Whatever you think of the Soviet Union, there is one fact that cannot be denied. The defeat of Nazi Germany was mainly due to the sacrifices of the Soviet people and the Red Army (sorry USA, but those are undeniable facts). Hitler's reign of terror had lasted 12 years and had cost millions of lives. The holocaust of the Jewish people was of such immense horror that no words can describe it. Not only did the Nazis systematically kill around 6 million Jews (that is: 6.000.000 individual lives, more people than currently living in Denmark), they also tortured the inmates and experimented on them. (6, 9). If you ever get the chance to visit one of the concentration camps, we urge you to do so. They will never be able to fully display the horror the imprisoned people there must have felt, however, we should make sure that they are preserved as a warning for all humankind. Visiting Auschwitz, you will, among others, encounter one room filled with the 2 tons of hair of the murdered Jews and other prisoners (2). Let that sink in for a bit (and remember, this is only one of the 44.000 incarceration sites that were established during Hitler's regime) (4). We urge you to visit the official website of Auschwitz (click here) to learn more about the horrendous crimes the Nazis committed there as well as the website of the Holocaust Memorial Centre (click here).
People killed in Concentration Camps (6):
- Jews: 6 million (about one-third of the world's Jewish population!)
- Soviet Civilians: 5.7 million
- Soviet Prisoners of War: 2.8 – 3.3 million
- Polish Citizens: 1.8 – 3 million
- Serbian Citizens: 300.000 – 600.000
- Disabled People: 270.000
- Romani People: 130.000 – 500.000
- Homosexuals: 5.000 – 15.000
(Please be aware that those numbers, and all mentioned in this article, are only estimates and that there were more ethnic, political and religious groups killed in concentration camps).
It is evident that we should be thankful to the Soviet Union for making sure that the Nazis were not able to continue their genocide as well as the war that left huge parts of Europe in ruins. World War 2 is still considered as the deadliest military conflict in the history of humankind (8). An estimated 85 million people died during the war (both because of direct reasons like the war and the holocaust and indirect reasons like famine and disease). The Soviet Union alone had to mourn 26.6 million losses, both civilian and military, making it the country with the highest loss of human lives during the world war. In Belarus alone, 2.290.000 people (one-quarter of the whole population) died during the conflict (1). In contrast, the USA had lost “only” around 420.000 people during the war (8). Don’t get us wrong, every life lost in this accursed war and holocaust is one life too much. However, to disregard the Soviet Union’s sacrifices and their effort to end the war is falsifying history and not acceptable in our eyes. Many countries, partisan and resistance fighters have played (to a greater or lesser extent) a role in defeating the Nazis and their allies. Each and every one of them deserves credits for that. However, the notion that the USA won the war is plainly wrong and ignorant towards the Soviet Union, who really did most of the work (so to say).
Therefore, we want to thank the Soviets for their sacrifice with this design. The photo that inspired it, shows a Soviet soldier raising the Soviet flag over the Reichstag on May 2, 1945. The photo was taken by Yevgeny Khaldei.
Courtesy to Yevgeny Khaldei (1945, May 2).
What happened? (around the time the picture was taken)
(We will not go into too much detail of the war here, that is simply not in the scope of this blog)
In 1943, the Soviets were able to defeat the Germans in Stalingrad (3). This can be seen as a major turning point in the conflict. From that point on, German troops were more or less retreating. On April 16, 1945, Soviet troops breached the German front (7) and advanced towards Berlin. The battle of Berlin, which is seen as the final major offense in the WW2, lasted from April 20 until May 2, 1945. When the Soviet troops under Marshal Georgy Zhukov and Ivan Konev defeated the Nazis, they raised the flag of the Soviet Union on the Reichstag that was considered as a symbol for Nazi Germany. Hitler had already committed suicide on April 30 and on May 8, 1945, Germany officially surrendered to the allies (there is some discussion about the exact date of surrender, May 7 or May 9 can also be seen as the official date) (5). The second World War, the bloodiest conflict in the history of mankind, was finally over (at least in Europe).
Racism, Antisemitism, and such like were sadly not defeated. In the last years, we have seen the rise of fascism in Europe and the USA (one could also argue that they were never truly gone). Historical revisionism (or more correctly denialism) leads to a devaluation of the sacrifices of the Soviet Union. There are people out there, denying that the holocaust even happened. We cannot express our contempt for such opinions enough. Therefore, we will donate part of the money made with this design to the memorial and museum of Auschwitz-Birkenau (click here). We believe that it is crucial to preserve this memorial for future generations. An article by Andrew Curry (click here to read) describes some of the difficulties the site is havening, highlighting the importance to support it.
- Bender, J. (2014, May 30). This Chart Shows the Astounding Devastation of World War II. Business Insider. Retrieved on June 9, 2020 from: https://www.businessinsider.com/percentage-of-countries-who-died-during-wwii-2014-5?international=true&r=US&IR=T
- Curry, A. (2010, February). Can Auschwitz be Saved? Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved on June 9, 2020 from: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/can-auschwitz-be-saved-4650863/
- Onion, A., Sullivan, M. & Mullen, M. (2019, June 6). Battle of Stalingrad. History.com. Retrieved on June 9, 2020 from: https://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/battle-of-stalingrad
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (n.d.). Holocaust Encyclopaedia. Retrieved on June 9, 2020 from: https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/the-aftermath-of-the-holocaust
- Wikipedia.org (n.d.). End of World War II in Europe. Retrieved on June 9, 2020 from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/End_of_World_War_II_in_Europe
- Wikipedia.org (n.d.) Holocaust Victims. Retrieved on June 9, 2020 from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holocaust_victims#Jews
- Wikipedia.org (n.d.). Raising a Flag over the Reichstag. Retrieved on June 9, 2020 from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raising_a_Flag_over_the_Reichstag
- Wikipedia.org (n.d.). World War II casualties. Retrieved on June 9, 2020 from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_II_casualties#Holocaust_deaths
- Worldometers.info (n.d.). Countries in the world by population (2020). Retrieved on June 9, 2020 from: https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/population-by-country/