History

What happened to disabled WWII vets in the USSR?

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A Highly Decorated Soviet Marshall to the Russian People about their Anniversary Celebrations.

Stepan Kashurko, Former Special Assignment Assistant to Marshal Ivan Konev, Colonel General, President of the Centre for Tracing and Perpetuating Missing and Dead Defenders of the Fatherland:
On the eve of the 25th anniversary of Victory, Marshal Konev asked me to help him write a routine article for Komsomolskaya Pravda. Having covered me with all sorts of literature, I quickly sketched a ‘frame’ of what was expected of me. Komsomolskaya Pravda victorious report in the spirit of that time and the next day I came to the commander. It was obvious from everything that he was out of sorts today.

Marshal Ivan Konev

‘Read it,’ Konev muttered, while he himself nervously walked through the spacious office. It seemed that he was tormented by the thought of something painful.

Proudly dignified, I began with pathos, hoping to hear the praise: ‘Victory is a great holiday. It is a day of national celebration and jubilation. It…’

Enough! The marshal snapped angrily. Enough to rejoice! You better tell me, did everyone in your family return from the war? Is everyone back in good health?

No. We missed nine people, five of them are missing,’ I muttered, wondering what he was driving at. And three more hobbled on crutches.

‘How many orphans are left?’ He did not calm down.

‘There are twenty-five young children and six feeble old people.’

‘Well, how did they live? Has the state provided them?

‘They didn’t live, but vegetated,’ I admitted. And now it’s not better. No money has been earned for the missing breadwinners. Their mothers and widows cried out, and everyone hoped: suddenly at least someone will return. Completely worn out…

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‘So why the hell are you rejoicing when your relatives are grieving? And can the families of thirty million dead and forty million crippled and mutilated soldiers rejoice? They suffer, they suffer along with the cripples who receive pennies from the state.’

I was stunned. This is the first time I saw Konev. Later I learned that he was infuriated by the reaction of Brezhnev and Suslov, who refused the marshal, who tried to get the state to take proper care of the unfortunate front-line soldiers, and who was trying to get benefits for the poor families of the missing.

BERLIN September 7, 1945, Georgy Zhukov and George S. Patton

Ivan Stepanovich took out a memo from his desk, apparently the same one with which he unsuccessfully went to the future Marshal, four times Hero of the Soviet Union, Knight of the Order of Victory and three times the ideologist of the Soviet Union. As he handed me this document, he grunted reproachfully:

Check out what it is like for the defenders of the Motherland. And how their loved ones live, is it for them the jubilation?’

The Top Secret paper was full of numbers. The more I delved into them, the more my heart ached: 46, 2500 were wounded. 775,000 soldiers returned home with broken skulls, 155,000 one-eyed, 54,000 blind and with disfigured faces 501,342.

Those unfortunates with crooked necks, 157,565 torn stomachs 444046, with damaged spines 143,241, with wounds in the pelvic area 630,259, severed genitals 28,648, one-armed 3,147,000 Then one million-plus 10,000; the one-legged 3,255 thousand and those without legs 1,120,000. Those with partially torn-off arms and legs 418905. And those the so-called ‘samovars’, the armless and legless number 85,942.’

‘Well, now look at this,’ Ivan Stepanovich continued to enlighten me: ‘In three days, by June 25, the enemy advanced 250 kilometres inland. On June 28 the German armies took the capital of Belarus, Minsk, by a bypass manoeuvre and are rapidly approaching Smolensk. 

Valaam House of Invalids. Disabled veteran. Photo tvc.ru

Of the German rout: By mid-July, out of 170 Soviet divisions, 28 were completely encircled, and 70 suffered catastrophic losses. In September of the same 41st, 37 divisions, 9 tank brigades, 31 artillery regiment of the Reserve of the High Command and field directorates of four armies were surrounded near Vyazma. In the Bryansk cauldron found themselves 27 divisions, 2 tank brigades, 19 artillery regiments and field directorates of three armies. In total, in 1941, 92 of 170 Soviet divisions, 50 artillery regiments, 11 tank brigades and field directorates of 7 armies were surrounded and did not leave it. 

