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The eastern front in western culture

Discussion in 'Eastern Europe' started by Not One Step Back, Jun 14, 2010.

  1. Not One Step Back

    Not One Step Back Member

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    why, in the west, is there a tendancy for people to sympathise more with the germans when it comes to the eastern front, rather than the soviets?
    is it a cold war mentality? is it because there are more german accounts of the war available in the west?
    just an idea for discussion.
     
  2. Tomcat

    Tomcat The One From Down Under

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    Interesting discussion starter.

    Perhaps it is that the Western Allies understand what happened to the Germans by the Soviets. We all know what the Germans did in terms of the holocaust and in general the SS but it is not common knowledge that the Soviets and in fact Stalin were in many ways worse then the Germans in every way. The killing of many civiliians, the once non retreat tactic the Soviets first used, the fact that the Germans as well as the Soviets did not seem to like taking each other prisoner.

    On the Eastern front it still seemed like the war was of the old, they still fought for king and country, they still believed in the Geneva convention (in most regards). While on the Eastern front it was about survival even more so then on the West, at least on the West you could surrender and expect fair treatment. Many Germans decided to take chances with the Western allies and captivity then with the Eastern ones.
     
  3. JeffinMNUSA

    JeffinMNUSA Member

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    More German accounts is the main reason. Here is an excellent one that came out in the 50s; Cross of Iron by Willi Heinrich - Reviews, Discussion, Bookclubs, Lists .
    Soviet era censorship saw to it that the Frontovik heros of WWII/The Great Patriotic War were without authentic voices. Here is an excellent account from the Soviet side that came out recently; http://quarterlyconversation.com/a-writer-at-war-by-vasily-grossman-review Both of these accounts are TRUTHFULL-in that they do not ignore the brutality committed by their own sides.
    JeffinMNUSA
     
  4. Not One Step Back

    Not One Step Back Member

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    yes, but the poor treatment of POWS by the soviets has been exaggerated. it was mainly after stalingrad that there were huge deaths for german POWS but you must remember that a huge number of those frozen, starving,typhus infected prisoners would have died anyway and that was after a particuularly savage battle.

    Although the soviets reguarly shot SS prisoners, they did not kill the amount that German accounts have led us to believe. although germans in captivity after the war did die, the soviets tried to correct problems like lack of food and care and many did return home. the soviets weren't stupid, they needed these POWS to help rebuild their ravaged country.

    either way, their treatment of POWS does not compare to the 60% death rate for soviet POWS.
     
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  5. Jaeger

    Jaeger Ace

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    I think that it is unfair to say people in the west.

    I often feel as a Klingon when discussing WW2 with Americans and other non europeans.
    I think that there is a division in perception on the subject.
    Much due to the propaganda initiated during the cold war.
     
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  6. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    1) that there was a huge number of deaths for the German POW after Stalingrad,can be explained by the following :before Stalingrad there were few German POW .
    2) about the number of German POW (most beaming POW after the German capitulation):there is nothing reliable :a guess would be some 3 millions.
    The result is that there are NO RELIABLE figures about the number of Germans that died in Russian custody:Overmans is giving 360000,the Maschke commission :1.1 million (Personally,I have more faith in the Maschke commission)
    3)about the number of Russian POW that died in German custody (60 % ?):some historians are talking of 40 %;the fact is that we never will know,the same for the Germans .
     
  7. Black6

    Black6 Member

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    I think there is a multitude of reasons why the West sympathizes more with the Germans than the Soviets in WWII history. First and foremost is that German culture isn't foreign to Westerners, so that within the context of the Cold War it is enough by itself to alienate many in the West. That aspect is further deepend by Soviet censorship and propaganda running very opposite to Western philosophies about public knowledge and of course there is the effect of Western Cold War propaganda as well. In the US, something along the lines of 40% of the caucasian populace has Germanic roots while there is a very small minority with Russian heritage. If you throw in Ukranians, Poles, Baltics, Turks and any other nationality that naturally has a hatred of the Russians you come up with an overwhelming majority of Americans that would gravitate towards sympathizing with the Germans.
     
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  8. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    The cold war is probably as much to blame as the closemouthed stance of the Soviets. Then add in that we (the western democracies) were never all that warm toward our Communist allies even during the war. We "made nice" since we were fighting a common foe, which seemed a much more real threat than the Soviets really did until post war.

