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Eastern Front vs Western Front...a comparison

Discussion in 'Western Europe' started by PzJgr, Jul 24, 2009.

  1. PzJgr

    PzJgr Drill Instructor Patron  

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    I was doing some reading into my grandfather's journal and ran into an entry I found interesting. He was comparing the differences between fighting in the East and in the West.

    He felt like the Western Allies were on a time clock. There were plenty of times to rest compared to the East. He swore the Russians never slept or ate. There were constant night clashes in the East whereas in the West rarely were there any. You could tell when the Western allies were eating or resting because there were no bombardments around specific times during the day, like clockwork, and this during an allied offensive. When there was an attack, the Allies did not give way and applied pressure the whole time. But if they pulled back or stopped to consolidate, opportunities for rest and regroup were available. The Russians on the otherhand were always bombarding day and night. If an attack faltered, the bombardment continued mainly from rocket attacks. He states that in the East, one did not stroll around. You were always tense and on the alert and were luckly to get any rations delivered to the frontlines.

    The other difference was that the Russians only used ground attack aircraft during an offensive whereas the Western allies were constantly strafing throughtout the day. He states you did not dare make a move in a vehicle without first looking to the sky. The only fear he had was that of the ground attack aircraft in the West.

    I know we have some vets here who can chime in on the allied portion but I wish we had some Russian vets to do the same.

    Just thought I would throw this out. I cannot recall reading anything that presents a comparison like this.
     
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  2. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    I guess he was suggesting that it was a case of "picking your poison"?

    Did he say which situation unnerved him the most?
     
  3. Sloniksp

    Sloniksp Ставка

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    This reminds me of a quote from a German soldier, "War in the West and Africa was sport, in the East it was not".
     
  4. PzJgr

    PzJgr Drill Instructor Patron  

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    Not specifically but from what I read I would have to say the Eastern front in general. Then again, the Waffen SS was Hitler's fire brigades so I would guess they were either in the thick of it or somewhere in the back being refitted.
     
  5. Bob Guercio

    Bob Guercio Dishonorably Discharged

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    95% of POWs taken by the Germans on the Western front survived.

    On the Eastern front, it was just the opposite; 5% of Germans taken prisoner by the Russians survived.

    I believe that it was just as bad for Russians taken prisoners by the Germans on the Eastern front.

    Totally barbarism prevailed.

    Bob Guercio
     
  6. dgmitchell

    dgmitchell Ace

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    I think that part of the reason for the disparity in casualties in the East vs the West was that the Germans and the Americans/English had no real reason to fear or hate each other as individuals. The Germans and Russians were in a kill or be killed situation. The Americans and the Japanese were very much in a similar situation. When German soldiers faced American soldiers, there was more common ground and thus less fear.
     
  7. Sloniksp

    Sloniksp Ставка

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    Sorry bob but your not even close. The Red Army took much better care of their German POW's then they themselves received under the Germans (many returning Germans claimed at how they even received the same rations as their guards). German POW's were not systematically starved to death and were treated as humans. Yes many didn't come home until the 50's and many died from work exhaustion but they did after all devastate Western Russia and her inhabitants so Stalin simply put them to work rebuilding what they had destroyed. Till this day many buildings which stand in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kiev, Smolensk etc. were built by German POW's.

    There was a chart which was posted here by a previous member in the forum a while ago (Chopaic, who I miss) showing casualty figures. From what I believe/remember (would love to find this chart again) German POW casualties in France were not far better then in Russia.
     
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  8. Kruska

    Kruska Member

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    Hello PzJgr,

    your text fits very well into any account given by a former Wehrmacht soldier.

    My father or relatives and friends always used to say, we could set (adjust) our watches accoring to the American attacks - meaning e.g. 1150 straffing by US aircrafts and 1645 straffing or bombing by US forces, the same woud go for artillery barrages.
    In the east the former Wehrmacht soldiers used to say: it was not a fight for survival as in the east but more of a war in the west.

    As for my Grandfather (mothers side) a colonel in the infantry: the Russians prefered to attack at night making use of their numerical superiority and skill in regards to hand to hand combat whereas the Americans were more into using artillery and aircrafts during daytime to erase resistance before getting their soldiers involved.

    This US attitude saved many Wehrmacht soldiers since usually the art. barrages were not so effective as the Americans tended to believe that the German resistance was already reduced, and usually resulted into numerous US withdrawles which enabled the Germans to retreat up into behind defense systems whilst the Americans continued bombarding into the old positions.
    This is how according to my Grandfather the allies pushed their advance towards Germany.
    In contra the Russians attacked in neglect of the previous bommbardment which cost the Russians dearly but also made German retreats more or less impossible.

    Regards
    Kruska
     
  9. PzJgr

    PzJgr Drill Instructor Patron  

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    I agree. The number of German Prisoners taken vary depending on the source. One source from the Russian archives puts the number at 2,388,443 taken with 356,687 dying in captivity. Another source puts the number taken at 3,300,000 with 374,000 dying in captivity. There is also a numberof 1,400,000 dying in captivity being thrown around. Even at the worse case scenario of the 1,400,000 number, this is not close to the 5%. The Russian prisoners suffered worse under German captivity. But all this is another topic. We will never know the true number.
     
