Nemmersdorf massacre

As Nemmersdorf massacre of the events of the 21 are October 1944 in the then German village Nemmersdorf (today Majakowskoje, Russia) referred to in which to present findings 19 to 30 people were killed when the Red Army was advancing into the town. At the core of these events is the shooting of 13 local civilians who had fled the fighting between the Wehrmacht and the Soviet troops in a bunker. In addition, six other Nemmersdorfer and possibly some non-local people who came under the administration Nemmersdorfs killed. The backgrounds for the death of the local civilians are not completely clarified until today. From the Soviet military strategy out they can not explain.

After the Red Army on 23 October 1944 before retiring from the Army Nemmersdorf, tried the German Reich Ministry for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, to interpret the events in the village within the meaning of the Nazi regime. The aim was to mobilize the reserves of the German population against the advancing Soviet troops by this stylized to cruel invaders. For this purpose unknown origin were subsequently produced recordings with shootings, which were introduced a few days later in a report by the People’s Observer as evidence of methodological crimes of the Red Army against civilians. The Reich Ministry spread beyond the claim that all Nemmersdorf was looted and destroyed by the Red Army, which can not be put in line with eyewitness accounts. Despite their dramatic presentation of the report of the People’s Observer has not contributed to a shift in sentiment among the German population and was described by Joseph Goebbels, later as a failure.

In the Federal Republic of Germany, the events of Nemmersdorf the symbol of the experiences of the East German population at the end of the Second World War were. The events have been stylized to a massacre had been tortured in which up to 72 people, raped, nailed to barn doors or shot at close. It was referred to alleged eyewitness accounts that match neither the representation of Nazi propaganda still today with the reconstructed source location. In the GDR and the Soviet Union, the massacre of Nemmersdorf was taboo or represented as pure propaganda campaign of the Nazi regime. In Russia, Soviet troops responsibility for the shootings is still denied. Nemmersdorf applicable in Germany remains a symbol for crimes of the Red Army against the German population and was late to the subject of historical research. The scientific restoration of the events has primarily of German author Bernhard fishing effort, which for decades questioned the traditional accounts of the massacre of Nemmersdorf and with the help of eyewitness accounts added to a new image. The reception of Nemmersdorfer events is considered symptomatic of the public sided processing of the complex war and displacement in the respective countries.

Course of events

War situation

End of October 1944, the Red Army was able to conquer large parts of the armed forces of the occupied Soviet territories. In the Operation Bagration it had supplanted the German troops from Belarus and was able to advance to August at the East Prussian border, to the Vistula and to Riga. Thus the Red Army of the Soviet Union from 1941 virtually revised the results of the raid, but had the borders of the German Reich of 1937 is not exceeded. Crucial to the end of the Soviet summer offensive were the heavy losses that had to be balanced, as well as overextended supply lines. Some divisions of the Red Army stood at 2,000 to 3,000 soldiers far below its authorized strength of 10,000 men, the remaining reserves are not sufficient to make significant territorial gains on German territory. However, the attempted Soviet General Staff, 27th Anniversary of the October Revolution to report such success to Stalin. The army leadership had planned for the second half of October, with the first Baltic Front and the 3rd Belorussian Front to smash the German forces in northern East Prussia, in order to occupy all of East Prussia. There, they could not stand up to the 4th Enforce Army, among other things, because the first Baltic army Hovhannes Baghramyan made ​​a stop at the Memel and not translated. The territorial gains corresponded to only about 150 km. Only the 11 Soviet Guards Army was able to advance to East Prussian territory, and reached 21 October 1944 the district Gumbinnen where they 4 on the Army of the Wehrmacht met and supplied with their fierce battles.

Nemmersdorf had with the only motorable concrete bridge over the Angerapp miles around a key strategic role. The next was impassable for tanks Bridge 6 km downriver in Sabadschuhnen, 26 km south of Nemmersdorf was the next bridge upstream in Darkehmen. Its location gave Nemmersdorf not only military significance: In response to the advance of the Red Army had Fritz Feller, peasant leaders of the local and district Gumbinnen with the county authorities on 20 October 1944 evacuation of the population in the south-west to circle Gerdauen decided. The residents of about 20 villages on the east of the Angerapp were forced to cross with their treks Nemmersdorf. All led up to a trek around Nemmersdorf about why the refugee trains were bunched up at the bridge added, military vehicles were on the decline before the approaching 25th Soviet armored brigade. Why the Wehrmacht blew up the bridge and not the approaching troops in sections so the path is not clear. The bridge had been mined by eyewitnesses as a trek from Kuttkuhnen on the night of 19 20th October Nemmersdorf reached. Bernhard fish suspects that those responsible do not blasted out of consideration for waiting lines of refugees locally. Many Waiting left partly from impatience, partly from fear of their belongings and crossed the bridge to Nemmersdorf on foot.

