• Michael Laxer

The terrible price of victory: A brief look at the sacrifices of the USSR in WWII




Today on May 9 -- Victory Day in the former USSR as it was on this day in 1945 that the Soviets formally accepted the German surrender -- we look at some facts about the war and its utterly devastating impact on Soviet society published by Soviet Life magazine in 1975 for the 30th anniversary of the end of the conflict.


The sacrifices of the peoples of the Soviet Union are almost unimaginable and are reflected here. It is also simply astonishing how the USSR recovered and rebuilt after the war. Both the victory and the reconstruction are among the great achievements of Soviet socialism.


It also notes just how much greater was the scale of the war on the Eastern Front versus the Western.


" ... No nation in the history of battle ever suffered more than the Soviet Union suffered in the course of the Second World War. At least twenty million lost their lives. Countless millions of homes and farms were burned or sacked. A third of the nation's territory, including nearly two-thirds of its industrial base, was turned into a wasteland -- a loss equivalent to the devastation of this country east of Chicago.” -- John F. Kennedy


In addition to the millions of Soviets killed, "1,710 Soviet cities, 70,000 villages and settlements, 40,000 hospitals, 82,000 schools, technicums and institutions of higher learning, and 32,000 industrial plants were destroyed during the war years.


The material damage caused by the Nazis to Soviet state enterprises and institutions came to 287 billion rubles; the property losses of the collective farms to 181 billion rubles; of rural and urban dwellers to 192 billion rubles; of cooperative, trade union and other public organizations to 19 billion rubles ( in 1941 prices.


Our country sustained over 40 per cent of the total material losses suffered by all the warring countries taken together. The damage the Soviet Union suffered over the years of the Great Patriotic War was 120 times greater than that of czarist Russia in World War I. The Soviet Union lost about 30 per cent of its national wealth, while the volume of its basic production funds, the major part of our country's material and technical base, was cut by almost a third."


TEXT:


For three years the Soviet army fought the main forces of nazi Germany and its satellites all alone. Here are the figures from June 1941 to June 1944 :


Theater of Operations: Number of German divisions fighting simultaneously:


Soviet- German Front from 190 to 270

Northern Africa from 9 to 20

Italy from 7 to 27


In June 1944 Anglo- American troops landed in Normandy. But even after that 60 per cent of the Wehrmacht's combat forces were concentrated on the Eastern Front.



Number of Hitlerite Divisions Destroyed By the Allied Troops During World War II:


By the Soviet Army: 607 divisions

By the armies of the USA and Great Britain: 176 divisions


The Eastern Front accounted for 80 per cent of the Hitlerite losses in personnel and 75 per cent of their losses in materiel.


U.S. Army Chief of Staff George Marshall admitted that without the successful operations of the Soviet Army, the American troops would have been unable to hold out against the aggressor and the war would have been carried over onto the American continent.


Major Battles:


The Battle of Moscow:


(December1941)


Combat Forces in the Decisive Phase of the Battle:


Soviet German

personnel: 760,000 800,000

artillery: 5,600 10,400

tanks: 670 1,000

aircraft: 860 600


Summary: Thirty-seven Hitlerite divisions were completely destroyed ( 300,000 nazi officers and men were killed and wounded).


This was the first major defeat the Wehrmacht suffered in World War II, and it shattered the myth of its invincibility.


General Günther Blumentritt testified “It was in Russia that the German Command made its first fatal decisions. From the political point of view. perhaps the most fatal of all had been the decision to attack that country".


Stalingrad "a Twentieth Century Cannae"


( November 1942-February 1943)


Combat Forces at the Moment of the Soviet Army's Counteroffensive:


Soviet: German:

personnel over one million one million

artillery 13,500 10,300

tanks 900 675

aircraft 1,414 1,216


Summary: From November 1942 to February 1943 the Wehrmacht's losses near Stalingrad totaled 800,000 officers and men, 2,000 tanks, 10,000 guns and 3,000 aircraft. One hundred thousand nazi officers and men were taken prisoner.


General Siegfried Westphal testified: "The defeat at Stalingrad horrified both the German people and their army. Never before in the history of Germany had such a large number of troops suffered such a terrible fate."


Kursk-Citadel Blown Up


(July-August 1943)


Operation Citadel was to avenge Hitler's defeat at Stalingrad and restore the German Command's strategic initiative on the Eastern Front .


The Battle of the Kursk Bulge , one of the biggest in the war, involved on both sides more than four million officers and men, about 70,000 guns and mortars, some 13,000 tanks and self -propelled guns (including the heretofore secret German Tiger tanks and Ferdinand self- propelled guns) and 12,000 aircraft. The Wehrmacht threw over 100 divisions into this battle. Five divisions and five air groups were brought over from France.


The biggest tank battle of World War II was fought near the village of Prokhorovka .Twelve hundred tanks took part on both sides, and 586 Hitlerite tanks were destroyed in a single day!