    While the war was ongoing, there were reports in the local American press about the huge sacrifices the Soviets were making, and building them up as "stalwart" cohorts against Fascism/Hiterism. As soon as that was over, and some less savory items concerning the Red Army and "Uncle Joe" became known, they lost some luster.
     
  9. JeffinMNUSA

    JeffinMNUSA Member

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    BRN;
    True-then came the first hand German accounts of the war presenting the Soviet warriors as a great grey mass of automatons (quite an understandable perception on the part of the Wehrmacht veterans- given the nature of the fighting). There was nothing from the East to counter this stereotype until after the end of the Cold War.
    JeffinMNUSA
     
  10. Vintovka

    Vintovka Member

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    I agree with that,I remember something Goebbles secretary said in the documentary "Hitlers war the Eastern Front" regarding the rapes in Berlin,She said "If 3 women were raped we boosted that number to 30 for propaganda so our soldiers would fight harder"
     
  11. Sloniksp

    Sloniksp Ставка

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    Aside from the obvious, Cold War and German accounts, the United States is also culturally closer to Germany than Russia and can relate more.

    As for Europe, well they experienced German occupation first hand, from those who I have spoken with would pick the Soviets over the Nazis any day.
     
  12. Triple C

    Triple C Ace

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    As others have noted, Anti-Communism during the Cold War most definitely influenced Western perceptions on the subject, especially because NATO officers poured over German accounts to figure out effective counters to Soviet tactics, they inevitably absorbed more of the German point of view than the Russian perspective.
     
  13. A-58

    A-58 Cool Dude

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    Slon, I concur with your observation that Americans have more of a cultural tie with the Germans, as do other Western and Northern Europeans that tended to lead to a bias with them. The Russians, and later the Soviets never got the credit or respect they deserved.

    And Jaeger, I always felt that you were more of a Romulen than a Klingon....
     
  14. Jaeger

    Jaeger Ace

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    I have yet to see a episode of Star Trek so any japes on the subject is lost on me.
     
  15. marc780

    marc780 Member

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    That's probably only partially true. it was a war of extermination, by Hitler's decree, and the Russians knew that. They also knew what captivity by the Germans would be like (but thousands surrendered anyway, probably figuring nothing could be worse then the way their own countrymen treated them).

    Treatment of German POW's in Soviet hands, like that of Soviet POW's, depended on the time and circumstances of their capture. Neither side seemed to abide by the Geneva conventions very often (The Soviets had signed but not ratified the Geneva convention, and Hitler used this as a convenient rationale to excuse the German forces from its rules.)
     
  16. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    While this (non-signing) might be a convenient "excuse", it isn't applicable in toto. Hitler treated the allied POWs with respect and followed the conventions as closely as he could, and yet the USA had signed but not ratified the same document. We said publically we would abide by them, but we (America) hadn't ratified them either.

    It was more likely Hitler's hatred for Communism/Socialism (which he saw as offshoots of Jewry) and the Slavic "race" in general which was at the core of this Red Army POW issue. At least that is my take on the matter.
     
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  17. Not One Step Back

    Not One Step Back Member

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    this is very true, the war the germans waged in the east was a racially driven one from the beginning. the germans purposely didn't provide for the millions of POWS they knew they were going to take (their blitzkrieg strategy meant they were going to take alot of POWS)

    there were some POW camps in germany with prisoners from the US and Uk, and also the USSR. The americans and brits would be well fed and the russians would be starving!
     
  18. Totenkopf

    Totenkopf אוּרִיאֵל

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    Not that the Germans faired any better in Russia during and after the war. You could probably say death or POWs stood in unison in the East don't you think?
     
  19. Not One Step Back

    Not One Step Back Member

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    well if you read above you'll see that I think that the germans exaggerated the death toll for POWS. it does not compare with the shocking way the germans treated their soviet POWS, which I think is up there with the worst crimes of ww2.
     
  20. A-58

    A-58 Cool Dude

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    Jaeger my friend, a Romulan is best described as "a good Romanesque example of an admirable antagonist", which is a good thing. You should watch the original Star Trek series for a screen example of the Romulans. I like them better than Klingons.
     

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