17. Oktober 1941
For three days already our battalion attacks Krasno Pawlowka unsuccessfully. The losses are high. The Ivan defends doggedly and tenaciously. Here it is shown that the Russian, although also very fierce in attack, performs his greatest fighting feats in defence. It is the fighting style that most corresponds to his mentality - passivity. Here he performs unusual feats of toughness, capacity for suffering and readiness to die. He fights to the last cartridge and lets the attacker slay him in his foxhole or kills himself. I have experienced such things several times, but I must add that there were also many cases of despondent retreat and fearful flight.
Influences of folk character on the way of fighting are natural and obvious. The Norwegians and British are said to have a hard but generally chivalrous way of fighting. The Russian often fights insidiously and deviously. The difference between the peoples also becomes clear in the way they treat their prisoners.
Here are just a few examples of the Russian behaviour that results from their mentality:
- Deception, slyness to the point of insidiousness: Observation booth in a hollowed grave. Approach of the first wave in German uniforms or with raised hands close to our positions and sudden attack of the armed men following undercover. Mining of front doors and stoves in the houses of the villages they had cleared. Leaving behind false maps to mislead our artillery in firing.
- Distrust: Strictest secrecy, great vigilance, sharp checks by the sentries, multiply expanded security installations.
Of course, all armies work with such tricks, but the Russian is vastly superior in this field, especially because he unhesitatingly uses methods that we reject on moral grounds. The Russian is just different from us.
Particularly typical is the approach of the Soviet troop leadership, which takes no account whatsoever of human lives in its tactical planning. I mean the cold-blooded waste of human lives, the stubborn repetition of failed attacks at the same place without regard for losses. The ruthless sacrifice of outposts, strongpoints and entire encircled formations, the mass attacks with heavy losses, and much more. The Soviet leadership need not worry about replacements with the unlimited masses of this nation of millions, something European strategists could not afford. Undoubtedly, the Soviet military leadership made up for its initial tactical incompetence by the mass deployment of people. But notwithstanding these explanations, this behaviour of the Soviets also reveals a mentality similar to that of the Asian peoples, which values human life less and which seems inhuman to us Europeans.
But now back to the events of the day. Our battalion is trying again and again to break the dogged resistance of the Russians. So far, despite heavy losses, they have not succeeded in taking the village. On top of all the misfortune, there is also bad weather. But part of the losses are also due to the imprudence of the Landser. They attacked in pouring rain. The target was a village. The attack went over a wide, flat, new ploughed field. A furious hail of bullets pelted at them from the village. The soldiers, however, had their rifles tucked under their arms, their hands in their pockets, their heads tucked into their turned-up jacket collars, and so trudged across the sodden field. They didn't even think about taking cover. They didn't care about anything in this weather. They would rather have taken a bullet than throw themselves into the mud. And so it happened.
Opposite our quarters there is a small house. In front of it is a shot assault gun. The crew has moved into the house and is waiting for spare parts.
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- probably 15-17 Oct (KTB 257. I.D., NARA T-315 Roll 1803 Frame 001017/20, Roll 1804 Frame 000006)
- this weather and thus probably also this event already on 10-13 Oct (KTB OKW 1940-1941 pp. 690-696), i.e. during the attack on Preobrashenskoye