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Old 07-07-2011, 07:36 PM
 
5,835 posts, read 4,122,271 times
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The reason why I wanted to translate this particular article was because I've noticed that you, S.W ( well not only you, but others too) have tendency to project certain cultural standards onto Russia, painting Stalin's USSR with the same colors as Hitler's Germany. Because of that sometimes you arrive to the wrong conclusions, even while contemplating "whats" and "ifs" about the war. Stalin's Russia has never been the same country as Hitler's Germany, as Italian version of fascism was different from the German one. In Russia ( unlike in German or Anglo-Saxon cultures ) the law itself doesn't mean as much as the moral compass ( and level of competence) of the person in charge at any given time, at any given location.
So when you S.M. are talking about the authoritarian rule in Russia and pointing that at the beginning of the war, the Russian soldiers were waiting for the order to fight back ( let me quote you here)

Quote:
"Why did they have to wait in many cases before picking up a weapon and firing at approaching German units as they first came over the border? Do you know exactly why? Much of the history tells the West that they had to call this into headquarters and ask what to do. Why do you think that was the case?

If you were standing there and spotted units of the German Wehrmacht approaching you on your soil, in your country, would you not be inclined to pick up a weapon and fire it in their general direction?

I can tell you, my internet acquaintenance, that, speaking as an American, if any nation decided to invade my country, they would be in for a very rude reception from their first second of entry.

So, I sit here puzzled over the motivations, as just one of many, many examples.... of so many Russian soldiers who were captured in their barracks without firing a single shot during the first hours of the invasion. Do you know why? And, if it puzzled you like it did me would it lead you to possibly draw the conclusion that these men were waiting to be told what to do?"
- well, I was already trying to say earlier that in my opinion there was something more odd ( and sinister) going on at that time, because Russians ( Russian soldiers including) were not allowed even to mention the possibility of war with Germany. Even when a German defector has swum over the Bug river with a warning of approaching German attack that was about to take place, even then Russian officers were not allowed to talk about the possibility of a war under a threat of being persecuted for a treason. So this was a real reason behind the delayed actions of many Russian soldiers who were captured in their barracks without firing a single shot. The attack came against everything they were conditioned for for long time and I still can't find an adequate explanation to why this vehement denial of a possible German attack was in place until the last moment when it actually took place. As the history proved, not only this denial destroyed the lives of many Soviet citizens, but it obviously endangered the very existence of the Soviet government that was promoting it. So this is what really happened, while you S.W. are trying to ascribe the delay of actions on behalf of Russians by a simple matter of a lack of permission from authorities to fire back.

PS. By the way, while I was reading about Erich Hartmann mentioned in the article above, I came across his testimony that was very consistent with everything I was trying to point out regarding the *mass rapes* of the Soviet Army in Germany. Here it is;

Erich Hartmann - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"Soon after being handed over to the Soviet armed forces, Hartmann experienced the following:

The first thing the Russians did was to separate the German women and girls from the men. What followed was a brutal orgy of rape and debauchery by Red Army soldiers. When the greatly outnumbered Americans tried to intervene, the Russians charged towards them firing into the air and threatening to kill them if they interfered. The raping continued throughout the night. The next day a Russian General arrived at the encampment and immediately ordered a cessation... Later when a few Russians violated the order again and assaulted a German girl, she was asked to identify them from a lineup. There were no formalities, no court martial. The guilty parties were immediately hanged in front of all their comrades. The point was made.[40]"

So again the description of the situation was quite telling that there was no such ( even unofficial) law in place to rape and kill German women. It was rather something that Russian commandment had to deal with, and as you can see, the famous Russian temper was definitely in place in a case described above.

Last edited by erasure; 07-07-2011 at 08:28 PM..
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Old 07-07-2011, 09:31 PM
 
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PS. Now when I'm looking at it - couple of corrections;
The marches of 20-30 km in winter time, lodging под открытым небом, the useless fight with lice

should read as

"The marches of 20-30 km in winter time, lodging under the open sky, the useless fight with lice"

and

"It's necessary to note, that until now Mr. Bamberg still couldn't decide for himself whether the camp administration was hoping that all POWs would die from cold and hunger and thus planned it intentionally."
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Old 07-08-2011, 08:47 AM
 
13,569 posts, read 16,450,984 times
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erasure, thanks for translating the article, I enjoyed reading it. Also apologies for what transpired over the past couple pages. Maybe we can get this going in a positive direction again. I regret making the statement about where "SW" was getting his information, not because I think he wasn't heavily leaning on the thread on the other site and "borrowing" his arguments from there, but because it greatly derailed an otherwise healthy conversation. Hopefully a mod can remove posts 206 through 219 and we can keep the thread going.

