I used to buy a lot of things on ebay. And sometimes I found some real bargains and some really interesting things for sale. That’s not quite as easy a proposition now, but recently I decided to search for some propaganda leaflets from World War Two, the sort that were dropped on enemy forces from aircraft. Many people thought that they were 100% effective, but “Bomber” Harris, the man in charge of the RAF’s Bomber Command, thought that they merely provided the Germans with free toilet paper for the duration of the war. Here’s a sample selection, which was priced at £200:
By 1945, the war was nearly over, but the Germans still fought on and refused to surrender. The lives of ordinary Germans seem to have had no value or importance as far as their leaders were concerned.
After the Vistula–Oder Offensive of early 1945, the Soviet Red Army had temporarily halted their westward advance on a line 37 miles east of Berlin. By March 9th, the Germans too had established their own defensive plans for the city. The first preparations for this were made in the suburbs of Berlin from March 20th onwards.
At this point, there were 766,750 German soldiers acting as Berlin’s defenders and a Soviet attacking force of a gigantic 2,300,000 men.
The Germans would still not surrender, though. Eventually, leaflets were dropped from Soviet aircraft to persuade them to give up. Such a leaflet is what I bought on ebay at a bargain price of £10. There were no other bidders. This is the front page.
This is a Lisunov Li-2, which was probably the Russian aircraft of choice for leaflet drops. All American readers should recognise it!
The leaflet was very simply presented. The text is direct and to the point. As most readers do not speak German, and neither do I, thanks to Google translate, I can provide the English:
“Lesen und an die Kamarden weitergeben!”
Read and pass it on to your friends!
“Rette dich, ehe es zu spät ist!”
Save yourself before it’s too late!
Certain city names occur and recur on this propaganda leaflet. So now, here’s a little bit of geography. First, the places important to the German invaders…….
Stalingrad was on the River Volga, way, way, to the east of the European Soviet Union, and almost in Asia. It was north of the Caucasus and a good way east of the Black Sea.
Leningrad was in the north, on the Baltic Sea, right next to Estonia and Finland. Moscow, Minsk and Warsaw were all further south, on the usual West-East invader’s route into Russia. Nowadays these cities are major stations on the Moscow-Berlin line, a journey which took me two whole days in 1969.
The Soviet Red Army’s route from east to west, as they chased the Germans out of their country, across Poland, and finally to their own capital, Berlin, was, of course, a lot longer than two days!
Finally, some help with the place names mentioned in the next few extracts…..
In central Europe, the Oder is the river which still forms the present-day frontier between Germany and Poland. In the Cold War, it was half of the so-called “Oder-Neisse Line“.
The River Spree actually flows through the very centre of Berlin and then joins the River Havel in Spandau, home of the heavy machine gun and the famous ballet company:
“Von der Wolga bis zur Oder sind es 2000 Kilometer, von Der Oder bis zur Spree – 75.”
“From the Volga to the Oder it is 2000 kilometers, from the Oder to the Spree – 75.”
On we go, chasing the Fascists…….
“Die Rote Armee hat den Weg von der Wolga bis zur Oder zurückgelegt und die Oder überschritten.”
“The Red Army has travelled the route from the Volga to the Oder and crossed the Oder.”
Here are the Germans, trying to defend the River Oder. The Field Marshall was a little bit disappointed with the turn-out:
“Sie wird auch den Weg bis zur Spree zurücklegen.”
“It (the Red Army) will also travel the road to the Spree.”
The Spree is the last river before you reach the very centre of Berlin. Here it is, right next to the Reichstag building:
“Zwischen Wolga und Oder gab es Stalingrad und Kursk, Leninjgrad und Minsk, Kischinew und Warschau. Jenseits der Oder liegt Berlin.”
“Between the Volga and the Oder there was Stalingrad and Kursk, Leningrad and Minsk, Kishinev and Warsaw. Berlin is on the other side of the Oder.”
These cities all form the different routes for the invaders of the Soviet Union to travel. The next two sentences from the leaflet duly lists them, as the Red Army chases the Germans westwards, out towards the Vaterland :
Route 1 is Stalingrad-Kursk-Berlin, and Route 2 is Leningrad-Minsk-Berlin and, presumably, Route 3 is Kishinev-Warsaw and then Berlin. KIshinev was in Moldova, just to the north of Rumania.
All three routes begin to converge when they reach Warsaw and Berlin. That explains the Red Army of 2.3 million men.
“Die Rote Armee hat die gewaltigen Schlacten um Stalingrad und Kursk, um Leningrad und Minsk, um Kishinew und Warschau gewonnen.”
“Sie wird auch die Schlact um Berlin gewinnen.”
“The Red Army has won the mighty battles around Stalingrad and Kursk, Leningrad and Minsk, Kishinev and Warsaw.”
“It will win the Battle of Berlin”
“Zwischen Wolga und Oder hatten die Deutschen Dutzende, uneinnehmbarer Wälle und Hunderte erstklassiger Festungen.”
“Jenseits der Oder, auf dem Wege nach Berlin, gibt es weder Wälle noch festungen mehr.”
“Between the Volga and the Oder, the Germans had dozens of “impregnable ramparts” and hundreds of first class forts.”
“Beyond the Oder, on the way to Berlin, there are no more ramparts or fortresses.”
