The rape and loot of Konigsberg, capital of Prussia

Red Army troops fighting in Konigsberg.

Red Army troops fighting in Konigsberg.

The destruction on the streets of Konigsberg.

The destruction on the streets of Konigsberg.

Konigsberg, the capital of Prussia in eastern Germany had been under siege since January 1945, surrounded by Soviet forces. Only the route out by sea had allowed some civilians to escape west. For thousands of concentration camp inmates there had been no route out, they had been forced into the sea and machine gunned.

Large parts of the city had been reduced to rubble, first by RAF bombing and then by the pounding of Soviet artillery. Thousands of civilians had died – but in many respects this was just the beginning of the horrors that would be visited on the German population.

Just before midnight on the 9th April the commander of ‘Fortress Koenigsberg’ Otto Lasch decided that, with ammunition short and the Soviet forces overwhelming, there was no point in continuing. On hearing that the ‘Fortress’ city had surrendered, Hitler ordered that Lasch’s family in Germany be arrested.

Pockets of resistance continued through the 10th April. Groups of German soldiers made desperate attempts to break out through the Soviet lines, most attempts ended in bloody annihilation.

As Lasch and the German officers eventually were marched off they discovered the reality of the Soviet occupation, where Red Army soldiers had been given official permission for two days of looting:

The houses burned and smoked. Soft furnishings, musical instruments, cooking utensils, paintings, china — all were thrown out of the houses. Smashed vehicles stood between burning tanks, clothing, equipment lay everywhere.

Amongst this danced drunken Russians, shooting wildly, searching for bicycles to ride, falling over and lying by the kerbstones with bloody injuries. Weeping girls and women were dragged into the houses despite their resistance. Children cried out for their parents. It was unbearable.

We marched on. We saw scenes that cannot be described. The ditches by the sides of the streets were full of corpses, many of them clearly showing signs of unbelievable maltreatment and rape. Dead children lay around in great numbers, bodies hung from the trees, their watches cut off.

Staring—eyed German women were led in all directions, drunken Russians flogged a German nun, an elderly woman sat by the side of the road, both of her legs having been crushed by vehicles. Farmsteads burned, the household belongings lying in the roads, cows ran across the countryside, and were indiscriminately shot and left lying.

Cries for help from German people came to us constantly. We could not help. Women came out of the houses, hands raised beseechingly — the Russians chased them back and shot them if they didn’t hurry. It was dreadful. We had never imagined such things.

Nobody had boots any more, many were barefoot. The untended wounded groaned with pain. Hunger and thirst were the greatest torments. Russian soldiers assailed the platoon from all sides. They took away coats from some, caps from others, the odd briefcase with its meagre contents. Everyone wanted something. ‘Watches, watches,’ they called, and we were left defenceless against this banditry.

Otto Lasch would not be released from Soviet captivity until 1955. He wrote his memoirs So fiel Königsberg. Kampf und Untergang von Ostpreußens Hauptstadt, in 1958.

German officers are marched out of Konigsberg.

German officers are marched out of Konigsberg.

Meanwhile another German officer, von Lehndorff, saw what happened in one of the improvised field hospitals:

In the ambulance, the young nurses defended themselves against a few particularly intrusive individuals. I didn’t dare imagine what would happen when they grew more confident. Now, they were still clearly in haste and concerned with loot.

Particularly striking were our storage buildings. I stood speechless before the heaps of foodstuffs there, which had been withheld from us during the months of siege, and thought back in anger at my naivety, at how we and our patients had gone hungry the whole time. Now there was a wild, howling mess, as the finest tinned produce and supplies, which could have kept hundreds alive for a whole year, were destroyed in a few hours.

Doktora was in the operating theatre, bandaging patients. A swarm of nurses had fled here and eagerly pretended to help. In the background, the Russians moved through the wounded soldiers, searching for watches and usable boots.

One of them, a young chap, suddenly burst into tears, because he had still not found a watch. He held up three fingers: he would shoot three men unless he was given a watch immediately finally a watch appeared from somewhere, with which he disappeared, beaming with joy.

The appearance of the first officers destroyed my last hopes of a bearable outcome. All attempts to speak to them were completely in vain. For them, too, we were no more than dressed clothes dummies with pockets.They only saw me from the shoulders down.

A couple of nurses who were in their path were seized and dragged along behind them, and before they could comprehend what was going on, they were released, completely dishevelled. They wandered around the passageways aimlessly. There was nowhere to hide. And new trouble came upon them constantly.

These account appears in Prit Buttar: Battleground Prussia: The Assault on Germany’s Eastern Front 1944-45, which makes use of many German sources not published in English.

The surviving German occupants of Konigberg, perhaps as many as 100,000 people, would eventually be forced out of the city. Their place would be taken by Russian settlers. Today ‘Konigsberg’ is Kaliningrad, a wholly Russian enclave squeezed between Poland and Lithuania.

German prisoners are marched away from Konigsberg.

