No one can deny that the Nazis committed unspeakable atrocities during World War 2,against civilians. But the Nazis were not the only ones.
On October 21, 1944, the Soviet Red Army was steamrolling the German army on the Eastern Front, reaching the town of Nemmersdorf, at the time it was a German rural town in East Prussia, though today the town finds is part of Russia and is called Mayakovskoye.
The 2nd Battalion, 25th Guards Tank Brigade, belonging to the 2nd Guards Tank Corps of the 11th Guards Army, crossed the Angerapp bridge and established a bridgehead on the western bank of the Rominte river on 21 October 1944. The German forces tried to retake the bridge, but several attacks were repelled by the Soviet tanks and the supporting infantry. During an air attack, a number of Soviet soldiers took shelter in an improvised bunker that was already occupied by 14 local men and women. According to the testimony of a seriously-injured woman, Gerda Meczulat, when a Soviet officer arrived and ordered everybody out, the Soviets shot and killed the German civilians at close range. During the night, the Soviet 25th Tank Brigade was ordered to retreat back across the river and take defensive positions along the Rominte. The Wehrmacht regained control of Nemmersdorf and discovered the massacre.
A Soviet officer had ordered the civilians to be killed. There were some conflicting reports in relation to the age and gender of the victims , as well as the number of victims, with both sides trying to spin the incident to their respective advantage.
Nazi German authorities organized an international commission to investigate, headed by the Estonian Hjalmar Mäe and other representatives of neutral countries, such as Francoist Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. It heard the report from a medical commission, which reported that all of the dead females had been raped (they ranged in age from 8 to 84). The Nazi Propaganda Ministry (separately) used the Völkischer Beobachter and the cinema news series Wochenschau to accuse the Soviet Army of having killed dozens of civilians at Nemmersdorf and having summarily executed about 50 French and Belgian noncombatant prisoners-of-war, who had been ordered to take care of thoroughbred horses but had been blocked by the bridge.
After the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union, new sources became available and the dominant view among scholars became that the massacre had been embellished and actually exploited by Goebbels in an attempt to stir up civilian resistance to the advancing Soviet Army.
The former chief of staff of the German Fourth Army, Major General Erich Dethleffsen, testified on 5 July 1946 before an American tribunal in Neu-Ulm:
“When in October, 1944, Russian units temporarily entered Nemmersdorf, they tortured the civilians, specifically they nailed them to barn doors, and then shot them. A large number of women were raped and then shot. During this massacre, the Russian soldiers also shot some fifty French prisoners of war. Within forty-eight hours the Germans re-occupied the area.”
Karl Potrek of Königsberg, the leader of a Volkssturm company present when the German Army took back the village, testified in a 1953 report:
“In the farmyard stood a cart, to which more naked women were nailed through their hands in a cruciform position … Near a large inn, the ‘Roter Krug’, stood a barn and to each of its two doors a naked woman was nailed through the hands, in a crucified posture…. In the dwellings we found a total of 72 women, including children, and one old man, 74, all dead…. Some babies had their heads bashed in.”
While the Germans claimed that most of the 653 residents of Nemmersdorf were killed, Soviet records showed only 20 to 30 killed. It was generally believed that the Germans had inflated the number of deaths, grouped evidence of other isolated atrocities to embellish the size of this massacre, and might even had created the situations where civilians would be killed by the Soviets (for example, some accused the German military of using civilians to shield one of the attacks on the Angrapa bridge). The Soviet claim of only 20 to 30 killed was equally fantastic, as the Soviet Union was also known to take great liberties with numbers even with its official state records. The actual number of deaths was likely somewhere in-between.
Regardless what the numbers were, it was nonetheless a massacre on civilians which never should have happened.
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