Fall of Berlin & Red Army’s atrocities

For many in Europe the WWII had ended with the death of the ‘Fuhrer’ and subsequent surrender of German troops. But for those living in Germany the aftershocks of the war were as chaotic and shattering as the war itself. Although the Nazi atrocities of the occupied lands are well documented and are well known around the globe, however the actions of Russian Red Army after the end of the war does not receive enough condemnation.

Gerda Drews, now 87 years old, experienced the atrocities of Russian troops immediately after the fall of Berlin. In the last days of April 1945 when almost everyone wanted to leave the capital – even some of the Fuhrerbunker occupants wanted to escape the city – Gerda was pushing her way into the Capital. Gerda, who was just 17 years old at the time, said that she just wanted to get home, to see her parents again. Before the Battle of Berlin turned bloody and bitter, Gerda’s parents had sent her out of the city to live with her sister-in-law. When Gerda realized that the Battle has gone wild in her city she decided to make seemingly impossible journey back to Berlin, to her home.

Gerda does not discuss the war with comfort, like most of those who lived through the war, but she said it was the toughest time of her life. She saw soldiers entering the city and scores of people leaving Berlin. Roads and train stations were deserted and all she could see was smoke raising from the Allied bombings of the city.

A devastated street in the city centre just off the Unter den Linden, 3 July 1945, via commons

A German Army vehicle had dropped her near the entrance of the city and after that she had to walk for almost 30 miles through the mayhem and chaos of the war. She could not believe that it was the same city she had left few weeks ago. Almost everything was razed to ground, and there were dead bodies everywhere she looked. She eventually managed to get to her family house alive and met her father who took her to a bomb shelter. There were roughly 200 people hiding in the bomb shelter as Russian troops took over their city, The Telegraph reports.

Realizing the war was over Gerda and others got out of the shelter, thinking that the trouble had ended, but far from it. Russians soldiers were cruel and angry  says Gerda , they only knew two words ‘Watches’ and ‘women come here’. They took the watches from defeated German soldiers and kidnapped and raped any woman they liked.

Berliners, especially women anxiously waited and prayed for Allied troops to come and liberate them from the systematic rape and torture of the Red Army. But American and British troops did not arrive to help the German, not before a two-month long Red Army occupation. Historians suggest that after the war Red Army had raped nearly 2 million young women in the occupied regions. There was no law and they were answerable to no one, so they did as they pleased.

Gerda does not talk much about her experiences during the war but she does say that it was the hell on earth. The Red Army on suspicion that he had worked for the Nazis arrested Gerda’s father, and her brother died while fighting for German Army.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE