October 27, 2016

Russia and Germany — Historical Parallels in the Donbas

Ivan Sichen, Military and Political Expert

For Ukraine, in whose territory Russia is conducting aggressive combat actions, reliable allies and partners' support is very important in both military- political, and financial-economic matters. Such as Germany — the initiator of the European sanctions policy in relation to Russia and at the same time a member of the “Normandy Group” to resolve the situation in the Donbas. Eventually, Germany is one of Ukraine's main financial donors within the framework of the economic recovery on its East and South, which are being recklessly destroyed by Russia and its puppets from the “DPR” and “LPR”. Industrial, transportation, housing and utilities infrastructure of the Donbas today have virtually been razed to the ground, and the especially valuable equipment has been taken or is being taken to the Russian Federation. Such a fate befell about 90 coalmines (in fact, half of all that had been working in Ukraine before Russia's aggression). In the occupied territories most of the metallurgical and machine-building plants do not work, more than 1.5 thousand energy-generating facilities have been damaged, Donetsk airport, Debaltsevo railway junction have been completely destroyed, 15 % of the housing stock of Donetsk and Luhansk regions have been turned into ruins (Kremlin's Black Book, online version).

In 2015, the FRG's Government and the German “KFW Bankengruppe” bank group (80 % shares owned by the Government of Germany and 20 % — by the federal German lands) already allocated Ukraine 500 million Euro-loan commitments on reconstruction and modernization of energy facilities, water supply, schools and hospitals. In particular, at the ninth meeting of the Ukrainian-German High Level Group on Economic Cooperation in October this year, it was decided that 150 million Euros would be spent on reconstruction of four substations of “Ukrenergo”.

In general, the volume of German investment into Ukraine is more than 5.4 billion US dollars. For two years already, Germany has been considered Ukraine's main European trade partner and the third in the world among those who provide financial support to our state, including for the restoration and development of the energy infrastructure of our eastern areas.

By the way, this is not the first time that Germany is taking part in the renewal of the Donbas after its total (on orders from Moscow) destruction. A similar situation was observed when in 1941 the Red Army had retreated from Ukraine. Due to the rapid advance of the Wehrmacht and the inability to evacuate facilities from the territories that were being left to the enemy, the then Soviet leadership used the tactics of “scorched earth”. The resolutions of the Council of People's Commissars of the USSR and the Central Committee of the VKPb of 27, 28 and 29 June 1941 ordered the local government bodies and party cells to destroy everything that could not be evacuated to the East of the USSR, in particular: equipment of factories and plants, collective farm machinery and equipment, food supplies and logistical tools, crops and livestock. July 22, 1941, such demands were confirmed by a special resolution of the State Defence Committee. However, as always in Russia and the Soviet Union, the population of the occupied territories was left to its fate.

Such attitude towards ordinary citizens was characteristic of the Soviet authorities, especially in the industrial areas of the East and South of Ukraine, where German troops came later than into the North and the Center, which provided relatively more time to implement the above-mentioned decisions. As a result, all the 54 Ukrainian blast furnaces were blown, most mines were inundated, and the Kryvyi Rih, Dniprodzerzhynsk and Dniprohes HPPs were destroyed, destroyed or burned were thousands of industrial enterprises, bakeries and grain depots. In Kharkiv, like in other eastern Ukrainian cities, and like then in Kyiv, the Soviets burnt not only industrial facilities, but houses as well.

The destroyed “Azovstal” (Mariupol)

The destroyed “Azovstal” (Mariupol)

Crops of grain were also destroyed. According to eyewitnesses, for that purpose even the cattle was driven into evacuation through sown fields. As a result, the doomed civilian population was being left without food.

Besides, due to transport communications having been destroyed, the railway infrastructure was being turned into ruins, including bridges, railway stations, locomotive depots, warehouses, repair workshops, service buildings, water towers, communication lines, and switching points and rails being blown up. Stalino (Donetsk) railway junction was razed to the ground, which completely paralyzed the railway communications in the region. (The Railway Troops in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945, by Volkovsky N. L.).

