The Trek Out of East Prussia, 1945

Posted by Potential Frolic on Monday, 10 September 2007 09:42.

The Great Trek is a documentary by Guido Kopp about the German refugees’ escape from East Prussia, away from the advancing Red Army, in 1945. It uses a narrator’s voice overtop of contemporary film footage of the events and places being discussed, with occasional snippets of Nazi programming “The German Weekly” “NS Weekly”, as well as interviews with about 10 surviving Germans and 5 Russian soldiers present during the advance into East Prussia (2 of the soldiers are female!). These people discuss anecdotes from their own experience.

What follows is my simple summary with a look at the more interesting facts.

When the Russians were advancing towards East Prussia, all preparations to leave were forbidden the population by the Nazi regime? it was seen as a sign of capitulation if the Germans were to evacuate. It is also nothing surprising given the extremely redundant emphasis on fighting to the last man: “We will never capitulate”, etc. Hitler himself had said “In me they have met an opponent who does not know the meaning of the word surrender.” It is well in keeping with the political speeches being delivered that no plans were made to evacuate.

When the rumble of Russian artillery could be heard in the distance, people at last gathered the courage to disobey the government’s orders and leave. They packed up their possessions onto wooden wagons, often bringing livestock, and set out westward, avoiding the major roads. As is typical of these kind of events the world over, many died from exposure, hunger or fatigue while on the trip.

When Marion Countess Dönhoff, a local aristocratic landholder whose book Childhood in East Prussia also makes good reading, went to the local government administration building, hoping they would have plans on what trains or ships to take and how to escape, she instead found something else:

I’ll never forget it. I went to the building, and there was nobody there! Naturally the party members were the first to leave town! Instead there were burnt papers swirling around in the wind, all the windows of the building had been left open.

In fact Hitler had already evacuated his Wolfsschanze, the boys-only tree-house he had built in East Prussia, with the approach of the Red Army, and relocated to Berlin. Similarly, the head Nazi official in charge of East Prussia, Erich Koch, removed to Flensburg in Holstein on a special boat reserved for him, while telegrafing Hitler hearty reassurances such as “I will fight to the end!”. Perhaps this was Koch’s idea of fighting to the end, from the English wikipedia entry:

Thousands… began to flee East Prussia in March 1945, after having been told until the last minute and on orders from NS-Governor Erich Koch, that fleeing was illegal and punishable by death.

Incidentally, Erich Koch had no connection to the East Prussians. He was from the Rhineland; yet now he was entrusted with their fate, and acted as one would expect: he abandoned them at the first sign of trouble. Apparently the video of Koch embracing little East Prussian children at a Christmas party was just Propaganda! Tricked again, by a cathode ray tube! Like DJ Shakespeare advised while mixing beats at my birthday party:

Not working with the eye without the ear, e-e-ear,
And but in purged, p-p-purged, p-p-p-purged judgment trusting neither.

The first place in East Prussia that the Red Army broke through to was Nemmersdorf, with a population less than 100. They killed everyone in the town with the exception of one woman, who survived a shot in the head? she is interviewed in the documentary and claims that no women were raped, they were simply executed wholesale. Goebbels and the producers of the Deutsche Wochenschau apparently disagreed with her: they were quite certain that the women had been raped. (see video).

The government had declared the roads off-limits to evacuees, the roads were strictly to be used for military purposes. So the Trek mostly took place over fields, marshes and farmland, which made it slow and difficult, and necessarily deadly given the cold weather. A Prussian family with horse and wagon could move 10 km per day, whereas the advancing Red Army moved 35 km per day. As they say in the film, “When you could see the tanks, it was already too late.” In the film they show scenes where hundreds of wagons lay abandoned, or are chopped up from munitions fire and strewn with corpses.

Do not go to these areas in search of gold teeth or wedding rings, because those things have already long since been carried away by highly intelligent birds for use in nest-building. Some of the birds even left cyrillic graffiti on what remained of the wagon-wrecks.




Posted by Amalek on Mon, 10 Sep 2007 12:02 | #

Erich Koch, a former railroad clerk, was one of the most corrupt Nazi satraps. He built a palace for himself using Polish slave labour, Schloss Krasna. He insisted during the eastern campaign on being granted titular authority over vast swathes of the USSR so he could boast that his writ ran from the Baltic to the Black Sea. Remarkably he escaped death for war crimes and lived in jail in Poland until he was 90.

The seaborne evacuation of Germans from East Prussia was the greatest in history, masterminded by Grand Admiral Doenitz, who is never given any credit for it. Despite the menace of Soviet submarines and the loss of the “Wilhelm Gustloff”, nearly all the evacuees were safely transported to the main part of the Altreich and a core of Prussian efficiency and dedication was maintained in the post-war rebuilding of Germany.


Posted by Rnl on Wed, 12 Sep 2007 01:13 | #

Was Stalin to blame?
By Tom Segev

Mischa Shauli sat at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., completely beside himself. It had been years since the first time he heard about the existence of a document said to prove that Stalin, not Hitler, bore the main responsibility for World War II, and for years he had searched for it with all his skills as a professional detective. Shauli’s last position was as Commander Shauli, Representative of the Israel Police in Russia. Previous to that he had been head of the police fraud investigation unit for the Southern District.

A few years ago Shauli read “Icebreaker: Who Started the Second World War,” by Bogdan Rozen. Rozen, who now lives in England, wrote it under the pseudonym of Viktor Suvorov. Shauli, impressed by the book, translated it into Hebrew and saw to its publication here.

From out of the sea of details, a coherent thesis emerges: Stalin dragged Hitler into war to force Europe into chaos and facilitate a communist revolution on the continent. According to Shauli, there is evidence to back up this theory, including a speech by Stalin himself as well as a report obtained by the U.S. Consulate in Prague. The report has been mentioned here and there over the years, but it has never been published, because no one knows where it is today.

Shauli, 59, believed that the definitive evidence was out there, hiding somewhere. He believed, and did not give up, repeatedly setting out to find it, going as far as Washington. No one is happier than he is today: The document is in his possession, and now the history of World War II may have to be rewritten: It was Stalin’s fault.

The document, from October 1939, consists of three pages in English that purportedly reflect a dialogue in Moscow between a delegation from Czechoslovakia and a senior Soviet Foreign Ministry official. The Czechs tried to find out why the U.S.S.R. had signed the nonaggression treaty with Nazi Germany, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of August 1939. A few days later the Germans invaded Poland, and World War II began.

The Soviet official, Alexandrov by name, explained to the Czech delegation that had the Soviet Union signed an agreement with the West, Hitler would not have dared to launch a war, and without that war there would have been no possibility of imposing communism in Europe. He also listed the benefits to the Soviet Union of the pact with Nazi Germany, and of the war.

The veracity of the document must be proved, and even if it turns out to be genuine, its significance is worthy of debate. Mischa Shauli is continuing his investigation. No, he said this week, he does not fear that shifting responsibility for the war from Hitler to Stalin “acquits” Hitler; he is responsible for other crimes.


Exposing Stalin’s Plan to Conquer Europe

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