As for the German POW's in Soviet custody I feel it was largely a situation the Russians weren't prepared for. During the war, resources were scarce and finding the food to feed the army and the civilian population would come first before worrying about POW's. FWIW, the western Allies weren't necessarily any better in their treatment of German prisoners, especially the French.

The western perspective, in particular the American perspective, views maltreatment of prisoners as being synonymous with war crimes. The Russian outlook was very different and during the war I think they did what they could with the prisoners while exploiting their labor. If some died, then they died. More troubling would be what happened to those prisoners after the war and the Soviet insistence on holding on to countless thousands of German prisoners for an extended period of time, well beyond what most would consider necessity. I don't think anyone would argue that being a German prisoner in a Soviet camp was a good existence, but I would draw the line at saying there was a policy or planned slaughter of those prisoners. Perhaps such incidence occurred on a localised level, but it was not some master plan, unlike what the Germans were doing to Soviet prisoners.

As for Soviet war crimes, we covered that quite extensively in another thread. I will agree that Soviet crimes were not to the scale of German crimes, but they certainly happened. In some cases they were endorsed from the top, in others they were localized incidents. Sometimes those incidents were ignored by senior commanders, sometimes they were encouraged, sometimes they were stopped and the perpetrators punished. Regardless, the Soviets did commit war crimes and they did brutalize the local German population. Whether this was planned or not, it did happen and on a much broader scale than many are willing to admit. With that said, there have been several Russian veterans who have come forward to speak about it and their accounts speak of outright brutality and are not always ones where the local commanders intervene to put an end to it.

In terms of why the Russians failed to act in the opening moments of the war, there has been a lot of speculation on the reasons why, right up to conspiracy theories that Stalin wanted it to be that way. Personally, I think it goes down to the psyche and training of the Soviet soldiers. The Soviet Army was much like the rest of the country in terms of the ingrained mentality. You do your job, you don't question why, because you are part of a large collective moving toward a goal. To that end Soviet soldiers were not expected to be independent and innovative thinkers. They were trained to obey orders and were stripped of the ability to engage in independent action.

Stalin didn't want to risk provoking the Germans and had strict orders not to fire at them. The Germans had been conducting overflights of Soviet positions for weeks leading up to Barbarossa and the Russians never responded per their orders. I think the primary reason for the lack of readiness is the failure of the Soviet command to realize just how fast the Germans could launch an attack. They wrote off the possibility of a surprise assault and thought they would have at least 10-15 days to mobilize to a German threat. In reality, 10-15 days put the Germans at the doorstep of Smolensk.

So, combine a rigid command structure based on limiting individual innovation and decision making with a general staff that didn't believe the Germans could move as rapidly as they did (remember, Germany had been at war with France for 9 months before they launched the invasion) and it was a perfect situation for the Germans to catch them by surprise.

On top of those factors the Soviets had a very poor communication and control system. It could take days in some cases for orders to pass from army commanders to all units. When the invasion was launched, the orders to resist were given, but those orders didn't reach every unit and some were caught completely by surprise.

Which brings up another point. Talking about Soviet troops captured in their barracks without firing a shot, is taking what were a handful of incidence and applying it to the entire campaign. Certainly there were instances where this happened in outposts close to the border. The Soviets woke up surrounded by the Germans not even knowing the invasion was happening. However, many Soviet units did resist, even if the effort was ultimately futile as they were overwhelmed.
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Old 07-10-2011, 06:03 PM
 
