Episodes of the Great Patriotic War

Berlin Impressions

After I. Kudrevatykh

Source: Episodes of the Great Patriotic War (Booklet), 66-69. Originally published in Izvestia, May 4, 1945.
Transcription/HTML: Mike B. for MIA, May 2008
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2008). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

On the 1st May we reached the River Spree, crossed the Teltow Canal by a bridge that had just been built by our tireless sappers, drove round Tempeihol Aerodrome and arrived at the artillery positions.

The artillery major on the position told us they were shelling the Reichstag.

Today the tank units under Bogdanov and Katukov and the infantry under Chuikov and Kuznetsov will meet here," he told us.

Under the cover of huge maple trees stood Lieutenant-Colonel Anufrienko's self-propelled guns. These guns had fought their way through the German defences from the River Oder all the way to Berlin. They cut their way across Berlin, shelled houses and barricades and ruins, cleared the way for the infantry.

"This is a real Mayday festival," said the captain of one of the guns. "Our banners are waving over Berlin today! Do you know where we celebrated Mayday in 1942! At Gzhatsk, two hours journey from Moscow. In 1943 we were on the defensive it Orel and today, here we are in Berlin..."

An hour later I arrived at Colonel-General Chuikov's command post. His face, tired after many sleepless nights, expressed confidence and determination. He still looked the same as I had seen him in Stalingrad in the autumn of 1943. At that time his command post had been in a dug-out on the banks of the Volga. The Volga and the Spree, Stalingrad and Berlin — these are the most famous landmarks on our Soviet Army's path of glory, these are symbols of its might.

When I arrived, the general was directing the battle personnally. He demanded heavier concentrations of artillery fire. He was leading his troops in the storm of the Reichstag. At dawn on the 1st May a German colonel had appeared in or lines carrying a huge white flag. He asked whether the Soviet command would receive envoys. General Chuikov agreed, and a German general, under cover of a white flag, arrived it the appointed place. While the German general was sitting in Chuikov's headquarters, Soviet troops were talking the Germans besieged in Berlin in a language of their own, the language of tommy-guns, machine-guns and hand- grenades.

I asked one of the staff officers whether there was anything new happening. He told me that there was nothing new report, the fight was very fierce.

Throughout the whole of the 1st May and the following night the fighting continued unabated.

On the morning of the 2nd May I was astonished by the tin expected silence. There was a slight drizzle of rain and ragged clouds hung low over the housetops. I missed the usual roar o artillery and the rattle of machine-guns.

The first officers that I met on the streets in the afternoon greeted me and at the same time offered me their congratulations on the occasion of victory. A few minutes later I reached Colonel-General Cherevichenko's headquarters.

"The Germans in Berlin have surrendered," I was told. "On our sector operations ended at 3 o'clock. Our regiments are now receiving prisoners that are surrendering."

Out in the streets I saw a party of prisoners marching under escort. They were obviously satisfied with their lot — they were still alive, they had come safely through the hell of the street fighting. A thick dust was settling on the streets. Out of a side- street another column of prisoners headed by a major appeared.

We walked on the Wilhelmstrasse. Everywhere the picture was the same long columns of prisoners, thousands of them, mountains of arms that had been surrendered and the red tongues of flames licking the ruins of the Berlin buildings...

Another column of prisoners headed by a general. The Berlin women standing on the streets recognized friends and relatives, men of whom they had once beep proud as the conquerors of Europe, men from whom they had received parcels of stolen goods from Paris and Kiev, from Prague and Vitebsk. What a pitiful sight those conquerors were on the 2nd May 1945.

Berlin had fallen. Its garrison had surrendered, but the Germans were still Germans. Two generals with 1,500 officers and men remained besieged in one of the factories. The haughty generals sent an envoy to ask what the surrender terms were.

"If you do not surrender unconditionally by 5 o'clock, we 'hall open fire on you," was the answer they received. The generals did not wait for the guns to open fire but surrendered immediately.

All day the columns of prisoners were marching along the streets, and over the Reichstag waved a huge red flag, the flag of victory.