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Economic Organization of Soviet Russia, 1941“1948” (Ph.D. diss., The University of Chicago,
2005). On the organization of the home front see John Barber and Mark Harrison, The Soviet
Home Front, 1941“1945: A Social and Economic History of the USSR in World War II
(London and New York: Longman, 1991). On food supply see William Moskoff, The Bread
of Af¬‚iction: The Food Supply in the USSR during World War II (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1990). On the cultural relaxation see Stites, Culture and Entertainment in
Wartime Russia; on religion see Daniel Peris, “˜God Is Now on Our Side™: The Religious Revival
on Unoccupied Soviet Territory during World War II,” Kritika: Explorations in Russian and
Eurasian History 1, no. 1 (2000): 97“118; and Tatiana A. Chumachenko, Church and State
in Soviet Russia: Russian Orthodoxy from World War II to the Khrushchev Years, trans.
Edward E. Roslof (Armonk, NY, and London: M. E. Sharpe, 2002). On commissars and
single command in the army see Zolotarev, ed., Glavnye politicheskie organy vooruzhennykh
sil SSSR, 326 n. 17, 331 n. 48; Merridale, Ivan™s War, 107“8; Glantz, Colossus Reborn,
475.
On the GKO see Yoram Gorlizki and Oleg Khlevniuk, Cold Peace: Stalin and the Soviet
114

Ruling Circle, 1945“1953 (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 17, 46“
7; Mawdsley, Thunder, 206“9; Bellamy, Absolute War, 228“30. On Stalin during the war
see Service, Stalin, 410“87. On the management of the wartime economy see G. Kumanev,
Govoriat stalinskie narkomy (Smolensk: Rusich, 2005).
States of Exception 371

Everything was now geared toward making the Red Army, not least with
Lend & Lease support, into a more ef¬cient, more motorized, more industrial,
and more lethal force “ nothing else mattered.115 In the end, in 1943“4 Stalin
did get what he had spoken of in 1941 “ a mass army with an industrialized core.
It is easy to overstress the level of mechanization “ the “army of quality” made
up maybe 20 percent of the overall forces; cavalry played an important role in
the war of movement until the end; and requisitiond peasant carts rather than
Studebaker trucks made infantry units able to keep up with the tank forces.
This war was won by the horse as much as the tank.116 Nevertheless, this
(given the casualties) new army was now able to use tank forces “effectively”
and implement prewar theories of “deep battle” “ the Soviet equivalent of
the Blitzkrieg.117 It was, if not better trained, better equipped, more mobile,
and altogether more ef¬cient and effective in ¬ghting war. It was the army
that overwhelmed the defenses of Army Group Center in 1944 in the most
stunning battle victory of World War II and in January 1945 began its ¬ghting
advance toward Berlin that crushed the remnants of the German Army of
the East.118 This military recovery allowed a deescalation of the all-out war
against enemies within and without. A more forward-thinking military now
began to view civilians and soldiers left behind the front in German-occupied
territory not only as likely traitors but also as potential partisans.119 And not
least, the Soviet regime began to pursue a more active, revolutionary politics
that aimed to draw Germans in POW camps, at the front, and even back in
Germany (by way of letters written by prominent POWs)120 onto their side,


A. S. Iakushevskii, “Arsenal pobedy,” in Narod i voina, 73“114; A. S. Orlov, “My i soiuzniki,”
115

in ibid., 205“17; Mawdsley, Thunder, 185“223; Mark Harrison, “The USSR and Total War:
Why Didn™t the Soviet Economy Collapse in 1942?” in A World at Total War: Global Con¬‚ict
and the Politics of Destruction, 1937“1945, eds. Roger Chickering, Stig Forster, and Bernd
¨
Greiner (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 137“56.
For an illuminating memoir about the life in the infantry see Gabriel Temkin, My Just War: The
116

Memoirs of a Jewish Red Army Soldier in World War II (Novato, CA: Presidio Press, 1998).
On the two armies “ the 80 percent “imposing bludgeon” and the 20 percent mobile forces
constituting “the swift sword” “ see Glantz, Colossus Reborn, 618“19. “Army of quality”
and “army of quantity” are John Erickson™s terms. See Stalin™s War with Germany, vol. 2:
The Road to Berlin, 84. For the continued importance of cavalry and the horse see Bellamy,
Absolute War, 169, 249, 283, 333“4, 602, 603, 678“9, 680; and Mawdsley, Thunder, XVII,
26, 64, 122, 127, 217“18, 303. For life in the cavalry see Aleksandr Rodin, Tri tysiachi
kilometrov v sedle (Moscow: IPO Pro¬zdat, 2000).
David M. Glantz, “Developing Offensive Success: The Soviet Conduct of Operational Maneu-
117

ver,” in Soviet Military Doctrine from Lenin to Gorbachev, 1915“1991, ed. Willard Frank
and Philip Gillette (Westport, CT, and London: Greenwood Press, 1992), 133“73; Mawdsley,
Thunder, 22, 175, 221“3; Bellamy, Absolute War, 490“1, 602“3.
Antony Beevor, The Fall of Berlin, 1945 (New York: Viking, 2002).
118

