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What happened

“Fourteen-year-old Erich Pusch, a fugitive who had lost his parents on the ice of the Frisches Haff, lay in a cellar in Danzig with his young brother and a dozen or so other terrified people, mostly women and children. The first Russian entered their refuge early on the morning of 31 March [1945]. The man demanded to know if there were any German soldiers present. Assured that there were none, he collected all watches and rings, then left. Young Erich put his head cautiously into the street to investigate, and saw some very young Russian soldiers standing around their tanks. Occasional shells were still exploding. fired by German naval guns. Erich returned to the cellar. They all sat in dread, awaiting the worst. The next Russians to arrive were very drunk. They took all the women into the adjoining room and raped them, amid hysterical pleas for mercy. Returning, the Russians noticed lying on the floor a young Russian PoW, who had lost a leg before his capture. One Red soldier bayoneted him and then, when the doomed man screamed, shot him. Every soldier in the Soviet armies had been thoroughly briefed that fellow countrymen who had surrendered to the fascists were traitors. The soldiers then demanded the shoes of everyone present, collected these in a bag, and departed. The women were left sobbing. Later that night, Mongolians came, and raped a fifteen-year-old girl. After that, successive waves of Russians appeared all night, bent on the same business. They ignored the old men and children, but raped the women repeatedly.” – Max Hastings, Armageddon

Published inMax HastingsThe Second World War

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