By the way, in many cases, the actions of the Soviet authorities to implement the tactics of “scorched earth” were accompanied by mass casualties, both among civilians and soldiers of the Red Army. Thus, due to the undermining of the dam of the Dniprohes (Dnieper HPP) on 18 August 1941, a river wave of more than 30 meters swept away dozens of settlements downstream of the Dnieper. It killed about 100 thousand people from the local population, as well as up to 20 thousand military servicemen of the Red Army (from the 9th and 18th Armies and the 2nd Cavalry Corps), who had taken defensive positions along the left bank of the Dnieper, or were on the ferry. Another three to five thousand people died directly on the dam at the time of the explosion. At this, German troops suffered almost no losses. (Moroko V. M., Dneproges: The Black August of 1941 /Research Works by the Faculty of History of Zaporizhzhya National University, 2010/; Rumme A. V., Tell People the Truth /Sociological studies, Moscow, 1990 — №9./).

The blown up dam of the Dniprohes (Dnieper HPP)

The blown up dam of the Dniprohes (Dnieper HPP)

In Dnepropetrovsk, the bakery was blown up with the working shift and the citizens, queuing for bread near the store. In Odesa, a part of the coastal districts were drowned with residents. In Stakhanov of Luhansk region, the local population, mostly women with children, protested against blowing up of the coalmine, trying to save the only means of subsistence. The next morning an NKVD squad arrived in the city and, regardless of age and gender, shot every tenth inhabitant. In Stalino (Donetsk), after it had been captured by the Germans in October 1941, in the NKVD prison were discovered three pits filled up with 4 thousand corpses. (How Russia's Wealth Was Growing at Ukraine's Expense during World War II, online version).

It is such or similar methods that Russia and pro-Russian terrorists use today in the East of Ukraine, when they find out those who disagree with their actions.

Of course, such cruelty then could not be accepted by the locals watching the flight of many of the leaders of the Soviet government and party functionaries. That was the reason why in the Eastern regions of Ukraine the mobilization of the population into the ranks of the Red Army was thwarted. For example, in Kharkiv region only 30 % of recruits arrived at recruiting stations, and in Stalino (Donetsk) and Voroshylovhrad (Luhansk) — 10-15 % of those who received a draft notice. Mass desertions of the mobilized also took place during their being transported to the acting army. According to military offices of Kharkiv and Stalino regions, at the end of October 1941 the number of deserters was 30-50 % of the total called up. (Ukraine and Russia in the Historical Retrospect. Volume 2; by Grinevitch V. A., Danilenko V. M., Kulchinskaya S. V., Lysenko O. E.).

This is clearly demonstrated by the present mood of the population of the East of Ukraine, who have never been strong supporters of Moscow and the “Russian world”, despite all current statements of the Putin regime's propagandists and the ideologists of “Novorossia”.

At the same time, part of the population manifested sympathy for the German authorities. Especially because those authorities, wasting no time, began to restore the Donbas. Of course, Germany itself was interested in the restoration, because it considered Donbas a sort of the Ruhr in terms of the use of natural resources of the region and its industrial potential. However, this in no way justifies the invasion of the German army in the Ukraine and the Nazi regime's repressions against the Ukrainian people.

At the same time, the German administration's measures to restore and enact mines and enterprises provided employment to the population of the region, giving the local people at least some opportunity to survive in the war period.

Stalino (Donetsk) during the war years

Stalino (Donetsk) during the war years

Initially the restoration of the Donbas was assigned to the headquarters of the “East” Economic Staff with its “South” inspection. In March 1942, these functions were shifted onto the East Mining and Metallurgical Company, founded in August 1941, as an exclusive association for realization of the interests of the Reich Ministry of Economy, Trade and Economic Reich Group of the coal-mining and iron-mining industry.

The East Company owned exclusive rights to economic activity in the heavy industries and the use of plant equipment of coal, iron mining and metalworking industries in the occupied Soviet territories. It was led by Director General of Reichswerke AG and the Chairman of the Presidium of the Imperial Coal Association P. Pleiger. Besides, in restoration work were involved some units of Todt Military and Construction Organization of Germany.

Through the activities of these structures and the involvement of Ukrainian workers, the power plant in Stalino (the German administration returned to it its original name Yuzivka) had been restored by November 1941, which allowed to resume electricity supply to the city institutions and the work of the water supply network. Electric power plants in other cities of the region were also restored.

However, to resume coal mining was more difficult, because it required a heavy and large-scale repair work on the destroyed mines. To this end, the East Mining and Metallurgical Company transported machinery and equipment worth more than 25 million Marks, as well as 1,800 professionals, mainly from the Ruhr basin. To the Donbas, there came such leading German companies as Krupp, Siemens and Opel.

