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Military occupations by the Soviet Union PDF Εκτύπωση E-mail
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Συντάχθηκε απο τον/την Χρήστος Μπούμπουλης (Christos Boumpoulis)   
Κυριακή, 28 Αύγουστος 2016 12:49
Military occupations by the Soviet Union
Baltic states (1940–1991)
After existing as independent countries for twenty years, the Baltic states were occupied and illegally annexed in June 1940.[17] Given a free hand by Nazi Germany via the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact and its secret additional protocol of August 1939,[18] the Soviet Union pressured the three countries to accept its military bases in September 1939. In the case of refusal, the USSR effected an air and naval blockade and threatened to attack immediately with hundreds of thousands of troops massed upon the border. The military forces overtook the political systems of these countries and installed puppet regimes after rigged elections in June 1940.[19]
World War II
The sovietisation was interrupted by the German occupation in 1941–1944. The Baltic Offensive re-established the Soviet control in 1944–1945, and resumed sovietisation, mostly completed by 1950. The forced collectivisation of agriculture began in 1947, and was completed after the mass deportation in March 1949. Private farms were confiscated, and farmers were made to join the collective farms. An armed resistance movement of 'forest brothers' was active until the mid-1950s. Hundreds of thousands participated or supported the movement; tens of thousands were killed. The Soviet authorities fighting the forest brothers also suffered hundreds of deaths. Some innocent civilians were killed on both sides. In addition, a number of underground nationalist schoolchildren groups were active. Most of their members were sentenced to long terms of imprisonment. The punitive actions decreased rapidly after Joseph Stalin's death in 1953; from 1956–58, a large part of the deportees and political prisoners were allowed to return.[19]
During the occupation, the Soviet authorities killed, politically arrested, unlawfully drafted, and deported hundreds of thousands of people. Numerous other kind of crimes against humanity were committed all through the occupation period.[19] Furthermore, trying to enforce the ideals of Communism, the authorities deliberately dismantled the existing social and economic structures, and imposed new "ideologically pure" hierarchies. This severely retarded the Baltic economies. For example, Estonian scientists have estimated economic damages directly attributable to the post-World War II occupation to hundreds of billions of US dollars (several dozens worth of Estonia's 2006 GDP of $21.28 billion[20]). The Soviet environmental damage to Estonia is estimated to about $4 billion. In addition to direct damages, the retarded economy led to severe inequality within the Northern Europe[citation needed].
After all, the attempt to integrate the Estonian society into the Soviet system failed. Although the armed resistance was defeated, the population remained anti-Soviet. This helped the Estonians to organise a new resistance movement in the late 1980s, regain their independence in 1991, and then rapidly develop a modern society.[19]
Notwithstanding the annexation by the Soviet Union in 1940, it is therefore correct to speak of the occupation of the Baltic states, referring in particular to the absence of Soviet legal title. The prolonged occupation was an unorthodox one. Until 1991, the status of the three countries resembled the classical occupation in important ways: external control by an internationally unsanctioned force and a conflict of interest between the foreign power and the inhabitants. However, in other aspects the situation was very different from a classical occupation. Both the fact of the incorporation of the Baltic states to the USSR as Soviet republics without qualification, and the long duration of the Soviet rule challenge the applicability of all rules on occupation from the practical point of view. Despite the fact of annexation, the presence of the USSR in the Baltic states remained an occupation sui generis.[21]
Although the Soviet Union condemned the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact[22][23] — the immediate forerunner to the occupation — it is currently the policy of the USSR's legal successor Russian Federation to deny that the events constituted occupation or were illegal under applicable (international) laws.[24]
Finnish territories (1940)
Molotov signing a deal between the Soviet Union and the short-lived puppet state Finnish Democratic Republic, which existed on occupied territories during the Winter War.
The Soviet Union demanded to move the Finnish border further away from Leningrad. The USSR also insisted that Finland lease the Hanko Peninsula (or similar territory at the entrance to the Gulf of Finland) for the creation of a Red Baltic Fleet naval base.[25] However, Finland refused and the Soviet Union invaded the country, initiating the Winter War. The USSR set up the Finnish Democratic Republic (Finnish: Suomen kansanvaltainen tasavalta), a short-lived Soviet puppet regime in the occupied Karelian territories. The Soviets also occupied the Petsamo municipality in the Barents Sea coast during the war.
