NB: this post isn't about Dresden and no correspondence on that subject will be entered into.
I'm still slowly ploughing through Walter Weidauer's "Inferno Dresden." I'm interested in the subject matter, but a historical work in the German of 50 years ago isn't light bedtime reading by anyone's standards, so I'm taking it a bit at a time.
It's weird reading a historical work about events of WW2 written by a Stalinist. It's kind of a distorted mirror of the more propagandist Western history a la Stephen Ambrose, in which the honest people of goodwill on the Soviet side, who want only peace and stability in Europe, mount a heroic struggle not only against the evil forces of fascism but against the secret agendas and undermining duplicity of their so-called allies, the imperialists Churchill and Roosevelt. As an example, consider these descriptions of the Yalta conference (all translations mine):
The representatives of the three powers, the USSR, the USA and England, came to Yalta with different plans and concepts for the shape of post-war Europe. While the USSR sought ways to a genuine peaceful order, the views of the statesmen of England and the USA reflected the wish on the one hand to remove annoying German competitors from world markets, and on the other to be able to dictate political terms to a greatly weakened and bled-out USSR. pp18-19
The Soviet Union stood firmly against any plans and intentions that would lead to the partition of Germany for the purpose of maintaining the dominance of imperialism and militarism in at least a part of the country. Its main aim at all times was the creation of a peaceful, democratic Germany forever free from chauvinism and militarism. p20
(I swear the above isn't a 'Dim Post'-style satire, but direct quotes.)
The book's also a kind of distorted mirror of the view of WW2 common amongst NZers. In NZ, WW2 European theatre is usually seen as a struggle of the democracies against fascism, which was fought mainly in North Africa, Italy and western Europe, with some insignificant sideshows fought by the commos, who were only able to get anywhere against the Germans thanks to our propping them up. In Weidauer's book, WW2 is a struggle of the Soviet Union against fascism, which was fought mostly within the Soviet Union, apart from some insignifcant sideshows mounted by the imperialists, who were only able to get anywhere against the Germans thanks to the Soviet Union taking on the bulk of their forces. (Most depressingly, Weidauer's tunnel vision is in this respect way less unrealistic than ours.)
The strangest thing for me though is the enthusiasm with which Weidauer, a German, discusses the successes of the Red Army against his own countrymen. He offers figures for casualties the Soviet forces inflicted on the Wehrmacht with such obvious pride that you could be forgiven for thinking he'd worn a Soviet uniform himself. The man is of course a Quisling - as a long-time member of the KPD (German Communist Party) he was a loyal servant of Stalin and was rewarded after the war with the mayoralty of Dresden, so naturally he's a supporter of his imperial patrons. Still, it's strange to read the obvious pleasure with which he describes the destruction and enslavement of his own country by totalitarian forces as bad as the ones he'd opposed.
Thanks to the superior leadership and rapid advance of the Red Army, the eastern front was a bottomless pit for the fascist Wehrmacht. To try and stop the Soviet forces at all costs, new formations were constantly created and thrown into battle. Almost always, the Red Army was opposed by an enemy well equipped with weapons of all kinds [this would have been news to the typical Landser of 1944 - PM]. Reports reveal for example that most divisions during 1944 were completely re-equipped from the ground up 3 times. Panzer divisions were re-equipped with tanks 5 or even 6 times. The crews however could only be partly replaced. So the Hitlerwehrmacht slowly bled completely out under the blows of the Soviet Army, and the German armaments industry couldn't cover the enormous material losses over the long term. p32
In extremely heavy fighting, the Soviet soldiers had driven the fascist Wehrmacht from the Volga to the Oder and east Prussia. The German generals tumbled from one defeat to another. Despite the bitter resistance of the fascists, the Soviet offensives stormed onwards. Often it was only difficulties with maintaining supplies that prevented Soviet forces from continuing to attack the badly defeated enemy. At this point nothing more could prevent the full, catastrophic collapse of Hitlerdeutschland. p42
On the 26th of January it was still 195km to Berlin. On the 30th it was 160km and by the 1st of February the Red Army stood only 70km from Berlin. In the south they pushed far westwards from Breslau during the course of the January offensive. In the clear nights, the sound of artillery was clearly audible in the heights around Dresden. This Soviet offensive cost the Wehrmacht around 500,000 men, over 1000 aircraft, about 1500 tanks and self-propelled guns and more than 11,500 artillery pieces and rocket launchers. The danger to allied troops on the western front was thereby set aside with one blow. German resistance in the west remained weak.
Millions and millions of people, driven from their homes by the animalistic fascists, dragged themselves westwards; p46
You have to admire the way the flood of Jerry refugees risking their lives to trek westwards is because they were driven from their homes by the "animalistic fascists" (vertierten Fascisten). And naturally, the orgy of rape, torture, murder, looting, destruction and arson the Red Army kicked off when it arrived in East Prussia on its noble quest to bring peace and order to Germany doesn't rate a mention. It's an interesting book in that it makes me wonder what German histories of the war would look like if the Nazis had won. Probably a lot like this one, but with the names and epithets swapped around, I guess. Reading it reminds me of the Iran/Iraq war, in that both sides are equally unsavoury so you don't feel like you can cheer one on against the other.