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Declassified files from Russia’s FSB detail abuses by US, French troops in 1945 Berlin

Major General Alexey Sidnev who headed the Berlin sector reported a rise in US troops’ crimes against German citizens in his November 9, 1945, memo

MOSCOW, May 23. /TASS/. Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) has declassified archival documents shedding light on crimes committed by American and French troops against German citizens during the occupation of Berlin in 1945.

The FSB points out that the Soviet Military Administration in Germany was established in May 1945 to manage the Soviet zone of German occupation, which was divided into 14 operational sectors. Of special significance was the Berlin sector, as its mission involved keeping an eye on behavior of allied troops in the US, British and French zones of Berlin.

Rise in crime

Major General Alexey Sidnev who headed the Berlin sector reported a rise in US troops’ crimes against German citizens in his November 9, 1945, memo to Soviet People's Commissar for Internal Affairs Ivan Serov.

"It has been established that cases of hooliganism, robbery and violence against Germans committed by American troops are growing rather than declining. In particular, on October 21, two German citizens - Friedrich Scholl from 15, Schwerinstrasse, and Karl Kricek from 158, Potsdammerstrasse, were walking home from work. Two American soldiers came up to them from Potsdammerstrasse and asked for a light. After that, each of the Americans fired their pistols for no reason, wounding Scholl in the chest and Kricek in the abdomen. Police discovered them both in serious condition and sent them to the hospital," the report reads.

Another incident occurred on October 26, 1945, when two trucks carrying 40 to 50 American troops came up to the Femina restaurant in the Berlin-Schoneberg neighborhood at about 9:00 p.m. The American soldiers broke into the restaurant, blocked all exits, and demanded that all those inside give up their valuables. In the course of ten to 15 minutes, the Americans took watches, gold rings and money from Germans, forcing women to surrender their fur neckpieces, and left.

Many of these incidents took place in the US sector, where ordinary Germans, including a painter, a night watchman, a small restaurant owner, a shoe shop owner, a playwright and a policeman, fell victim to violence and robbery.

Sidniev’s report from November 19, 1945 says that "outrages and robbery against Berlin residents committed by allied troops have increased recently." On the night of September 27, 1945, three French soldiers turned up in the Berlin suburb apartment of a woman called Agnes. They raped the woman and another girl who was with her. "After that, the soldiers seized 200 marks and a gold watch from Agnes, beat her and left."

Agent infiltration

On March 5, 1946, then British Prime Minister Winston Churchill delivered his Iron Curtain speech in Fulton, Missouri, in the United States, marking the start of the Cold War between the West and the Soviet Union. Some two months later, Russian counterintelligence recorded a rise in US, British and French intelligence activity against the Soviet Union.

"Recently, <...> the foreign intelligence agencies of the allies have been actively sending agents into the Soviet zone of German occupation," the Berlin sector’s chief reported to the Soviet interior minister on May 8, 1946. "As many as 203 agents were exposed and arrested on May 1, 1946, including 108 agents of the UK’s Secret Service, 80 agents of the United States’ Secret Intelligence Service and 15 agents of France’s Securite Militaire," the report reads.

"British and US intelligence agencies task most of the agents with meeting Russian officers and carrying out monitoring activities in order to collect information about the deployment of military units, their size and weapons, the construction of fortified demarcation lines, the mood of the German population and its attitude towards the Red Army, as well as about the activities of the Soviet military administration. In addition, the agents were also tasked with spreading false and provocative rumors against the Soviet military administration and the Red Army," the report said. Some agents were supposed to infiltrate Russian military counterintelligence to find out its methods and the names of operatives.