As of December 31, 2014, I retired from full-time teaching in Humboldt State University's Department of History. While this website will remain online, it is no longer maintained.
History 111 - Dr. Gayle Olson-Raymer
World War II – The Eastern Front
In the summer of 2008, I began a journey into an academic world about which I had very little previous knowledge - WWII from the perspective of those who fought on the Eastern Front. As an American Historian, I had only a rudimentary understanding of the war that focused solely on the American involvement.
So today I will share some of my thoughts, experiences, and many resources in the hope that it will broaden your understanding of this important, but little told, perspective.
Let's begin today's discussion by asking you to imagine that on 9/11, six hours after the assault on the twin towers and the Pentagon, terrorists had carried out a second wave of attacks on the United States, taking an additional 3,000 lives.
This is roughly what the Soviet Union suffered during World War II. As the British historian, Catherine Merridale explains in her book Ivan's War, " ... this war defied the human sense of scale. The numbers on their own are overwhelming." (p. 2) While we will discuss these overwhelming grim facts toward the end of our discussion, it is important to keep this idea of unimaginable death and horror alive as we explore WWII from the Eastern Front - the war that the Russians call The Great Patriotic War. It is the second war to receive this title in Russian history - the first being the War of 1812 that ended with a Russian victory over Napoleon..
Discussion Goal #1: To convince you that understanding WWII requires an analysis of the Eastern Front
Power point presentation
Discussion Goal #2: To understand the chronology of the war on the Eastern Front
1917- Russian Revolution. The Bolshevik revolution overthrew Tsar Alexander’s monarchy. Because of the Revolution, the Russians had to end their involvement in WWI. To that end, they signed the Brest-Litovsk Treaty conducted with Russian, German, and Austrian representatives. After 9 weeks of failed discussion, the German army advanced into Russia, thus forcing the Russians to accept German terms for their withdrawal from the war. Russia surrendered its former provinces of Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, and Poland, all of which became independent sovereign states. In all, Russia lost about a third of her pre-war population, half of her industry and nine-tenths of her coal mines.
1918 - World War I. The War ended, resulting in the death of 1.8 million Russian soldiers and over 2 million German soldiers. Russian civilians deaths numbered 1.5 million, while German civilian deaths numbered 426,000. Russia suffered the greatest losses of all the European powers: 3.3 million soldiers and civilians and much of its pre-war territory as determined in the Brest-Litovsk Treaty.
1922 - Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The USSR was officially declared. It eventually consisted of 15 constituent republics, each of which was home to a specific ethnic nationality: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Byelorussia, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakh, Kirghiz, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldavia, Russia, Tajik, Turkmen, Ukrainia, and Uzbek.
1937-1940 - Red Army purges. Stalin began purging the Red Army of its professional and skilled soldiers. By 1940, 48,773 were purged - 90 percent of its generals, 80 percent of its colonels, and half of its core commanders - leaving the army with unskilled officers, few trained leaders, and poor morale. The purges encouraged Hitler to believe the Red Army was weak and could be easily defeated.
1938 - German occupation of Austria and Sudentenland. German troops occupied Austria in March and Czechoslovakia’s Sudentenland in September. Marked the beginning of WWII for Germany.
1939 - Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. In August, Germany and the USSR signed a non-aggression pact, thereby allowing Hitler to assure the German people that the war would not be fought on two fronts.
Poland invasion. On September 1, Germany invaded Poland from the west and two weeks later, Soviet troops invaded from the east. Marked the beginning of the WWII for Poland. By early October, Polish resistance was crushed. Thereafter, the USSR annexed eastern Poland, the Soviets began deporting Poles to Siberia, and Germany annexed western Poland.
World War II began in Europe. On September 3, Britain and France declared war on Germany in response to Polish aggression.
Soviet Winter War with Finland. In November, three months after Germany invaded Poland and began WWII, the USSR attacked Finland after the Finnish refused to allow Soviet naval base rights. (Finland had been Russian territory from 1809-1917. It had won its independence in 1917 after fighting against Russian and local Bolsheviks during the Russian Civil War.)
