Enemy at the Gate

Mark Jones markjones011 at tiscali.co.uk
Sat Sep 7 15:53:35 MDT 2002

----- Original Message -----
From: "Louis Proyect" <lnp3 at panix.com>
To: <marxism at lists.panix.com>
Sent: Saturday, September 07, 2002 7:25 PM
Subject: Enemy at the Gate

> In a March 24, 2001 Sunday Telegraph article, Antony Beevor has some
> bitter complaints about Annaud's version of the Battle of Stalingrad on
> two scores. He challenges the film's veracity on a number of matters,
> including whether there were Soviet women snipers (there were none).

Beevor doesn't seem any more credible than Annaud, and if he says there were
no Soviet women snipers then he is wrong. There certainly were. Women fought
alongside men on every front, and as partisans behind the lines, in every
theatre of the Soviet-german war of 1941-45 and there were women snipers at
Stalingrad as elsewhere. Kazimiera Cottam (who was there, unlike Beevor, a
former British army officer whose main and hardly impartial sources appear
to be the former Wehrmacht officers he spent time anecdotalising with while
on Nato details) has publised several books on the subject of women on the
Eastern Front. One
Russian woman sniper, who fought at Stalingrad in 1942 and was made a Hero
of the Soviet Union (I think her name was Kvartsova or Skvartsova) was
honoured in New York City in a special ceremony in1943 or 1944. Here is an
excerpt from Cottam:

>From Women in War and Resistance, the story of Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya,
who was brutally assaulted, raped and murdered by German soldiers, who
photographed themselves doing it of course. She was eighteen.

