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I hope that readers of this comment understand that this narrative of the "systematic rape" (quoting parent) of Germany by the soldiers of the Red Army, while factual, is a lot more complicated than meets the eye. It is a narrative that has been deliberately narrowed, with a strong political motivation, to the scope of 1945. Modern German historians see this narrowing of the Western European memory as the effects of Cold-War-era propagandizing, with the deliberate intention of shifting the narrative of the end of WWII, away from Nazi war crimes in Eastern Europe (especially Slavic Eastern Europe), where untold numbers of women, children, and elderly were massacred and entire villages were burned to the ground. This posturing was effectively utilized, politically, to justify the alienation of the USSR in a post-WWII era.

As for Operation Unthinkable, it is one of the better-known realities of WWII that Churchill and Stalin enjoyed a mutual (and, to a retrospectively large extent, mutually-unfounded) paranoid fear of each others' ambitions. It is in that context that Unthinkable was formed – retaliation for poor treatment of POWs might have been a politically-tasteful façade, but was not the root as the parent might suggest.

I believe in the saying that begins with two eyes and ends with zero. The parent's sentiment seems to preach on the failing moral integrity of the Red Army soldiers – after all, they went for that second eye. I'd like to think that I am morally well-formed enough to not rape and kill, even when provoked to some unknown, but hopefully high degree. When I try to imagine what it was like to be a Russian soldier in 1945, advancing against people whom you see directly responsible for the death by fire and famine of your brothers, fathers, cousins, wives, children; when you've seen men die instantly for standing in the wrong place in line, I can't. We call these things "shell shock", but it masks the depravity that we are unfathomably privileged to not endure. I can't imagine the person I would be. I don't think any of us could. Principles about eyes probably don't seem to carry weight when the only parts of your village left to come home to (that you passed, on your way to the front) are the parts that wouldn't burn.

In that sobering context, one finds that the Red Army's treatment of Germany was (this is very counter-narrative west of the curtain) perhaps shockingly docile. The Red Army did not give orders to execute unarmed political officers on sight, or to burn entire swaths of countryside, with its villages and inhabitants, to the ground. Many German POWs perished for a myriad of reasons, among the biggest being insufficient supply lines, and an incredibly harsh winter of '45. The western allies had much better supply lines, rebooted in place, while the Soviets largely had to make them up as they went along. And yet, at least those take prisoner were treated with enough human dignity, to be taken prisoner in the first place. Their soviet counterparts were not given the same courtesy. I am recalling the diary of a Wehrmacht soldier, who was shocked that his captors did not kill him on sight – so conditioned was he to the reciprocal action, not only towards soldiers, but unarmed civilians, whom he had been instructed to believe were sub-human. Now this sub-human, in the reverse role, offered him bread of his own ration!

Yes, the Red Army committed war crimes. But it is important to consider that the morale of their troops begged for war crimes far worse than those committed.

In all, I humbly submit the idea that we are not in any position to judge. Citations from BBC magazine wikipedia, and youtube notwithstanding.

At this point, I'm surely rambling, but I just want to close by saying that as we inherit our popularly-told modern history, it is important to keep in mind that there are humans in every story, and that we gain nothing but bigotry from deliberately excluding the experiences of one over the other. Lest we repeat their mistakes of irrational hatred, which begets more, and so on.

On that note, I encourage us all to, at some point, read balanced histories of that era, which were inevitably written after the cold war. Shirer, whose account was authoritative while many of us were growing up, is a journalist who was the product of his time. His books are mostly regarded as a primary source by modern scholars. "Concise History of the Third Reich" by Wolfgang Benz, "Bloodlands" by Timothy Snyder, "The Unwomanly Face of War" by Svetlana Alexeivich, and "Burned Bridge" by Edith Sheffer are solid scholarly entry points for those of us for whom this more nuanced and even approach is appealing. For those of you who get to visit Berlin, I'd also strongly recommend the German-Russian Museum in Karlshorst – it's both utterly fantastic and utterly empty (on every day except for the May 8/9, when a large number of observant Russians come to pay respects), due to being so far away from the city centers. The guides there are some of the most knowledgeable people on this subject I've met.

> Yes, the Red Army committed war crimes. But it is important to consider that the morale of their troops begged for war crimes far worse than those committed.

Sorry, mate, even in your broad context, your trying to justify mass rapes this way can't possibly stand given the present days' values.

Wars to that scale do not happen nowadays, but similar suffering and low morale is encountered in "smaller" warzones, yet the scale of rapes isn't relatively comparable.

Given the various wars my father and I witnessed in the Balkans and throughout the world, I'd say discipline (thus, education) matters more than morale.

I almost didn't include that sentence, in fear of the "you're justifying mass rape" retort -- morale was too vague of a word to use in that context, and gives an unintentional connotation. However, I hope that you see I am explicitly not "justifying mass rapes". If contextualizing and understanding are the same thing as justifying, then historians are surely the most depraved people on the planet. As for your closing comment, I would also caution you that the Nazis were far more disciplined, and they committed war crimes on a much larger scale. I'm not saying that to be cheeky, but, again, to emphasize that actions such as these cannot be reduced to variables as simple as "insufficient discipline/education", "degradation of civil society", or even "racial hatred". These kinds of reductions hide almost always more than they tell, especially when it comes to something as sociologically complex as international war.

In all, the point of my comment was not to cast black into white, to exchange one form of binary bigotry for another, but to remind us that our popular history of that time has, in fact, been dyed in politically-opportunistic ways many times over. Whether we choose to accept those dyeings or not is up to us, but it's important to know that we have a choice to hate or not to hate. And that we should default towards skeptical when we have been instructed to treat people as "The Other". When education and discipline are corrupted by this introduction and emphasis of "otherness", hate crimes and war crimes follow.


I can only hope that you continued reading. I wanted to give a brief summary/introduction at the top of my comment; I apologize if it came across at too terse to the point of reducing the rest of the comment. While that sentence taken cut from the top looks quite controversial, the contextualized framing, addressed in the greater comment, is not a controversial view among historians in Germany, where the kind of revisionism you've accused me of is illegal.

Why have Germans historians opted to broaden the narrative? I can only imagine. A common story I hear of people growing up in Germany in the 60s, 70s and 80s was that there were a whole list of questions that you weren't allowed to ask your (Grand-)parents. You knew they were in Hitler youth, maybe even in the Wehrmacht or heaven forbid the SS. I do not know about you, but when I was young I asked all kinds of questions. Most of these historians were probably the same, and decided to make their career out of these unanswerable and taboo questions. What we have today, as a result, is a much more complex, nuanced, and complete understanding of the decisions of our grandfathers. This nuance might seem dangerous to you? Should nuance be illegal? Yes, even violence has a context. Perhaps this sense of threat stems from the cultural difference of viewing "Committers of Crime vs Criminals". I won't speculate further.

In closing, it is important to note that what I have provided in my original comment is not revisionist in the sense you seem to be suggesting. The facts are unchanged and undisputed. It is the perspective on the facts that have shifted, with the distance provided by time. I hope we can distinguish between the two, and therefore agree that I was not changing the picture of 1945 (revisionism), but filling in the picture of 1941-45 (contextualizing). There's a sizable difference!

I mostly agree with your statement.

It's really easy to sit in an air conditioned office while eating $8 bagel and talk about how horrible decisions people made in the past are.

>Principles about eyes probably don't seem to carry weight when the only parts of your village left to come home to (that you passed, on your way to the front) are the parts that wouldn't burn.

I agree.

If Truman had toured the Pacific theater a little more we probably wouldn't have stopped at two

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