Yury Selivanov: Who Destroyed Berlin?

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard



The widespread notion that the German capital was razed to the ground when it was stormed by Soviet troops isn’t true at all…

The widely known footage from the military newsreel in which Soviet soldiers conduct battles on the streets of Berlin among complete ruins certainly create for many viewers – and especially for the young people who aren’t inclined, as a rule, to penetrate into the details of old historical events – the impression that the capital of the Third Reich turned to a heap of smoking fragments as a result of the ruthless Soviet storm.


In addition, this topic is picked up with pleasure by western propaganda that isn’t sympathetic towards modern Russia. This propaganda doesn’t even need to be fed, it just wants to rant about “the Russians who don’t know what pity is”, for who nothing in the world is dear, and whose “barbarous nature” could never be understood by a delicately organised and well-mannered western person.

In reality everything is absolutely not like this, or to be exact – it’s not like this whatsoever. Without belittling the scale and bitterness of military operations during the Berlin operation, I consider it to be necessary to draw your attention to some important details.

The German capital capitulated very quickly for a city of such a size and value. There are two main reasons for this: indeed, the irrepressible victorious rush of our army and the German’s full loss of will to resist, realising the inevitability of checkmate in war by April, 1945.

Although the operation itself took place from April 16th to May 8th, 1945, the battles directly within the city limits continued for much less time. In reality – from April 21st to May 2nd, when the Berlin garrison capitulated. I.e., about one and a half weeks.

Even the all-powerful Red Army couldn’t raze such a huge city to the ground in such a short period of time – even if they wanted to do it. Especially since the battles in the city quarters had those specifics that the frontline didn’t have as such. Troops – both Soviet and the enemy’s, were mixed up to such an extent that sometimes in the same building there were both German and Soviet units. In such conditions the Soviet command was obliged to sharply limit the combat use of bombing aircraft and heavy artillery on city objects, which could lead to serious losses among their own troops. And this, in turn, reduced the material damage that was caused to Berlin during the Soviet offensive even more.

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And, nevertheless, the city was destroyed almost completely. How it is possible to explain this apparent paradox? Any resident of Berlin from that time would be able to explain this easily, because the destruction of the capital of the Third Reich happened before their eyes during a number of years, and the role played by the Soviet storm was far from being the leading one.

The carpet bombings that were carried out by Anglo-American aviation during the entire war became the main reason for the actual death of Berlin. For those who aren’t aware, I will explain: this expression has no relation to beating carpets. But here beating the life out of whole cities together with all their population has the most direct relation.

The military-political leadership of Great Britain – the country whose territory suffered from the blows of the adversary in the minimum degree – and the US Government – a country whose territory, apart from Pearl Harbour [at the time it was “incorporated territory”, but not a US state – ed], wasn’t touched by any of the enemy’s shells – for some reason decided that all means are good in the war against Hitler. Even the most barbarous means. And they started to methodically burn German cities to the ground, without differentiating between military factories and residential quarters, hospitals, schools, and maternity wards.

The Soviet Union, which suffered monstrous losses from German aggression, and which had the full moral authority to do the same to the Germans, didn’t opt for such atrocities concerning the German cities and their population. But the Anglo-Saxons did opt! And with tremendous ease too, which, in general, says a lot – that also now it is unlikely that they will stop before any crime in order to achieve their goals. As for Berlin specifically, its methodical transformation into a crushed stone began in 1943.

“During this year Berlin underwent awful changes: the Tiergarten district was completely destroyed, Charlottenburg Palace was in ruins, Unter-den-Linden Avenue, the memorial church on Kurfürstendamm… Köpenick and Treptower quarters. The transport network of the city was strongly damaged”.

However, the rather total destruction of Berlin began from the air only in 1945. When after the Yalta conference of allies it became definitively clear that the German capital will be included in the Soviet zone of occupation. And it is precisely at this time that the order was given for the complete destruction by Anglo-American aviation not only of Berlin, but of all German cities in general that had to be transfered to the Soviet Union’s control. It is exactly then, in February, 1945, that the city of Dresden – in which about 200,000 people perished in one day – was almost wiped out. Mainly peaceful civilians, refugees, and allied prisoners of war.

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The most immoral and criminal thing is that the bombings of the first months of 1945 had no military value any more. Hitler’s Germany was on the verge of its last breath. And the destruction of its cities was absolutely senseless from a military point of view. This was barefaced massacre, the only rational goal of which was the US and Great Britain causing maximum damage to their formal Soviet ally, for who only ruins were to be received. And only the prompt advance of the Red Army and the end of war that soon came saved all the rest of East Germany from total destruction from the air.

But our “valorous” allies had already managed to smash Berlin to smithereens.

“Everything that was before this became dim on February 3rd, 1945, when 950 ‘Flying Fortresses’ appeared over Berlin under the cover of 785 P-51 ‘Mustang’ fighter planes. The air armada dumped 2298 tons of bombs on the city quarters, having ploughed the Tempelhof and Schöneberg districts, and also the city center. According to ‘average’ estimations, the number of victims among the population on this day was estimated in the thousands: the figure of 25,000 killed is named.

On February 26th, 1945 the horror repeated in an even bigger scale — 781 B-17 and 285 B-24 dumped 2796 tons of bombs on the city, practically without having losses in return. Of course, this was not the end: implementing new tactics, on March 18th, on March 24th, and on April 20th the Americans over and over again repeated raids in which 1200 bombers participated each time. The city under them was turned into ruins, and it wasn’t possible to establish the exact death toll. According to approximate calculations it was about 50,000 people”.

Here is why, when the Soviet troops closely approached the German capital, they saw before themselves “a city of former houses”, as at that time the survived inhabitants bitterly joked. And although the storm of the city, of course, didn’t add beauty and architectural gloss to it, the historical truth is that the destruction of Berlin was mainly the work of Anglo-American bombing aviation, and not the Red army. Moreover, this destruction at its main stage – in February-March, 1945 – had not so much an anti-German sense, but an anti-Soviet one. “Allies” thus got revenge on Stalin for the fact that his army was the first to reach Berlin and liberate half of Europe.

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It is only left to remind that such a kind of nastiness was done to us by the Anglo-Saxons when relations between the USSR and its western “partners”, in any case, officially, were at the highest allied level, when it seemed that nothing will be able to sadden them in the future. And now imagine what these geopolitical predators are capable of doing today in relation to Russia, when even in official speeches they evaluate relations with Russia as being “worse than ever”.

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