On July 17, 1944, a grandiose event took place, which was included in official documents under the name "escorting prisoners of war of the German fascist invaders in Moscow", recorded in the operational documents of the NKVD as Operation "Big Waltz", and in the people's memory remained a "parade of the vanquished."
There were, however, other, much less euphonious names, but more on that later. Many of the most talented Soviet journalists and writers of that time wrote very detailed newspaper articles about this event immediately after it ended. Even poems are written ... It is captured in detail in newsreels. Nevertheless, upon closer examination, it turns out that we practically do not know the real truth about the "Big Waltz". Now is the time to fix it.
Why were waltz Fritzes needed?
We begin to understand the main thing - those motives that prompted the leadership of the USSR to such a non-trivial, quite costly and at the same time to some extent risky step. Without a doubt, there will be those who immediately declare: "Stalin likewise entertained his own vanity!" Who would have doubted that there will be. Well, the answer is accepted and credited, the orderlies are already on their way ... Those who try to explain the entire palette of events of the Great Patriotic War either by the "tyranny" of the Supreme Commander or by his "incompetence" may not read further. We’ll better pass on to the main version that exists in official historiography: the Great Waltz was necessary for the Soviet Union in order to once again emphasize the scale of the crushing defeat of the Wehrmacht carried out as part of the brilliant Bagration operation, which began on June 23, 1944 and at the time of the Moscow The "parade of the vanquished" was still going on, albeit in its final stage.
During this massive series of battles, attributed by military historians to the “greatest battles of all time”, the German Army Group Center actually ceased to exist - the Red Army left a wet place from it, as they say. The Fritzes were kicked out not only from the territory of Belarus and the Baltic states, but they were also firmly squeezed out in Eastern Poland, transferring hostilities outside the USSR. The enemy losses during this truly epic battle were terrifying. There is debate about their true size to this day. Many researchers are inclined to consider even the figure of 400 thousand killed and more than 150 thousand Nazi prisoners to be greatly underestimated. Only 21 generals were taken prisoner, which amounted to almost half of the ranks of the Wehrmacht of this level, commanding its corps and divisions!
It is quite expected that in the camp of our “allies” the news of such stunning victories of Moscow, about which she, as they say, “trumpeted from every iron” (having every right to it!) Was received far from unambiguously. Some Western media began to directly accuse our country of "postscripts", exaggeration of the power and valor of their army. This reaction looked especially natural due to the fact that the British and Americans who landed in Normandy at about the same time (June 6, 1944) were doing, to put it mildly, not so well - and this despite the fact that the most combat-ready units The Wehrmacht at this moment desperately tried to stop the Red Army on the Eastern Front. In the first few weeks of their “victorious offensive”, the Germans only managed to capture more than 20 thousand “European liberators” in captivity and decided ... to drive them away with shame across Paris. When? Yes, July 17, 1944!
From here it becomes clear to us - the date of the Great Waltz, to which representatives of all the USSR allied states were invited, was by no means chosen by chance. Iosif Vissarionovich wanted to "dunk" our "allies" as thick as possible? Yes, no doubt! And he had absolutely every reason for that - at least for the fact that with the opening of the "second front" they pulled, as they say, to the last. Think about the essence of what is happening - at the very moment when the Americans, British and Canadians were being driven across the French capital (by the way, showered with spitting and beatings of local residents, the very ones that a few months later will almost kiss the tracks of American tanks), Stalin demonstrated to the representatives of the USA, Britain and France an endless stream of defeated Nazis wandering around shining Moscow shining. No, genius, really, genius!
