Contradictory to official rhetoric, the populations of the Soviet western territories witnessed the unquestionable preparations for war as Germany amassed troops and weapons at the border.  The locals, many fiercely anti-Soviet, welcomed a potential Nazi invasion, believing economic and religious freedom would return.  On the other hand, large local Jewish populations, facing increased anti-Semitism and fearing a Nazi push eastward, welcomed the Soviets.  Shortly after the Red Army’s arrival in September 1939, however, many Jews were deported to the Soviet east for their now-illicit small business, religious, or political activities.  This act of punishment inadvertently saved many from Hitler’s massacres. The majority of the Soviet people had no inkling of the German invasion. Polish refugees fleeing to the Soviet Union warned about Nazi policies, but these were dismissed as exaggerations.  Members of the older generations who had lived through WWI, or studied in Germany in the 1920s, remembered a refined and just German people. Many of the most vulnerable in the Soviet west – the Jewish elderly, children and women –  chose to stay home rather than embark on a difficult evacuation journey; the overwhelming majority perished.  No one could have imagined the magnitude of the horror that was to be unleashed on June 22, 1941.



Memories of a friendly and respectful German people before the war