On the day of the attack of Germany on the Soviet Union, June 22, The Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR announced the mobilisation of 13 ages liable for military service, 1905-1918. 

Over 10 million people were instantly mobilised. From 2,500,000 volunteers, 50 militia divisions and 200 separate rifle regiments were formed, which were thrown into battle without uniforms and practically without proper weapons. Slightly more than 150 thousand of the two and a half million militias survived.

It was also said there about prisoners of war. In particular, that in 1941 they were captured by the German armed forces: near Grodno-Minsk, 300,000 Soviet soldiers, in the Vitebsk-Mogilev-Gomel cauldron, 580,000, in the Kiev-Umansky, 76,800 near Chernigov and in the Mariupol region, another 250,000. There were 663,000 thousand in the Bryansk-Vyazemsky boiler, etc.

Artel of invalids, 1943. Photo from the site world-war.ru

If you gather your courage and put it all together, it turns out that as a result, during the years of the Great Patriotic War, about four million Soviet soldiers and commanders, declared by Stalin to be enemies and deserters, died of hunger, cold and hopelessness in captivity.

It is fitting to remember those who, having given their lives for an ungrateful fatherland did not even wait for a worthy burial. After all, due to the fault of the same Stalin, there were no funeral commands in the regiments and divisions, the leader, with the aplomb of a noteworthy braggart argued that we did not need them: the valiant Red Army would smash the enemy on its territory, crush it with a mighty blow, and it would cost little blood itself. 

Telegram to the Director of the Valaam Home for the Disabled. Don’t bury it yet. We are on our way to you. Daughters of……
The Valaam House for the Disabled is a home for the disabled, located on the island of Valaam (in the northern part of Lake Ladoga), where in the postwar period 1950-1984, among other things, war invalids who lived in the Karelo-Finnish SSR were served. Was in the former monastery buildings. It was closed in 1984 (the home for the disabled in the village of Vidlitsa, Olonetsky district became the successor). Source

The retribution for this self-righteous nonsense turned out to be cruel, but not for the generalissimo, but for the soldiers and commanders, whose fate he cared so little about. Through the forests, fields and ravines of the country, the bones of more than two million heroes were left to rot without burial. Officially, they were listed as missing, not a bad economy for the state treasury, considering how many widows and orphans were left without benefits.
In that long-standing conversation, the marshal also touched upon the causes of the catastrophe that befell our ‘invincible and legendary’ Red Army at the beginning of the war. 

The pre-war Stalinist purge of the ranks of the command staff of the army doomed her to a shameful retreat and monstrous losses. Nowadays everyone knows this, except for the incurable admirers of the Generalissimo (and those, perhaps, in the course, only pretend to be simpletons), and that era was shocked by such a statement. And at once it opened my eyes to many things. 

What could be expected from a decapitated army, where experienced career commanders up to battalion commanders were sent to camps or under execution, and young lieutenants and political instructors, who had never smelled gunpowder was appointed instead?’

Enough, the marshal sighed, taking away from me a terrible document, the numbers of which did not fit in my head. Now it’s clear what’s what? Well, and how shall we rejoice? What to write about in the newspaper, what kind of Victory? Is it Stalin’s or it may be Pyrrhic? After all, there is no difference!

Comrade Marshal, I’m completely at a loss. But, I think, it is necessary to write in the Soviet way, falteringly, I specified, in good conscience. Only now you write yourself, or rather, dictate, and I will write it down.

Write, record on a tape recorder, next time you won’t hear that from me! And with my hand shaking with excitement, I began to scribble hastily:

‘What is victory, asked Konev. Our, Stalinist victory? First of all, it is a nationwide misfortune. Day of mourning of the people for the great number of those killed. These are rivers of tears and a sea of blood. There are millions of crippled people. There are millions of orphaned children and helpless old people. 

