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he Eastern Front of the Second World War is renowned for its shows of brutality. This brutality was not limited to the active person involved in the fighting and would often extend to the civil population of the lands the conflict was being fought in. We know much of the German crimes against the innocent on the Eastern Front, but we seldom talk about the crimes the Soviets committed on their march to Berlin. In this article, we will talk about a peculiar and brutal situation an SS soldier found himself in during the Soviet advance.

War is Hell

During the Soviet advance and German retreat on the western front, many of the Red Army soldiers sought to deliver their own justice onto their perceived enemy. As the Red Army advanced into German land, both combatants and citizens had to experience this Soviet justice.

German refugees from East Prussia, February 1945. Many German combatants chose to flee to the Western Front as high-ranked members of the German army faced a grisly fate if they were captured by the Soviet forces in the east. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Combatants who chose to surrender were not treated as such and often were shot once the Soviet troops could get close enough to them. The civilian population of the eastern part of Germany experienced crimes to the same level the occupied parts of Russia experienced under German control. Women were indiscriminately raped by Red Army soldiers, and any husband or child trying to intervene was often shot.

This brutality gave birth to methods of torture only a war like the Second World War could breed. One such peculiar and brutal torture method was experienced by a German part of the most despicable branch of the German army, the SS.

Music or death

Upon the capture of this young SS officer, his Red Army captors gave him two options. Either play the piano in the house he was captured in or be shot. If he chose the first option, the SS officer would then be shot when he stopped playing the piano.

Human instinct took over, and the officer chose the first option. He would go on to play the piano for the Red Army soldiers who held him at gunpoint for over 22 hours without fail, after which he collapsed. He most likely thought that he entertained his ‘guests’ enough to be spared. This hope was quickly snuffed out as one of the Red Army soldiers came up to him to congratulate him on his performance, then proceeded to shoot him.

This fate was not uncommon for many Wehrmacht personnel but was guaranteed for the members of the SS. This elite branch of the German army was among one of the most hated by the Soviets, meaning that anyone the Soviets captured with affiliations to the SS had a grisly fate ahead of them. By looking at this story, we must remember that war always has two sides, and in this case, both sides committed crimes that we should remember.

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