April 17th in German History: The Second Battle of Gaza

Machine gun corps Gaza line WWIb edit2.jpg
Ottoman machine gunners preparing to defend against British attacks.

April 17th is another date in German military history. On this day in 1917, the Second Battle of Gaza began as the British expeditionary force began the next phase of its Palestine campaign. The battle saw British, and British Imperial, troops attack fortified positions defended by soldiers of the Ottoman Empire. The battle is not just part of German history because it was, along with the Ottomans, part of the Central Powers in WWI. The Ottoman forces were commanded by a German general and the German Air Force provided air support to the Central Powers during the battle. That the Ottomans required a German general and the German Air Force shows just how far they had declined relative to the European Powers by this time. The Ottoman Empire largely lacked competent officers, with a few notable exceptions, and possessed little advanced heavy industry. As such, it was unable to build a large air force and the nation only ever had around 90 planes at any point during the war. As such, the Ottomans relied on German military officers for the training of troops and the commanding of many military operations.

Under German leadership, Ottoman forces had strengthened fortifications around Gaza in the three weeks since the First Battle of Gaza which nearly ended in a British victory. In the build up to the battle, both sides conducted Ariel reconnaissance and there were a few small-scale area battles. The British also conducted an artillery bombardment on the defending positions, but this was unable to inflict enough damage on the strong points or lines of the defenders to force them out of their positions. The first assaults with infantry and tanks began on the 17th. Although the British were able to make some small gains and even break into the Ottoman trenches at times, they suffered such heavy losses that they were unable to hold their gains against counterattacks. The Ottomans were also able to capture several British tanks. The Ottomans attempted several small attacks to take advantage of the losses the British suffered. The British were, however, able to repel these with relative ease and so prevented the Ottomans from following up their defensive victory. The official casualty count for the British was 6,000 killed, wounded, and captured although this figure is likely an intentional underestimate and other estimates range as high as 17,000. The Ottomans lost anywhere from 82 to 402 killed and around 1,300 wounded, along with 200 priors. The battle boosted Ottoman moral, which had suffered due to previous military failures and with economic hardship resulting from the war.

Following the Second Battle of Gaza, there was a six month long stalemate in the region that has come to be known as the Stalemate in Southern Palestine. The British were, however able to eventually break the Ottoman lines and capture Jerusalem in December of 1917. The Second Battle of Gaza was certainly a victory for the Ottomans and the Central Powers in general, but it only delayed the military collapse of the Ottomans. While Ottoman soldiers performed well in multiple battles, the nation as a whole was simply not strong enough to fight a full scale modern war. In the end, the Ottomans simply lacked the military skill and necessary industry to match the British and also fight against the Russians and the Greeks at the same time. Only with German support did they last as long as they did, and once Germany began to falter there was no hope for an Ottoman victory.

April 16th in German History: The Signing of The Treaty of Rapallo

Treaty of Rapallo (1922) - Wikipedia
Members of the delegations from the two nations meet. Image Credit: Wikipedia

The study of history focuses to a great extent on the wars that have so often defined it. This focus may be justified, wars are certainly important, but it can give the impression that human history is nothing but a series of wars and ignores the many attempts at creating peace between nations. One of these attempts was made on April 16th, 1922 when the Treaty of Rapallo was signed by the Weimar Republic and the Russian Soviet Federative Republic, which would soon become the USSR.

In 1918, the Bolshevik government and the Central Powers signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. In the span of a year the Tsarist government and the Russian provisional government had been overthrown and Russia had suffered yet more crushing defeats at the hands of the German and Austro-Hungarian Empires. As such, the Russian people and the Russian government were both tired of conflict, and so Lenin, seeking to focus his efforts on securing Russia and lacking in any allegiance to the Allied Powers, signed away much of Russia’s western territory in a peace agreement. This treaty was, of course, nullified when the Central Powers were defeated and Lenin was able to retake much of the territory he lost, although Poland and the Baltic states were not retaken. After WWI, both Germany and Russia were diplomatically isolated and both desired economic and territorial gains. German businessmen sought economic opportunity in Russia, and Lenin desired European investment to spur industrial growth in his undeveloped nation. However, cooperation between the two nations was made more difficult by existing territorial grievances between the two nations and memories of the First World War. In order to facilitate cooperation and rebuild diplomatic relations, Germany first agreed in May of 1921 to sign a treaty recognizing the Soviet government as the only legitimate government of Russia and promising to end relations with any other body claiming to be the Russian government. To further their cooperation, the Treaty of Rapallo was negotiated and signed. In it, the two sides renounced any territorial claims on each other and promised to normalize diplomatic relations. An additional agreement extended the Treaty to all other Soviet Republics. Secretly, the two nations also initiated military cooperation that, in Germany’s case, violated the Treaty of Versailles. Specifically, Germany began the development and testing of new tanks in Russian territory.

