Following the Battle of Kursk, the Red Army drove the Germans back to the Dnieper River by October 1943 and liberated Kiev on November 6. On January 27, 1944 the Siege of Leningrad was lifted after 872 days and nearly a million civilian deaths. As the Soviets moved westward, Germany continued to fiercely resist, inflicting massive casualties even as eventual defeat became certain. Hitler ordered an indiscriminate “scorched earth policy” to destroy supply stores and slow the Red Army offensive. Advancing through the liberated territories, the Red Army saw the overbearing proof of German atrocities: pillaged homelands, tortured prisoners, executed civilians. They found the killing camps of Majdanek and Auschwitz, among others; some discovered the brutal deaths of their own families. Fuelled by the sights of German barbarism and encouraged by anti-German propaganda, the urge for revenge grew. As the Soviets entered East Prussia and Germany, the rage of some soldiers spilled over against the local civilian population and Soviet disciplinary measures were drastically tightened. The Battle of Berlin began on April 16; on April 30 Hitler committed suicide and Germany capitulated on May 8, 1945.



On the way to Berlin, the rage was frightening.