- After four months of fighting under almost impossible circumstances, Finland surrendered. Under the treaty, Russia received Finland's second largest city, Viipuri, the port of Petsamo on the Arctic Ocean, all of Lake Ladoga’s shores and the entire Karelian Isthmus. In all, Finland ceded about 9% of its territory and 20% of its industrial capacity to the Soviet Union.
- Nonetheless, the USSR's victory was disappointing: they did not gain all of the Finish territory; they lost over about a half a million soldiers due to death and injury, 1000 aircraft, and 2300 tanks and armored cars; and the the Red Army's fighting ability was questioned - a fact that contributed to Hitler's decision to launch Operation Barbarossa and attack the Soviet Union.
1940 - USSR annexations. In mid-June, the USSR annexed Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. The U.S. and Britain refused to recognize the annexations in mid-July. In late-June, the USSR annexed the Romanian provinces of Bessarbia and North Bukovina. These latter annexations made Hitler nervous; Stalin was uncomfortably close to the only source of German oil to supply Hitler's army - the Rumanian oil wells of Ploesti (see map below).
Hitler’s plan for the USSR. In July at the pinacle of his success in France, Hitler told his military commanders about his plan to invade Russia.
Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact revisited. In November, Molotov and Hitler met to discuss the increasingly contentious relations between Germany and the USSR. Molotov made it clear that Russia wanted the freedom to pursue its interest in the Black Sea region of Bessarbia – an interest guaranteed under the 1939 Pact. Molotov revealed the Soviet plan to annex Finland and force Sweden’s neutrality so the USSR could gain control of the Baltic exit to the North Sea – a plan that challenged Germany's plans for the area. Hitler was furious and became convinced he must begin the final struggle with what he called “Jewish Bolshevism” in the USSR.
1941 - Hitler’s warning. In an address to his generals in early March, Hitler unveiled his plans for the upcoming attack on the USSR, warning: “The war against Russia will be such that it cannot be conducted in a knightly fashion; the struggle is one of ideologies and racial differences and will have to be conducted with unprecedented, unmerciful and unrelenting harshness.” Several of his generals warned Hitler about conducting a war on two fronts. Hitler argued that the war with Britain was almost over and that a war with the USSR would be over quickly - thus, Germany would continue to fight the war on one front.
Hitler’s Commissar Order. In March, Hitler issued the "Commissar Order that required the extermination of the Jews and Bolsheviks of Soviet Russia so that Germany could colonize and exploit the lands of the East. The order additionally instructed Hitler's soldiers to immediately kill all captured Soviet political officers as well as all those prisoners who could be identified as thoroughly bolshevized or as active representatives of the Bolshevist ideology. The order exonerated his soldiers of any future excess. "Any German soldier who breaks international law will be pardoned... .Russia did not take part in the Hague Convention and, therefore, has no rights under it."
Stalin warned. Stalin had plenty of prior warning before the invasion: Roosevelt and Churchill warned Stalin of a German attack; Soviet sources close to Stalin warned him about the attack; and the German build-up of forces in Poland was clear. Stalin ignored all warnings - including the German mobilization of 3 million troops to the Russian border in May - telling his advisors that they were an American and British plot to pit the Russians against the Germans.
Operation Barbarossa. On June 22, Germany invaded the USSR with 3.6 million soldiers, 3,600 tanks, 2,700 aircraft, 7,000 artillery pieces, 600,000 motor vehicles, and 625,000 horses. Marked the beginning of WWII for USSR.
- Hitler declared a Vernichtungskrieg (War of Annihilation) and arranged for special killing squads of German soldiers (Einsatzgruppen) to follow the German army carry out the mass murder of Jews and Soviet officials.
- Hitler planned three major thrusts into the USSR: the northern thrust would pass through the Baltic States and then on to Leningrad where the Finns would cooperate in seizing the city in the hopes of reclaiming the territory they had lost in the Winter War of March 1940; the center thrust would move through the center of the USSR, thus destroying Russians heartland and Moscow by entrapping the Soviet forces through huge encircling movements; and the southern thrust would secure the Ukraine and then move east to secure Stalingrad.