German prisoners are marched away from Konigsberg.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

George October 31, 2017 at 2:00 am

Most people with comments about war have never been witness to one. To use politics & the U.S presidents name to your own political agenda is wrong. All wars are cruel. To the victor belongs the spoils. Has been going on for centuries. Furthermore, I find it fascinating that a lot of people still see Germans as Nazis & Russians as Commies, when in fact most were people led by there leaders & the 2% who themselves never actually have to actively participate in combat.

Raddatz August 28, 2017 at 6:36 am

Victims of Nazis and Communists

The Nazis took our monarchy and wealth, the communists took the rest.

Shame on the red pigs who say Koingsberg deserved this. No the Nazis deserved this, and we were no Nazis, Prussians were mostly loathed as aristocrats and monarchists not loyal to their Fuhrer.

Stalin did this because he hated aristocrats and monarchists even more than socialists.

Sure Nazis were bad, but communists were far worse and they showed that in Koingsberg.

Karen May 17, 2017 at 1:09 pm

Eva, thank you for your comment. I think the word “demonization” would apply here in that it’s easy for Americans to use that term to tar all Germans during WWII with the same brush, but it is unfair. I think in northern Germany, particularly Prussia, people were less influenced by the Nazi ideology and certainly Hitler loathed the Prussian military class, mostly made up of aristocrats. They tended to loathe him in return but were implicated in the July 1944 plot.

Koenigsberg was an appalling episode in WWII history and the mass rapes and murders that followed were beyond description. There are psychopaths in ALL armies – British and American included – but the Russian soldiers thought nothing of raping children of 8 years old. What the hell – it was a German child, so who cares?

Jay April 18, 2017 at 6:33 pm

Eva, the difference between our American President, Trump and Germany’s AH, is AH had fanatics following him and death head squads. Trump has neither. We look for the President to lead our country, not destroy it, that is why our Republic has a check and balance system. America will never allow an evil dictatorship to lead here, no matter how bad things get. War is terrible for civilians and military. Nothing good ever comes out of War. Maybe one day the world leaders would figure it out, but until all dictators are eliminated, there is always a chance for history to repeat itself.

Eva January 6, 2017 at 5:43 am

You people commenting are terrible. Yes, war is a horror for all civilians. The majority of these people were civilians, not murderers. My oma was there, a child in Konigsberg and her story was awful. There were victims on all sides, including the German people. Hilter was a tragedy for the German people as well as the world. She told stories of starvation, of family dying in the camps and of running through the streets as bombs dropped all around them, among other things. They snuck bread to their Jewish friends in hiding. This demonization of one people is not learning the lesson we should have all learned from WWII, which is that it could happen anywhere. We have seen what the rise of a dangerous leader looks like and the environment in which it grows. We should be vigilant against it, but instead, America votes in Trump because they think he’ll fix the economy.

sglover April 16, 2015 at 5:24 am

The title is completely wrong. Instead of “The Rape and Loot of Konigsberg”, it should be something like, “Konigsberg Gets What’s Coming”. The same goes for Dresden. All things considered, the allies — including the Russians — were **gentle** toward the Germans. If the Russians had behaved in Germany the way the Germans behaved just about everywhere, there wouldn’t be any Germans at all, now.

I’ve seen a few recent German TV dramas about the war. “Our Mothers, Our Fathers” got some play in the English-speaking world. Of course all of these shows portray the Nazis as monsters. But they always seem to follow this pattern: Out of a cast of, say, 4-8 major protagonists, there’s always a Jewish character (not hard to guess that he’s not going to last through all the episodes), and a heroic dissenter. I’m sure the latter helps the German audiences feel good about themselves. I’m sure that they want to believe that **they** would be the heroic dissenter. It’s garbage. For every Sophie Scholl, there were MILLIONS of Germans happy and eager to go along with the Nazis.

Bob April 15, 2015 at 2:13 pm

To Ivan: The Russians suffered the worst of all; tens of millions murdered by the Germans including all of my European ancestors. Without them, the rest of the world would have been destroyed and the rest of us Jews murdered. Your attempt to compare is misguided.

To CK: I can not feel sorry for those German settlers who eagerly supported the German war machine and the most evil acts of the German leadership. If you have any doubts about the ‘friendliness’ of the average German citizen, read the next article and the attached links.

Ivan April 14, 2015 at 10:23 pm

to Bob – does this make the russkies any better?

ck April 13, 2015 at 6:11 pm

“Wer Wind sät wird Sturm ernten” this is called in German. Ethnic cleaning is exactly what happened to > 10 Mio Germans all over Eastern Europe.

Bob April 11, 2015 at 3:30 pm

Did any of these Germans ever think that their 4 to 5 years of wanton mass murder, torture, ethnic cleansing, rape, kleptomania, medical experiments, and worse across all of Europe were in any way responsible for the level of anger and inhumanity visited on them? I have a hard time weeping for many of these people who just hours before were murdering everyone they could in their jails and concentration camps to cover up their own crimes.

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