Summary: In the course of the defensive fighting and then during the Soviet Army's counteroffensive, the Hitlerites lost more than 500,000 officers and men, 1,500 tanks,

3,000 guns and 3,700 aircraft.


London radio said that even in 1918 the Germans had not suffered such a defeat,

that generations would recall the terrific blow the Red Army had dealt the Germans,

thus demonstrating its valor and mastery.


The Minsk "Pocket"


(July-August 1944)


The routing of the Hitlerites near Kursk also ensured the successful operations of the Anglo-American forces in Sicily. Hitler wanted to move several divisions there from the Eastern Front. But the commander of the Center Army Group, Field Marshal Kluge, declared : "I draw your attention , my Führer, to the fact that at the present moment I cannot move a single unit from the front. It is absolutely out of the question."


Two and a half weeks after the Allied troops landed in Normandy, the Soviet Army delivered a crushing blow at the Wehrmacht in Byelorussia. This battle, fought along a front up to 620 miles long and 370 miles in depth, involved on both sides four million men and officers, 62,000 guns, 8,000 tanks and 9,000 aircraft.


Summary: Sixty -seven enemy divisions were destroyed completely. Some 100,000 nazi officers and men were encircled in the Minsk "pocket” and taken prisoner. To bolster up the collapsing Eastern Front, the Wehrmacht urgently had to transport 48 divisions from the Western Front.


Berlin - the Last Battle in Europe


(April-May 1945)


Total combat forces on both sides: 3.5 million officers and men, 52,000 guns, 7,800 tanks and 10,800 aircraft.


Summary: The unconditional surrender of nazi Germany. Fighting on the Soviet-German Front went on for 1,418 days and nights (338 on the Western Front) . Apart from the battles covered above, there were any number of others much larger in scale than those fought on other fronts of the anti-Hitler coalition. Thus, 10 Hitlerite divisions were completely destroyed during the Soviet Army's winter offensive of 1943-44, which spread over an area of 870 miles. The Germans here lost 75 per cent of their personnel. During the summer-fall campaign of 1944 the Soviet Army on the Soviet-German Front completely destroyed or took prisoner 96 Hitlerite divisions and 24 brigades, putting 219 enemy divisions out of commission. During the 1945 January operation in the Oder area the Soviet Army destroyed 35 Hitlerite divisions.


THE PRICE OF VICTORY


John F. Kennedy, President of the United States:


" ... No nation in the history of battle ever suffered more than the Soviet Union suffered in the course of the Second World War. At least twenty million lost their lives. Countless millions of homes and farms were burned or sacked. A third of the nation's territory, including nearly two-thirds of its industrial base, was turned into a wasteland -- a loss equivalent to the devastation of this country east of Chicago.”


Killed in World War II


Total Number of Men and Officers Killed at the Fronts of World War II

USSR 10,000,000

USA 291,557

Great Britain 244,723


Reprisals Against the Peaceful Population:


The following are far from complete figures on reprisals committed by the invaders against the people of Soviet cities and villages: The invaders killed 2.2 million peaceful inhabitants in Byelorussia , 1.1 million in Lvov and Odessa regions and in Kharkov ( the Ukraine), 172,000 in Leningrad Region and 125,000 in Estonia.


The Hitlerites killed hundreds of thousands of peaceful citizens on the pretext of fighting the partisans.

From an order by Hitler, signed by Field Marshal Keitel: " Troops have the right and are duty bound to employ any means without restriction in their fight against partisans. And to a like degree against women and children if it furthers success."


Driven Off into Fascist Slavery


The occupation troops deported about five million Soviet citizens to Germany for

slave labor.


Heinrich Himmler, Hitler's henchman, testified:


"Whether 10,000 Russian women die of exhaustion or not in building an antitank ditch interests me only insofar as antitank ditches for Germany are ready."


Hundreds of thousands of Soviet citizens were exterminated in the death camps of Maidanek, Dachau, Oswiecim, Buchenwald and others.


Cities and Villages in Ruins


As the Hitlerites retreated, they left behind "desert zones": 1,710 Soviet cities, 70,000 villages and settlements, 40,000 hospitals, 82,000 schools, technicums and institutions of higher learning, and 32,000 industrial plants were destroyed during the war years.


The material damage caused by the Nazis to Soviet state enterprises and institutions came to 287 billion rubles; the property losses of the collective farms to 181 billion rubles; of rural and urban dwellers to 192 billion rubles; of cooperative, trade union and other public organizations to 19 billion rubles ( in 1941 prices.


Our country sustained over 40 per cent of the total material losses suffered by all the warring countries taken together. The damage the Soviet Union suffered over the years of the Great Patriotic War was 120 times greater than that of czarist Russia in World War I. The Soviet Union lost about 30 per cent of its national wealth, while the volume of its basic production funds, the major part of our country's material and technical base, was cut by almost a third.

0 comments