For many years after the war ended, it felt like Germans and especially those from Berlin, avoided discussing the events that followed the deadly battles, from May 1945 and immediately after.
The Soviet invasion, however, marked numerous territories and people who would only remember the voluntary, sometimes apolitical violence and the mass rape the Red Army continued to spread in Europe.
Although many of the soviet acts would paint a different picture of those times, in such cases – the liberation of the Jewish people who were left out of the concentration camps, being given the chance to return to their lives; or that fact that they made it possible for people in Poland to start using their language again after years of being repressed from doing so. One Hungarian girl remembers even running out in the street and hugging a Soviet soldier. That’s how liberated people would feel seeing the Red Army crossing their countries.
“We felt that we were liberated. I know that this is a cliche, and these words do not have any real meaning any more, but no matter how hard I think I cannot better describe the feeling we had, than to say that we were liberated. And not only did we feel like this, sitting there in the basement, weeping and holding one another’s hands: everyone there had the same feeling, that the world would finally turn into a different one, and that it really had been worthwhile for us to be born, ” confessed a countryman,, explaining what an impact had the Red Army on him and his wife, the National Post reports.
Being taught about the poverty and the misery of the Eastern European countries, the Soviet soldiers were shocked to learn that capitalism didn’t hurt that much for those who have built two-story houses, who had beautiful big gardens, who were living in luxurious castles and mansions in Berlin.
Even those who earned their food and resources by owning only a few chickens and a couple of cows, would shadow the poverty and the living conditions present at the time in Russia.
Seeing the abundance of things people were having, they didn’t step back when confronted with the chance to help themselves to whatever goods they would stumble upon. They would steal liquor, furniture and bicycles, although the most popular items among the Red Army men seemed to be the wristwatches.
Russian soldiers were seen walking around and wearing up to 5-6 watches around their wrists. When a Russian soldier was captured in a photograph while he was raising the Soviet flag on the Berlin Reichstag, the picture had to go through several edits where the watches were being removed from it.
Another incident that hasn’t been forgotten, happened when American president Roosevelt was stopped by the audience while he was speaking to Stalin. When the president raised his arm, people shouted: “Mind your watch!”
Women of all ages were allegedly raped and sometimes killed. Most of the attacks were not even of due to political reasons or were not directed at Germans or Nazi groups. They came purely as acts of vengeance from which people were still dying and getting hurt and families were being torn apart or bullied.
Attacks would other times seem to come out of boredom from the Soviet Army, who would engage with the victims just because they happened to be in their way. One Soviet officer recalls a moment when “there was a frenzied scream and a girl ran into the warehouse, her long, braided blonde hair disheveled, her dress torn across her breast, shouting piercingly, “I’m Polish! Jesus Mary, I’m Polish!”