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Besides accounts from Anthony Beevor's book and research done by Sander & Johr, which some members of the amateur historian community dismiss as biased and revisionist, are there any other source material which provide evidence to Beevor's claim? This can be in the form of first hand accounts, statistics from health centers or any other suitable evidence.

Note that I am not asking for justification of such acts; such is subjective. I am merely asking for evidence.

EDIT: Some of Anthony Beevor's claims are discussed in this Guardian article he wrote: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2002/may/01/news.features11

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You may also want to see this earlier question: history.stackexchange.com/questions/5901/… –  Felix Goldberg Aug 6 '13 at 17:54
is it necessary to have Beevor's name in the title? it suggests he's something of a lone voice, and while removing it is also somewhat suggestive (of the opposite) i would argue that the question is legitimate and reads better without his name "what is the historical evidence behind claims that ..." –  Tea Drinker Aug 6 '13 at 18:46
@FelixGoldberg The question was closed and I felt that this needs to be answered, for the justice of women in Eastern Europe against this banal revisionism and denial. I am nowhere saying that what the Germans did was better, in fact they probably rightly deserved the retribution, but it disgusts me that there are people so stuck up in their nationalistic pride that they'll attack any fact which disrupts their view of the glorious motherland. –  Evil Washing Machine Aug 6 '13 at 19:34
@SchwitJanwityanujit I appreciate your sentiment; but it seems that Beevor's scholarship is not above reproach - Anixx's deconstruction of the "doctor's report" seemed quite satisfactory to me. There's a fine point, however: Eastern Prussia and Berlin might well have been two different situations. I have some thoughts on that, based on an article I've recently read, and I might try to cobble an answer from them later. –  Felix Goldberg Aug 6 '13 at 19:41
@FelixGoldberg I found it satisfactory too, that's why I called for answers which doesn't use that particular source. –  Evil Washing Machine Aug 6 '13 at 19:50
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5 Answers

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Yes, in fact there are many accounts by Soviet armed forces members themselves which either heavily insinuate or directly claim that such rapes did occur.

The best account material is from Vasily Grossman, in his book "Writer at War". Grossman was with the front line units of the 8th Guards Army as a journalist and would've seen such acts first hand. He mentions, in three different accounts:

  • Horror in the eyes of women and girls [sic]....Horrifying things are happening to German women. An educated German explains to us in gestures and broken German that his wife has been raped by 10 men already today. Women's screams are heard from open windows.

  • A young Frenchman said to me: "Monsieur, I love your army and that's why it is painful for me to see its attitude to girls and women. It is going to be very harmful for your propaganda".

  • There are many young women crying in the streets [of Berlin]. Apparently many have been made to suffer at the hands of our soldiers.

It seems that some Soviet women were not spared, either

Soviet girls liberated from camps are suffering a lot now. During the night, we are woken up by screams; one of the correspondents couldn't resist the temptation. A noisy discussion ensues, but then order is restored.

There are no controversies on Grossman's journalistic integrity. He reported faithfully the heroic defense of Stalingrad and was regarded as a hero.

It appears that Grossman is not alone in this. Tank Commander Vasiliy Krysov was in East Prussia with his T-34. I sadly do not have the book with me anymore (I found the translation hard to read and threw it away) but I remember what he wrote. Regardless, I took this from a review from Amazon, and it corroborates what I remembered:

...he tells us a story of how three soldiers from his unit raped a twelve year old German girl and got no punishment. He does not think this was right but also comments that they were spared because the Germans used to rape Russian women and girls too. Apparently he does not reflect on the fact that they then ended up being equally bad. Krysov also states that "I refused to rape because of moral principles". This statement clearly indicates that a lot more took place than the isolated case he reports.

Nikolai Safinov, Infantryman in the 110th Rifle Division, writes for the 'IRemember.ru' site:

There were also cases of raping German women. I remember a widely known fact of a group rape when 33 soldiers raped a German woman. There were talks that after that news reached General Kotikov, the chief of the Political Department of the 61st Army, he shook his head especially wondering at those who were at the tail end of the line of rapists. Nevertheless, that criminal case had been dropped.

Finally, Yurii Koriakin, Rifleman in the 10th Guards Rifle Division, recalls a politburo officer telling him:

"Well, and concerning the woman question, you can treat the German women rather freely, but so it wouldn't look organized. 1-2 men can go, do what they need (that's exactly what he said: "what they need"), return, and that's all. Any kind of pointless damage to German men and women is inadmissible and will be punished."

This conversation made us feel that he himself didn't know exactly what norms of behavior should've been followed. Of course, we were all under the influence of propaganda, which didn't differentiate Germans and Hitlerites in those times. That's why I know of a ton of cases when German women were raped, but not killed. Treatment of German women (we almost never saw men) was free, even vengeful. In our regiment the Sergeant Major of the supply company set up practically an entire harem.

Svetlana Alexivich in her book also states:

When we occupied every town, we had first three days for looting and ... [rapes]. That was unofficial of course.

As you can see, there are many sources by Russians themselves which corroborate Beevor's claim.