Slepyan, Stalin™s Guerillas. Alexander Hill, The War behind the Eastern Front: The Soviet
119

Partisan Movement in North-West Russia, 1941“1944 (London and New York: Frank Cass,
2005).
Frank Biess, Homecomings: Returning POWs and the Legacies of Defeat in Postwar Germany
120

(Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006).
Mark Edele and Michael Geyer
372

having abandoned its initial internationalism following the ¬rst ¬‚ush of the
German attack.121 By the same token, the Soviet regime was the ¬rst major
combatant to turn to war crimes trials in the effort to separate (military and
civilian) criminals from the mass of Germans that fought the war.122
We telescope this entire development because the problem that we face
is how and why this militarily superior and, effectively, newly recruited and
trained army turned out to be the one that engaged in massive atrocities, rape,
pillage, and sadistic murder in its sweep into central Europe and into the
German lands long after the initial call for a war of extermination against the
aggressor had been given up “ and this is quite apart from the systematic pursuit
of a political strategy that aimed at securing Soviet control of the liberated and
occupied territories. Again, we ask our readers to hold their judgment for the
moment, because part and parcel of this story is the way in which the German
conduct of war reacted ¬rst to the tenacity of the Soviet retreat, which turned
the notion of a short war into an illusion, and, after 1942“3, to the inexorable
advance of Soviet forces against a retreating Wehrmacht.

extreme violence
The sense of vulnerability even in victory was greatly exacerbated by the nature
of the Russian retreat.123 It con¬rmed the prejudices many of the Wehrmacht
of¬cers and soldiers harbored and played into the hands of Nazi propaganda.
As before with the German escalation of violence, reality (of Soviet ruthlessness)
trumped imagination. There was an element of protective rhetoric involved,
but German soldiers and of¬cers also recognized, as they did with increasing
frequency in late fall and winter 1941“2, that they confronted their own escala-
tion of violence when encountering starving and freezing women, children, and
emaciated Soviet POWs.124 At this point, not unlike in World War I, soldiers
entered a space of combat, in which they only had themselves and their value
judgments to depend on.125 In this situation, it mattered immensely that the



Sabine R. Arnold and Gerd R. Ueberschar, Das Nationalkommittee “Freies Deutschland” und
¨
121

der Bund deutscher Of¬ziere (Frankfurt am Main: Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, 1995).
Earl Frederick Ziemke, Stalingrad to Berlin: The German Defeat in the East (Washington, DC:
122

Of¬ce of the Chief of Military History, 1968).
K. Arnold, Die Wehrmacht und die Besatzungspolitik in den besetzten Gebieten der Sowje-
123

¨
tunion: Kriegfuhrung und Radikalisierung im “Unternehmen Barbarossa,” overstates his case
about effects, but he is right in his insistence that the Soviet reaction left a deep imprint on
German soldiers. See the supporting evidence in Latzel, Deutsche Soldaten “ Nationalsozialis-
tischer Krieg?: Kriegserlebnis, Kriegserfahrung 1939“1945; Martin Humburg, Das Gesicht des
Krieges: Feldpostbriefe von Wehrmachtssoldaten aus der Sowjetunion 1941“1944 (Opladen:
Westdeutscher Verlag, 1998).
Hurter, “Die Wehrmacht vor Leningrad: Krieg und Besatzungspolitik der 18. Armee im Herbst
¨
124

und Winter 1941/42.”
Thomas Kuhne, Kameradschaft: Die Soldaten des nationalsozialistischen Krieges und das 20.
¨
125

Jahrhundert (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2006).
¨
States of Exception 373

only “virtue” drilled into them and repeated by propaganda was unrestrained
ruthlessness in pursuit of victory “ or utter defeat.
The immediate response to Soviet atrocities was a brutalization of war mak-
ing. We tend to think of brutalization in terms of mass murder and of the mind-
set of perpetrators.126 But mass murder, in which Wehrmacht units although
frequent participants were not the main actors, occurred in the context of a
groundswell of military acts of cruelty. A typical case in point was the use of
human shields, as, for example, in the effort to seize Brest against desperate
resistance;127 typical also was the murder of prisoners of war who seemed dan-
gerous or were ballast for the advancing troops (or for the detachments that
guarded them);128 reckless destruction and unstoppable pilfering in the guise of
living off the land were frequently mentioned.129 Hostage taking and shooting
were routine, as were the seizure, internment, and murder of suspect civilians
and the bombardment of civilian evacuees in ¬‚ight.130 We know of many of
these incidents only because commanding of¬cers perceived of them as threats
to their unit™s discipline. In the ¬rst instance, these acts of cruelty indicate the
everyday reality of the “criminal orders” among frontline units. They made
cruelty a routine matter.
Cruelty was justi¬ed with reference to Soviet atrocities. German soldiers
responded ¬ercely to the shooting of wounded soldiers and especially to (the
actual experience and rumors of) mutilations of their bodies.131 They retaliated
in kind and closed ranks for fear of falling into the hands of the enemy. The
presumption of treachery in the civilian population, again backed up mostly
by rumor, increased the readiness to destroy and kill. German soldiers reacted
violently to the ¬ghting retreat of the Soviet forces with their scorched earth
tactics. Soldiers came to anticipate booby-trapped buildings or delayed mines
in towns; they faced the decomposing victims of Soviet political murders with
mind-numbing regularity; they were confronted with a remarkably ef¬cient
system for the evacuation of people and things and the systematic destruction
of what was left behind; they abhorred the sheer destructiveness of the Soviet



