Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Seventy years ago

September 17, 1939 Soviet forces invade Poland without any declaration of war and quickly defeat the retreating army, taking many thousands of prisoners of war. A good many of them were subsequently "executed" in various camps.

A delightful picture full of ironies. General Heinz Guderian, the outstanding German panzer commander shares a joke with the Soviet General Semyon Krivoshein at the joint parade held by the two invaders in Brest on September 22, 1939 (though fighing went on for some time longer). Less than two years later General Guderian led Panzergruppe 2 in Operation Barbarossa, rapidly capturing Smolensk and almost taking Moscow.

General Kriovshein, who was actually Jewish, also fought in the Second World War, though first he fought against Finland. He was one of the commanding officers in the great Kursk tank battle and played a prominent part in the battle for Berlin. The man had a charmed life though, presumably, his Civil War service with Stalin's favourite commander, the less than talented Semyon Budyonny, stood him in good stead. Krivoshein survived the great purge of the army in 1938 completely unscathed and was not caught up in the second, largely anti-Semitic purge either.

One wonders in what circumstances the two generals met again.

David Low's cartoon sums up the situation.


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