All war can be brutal and tragic, but the war between Germany and the Soviet Union was in a class of its own, a celebration of inhumanity. The author has provided a picture of this brutal conflict’s painful ending for so many German soldiers. – Most Highly Recommended.
NAME: Death March Through Russia FILE: R3102 AUTHOR: Klaus Willmann PUBLISHER: Greenhill Books BINDING: hard back PRICE: £19.99 GENRE: Non Fiction SUBJECT: WWII, World War II, World War 2, World War Two, Second World War, Eastern Front, Germany, Russia, Red Army, POW, prison camps, hardship, death rate
PAGES: 240 IMAGE: B3102.jpg BUYNOW: tinyurl.com/yxx2zaon DESCRIPTION: All war can be brutal and tragic, but the war between Germany and the Soviet Union was in a class of its own, a celebration of inhumanity. The author has provided a picture of this brutal conflict's painful ending for so many German soldiers. – Most Highly Recommended. The brutality of life on the Eastern Front was unique because two very similar ideologies, both with scant regard for human life, were pitted against each other in a fight to the death. The Non Aggression Pact between Germany and the Soviet Union, which paved the way for the invasions of Poland, was a particularly cynical agreement between two socialist regimes led by blood-soaked sociopaths. Neither country expected the pact to survive as soon as they were ready to attack the other. Both behaved with unrestrained brutality against the Poles and set the standard for future conflict on the Eastern Front. Hitler had always intended to invade Russia and had made no secret of his ambitions of turning the Soviet Union into a suppressed colony to the advantage of Nazi Germany. When he felt the time had arrived, he unleashed his military forces against a Red Army and air forces that had not recovered from Stalin's purges of their officer corps. Once more, the German Blitz Krieg seemed unstoppable. German soldiers advanced rapidly across vast distances, taking huge numbers of Russian prisoners. The treatment of civilians and captured Russian soldiers was unbelievably brutal. Killing squads roamed the Russian territory that had been seized and POWs were marched West to a captivity that was as criminal as the treatment of Jews and others put into concentration camps and death camps. Even today it is unclear how many Russian POWs were starved or beaten to death. Estimates suggest that no more than 8% of Soviet POWs in German hands survived the war to return home, or how many were shot by Stalin's death squads when they did eventually return. Given the similarity of the Nazis and Soviets, and the gross behaviour of the Germans in their early advances eastwards, it is hardly surprising that German POWs in Soviet hands suffered a similar fate. How deserved this was is open to debate. Certainly, it is a myth that atrocities were only committed by the Nazi SS. Wehrmacht soldiers were certainly aware of the actions of death squads and participated in some of the atrocities. It also appears that the Wehrmacht was responsible for shooting Soviet prisoners and the Waffen SS were particularly keen to identify and kill any political officers amongst Red Army prisoners. In addition to deliberate killings, Soviet prisoners were marched long distances in terrible weather conditions with inadequate food and water, resulting in many deaths. At the same time, Germans conscripted from peaceful civilian occupations, who had never supported the Nazi Partie, were captured and treated to a very similar level of gratuitous brutality by the Soviets. Where surviving Soviet POWs were returned to the Soviet Union after the German surrender, the Soviets retained most of the surviving German POWs until after the death of Stalin, and only then by continuing pressure from Britain and the United States began releasing them. The only German POWs released early were those the Soviets thought were socialists who could be of use to Stalin in destabilizing West Germany. The author has provided an absorbing account of the savage treatment of German prisoners by the Soviets, with a happy ending for one Bavarian.