Crimes Committed by Soviet Soldiers Against German Civilians, 1944-1945: A Historiographical Analysis

Mikkel Dack

Abstract


During the closing months of the Second World War, as the Red Army advanced on Berlin, a series of violent crimes swept across the Eastern Front. Soviet soldiers brutalized the German civilians they encountered, conducting a vengeful campaign of torture, rape, and murder. Despite the severity of these crimes, the attention that this topic has drawn from the academic community has been minimal. Due to political and social attitudes, including the widely accepted belief that the Germans were the sole perpetrators of war crimes, this imperative topic was relegated to a footnote of scholarly and public interest. The end of the Cold War ushered in a new era of historical analysis, as Soviet and East German archives were opened and scholarly research encouraged. In light of this amendment in attitude, recent historians have undertaken valuable reassessments, developed constructive arguments, and formulated insightful questions, questions which have since dominated this area of study and have initiated further analysis. Such questions include: Why did these crimes occur and why were they of such a brutal nature? How are “Nazi victims” to be perceived? And, how should blame and responsibility for such atrocities be dealt with? Although these questions have helped to advance the study of this once neglected topic there is still much room for scholarly expansion.

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JMSS is a publication of the Centre for Military, Security and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary.

JMSS gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the Social Science and Humanities Research Council.