Stalin responds. Stalin remained silent for 11 days. In his first address of July 3rd, Stalin asked Russians to give their “unlimited love for the motherland” and to act upon their “deep outrage and hatred of bestial Fascists.” He asks all Soviet citizens to fight for a war of Communist victory.
German success. By the end of July, the German Army was in control of Russian territory two times the size of Germany.
Order 270. In August, Stalin issued Order 270 which claimed that any officer who surrendered, retreated to the rear, or deserted would be a “malicious deserter” who could be shot in the field by their superiors. The order also declared that the families of malicious deserters were liable to arrest.
Siege of Leningrad. Germany began the siege in early September. Leningrad had great military significance as it prevented the Germans from sweeping around the north of Russia and attacking Moscow from behind. Immediately after the invasion, the population of Leningrad dug antitank ditches around the city. Two hundred thousand Red Army defenders protected the city's 3,000,000 inhabitants. An estimated 800,000 - 1,000,000 civilians died during the seige. After 900 days, the siege ended with the defeat of the Germans in January 1944.
Babi Yar. In September, one of the most brutal of German mass exterminations in the USSR occurred at a ravine named Babi Yar near the Ukranian city of Kiev. About 34,000 “Jewish Bolsheviks” were systematically machine-gunned in a two-day execution. These mass shootings, as well as those of POWs, continued in many other Soviet communities.
German success. In October, Hitler publicly boasted that the Soviet Union was broken and would never rise again. It appeared that the USSR was in bad shape: 45% of her pre-war population - virtually all of western Russia - was living in German-occupied territory; the siege of Leningrad was causing widespread civilian starvation; and the loss of the Ukraine greatly curtailed food production.
Battle of Moscow. In October, the Germans attacked Moscow. Hitler believed that once he destroyed Moscow - the heart of Russia - the whole nation would collapse. The German army had great success for the first week, but the tide turned with an early snow. By January, Hitler's army, totally unprepared for a winter battle, was defeated.
The Great Patriotic War. In November, Stalin revised his rhetoric about the war. It was not just a war of Communist victory, but more appropriately a Great Patriotic War that spoke to their past. He calls upon Russians to emulate their heroic ancestors in the War of 1812 against Napoleon.
Pearl Harbor. On December 7, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Marked the beginning of WWII for the U.S.
Soviet Losses. By December, the Red Army had lost 4.5 million men.
1942 - German advances. By summer, the Ukraine, Southern Russia, and the Northern Caucasus were under German control.
Hitler's new battle plan. In April, Hitler revealed his new plan - Operation Blue - to stop Russian oil from getting to Soviet troops, block the Russian oil industry, and take the oil fields at Maikop, Grozny, and Baku for Germany. His initial plan for Operation Blue was to first block the Volga River and then take the oil fields.
Stalin's Order 227. In July, Stalin ordered that every soldier had to fight until his final drop of blood. and that "panicmongers and cowards must be destroyed on the spot." The new war slog became "Not step back!" An officer who permitted his men to retreat without explicit orders was to be arrested on a capital charge.
Operation Blue. In July, Hitler changed his mind about Operation Blue and ordered that Army Group South split into two separate fronts - Army Group A and Army Group B.
- Group B would advance east to seize Stalingrad on the Volga, which would give them a stranglehold on the Soviet oil supply line.
- Army Group A would push south, deeper into the Caucasus to the Baku oilfields in present day Azerbaijan. Hitler made it clear, “Unless we get Baku’s oil, the war is lost.”
- Before Operation Blue was initiated, Hitler's generals anticipated the upcoming victory and presented him with a cake of the region - Baku and the Caspian Sea. Delighted, Hitler took the choice piece for himself - Baku. However, Baku was never captured.
Battle of Stalingrad. In September, the Germans began to encircle Stalingrad. After six months, the Soviet Army prevailed. The total Axis deaths (Germans, Romanians, Italians, and Hungarians) was estimated at 800,000. Of those taken captive, only 6,000 lived to return to their homeland. Official Russian military historians estimated that 1,100,000 Soviet soldiers lost their lives in the campaign to defend the city.