While peace between the Soviet Union and Germany would only last for 19 years after the Rapallo Treaty was signed, it still shows how nations can attempt to work together to achieve common goals rather than continue previous hostilities. Only a few years before the Treaty was signed, German troops had been rampaging across Russian territory and the Kaiser had been carving up the Empire of the Tsar. Just four years later the two nations were renouncing claims and normalizing relations, and even promising secret military cooperation. While the Treaty of Rapallo may have been cooperation born out of mutual enemies, that does not negate the fact that it was still diplomatic rapprochement between former enemies. That Russia and Germany, two nations with such opposed ideologies and histories, could cooperate shows that nations with much less fundamental animosity should be able to cooperate to a far greater extent and with a goal more benevolent than striking at their common enemies.

April 15th in German History: The Birth of Wilhelm Busch

Wilhelm Busch | German painter and poet | Britannica
Wilhelm Busch. Image Credit: Encyclopedia Britannica

April 15th is the anniversary of yet another lesser known event in German history. On April 15th, 1832, Wilhelm Busch was born. Wilhelm Busch was a German poet and illustrator who published comic versions of cautionary tales. Busch was born in Wiedensahl and was the oldest of seven children. However, he was educated in a school far away from his parents and so only saw his father three times a year when he visited and he did not see his mother for years at a time. Nevertheless, he received a good education and went on to study mechanical engineering for four years. He disliked this area of study though, and was able to convince his father to send him to art school in Antwerp instead. He, however, dropped out of art school and moved back to Wiedensahl. Busch’s initial works went mostly unpublished, but eventually he found employment producing articles and illustrations for a newspaper. His most successful work, Max and Mortiz, was published in the 1860s. It sold 430,000 copies by Busch’s death in 1908. Busch’s primary form of illustration was wood engraving, although later in life he used Zincography. Busch’s work, although successful, was sometimes banned due to its satirizing of traditional morals and use of figures of speech. Busch was able to visit his family more as a result of his economic success, and he met his brother Otto for the first time in 1867. Unfortunately, Busch developed a dependence on alcohol that would last for the rest of his life. This, along with his heavy smoking, contributed to a deterioration of his health and possibly his mental state. Many of his biographers also blame the deterioration of his mental health on the fact that he never married. Busch spent his later years living with various family members and engaging in correspondences with artists and philosophers in other countries. He continued to write and paint through the 1880s, but became more isolated in his house, refusing to receive visitors and only interacting with some family members. He stopped painting in 1896 when he began to need glasses but continued to write poems until 1899. Busch died in 1908, possibly of heart complications.

Busch’s work influenced later comic artists and poets. Even while he was still alive his work Max and Mortiz inspired the creation of the comic The Katzenjammer Kids in the US. He has a prize and a museum dedicated to him, both of which maintain his legacy. To some extent he even still remains in the popular consciousness, at least in Germany, where the 175th anniversary of his birth was celebrated in 2007. Wilhelm Busch, the influential artist who succumbed to alcohol in his waning years, is similar to many artists both past and present in that his artistic genius was coupled with mental instability. That he is still remembered shows just how persistent art can be in the public memory, perhaps suggesting that the work of modern artists will not be so quickly forgotten as they fade from the spotlight.