.. Born in Osinovyye Gai, Gavrilovskiy District/Tambov Region in a family of
village teachers, Zoya Kosmodem'yanskaya spent some time in Siberia with her
family and subsequently moved to Moscow in the early Thirties. Here
Kosmodem'yanskaya and her younger brother Shura attended School No.201. In
1938, she joined the Komsomol.
Kosmodem'yanskaya's childhood was happy. The parents had a good marriage and
the family was close and harmonious. The children grew up in a mentally
healthy atmosphere, though the family lived in a single room in a communal
apartment of a two-storey wooden house located on the outskirts of Moscow
near the Timiryazev Academy. where the father worked as a bookkeeper. After
he suddenly became ill and died in 1933, Kosmodem'yanskaya's mother found it
difficult to make ends meet on her salary of an elementary schoolteacher and
the children worked part-time to assist her. However, doing well in school
was the most important family objective.
Having matured early, Kosmodem'yanskaya was unusually diligent and
persistent in pursuing her goals and was contemptuous of weaknesses and
tears. Less gifted in mathematics than in literature, she read a great deal,
including both Russian and foreign classics. Pensive and impressionable, she
loved Russian literature and history passionately and was greatly inspired
by the books she read.
After the war broke out, Kosmodem'yanskaya, a tenth-grade high school
student, helped to extinguish the incendiary bombs that initially fell on
Moscow. Then she went to a collective farm to help bring in the har-vest.
According to her mother, she returned from the country considerably
transformed: preoccupied and reticent. Having volunteered for service behind
enemy lines, she received brief training and served in the famous Spetsnaz
Unit 9903 of the Western Front. She was to become one of the two female
Heroes of the Soviet Union of this unit. The other one was Yelena Kolesova
(see Kolesova), a leader of an all-female group. Before Kosmodem'yanskaya
left home to join her unit in October 1941, she wrote down in her notebook a
famous line from Hamlet: 'Adieu, adieu! Hamlet, remember me!" [Ghost to
There were female soldiers in almost every reconnaissance and sabotage group
of Unit 9903. Kosmodem'yanskaya carried out her first mission behind enemy
lines in a group consisting of seven male and four female members, commanded
by M.N. Sokolov. The group crossed the front lines on 4 November 1941,
reconnoitring and destroying enemy communications in Shakhovskiy District.
Kosmodem'yanskaya and fellow partisan Klava Miloradova marched in an advance
party. The group carried out their operations by night and slept on the snow
in the forest by day, at times warming themselves by a campfire. They
stretched their five-day rations to two weeks, with Kosmodem'yanskaya
scrupulously sharing her food and water. The group returned safely, without
sustaining any losses.
On 17 November, Kosmodem'yanskaya sent her final letter to her mother. Soon
afterwards, on the night of 21 November, she again crossed the front lines,
by the village of Obukhovo near Naro-Fominsk, with a group composed of young
Komsomols. Already an experienced saboteur, again marching in an advance
party, she acted boldly and resolutely on this mission, her second, under
the leadership of Boris Kraynov.
After personally burning down several peasant houses occupied by the enemy
in the village of Petrishchevo (Vereya District/Moscow Region), and cutting
some telephone wires, Kosmodem'yanskaya returned to the village, in order to
set fire to a presumed storehouse (which turned out to be a cavalry stable).
She was caught in the act by a German sentry. Her captors led her to the
house of peasant Mariya lvanovna Sedova, where they undressed her and began
to interrogate her. Then she was taken to the HO located at the Voronins'
farmstead, where she was administered about two-hundred belt strokes, and
subsequently was moved to another peasant house owned by the Kulik family.
Beaten mercilessly, as well as forced to go outside in her underwear and
walk barefoot on the snow, her human dignity violated in every possible way,
she nevertheless failed to give out any information, including her real
She was hanged on 29 November 1941, with the villagers in the area forced to
witness the terrible spectacle. Defiant and proud to the end, she appealed
to the villagers to fight the enemy mercilessly. Among other things, she
told them that she was happy to die for her people and that the enemy
couldn't kill them all. Her body remained hanging, abused and muti-lated by
enemy soldiers, until 1 January 1942, at which time permission was given to
bury her.
Initially, she was identified as "Tanya," the given name of a Civil War
heroine, Tanya Solomakha, whom she admired and who was killed by the White
Guards. Following the German retreat from Petrishchevo, the first to report
her story was Petr Lidov, a Pravda correspondent. His story titled "Tanya"
appeared on 27 January 1942. On 4 February Tanya's true identity was
established by her mother and fellow partisan Klava Miloradova, after the
body had been exhumed. It was stabbed through and through with bayonets,
with a piece of rope still attached to the neck, but the face was strangely
peaceful. Her mother found it impossible to convey in words what she had
learned from the expression on her daughter's face. She believed that it was
her daughter's tremendous zest for life which gave her strength to withstand
the tortures and die with dignity. Kosmodem'-yanskaya was re-buried at the
prestigious Novodevich'ye Cemetery in Moscow.
In the summer of 1943, a PoW captured in the fighting in Smolensk Region
turned out to be an NCO named Bauerlein, who had witnessed
Kosmodem'yanskaya's interrogation ordered by Lieutenant-Colonel Ru-derer,
commander of the 332nd Infantry Regiment/197th Infantry Division. According
to Lidov, Bauerlein said: "The youthful heroine... stayed firm. Betrayal was
alien to her.... She turned blue from the cold, her wounds bled, but she
didn't reveal anything." Several German snapshots of the execution were
taken from Bauerlein and further photographs of the event were found in a
small Silesian town in early 1945.
Two monuments commemorating Kosmodem'yanskaya's feat have been erected: one
on the Minsk Highway near Petrishchevo (where veterans, farmers,
schoolchildren and young soldiers gathered on her birthday to honour her
memory) and one at the lzmaylovskiy Park Metro Station. There was a memorial
plaque in the village of Petrishchevo, where she died. Kosmodem'yanskaya's
museums were set up in the schools she had attended. Schools, Young Pioneer
squads, city streets, ships and an asteroid were named after her.
What made her special was the way she died, rather than what she achieved.
(Other Soviet women, whether partisans or in the regular army, accomplished
much more than Kosmodem'yanskaya did and she was not the first partisan
heroine to die. For example, Liza Chaykina (see Chaykina) was executed one
week earlier.) However, as the enemy approached Mos-cow, Kosmodem'yanskaya's
deed provided an inspiration to Soviet troops and civilians alike while they
were coping with a desperate situation. Her picture was widely circulated
among the Soviet public. Her name was made famous as a symbol of the times,
epitomizing as it were the Soviet people's heroic self-sacrifice and
patriotic resistance, particularly the bravery of female partisans fighting
behind enemy lines. ...

Mark Jones

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