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The Last Days of Nazi Germany: Fear of the Red Army and Self Inflicted Deaths

MG is an air warrior and a global traveler who loves to visit and explore new places

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Introduction

The Second World War was a watershed event in world history. The war can be divided into 3 phases. The first phase commenced when the Axis power led by Germany were the victors. The second phase commenced when they were checked and in the third phase, they went into retreat. All the 3 phases had a common thread and that was the complete subjugation of the conquered people in the eastern region mainly the Slav, Poles, and Russians.

The Nazi party spread the myth of a superior race. This was not enough and their ideologues led by Hitler and Rosenburg also put into effect that the subjugated people were meant to serve this superior race. This was accepted by the army and also the German people with the results that untold atrocities were committed on the enslaved people. These included starving millions to death and also the mind-boggling treatment of the woman and girls who were treated as slaves to pleasure the German male.

They had a reason to fear when the Red Army and its allies advanced into Germany. The people expected no mercy and were extremely scared that they would meet with the same retribution and punishment which they had meted out to the Slavs and Russians. A feeling of helplessness spread in Germany and many felt that their life would be worthless if they were to come under the yoke of the Red Army.

The suicide by Hitler on 30th April 1945 when the Red Army was at the gates of the Reich Chancellery was the trigger that led to many of the top brass to put an end to their lives.

The figures for suicide among the party and the SS top echelons were very high. Eight out of 41 party regional leaders who held office between 1926 and 1945 and 7 out of 47 higher SS and police leaders committed suicide. Fear of Russian vengeance and a misplaced notion of chivalry and self-sacrifice could be a motivating factor in these deaths by suicide.

In the Army’s top echelons, there was a fairly large number of suicides. According to a 1950 statistic, 53 out of 554 army generals, 14 out of 98 Luftwaffe generals, and 11 out of 53 admirals killed themselves.

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Mass Suicides

As the Red Army advanced the notion of suicide among the common people also caught on. There were thousands of common people mostly women and girls who were looking for cyanide but it was not easily available. Part of the fear psychosis was created by Pastors and party leaders who drummed it into the people that the Russians will bring hell in their wake. National-Socialist propaganda exhorted Germans to hold out and keep fighting the ‘Bolshevik-Mongol hordes.' The purpose was to stiffen resistance and also exhort the populace to fight on.

These were dire times and as per Hitler and Dr. Goebbles, leaflets were distributed in February 1945 in Bohemia. The National-Socialist propaganda claimed that if the Russians were victorious, there would be looting, hunger, shots in the back of the neck. The leaflet further demanded that German men fight to the last ‘to save German women and girls from defilement and slaughter by the Bolshevik bloodhounds.’

The Russian army while advancing did commit many rapes but the element of fear had caught on and many women began to go around with a cyanide capsule( those who could get one) or razor blades to kill themselves. It was not the fear of just the Red army but even the allied air raids led to despondency and much committed suicide when their homes were bombed out or burnt. If figures have a meaning at the climax of the battle of Berlin 3,881 people killed themselves. Another source claims these figures are low and 3996 women alone committed suicide fearing falling into the hands of the Red Army soldiers.




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Epilogue

In comparison to the Eastern front, the suicides in the west were very less. There were only 42 suicides in Upper Bavaria in 1945 during the months of April and May. This was mainly because the German people and SS did not fear the Americans and the allies and expected better treatment. They had also not carried out any atrocities in Western Europe and even their occupation of France had the support of a large number of Frenchman. Despite the denial, this is an undisputed fact.

The Germans had reserved their barbarity for the East and 3 million people were allowed to starve to death. The German generals and leaders, therefore, knew that if they fell into the hands of the Russians they may have a tough time but in real terms, at least the top generals who were caught by the Russians were treated better like Field Marshal Paulos.

When a fear psychosis builds up that is fuelled by the state propaganda machinery, the mass of people in the Eastern region of Germany were extremely despondent and many thousands killed themselves.

I can only now conclude and say that whatever happened in the occupation zone of the Russians was bound to happen after the atrocities committed by the German Army and the SS on the people of the Eastern lands.

Comments

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on December 24, 2020:

Thank you, Chris, Your comment is very interesting. The incident you have quoted brings out the deep animosity towards the Red Army. Women in particular resorted to suicide to avoid rape or because of shame after it had occurred. The belief that the Red Army posed a threat to life even led to many suicides among convinced Christians. Many contemporaries felt a complete breakdown of norms and values. To many people who committed suicide, politics, war, and everyday life were not perceived as separate things, but came together in a tremendously difficult time, where life seemed wholly deprived of any future purpose. Moral, psychological, and religious norms and values had collapsed. For the mass of Germans, life had been restructured to promote an eventually suicidal campaign of war, and when this failed, killing oneself became culturally and socially acceptable in a culture of suicide in defeat. The Russian Generals did little to rein in the soldiers and close to 100,000 rapes took place in Berlin. Figures ofcourse are just an estimate.

CHRIS57 from Northern Germany on December 24, 2020:

Very interesting article. Thank you for sharing.

From my family i have some insight on German atrocities in Eastern Europe during WWII and on Red Army perception by the German side at the end of WWII.

After reunification i had participated in a lot of civil engineering projects in former East Germany. One project took me to the small city of Demmin in Mecklenburg Vorpommern. This city of some 17.000 people at that time had a suicide toll of more than 1.000 at the end of April, beginning of May 1945.

In my understanding this tragic development was self escalating from the fear of the Red Army, initiated from the guilt and knowledge about atrocities in Eastern Europe during the first period of German advance into Poland and the Soviet Union.

One incident in Demmin is exemplary: The family owners of a local pharmacy had intended to commit suicide. Red Army had just conquered the city. The military was invited to participate in some kind of a fake welcome party. At the party some of the Red Army brass was poisoned with and by the pharmacy family. This in return fuelled retaliation and enlarged the fear of the Red Army - and lead to more suicides.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demmin

The German and Russian Wikipedia versions are more specific on the last days and weeks of the 3rd Reich in Demmin.

Most of the fear of the Red Army originated in German atrocities in the Soviet Union. Germans knew what was coming. Soviets didn´t do much to prevent retaliation. Local incidents accelerated the process.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on December 24, 2020:

Thank you, Peggy, for commenting.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on December 24, 2020:

I knew that Hitler and some others committed suicide, but I did not know that due to Nazi propaganda, so many others of the general populace did.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on December 24, 2020:

Thank you, Igor, I have not written on any Russian atrocities but only on the all-pervading fear of the Red Army in East Germany. This was feuled by Nazi propaganda.

Igor on December 24, 2020:

I am from Russia. I think you have exaggerated the atrocities of the Red army when there were none. Whatever took place was very mild compared to what the Germans did. You cannot forget that Russia resurrected East Germany from ruins and also later handed it back to Germany.