From Unity, 28 May 2005

The bitch that bore him is in heat again*

Part 3

By Gűnther Judik
[translated from German by Marion Baur]
The length of this material gave us the choice of abridging it or splitting it in two. We decided on the latter because of the huge amount of valuable facts in it; we wanted to give them all to our readers. We are publishing the second half next week.

30 April 1945: Soviet soldiers plant the red flag of victory on the roof of the Reichstag (parliament building) in Berlin. It had been fiercely defended by 5,000 SS men. When the remaining units of the Wehrmacht (Nazi army) capitulate a few days later, the Soviet Army has reached the successful end of an incredible struggle, a struggle to liberate Europe from the criminal regime of fascism.
    The seven-day battle for Berlin alone claimed the lives of 30,000 Soviet soldiers; the same number was killed while storming Seelower Hőhen (the hills near the river Oder). The sinking fascist regime had put tens of thousands of soldiers and civilians, even women and children, into this senseless battle and to their deaths.
    The liberation of the peoples of Europe from the fascist conquerors and oppressors was the result of common struggle of the armies of the anti-Hitler coalition. Hitler hoped until the end it would break, but it lasted. Many of the oppressed nations contributed to the liberation with their own resistance movements. Despite their huge sacrifices, the anti-fascist forces inside Germany did not succeed in tumbling fascism with their own resistance.
    For anyone who wants to see, it is obvious which people and which army made the largest contribution to the victory over fascism. Hitler’s troops were first stopped outside Moscow and suffered their first strategic defeats at Stalingrad and in the Caucasus. In 1943, after the Battle of Kursk, they finally lost the strategic initiative.
    Up to this point the Soviet army stood alone in Europe against the fascists and forced the turning-point in this war alone.
    After the Battle of Kursk the first Allied troops landed in Italy, and it wasn’t until June 1944 that the second front, which had been promised for 1942, was formed. When this happened the Red Army had almost completely liberated its own country and was coming close to the German borders.
    Few of the future Allies believed in the summer of 1941 that the Soviet Union would be able to withstand the fascist attack. Hitler Germany had 153 fully equipped divisions and 4 million soldiers—a military force unknown until then. They were aided by the armies of Finland, Hungary and Romania and by divisions from Italy, Slovakia, and Spain.
    The first weeks of the war against the Soviet Union seemed just like a repetition of events in Poland, Norway, France, Yugoslavia, and Greece—all of them bitterly defeated by the Nazis. Quick moves of their motorised units brought Hitler’s armies 300 miles into Soviet territory; they stood outside Leningrad, conquered Minsk, and fought outside Smolensk and Kiev. The Red Army, inferior in numbers and technical equipment, suffered huge losses in every battle.
    There are several reasons for these defeats. Political misjudgements by the Soviet leadership had hindered a speedy mobilisation of the troops and made the vicious attack easier. The war-experienced and successful fascist leadership and its troops were faced with divisions incomplete in numbers and led by young officers. In the higher ranks and among the commanders of the Red Army the gap that Stalin’s trials had left (since 1937 the majority of the command cadres had become victims of these trials) had a disastrous effect.
    In addition to these factors, the first moves of the fascist armies were made through territory that had become part of the Soviet Union as late as 1939 or 1940, where Soviet power was underdeveloped and had many enemies, and where the borders and the infrastructure were weak.
    Despite all that, it has to be said that even in these first weeks of the aggression the Soviet soldiers fought as hard as they could. Until the end of July the German army had lost twice as many soldiers as during the six weeks of the war against France. August showed that the aggressors had not been able to prevent a stabilisation of the Soviet front. At Smolensk the Nazi drive for Moscow was fought over for weeks, and bitterly. After regrouping their troops the fascists were able to surround Leningrad but could not take it.
    But in the south, German troops managed to get round Kiev and break into the Donetsk valley. In spite of all his success, Hitler’s timetable, which had anticipated a quick breakdown of the Soviet Union and a complete occupation of its European parts as far as the Urals by the end of 1941, got into trouble in September. Another concentration of the tank units and the use of 1.8 million soldiers were aimed at taking Moscow and thereby forcing the final turning-point in this war.
    This was scheduled for October to November. They managed to get around two sides of the Soviet capital and, though suffering heavy losses, stood only 15 miles from the Kremlin. But that was it; the attack was stopped, and on 5 December the Red Army started the counter-attack. By April 1942 the German troops were driven back at almost every front; then the attacking power of the Soviet army was exhausted, and the front stabilised.
    At the same time as the beginning of the counter-attack outside Moscow the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and the war turned into world war. Four days after this attack on the US Navy, Germany and Italy declared war on America. They were convinced that the aggressive activities of their Japanese allies would bind the US forces and keep them from getting involved in Europe until such time as the “fast” destruction of the Soviet Union had been completed.
    In June 1941 the fascist armies had been attacking along a front line “from Finland to the Black Sea,” as they liked to put it. In the summer of 1942 this line was reduced to the southern part of the front. More than a hundred German divisions, aided by one of their allies, the majority of their tank units included, created a massive superiority in numbers. They were going to take Stalingrad and, with this move, block the river Volga and all other transport routes between Moscow and the southern parts of the Soviet Union. Alongside this offensive the plan was to move to the Caucasus and the oilfields at Baku.

*A quotation from Bertolt Brecht, referring to Adolf Hitler: “Don’t rejoice in his defeat, you men! For though the world stood up and stopped the bastard, the bitch that bore him is in heat again.”—Bertolt Brecht, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui (1941, epilogue added 1958).
Historian, member of the History Commission of the German Communist Party.

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