Obviously no Soviet soldier in their right mind would broadcast out loud the atrocities happening, either because they didn't know what was happening on other fronts or, if they were high enough to know, they would be immediately prosecuted for speaking against the state as was the case of Grossman. But as is evident on this website, the Soviet propaganda machine is still largely intact and there are plenty of narrow-minded kleptons who will readily deny Soviet atrocities in the Second World War, no different to Nazi holocaust deniers or Japanese Nanking deniers.

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Beevor's claims are that: Russian soldiers participated in numerous gang rapes, that they did not care about age or even nationality, and that they participated in the act in a very large scale. These sources do corroborate Beevor's claim. On a different note, the large scale denial by Russians reminds me of the Japanese denial of Nanking. Makes me wonder why....perhaps another question? –  Evil Washing Machine Aug 6 '13 at 17:16
I've stopped trying to find proof because any proof I bring up would just be dismissed by you as "irrelevant", or "biased", or "not related" despite its insinuations. It's what I get for trying to talk reason to a man in denial. –  Evil Washing Machine Aug 6 '13 at 22:27
@Kunikov Maybe YOU should educate yourself on what is the truth and lift your head out of the bosom of the now deceased USSR. It's funny that you tell me to educate myself on what constitutes evidence, proof or bias when you yourself, based on the responses you've posted on this site, write like a Pravda journalist. But I'll entertain you; please tell me why the Swiss Legation, Tito and Vlado Clementis, complained about the behaviour of Soviet troops in their respective countries but no complaints were issued by Italians or Austrians in the western zone? –  Evil Washing Machine Aug 7 '13 at 12:36
@Kunikov Please tell me why there is a wealth of accounts by Soviet servicemen and women regarding rapes, all either insinuating or stating out loud that there were multiple rapes taking place? Not to mention that these were soldiers in different divisions and different locations? –  Evil Washing Machine Aug 7 '13 at 12:42
So you claim her book is 'Lambasted by critics everywhere' and your evidence is an amazon.com review? I can't say I've never seen this level of ignorance before, but the arrogance that accompanies it always surprises me. Having a book published by a university press, like Chicago, requires a rigorous peer-review process. Publishing a review on amazon does not. Try again. And the number of rape victims in either of the above mentioned books can be corroborated, the numbers you've brought up for the Red Army are without foundation. –  Kunikov Aug 7 '13 at 13:21
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There is another perspective on this, which is suggested by the historian Mark Solonin in a speculative 2009 article. The article is a long, wide-ranging and detailed one so I'll summarize the major points of his arguments, as I understand them. The wording is mine and so is the presentation:

  1. There were indeed numerous atrocities committed against German civilians. This is well attested in German and Russian sources. For example Nemmersdorf. The details are a mess but the overall pattern is true.
  2. The absolute majority of Soviet soldiers did not take part in thiese atrocities.
  3. Solonin raises the quesiton of the demographic profile of the new recruits who joined the Soviet armies in Germany in late 1944-early 1945. Indeed, the four years of war (and the wasteful Soviet command style) took a heavy toll on the male population (an infantryman lasted on average 5 (five) months on the front line - after that he was either dead or invalided home). He correctly points out that many tens of thousands of soldiers were recruited form among the Soviet population that had endured the Nazi occupation. Generally speaking, this population was heavily brutalized by their experience of life under occupation and some of the younger men could well be expected to have lost whatever moral compass they had had while growing up under the occupation.
  4. Here is where things get really tricky. Many of the people who were enlisted thus actually served the Germans before. Having undergone a casual background check (imagine how thorough could those checks be in the middle of a war, amidst total dislocation etc) they were drafted into the Red Army.
  5. Here is a striking example: A Soviet colonel, V.V.Gil aka Rodionov aka Rodjanoff was captured early on in the war, joined the Germans and got his own command - the 1st SS Russian National Brigade. You can imagine what sort of service his troops saw. In the summer of 1943 Gil switched sides again and his unit was redesignated the 1st Antifascist Partisan Brigade (russian Wiki) as part of the Soviet forces!
  6. Did such men (SS auxiliaries who switched sides) later become part of the Soviet occupying force in Germany? Nobody can tell for sure at the moment (closed archives, wartime chaos etc) but it is possible that some/many of the atrocities were committed by them. Add to this also the fact that it's enough to have, say, 5-10% rotten apples in a state of lax discipline (and Soviet discipline was very lax by then) to implicate the whole unit as such.
  7. Now it gets really creepy: Solonin conjectures that the atrocities might have been implicitly encouraged by Stalin as part of his plan to de-Germanize East Prussia. He foresaw that his Allies would expect this territory to be pary of the future Germany but Stalin had his own designs on the territory. The atrocities were a way to get the scare the German civilian population and to force them to run away - as they did.
  8. Here is one bit of evidence adduced to in support of the theory that the atrocities were encouraged from above - Stavka order No. 11072 dated April 20th, 1945 from Stalin demanded to improve the treatment of the German civilian population. Here's the crucial thing: it was specifically directed to the commanders of the 1st Belorussian and the 1st Ukrainian Fronts whose troops were in what was designated as the Soviet zone - whereas the 2nd and 3rd Belorussian Fronts, fighting in East Prussia and Pommerania were not given the order!