The Moscow Peace Treaty ended the state of occupation on 12 March 1940, as Finland was forced to cede parts of Karelia. The land accounted for 9% of the country's territory, included Finland's second largest city Viipuri and much of Finland's industry. About 422,000 Karelians — 12% of Finland's population — choose rather to evacuate beyond the new border and lose their homes than to become Soviet subjects. The military troops and the remaining civilians were hastily evacuated. Finland also had to cede a part of the Salla area, the Kalastajansaarento peninsula in the Barents Sea and four islands in the Gulf of Finland. The ceded areas were integrated within the Karelian ASSR to form the Karelo-Finnish SSR.
When the hostilities resumed in 1941, Finnish forces retook the lost areas and then advanced further up to the Svir River and Lake Onega before the end of the year. In the Soviet offensive of 1944 against the Finns the Red Army advance was halted by the Finns before reaching the 1940 border or, in the sole case where it did happen, the Red Army was promptly thrown back in Finnish counterattack. In the negotiations that followed the stopping of the Soviet offensive Finns further ceded the Petsamo municipality to the Soviet Union in the Moscow Armistice. The Soviet forces took the municipality from the Germans during the Petsamo–Kirkenes Offensive.
Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina (1940)
The Soviet Union, which did not recognize the sovereignty of Romania over Bessarabia since the union of 1918, issued an ultimatum on 28 June 1940 demanding the evacuation of the Romanian military and administration from the territory it contested as well as from the northern part of the Romanian province of Bukovina.[26] Under pressure from Moscow and Berlin, the Romanian administration and armed forces retreated to avoid war. Adolf Hitler used Soviet occupation of Bessarabia as justification for German occupation of Yugoslavia and Greece and German attack on USSR.
[wiki]
 
The rape of Berlin
The USSR's role in the defeat of Nazi Germany World War Two 70 years ago is seen as the nation's most glorious moment. But there is another story - of mass rapes by Soviet soldiers of German women in the dying days of the war.
Some readers may find this story disturbing.
Dusk is falling in Treptower Park on the outskirts of Berlin and I am looking up at a statue dramatically outlined against a lilac sky. Twelve metres (40ft) high, it depicts a Soviet soldier grasping a sword in one hand and a small German girl in the other, and stamping on a broken swastika.
This is the final resting place for 5,000 of the 80,000 Soviet troops who fell in the Battle of Berlin between 16 April and 2 May 1945.
The colossal proportions of the monument reflect the scale of the sacrifice. At the top of a long flight of steps, you can peer into the base of the statue, which is lit up like a religious shrine. An inscription saying that the Soviet people saved European civilisation from fascism catches my eye.
But some call this memorial the Tomb of the Unknown Rapist.
Stalin's troops assaulted an uncounted number of women as they fought their way to the German capital, though this was rarely mentioned after the war in Germany - West or East - and is a taboo subject in Russia even today.
The Russian media regularly dismiss talk of the rapes as a Western myth, though one of many sources that tells the story of what happened is a diary kept by a young Soviet officer.
Vladimir Gelfand, a young Jewish lieutenant from central Ukraine, wrote with extraordinary frankness from 1941 through to the end of the war, despite the Soviet military's ban on diaries, which were seen as a security risk.
The so far unpublished manuscript paints a picture of disarray in the regular battalions - miserable rations, lice, routine anti-Semitism and theft, with men even stealing their comrades' boots.
In February 1945, Gelfand was stationed by the Oder River dam, preparing for the final push on Berlin, and he describes how his comrades surrounded and overpowered a battalion of women fighters.
"The captured German female cats declared they were avenging their dead husbands," he writes. "They must be destroyed without mercy. Our soldiers suggest stabbing them through their genitals but I would just execute them."
It gets worse.
One of the most revealing passages in Gelfand's diary is dated 25 April, once he had reached Berlin. Gelfand was whirling around on a bicycle by the River Spree, the first time he'd ever ridden one, when he came across a group of German women carrying suitcases and bundles.
Vladimir Gelfand on his bicycleImage copyrightVITALY GELFAND
In broken German, he asked them where they were going and why they had left their homes.
"With horror on their faces, they told me what had happened on the first night of the Red Army's arrival," he writes.
"'They poked here,' explained the beautiful German girl, lifting up her skirt, 'all night. They were old, some were covered in pimples and they all climbed on me and poked - no less than 20 men,' she burst into tears.
"'They raped my daughter in front of me,' her poor mother added, 'and they can still come back and rape her again.' This thought horrified everyone.
"'Stay here,' the girl suddenly threw herself at me, 'sleep with me! You can do whatever you want with me, but only you!'"