There were, of course, a couple more moments. By that time, the Red Army had cleared Soviet land of the occupiers. However, the Supreme understood perfectly well that it was impossible to dwell on this at all - this war should end in Berlin. Rather, on its smoking ruins, over which a red flag must certainly fly. However, he also understood another thing - hundreds and hundreds of thousands of lives of our soldiers and officers would inevitably become the payment for the Victory, the further extreme exertion of all the forces of those who worked day and night in the rear. People needed to be reminded of how the top of the Third Reich boastfully promised to stage a parade of their thugs in Moscow. And it was the miserable, pitiful, nevertheless quite real "ghost" of the horde who came to kill us in 1941, in the form of Nazi generals walking along the streets of the capital with all the awards and regalia of Nazi generals and the rear of the procession of barefoot "supermen" in greasy underpants, was suitable for this as no better.
The enemy is beaten, humiliated and just retribution! But he has not yet been completely defeated, which means that every Nazi soldier must be either in the ground or in such a shameful column. And it turns out! This, I am sure, Stalin wanted to say to Muscovites, to the whole country that was suffering, to the whole world. There was one more subtext. Our soldiers were to attack in Europe, including Germany. The number of victims of the war, the price of Victory depended on how fierce the resistance they would meet there. The future liberators showed those who were seen as a defeated enemy - we will be merciful as much as possible after all your atrocities. Atonement awaits you, but not the total destruction that you prepared for us. This was a very important message - with its help Stalin wanted to save as many lives as possible, and on both sides of the front.
The best operation of Lavrenty Pavlovich?
After the above facts, it becomes clear why researchers most often call Lavrenty Beria the author of the idea of the “Big Waltz”. Although, it is quite possible that the authorship is twofold - the thought could have occurred to Iosif Vissarionovich after the report of the head of the NKVD on obtaining intelligence about the "show" being prepared by the Germans in Paris. That these two dates are closely related, I personally have no doubts. Generally speaking, behind the "Big Waltz" is not just a huge, but a titanic work carried out by Soviet intelligence and counterintelligence, where the lion's share is clearly attributed to the department of Lavrenty Pavlovich. Where such confidence?
Well, first of all, due to the fact that it was precisely it that dealt with everything related to prisoners of war and only its "specialists" could give a clear and unambiguous answer to the main question: will not a truly brilliant idea lead to fatal consequences. “Well, what risk could there be, these are prisoners ?!” - someone will say. Well, one can only envy the clarity of consciousness of those who think in this way. It was, I recall, not in July 1945, not after our complete and final Victory over the Third Reich, but a year earlier. Neither the Wehrmacht, nor the Nazi party, nor the possessed Fuhrer, despite the hardest defeats, had yet been broken. They intended to fight to the end - and, as subsequent events showed, they carried out their intention. And now, at this moment, one of the belligerent countries lets in almost four enemy infantry divisions into its own capital! Let me remind you that the average division of the German army totaled about 17 thousand people, more than 57 and a half thousand Nazi prisoners were involved in the Great Waltz.
At the same time, the norm, which is always strictly observed by everyone, was deliberately violated - the separation of the rank and file from the commanders who, even in captivity, are able to draw up a competent plan of escape or rebellion, inspire their subordinates to take active actions and lead them. In the columns of the "parade of the vanquished", not only German Obersts and colonels marched across the capital, but also generals! Prisoners? Let's not forget this - by the time of the events that we recall, a good half of the European "resistance", and in some countries - almost all of it, consisted of Soviet prisoners of war who managed to escape from the camps, and instead in order to quietly sit out peacefully, huddled in secluded holes, who continued the armed struggle against the Nazis as part of partisan detachments and underground groups. Moreover, the uprising in the concentration camp of Sobibor on October 14, 1943, was raised by only 550 Red Army prisoners in it! Three hundred of them managed to break free. Later, in 1945, with soap bars and bare hands twisted out of the walls, bricks, exhausted to the limit, turned into living skeletons, prisoners of Mauthausen's “death block”, will go to the machine-gun towers with bricks. They will also be no more than half a thousand - and they will break through! However, the comparison is undoubtedly incorrect - here we are talking about Soviet, mainly Russian people, capable of doing the completely unthinkable, and not about the Nazis. Yes, I do not compare in any case. I just emphasize: the NKVD officers were obliged to be 100% sure that the Hitlerites, gathered in a huge mass in the heart of our capital, would not feel themselves strong and would not try to "kick up". One can only guess what scale the intelligence-operative work was deployed to study the mood among the prisoners. People who are at least a little "in the subject" will understand. The rest simply can not imagine. Be that as it may, the main thing here is a brilliant result. Not the slightest problems with the Nazis marching around Moscow arose. They were completely submissive to fate.