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Quote:
"The western perspective, in particular the American perspective, views maltreatment of prisoners as being synonymous with war crimes. The Russian outlook was very different and during the war I think they did what they could with the prisoners while exploiting their labor. If some died, then they died. More troubling would be what happened to those prisoners after the war and the Soviet insistence on holding on to countless thousands of German prisoners for an extended period of time, well beyond what most would consider necessity."
Depending in what sense you use the word "necessity."
If you use it in a sense of may be "punishment" ( which is reasonable,) I don't think it was really a case.
From the point of view of the Soviet government the German POWs became their property, that they've intended to use for their own plans - like construction of the new buildings for example.
In a country short of manpower ( after all, Russia did lose a lot of people during the war) you've got a skilled labor that you could use practically for nothing. I mean even with Russian/Soviet labor camps inmates it was the same story; it was really never so much about punishment, as it was about the usage of a free labor for the larger-than- life projects of the Soviet Government. When you read "Archipelago," it becomes obvious that arrests of the whole villages somewhere in the Western part of Russia and their exile to Siberia had little to do with "political reasons." I don't mean that there were no political prisoners in Stalin's Russia, but their numbers were really small comparably to millions who were sentenced simply with a purpose to be used as a free labor. I think that POWs like Fritzsche figured out what it was all about, and since they apparently didn't bear too much hatred towards Russians to begin with, they were better off because they were mostly working in cities and villages with minimum supervision. The German POWs were familiar part of a scene for growing generation, and as one song written by famous Russian poet goes about it - "... and at the construction sites the German prisoners were trading pocket knives for bread." They were crafting some other things and children ( and adults) were passing food their way. Most likely those were the POWs that survived, because it seems that hunger ( and cold of course) was their worst enemy more than anything else.
But of course there were other prisoners with a different set of mind. I went through the comments on the translated article, and some were like "Nobody invited them here" or "Suffering of the criminals that came to my country to kill my keen do not bring anything but a feeling of satisfaction to me," but there was this comment as well;
"In her younger years, my mother was a student in Minsk. She was recalling German POWs ( there were a lot of them there, they were rebuilding the city,) saying that they were starving, sifting through the pigswill thrown out of the doors. But Soviet people were hungry too, yet they did share food with those who came to kill their families, who burned their homes. It's hard to deny food to a starving human being...
Now another thing.. I knew an old man, who was in charge of the POWs camp soon after the war. He was of very bad opinion about the POWs there; "Fascists" he told me, "just fascists.." The day they've learned that Kenigsberg was annexed, they've attacked him. His adjutant saved him - he grabbed the tommy-gun off his shoulder and made a few rounds, killing a dozen of POWs. Among the POWs there was a physician who was helping to treat superintendent's young children. When the POWs were going back to Germany, the superintendent knowing what kind of people they were, asked the guards to keep their eye on a doctor. It didn't help, he was strangled on the way home; his own folks did it."

So as you can see, the explosive feelings were simmering on both sides for long time; the relations between these two nations were not an easy matter - I felt like translating a bit more, that you would get a feeling what was going on there even after the war was over.

Quote:
As for Soviet war crimes, we covered that quite extensively in another thread. I will agree that Soviet crimes were not to the scale of German crimes, but they certainly happened.
No doubt about it, particularly taking in consideration mutual hatred I've mentioned above.

Quote:
In some cases they were endorsed from the top, in others they were localized incidents.
Quite honestly, I don't think they were endorsed from the top, because as the witnessed case is showing, a General was dispatched on a scene. And the fact that the perpetrators were hanged rather than shot on a spot ( that's what I've heard before) is very telling ( at least for me.) It was an unmistakable message sent that *the top* was in no way interested in this kind of things, so it makes me think that it were rather localized incidents, when the middle management was looking through its fingers. ( That "moral compass" you know, or rather absence of it.)

Quote:
In terms of why the Russians failed to act in the opening moments of the war, there has been a lot of speculation on the reasons why, right up to conspiracy theories that Stalin wanted it to be that way.
How come? I mean why would he want it to be this way?
(See NJGoat, for the most part your knowledge of the WWII is awfully impressive and I am only trying to add yet another dimension to it, the way things were seeing through the eyes of the locals back in those days...)

Last edited by erasure; 07-10-2011 at 06:31 PM..
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Old 07-11-2011, 10:59 AM
 
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Quote:
Depending in what sense you use the word "necessity."
From a western point of view, the Soviets held their prisoners longer than was necessary in terms of punishment or the needs of war. However, it is obvious that Russia needed this labor pool for their own reasons.

Quote:
So as you can see, the explosive feelings were simmering on both sides for long time; the relations between these two nations were not an easy matter - I felt like translating a bit more, that you would get a feeling what was going on there even after the war was over.
Indeed the bad blood hasn't exactly completely gone away over the past 65+ years either. I don't think either country or general population fully trusts the other.

