|Twice Murdered: The Treuenbrietzen Massacre
|Treuenbrietzen, a small town in southwest Brandenburg, has existed since the Middle Ages and was
mentioned in writing in 1217. During the Reformation, Martin Luther came to preach in the town,
but his way to the church was blocked, so he preached instead under a basswood, or lime tree, which
is called to this day the Lutherlinde.
On April 20, 1945, the British sent 42 bombers to bomb the town, and the next day it fell to the Red
Army's communist Ukrainian Front. During a typical victory celebration, drunk communist soldiers
kidnapped and raped a score of German women at the Soviet headquarters. In the morning on April
23, Hitler Youth from surrounding areas put up a resistance and most were killed before the Red
Army took back control of the city, but their commander had been reportedly shot.
In reprisal, starting that morning an unknown number of German civilians were rounded up at
gunpoint and herded to the edge of a forest. The women and female children were allowed to move
on at first, and the men and boys were all shot. Then however, women were gathered together and
raped, then killed as well. Eyewitnesses spoke of at least 800 people being murdered, including a
large amount of refugees. Eyewitnesses who had to bury the dead kept a secret tally, but had to stop
counting at 721 deaths, and current estimates of the count range up to about 1,000 deaths. Nearly
every family in the town lost relatives.
The bodies were buried in a pasture, where there are six mass graves wherein lie the dead in layers,
12 bodies atop one another. For over a half of century, most of it under communist occupation, there
were unspoken orders not to speak of it, and the inhabitants of Treuenbrietzen kept quiet about this
massacre, but in the wake of German reunification, the massacre was brought to light.
Soviet troop newspapers and the orders of the Soviet high command were jointly responsible for the
excesses of the Red Army, many of which were conveniently blamed on Germans. Propaganda
proclaimed that the Red Army had entered Germany as an avenger to punish all Germans. Master
of hate propaganda Ilya Ehrenburg had written on January 31, 1945: "The Germans have been
punished in Oppeln, in Königsberg and in Breslau. They have been punished, but yet not
enough! Some have been punished, but not yet all of them." Note: There is a street in Rostock
Germany today named in "honor" Ilya Ehrenburg