There was, however, another danger - if the ordinary Muscovites who were in the ranks of the spectators did not control their own emotions, the case could have ended in a disgusting bloody battle. Yes, every invader, torn to pieces, would get exactly what he deserved, but the reputation of our country at the international level would be ruined simply hopelessly. What would happen if the NKVD fighters escorting the fascists had begun to use brute force or even weapons to protect them from the angry mob ... I don’t even want to say much ... In many ways, what’s announced on Moscow radio about the upcoming the shameful procession was only at 7 am on the day it was held. Then came the issue of the newspaper Pravda, which duplicated the “information message of the Moscow police chief” about the upcoming escort. It instructed the inhabitants of the capital to "not allow any tricks" in relation to the prisoners. Those did not follow. A variety of testimonies have been preserved that are quite accessible for reading about how Muscovites gathered in huge numbers on the streets for a “warm welcome” of failed “world rulers” reacted to their appearance and movement along Gorky Street and the Garden Ring - from Beria’s personal report addressed to Stalin , to the memories of one of the marching in the shameful columns - Hans Siemer. Lavrenty Pavlovich could not resist attributing to the audience "angry shouts": "Death to Hitler!", "Death to fascism!", As well as wishes to the Nazis passing by them to "die". This, for sure, was, but in very small quantities. Zimer's memoirs, clearly “pitying”, do not correspond too much to the truth, in which he recalls with horror the “clearly rehearsed polyphonic cries of“ Hitler kaput! ”,“ Mass spitting ”in prisoners and, apparently to death, scared the“ true Aryan ”women attempts "Pounce with fists" ... Moscow, for the most part, met and escorted Nazi evil weaving through its streets in silence. And this silence seemed to the Germans worse than any cries, for it was truly grave ...
Something about the organization and some details
The organization of the Grand Waltz was impeccable. First of all, preparation for it was carried out in an atmosphere of deepest secrecy. Not everyone knew about the upcoming "parade" even in the Kremlin, the headquarters of the Moscow military district and the NKVD, but only those who needed it. Many direct executors did not fully understand the meaning of the actions performed, but worked, as always, clearly, like parts of a clockwork. Lavrenty Beria and his subordinates once again showed that there are no trifles for them. For the future "parade columns", prisoners were not recruited anyhow, but only after a thorough medical examination - each candidate had to move independently, look outwardly healthy. It was still not enough to fiddle with the Fritz falling into a swoon or to make them look to cause someone ordinary human pity for the wretched and crippled! Such a physical examination was carried out twice - both in the camps where the prisoners were initially selected, and at the Belorusskaya-Tovarnaya and Begovaya stations where they were taken.
The quality of its conduct is evidenced by the fact that out of almost 57 thousand “dancers” that took place on the hot summer day of the Great Waltz, only four had to provide medical assistance. Nobody was going to torture prisoners - upon arrival in Moscow they were brought plenty of water. However, "enough" meant only that you could drink as much as you like - but not wash, shave, or somehow bring yourself into a military look. Here - no ... "Aryans" had to appear before those whom they declared "subhuman" and doomed to total destruction in their true guise - the broken and miserable defeated. But they fed the Fritzes, as they say, from the heart! From all the Russian hospitality - rich porridge, adding bread and lard to it. And it was just with this that a serious problem subsequently came out.
