The Quirks Of History
Another intermission into posts on current affairs...
General Purpose History is always straightforward, with good guys and bad guys and clearly separate sides. Reality was never and is never like this. Some Westerners have trouble with denouncing WWII Allied atrocities like fire-bombing Dresden, or the massive and brutal ethnic cleansings by formerly Nazi-occupied Central and Eastern European countries, and never heard of the Cap Arcona disaster or its unfortunate connection to Dresden. Russians f.e. don't know much about Stalin's decision to let the Nazis crush the Warshaw uprising, or the mass rapings on the generals' order in Vienna or Berlin. Doug Merrill @ A Fistful Of Euros quotes an article about another forgotten incident of WWII that I just can't leave unmentioned:
Vlasov's forgotten army
Communists buried legacy of Soviet General Andrei Andreyevich Vlasov and his battalion of POWs that helped free Prague from the Nazis
...Nov. 14, 1944, in the Castle's Spanish Hall brought together Andrei Andreyevich Vlasov, a Soviet General (indeed the "Savior of Moscow," who had stopped the Nazi armies from taking that city three years earlier) and much of the Nazi upper echelon. Vlasov would convince the Nazis to back a plan he had devised -- a last-ditch effort to arm prisoners of war to battle Stalin's forces.
...When Vlasov took the podium he launched into an extraordinary manifesto of his own: of equality and democracy in the new Russia which would be liberated by his army... Vlasov had refused Himmler's demand to include "an unequivocal stand on the Jewish question." In fact not a single word in Vlasov's speech had referred to Hitler or to National Socialism.
...When news that Vlasov had a green light to form this new army circulated via Russian POWs' own newspaper, by the end of the month new recruits were signing up at a rate of up to 60,000 per day.
...Between that November and April of 1945, two divisions of "Vlasov's Army," more than 50,000 men, were formed, equipped and trained. Nine officers were Jews, concealed by Vlasov personally. Germany could not afford to equip and provide munitions for more men. This army had its own hospitals, training schools for officers, supply systems and air force. And on April 14, 1945, it was sent not to liberate Russia but to try to halt the Soviet advance across the Oder, only a few hours' drive from Berlin.
Seeing how hopeless, as well as pointless, the situation was for his force, Vlasov turned his men back and decided to march across Bohemia to get to Pilsen -- where he would deliver them as prisoners to the Americans, who were halted there. Stalin had already made it known that if any of Vlasov's men fell into his hands they would receive long and painful deaths.
The army stopped to regroup near Beroun, just a half-hour drive southwest of Prague. By now it was early May. Hitler had already committed suicide. On May 5, members of the Czech National Committee came out from Prague to see Vlasov. Their uprising against the Nazis had begun but the planned British weapons drop had not come. They did not know then that Stalin had stopped Churchill. Stalin's plan, as at Warsaw, was to wait and watch the patriots and the Nazis kill each other and destroy the city.
Eventually Vlasov was persuaded and by May 6 the First Division, 25,000 men with armor, set off in three columns to save the uprising -- and Prague. In 36 hours the Nazis had surrendered and the uprising had succeeded. What followed then was a betrayal by the Czech National Committee of the army that had rescued them, more betrayals by the Americans and the British and then the Soviet Army's arrival in Prague being heralded as the liberators of the city. Stalin saw to it that Vlasov's Army would never make the history books and few Czechs even today really know of its contribution. Even the little street plaques which list those patriots who fell at that spot during the Prague Uprising do not list Vlasov's men. Sometimes the plaques simply say "... and others." That's them.