Nemmersdorf was according to Soviet records east of the bridge by two trenches, one anti-tank ditch, a barbed wire line and paved and unpaved machine-gun nest, he protected the Wehrmacht. The Red Army itself continued the assault on Nemmersdorf claims to ten 75-mm guns, four tractors and 150 soldiers out of action. In the early morning of 21 October, about 6:30 clock, first reached the vanguard, and later the tanks of the 2nd Battalion of the 25th Armoured Brigade Nemmersdorfer the bridge, at which remains impounded the refugee trains. It was there already bright, but very foggy. Soviet tanks had to first by the amount of the waiting car fight. The bridge freizuräumen was especially difficult because the cars were crowded. In addition, the Polish prisoners of war who had to steer the car usually ran over to the Soviet soldiers when they appeared. At 7:30 clock the bridge was finally conquered by the Red Army, around 8:00 clock they had secured the area until the Good Pennacken that lay northwest of Nemmersdorf.

Soviet occupation

Most of the 637 Nemmersdorfer had already left the place as it took the Red Army. Especially the residents who did not have horses and carriages, were old or had a disease, remained in the village. Overall, it was probably only a small two-digit number, were added to the bridge the persisting refugees from the eastern villages, the Red Army against the afternoon of 21 Could pull back in October. The events of 21 to 23 October 1944 are difficult to reconstruct, because only a few eyewitness reports are available. Furthermore, those reports were made with a long delay and transmitted orally or by a third party. Their authors were mostly in a close relationship to the NSDAP and voted probably also due to personal relationships among themselves. Bernhard fish classifies the reports of eye-witnesses whose names are known to be authentic, but makes some aspects sacrificing their significance. Also a report from the unnamed wife of the famous village policeman, the first time In 1956, Fritz Leimbach, classifies fish as a serious: The woman fled with her two children out of the place, as the noise of battle drew closer. They have overtaken a Wehrmacht tanks without stopping, although she called the crew to take them. Shortly after, she had taken a Russian officer in a armored car, sold outside of the site and, as warned Leimbach in good German before his comrades. Even the painter John Schewe, against the morning of 21 October went to his house, the Soviet soldiers could happen was later questioned by an officer in German and was finally able to leave the place without hindrance. On the Angerapp bridge the columns of refugees, however, were raided by Soviet soldiers against the afternoon of 21 October was also looted the abandoned luggage there, the eyewitness Gerda Meczulat. 14 civilians – residents evacuated from Nemmersdorf and relatives, including Gerda Meczulat – had retreated in fear of taking Nemmersdorfs tanks Shot in a makeshift bunker, which had been built on a canal breakthrough in the south of the village. After it had become quiet, had a few hours later her father first Edward, later Charles Kaminski, also a Nemmersdorfer, returned to their homes to fetch coffee and blankets. While her father had been searched by the Red Army and then left, you’ve Kaminski denied entry to his house, that had returned empty-handed into the bunker. In the early afternoon finally appeared Soviet soldiers in the bunker, spoke with Meczulats father searched the cabin and played with the children present. Towards evening, a senior officer had appeared, after there had been an altercation between him and another soldier. Then the civilians had been commanded out of the bunker and killed in front of the output means head shots. Gerda Meczulat only survived because they fell down due to illness and that was a head shot, but the vital organs but missed. Meczulat was a day later brought to Neuruppin of Wehrmacht soldiers to Osterode and later to the hospital.

On the estate of Schrödershof Nemmersdorfer Mayor John Grimm, a refugee trek had around 7 clock set in motion, his wife Margot. He was stopped shortly thereafter by Soviet soldiers, only the first car of the trek was driven off by gunfire. The Red Army had forced them to dismount and searched. The men had been taken Watches, closing her husband had been out to the side and killed by a shot in the temple. Of Polish forced laborers they had been dressed up and issued as a Pole, so she was spared. The community nurse was entered into Nemmersdorf of Soviet soldiers and seriously injured. Apart from the shootings to cover these mixed impressions of the Red Army Nemmersdorfer with those from the surrounding villages in Tutteln Soviet troops took part in the 22 October civilians for protection against gunfire with in a shelter. On the east of the bridge is located Eszerischken Good Red Army behaved the same day at first friendly to the residents, but later two members of the Red Army raped a young woman. On Monday, the 23 October, they apparently played by eyewitnesses with the idea to shoot the Gutsbewohner, but did after the protest of Polish forced laborers from this project. According to Erika Feller, who was not on site, however, came out of the occupants of the bunker and the mayor also at least two refugee women from Eszerischken at the bridge killed when the Red Army held the city. The community spirit has, along with list of Red Army soldiers shot dead seven Nemmersdorfern from the bunker also the name Bernhard Brosius, Berta Aschmoneit, the widow and the couple Hilgermann Wagner.