April 14th in German History: Henry III Becomes Holy Roman Emperor

History of the papacy (1048–1257) - Wikipedia
Henry III. Image Credit: Wikipedia

While it is certainly important to remember the more recent events in history, I think that it is just as critical that we attempt to preserve the knowledge of the more distant past that perhaps has less direct bearing on the present. The people of those times, while not as obviously connected to our current situation, often had substantial long term and indirect impacts which are still felt today. One such person was Holy Roman Emperor Henry III. On April 14th, 1028, he was crowned King of Germany. The transfer of power after the death of Henry’s father was uncommonly smooth for monarchs of that time, and he was able to quickly set about ruling his kingdom. This kingdom included most of what is now Germany and also the territories of Carinthia, parts of modern-day Austria and Slovenia, Burgundy, and Italy. Henry began his reign with a tour of his various realms and vassal states and for the most part secured their support. Throughout his reign he strengthened his control over the various lands under his rule through the use of sovereign royal right of disposition. In his first conflict, a series of wars with Hungary and Bohemia, Henry emerged victorious and established the border between Austria and Hungary that would remain the same until 1920. Henry spent much of the rest of his reign fighting wars with rebellious territories, most notably Lorraine, and was victorious most of the time. Henry also chose four German Popes and made various other ecclesiastical and secular appointments. Henry’s most important contribution to history, however, was in his freeing of the Vatican from its dependence on Italian Nobles. In doing so he gave it greater influence over the whole of the Empire that would later allow it to grow into an entity with authority over much of Europe. Further, in 1048 he deposed three rival Popes and installed his candidate instead and so created the Great Schism that would set the Holy Roman Empire at odds with the Papacy for two hundred years. Thus, Henry III set the stage for many later conflicts between secular and religious authority that would characterize Medieval and Renaissance history and contribute to the Protestant Reformation and the eventual decline of the Papacy as a political force within Europe. Although Henry III has vanished entirely from popular memory, his influence over European history is still felt today. Thus, he reminds us not to dismiss the past as unimportant, as even obscure figures are crucial to understanding how the present came to be.

April 13th In German History: The Fall of Vienna

Vienna Offensive - Wikipedia

When one thinks about final battles of the Second World War, one generally thinks of the Battle of Berlin. That battle saw the death of Adolf Hitler and the end of the German Army being anything approaching an effective fighting force. The fall of the Nazi capitol was one of the most horrific battles of the war, and would finally end any faith the German people had in the Third Reich. One generally does not think of the fall of Vienna. On April 13th, 1945, just three days before the Battle of Berlin started, Vienna, the capitol of German-controlled Austria, fell to Soviet forces.

Vienna, along with the rest of Austria, had been annexed into the German Reich by the Anschluss in 1938. This peaceful annexation occurred against the wishes of the Austrofascist Austrian government but was supported by the prominent Austrian Nazi Party. After the country had been occupied by German troops, a referendum, which the Germans oversaw, was held and approved the Anschluss by a wide margin. Austria was integrated into Germany and its ethnically German people experienced similar treatment to that experienced by citizens of the rest of Germany. Austria provided some industry and agriculture to the Reich, but its main economic benefit was in the form of the nation’s gold reserves, which helped stave off economic collapse that would have resulted from the massive debts the nation incurred in its rearmament had war not broken out. The annexation of Austria also helped fulfill Hitler’s political promise of uniting the German people and pushed Italy towards an alliance with Germany, as Italy had previously attempted to limit German expansion and had funded the Austrian Fascist Party. That party was persecuted by the Germans after the annexation, as it advocated for Austrian nationalism rather than a pan German state, and many of its leaders were imprisoned.

Obviously, Austria did not see any fighting, apart from allied bombing raids, until late in the war. However, once the Soviets had pushed through Poland and Czechoslovakia it would become a battleground between the advancing Russian hordes and what little remained of the Wehrmacht. On April 2nd the Soviet 2nd and 3rd Ukrainian Fronts initiated the Vienna Offensive with the objective of capturing the city and destroying the German forces inside it. The Soviet forces quickly surrounded and laid siege to the city, subjecting its defenders from the II SS Panzer Corps of the 6th SS Panzer Army to bombardment via artillery and aircraft. The Soviet forces soon entered the city and began to push the defenders back in house to house fighting. The Germans held onto the outer suburbs until the 9th of April, but the Soviets were able to capture the city’s main railway station and on the 13th of April secured the Reichsbrucke bridge using troops landed by the Russian Danube Flotilla. In total, all but two of the bridges over the Danube were destroyed by the defenders, and a sizable portion of the German defenders were able to escape the city on the 13th of April. On the same day, the last defenders in the center of the city surrendered and Vienna fell.

