The Brest Fortress

Last night I watched a Russian film called ‘The Brest Fortress’ about the German storming of the fortress at Brest Litovsk on the Bug River on June 22 1941. This was the first day of the Barbarossa invasion and the attack came as a complete surprise to the defenders.

This film shows, better than any I’ve seen, the sudden and incomprehensible contrast between peace and war. It shows vividly what it must have been like, especially for the civilians, to have been attacked without warning from the air and ground simultaneously. One moment everyone is going about their business in the sunshine, the next, bombs are exploding, artillery shells are going off, buildings are collapsing, people are dying horribly everywhere.

The battle lasted for eight days, and of course, the Germans prevailed eventually, but not without losing 5% of their total casualties for the first week of the entire Eastern Front in this one battle.

While this film is certainly a piece of Russian propaganda, it was made in 2010, so at least it can’t be attributed to the Communists. As an illustration of the true horror of the situation the Russians faced, it’s magnificent. This film leaves you with a much clearer understanding of just how much the Russians must have hated the Germans, and why.

Of course, it’s also worth remembering that the fortress itself was originally part of Belarus, then technically part of Poland, having been annexed in 1921 in the Treaty of Riga. The Russians annexed it back under the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact when the Germans invaded Poland in 1939. The Germans took it in 1941, the Russians took it back in 1945, and in 1990 it became Belarus again.

Catch the film if you can, it’s worth a look.

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