Sixty years ago today the Red Army began its assault on Berlin while the Western Allies waited not far from the city, allowing the Russians to advance as per a prior agreement. The German civilians, for their part, prayed fervently that the Western Allies would take Berlin. But the Russians advanced, ragged Belorussians and Mongolian conscripts. Tens of thousands of women were raped repeatedly and brutally. It is a sickening tale. I have spoken with victims and survivors of the horror.
As a boy, I was fascinated by Leon Uris’s Armageddon. This compelling work of fiction that deals in part with this situation raised my interest in this historical episode. But that is all it remained to me until I myself went to Berlin and labored among that city’s inhabitants as a missionary. Now this episode is much more than a history of a fallen city; I can see the wives and mothers, the cramped and desperate cellars where they hid in refuge from the raping army. It was a tragedy. Their misery and suffering is added to the unmeasurable horror perpetrated by Hitler’s aggression in condemning Hitler and his war machine. He himself made Berlin a front-line city and swore that the innocent civilians would pay with their blood for his defeat. His defeat was indeed necessary; the war against him was just. If only the Western Allies could have assaulted Berlin that day sixty years ago.