In all, without exception, the memoirs of the "Big Waltz" figure as a very characteristic detail of the sprinkler machines, which followed the German formation, flooding the Moscow pavements with streams of water. In this, all the authors see "a symbolic washing away of the fascist filth from the Soviet land." There was symbolism, I don't argue. And even a double one - if anyone has forgotten, in Russia the floor in the house has been washed after the deceased from time immemorial ... However, there was also quite real dirt - many "conquerors" who foolishly gobbled up that very fat, for which they clung to us in 41, were brutally let down stomachs. Affected, obviously, and nervous tension - according to available recollections, almost all the Hitlerites, having learned that they were in Moscow, were firmly convinced that the Russians had brought them to the capital for some kind of monstrous mass public execution. Particularly strongly this confidence was fueled by the realization that they, by and large, deserved just such an outcome. So the watering machines after the procession, which many Muscovites immediately dubbed the “diarrheal march”, were more than appropriate. As well as the periodic cries of the NKVD escort fighters (in the purest language of Goethe and Schiller, by the way): "Where is the vaunted culture of the German people?" Bullying, you say? I think that no - deserved shame, no more.
Incidentally, not only the representatives of Germany were disgraced that day. As it turned out, immigrants from France - legionnaires of either the Wehrmacht or the SS - marched in the columns, seeing on the podium the French general Ernest Petit, who was in uniform, representing Charles de Gaulle, these scoundrels began desperately screaming: “Long live France! General, we are not volunteers, we were drafted by force! " and similar things, apparently hoping to gain leniency in this way. In a word: "I am not guilty, he came himself ..." The enraged general, ready to sink into the ground from burning shame, thickly spat upon such "compatriots" and called them scoundrels.
Another detail that most eyewitnesses of the Great Waltz remembered was the ridiculous and ridiculous clanging of cans that stood above the German columns walking across Moscow. No, they were not imposed on them specifically as a mockery - just the Fritzes used cans as utensils for eating and drinking. However, when passing through the columns, the sound effect was created, like from a cow herd. Yes, as a matter of fact, they were already a herd at that time - downsized, having lost the belligerent confidence that they had the right to decide: who should live on this earth, and who would not, ragged, unshaven, with empty eyes, and some with ingratiating smiles on the faces. Some modern authors manage to think of the fact that Muscovites were silent, looking at this wretched "army", because they "saw in them the same war sufferers as their fathers, sons and brothers were" and somewhere in the depths souls "felt pity." I am sure there was nothing like this at all.
Today, thanks to the Internet, documentary photographs and footage of this event are available for viewing. We look at the faces of people, every second of whom lost one of his relatives who died at the front or were tortured by the invaders, survived the bombing and shelling, was ready to death to fight on the barricades for every street of the capital ... There is no pity, even kill. There is no bloodthirsty gloating either. Even on the faces of the children there is a kind of severe detachment appropriate for those who are present in the exercise of the highest Justice. I think that mortal coldness and panic horror gripped the Nazis that day precisely because of this icy calm, frozen in the eyes of the people who gazed at them, each of whom judged and passed a sentence that was not subject to appeal ...
Oh yes, I almost forgot. Why "The Big Waltz"? This was the name of the American musical film about the life of Johann Strauss, which was very popular in the USSR since the late 30s. For example, Joseph Vissarionovich really liked him and he reviewed this picture, in which there was no war, but only beautiful music and love, more than once. Perhaps Beria, proposing such a codename, decided, in a purely human way, to please the Supreme. Well, and a hint to the allies - how could it be without it ... The Moscow "parade of shame" was, on a much smaller scale, repeated in Kiev a month later - Khrushchev, as usual, was monkeying. In 1949, the USSR signed the Third Geneva Convention, prohibiting such events as "inhuman". But the next “shameful parade" on our land nevertheless took place - in Donetsk, on the streets of which on August 24, 2014 prisoners of war were held. However, this is a completely different story.