Nemmersdorf Massacre file photo

Nemmersdorf Massacre

22 Oct 1944

Contributor: C. Peter Chen

On 22 Oct 1944, troops of the 2nd Battalion of the Soviet 25th Guards Tank Brigade moved near the village of Nemmersdorf on the frontier of East Prussia, Germany (now Mayakovskoye, Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia), capturing the nearby Angrapa bridge. Several attempts to counterattack were launched, some supported by aircraft. During one of the German air attacks, some Soviet troops fled into bomb shelters built and occupied by 14 residents of Nemmersdorf; Gerda Meczulat, who was in the shelter at the time, claimed that the Soviet officers came in, shot the civilians (seriously wounding, but not killing, Meczulat), and used the shelter for their own purpose. Other troops had also set up defensive positions within the village itself. After sundown, Soviet troops fell back across the bridge, giving up the bridgehead.

German troops returned to Nemmersdorf on 24 Oct and found a large number of civilians killed. German soldier GŁnter Koschorrek's diary revealed his finding of an old man "whose throat had been drilled through with a pitchfork so that his entire body is hanging on a barn door.... It is impossible for me to describe all the terrible sights we have witnessed in Nemmersdorf." Other witnesses spoke of refugees being trampled by Soviet tanks and civilians mowed down by machine gun fire at the bridge leading out of town. After the war, former chief of staff of the German 4th Army Major General Erich Dethleffsen testified before an American tribunal in Neu-Ulm, Germany, stating:

When in October, 1944, Russian units temporarily entered Nemmersdorf, they tortured the civilians, specifically they nailed them to barn doors, and then shot them. A large number of women were raped and then shot. During this massacre, the Russian soldiers also shot some fifty French prisoners of war. Within forty-eight hours the Germans re-occupied the area.

The German propaganda machine immediately took the chance to advertise the Soviet atrocity, citing evidences of brutality. A team of experts was organized, which included those from neutral countries, to investigate, but this failed to achieve the goal of stirring an international incident. Internally in Germany, the effect of this propaganda campaign was rather polarized; while the propaganda helped with the recruitment of volunteers for the Volkssturm units, the population in East Prussia and other eastern German provinces began fleeing in large numbers to the west to avoid similar fate, jamming major transportation junctions and adversely affecting the movement of troops and supplies.

While the Germans claimed that most of the 653 residents of Nemmersdorf were killed, Soviet records showed only 20 to 30 killed. It was generally believed that the Germans had inflated the number of deaths, grouped evidence of other isolated atrocities to embellish the size of this massacre, and might even had created the situations where civilians would be killed by the Soviets (for example, some accused the German military of using civilians to shield one of the attacks on the Angrapa bridge). The Soviet claim of only 20 to 30 killed was equally fantastic, as the Soviet Union was also known to take great liberties with numbers even with its official state records. The actual number of deaths was likely somewhere in-between.

Sources:
Isabel Denny, The Fall of Hitler's Fortress City
Wikipedia

Photographs

Dead German civilians at Nemmersdorf, East Prussia, Germany, late Oct 1944Destroyed buildings at Nemmersdorf, East Prussia, Germany, late Oct 1944, photo 1 of 6Destroyed buildings at Nemmersdorf, East Prussia, Germany, late Oct 1944, photo 2 of 6Destroyed buildings at Nemmersdorf, East Prussia, Germany, late Oct 1944, photo 3 of 6
See all 15 photographs of Nemmersdorf Massacre



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Visitor Submitted Comments

  1. natham says:
    23 May 2007 10:04:50 AM

    to the dead it no longer matters who did what to whom.forthey rest in peace now.to historians who pore over these matters still to this very day it means alot.it would help to fill gaps that still exist in a moment in time when we decended into madness for the second time globaly in history.both german and russian armies committed crimes of vast proportion against thier peoples.this is but one of them.
  2. Anonymous says:
    12 Nov 2007 07:38:23 PM

    What a shame.It appears to me that the poles were worse than the russians for sheer viciousness. May nothing like this ever happen to innocent people again.
  3. sami says:
    10 Mar 2009 01:07:37 AM

    Who you are ? How dare you call Poles worse then Russians ? Do you know that 6 million polish citizen lost their live during WWII ? Every fifth man die! We did not start this war. We were attacked by German and Russia. Think or study before you write anything about it !

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Nemmersdorf Massacre Photo Gallery
Dead German civilians at Nemmersdorf, East Prussia, Germany, late Oct 1944
See all 15 photographs of Nemmersdorf Massacre



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