In addition to those listed here, there were victims of other people, which is certainly not determine where they were during the events in and around Nemmersdorf and how they were killed. These included a sister of Berta Aschmoneit and another woman worker from Eszerischken. Of a trek from Schameitschen possibly Herta and Margitta Brandtner were killed by gunfire. From the treks also the couple Friedrich (* 1868) and Matilde Rossian (* 1875) from Matzukehmen and a man named Bahr from Augstupönen were reported missing. If one trustworthy eyewitness accounts, the community spirit lists and reports based questionnaire, then the total number of deaths in Nemmersdorf amounts to 23 to 30 The reports of Wehrmacht officers Hans Hinrichs and Charles Fricke, the Bernhard fish rated as serious, come to a total of 26 deaths in and around Nemmersdorf. Apart from the shootings, testified by witnesses but can not determine which of the victims were killed wantonly. Unintentional deaths among the civilian population by about tank shells of Wehrmacht or the Red Army are possible. Such an interpretation was left of German literature but generally fall in favor of the thesis that the people were murdered by Soviet soldiers.

Reconquest and inspection

Already in the night of 21 October 1944, the Wehrmacht had set alarm units in the garrison Insterburg. The German Panzer Grenadier Replacement Battalion 413 sent on the night of 22 October about 100 men to Nemmersdorf, led by Lieutenant Louis scratch and Sergeant Helmut Hoffmann and attacked the village from the west. They could reach the south of the village Angerapp height, while units of the Parachute Panzer Division Hermann Goering, the village of the northwest attacked independently of them. After several skirmishes over the course of 22 October withdrew the Red Army on 23 October 1944 at 2:30 clock from Nemmersdorf back.

The retreat of the Red Army from the German troops only after about six to eight hours on the morning of 23 October noticed. One of the first Germans who inspected the site after that the soldier belonged to Helmut Hoffmann and Harry Thürk from the Division Hermann Goering. Even the local farmers’ leader Fritz Feller went immediately to Nemmersdorf when he learned of the withdrawal of Soviet troops. On 23 or 24 October met with Karl Gebhardt not only a SS – a lieutenant general, but also the personal physician of Heinrich Himmler. As the first official inspectors of the Secret Field Police on 25 October arrived in Nemmersdorf, numerous members of the SS and Nazi party were already there in attendance, including three security officers from Gumbinnen, a delegation of the SS-Standarte Kurt Eggers and a Nazi commission under the East Prussian Gaupropagandaleiter Märtins. In addition, the Army Group Center and the Air Force each had reassigned a war correspondent for Nemmersdorf to which 25 October also met Hans Hinrichs by the High Command of the Wehrmacht, a Judge Advocate Groch and Captain Charles Fricke from the High Command of the 4.Armee. The representatives of Wehrmacht and SS were sent independently by Nemmersdorf, which can be gauged from the fact that the first SS units arrived before the official Wehrmacht inspectors in Nemmersdorf, apparently a direct communication path from the eastern front to SS-Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler was present.

From these early witnesses are reports of Hoffmann, Thürk, the Secret Field Police and by Hinrichs and Fricke. Hoffman gave his observations about 65 years later, Bernard fish on record, all other witnesses in writing, they wrote. All reports from this period are the same strong, both in terms of scenery and overlooking the victims. Were recorded dead on channel bunker (nine or ten), in the houses east of the village square (an old woman in her living room in the house opposite a dead couple and a young woman, Grete Waldowksi) and on the bridge (two women and an infant) . Off the main road told Harry Thürk of a dead elderly man on a dunghill, which stuck a pitchfork in the chest. In addition Thürk noted a woman who has been suspended on a wing and barn, shortly after he had seen her, had been removed. On the question whether there were rapes in Nemmersdorf, the reports disagree: Hoffmann denies this, the Secret Field Police kept them at a woman on the bridge possible. The bodies found in the village were first buried by the inspectors because of the heat in a mass grave in the village cemetery. Later, the bodies were exhumed and examined, the Secret Field Police recorded 13 women, eight men and five children. Photos of the corpses were subsequently made, but it is unclear how much the body has been manipulated for the images. If these first images are identical to the later spread by the German Ministry of Propaganda, the women at least the skirts and underwear were pulled down. This already suggests a propagandistic intent, considerations of piety, however, had drawn a cover of the dead being taken, Bernhard fish. It is also unclear who identified the dead, making this the sources of conflicting information. Probably it was Hobeck Gertrude, who worked as a nurse in Insterburg and their parents and other villagers realized. A native of the county Darkehmen Grete Waldowski was apparently identified by their characteristic map. Information on the whereabouts of the bodies is not clear: In today Majakowskoje there is no grave stone, which refers to individual or mass graves. Also photos of such a tomb not exist. An anonymous burial would be even for the final phase of World War II highly unusual grave crosses were in early 1945, even in battle fallen soldiers still in place set with inscription.