By this stage, German soldiers had been guilty of sexual violence and other horrors in the Soviet Union for almost four years, as Gelfand had become aware as he fought his way to Berlin.
"He went through so many villages in which the Nazis had killed everyone, even small children. And he saw evidence of rape," says his son, Vitaly.
Vitaly Gelfand discovered his father's diary after he died
The Wehrmacht was supposedly a well-ordered force of Aryans who would never contemplate sex with untermenschen.
But the ban was ignored, says Oleg Budnitsky, a historian at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow. Nazi commanders were in fact so concerned about venereal disease that they established a chain of military brothels throughout the occupied territories.
It's hard to find direct evidence of how the German soldiers treated Russian women - many victims never survived - but in the German-Russian Museum in Berlin, director Jorg Morre shows me a photograph taken in Crimea from a German soldier's personal wartime album. A woman's corpse is sprawled on the ground.
"It looks like she was killed by raping, or after the rape. Her skirt is pulled up and the hands are in front of the face," he says.
"It's a shocking photo. We had discussions in the museum, should we show the photos - this is war, this is sexual violence under German policy in the Soviet Union. We are showing war. Not talking about war but showing it."
As the Red Army advanced into what the Soviet press called "the lair of the fascist beast" posters encouraged troops to show their anger: "Soldier: You are now on German soil. The hour of revenge has struck!"
A Soviet soldier struggles to take a woman's bicycle in BerlinImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
In fact, the political department of the 19th Army, which fought its way into Germany along the Baltic Coast, declared that a true Soviet soldier would be so full of hatred that he would be repulsed by sex with Germans. But once again soldiers proved the ideologists wrong.
While researching his 2002 book, Berlin, The Downfall, historian Antony Beevor found documents about sexual violence in the state archive of the Russian Federation. They were sent by the NKVD, the secret police, to their boss, Lavrentiy Beria, in late 1944.
"These were passed on to Stalin," says Beevor. "You can actually see from the ticks whether they've been read or not - and they report on the mass rapes in East Prussia and the way that German women would try to kill their children, and kill themselves, to avoid such a fate."
Another wartime diary, this time kept by the fiancee of an absent German soldier, shows that some women adapted to the appalling circumstances, in order to survive.
Starting on 20 April 1945, 10 days before Hitler's suicide, the anonymous author is, like Vladimir Gelfand, brutally honest, with razor-sharp powers of observation and occasional flashes of gallows humour.
Describing herself as "a pale-faced blonde always dressed in the same winter coat", the diarist paints vivid pictures of her neighbours in the bomb shelter beneath her Berlin apartment block, including a "young man in grey trousers and horn-rimmed glasses who on closer inspection turns out to be a young woman" and three elderly sisters, "all dressmakers, huddled together like a big black pudding".
Soviet soldiers distribute food in Berlin, in May 1945 (photograph: Timofey Melnik)
As they await the arrival of the Red Army, they joke "better a Russky on top than a Yank overhead" - rape is preferable to being pulverised by bombs. But when the soldiers reach their basement and try to haul women out, they beg the diarist to use her Russian language skills and complain to the Soviet command.
Braving the chaos on the rubble strewn streets, she manages to find a senior officer. He shrugs his shoulders. Despite Stalin's decree banning violence against civilians, he says, "It happens anyway."
The officer returns to the cellar with her and reprimands the soldiers, but one is seething with fury.
"'What do you mean? What did the Germans do to our women!' He is screaming: 'They took my sister and…' The officer calms the man down and gets them outside."
But when the diarist steps back into the corridor to check they have gone, the men have been lying in wait and grab her. She is brutally raped and nearly strangled. The terrified neighbours, or "cave dwellers" as she calls them, had slammed the basement door shut.
"Finally the two iron levers open. Everyone stares at me," she writes. "My stockings are down to my shoes, I'm still holding on to what's left of my suspender belt. I start yelling 'You pigs! Here they rape me twice in a row and you leave me lying like a piece of dirt!'"
Eventually the diarist realises that she needs to find one "wolf" to stave off gang rape by the "male beasts". The relationship between aggressor and victim becomes less violent, more transactional - and more ambiguous. She shares her bed with a senior officer from Leningrad with whom she discusses literature and the meaning of life.
"By no means could it be said that the major is raping me," she writes. "Am I doing it for bacon, butter, sugar, candles, canned meat? To some extent I'm sure I am. In addition, I like the major and the less he wants from me as a man, the more I like him as a person."
Circa 1945: GIs watch one of their Russian allies as he goes out walking with his girlfriend in
US troops watch a Russian soldier with a female friend in Berlin
Many of the diarist's neighbours made similar deals with the conquerors in the ruins of Berlin.