This is, as I said, highly conjectural and I can see some holes in the asrgument. But it does make sense.

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Number 7 doesn't stand up to scrutiny. Ethnic cleansing of German populations took place throughout Eastern Europe (see Czechoslovakia) during the latter period of the war. Stalin did not need atrocities and in fact tried to curb them through STAVKA orders. Solonin is not very trustworthy but the points he's brought up are valid to some extent. There was more or less a general amnesty for those who served the Germans to come over to the Soviet side in the latter period of the war. This increased anti-Semitism within Red Army and partisan ranks and I'm sure there were other repercussions. –  Kunikov Aug 7 '13 at 18:46
@Kunikov Like I said, this is highly conjectural. I am now going to add some points I hadn't time to list before. –  Felix Goldberg Aug 7 '13 at 19:31
Number 8 isn't really proof. There were numerous orders that were sent out by STAVKA, Stalin, Zhukov, and various other commanders/commissars to not only fronts but armies as well throughout 1945. Concentrating on one, in April no less, omits all others that came before or after. –  Kunikov Aug 7 '13 at 20:20
What happened in Nemmersdorf is highly uncertain. There are arguments that it was completely staged. The Germans prepared the "evidence" several days. How one can conclude any "patterns" from it? –  Anixx Aug 8 '13 at 5:13
@Anixx I am not concluding patterns from Nemmersdorf only - please look again at the whole body of evidence, some of it listed by OP in his answer and a ton more in Solonin's article. Some of the details may be in doubt or uknowable but the overall pattern is well-attested. As for Nemmersdorf itself, can you suggest a reliable source that claims it was fully staged? The body count has been revised (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nemmersdorf_massacre#Re-investigation) in the last decade but as I read it the revision essentially confirms that there were atrocites committed, but on a smaller –  Felix Goldberg Aug 8 '13 at 7:12
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I want to provide some context for the developments in question. At the time in Germany abortions were prohibited unless as a result of rape, especially by "subhumans". If a woman claimed she was raped by a Russian, the abortion was conducted for free so to prevent racial pollution. This legislation remained in force for some time after the defeat of Germany. I say this just as a fact and not to allege that a part of the rape claims were done so to get an abortion permit, which is though quite possible.

Another circumstance is that there was a large number of ostarbeiters (forced workers), people freed from POW and concentration camps, pro-Germany East battalions composed of citizens of the USSR who collaborated with the Nazis, including Asians, Cossacks, Russian Vlasovites etc (which all had no discipline at the time), non-Russian Slavs such as Poles and other people whom the women could mistake for Russians. As such, any claim that a woman was raped by "a Russian" does not necessarily hint that she was raped by a soldier rather than, say a KZ escapee or anybody else.

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Your argument makes sense and explores alternative circumstances rather than traditional ear closing and high-pitched noise-drowning wailing done by people in denial. Therefore, I have upvoted your answer. –  Evil Washing Machine Aug 7 '13 at 13:15
none of the "alternative perpetrators" you list wore Soviet uniform or carried weapons. –  sds Aug 7 '13 at 21:06
The word "Russian" in the context certainly refers to a Red Army soldier. Anyone else would have been referred to using a more specific term. –  sds Aug 8 '13 at 5:24
There were numerous personnel in Red Army uniforms who were deserters and roaming around in the rear, while the Red Army forces advanced, who could have easily perpetrated such crimes. Especially since many soldiers in the Red Army at that point were former GULag prisoners (not politicals) and recently liberated from German occupied territories. Unfortunately, the Red Army could not always control what its deserters did, but that wouldn't matter to someone being raped, abused, or murdered by a soldier in a Red Army uniform. Some of this is mentioned by Beevor, but never contextualized. –  Kunikov Aug 8 '13 at 21:54
@default locale I disagree. Evidence for individual events does not add or change anything in historical understanding. Only estimates of the numbers have historical value. That the individual events happened or could happen is not a point of controversy. What is controversial is the extent. –  Anixx Dec 26 '13 at 17:07
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The initial question is itself shocking! Everyone in the former Soviet Zone of occupation knows about this and everyone knew someone who had been raped. Here is something to look at regarding "proof", in this case, eyewitnesses finally speaking out after 65 years!


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Writing of "1945" in the Gulag Archipelago, (former Soviet army captain) Alexander Solzhenitsyn said, "Everyone knew that a German girl could be raped, and then shot. That was almost a combat distinction. If they were Polish or one of our displaced Russians, they could be chased around and slapped on the bottom, nothing more."

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The Gulag Archipelago is a narrative novel, not a research work. It has many acknowledged and deliberate anti-Soviet lies, but Solzhenitsyn had dismissed all criticism by pointing out that the book is a work of art rather than a scientific source. –  Anixx Dec 24 '13 at 12:53
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