By: Roger Bjorøy-Karlsen
Edited by: Lauran Timlin

For many, the spring of 1945 was a blessing, an end to a 5-year long and brutal world war. For others, the nightmare was far from over. Because war creates predators on all sides. In far too many cases, those who were thought to be the savior turned out to be one’s worst enemy.

Russian soldiers in Stalingrad during WWII (By RIA Novosti archive)

Greedy liberators

In 1945, Slovak Jews Helena Citrónóva and her sister Rozinka had been in the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland for a couple of years and were allowed to work in the warehouses (“effektenlager”) called “Kanada”, sorting the belongings from the prisoners. These were mainly Jews from all over Europe who were to be exterminated as part of the “final solution” outlined by Adolf Hitler, alongside a number of political prisoners. Much of the reason why the sisters got easier service was that one of the prison guards, Franz Wunsch had fallen in love with Helena.

Prisoner’s belongings in Kanada warehouses in Auschwitz. (Photo: By Anonymous; thought to be SS officers Bernhardt Walter and Ernst Hofmann)

When the soldiers from the Sixth Russian Army captured and “liberated” Auschwitz on 27 January 1945, they immediately set about looting these warehouses. There were still clothes and belongings from one and a half million prisoners that had not yet been sorted.

“Frau ist frau”

After liberation from the concentration camps, many embarked on a long journey to their home countries, most often on foot. Helena and Rozinka were two of those who were going home to Slovakia, and often spent the night together with other Jews in the hay in barns along the country road. And that’s where the nightmares started all over again for many women. Plastered Soviet soldiers settled down and gang-raped on a grand scale. One by one, the women were brutally driven to the ground and raped.

   Some of the Jewish girls who were assaulted by the Red Army soldiers showed off their numbers tattooed in the concentration camps and screamed that they were Jews in the hope that they would stop. But it didn’t help much. The soldiers responded with an expression they had picked up from German soldiers: “Frau ist frau” – “a woman is a woman”

The Citrónóva sisters luckily escaped abuse by making themselves as unattractive as possible. But they had to silently listen to the screams of the woman who was brutally violated, as well as the silence that followed.

Helena Citrónóva (left) and her sister Rozinka (Photo: BBC)

“I would have preferred to have intervened, but I was afraid that my sister and I would be raped,” Helena told later.

The Russian soldiers were not content with mere sexual abuse. They bit off parts of the breasts or disfigured the genitalia of the women.

The outcome of this was naturally disastrous. Many women took their own lives afterward. Some gave birth to so-called “Russenbabies” and then abandoned them while others had an abortion.

Occupied homes

As if this were not enough, many of the survivors of the concentration camps found that the Russian war machine had seen the German deportation of Jews as an advantage and given their homes to Russian residents. This was just the start of a massive expulsion from Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and Poland. They were forced to re-establish themselves in the ruins after the ravages of Nazi Germany, in countries without infrastructure, industry, and agriculture.

Slovakian Linda Libusha, an Auschwitz survivor, knew no one as she walked the streets of her beloved hometown of Stropkov after recently returning. When she finally knocked on the door of the home she grew up in, where she had been arrested three years earlier, a strange, shaggy man with a red Russian face appeared. He showed no compassion for a survivor of a death camp.

“Go back to where you came from,” he said and slammed the door in her face.

Russian soldiers raped millions of women during World War II. Their supreme leader Josef Stalin tolerated rape as a reward for the soldiers, stating:

“People must understand that a soldier who has crossed hundreds of kilometers of blood and death must be allowed to have fun with a woman”

This form of brutality eventually became more systematic toward the war’s end. In the German city of Dresden, Russian soldiers gang-raped German women in the streets while husbands and fathers were forced to watch. Afterward, the men were shot.

The Russians claimed the right to this as revenge for the atrocities committed by the Germans during the invasion of Russia earlier in the war. But this could not explain the estimated one hundred thousand rapes in Austria, two hundred thousand in Hungary, and tens of thousands in Bulgaria, Poland, and Czechoslovakia.

However, to this day the Putin regime denies that any of this took place, but the amount of evidence in the varied number of eyewitnesses is overwhelming.

It is so far not known how or on which scale, the Allies treated the civilians in foreign countries during and after the war. But war can make monsters on all sides


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