Nick Possum, Consultant. Former public servant.Updated Fri · Upvoted by Travis Perry, M.A. History & Thesis in Biblical History, Wayland Baptist University (2018) and Carlos Marcelo Shäferstein, M.A. Military Intelligence & Military History and Wars , Argentine Army (2007)
Rape. Weaponised rape. Rape of almost biblical proportions. Mass rape of German women by Red Army soldiers. It was much feared of in anticipation and, in the event, their worst fears were realised.
“Estimates of rape victims from the city’s two main hospitals ranged from 95,000 to 130,000. One doctor deduced that out of approximately 100,000 women raped in the city, some 10,000 died as a result, mostly from suicide. The death rate was thought to have been much higher among the 1.4 million estimated victims in East Prussia, Pomerania and Silesia. Altogether at least two million German women are thought to have been raped, and a substantial minority, if not a majority, appear to have suffered multiple rape.”
“Red Army soldiers don’t believe in ‘individual liaisons’ with German women,” wrote the playwright Zakhar Agranenko in his diary when serving as an officer of marine infantry in East Prussia. “Nine, ten, twelve men at a time – they rape them on a collective basis.”
‘The novelist Vasily Grossman, a war correspondent attached to the invading Red Army, soon discovered that rape victims were not just Germans. Polish women also suffered. So did young Russian, Belorussian and Ukrainian women who had been sent back to Germany by the Wehrmacht for slave labour. “Liberated Soviet girls quite often complain that our soldiers rape them,” he noted.’
Red Army soldiers raped their allies too, as for example after the liberation of Belgrade in 1944. When the Yugoslav government representative in Moscow, Marshal Tito’s deputy Milovan Djilas, complained to Stalin about it, Stalin told him that “people should understand it if a soldier, who has crossed thousands of kilometres through blood and fire and death, has fun with a woman or takes some trifle”.
In his book “Conversations with Stalin”, Djilas later wrote, “According to complaints filed by citizens, there were 121 cases of rape, of which 111 involved rape with murder, and 1,204 cases of looting with assault—figures that are hardly insignificant if it is borne in mind that the Red Army crossed only the north-eastern corner of Yugoslavia. These figures show why the Yugoslav leaders had to consider these incidents as a political problem, all the more serious because it had become an issue in the domestic struggle. The Communists also regarded this problem as a moral one. Could this be the ideal and long-awaited Red Army?”
Ilya Ehrenburg, a Soviet author and war journalist, was blamed by many for what took place because he was said to have written:
“Use force and break the racial pride of these German women. Take them as your lawful [sic] booty.”
While the above item was disputed as being, and may in fact have been, Nazi propaganda, Ehrenburg indisputably wrote the following:
“As for the German women, they evoke in us only one feeling: disgust. We despise the German women for what they are—mothers, wives and sisters of the executioners. We despise the German women for what they wrote to their sons, husbands and brothers, ‘Send your honey a pretty fur coat.’ We despise the German women for what they are: thieves and prostitutes.”
The relevant passage is from his book Vojna (The war), Moscow, 1942–43.
That said, I have found since first writing this answer that, having opened the proverbial Pandora’s Box with his “Kill the German!” pamphlet in 1942, Ehrenburg may have had some second thoughts. After the war crimes and mass rapes in East Prussia became known back in Moscow, Ehrenburg made a trip to the front. On return, he spoke at the Frunze Military Academy and criticised Red Army officers for poor political and moral preparation of soldiers and for the lack of stringent measures against rapists and looters.
Either way, Ehrenburg soon fell into official disgrace and was criticised by Georgy Alexandrov in Pravda on 14 April 1945 (“Comrade Ehrenburg oversimplifies”) . He responded in a letter to Stalin on the next day that he never meant wiping out the German people as a whole, but only German aggressors.
PS: When I first wrote this answer, I inadvertently used a wrong photo from the Internet as illustration. When told about it, I changed it.