Following the battle, Soviet forces advanced further into Austria, German forces being too depleted to do anything but temporarily slow their advance. The city itself lay in ruins as bombardment and street fighting had taken a toll on the buildings, especially in the old city. There were shortages of food and an absence of running water and electricity. The occupying Soviet soldiers also inflicted a great deal of suffering on the civilian population. However, a provisional government was set up by Austrian Socialist Karl Renner and he declared Austria’s succession from the German Reich. This, while not as symbolically important as the Fall of Berlin or the death of Hitler, should not be overlooked. Austria becoming an independent nation destroyed Hitler’s hopes for a united German people under his rule, and de facto ended the Greater German Reich that was a key promise of Nazism. Thus, the Fall of Vienna and the subsequent independence of Austria showed the world and the German people that Nazism had not only failed militarily, but had also failed to secure the loyalty of even ethnic Germans and so showed its inability to create a unified German nation state.

Easter in Germany

Easter Traditions – 2018
A German burning Easter wheel.
Image Credit: Frontier Museum.org

While Easter in Germany this year will be markedly different from what it is normally, Germans will still find a way to engage in some of their many Easter traditions. These traditions govern everything from food that should be eaten to Easter-day activities to pyrotechnic displays. Several of their traditions are similar to those in the US. For example, Germans traditionally eat lamb on Easter. They also often conduct Easter-Egg hunts and paint eggs. Egg painting is one of the oldest customs; in fact, a painted egg has been found that was made in the fourth century. Catholics in Germany also traditionally eat fish on Good Friday. Good Friday is also meant to be a quiet day where no church bells ring, no songs are sung, and people are not supposed to dance. One tradition that is less common in the US is the consumption of green food on Maundy Thursday. In German the day is called Gründonnerstag. Grün usually means green in German, hence the green food, but here it means to cry as this day represents the Last Supper. Other Easter traditions include the creation of Easter trees, Osterbaum, which are trees decorated with colored eggs. There are also two fire-related German Easter traditions. The first one is the creation of an Easter bonfire on the night before Sunday in order to signify the coming of Spring. A more extreme variation of this is the stuffing of straw into a wheel and rolling it down a hill. The wheel is supposed to bring a bountiful harvest if it rolls straight down the hill. These two rituals are more Pagan in nature, perhaps hearkening back to Germany’s more wild past. One last tradition, one more peaceful than bonfires and burning wheels, is going for a walk on Easter Sunday, which is a day off for most Germans. A walk allows one to enjoy nature after months of snow-enforced sheltering indoors. I think that everyone should take the opportunity to go on walks this Easter, especially given that the quarantine makes it so easy for us to shut ourselves in for days at a time. That being said, all must be careful to keep a safe distance from others on trails and paths.

April 11th In German History: The Liberation of Buchenwald

Four survivors pose with an American soldier following the liberation of Buchenwald.

The original caption reads "The expression on the prisoners' faces show their lack of emotion and interest in life."
American soldiers take a photo with inmates liberated from Buchenwald.

The Holocaust was the worst single act perpetrated by the German Nation. The German government, with the active participation of much of the population and the compliance of the rest, perpetrated the mass murder of millions of Jews, Roma, and other politically and racially undesirable groups. On April 10th, 1945, a major part of this campaign was ended when the U.S Army liberated the Buchenwald concentration camp. The Buchenwald concentration camp was second only to Auschwitz in its size and the breadth and severity of its horrors. The camp was established in 1937 and during the course of the war over 50,000 inmates died; some by outright execution but most as a result of poor conditions, hard labor, and lack of food. Many prisoners also died as a result of medical experiments, most having to do with vaccination and viral tests, performed on prisoners. Unlike Auschwitz, the camp lacked gas chambers. However, Isle Koch, wife of the commandant Karl-Otto Koch, almost made up for this with her particular savagery. She had furniture made out of the tattooed skin of inmates. Isle and her husband were both, however, arrested in 1943 for embezzlement and Karl-Otto was executed while Isle spent the rest of the war living with her family. She was arrested by the Allies at the end of the war and after several trials would be sentenced to life in prison. As the Allied Forces neared the camp, the guards and administrators fled, taking some of the prisoners with them on a death march through the snow. One was Elke Weisel, who would go on to write about his experiences. After their flight, the Gestapo in Weimar informed the camp that explosives would be sent to destroy evidence of it. Unbeknownst to them, however, the Resistance in the camp had already killed the few guards who remained after most were evacuated, and one of the inmates responded that the camp had already been destroyed. When the American forces overran the main camp on the 11th of April they ordered the mayor of a nearby German town to send food and used army medical supplies and staff to care for the prisoners. When General Patton toured the camp he ordered the mayor of Weimar to have 1,000 men visit Buchenwald so they could observe the atrocities that had occurred there. This action was one of the first steps taken to ensure that the Holocaust would be remembered. The particular atrocities which humans can inflict on each other reminds us to be ever vigilant against attempts to cover up or minimize past atrocities lest governments and individuals attempt similar actions again.