When the diary was published in German in 1959 under the title A Woman in Berlin, the author's frank account of the choices she made to survive was attacked for "besmirching the honour" of German women. Not surprisingly, she refused to allow the book to be republished until after her death.
Seventy years after the end of the war, new research on sexual violence committed by all the Allied forces - American, British and French as well as Soviet - is still emerging. But for years the subject slid under the official radar. Few reported it and even fewer would listen.
Besides the social stigma, in East Germany it was sacrilegious to criticise Soviet heroes who had defeated fascism while across the Wall in the West, the guilt for Nazi crimes made German suffering unmentionable.
But in 2008, there was a film adaptation of the Berlin Woman's diary called Anonyma, starring the well-known German actress Nina Hoss. The film had a cathartic effect in Germany and encouraged many women to come forward, including Ingeborg Bullert.
Ingeborg: "My mother liked to boast that her daughter hadn't been touched"
Ingeborg, aged 90, now lives in Hamburg in a flat filled with photos of cats and books about the theatre. She was 20 in 1945, dreamed of becoming an actress and lived with her mother in an upmarket street in Berlin's Charlottenberg district.
When the Soviet assault on the city began, like the woman diarist, she took refuge in the cellar of her building.
"Suddenly there were tanks in our street and everywhere the bodies of Russian and German soldiers", she recalls. "I remember the dreadful whining sound made by those Russian bombs - we called them Stalinorgels (Stalin organs)."
During a lull in the air raid, Ingeborg left the cellar and ran upstairs to look for a piece of string to use as a wick for a lamp. "Suddenly there were two Russians pointing their pistols at me," she says. "One of them forced me to expose myself and raped me, and then they changed places and the other one raped me as well. I thought I would die, that they would kill me."
Ingeborg didn't talk about her ordeal at the time, or for decades afterwards - she said it was too difficult. "My mother liked to boast that her daughter hadn't been touched," she says.
But the rapes had affected women in households across Berlin. Ingeborg recalls that women between the ages of 15 and 55 were ordered to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases. "You needed the medical certificate to get the food stamps and I remember that all the doctors doing these certificates, had waiting rooms full of women."
What was the scale of the rapes? The most often quoted number is a staggering 100,000 women in Berlin and two million on German territory. That figure - hotly debated - was extrapolated from scant surviving medical records.
In a former munitions factory which now houses the State Archive, Martin Luchterhand shows me an armful of blue cardboard folders. These contain abortion records dated July to October 1945 from Neukolln, just one of Berlin's 24 districts - it's a small miracle that they survived intact.
Abortions were illegal in Germany according to Article 218 of the penal code, but Luchterhand says "there was a small window for those women because of that special situation of the mass rapes in 1945".
The written notes
Altogether 995 pleas for abortion were approved by this one district office in Berlin office between June 1945 to 1946. The files contain over 1,000 fragile scraps of paper of different colours and sizes. In childish round handwriting, one girl testifies that she was assaulted in the living room of her home in front of her parents.
We will probably never know the true scale of the rapes. Soviet military tribunals and other sources remain classified. The Russian parliament recently passed a law which says that anyone who denigrates Russia's record in World War Two could face fines and up to five years in prison.
Vera Dubina, a young historian at the University of Humanities in Moscow, says she knew nothing of the rapes until a scholarship took her to Berlin. She later wrote a paper on the subject but struggled to get it published.
"The Russian media reacted very aggressively," she says. "People only want to hear about our glorious victory in the Great Patriotic War and now it is getting harder to do proper research."
Women in the ruins of Berlin (1945)Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
It's the fate of history to be rewritten to suit the agenda of the present. That's why first-hand accounts are so valuable - from those who brave the subject now, in their old age, and from those younger voices who put pencil to paper on the spot.
Vitaly Gelfand, son of the Red Army diarist Vladimir Gelfand, doesn't deny that many Soviet soldiers showed great bravery and sacrifice in World War Two - but that's not the whole story, he says.
Recently Vitaly did an interview on Russian radio, which triggered some anti-Semitic trolling on social media, saying the diary's a fake and he should clear off to Israel (he has in fact lived in Berlin for the last 20 years). Yet he is hoping the diary will be published in Russia later this year. Parts of it have been translated into German and Swedish.
"If people don't want to know the truth, they're just deluding themselves", he says. "The entire world understands it, Russia understands it and the people behind those new laws about defaming the past, even they understand it. We can't move forward until we look back."