“If only one man dies of hunger, that is a tragedy. If millions die, that’s only statistics.” Originally attributed to Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin (1879 – 1953) by Washington Post columnist Leonard Lyons.
After a terrible four years of war, during which the Nazi war machine killed at least twenty-seven million Soviet soldiers and civilians, the Red Army finally reached the eastern bank of the Oder River on January 31st, 1945. There they gathered their strength before launching the offensive that started what is today known as the Battle of Berlin on April 16th. This involved roughly 2.5 million Soviet soldiers attacking around 800,000 NSDAP German defenders, with approximately 100,000 of the latter being trapped within the city limits as of April 30th.
The entire campaign featured some of the deadliest fighting in the annals of recorded military history. Soviet forces were eager to end what they knew as their “Great Patriotic War,” while the capital itself was defended by a haphazard collection of demoralized Wehrmacht veterans, Heinrich Himmler’s fanatical Waffen-Schutzstaffel violently resisting all sides to their dying breaths, and even a few foreign nationals (including Frenchmen, Belgians, and Norwegians among others) who found themselves trying to defy the overwhelming tide in SS uniforms due to their extreme anti-communist political agendas.