April 10th in German History: The Creation of the Dutch of Prussia

Albert, Duke of Prussia - Wikipedia
Albert, Duke of Prussia. Image Credit: Wikipedia

The Teutonic Order is an order of knights that, while founded in Jerusalem, is most famous for its efforts to Christianize Eastern Europe and for later wars with the Kingdom of Poland. The Teutonic Order controlled much of modern day Prussia and Pomerania for hundreds of years, but by the 15th century had come under the suzerainty of the Kingdom of Poland. The members of the Order resented this and also the Polish occupation of “Royal Prussia ”, the Eastern half of Prussia, and so refused to help the Poles in their war with Russia and further demanded the return of territories and an indemnity for their occupation. The Polish Parliament, or Sejm, flatly refused this demand and declared war on the Teutonic Order in 1519. The war was rather inconclusive, with several cities changing hands and both sides launching offensives which were unable to decisively defeat the enemy. It only ended in 1521 when the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V forced an end to hostilities so as to unite Europe against the Ottomans, who had just invaded Hungary. The Teutonic Order and Poland agreed to the Compromise of Tolun, which established a four year truce in which to decide whether the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order, Albert of Hohenzollern, would have to reaffirm his fealty to Sigismund I of Poland. The two states were unable to reach an agreement during the truce, however, and Albert attempted to find allies to aid him when the war resumed. One of the people he met was Martin Luther, who convinced Albert to convert to Protestantism and made Teutonic controlled Prussia into his own personal Duchy of Prussia, which would be the first Protestant state. Albert resigned as Master of the Teutonic Order on April 10th and made himself Duke of Prussia. The Prussian Landtag, an assembly of nobles and property owners which had always opposed Teutonic rule, agreed with this action and accepted the Protestant Reformation. In 1525 the Duchy of Prussia was created. The Teutonic Order selected a new Grand Master and attempted to regain Prussia by political means, but were unsuccessful and would gradually decline until ceasing to be a political entity.

The Duchy of Prussia would grow in power over the next two centuries, taking control of all of Prussia and later most of East Germany and sections of Poland. It was elevated to a Kingdom in 1701 after the War of the Spanish Succession. The Kingdom of Prussia would, along with Austria and Russia, destroy Poland and partition its territory. In 1871 the Kingdom of Prussia would, along with the other remaining German States, form the German Empire. The course of Prussian history is quite remarkable. Prussia went from a breakaway Duchy of a fading order to the most powerful state in Germany to the most powerful nation on the European continent. This improbable course of history all started on April 10th, 1525, when the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order declared himself Duke of Prussia.

April 9th in German History: The German Invasion of Norway and Denmark

Two events relating to Nazi Germany occurred on April 9th. The first, the start of the invasion of Norway and Denmark, was another in the string of Axis victories that characterized the first years of the Second World War. The second, the hanging of anti-Nazi pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, was a final act of desperation in the last days of the Third Reich.

Danish troops on the morning of the German invasion. Image Credit: Wikipedia

On April 9th of 1940, German forces initiated Operation Weserbung, the invasion of Denmark, and within four hours had ended all Danish resistance. On that same day, German ships entered Norwegian ports and German troops would soon occupy the entire country. The German invasion of Denmark violated a non-aggression pact signed a year earlier and was done on the orders of Hitler so as to secure the entrance to the Baltic Sea and safeguard the iron trade with Sweden. The Danish military was so weak and the government so fearful of German retribution that the Prime Minister ordered the armed forces to stop resisting two hours after the invasion began and never even declared war on Germany. Germany invaded Norway also to safeguard the Baltic and its stated goal was to protect Norwegian neutrality against British invasion of the nation. The invasion of Norway took longer than the invasion of Denmark due to the former nation’s greater distance from Germany, stronger military, and attempts by French and British forces to defeat the invasion. Allied troops landed in the town of Narvik in northern Norway and from there intended to drive Germany out of the country, but failed to advance and had to be evacuated in late May as Germany invaded France. After Germany occupied Norway, it secured agreements with Sweden and Finland to allow its troops to move through their territories. While the invasion of Norway and Denmark was a success for Germany, the invasion of Norway in particular did cost the Germans a great deal of their Navy and did force them to keep troops in the country to support the puppet government they established against the resistance which soon formed.

Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer,' by Charles Marsh ...
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Image Credit: New York Times

Five years later, as the Soviets closed in on Berlin from the East and the British and Americans advanced from the West, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was hanged in Flossenburg concentration camp. Bonhoeffer was a theologian and pastor who had spoken out against the Nazi regime since the 1930s. At one point he even left Germany for London, but returned in 1935 to support the Confessor Church, a Lutheran movement to prevent Nazi takeover of Churches for propaganda purposes. Despite the failure of this movement, Bonhoeffer continued to criticize and attack the Nazi government and joined the German Resistance. He joined the Abwehr, a German intelligence organization, to escape conscription and there learned of the extent of Nazi atrocities. He tried to contact Britain on behalf of the Resistance but was ignored, and also engaged in efforts to smuggle Jews to Switzerland. However, he was imprisoned in 1943 and in 1944 was connected to the plot to assassinate Hitler. While in prison he counseled fellow inmates and acted as a pastor. On April 4th, 1945, the diaries of Wilhelm Canaris, the head of the Abwehr who had been acting to sabotage Germany throughout the war, were discovered. As a result, Bonhoeffer, as one of the Abwehr conspirators, was sentenced to death in Flossenburg concentration camp on April 8th and was executed the next day. Two weeks later American forces would liberate that camp. Dietrich Bonhoeffer is just one example of a German who risked, and ultimately lost his life in the effort to weaken and destroy the Nazi regime. His actions saved the lives of many, most notably Jews smuggled out of Germany, and helped undermine the German government. He returned to Germany even though he could have easily stayed in London or after he returned could simply not have resisted the regime. Had he done either he most likely would have survived the war. Dietrich’s sacrifice shows that even in the most oppressive of nations, there are always those who, rather than stand by and secure their own safety at the cost of their principles, are willing to risk everything to do what is right.

April 8th in German History: The Liberation of Crimea

Russian infantry rejoice at the recapture of the city of Sevastopol from the German Army.

April 8th, 1944, while perhaps a bad day for Germany, was a good day for the world as a whole. On that day, the Soviet Union began its offensive to retake Crimea from the Germans who had occupied it in 1942. The Soviet forces, led by Fyodor Tolbukhin, attacked combined German and Romanian forces under Erwin Jaenecke. Over the preceding two years, the Red Army had pushed the Wachermat back to the Ukraine. However, the German Army had not yet experienced Operation Bagration, and so still had some capacity to resist the Soviet Union along the Eastern Front. However, the German Army was unable to prevent the Soviets from crossing into Crimea and quickly advancing to Sevastopol, reaching the city on the 16th of April. The Germans were unable to make a fortress out of Sevastopol as the city’s fortifications had not been rebuilt from their destruction in the German assault on the city. As such, they were forced to evacuate the peninsula entirely. Soviet bombers attacked the evacuating forces and shore artillery attempted to sink the Romanian and German ships. The German and Romanian navies lost several transports and light vessels, but overall did not take too heavy losses in terms of ships. They did, however, suffer 57,000 dead during the entire operation in Crimea to the Soviet’s 17,000. This is especially unbalanced when one considers that the Soviets had 460,000 men in the operation to the German’s 250,000. These casualty ratios show a sharp reversal of the pattern that held during the earlier phase of the war in which the Germans would surround and destroy massive numbers of Soviet infantry. Now, German formations were trapped in pockets and liquidated by Russian formations superior in aircraft and artillery. The Soviet recapture of Crimea was yet another step toward the defeat of Nazi Germany. It secured the Russians from a German attack on their flank and gave them control of yet more ports on the Baltic Sea. Further, it forever ended the possibility of a German invasion of the Caucuses. Finally, every German soldier who drowned in the Black Sea was one less who would defend the gates of Berlin against the Red Tide. The horrors that Germans suffered in Crimea were retribution for what they had inflicted upon the Russians previously, and they would suffer them again and again until the end of the war. They serve to remind us yet again that aggressive expansionism in the modern age does not lead to long term success or prosperity.