  10. PzJgr

    PzJgr Drill Instructor Patron  

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    This is great to hear. I only wish we had a Russian vet here or even some kind of written documentation on their views.
     
  11. Sloniksp

    Sloniksp Ставка

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    Our very own Stefan is as close as we will get im afraid. :)

    I imagine that not very many would know English, if any at all.
     
  12. PzJgr

    PzJgr Drill Instructor Patron  

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    Or be literate at the time to log a journal. Would have to go by memory today.
     
  13. Bob Guercio

    Bob Guercio Dishonorably Discharged

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    There is no question in my mind that you are correct.

    Since I am still a newby and am concerned about my credibility, let me cite my source which, I guess, is not very good.

    BBC documentary called "War Of The Century".

    Near the end of part 3 entitled "Learning To Win", the narrator said that at the end of the Battle of Stalingrad, 110,000 Germans were taken prisoner and 95% of them would die in captivity.

    Maybe this is true and I was wrong to generalize to all German POWs.

    Bob Guercio
     
  14. Sloniksp

    Sloniksp Ставка

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    No problem. ;)

    I think I know the documentary you are talking about. Out of about 90,000 taken prisoner only about 5,000 or so returned....
     
  15. JagdtigerI

    JagdtigerI Ace

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    You were wrong to generalize, but in terms of Stalingrad you are correct

    Germans prisoners captured at Stalingrad were treated rather poorly, possibly because of Soviet anger towards them. Of the 91,000 German prisoners, only about 5,000 ever returned. Already weakened by disease, starvation and lack of medical care during the encirclement, they were sent to labor camps all over the Soviet Union, where most of them died of disease (particularly typhus), cold, overwork, mistreatment, and malnutrition. Some were kept in the city to help with rebuilding. In March 1943, 40,000 Germans were buried in a mass grave, victims of a typhus epidemic. A handful of senior officers were taken to Moscow and used for propaganda purposes, and some of them joined National Commite for a Free Germany. Some, including Paulus, signed anti-Hitler statements which were broadcast to German troops. Paulus lived in the Soviet Union until 1952, then moved to Dresden in East Germany, where he spent the remainder of his days defending his actions at Stalingrad and was quoted as saying that Communism was the best hope for postwar Europe
     
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  16. PzJgr

    PzJgr Drill Instructor Patron  

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    Ditto. I'm sure the reasoning behind the higher number of deaths is obvious. Given the intensity of the fighting, the number of losses incurred by the Russians, the time of year as well as this being the first such occurance of taking that huge number of prisoners along with the Russian lack of resources to support them could have accounted for the higher number of POWs dying. William Craig gives some good accounts in his book "Enemy at the Gates" as well as Beevor's "Battle of Stalingrad" on the experiences of the German POWs. Pretty much similar to the Bataan Death march. Many died just getting to the camps.

    But in the future, please ensure you have correct data prior to posting. We like to keep the figures straight. ;)
     
  17. marc780

    marc780 Member

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    I'm sure your grandfather knows a lot more about WW2 than i do because he was there. However there's something in the post that may not be correct.

    Just from reading history i can say this is not so! there's one specific example in the ww2 classic "the Forgotten Soldier" by Guy Sajer, where his group underwent air attack while the Russians were undertaking NO offensive. In late 1942, Sajer's convoy of French-built trucks was set upon by a Russian twin engine ground attack aircraft. The attack killed his friend Ernst meanwhile, there were no Russian ground attacks going on in the area that he mentions. The russians regularly sent out aircraft for this purpose, to inflict damage on German convoys, to bomb German positions at night, and for general harassment. The Russians even had a unit of women pilots known as the "Night Witches" who bombed and strafed the Germans at night for harassment purposes. This occured anywhere within the aircrafts' combat radius whether there were also ground attacks going on or not.
     
  18. PzJgr

    PzJgr Drill Instructor Patron  

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    Howdy Marc. I have read Sajer's book and I am with those who disregard his writings as fact. I will look into your point about the 'Night Witches'. That sounds interesting. Historically, there were 'calm' areas in the East but him being in a Waffen SS unit, I can see how they did not get many opportunities to 'rest' other then when moved to the rear for refitting. This is verified through many historical writings. So I believe both points are correct depending where one is.
     
  19. marc780

    marc780 Member

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    I actually have to doubt your source, i suspect these numbers are questionable - too low.
    To use just one example, the number of German prisoners from the 6th army taken by the Soviets at one battle only - Stalingrad, in early 1943 - has been commonly estimated at 91,000. Of these only about 5,000 ever returned home after the war.
     
  20. Hufflepuff

    Hufflepuff Semi-Frightening Mountain Goat

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    It's odd that you mention the clockwork lifestyle. I remember a Russian soldier telling me that in 1941-42, the Germans would attack and gain ground like clockwork also. They would send in reconnaisance planes, then dive bomb the Russian lines at dawn, follow up with artillery, then attack with infantry and tanks.

    Maybe the "no sleep" type of observations come from the fact that the Russians were more ideologically motivated, seeing that they were fighting for their home country. But then again, what nation in WWII didn't fight for its own survival?

    An interesting observation your grandfather made. What unit was he with again?
     

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