Machinebuilding Factory in Kramatorsk was owned by the Friedrich Krupp AG

Machinebuilding Factory in Kramatorsk was owned by the Friedrich Krupp AG

And already before the February 1942, several mines (“New Mushketov”, 12 “Naklonnaya”, “Butovka”, 5 bis “Trudovs'ka”, 1-2 “Smolyanka”, 4 “Livenka”, 1 “Scheglovka” included) had started functioning. They provided work for about 24 thousand miners. By November 1942, had been restored more than 40 mines, employing 100 thousand people, including about 2200 Soviet engineers and technicians. Besides, in 1942, about 2 thousand different enterprises and cooperative societies were functioning in Donetsk alone. The biggest of them — “Donbas” — had several workshops and shops. (The “Donbas-Terra Incognita” Project, online version).

Besides, by mid-1942, the Germans had resumed the work of most enterprises in Mariupol, including metallurgical, pipe, ship repair, machine building, “Metalloshirpotreb” plants, bakeries number 1 and number 2, meat-packing , dairy plants, pasta factory, distilary, brewery and others.

At the plant named after Ilyich and the “Azovstal” plant, specialists of the German “Krupp” company restored the power plant, martin, mechanical, electro-repairing, assembling and oxygen shops. At the plant named after Kuibyshev, Germans enacted the martin and armor shops, as well as the power plant, which almost uninterruptedly supplied with power not only the company itself but the entire city. (Adapted from the “Mariupol Newspaper”).

In order to attract labor, the German administration opened the labor exchanges, introduced a progressive payment system, provided the supply of food to the miners, who were entitled to social benefits (in particular, the possibility of visiting villages for food, obtaining land for vegetable gardens, etc.). Besides, in contrast to the Soviet period, under German management the enterprises and mines clearly observed working hours, safety, which significantly reduced the number of accidents. It is logical that a sufficiently large number of workers of coal and other industries had returned to their pre-war place of work (after all, the miners enjoyed the right to “a reserved ticket” and were not recruited for military service; in addition, the vast majority were not evacuated and remained in the occupied territories).

This active collaboration of local industrial workers with the German authorities allowed to partially resume and ensure the operation of the coal industry of the Donbas. At this, a decisive role was played by Soviet engineers' knowledge about the conditions of occurrence of coal seams and features of the equipment, as well as their high authority among the workers. Apart from receiving opportunities for basic survival, other motivations for such positions of the engineering staff were also the spread of anti-Soviet moods after mass repressions against this professional group in the 1930s and disappointment with socialist methods of economic activity compared with the German organization.

Of course, not without forced labor of prisoners of war, many of whom died due to the harsh conditions. However, all that was not much different from the situation in Stalin's camps, or NKVD' actions against its population.

A part from the recovered mines and enterprises of the East of Ukraine, the German administration also launched the Dniprohes. There was a more than 100-meter gap with the depth up to 25 meters, generators and other mechanisms were completely out of order.

The restored by Germans Dniprohes

The restored by Germans Dniprohes

During restoration work, in the body of the dam were made several technological tunnels 5 by 5 meters wide and 35 meters long to drain water to the required level. Having got an access to the lower edge of the gap, the repair workers began its concreting. The cement was brought from Germany by train through Romania and then by water via the Black Sea and Dnieper River directly to the construction area. The necessary equipment and machinery, including generators, were also brought from Germany.

The first of them started to work in April, and the second — in May 1942, which allowed to bring the power plant's production to the level of 20,000 kilowatts of electricity. By the autumn, a few more generators had been launched. (A. Speer's Recollections; since 1930 — Chief of the Military Construction in Germany, since 1942 — the Imperial Minister of Armaments).

Of course, the war situation, as well as the lack of time and resources did not allow Germany to resume the work of the Donbas' economy to the full. However, even that which had been done had saved the lives of many civilians of the East of Ukraine.

By the way, like the Soviet propaganda, the Russian one continues to blame Germany for the mass destruction of the industrial infrastructure of the Donbas after the retreat of the Wehrmacht in 1943. What was there to be destroyed after the Red Army and the NKVD's activities? Except perhaps what Germany itself had restored.

Characteristically, the photos of the blown up by the NKVD troops Dnieper HPP and enterprises and mines of the Donbas ruined during the retreat of the Red Army, the USSR preserved in 1941 as evidence of the crimes of Nazi Germany in the Soviet Union. Exactly how Russia today “proves” the “crimes of Ukrainian nationalists in the Donbas”.