Comrade, You Are a ‘Schweinhund!’
East German soldiers thought their Polish allies were swine
It was always an oddity that Cold War alliances consisted of nations that once tried to annihilate each other. NATO members like America, Britain, Canada and The Netherlands defended German cities that they once tried to wipe of the face of the Earth.
Alhough perhaps it wasn’t coincidence that France’s Pluton nuclear missiles were supposed to deter Russia—but only had sufficient range to reach West Germany.
The same strangeness applied to the Warsaw Pact. If the Soviets had invaded Western Europe, it would have been at the head of a coalition of somewhat unwilling nations that didn’t exactly share a warm and fuzzy history.
In particular, there was East Germany and Poland. The limits of fraternal socialist unity is evident in a Polish army report on the misbehavior of East German troops stationed in Poland during joint exercises in 1969.
The original Polish-language report can be found here. The English-language translation is via A Cardboard Castle? An Inside History of the Warsaw Pact, 1955-1991.
The Polish hosts were less than happy with drunken East German officers breaking into local apartments, or with the deputy commander of the 9th Armored Division who “after binge drinking in the town of Charzykow and missing his shoes and uniform, attempted to break into the room of Soviet typists.”
Female typists, presumably.
But what really irked the Poles was the attitude of their German guests, who took every opportunity to remind their hosts that East Germany had a more prosperous economy. The East Germans also proposed that German troops cross the border into Poland for training at dawn on Sept. 1, 1969.
That just happened to be the 30th anniversary of the Nazi invasion of Poland.
There was also the Germans’ “practice of throwing sweets to children and photographing these youngsters while they picked up these sweets caused unpleasant feedback and reminiscences among civilians.”
Curiously, the Polish army also suggested that the attitudes of East German soldiers in Poland were “dominated by guilty feelings caused by the previous historical period.” Mein Gott! It’s a wonder that East Germans didn’t try goose-stepping through the middle of Warsaw.
Politically, this shows while the Soviet empire managed to keep its various satellite nations from going to war against each other, historical animosities died hard.
It’s also hard to feel sorry for the Soviets. If Moscow had gone to war, it would have had to meld two armies that might have preferred shooting at each other to shooting at the Americans.