November German front. By November, the Germans had pushed east to Stalingrad and north to Leningrad.
1943 - Lend Lease. The U.S. sent vast amounts of war materials to the USSR. From March 1941 until October 1945, the United States provided the Russians with 15,000 aircraft, 7,000 tanks, 350,000 tons of explosives, 51,000 jeeps, 375,000 trucks, 2,000 locomotives, 11,000 rail wagons, 3 million tons of gasoline, and 15 million pairs of boots. Britain contributed another 5,000 tanks and 7,000 aircraft.
Battle at Kursk. In July, the greatest tank battle of WWII and the last major German offensive in the east commenced in Kursk. In 11 days, the Soviets were victorious, but the cost was enormous: 3.5 million men were involved in the battle; half the Russian tank fleet was destroyed and the Germans had only 100 tanks left after beginning with 450.
October German front. By October, the Red Army successfully pushed the Germans west to the Dnieper River.
Tehran Conference. In November, Stalin, Roosevelt, and Churchill met to discuss their collaborative roles in the war and in the peace that would follow. Stalin demanded that any post-war peace settlement must include a territorial buffer between the Soviet Union and Germany to be made up of the former Baltic nations, Poland, and part of Germany.
1944 - Soviet gains. By June, the Red Army successfully pushed the Germans further west into Poland.
October German front. By October, the Red Army successfully pushed the Germans to Warsaw.
1945 - January German front. By January, the Red Army successfully pushed the Germans into Eastern Germany, barely 50 miles from Berlin.
Berlin encircled. On May 1st, the Red Army encircled Berlin.
VE Day. On May 8th, British and American crowds thronged their streets to celebrate the end of the war in Europe.
The War’s end...
- The USSR lost somewhere between 20-35 million soldiers and civilians – the largest death rate of the war. The percentage of its population that perished was at least 13.44%. 25 million Russians were homeless.
- USSR emerges as one of the two major powers in the world.
- USSR gains access to warm water ports through its new territories on the Baltic and Black Seas.
- 5.7 million Soviet POWs were captured; 3.3 million died, about 57%, as a result of planned starvation, overwork, and murder.
- Soviet victory justifies communism and Stalin’s rule and encourages him to create a positive memory of the Great Patriotic War – the war that defeated Hitler and fascism. This is the greatest victory modern Russia can claim.
- 80 percent of all German military casualties occurred on the Eastern Front.
- Germany lost 5.5 million soldiers and 1.8 million civilians. The percentage of its population that perished was 10.77%.
- 10 million soldiers of the 17 million who fought returned after the war.
- Germany was divided between the Eastern/Soviet section and the Western section. Berlin was divided between East and West.
- Poland lost 100,000 soldiers, 1.9 million civilians, 3 million Jews (91% of the entire Polish Jewish population). The percentage of its population that perished was 18.5%. Statistically, Poland lost more than any other nation.
- Poland lost almost 20% of its geographic territory in the east.
- Poland was not liberated by the allies and instead became a soviet republic.
Eastern European Nations and the Soviet Republics.
- The Soviet republics become ethnically more homogeneous. This will have a tremendous impact on modern Russia with the fall of the Iron Curtain.
Some Possible Conclusions:
Discussion Goal #3: To think about the experiences of the Russian soldiers during WWII
Most Americans have a fairly good understanding of the American, German, and Japanese soldiers who fought in WWII. However, we all could benefit from a better understanding of the Russian soldier who fought in World War II. To that end, at least three really broad questions arise about the Soviet soldier:
Why do we so know little about the soldiers who fought in the Red Army?
