“After the war, it was easier to talk about the Red Army raping women,” says Gerhardt, than to challenge the collective memory of the western Allies in 1945 as liberators. Stereotypes from the First World War of uncivilized Russians from the East, and Nazi-era propaganda about the Red Army also played their role, explains the author of the book, called “When the Soldiers Came.”
While spreading stories of “uncivilized” and “brutal” Russian soldiers, many Western historians have remained silent on the massive casualties sustained by the Soviet Union during the Second World War. While the war claimed the lives of 418,000 Americans, 600,000 French nationals and 450,000 Britons, the USSR’s casualties amounted to 27 million. On Soviet territory, Nazi soldiers committed hideous atrocities on a scale that could hardly be imagined by the West, such as the hanging and burning alive of peaceful civilians, including women and children.