Unconditional Surrender: Why the West Can’t Forgive the Red Army’s Capture of Berlin

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard



On April 16th, 1945, Soviet troops began their offensive on the capital of Nazi Germany. The Red Army conducted an operation without the participation of Anglo-American troops, which aroused indignation from the command of allies. After the end of war western politicians and historians will accuse Josef Stalin of deception: the Soviet leader allegedly violated allied obligations, without having revealed the true plans for the storm of Berlin. What the half-truth of the West is and what made the actions of Moscow justified is in the material of RT.

Stalin to Eisenhower

The accusations of the West are based on Josef Stalin’s response to the telegram of the Supreme Commander of the expeditionary forces in Europe Dwight Eisenhower, which was sent on March 28th, 1945 (code number SCAF-252). In it the American General asked the Soviet leader to specify tasks for a further offensive.

On April 1st, 1945 Eisenhower received the answer. Stalin agreed with the opinion of the General, who proposed to split the German forces and to unit on the line Erfurt — Leipzig — Dresden (to the south of Berlin – approximately 200 km).

“Berlin lost its former strategic importance, that’s why Soviet high-command thinks to allocate minor forces towards Berlin,” wrote Stalin. Also the leader of the USSR reported that the Red Army plans to strike the main blow to nazis in the second half of May.

On April 2nd Stalin signed the directive on the Berlin offensive operation. The date of the storm was appointed April 16th. It was entrusted to the 1st Belarusian, 2nd Belarusian, and 1st Ukrainian fronts under the leadership of the well-known commander Georgy Zhukov to crush the Nazi den.

In their own interests

Historians argue about how the actions of Stalin can be characterized. The opinion is expressed that the commander-in-chief of the Armed forces of the USSR intentionally misinformed their American colleague. Russia prefers to speak about military ruse, while in the West Stalin’s behavior is regarded as deception.

In order to understand what guided the Soviet leader, lets address the context of the 70-year-old events. The more they approached Berlin the more political contradictions accrued between allies, and the Soviet command had the basis not to trust Eisenhower and the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

Moscow couldn’t forget the overdue opening of the Second front, which cost the lives of millions of Soviet soldiers and ordinary citizens. Anglo-American troops appeared in Europe only in June, 1944, at the disembarkation in Normandy, three years later after the beginning of the war.

At that time the advanced units of the Red Army already conducted battles for East European cities. Washington and London understood that further delay is fraught with “communist occupation” of the biggest remaining part of the European continent.

READ:  Russia Will Have to Learn to Live Without Foreign Investors

Since 1941 the USSR asked to open the Second front, but for allies it was unprofitable to carry out an overland invasion into Europe when Germany was at its peak of military power and could give a worthy repulse to the Anglo-Saxons.

The US and Great Britain concentrated on the fight against Nazis on maritime open spaces and in North Africa, and in passing convincing Moscow that it is indeed the promised Second front.

Such behavior corresponded to the national interests of the USSR’s allies. Washington and London protected human and material resources, fought where the Germans were weaker, and misinformed the Soviet Union about their real intentions.

In the spring of 1945 Great Britain and the US responded to an appeal of the Nazi leadership about negotiating the conclusion of a separate peace treaty. At the same time allies developed an operation code-named “Unthinkable”, which assumed a plan of action in the event of war against the USSR.

Washington and London planned to throw against the Red Army 10 German divisions, and that’s why they weren’t interested in the full defeat of the German military machine. The aim of operation “Unthinkable” was preventing Soviet troops from penetrating into Western Europe, and also their forced expulsion from Poland.

Winston Churchill was the main “hawk” in the Anglo-American tandem. It is precisely he who gave the order to prepare “Unthinkable”. On March 31st, 1945, the British Prime Minister urged Eisenhower not to trust Stalin, irrespective of his answer, and to unravel an offensive on Berlin.

“I personally don’t think that Berlin already lost its military, or more so political value. <…> That’s why I, to a much bigger degree, would prefer to stick to that plan on the basis of which we crossed Rhine, namely — so that the 9th American army together with the 21st army group advanced up the Elbe and further up to Berlin,” wrote Churchill.

A springboard for an offensive

Berlin indeed had important strategic and political importance. The State that seized the capital of the Nazi regime could by right consider itself as the main winner of World War II, who not only won their laurels, but also destroyed the largest grouping of the enemy.

The Soviet Union, which lost 27 million citizens, was decisively much more resolute than its allies. On November 6th, 1944, speaking on the occasion of the anniversary of the October revolution, Stalin ended his speech with the phrase: “We will finish off the enemy, the fascist beast, in its own den, we will establish our Victory Banner over Berlin!”