“ He is simple, healthy, strong and kind, far-sighted, selfless, and unafraid of death. He almost never dwells on the dark side of the war. Indeed, his gaze is turned toward the future, a bright utopia for which he is prepared to sacrifice his life. If he gives in to emotion at all – and he is human, so there has to be some - it is the maudlin, sentimental sort. He likes his poetry to rhyme, and he likes silver birch trees, Russian maidens, and the certainty of simple kinds of love. Were he to die, as millions did, his loved ones and his comrades would grieve, but there would be no swearing, smoking, stench, or guts. Above all, there would be no hint of panic, failure, or doubt to cloud the story, let alone the suggestion that this might be a man who looted the cities that his army came to liberate.” (Merridale, 6-7)
"as a new folk hero who was everything a Soviet soldier could ever hope to be - clever, witty, inventive, thoughtful, resourceful, dependable, courageous, loveable, fun-loving, and calm under fire. Vasili fought Nazis hand-to-hand, was wounded several times, slogged through marshes, swam a freezing river to rescue his comrades, shot down a plane with his rifle, settled arguments, made wisecracks, and could play a mean accordion. So true and human was Tvardovsky's creation that most Soviet soldiers came to believe that Tyorkin was a real person; many even (mistakenly) remembered seeing him in their units."
"The characteristics of this semi-Asiatic are strange and contradictory. The Russian is subject to moods which to a westerner are incomprehensible; he acts by instinct. As a soldier, the Russian is primitive and unassuming, innately brave but morosely passive when in a group - his emotions drive the Russian into the herd, which gives him strength and courage - It is no exaggeration to say that the Russian soldier is unaffected by season and terrain - [He] requires only very few provisions for his own use. The Germans found that they had to be on their guard against dishonesty and attempts at deception by individual Russian soldiers and small units. An unguarded approach often cost a German his life."
Who were the soldiers who fought in the Red Army?
While it is impossible to provide characteristics that describe every Red Army soldier, the following describe most of the Soviet soldiers.
- They were both victors and victims.
- Victors - They brought WWII to an end.
- Victims - of one of the "cruelest regimes of modern times." (Merridale, 7)
- These were men and women who had survived two decades of turmoil at the hands of the Soviet state: collectivization, purges of the peasants, and purges of the Red Army. Over 15 million Russians were killed during these two decades. "It was ironic that their state should have instilled in them a sense of pride so powerful that few could see how thoroughly it disinherited them." (Merridale, 8).
- They were "profoundly steeped in Soviet propaganda" - Soviet propaganda that had been around for 15 years before Hitler came to power and began his political indoctrination.
- "They had been shaped to see themselves not merely as citizens in uniform but as the self-conscious vanguard of a revolution, the spearhead of a just war." (Merridale, 16)
- Most grew up with war movies that portrayed the Soviet Union as a socialist paradise where "Stalin and his loyal aides do all the worrying so that the children of the revolution can be free." (Merridale, 25) For example, in If There is War Tomorrow (1938), Russians learn what would happen if the motherland were to be attacked by the Fascist Germans. It stages a night-time invasion to which the Soviet patriots - men and women alike - respond with patriotic fervor. Whenever the Soviet forces engage with the fascist enemy, the Germans run for their life. The utlimate message is that the patriotic Soviet people, fueled by their faith in the system, will triumph.
- These, and other movies had two goals:
- To tell the Soviet people that the price of their freedom is to always be prepared for war.
- To assure the Soviet people that war will eventually lead to the destruction of capitalism.
- They believed that socialism - despite it cruelties - would bring a better life. "They were born into the Soviet system and knew no other." (Merridale, 40).
- They were taught that love for the Motherland involved preparedness for future wars; that service to Russia - military or civil - was an honor; that death of their country was "something from which no hero would shirk." (Merridale, 41).
- They believed that socialism provided them with the chance for a golden future and gave them hope for a better tomorrow.
- They were extraordinarily diverse.
- They were draftees and volunteers, peasants (3/4 of the Soviet infantry were peasants) and skilled industrial workers, ordinary men and women and professional soldiers, non-religious Marxists and pious Catholics and Muslims.
- They spoke dozens of languages.
- They came from many different regions. While the majority came from Russia, and the second largest group came from the Ukraine, they also came from the newly-conquered frontier territories - the former Polish territories of Belorussia and the Baltics.
- With each new Soviet occupation, the new frontier territory had a required Red Army quota. These were different soldiers - glad to be delivered from the Nazis, but not raised with collectivization or Soviet propaganda. Some were intensely religious and tied to religious ritual. Many did not speak Russian.
