Why were eastern front refugees relieved to see German soldiers?

I am currently reading, “The Dying Days of the Third Reich”. In it a German soldier describes a refugee convoy of rural citizens arriving at their position. They smiled at the Germans and felt safe with them. He says the SS had warned the villagers that the Russians were coming and to head west to German lines.

Their position was a place he refers to as Waitzes. I tried googling but couldn’t find it.

Are these Russian villagers? Regardless, would the SS have been so keen on furthering human lives that were not their own? Were the Russians not seen as the defenders and liberators on the eastern front?

Feel like I am missing something integral here. And it could be embarrassing for me ha.


Edit: initially, I was under the impression that the German soldier was in Russia at the time, and that Russian citizens were fleeing their own army to be saved by the German forces. That is what I was unclear about.. As to why that would be the case. I was and am aware the red army committed crimes against humanity.

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  1. Total_HD

    July 19, 2017 at 5:13 am

    Without knowing the location it’s a tough call. I have read a fair amount of German soldiers biographies of their time on the eastern front.

    These refugees could have been naturalised Germans and so hopeful and happy to see familiar troops but a long way east this is highly unlikely. That said, if prior to the withdrawal they had sided with the Germans the Russians would spare them little care and so the Germans would have given the best option for survival. It again only if they were of German heritage.


    July 19, 2017 at 5:13 am

    Ok so I can maybe shed a little light on how my own grandparents reacted. This might not be 100% accurate as they are both dead and I’m fuzzy on the details.

    My fathers parents were both born in Estonia around the end of WWI. I say around bc all of the records are gone or never existed in the first place. Estonia gained independence in 1918. Around the time of WWII Russia started their usual fuckery and ultimately made a secret deal with Hitler to reclaim what they viewed as their rightful territory. When the Russians invaded they raped and pillaged. Mass deportations and executions of intellectuals and political dissidents followed. As such when the Germans pushed the Russians back, many viewed the Germans as liberators. (Might be significant? Estonians ethnically and culturally identify as Nordic and not Slavic and fit into Hitler’s master race bs somewhere) The Germans went so far as to set up entire units recruited from the local populace. According to what my grandmother told me the Germans promised to restore Estonias sovereignty. This turned out to be a lie as well. In the end the Germans were pushed back out of Estonia. With the Russians back to occupy, many Estonians left their homeland either bc they chose not to live under communist rule or bc they would be executed for supporting Germany.

    My Grandmother was the only survivor of her family. All of her brothers died fighting and her parents and sister were sent to Siberia to never be seen again and presumably died there. My Grandfathers family suffered a similar fate. They became refugees in France and sometime in 1947 I think they were granted entry into the US.

    tldr: The Russians were barbaric to the local populace and some mistakenly viewed the Germans as saviors.

  3. Luxus90

    July 19, 2017 at 5:13 am

    The town he referred to is most likely Wiejce, which was called Waitze in German and is now located in Poland.

    Most of the villagers would not have been Russians or Poles, but Germans and they would not have seen the Soviet Army as liberators. They would have deeply feared the Soviet soldiers because of German propaganda which portrayed them as savages and because of the stories of Russian soldiers avenging what German soldiers had done to Russia on the German inhabitants of the easternmost towns and villages of the Reich.

  4. theaccidentist

    July 19, 2017 at 5:13 am

    These people were certainly Germans, not Poles or others. Prussia and it’s mostly German core stretched pretty far east up to Lithuania and the fighting plowed through it for more than half a year before it reached central Germany which then became the soviet satellite ‘East Germany’ aka GDR as all of Prussia proper was ceded to Poland and some even to the USSR.

    It’s population was diverse and some of the land had been contested. That and the assumption that the Red Army would act here like the Wehrmacht and SS had acted there (and propaganda playing on the image of the barabaric slavs) made Germans fear for more than their lives.

    Indeed the war in the east had already been more traumatising on the civilians of East Prussia in WWI as it was the only front in the war that started inside German borders. Also, given the nature of the Versailles Treaty, the Allied backing of Poland and the recent ethnic and political conflicts of the interbellum, it was safe to expect atleast some parts of Prussia proper would be up for actual conquest.

  5. fix_yo_shiz

    July 19, 2017 at 5:13 am

    Depending where and when it’s because the red army treated them more horrific than most could imagine. In comparison Nazi forces were gentleman for many of them. And depending where they were much more aligned in ethnicity and culture to the Germans than the Russians.

  6. wiking85

    July 19, 2017 at 5:13 am

    I’m not sure when and where this situation occurred, but in other German memoirs they describe how Soviet civilians on their side of the lines were badly mistreated, often murdered and in the case of women raped, on the belief that they had aided the Germans if they weren’t partisans. They were treated as traitors. So if there were Soviet citizens fleeing west that were favorable to the Germans enough to be fleeing the Soviet military, then they’d be very happy to see German soldiers. As to the SS, yes some would have humanitarian concerns; especially later in the war the Waffen-SS got a lot of conscripts as part of their share of the conscription levees, i.e people that didn’t volunteer and weren’t politically inclined to join the SS or Nazi party were sent to their military branch as part of Conscription. That started in 1939-40 IIRC.