There are millions of distorted destinies, failed families, and unborn children. Millions of patriots of the Fatherland tortured to death in fascist and then in Soviet camps.’ Then the self-search pen slipped out of my trembling fingers as if it were alive.’

Comrade Marshal, no one will publish this,’ I begged.
You know, write, now it’s not, but our descendants will print. They should know the truth, not sweet lies about this Victory! About this bloody massacre! In order to be vigilant in the future, not to allow devils in human form to break through to the heights of power, masters of kindling wars.’

‘And don’t forget something else,’ Konev continued. What boorish nicknames in post-war everyday life were awarded to all disabled people, especially in social services and medical institutions? Cripples with torn nerves and a disturbed psyche were not welcome there. 

From the stands the orators shouted that the people would not forget the feats of their sons and in these institutions the former warriors with disfigured faces were nicknamed ‘Quasimodo’ (Hey, Nina, your Quasimodo has come,’ the aunt from the staff called without hesitation), one-eyed ones, ‘flounders’, Invalids with a damaged spine, paralytics, those with wounds in the pelvic area, lopsided.

‘The one-legged people on crutches were called ‘kangaroos’. The armless were called ‘wingless’, and the legless on the roller-made home-made carts were called ‘scooters.’ Those who were partially torn off the limbs got the nickname ‘turtles’. Doesn’t fit in my head!

What kind of stupid cynicism? These people did not seem to understand who they offend. The cursed war threw out a gigantic wave of disfigured front-line soldiers into the people, the state was obliged to create at least tolerable living conditions for them, surround them with attention and care, and provide medical care and financial support. 

Instead, the post-war government headed by Stalin, by assigning pennies to the unfortunate, doomed them to the most miserable stagnation. Moreover, in order to save budgetary funds, she subjected the cripples to systematic humiliating re-examinations in the VTEKs (medical and labour expert commissions): they say, let’s check if the poor fellow’s arms or legs have grown back?

Everyone strove to transfer the injured defender of the homeland, already a beggar, to a new group of disabilities, just to cut the retirement benefit.

The Marshal talked about a lot that day. And that poverty and profoundly undermined health, coupled with poor living conditions, gave rise to despair, drunkenness, and reproaches from exhausted wives, scandals and an intolerable situation in families. Ultimately, this led to the exodus of physically handicapped front-line soldiers from their homes to the streets, squares, train stations and markets, where they often sunk to begging and unbridled behaviour. The heroes, driven to despair, gradually found themselves at the bottom, but one should not blame them for this.

Towards the end of the 1940s, in a search of a better life, a stream of dispossessed military invalids from the periphery poured into Moscow. 

The capital was overflowing with these now useless people. In a vain desire for protection and justice, they began to hold meetings, annoy the authorities with reminders of their merits, demand, and harass. 

This, of course, did not like the officials of the capital and government agencies. The statesmen began to puzzle over how to get rid of the annoying burden.

And in the summer of 1949, Moscow began to prepare for the celebration of the anniversary of the adored leader. The capital was waiting for guests from abroad: cleaning, washing. And here these front-line soldiers, crutches, wheelchairs, crawlers, all sorts of ‘turtles’, were so ‘insolent’ that they staged a demonstration in front of the Kremlin. The leader of the nations did not like it terribly. And he said: ‘To clear Moscow of ‘rubbish!’

Those in power were just waiting for that. A massive raid on annoying, ‘spoiling the view of the capital’ invalids began. Hunting like stray dogs, law enforcement agencies, escort troops, party and non-party activists in a matter of days caught in the streets, markets, train stations and even cemeteries and removed from Moscow before the anniversary of ‘dear and beloved Stalin’ thrown into the dustbin of the history of the crippled defenders of this the most festive Moscow.

And the exiled soldiers of the victorious army began to die. It was a fleeting death: not from wounds, from resentment, blood boiling in hearts, with a question bursting through gritted teeth: ‘For what, Comrade Stalin?’

