Our enemies really depend on the war we are in. In World War II, Russia was on the side of the United States. While they might not have really been our ally, they weren’t really our enemy either, so I guess they were our “frienemy.” In reality, they were in just as much danger as any other member of the Allies. Germany had made a deal with them, but then invaded them anyway. World War II was a fear-filled time. It was a hard-fought war, against terrible enemies. There were times that it looked like Hitler would win, but in the end, he did not, and as far as history knows, he committed suicide, along with his wife, Eve Braun Hitler, who married him the day before.
The people of the Soviet Union heard on the radio on May 9, 1945, at 1:10am, that Nazi Germany had signed the act of unconditional surrender. That surrender ended the USSR’s fight on the Eastern Front of World War II, or the Great Patriotic War as the Soviets called it. That war had been devastating consequences…according to official data, the state lost more than 26 million people. It was a great day for Russia and for the world. Hitler was dead, and the world could move forward and begin to heal. It was truly a rare case of an indestructible victory over its worst enemy, and the people of the state began a traditional method of celebration…drinking vodka and toasting to their victory.
The party began that day, May 9, 1945, and continued without ceasing for about 22 hours. People were so excitedly celebrating that they really didn’t think about their condition. They went outside in their pajamas, embraced, and wept with happiness. They didn’t care if they were in their pajamas, they were elated, and they partied. In fact, even non-drinkers began to drink. The party came to a screeching halt 22 hours later when the wartime deficiency of vodka, led to a unique situation. The party was in full swing, and when Joseph Stalin stepped up to address the nation in honor of the victory, the population had drunk all the vodka reserves in the country. I don’t think people really cared at that point what they toasted with. They would gladly lift a glass of water to cheer the victory. Nevertheless, how often does an entire nation run out of liquor…unless the nation is in prohibition, that is?
Every time I learn anything about Adolf Hitler, I am stunned that so much evil could exist in one man. World War II technically started when Adolf Hitler invaded Poland. Hitler told his men that “it did not matter who was right or wrong, that in fighting a war, coming out triumphant is the only thing that counted.” He urged his men to have no sympathy for their opponent. On September 1, 1939, Hitler ordered the invasion of Poland, by ordering the attack of defenseless civilians. In this way, they put the citizens in a state of shock. The sky was dark and there were dead bodies everywhere. Once Germany invaded Poland, it opened a door to allow the Soviets to also invade Poland. Of course, this was not exactly what either country wanted.
Before the end of the month, on September 29, 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union agree to divide control of occupied Poland roughly along the Bug River, with the Germans taking everything west, and the Soviets taking everything east. The people of Poland were given away like slaves. In addition, as a follow-up to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which was also known as the Hitler-Stalin Pact, a non-aggression treaty was created between the two huge military powers of Germany and the USSR. The German foreign minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop met with his Soviet counterpart, VM Molotov, to sign the German-Soviet Boundary and Friendship Treaty. Of course, the “friendship” did not extend to the Polish people.
As in normal in any contract, there was “fine print” in this agreement too. The fine print of the original non-aggression pact had promised the Soviets a slice of eastern Poland. It was to be a small part, simply a matter of agreeing where to draw the lines. Joseph Stalin, Soviet premier and dictator, personally drew the line that partitioned Poland. He originally wanted it drawn at the River Vistula, just west of Warsaw. In the end, he agreed to pull it back east of the capital and Lublin, giving Germany control of most of Poland’s most heavily populated and industrialized regions. In exchange, Stalin wanted Lvov, and its rich oil wells, and Lithuania, which sits atop East Prussia. Germany was fine with that, because now they had 22 million Poles, “slaves of the Greater German Empire,” at its disposal…and Russia had a western buffer zone.
On this same day, the Soviet Union also signed a Treaty of Mutual Assistance with the Baltic nation of Estonia, giving Stalin the right to occupy Estonian naval and air bases. What was thought to be a buffer zone, seems more like a land grab to me. A similar treaty would later be signed with Latvia. These nations really didn’t seem to realize what they were getting into. Eventually, Soviet tanks rolled across these borders, in the name of “mutual assistance,” placing the Baltic States under the rule of the USSR for decades to come. These so called treaties were once again merely the realization of more fine print from the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact, giving Stalin more border states as buffer zones, and protecting Russian territory where the Bolshevik ideology had not been enthusiastically embraced from intrusion by its western neighbor, namely its non-aggression partner Germany. The highly vulnerable Baltic nations had no say in any of these arrangements. They were merely annexed…by force in a huge Soviet land grab.
Imagine being in a country where being afraid is a crime. I’m sure you are wondering how that is possible…in any country, but I assure you, it is. That was the case on this day, July 27, 1943 in Russia. Joseph Stalin was the premier and dictator of Russia at that time in history, and Adolf Hitler was the dictator of Germany. The Germans were advancing into Russian territory, and Stalin was determined to stop them, no matter the cost.