  7. xxpired_milk

    July 19, 2017 at 5:13 am

    Judging by the down votes I should be embarrassed. Kk

  8. Tychola

    July 19, 2017 at 5:13 am

    Just like Germany, the soviets threatened and killed many political or ethnic opponents. It could have been for many different reasons: being ethnically german, collerborating with Germans, being an anti communist or pro monarchist… many people had good reasons to be happy to get away from the Russians.

  9. spriddler

    July 19, 2017 at 5:13 am

    Ukrainians for instance were generally speaking not at all enthusiastic about being put back under Soviet rule. Many Ukranians sided with the Germans and saw them as liberators.

  10. Marseppus

    July 19, 2017 at 5:13 am

    Some Soviet citizens, including some of my ancestors, had a better go at life under German occupation than they did under Soviet rule. For example, my grandparents and great-grandparents were both *Volksdeutsch* (ethnically & linguistically German) and religious, making them targets for oppression and death at the hands of the Soviets. The Germans were more tolerant of religion, and favoured my ancestors over their non-German neighbours as a matter of racial policy. As the Red Army began moving West, the Nazis’ policy of making *Volksdeutsch* into *Reichsdeutsch* (citizens of Germany proper) meant that they tried to evacuate Soviet *Volksdeutsch* to Germany in the final years of the war, so seeing SS tips would be a sign that evacuation to Germany was still possible, rather than exile in Siberia.

  11. reveilse

    July 19, 2017 at 5:13 am

    Don’t feel embarrassed about posting this. I’m really glad you did, because my grandmother is an ethnic German who was born and raised in what is now Poland. She’s told me stories about her family fleeing the Red Army at the end of the war (she was about 12). I’ll have to pick this book up. Thanks!

  12. banallusernames

    July 19, 2017 at 5:13 am

    A old Ukrainien woman once explained this very thing to me. She said it was simple: as bad as the Nazis were, the Communists were far worse. They were savage and barbaric. She and her family fled west towards the German lines just to avoid the Russians.

  13. sneekerpixie

    July 19, 2017 at 5:13 am

    From what I was taught in history. Because the Germans treated Russians like sub humans during the war, the Russian decided to return the favour. They killed men and raped women (sometimes killing them too) in the villages they passed through on their way to the west. There’s a lot more but that’s the short of it.

  14. Bookratt

    July 19, 2017 at 5:13 am

    Could the location referred to be Vac, Hungary? Vac was called Waitzen, in German.

  15. dcloafer

    July 19, 2017 at 5:13 am

    Surprised that most of the comments have been along the lines of, “Well the Soviets were brutal occupiers too.” Not that this isn’t true, but I’d say in general the Germans treated their Slavic subjects worse than the Soviets did.

    I suspect these people were ethnic Germans. Some other commenters have talked about the German populations in the Baltics, which were indeed sizable. But I’d point out that there were also very large German populations throughout other parts of Eastern Europe, including Poland and the Ukraine. These weren’t Germans from Germany who had recently emigrated; many had lived there for generations.

    When the Soviets pushed the German army out of these areas, the German populations were subject to ethnic cleansing. It hasn’t gotten a lot of attention until the last couple decades for fairly obvious reasons: The Germans themselves felt uncomfortable bringing up the fact that ethnic Germans were victims of ethnic cleansing, because, you know, the Holocaust and everything.

  16. IIMrUniverse

    July 19, 2017 at 5:13 am

    Yanno I wasn’t paying attention and I thought this was r/jokes and I was really confused for a second

  17. pink_portal_pony

    July 19, 2017 at 5:13 am

    They are probably referring to [Vác](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/V%C3%A1c) in Hungary. And there was a German minority in Hungary at the time.

    Besides Hungary wasn’t part of Russia yet so actually they were invaded a second time.

  18. Mr_Ted_Stickle

    July 19, 2017 at 5:13 am

    thought this was a n /r/jokes for a second.

  19. lightningsnail

    July 19, 2017 at 5:13 am

    The Soviets weren’t exactly friendly. Murder and rape was common during their advance.

    It must have been a nightmare being stuck between evil and evil. But as the saying goes, better the devil you know.

    It is also important to keep in mind that the most evil of things the Nazis were doing was not known, or not well known, at the time.

  20. AmmanasShadowThrone

    July 19, 2017 at 5:13 am

    If the refugees were running from the Russians, I can see why they would be glad to see anyone else. I can’t remember what they were called, but there was essentially a second Russian army that would move along behind the main army. The second army’s job was literally to make sure everything living was dead and they were decidedly brutal about it.

  21. [deleted]

    July 19, 2017 at 5:13 am


  22. Tino_MartinesNYY

    July 19, 2017 at 5:13 am

    Protection, at least a speed bump to stall the Red Army. The Red Army was he’ll bent on bringing destruction to every corner of Germany. Estimates vary, but around a million German women were gang raped and hundred of thousands of them committed suicide before or after the rape. It’s estimated 100,000 woman committed suicide in Berlin alone from April-September ’45. Some women were in fact raped to death, summary executions of men and boys, including raping of males I’d assume also. The last place you’d want to be in 1945 was in front of the Soviet advance, unless of course you were in a concentration camp.