So they wisely and easily solved the seemingly insoluble problem with the victorious warriors who shed their blood ‘For the Motherland, for Stalin!’

Yes, what, what, but our leader skilfully did these things. Here he could not take the determination; he even evicted entire nations, the famous commander Ivan Konev concluded with bitterness.’

From Igor Garin’s book’ Another Truth about World War II Part 1. Documents ‘ Source 1

Source 2, Source 3, Source 4, Source 5, Source 6, Source 7, Source 8., Source 9.

This happened almost overnight. Suddenly, all disabled people disappeared. The Soviet cities were cleared of these people. Lonely, blind, helpless invalids were cynically taken out of the cities to the islands (Valaam) or distant lands. By the fall of 1953, they were no longer in Moscow and Leningrad.

These are drawings by the artist Gennady Dobrov.

Gennady Dobrov devoted all his work to the tragedy of the war. He believes that he has become a real artist on Valaam, in a closed shelter for lonely disabled people, where he began his series of portraits dedicated to those crippled by the war. His sitters were doomed to live and die in obscurity, and only the artist’s pencil captured these tragic destinies for us, their descendants. The artist discerned an amazing spiritual strength in the people mutilated by the war. Legless, armless, blind, they did not complain about life. In their eyes, Dobrov captured sorrow and pride for the soldier’s duty.

In 1974, on Valaam, in a boarding school for the disabled, the artist made the first four portraits. In 1980, in Karelia, he graduated from the fortieth. Source

THE DEATH TOLL FROM CHURCHILL, STALIN AND ROOSEVELT’S WAR ON GERMANY: The death toll of World War II is estimated at Germany 16 million. Soviet Union 13.6 million. China 1.3 million. Japan 1.3 million. Romania 350,000. Yugoslavia 305,000. USA 292,000. United Kingdom 264,000. France 213,000. Hungary 200,000. Poland 123,000. Greece 88,000. Finland 82,000. Canada 37,000. India 24,000. Australia 23,000. Belgium 12,000. Czechoslovakia 10,000. Bulgaria 10,000. New Zealand 10.000. Netherlands 8,000. South Africa 6,000. Norway 3,000. Denmark 1,800. Brazil 943.

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Art related books: Sculptures of the Third Reich: Arno Breker and Reich Sculptors, Volume I , Sculptures of the Third Reich: Josef Thorak and Reich Sculptors, Volume II, Sculptures of the Third Reich: Porcelain and Reich Sculptors Volume III, Art of Adolf Hitler: Ultimate Album of the Fuhrer’s Artworks, The Red Brigands, Ransacking the Reich by Michael Walsh.

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MICHAEL WALSH is an Irish British-born journalist. His 70 books include best-selling historical books  THE ALL LIES INVASION, MY LAST TESTAMENT LET GOD JUDGE ME,  WITNESS TO HISTORYTESTIGO DE LA HISTORIA: HISTORIA SIN CENSURA (SPANISH EDITION),  REICH AND WRONG,  HEROES HANG WHEN TRAITORS TRIUMPH , HEROES OF THE REICH,  THE FUHRER’S PROCLAMATION TO THE GERMAN PEOPLE ,  FOR THOSE WHO CANNOT SPEAKMEGACAUST, THE RED BRIGANDSRANSACKING THE REICH,    SCULPTURES OF THE THIRD RIECH: ARNO BREKER AND REICH SCULPTORS  , SCULPTURES OF THE THIRD REICH VOLUME III Porcelain and Reich Sculptors and  DEATH OF A CITY

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Art related books: Sculptures of the Third Reich: Arno Breker and Reich Sculptors, Volume I , Sculptures of the Third Reich: Josef Thorak and Reich Sculptors, Volume II, Sculptures of the Third Reich: Porcelain and Reich Sculptors Volume III, Art of Adolf Hitler: Ultimate Album of the Fuhrer’s Artworks, The Red Brigands, Ransacking the Reich by Michael Walsh.

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