- These cultural, linguistic, political, regional, religious, and class differences were problems for the Red Army leadership which was required to infuse political indoctrination into the daily training and wartime activities.
- They were almost completely isolated from the outside world. They lived in what Merridale (p. 30) called a "sealed universe." Thus, they had no way to compare their lives with foreigners. The only things they knew about the outside world were the evils of fascism and capitalism as explained by the Soviet state.
- They were terrified that their fascist enemies were gathering the strength to invade and to rob them of their freedom. Soviet movies and propaganda assured them that this was a reality. They believed it was necessary to unite the Russian people against their shared enemy - the fascists and capitalists. Their freedom could only be insured by defeating their enemies.
- They had few, if any, outlets for discussion, dissent, or protest. Thus, they "were bound together by shared awe, shared faith, shared dread." (Merridale, 45)What were the experiences of the soldiers who fought in the Red Army?
Discussion Goal #4: To provide you with further resources about the Great Patriotic War
Annotated Film List – WWII on the Eastern Front
Ballad of a Soldier (1959). This Russian film follows a Russian trooper who, by virtue of some accidental bravery, receives a pass home to visit his mother and, while traveling back through the drained country, meets a young woman with whom he falls in love. Instead of gory brutality, this film is about romance and hope, as well as reflections on how people were affected by the war. Many consider this to be the ultimate Russian classic movie about WWII.
Blockade (2005) Made entirely from footage discovered in Russian archives, and featuring a meticulously reconstructed soundtrack, this film vividly re-creates the 900 day siege of Leningrad during World War II. To learn more, see http://www.frif.com/new2006/bloc.html
Come and See (1985). This Russian film views the Eastern Front through the eyes of a Russian child partisan. It is a haunting story, written from the Russian perspective, that illustrates the atrocities the German troops committed against the Soviet civilian population in Byelorussia. (Now, the Republic of Belarus.)
Cross of Iron (1977). Sam Peckinpah's violent and confrontational film focuses on German troops in the Eastern Front's final phase: the bloody push by the Russians all the way back to Berlin.
Enemy at the Gates (2001). This Hollywood film about the Battle of Stalingrad is a hugely atmospheric piece with stunning battle scenes. The central plot - a sniper battle between a Russian hero and a German officer - is loosely based on real life. Rather than focus on the entire six-month battle, the film reduces it to a duel between a single Russian (who actually existed) and a single German sniper (who never existed). See a great review of the historical accuracies and inaccuracies of this film at http://www.columbia.edu/~lnp3/mydocs/culture/Battle_of_Stalingrad.htm
Kanal (1957). This is the story of resistance fighters who retreat into Warsaw's sewers (Kanaly) to fight during the failed uprising of 1944. The effort eventually failed because the Russian army stopped and waited for the Nazis to finish killing the rebels.
Mein Krieg (My War) (1990). This German film includes an extraordinary assemblage of interviews with veterans and the footage they filmed - privately, on hand held cameras - during their time on the Eastern Front. Material from six German soldiers has been used and, as each fought in different units, there's a good range of material. The film's strength is their commentary, recollections giving us a deep insight into the changing views and emotions of these average Wehrmacht soldiers.
My Name is Ivan (1962). In this highly symbolic and psychological film, Ivan is a Russian adolescent drawn into WWII, a conflict from which no age, sex, or social group was immune. Bleak, honest and often deeply saddening, the stark and lethal reality of the war is blended - thanks to Ivan - with a child's dreamlike view of the world.
Nowhere in Africa (2001). In this German film, which won the 2002 Oscar for best foreign film, a Jewish couple and their young daughter immigrate to Kenya from Germany to escape the Nazis. Not all members of the family are happy with this drastic change, but going home isn't an option. Ultimately, they must all come to terms with a new life in a new continent and with the loss of their families who remained in Germany.
Sophie Scholl (2005). This German film, based on true events, tells the story of young anti-Nazi activist Sophie Scholl. Arrested for her membership in the resistance movement, Sophie is subjected to a highly charged interrogation by the Gestapo, testing her loyalty to her cause, her family, and her convictions.