  23. C900

    July 19, 2017 at 5:13 am

    A bit late to reply, but my grandmother who lived through WWII in Eastern Europe, told me stories about the Germans and Russians coming through. She had positive things to say about the German soldiers who stayed in her home for a few days, and negative things to say about the Russians. Very few people liked having the Russians rolling through. They were more uncivilized with less structure. People were afraid of both sides, but the Russians were more likely to take whatever they wanted.

  24. C900

    July 19, 2017 at 5:13 am

    A bit late to reply, but my grandmother who lived through WWII in Eastern Europe, told me stories about the Germans and Russians coming through. She had positive things to say about the German soldiers who stayed in her home for a few days, and negative things to say about the Russians. Very few people liked having the Russians rolling through. They were more uncivilized with less structure. People were afraid of both sides, but the Russians were more likely to take whatever they wanted.
    Edit to add that after WWII, Russians moved into what was then Czechoslovakia, introduced Communism, nationalized peoples farms, lands, livestock, properties and forced those people to take care of said things for the state in return for peanuts. They chased out the rich/nobles, destroyed their properties, stole and sold what they could,…. things just really went downhill from there. Russians were viewed by many as invaders. It’s a long story with many different views. Some people enjoyed being members if the Communist party, others pretended for fear of being turned in, and those who voiced their dissent were dealt with.

  25. Baloo2009

    July 19, 2017 at 5:13 am

    Well if your family was Estonian, Lithuanian or any other nazi puppet state citizens, they were scarred of Russian persecution. Otherwise it is BS to say they were more happy to se nazi soldiers.

  26. Jubs_revenge

    July 19, 2017 at 5:13 am

    My Polish grandma did this to escape the much more savage Russian troops. The Germans were the better of two evils for her.

  27. IqfishLP

    July 19, 2017 at 5:13 am

    My grandfather is one of those. He is still alive and tells parts of his story whenever possible.

    He grew up in Silesia, a part of it that is now considered Poland.

    They fled their farm when they knew the Russians came and the stories he told about what the Russians did where horrible. They basically plundered the whole village and destroyed everything. The convois he was part of were being attacked and once even strafed by a Russian plane.
    He said he was glad when he reached German lines, they gave them food in exchange for a few horses and let them trough to west Germany.

    They later went back to find 80% of their village burnt down and all of their possessions stolen, so they decided to stay in west Germany and built a new life here working in the textile industry.

  28. Captain_Peelz

    July 19, 2017 at 5:13 am

    The Soviet Union saw anyone who had lived under Nazi rule as being a traitor/enemy. If you were living in Nazi occupied land and were ‘liberated’ by the Soviet forces you would not be treated as a refugee, but as an enemy who had supplied the Nazi forces in some way: be it your crops, services, etc that the Germans had taken

  29. padizzledonk

    July 19, 2017 at 5:13 am

    they were most likely ethnic Germans, or actual German-Germans that emigrated to those areas.The Russian army held no quarter for anyone if German descent after the Nazis raped, pillaged and murdered their way through western Russia. I know for a fact that Germany actually shipped a bunch of Germans into the Sudetenland to forcefully populate the area, and I’m pretty sure they did it elsewhere also as they conquered their way east.


    July 19, 2017 at 5:13 am

    I think it was because the Russians were raping their women.

  31. MyLeftShoeIsRight

    July 19, 2017 at 5:13 am

    Watch “Adolf Hitler, the greatest story never told” on YouTube and you’ll know why.

  32. Kenshin86

    July 19, 2017 at 5:13 am

    According to a documentary I watched (I am German btw) the Russians treated the folk in eastern Europe like 2nd class citizens. Considering how badly they treated The 1st class ones that was quite bad. The government also was responsible for major famines and the socialist regime was incredibly brutal and punishing. The blood on the hands of the Bolsheviks and the brutality their ideology inflicted was massive. The Nazis were caring mothers towards their populace in comparison but nowadays we mostly remember the horrors of the holocaust and the world wars, not how Leninist and Stalinist Russia exploited, massacred and oppressed their own subjects.

    The people living in eastern Europe had very little love for what they viewed as oppressors, so they greeted the Germans as liberators.

  33. ponku

    July 19, 2017 at 5:13 am

    >Were the Russians not seen as the defenders and liberators on the eastern front?


    But seriously, rarely anyone on the eastern Europe thought that about Russian army. During the war and after the war, they were considered worse than German. While you could expect atleast somewhat bearable conditions from wermacht, soviet army was seen as bunch of hateful savages. No one east from Germany today view Russia as “liberating force”. It was just another occupation army taking place of the former one. People dont see USSR as the ones who “helped to defeat Germany” but as the ones who invaded and occupied those lands for the next 40 years. That’s why you usually dont see “appreciation” from these countries for Russian contribution in WW2. They were not allies, but invaders.

    We get it that Russia suffered a great deal in their effort to defeat Germans, but they did it for themselves not for us (Poles) and others. So we wont be thankful for them for liberating us from one occupation just for them to occupate us themselves.

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