1945: Massacres of Treuenbrietzen

On this date in 1945 — the same date when, in Berlin, a last mopping-up terminated the remaining participants in the Valkyrie assassination plot, such as Albrecht Haushofer — successive war crimes by the German and Soviet armies slew hundreds at the nearby village of Treuenbrietzen.

In the German installment of the Massaker von Treuenbrietzen, the army led 131 Italian internees taken prisoner after that erstwhile ally had gone over to the Allies in 1943 out to a gravel pit, and gunned them all down. (Stone markers now label the site.)

Only four men survived the mass execution.

“I can not explain this miracle,” said Edo Magnalardo, an Italian who played dead until the heap of corpses was buried, and then climbed out and found some Russians to surrender to/be liberated by. This German article records Magnalardo’s recollections of events, and the long and fruitless struggle for an official investigation.

For Germans in Treuenbrietzen, surrendering to the Red Army was a much less liberating experience … not that anybody had a choice in the matter.

Beginning on this date, Soviet soldiers carried out a horrifying rampage that left upwards of a thousand Treuenbrietzen men dead.

Apparently provoked when a Russian officer celebrating the village’s capture had been shot dead during a brief German reconquest, Soviet troops shot an estimated 270 or so civilians at the edge of the nearby forest on April 23. Over the next two weeks, they kept shooting: some 800 to 1,000 men (mostly) are believed to have been killed in this way by the end of the war. As for the women … there would soon be a need to set up a gynecological station in a local office, and require that all report for VD testing.

Since Treuenbrietzen ended up in communist East Germany after the war, this part of the massacre was seriously downplayed for a long time.

But no matter how officially favored the winning side in the war, the grim fate of so many noncombatants in Treuenbrietzen surely shames those who participated in it. As one survivor put it in the German press, “He who takes revenge can not be celebrated as a liberator, even though he has helped to end this disastrous war.”

This date is locally commemorated in Treuenbrietzen for both massacres, and both Italian and Russian diplomats have participated in memorial ceremonies.

From the Themed Set: The Death Rattle of the Third Reich.

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