The condition of the village after the fighting is unclear: According Thürk it was largely unscathed, which he had taken in the face of artillery fire by the Wehrmacht surprised to note. Bernhard also fish the abandoned village on 27 October 1944 as a young soldier took in inspection, describes the western part Nemmersdorfs as fully intact. While Fritz Feller confirmed this in his questionnaire report from 1944, ranging descriptions of former Nemmersdorfern in later decades by several destroyed homes to a complete destruction of the village; Fritz Feller himself later spoke of it, the place had been destroyed two-thirds. These discrepancies can be explained in part by different affected districts. It is also possible that by withdrawing the soldiers deserted village devastated by the departure of the first inspectors, as occurred in the region of Nemmersdorf.

Propagandistic exploitation

The German Ministry of Propaganda under Joseph Goebbels recognized the importance of Nemmersdorfer incidents for propaganda analysis, possibly even before the preparations were made ​​for taking Nemmersdorfs an appropriate exploitation by the Red Army. Thus, the Ministry of the mood in the German population was known to the increasingly skeptical in the face of continued defeats German troops faced the Nazi and Wehrmacht on the Eastern and Western Front in 1944. It worked intensively on countermeasures to restore the morale of the Germans. Before the army attacked the village, senior posts were made ​​by the certainty that in Nemmersdorf civilians were killed.

Public campaign

After the first reports had reached him from Nemmersdorf, Goebbels noted in his diary that he was planning a big press release on Nemmersdorf. Based on the reports of the Nazi Party, SS and Wehrmacht site finally appeared on 27 October 1944 in the People’s Observer and other rich German newspapers an article about Nemmersdorf. He gave no exact number of casualties, but added to the dead of the early reports, “women made more low” to which were all to be killed and robbed by shot in the neck. , The VB also claimed that all Nemmersdorfs houses were looted and destroyed by the Red Army, that the evacuation of the town was on track and that there had been during the engagement of the Red Army with a sudden thrust, the villagers have some surprises. The next day was followed by a report of a PK man and a more detailed report, which also dealt with casualties from the wider region and came to a total of 61 deaths. The resilience of these numbers is unclear. All dead, the VB subsumed under the heading Nemmersdorf to strengthen the propaganda effect. Recordings showed newsreel images of the propaganda company, where several women were seen with raised skirts and a completely destroyed village. Two days later, followed demonstrably false reports in the Nazi-affiliated newspapers Fritts Folk (Oslo) and Courrier de Genève (Geneva), which confirmed the article in People’s Observer or drastic yet surpassed.

Commission of Inquiry

In parallel, a Goebbels taught an international commission of inquiry, which had a confidant of Karl Doenitz as Chairman and as members, with one exception only members of occupied or allied countries with the Estonian Hjalmar Mae. They interviewed 31 October 1944 the Volkssturm man Emil Radünz, the Judge Advocate Paul Groch, Hans Hinrichs, of Good Charlotte Müller Eszerischken, a surgeon named William, a lieutenant Saidat and a reporter for the Air Force no one who had made ​​the recordings from Nemmersdorf. The witnesses were informed, prior to their interrogation by Eberhard Taubert privately, their statements were spoken to him before. In particular, the descriptions of Radünz Saidat and pointed the representations of the Nazi press to once again, it was of deportations to Siberia, ausnahmsloser rape all Nemmersdorferinnen and a dead Swiss mentioned. Also on the meeting of the Commission of Inquiry reported, the VB. She was Goebbels not only an attempt to further shake up the German public, but was directed especially to foreign countries and the media, which should be obtained so that the fight against the Soviet Union.