The springboard for the storming of Nazi Germany was prepared as a result of the success of Vistula–Oder strategic operation (January 12th — on February 3rd, 1945). The Red Army liberated Poland and exited to the left coast of the Oder, less than 100 km remained until Berlin.

READ:  Russia’s Response Strategy to the US’ Provocations

In 1964 the former commander of the 8th Guard army (the 1st Belarusian front) Marshal Vasily Chuykov stated on the pages of the Oktyabr journal the opinion that Soviet troops could take Berlin at the end of February, 1945. Georgy Zhukov in rather sharp form disproved of Chuykov’s statement.

Modern historians and military analysts are completely in solidarity with Zhukov’s opinion. 600,000 Soviet soldiers were killed in the battles for Poland. The Red Army needed to strengthen the flanks in order not to fall under the counterblow of the nazis. That’s why in March Soviet troops began the offensives in Czechoslovakia, Silesia, and East Prussia.

Allies in the first month of spring conducted the Maas-Rhine and Ruhr operations, having destroyed a large grouping of the enemy on the Western front. By the end of March Anglo-Saxons, as well as the Soviet troops, were tens of kilometers from Berlin. Probably, in order to understand the further plans of Moscow Eisenhower decided to send to Stalin this same SCAF-252 telegram.

For a number of reasons Eisenhower strongly doubted the need for an offensive on Berlin in April, 1945. More than 200 divisions and brigades were concentrated near the German capital. The city was fortified very well, the battles had to be conducted house-to-house.

In his memoirs General Omar Bradley estimated the probable losses in the event of storming Berlin at 100,000 people. For the US this was an excessive price for triumph. For all of World War II more than 400,000 Americans were killed, from them about 200,000 — in Europe.

The plan of Eisenhower offered to Stalin assumed a partition of Northern and Southern Germany. The Americans were noticeably very cautious because of the successful counterblows of the Nazis during the Ardennes operation in the southwest of Belgium (December 16th, 1944 — the end of January, 1945).

The head researcher of the scientific research institute of the Military academy of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Russia Colonel Miroslav Morozov believes that US intelligence overestimated the possibilities of the Nazis. The unwillingness to get in the meat grinder forced allied troops to think over plans for an offensive carefully.

At the beginning of April, 1945, Bradley stated to American journalists that war with Germany will finally come to an end only in the spring of 1946. However, it isn’t excluded that the words of the General also were military ruse with the purpose of misinforming the Soviet command.

READ:  Banderists Are The New Heroes of the Yeltsin Center

Justified measures

Contrary to the careful American Generals, Churchill predicted the partition of Europe with the crash of the last centers of resistance of the Nazis. In his opinion, it was impermissible to put in the hands of Soviet propaganda such a trump as the liberation of the capital of Germany.

Churchill didn’t manage to over-persuade Eisenhower, but on the informational front the West, nevertheless, achieved the desired effect. According to modern opinion polls, only 10-13% of the inhabitants of Western and Central Europe consider that the main contribution to the defeat of Nazism was made the USSR. 70 years ago such a point of view was shared by more than a half of Europeans.

The offense of the West taken from Stalin’s “deception” was reflected in the affirmation that the Red Army took Berlin in a way that was ruthless in relation to the civilian population. In particular, it was said that during artillery preparation and bombing many civilians died, and that these losses allegedly could have been avoided.

The half-truth of the West consists in the fact that no building was left intact after the Red Army’s shelling of the capital of Germany. However the Soviet command was compelled to raze the city to the ground.

All of Berlin represented one big fortified area. Nearly on every street there were several weapon emplacements of the enemy, fortified by concrete blocks. The city was entangled by a network of underground communications, which allowed to transfer troops and to take cover from shelling. To enter Berlin without the most powerful artillery preparation would be madness.

Besides this, Hitler’s Generals mobilized all who could hold a rifle in their hands, including children and the elderly. The population was made to hope for a quick separate peace treaty with the Anglo-Saxons, and urged to show maximum resistance to communists.

From April 16th to April 24th the Red Army surrounded the main grouping of the Wehrmacht, having excluded the possibility of their breakthrough to Berlin. The circle around the capital of Germany was closed on April 25th. Soviet troops faced resistance from a garrison of 200,000 people. The density of the defense of Berlin was strengthening in the process of advancing to the center. Thus, fights for the Reichstag, on which the Victory Banner was planted, lasted two days.

From April 16th to May 8th 78,000 Soviet soldiers died (as a reminder, Bradley estimated the potential losses during the storm of Berlin at 100,000 people). The Nazis lost 395,000 people. The USSR paid an expensive price for the liberation of Berlin. However, judging by the ratio of losses, all measures taken by the Soviet command were justified.

Copyright © 2022. All Rights Reserved.