming freedom of artistic expression, the Russian emperor replied “Well, I’ll send you an audience of a million dressed in their army greatcoats, and they’ll hiss and boo. The play was immediately cancelled…
Can you imagine someone in the United States “at the behest of the soul” making a film in which American soldiers in Germany only rape, rob and drink? ..
I think in the career of such directors and writers it would be their last film. They are very closely monitoring such manifestations of “freedom.” They realize how dangerous it is. Not only that: research on this subject, if it is maintained, is not publicized. By the way, in 1989, there was published the book “Other Losses” by Canadian author James Baca, who argued that in the camps in the American zone of occupation over a million German prisoners of war were starved to death. He was immediately picked on by his colleagues and announced to be almost a fool …
From Firsthand Sources
Eyewitnesses of Germany, 1945
“… At the end of the first day of my stay in Berlin, I was convinced that the city was dead. Human beings simply could not live in this terrifying pile of debris. By the end of the first week, my opinion began to change. Society had come alive in the ruins. Berliners began to receive food and water in an amount sufficient to survive. More and more people were employed in the public works under the guidance of the Russians. Thanks to the Russians, with their extensive experience in dealing with similar problems in their own devastated cities, the spread of epidemics had been put under control. I am convinced that the Soviets did in those days more in order that Berlin should survive than the Anglo-Americans would have been able to do if they had been in the position that the Russians found themselves…”
“… After the fighting had moved onto German soil, there were committed many rapes by soldiers, both front line troops and those who followed immediately behind them. The number [of these rapes] depended on the attitude of senior officers towards them … Lawyers acknowledged that because of cruel and perverse sexual acts with German women, some of the soldiers were executed by firing squad, especially in cases where they were Negros. However, I know that many women were raped by white Americans. No action against these criminals has been taken … ”
“… In the Red Army, strict discipline prevails. Robbery, rape and abuse is no more greater than in any other zone of occupation. Wild stories about atrocities emerge from the exaggeration and distortion of individual cases brought on by nervousness caused by Russian soldiers’ wild manners and their love of vodka. One woman who had told me most of the tales of Russian brutality, tales which would make one’s hair stand on end, was eventually forced to admit that the only evidence that she had seen with her own eyes was of drunken Russian officers firing their guns into the air and at bottles … ”
From the diaries of the Australian war correspondent Osmar White
“… After moving to Oberhunden. Coloured boys staged here God knows what. They set fire to the house. Slashed all the Germans with razors and raped the women … ”
From the journal of the U.S. Army signalman Edward Wise
“… Around the same day I had a talk with a pretty Hungarian girl. When she asked whether I liked it in Budapest, I replied that I did, but that I found the brothels embarrassing. “But why?” asked the girl. “Because it is not natural; it’s animal-like”, I explained. “A woman takes the money and straight after there follows ‘lovemaking’!” She thought a moment, then nodded and said, “You’re right: taking the money first is not nice …”
From the memoirs of Alexander’s cavalry Homeland
“… We went to a German city, billeted in homes. A “Frau” appears. She’s about 45 years old and asks for the “Herr Kommandant.” She declares that she is responsible for the town district and has collected 20 German women for the sexual (!!!) servicing of Russian soldiers … The reaction of the officers were angry and abusive. They drove off the German woman together with her ready for action ‘detachment’ …. ”
From the memoirs of mortar man Nahum Orlov
“… A little further on, at a railway crossing just before the village, we came across a “post for the collection of weapons and watches”. I thought I was dreaming: the civilized, prosperous British have been taking watches off German soldiers who were covered in dirt! From there we were sent to the school yard in the centre of the village. There had already been gathered there a lot of German soldiers. Watching over us, the Englishmen rolled chewing gum between their teeth – that was something new to us – and boasted to each other with their trophies, raising high their arms, studded with wrist watch … ”
From the memoirs of corporal Egon Kopiske
“… All this has been acquired by completely honest means, and do not imagine that in Germany, robbery and burglary is not ignored. Complete order. Whenever they came across confiscated things abandoned by Berlin “big noises”, they were distributed in a comradely way to whoever liked them… ”
From a letter from Staff Sergeant V. V. Syrlitsyn to his wife
Senyavskaya, Elena Spartakovna – Senior Research Fellow of the Institute of Russian History, Russian Academy of Sciences, Doctor of Historical Sciences, Professor, member of the Academy of Military Sciences. Specialist in Russian military history of the XX century, military psychology and author of over 250 scientific papers.