And then a frightening threat, or more likely, promise:
“Die Rote Armee hat alle deutschen Festungen zwischen Wolga und Oder genommen und die Oder überquert.”
“Sie wird auch die letzte Festung jenseits der Oder – Berlin – nehmen.”
“The Red Army took all German fortresses between the Volga and the Oder and crossed the Oder.”
“It will also take the last fortress on the other side of the Oder – Berlin.”
That is the end of the first section of the leaflet. Next time, we’ll take a look at the second section. The picture shows Soviet infantry capturing some of the streets of Berlin.
And finally, I do apologise for the lack of maps. I searched for a long time to find a simple map of the Eastern Front in 1945, but an overall, easy-to-understand example proved impossible to find.
21 responses to ““Die Rote Armee” means “the Red Army” (1)”
“At this point, there were 766,750 German soldiers acting as Berlin’s defenders and a Soviet attacking force of a gigantic 2,300,000 men.” Topical today
Yes, I hadn’t thought of it that way. The present Red Army are a very puzzling mix. So many of them seem to be a bunch of psycopathis war criminals while the rest just want to come home, and not waste their lives by dying for Putin’s bizarre scheme to reconstruct the Soviet Union.
Quite so, John
Primary sources. Always fun to look at and imagine. Thanks for sharing your collection, John.
Yes, there is nothing like a good primary source…. and I had always wondered what kind of things were written on these slips of paper that were dropped in their millions to the French and German populations.
Another excellent and thought provoking post John. I have visited Warsaw and Berlin and I remember thinking, ‘thank god this cannot ever happen again’ and then it does.
Thank you for those kind words. The huge problem we have today, of course, is the fact that the Russians have nuclear weapons, and may not hesitate to use them. Asfar as I can see, their ordinary weapons, though, seem to be of very poor quality, and so do most of their soldiers.
But there are a lot of them.
Thank you for the translation John, it makes a lot more sense in English than German to me. I am always wary about buying any Second World War item from eBay, it’s always difficult to know the authenticity of the items you’re buying. However, you’ve got some great items there and at what would seem, a pretty good price too!
Yes, I was quite pleased with it, and when it arrived, it certainly did not feel like a modern piece of paper, or a photocopy.
And as you say, I was only risking a tenner, so not a great deal was at stake. The cost of heating the house for 20 seconds, perhaps!
A choice between heating or WW2 memorabilia!
This is a great history lesson and I’m amazed what you can still find for sale.
Whether this particular piece of paper is actually genuine for a cost of $11.87 is definitely very problemmatic. On the other hand, I had always wanted to see one of these leaflets and read what was on it, and secondly, when you touch it, it doesn’t really feel like a photocopy, in that there are different thicknesses of what I take to be layers of ink, ,which a photocopy wouldn’t have.
Years ago I had a boy in my class whose Dad had spent £500 on one of Hitler’s dessert spoons. It was easily recognisable because it had “AH” stamped on the handle. Perhaps that $11.87 was a bit of a bargain!
Thanks for sharing these pieces of history.
My pleasure, Pierre. I got a real kick from thinking that my little bit of paper might well have been dropped on Berlin and read by a German soldier. And if it’s a forgery, it doesn’t really matter that much at only £10.
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Thank you for sharing history and glad you are able to find a treasure on eBay!!.. helps everyone to better understand the reality of war, especially those caught in the middle of opposing sides… I have a few paperbacks about the R.A.F., etc. , one called The Dam Busters written by Paul Brickhill about the 617 Squadron and Guy Gibson…. 🙂
I just had a interesting idea, instead of guns, bombs and missiles everyone used leaflets, or in today’s world, texting and Twitter… 🙂
Hope life is all that you wish for it to be and until we meet again..
May your troubles be less
Your blessings be more
And nothing but happiness
Come through your door
I think that your idea of using leaflets, texting and Twitter is an excellent one. Let’s hope it catches on as soon as possible.
Going back to your books, the Dambusters is an excellent one, and the black and white film of the book, from the 1950s with Richard Todd, is well worth seeing.
Thank you. Now too life on common people in Russia and Ukraine is not considered important by the leaders. It is a tragedy. When I was reading Lord’s of the Deccan, the rulers waged wars and common people somehow managed always living under the fear of death or worse,
You are 100% right, Lakhmi. Putin, as he feels himself grow old, just wants to be famous person in history, and the easiest way to do this is to wage war and conquer new lands. He does not care how many young men, how many mothers’ sons, have to die to satisfay his wishes. Figures on the internet suggest as many as 80,000 between the two sides.
You know I don’t like all this talk about war, John. War is war and it is the opposite of what I stand for. I do not take sides for I know firsthand that those solders are mere men, husbands, brothers, kids themselves. These sociopaths who deem war is a necessary measure, I will not even talk about. However, that being said, you provided a very educational history lesson. Thank you.
My idea, Amy, is that if people know all about something, they are more likely to be in a position to condemn it.
Today the Russian people do not oppose Putin because they do not know what is going on, and how he is using the army as his personal slaves, carrying out his crazy plans to go back to the days of the Soviet Union.
Only if we are properly informed can we make the correct decision.
I have met people who survived Auschwitz and one of them told me:
“You are a teacher. Tell them what happened and then it will never happen again.”
That has been my watchword ever since.