However, neither the investigation nor the national press campaign mission had significant success. The Nazi propaganda did not manage to dispel questions about the causes of the Soviet thrust and its evacuation policies in the population. Goebbels recorded his action on 10 November 1944 as a failure in his diary and spoke of not more until December 1944 the incidents. The military leaders complained in January 1945, several officers of the Red Army war crimes in Nemmersdorf at what however, given the war situation had no consequences.

Reception in the postwar period

A new dynamic Nemmersdorf won the case after World War II against the background of the expulsion of the German population from the territories east of the Oder-Neisse line and the emerging Cold War. The accounts of the events were in the Federal Republic of Germany to a part of the culture of memory and learned numerous substantive changes. Already in 1946, Erich Dethleffsen stated for the record that Soviet soldiers had several people alive in Nemmersdorf nailed to barn doors and next to local civilians also shot some 50 French prisoners of war. In the following years, more and more former authors spoke up who wanted experienced by witnesses of mass rapes of civilians tanks rolled flat and castrated males. This culminated in the alleged eyewitness accounts report that Karl Potrek 1953 wrote under a pseudonym: he spoke of 72 murdered women and children in Nemmersdorf, crucifixions naked women on barn doors and Axtmorden of old women. Among the dead was only one adult male, and the rest were women and children. According Potrek the dead were buried after five days, which is consistent with previous witnesses none of the statements. From the dead on Behelfsbunker or Good Schrödershof was in the West German reports of the post-war period, however, only rarely mentioned. Potreks “memories” were published in 1971 by Rudolf border. In addition to limiting Potrek also invoked a number of other questionable witnesses guaranteed by eyewitnesses events in his work are often highly dramatized and partly distorted. Works from later decades, including Alfred de Zayas, often appealed to boundary and his witnesses, especially Potrek Charles, who was probably never on site, was most frequently cited. Although the witnesses Gerda Maczulat and John Schewe published in the late 1970s their memories, but they were ignored by later writers. Photographs of the propaganda company as well as reports and articles Nazi official sites were considered in the West German discourse as reliable sources. Only de Zayas sought a review of some reports by their surviving author.

The escalation of the coverage of the Federal Republic of Nemmersdorf explain Eva and Hans-Henning Hahn as the displacement of a German responsibility for the deportation of the German population from the eastern territories. Bernhard fish, however, suspected a reaction to block the opposition during the Cold War in which the Soviet Union was demonizing ideological opponents. Fish engaged in since his youth and resettlement in the German Democratic Republic with Nemmersdorf, but a long time could hardly investigate this, since the GDR leadership suppressed the work of Soviet war crimes. The Soviet Union in turn challenged from the outset any responsibility for the incidents, they are not shown in recent Russian history books as pure propaganda campaign of the Nazi regime. It was only after the German reunification fish could open Nemmersdorf to research and locate up to 1994 still living witnesses. This specifically contradicted all arisen after the war representations of events and relativized some of the allegations of the People’s Observer. Fish succeeded at the end of the 1990s, in and around Nemmersdorf to reconstruct the events in many parts, but also pointed to significant gaps in the sources that made it impossible to trace the events completely. Looking at the source location changed fish and Eva and Hans Henning Hahn practiced sharp criticism of former West German historians who have depicted the massacre of Nemmersdorf negligence, or falsify critical.

It is still unclear why the Red Army shot in Nemmersdorf civilians. Fish believes it is possible that the Wehrmacht in October 1944 covert operations conducted behind enemy lines and was involved with the events in the village. He mentioned among other things the fact argued that they possessed at the time of Soviet T-34 tanks, which were also used as decoys and that the SS via a direct communication link to Nemmersdorf and many officers could be seconded there within a short time. Even after the German-speaking Soviet officer who drove the wife of the local police from the place where he sees an indication that marched with Soviet tanks might also camouflaged German units in Nemmersdorf. Fish suspected an active role in the massacre of the German side Nemmersdorf due to this evidence, but it indicates clearly as speculation. In addition to the praise of his source work these interpretations fish brought but also criticism: for example criticizes Karl-Heinz Frieser that fish representation almost exclusively based on oral witness reports and positive the round will be in their interpretation of events against the Red Army. Frieser holds the “atrocities of Soviet troops” committed in Nemmersdorf for “a moral defeat in the first dawning Cold War”. The “exact details of the events that took place in Nemmersdorf [...] remains unclear” For Ian Kershaw. As difficult as it is, propaganda and reality tell them apart, but is true that in Nemmersdorf “really terrible things happen” were.

History (East Prussia)

Massacre (World War II)

German-Soviet War

Nazi propaganda


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