Christopher R. Browning, Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Batallion 101 and the Final Solution
126

in Poland (New York: HarperCollins, 1993); Christopher Browning, “German Killers: Behav-
ior and Motivation in the Light of New Evidence,” in Nazi Policy: Jewish Workers, German
Killers, ed. Christopher Browning (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press,
2000), 143“69.
Gerlach, “Verbrechen deutscher Fronttruppen in Weißrußland 1941“1944: Eine Annaherung.”
¨
127

Hamburger Institut fur Sozialforschung, ed., Verbrechen der Wehrmacht: Dimensionen des
¨
128

Vernichtungskrieges 1941“1944, Ausstellungskatalog, 218“26.
Ibid., 298“9.
129

¨ ¨
See Niemiecki Instytut Historyczny w Warszawie, ed., “Grosste Harte“”: Verbrechen der
130

Wehrmacht in Polen September“Oktober 1939: Ausstellungskatalog (Osnabruck: Fibre,
¨
2005).
Examples for this process can be found in Latzel, Deutsche Soldaten“Nationalsozialistischer
131

¨
Krieg?: Kriegserlebnis, Kriegserfahrung 1939“1945; Heer, Vom Verschwinden der Tater,
118.
Mark Edele and Michael Geyer
374

retreat.132 The shocking reality of Soviet retreat clearly excited their imagina-
tion.133 It led to a brutalization of their conduct, a readiness to use excessive
force, and rallied them behind calls for an escalation of violence. In response to
Soviet self-defense, German soldiers, whether Nazis or not, developed a dogged
determination to crush a ¬endish enemy “ exactly the kind of image that the
propaganda for Barbarossa had insinuated. This shared resolve made it easier,
much easier, for the many and diverse human beings that made up the Army
of the East to think of the war against the Soviet Union as “another place” in
which only the ruthless would survive and norms of civility could and would
be set aside. It generated a kind of solidarity that over time would make the
Wehrmacht into a people™s army “ a ¬ghting body uni¬ed by their experience
of a war of survival.134
However, it was fear, the sheer terror of survival, that made the Army of the
East into a “community of fate” that was ready to use extraordinary violence
as a matter of course. If you are in hell, you do as the devil does:

We are a sworn community of fate, together we know how to ¬nd a way to
die. . . . I give orders to shoot so and so many commissars and partisans without
even blinking (besinnungslos); it is him or me “ it is damned simple. . . . [W]e are
¬ghting here for our own naked lives, daily and hourly, against an enemy who in
all respects is far superior.135

This was the cri de coeur not of a simple soldier, but of Lieutenant Gen-
eral Stieff writing home on 7 December 1941. The Soviet counteroffensive
had broken his sense of invincibility; he hung on for dear life and fought a
merciless war. Panic and a good deal of hysteria replaced the sense of invin-
cibility that had predominated only months earlier.136 “Who ever talks about

Berkhoff, Harvest of Despair, 17“34; Rebecca Manley, “The Evacuation and Survival of
132

Soviet Civilians, 1941“1946” (Ph.D. diss., University of California, Berkeley, 2004); Ham-
burger Institut fur Sozialforschung, ed., Verbrechen der Wehrmacht: Dimensionen des Vernich-
¨
tungskrieges 1941“1944, Ausstellungskatalog, 91“185. Klaus Jochen Arnold, “Die Eroberung
und Behandlung der Stadt Kiew durch die Wehrmacht im September 1941: Zur Radikalisierung
¨
der Besatzungspolitik,” Miliargeschichtliche Mitteilungen 58, no. 1 (1999): 23“63.
Evidence collected in Latzel, Deutsche Soldaten “ Nationalsozialistischer Krieg?: Kriegser-
133

lebnis, Kriegserfahrung 1939“1945; Humburg, Das Gesicht des Krieges: Feldpostbriefe von
Wehrmachtssoldaten aus der Sowjetunion 1941“1944; Hans Joachim Schroder, Die gestohle-
¨
¨ ¨
nen Jahre: Erzahlgeschichten und Geschichtserzahlung im Interview: Der Zweite Weltkrieg
aus der Sicht ehemaliger Mannschaftssoldaten (Tubingen: Niemeyer, 1992); Thilo Stenzel,
¨
¨

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