Stalingrad (1958). This German film follows one group of German soldiers who must fight against both Russian forces and the bitter Russian weather in a struggle that one officer recognizes will end for most of his men in death.
Stalingrad (1993). This film by German director Joseph Vilsmaier follows a group of German soldiers through the famous Battle of Stalingrad in an episodic format that includes tank battles, factory storming, and starvation. This distinctly anti-war film focuses on the individual men, their bonds, and how they suffer in a war they haven't chosen.
Stalingrad: Dogs, do you want to live forever? (1958). This German film traces the changes experienced by one German lieutenant by the terrible battle. It covers many facts and events, while blending actual footage of the battle seamlessly into the main story line.
The Great Battle on the Volga (1962). This Russian film compiles the work of 50 Soviet combat photographers who filmed the Battle of Stalingrad. Because this was made in the Khrushchev era, the documentary avoids references to Stalin and Stalingrad. The entire 1 hour and 15 minute film can be viewed online at http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=4562967572164209056&q=duration%3Along+is%3Afree+genre%3AMOVIE_FEATURE
The Grey Zone (2002). Based on actual events, this film is the powerful story of the Auschwitz's 12th Sonderkommando - one of thirteen consecutive "special squads" of Jewish prisoners forced by the Nazis to help exterminate fellow Jews in exchange for a few more months of life.
The Lives of Others (2007). This German film,which earned an Oscar for Best Foreign Language, tells a story of life under the watchful eye of the Stasi state police as a high-profile couple is bugged. When a successful playwright and his actress companion become subjects of the Stasi's secret surveillance program, their friends, family, and even those doing the watching, also find their lives changed.
The Train (1964). This American film tells the story of a French train engineer who attempts to stop a Nazi-led train from leaving France with valuable works of art stolen from a museum.
The Unknown Soldier (2007). This German documentary describes the controversy over the Wehrmacht-Exhibition, which was shown in eleven major cities in Germany between 1999 and 2004 and was visited by more than 500,000 people. The Exhibition challenged ordinary Germans to rethink what their fathers and grandfathers did during the war. Whereas most had been led to believe that the cold-blooded murder of civilians had been a crime of a minority of officers, for the first time Germans saw photos and footage of ordinary soldiers gleefully tormenting and executing civilians on the Eastern front.
The Winter War (Talvisota) (1989). This Finnish film is the story of the 1939-40 Russo-Finnish War seen through the eyes of a reserve infantry unit. We see them leaving their farms on mobilization, to assembly at the border, and follow them into battle until the armistice some 110 days later.
Annotated list of books about the Eastern Front contains a great compilation of books that are excellent academic and readable resources about the Eastern Front from a variety of perspectives. http://www.theeasternfront.co.uk/sourcespage.htm
I Remember provides a great primary source treasure of first-hand accounts about the war from Russian veterans and German veterans. Many interviews are in English and most are accompanied by photographs of the veterans. http://www.iremember.ru/index.php
In Pictures: Red Square Celebration contains photographs of the 60-year anniversary of the end of WWII celebrated at Red Square. Contains several great images that illustrate how the heroic soldier myth still lives on into contemporary Russia. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_pictures/4528455.stm
Lyrical Songs of the War contains over 600 Russian war songs. Lyrics are included - mostly in Russian but some have an English translation - and most can be downloaded. http://www.sovmusic.ru/english/list.php?part=1&gold=yes&category=war
Rarities of the USSR Photochronicles contains terrific photos with excellent commentary. http://www.borodulincollection.com/war/english/index.html
"The Soviet German War 1941 - 1945" by British Professor Richard Overy provides a six-page overview of the history of the war. Readable and useful for the classroom. http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/wwtwo/soviet_german_war_01.shtml
You Tube Videos. Be prepared to get lost in You Tube Land if you begin browsing for WWII videos from the Eastern Front. There are hundreds out there. These videos have all been previewed and while it is not a comprehensive list, it contains films that would be useful in the classroom.
World War II in Photos has an incredible array of photos on the Eastern Front. http://www.theatlantic.com/infocus/2011/09/world-war-ii-the-eastern-front/100150/