Quote:
Quite honestly, I don't think they were endorsed from the top, because as the witnessed case is showing, a General was dispatched on a scene. And the fact that the perpetrators were hanged rather than shot on a spot ( that's what I've heard before) is very telling ( at least for me.) It was an unmistakable message sent that *the top* was in no way interested in this kind of things, so it makes me think that it were rather localized incidents, when the middle management was looking through its fingers. ( That "moral compass" you know, or rather absence of it.)
Anecdotal evidence is exactly that, anecdotal. I tried to frame my post to show that. Just as not every German civilian was mistreated, not all Russian commanders punished their troops for doing so. When I say "endorsed from the top", there were certainly documented examples of people as high as generals and in particular commissars who used rhetoric to encourage the troops to take revenge against the Germans and then turned a blind eye when they actually did. In terms of the "top of the top" (aka Stalin) the behavior was not condoned and was supposed to be stopped, but even then there are well documented instances of mass killings planned and approved from the very top of the Soviet command structure.

So, I think you got a wide variety of incidents, though very few of them were on a planned scale like the crimes committed by the Germans. I wouldn't be surprised that for every commander who executed his own troops for engaging in such behavior there were just as many who endorsed it, even if "endorsement" = simply not doing anything.

Quote:
How come? I mean why would he want it to be this way?
(See NJGoat, for the most part your knowledge of the WWII is awfully impressive and I am only trying to add yet another dimension to it, the way things were seeing through the eyes of the locals back in those days...)
I was merely reiterating that there are many theories as to why the Russians were in the situation they were in June 1941. Some of those theories cross into what could be called conspiracy theories, of which I find interesting, but put very little stock in. I don't personally think Stalin wanted war with Germany as soon as it came. He wanted to wait until the Soviets were ready.

The one "theory" I have heard is that Stalin wanted to let the Germans attack so that he could justify his own conquests. Basically, the Soviets were the happy peace loving people who got attacked and had to defend themselves against fascist Germany, everything they did after that moment would have a level of justification.

I personally believe that's BS, but that's one theoriy I have heard.
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Old 07-13-2011, 05:53 AM
 
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Well if I recall Hitler himself actually criticized the Russian soldiers and said they were the second worst trained soldiers he'd ever encountered (second to the U.S soldiers.)

Not to mention you shouldn't underestimate German weaponry, they had the invasion advantage and they had some skilled tacticians and very good weaponry.

I suppose its still quite staggering though. The Russians also had very good weaponry and they had lots and lots of supplies coming in from the U.S and they also had the weather on their side (the cold completely ruined things for the German army.)

But yeah, I think the Soviet casualties were probably just on part of the Russian soldier incompetence or equipment, maybe someone else has sources to back me up? I'm not a history expert.

EDIT: I reckon they got so many casualties because the soviets lacked good leadership and skilled soldiers plus they were unlucky and had almost all the German forces focused on them.
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Old 07-13-2011, 08:20 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wabblefish View Post
Well if I recall Hitler himself actually criticized the Russian soldiers and said they were the second worst trained soldiers he'd ever encountered (second to the U.S soldiers.)

Not to mention you shouldn't underestimate German weaponry, they had the invasion advantage and they had some skilled tacticians and very good weaponry.

I suppose its still quite staggering though. The Russians also had very good weaponry and they had lots and lots of supplies coming in from the U.S and they also had the weather on their side (the cold completely ruined things for the German army.)

But yeah, I think the Soviet casualties were probably just on part of the Russian soldier incompetence or equipment, maybe someone else has sources to back me up? I'm not a history expert.

EDIT: I reckon they got so many casualties because the soviets lacked good leadership and skilled soldiers plus they were unlucky and had almost all the German forces focused on them.
In general your assumptions are correct, though I wouldn't hang too much on the incompetence of individual Russian soldiers and their equipment. For more specific details roll back to page 12 or so of this thread and read from there. There is a mountain of detail posted on the reasons and the state of the two armies at the beginning of the campaign.
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Old 07-13-2011, 05:35 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NJGOAT View Post
From a western point of view, the Soviets held their prisoners longer than was necessary in terms of punishment or the needs of war. However, it is obvious that Russia needed this labor pool for their own reasons.

Indeed the bad blood hasn't exactly completely gone away over the past 65+ years either. I don't think either country or general population fully trusts the other.
It's true if we speak about the older generation in particular, but on another hand from what I see, the anti-American sentiment in today's Russia is probably stronger.

Quote:
Anecdotal evidence is exactly that, anecdotal. I tried to frame my post to show that. Just as not every German civilian was mistreated, not all Russian commanders punished their troops for doing so. When I say "endorsed from the top", there were certainly documented examples of people as high as generals and in particular commissars who used rhetoric to encourage the troops to take revenge against the Germans and then turned a blind eye when they actually did. In terms of the "top of the top" (aka Stalin) the behavior was not condoned and was supposed to be stopped, but even then there are well documented instances of mass killings planned and approved from the very top of the Soviet command structure.
Since I didn't see the material ( and don't know the sources either,) I don't see any sense to continue arguing about this controversial subject, particularly that I don't quite understand in what sense do you use the word "commissar," putting it in conjunction with Generals?

