The Third Reich in photos: Tovarisch
CAUGHT BETWEEN TWO DICTATORSHIPS, RUSSIANS RALLIED TO DEFEND THEIR HOMELAND
The faces of Russian resistance
World War II involved, to one degree or another some 104 countries and followed closely on the heels of World War I, which had been billed as ‘The Great War’ and ‘The War to End All Wars’. Alas, those names were no longer applicable in the face of the unfolding horrors of the 1940s. Despite all the hopeful phrases about the conflict from 19141918, the new war smashed all previous records for carnage, death and destruction.
Participation in both world wars saw different entry points and varying perspectives on the conflict for the combatants. The United States had not been eager to enter either war and joined WWI only in 1917, three years after hostilities began raging in Europe. 25 years later the USA, again belatedly, entered the next global conflict following the Japanese ‘sneak’ attack on Pearl Harbor, and as a result Americans tend to mark their world war history books by that date, 7 December 1941.
The Chinese would have a different perspective, as Manchuria had been invaded by the Japanese as early as 1931. Imperial Japan, meanwhile, preferred to name their conflict ‘The Greater East Asia War’.
Britain and France, complying with their international treaties, had been fighting Nazi Germany since September 1939 after the Wehrmacht had invaded Poland. Though ideological mortal enemies, Stalin and Hitler’s non-aggression pact saw Poland crushed between the two dictatorships – Germany attacking from the west and Soviet forces from the east, dividing up the spoils at the cost of millions of Polish lives.
The Nazi-soviet pact ended on 21 June 1941 when Axis troops launched a coordinated assault, smashing through the Baltic states and swathes of Soviet territory. In the face of this colossal attack, the Soviets came up with another name for the conflict: ‘The Great Patriotic War’.
These original photos from the author’s collection give a glimpse at some of the men and women who fought in the Great Patriotic War.