History 05/01/20 “city of the dead”: what has survived of the inhabitants of Rzhev in world

When March 3, 1943, Soviet troops entered the abandoned by the Germans in the Rzhev front of their eyes appeared depressing picture: completely destroyed the town and several hundred surviving inhabitants. In fact, the Rzhev had to rebuild and settle again.

the occupation

German troops were approaching the Rzhev so rapidly that the Soviet command did not have time to finish the evacuation. But those who were able to leave the city and join the moving to the East the columns waited for the merciless German bombing. All that did not manage to take away from Rzhev, the Soviet troops had to destroy the supplies of food, forage and ammunition.

14 October 1941, just a few hours after the Rzhev left the last Soviet soldiers entered the city by German tanks and infantry. Unfortunately, the enemy was unable to stop neither the kilometers of anti-tank ditches, or numerous fortifications. By this time in Rzhev from 56 thousand inhabitants was no more than 20 thousand. They had to live under Nazi occupation in the most severe conditions the front of the city.

Taking Rzhev, the Germans immediately began to his destruction: he was put out of action municipal and industrial plants, blown up train stations, educational and medical institutions, as well as theatres, museums, houses of culture and libraries. Affected parks and forests in and around the city, the Germans burned or cut down a significant portion of green space.

Simultaneously with the vandalism of the invaders began to establish their own government, which was ruled by a commandant. The city was divided into 4 sectors, each its own police Department, recruited and local residents. One of the first tasks of policemen was formed from gewitan labor groups designed to work on the needs of the German army. According to the materials of the trial of collaborators of the city and surrounding areas for forced labor was evacuated about 10 thousand people, many of them died EN route.

a Separate task, which puts the commandant, was to identify Communists, partisans, Soviet activists among the civilian population. To catch them was formed by the punitive detachment of 70 people. The occupation authorities promised to reward a bag of flour or a cow who will issue them with suspicious faces.

of Course, with a special predilection the Germans treated the representatives of the Jewish nationality, obliging them, as in Poland to wear white armbands. In the spring of 1942 all the Jews (15 families) lived in a separate house. During the year, almost all of them were killed, a survivor of a watchmaker, and the tailor was shot before coming to Rzhev, the red Army.

Historian E. S. Fedorov in the book devoted to the military Rzhev, wrote that public executions twofold effect on the townspeople: some of them made fully to obey the invaders, others were encouraging people to fight the occupiers by all means possible. However and those and others lived in constant fear, not knowing that they are preparing the coming day.

Hungry weekdays

Despite the almost completely destroyed infrastructure, small businesses in Rzhev worked. A week after the beginning of the occupation commandant’s office launched a Creamery and a mill, opened a tin, carpentry, blacksmithing and rope workshops. Here for the needs of the Wehrmacht was made stoves, pots, buckets, shovels and nails. Rzhev was running a sawmill, which, along with the civilian population worked as prisoners of war by the red army.

As he writes in his book, E. S. Fedorov, the population received from authorities on 1.25 kg of flour per adult and 0.75 kg to children. Worked in manufacturing likewise been on dry rations. In the winter months of 1941-42 disabled population of three, allocate a few pounds of flax seeds. Without exception mestno residents were obliged to pay the tax: for residents it amounted to 25 rubles, for the villagers – 50 rubles.

If ordinary people were working for meager rations, the police received a salary in the amount of 200 rubles, except they were on the day allowed 400 g bread, lard and vegetable oil. Collaborators could also profit by the fact that looted in the period of anarchy. The excess are implemented through shops. From December 1941 the city has the Bazaar where you can not only buy, but also to exchange goods. Also operated a store where the products were bought for gold: 10 gold coins you could buy 16 kg of flour.

In the years of occupation in Rzhev there were two grammar schools, in which there was a place 40 teachers. In high school he took all, but the training was paid. Among the compulsory subjects – algebra, geometry, geography, German language, physics, history and even the law of God. The opening of both universities was consecrated by the clergy.

operated In the city hospital, but here it was not free. The physician General practice was worth 5 rubles. Worked in Rzhev and bath, but it served only the Germans and their accomplices. In their free time occupants could afford cultural activities: they created a theater with 400 seats, where every day playing local youth. Every actor after a performance was received from the commandant 3 stamps and a free lunch.

most of the townspeople were frankly malnourished. Deaths from starvation was very high. Through constant raids on the gardens, the German soldiers deprived the population of the latter sources of food. In hard times, people collected herbs, dried them, ground it up into powder and on this basis they baked a kind of flatbread. A clogged for a jar of grain were forced to serve the German officers: mending, washing, cleaning.

the Crater is the town

For the German command Rzhev would be the most important reference point when moving to Moscow. General of the infantry Horst Grossman and is called the town “regioncoal stone Eastern front.” It is not surprising that Stalin risked a lot in order to regain control of the city. The battle for Rzhev began on 8 January 1942.

Pretty quickly, forces of the Kalinin front managed to advance 15-20 kilometers and liberate several villages on the approach to the city, but then our troops came to a halt. The Germans fiercely resisted, and the Red Army suffered substantial losses. Rzhevskaya battle went down in history of the world wars, as the bloodiest battle. Writer Viktor Astafyev would later write: “We poured their rivers of blood and piled with mountains of corpses.” More than a year of fighting, the total losses of the Soviet troops exceeded 600 thousand people.

the Germans understood that any tactical blunder in the Rzhev battle can seriously affect the outcome of the entire campaign. In these circumstances, for Berlin, the only right decision was to save troops who could transfer to other sectors, and this is neither more nor less, more than 320 thousand soldiers and officers, 400 artillery pieces and 100 armored vehicles.

on March 3, 1943, German troops left the city, but first herded almost all the remaining residents in the protection Church its pre-mined. Only two days later Soviet engineers rescued from the temple hungry, downtrodden citizens. Released V. Maslova recalled: “came out of the Church with the 60-year-old mother and daughter two years and seven months. A Junior Lieutenant gave my daughter a piece of sugar, and she hid it and said, “Mom, is that snow?””.

Entered the city the red Army met only the rear guard of the 9th Aria of the Wehrmacht, which created a visible presence of the German troops. Before them lay the ruins. During the retreat the Germans blew up everything that could have any military value such as bridges, water towers, rail tracks, highways. However, on the eve of the Soviet air force and artillery made it easier for the Germans the problem.

on the eve of a decisive assault on the Bet issued an Order: “vengeance to Destroy the city of Rzhev, not stoppingtrying to serious destruction of the city.” The above-mentioned German General Horst Grossman wrote: “day after Day fighting for the Rzhev… four weeks Later it is impossible to find a single house or street. As in the first world war on the Somme crater landscape has arisen on a place of the city.”

In the destroyed and incinerated the town of the 56-strong pre-war population was only 362.

Taras Repin

© Russian Seven

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