Political commissar

A political commissar was a high-ranking functionary at a military headquarters who held coequal rank and authority with the military commander of the unit. Political commissars were established to control the military forces by the Communist party. No military order might be issued which did not have the prior approval of both the commander and the commissar.

Although lower-level political officers never received the same military training as commanding officers, most commissars were high-ranking party bosses and never had any military training or talent.

Following the disasters of 1942, the political command was abolished. Political officers only survived at the regimental level, in the form of a Deputy for Political Matters, and at the front level, where they formed the Military Councils with respective military commanders.


commissar: Definition from Answers.com

( I mean they were not a "big deal" comparably to Generals, and I don't believe that the war crimes against Germans were encouraged ( or condoned) at Generals level.

Quote:
I was merely reiterating that there are many theories as to why the Russians were in the situation they were in June 1941. Some of those theories cross into what could be called conspiracy theories, of which I find interesting, but put very little stock in. I don't personally think Stalin wanted war with Germany as soon as it came. He wanted to wait until the Soviets were ready.
Why would he even want the war with Germany at the first place?
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Old 07-13-2011, 07:20 PM
 
Location: Boston
47 posts, read 40,833 times
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I don't believe Russian soldiers were incompetent but they had little to no training so it wasn't their fault. Most were thrown into battle with no basic training so no wonder they were slaughtered in the first year of Borborossa. The Russians held their P.O.W.'s longer then any other country in the war. In fact their were more people(not just soldiers) in Soviet prison camps in 1948 then there was in 1945 at the end of the war. U.S. soldiers fared much better against the Germans then the Russians did. So its hard to believe Hitler thought U.S. soldiers were the second worst troops he has seen other the the Russians. I'm sure he had more respect for them before and after the Battle of the Bulge.
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Old 07-19-2011, 08:06 PM
 
Location: ID
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Quote:
Originally Posted by noetsi View Post
Finland, a country that supposedly had little ability to harm the Soviet Union nearly caused the loss of their second largest city in operation barbarossa. The Finns were offered signficantly more land than they gave up to cede territory seen as critical to the defense of Leningrad. It was the only time Stalin ever offered a deal like that to anyone.



The same reason he killed millions of productive workers in the death camps. He was stark raving mad.
Not to mention one mean SOB with an attitude and quite likely a heavy drinking habit.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Torrachris View Post
Erasure, the rapid growth of the Red Army had nothing to do with its shortage of officers. It seems to me that Stalin inprisoned or shot most of his most capable officers which led to the shortage. A good example is Mikhail Tukhachevsky who was the USSR's great general. He was arrested, tried, and shot on Stalin's orders which was the result of a deliberate and concerted program to destroy the leadership of the Red Army. Stalin's purge had been responsible for the annihilation of many military commanders because of his suspicions which were men that the Red Army needed. The result was the terrible performance of the Red Army in the Finnish War. Although Finland was ultimately forced to give in to the Soviet commands, the Fins fought the Red Army to a standstill. Stalin was given ample warning of the attack and brushed it aside. He refused to believe it was happening. Its seems true that Stalin discounted the information he was receiving and that he was convinced the news was either a provocation or a ruse, right up until the shooting actually began and then some.
It is bad when insane people run nations.

Stalin killed many of his post-WWII military veterans because he considered them a threat to him. Military training and experience, and all that.
The same reason he killed so much of the Red Army leadership prior to the war. Narcissistic psychopaths are not nice people.

BTW, FWIW the Japanese whipped the living hell out of the Rooskie army and navy in the Russo-Japanese war. They sank almost the entire Russian fleet.
I don't know if 'dolf studied that, I would guess he did.
(Apparently the USA forgot that particular lesson, our gross underestimation of Japanese military capability circa 1939 was ill-advised and researched.)
Perhaps His Lordship, The Fuhrer, concluded he could do the same. Forgetting, apparently, his troops' slightly longer commute to the battle zone.

Nations' populations 1940, in millions:
447, China
384, India
190, USSR
131, USA
73, Germany
73, Japan
46, Great Britain & N. Ireland
41, France
40, Italy

World War 2 Casualties - Worldwar-2.net

http://www.russojapanesewar.com/

http://www.onwar.com/aced/data/romeo...panese1904.htm
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