Hitler had become quite bold because of the early successes against Russia in his goal of taking Leningrad and Stalingrad. The attack on Stalingrad proved, however, that the Russians had superior manpower and it was an enormous drain on German resources and troop strength. The Germans were repulsed by a fierce Soviet fighting force, that had been reinforced with more men and materials. Hitler made the decision to turn his sights to Leningrad.
Stalin needed to make sure his force wouldn’t back down…no matter what happened. The motivation to stand their ground needed to apply to both officers and civilians alike, or he was sure that Leningrad would be lost. That was when Stalin decided to put order number 227 into effect. So, what was order number 227? The order declared, “Panic makers and cowards must be liquidated on the spot. Not one step backward without orders from higher headquarters! Commanders…who abandon a position without an order from higher headquarters are traitors to the Fatherland.” Basically the order said that no one…not one person would be a coward. The order became known as the “not one step backward” order. The military personnel, as well as civilians were forced to fight for their city.
I think I can understand what Stalin was doing, but it seems such a drastic measure to take. Still, while some people might fight the enemy to the end, others might decide that their city wasn’t worth their life. If the penalty for backing off was instant liquidation, then standing and fighting became the only way to have a chance at life. In my opinion, that as far as ways to gain loyalty goes, this was not the best of plans, but then forced loyalty seldom is. Still, one must never underestimate the love a patriot feels for their country. The “not one step backward” order was virtually unnecessary, in that on the day the order was issued, the Russian peasants and other supporters in the Leningrad region killed a German official, Adolf Beck, whose job was to send agricultural products from occupied Russia to Germany and to German troops. The Russian patriots also set fire to the granaries and barns in which the stash of agricultural products was stored before transport. A partisan pamphlet issued an order of its own: “Russians! Destroy the German landowners. Drive the Germans from the land of the Soviets!” I guess Stalin had misjudged his peoples’ loyalty.
Anyone who knows much about Nazi Germany, knows that Adolf Hitler was insane. His hatred for the Jewish people was nothing less that insanity, because he had no valid reason to hate them. Nevertheless, the Holocaust did happen. Hitler did kill between five and six million Jews during his reign of terror. Many people thought that the Jews were the only target Hitler had too, but that wasn’t so. Hitler wanted to kill anyone who annoyed, inconvenienced, or even remotely bothered him. On this day, July 8, 1943, upon the German army’s invasion of Pskov, 180 miles from Leningrad, Russia, the chief of the German army general staff, General Franz Halder, records in his diary Hitler’s plans for Moscow and Leningrad: “To dispose fully of their population, which otherwise we shall have to feed during the winter.” Hitler planned to level both cities, or at least kill everyone in them, because he didn’t want to have to feed the prisoners during the long winter months! And for no other reason. Most armies at least set up prisoner of war camps, which while not terribly humane, gave some semblance of an attempt to be humane. I know that everyone complains about how the United States treats prisoners of war, but there really is no comparison, when you view the way Hitler and some other terrible dictators treat prisoners of war. Humane treatment is a pipe dream for prisoners of dictators.
Hitler launched a massive invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, with over 3 million men. He was highly successful, due in large part to a disorganized and unsuspecting Russian army. By July 8, they had captured 280,000 Soviet prisoners and almost 2,600 tanks were destroyed. The army was already a couple of hundred miles inside Soviet territory. Stalin was in a panic. He was so angry that he began executing generals who had failed to stop the invaders.
Halder, who was Hitler’s chief of staff, had been keeping a diary of the day-to-day decision making process. As time went on, Hitler became emboldened by his successes in Russia. Halder recorded that the “Fuhrer is firmly determined to level Moscow and Leningrad to the ground.” Halder also records the reality of Hitler’s underestimation of the Russian army’s numbers and the bitter fighting within Hitler’s own armies about strategy. Halder and some of the others wanted to make straight for the capital, Moscow. But Hitler wanted to meet up with Field Marshal Wilhelm Leeb’s army group, which was making its way toward Leningrad. And Hitler was, after all, in charge. But, the advantage Hitler had against the Soviets would not last very long. Winter was approaching and so was the advantage such conditions would give the Russians. The Russians were used to the severe Russian winters, and Hitler’s men were not. Like Napoleon before them, the Germans would soon find that they weren’t prepared for the Russian winter, and subsequent winters. And yet, Hitler thought he had learned from Napoleon. He ordered his troops to hold their ground. Which meant that during the Winter War, the German army was not able to pull back to more defensible positions. Consequently, the Russians were able to launch a series of counter-attacks during that first winter. These attacks cutoff some German forces, inflicted worse casualties than the Germans could inflict, but more importantly allowed the Russians to begin to rebuild their army. The winter months would prove to be just as detrimental for Hitler as they had for Napoleon. In reality, he was insane to even try such an attack.