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The behaviour of Allied troops

LAURENCE REES: It's well known that many Red Army soldiers committted crimes as they advanced west, but crimes were also committed by soldiers of the Western Allies - but on what scale?

WILLIAM HITCHCOCK: Well its very difficult to have precise numbers, but the advocate records of the US Army goes through all of the cases. The sexual violence and sexual assault makes very grim reading because you can go through these records and find case after case after case of very brutal and very violent behaviour carefully documented and carefully investigated. Witnesses are brought in and depositions are taken. There’s a kind of legalistic dimension to this that is actually quite impressive, both of an army disciplining itself and disciplining some of its worst offenders. But at the end of the day if you tot it all up what you what you come away with is that the actual number of cases is quite small, maybe 500 or 600 cases of American Army soldiers who were actually carried through this fairly long judicial process for sexual assault. That’s a tiny number. Does that mean that only 500 incidents like this happened? Of course not. There were many more incidents of violence, looting, robbery, of wanton destruction and rape that happened that never got into the legal system. We know that that is the case because that’s what so many of the oral histories tell us.

But nonetheless the scale is relatively small compared with the figure of 2 million that is often used of East German women who suffered rape at the hands of the Red Army. Now that is an extraordinary degree of difference in scope and scale, which clearly leads to the conclusion that to a large degree they thought sexual violence against women in Eastern Europe and in Eastern Germany particularly was state policy. It was part of Red Army practice. Although there were a few moments that one could point to that suggest that this practice was every now and then frowned upon, in general the same notion of proprietary ownership that some Americans felt in villages in France was multiplied a 100 fold by the Red Army coming into Eastern Europe. They felt that they had suffered terribly at the hands of the Germans. But also from 1917 right through the end of Stalin’s reign, terror and violence was a part of Soviet policy. It was the governing principle through which the Soviet Regime operated.

So it was not unusual or out of place or particularly extraordinary to find the Red Army enthused with this sense of violence and terror and that it should be used to punish and to discipline this new conquered territory of Germany.