The Great Unknown Feat of WWII: Soviet Evacuation and the German Invasion

 Cultural Theory Historical Practices Lecture Series called The Great Unknown Feat of World War II: Soviet Evacuation and the German Invasion by Wendy Z. Goldman.

Cultural Theory Historical Practices Lecture Series: The Great Unkown Feat of World War II: Soviet Evacuation and the German Invasion

Wendy Z. Goldman | Paul Mellon Distinguished Professor of History

Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019
4 p.m. (Free and open to the public)
Gailliot Center

It was in September 1939, 80 years ago, that World War II broke out with the German invasion of Poland. Two years later the Wehrmacht troops crossed the frontier of the Soviet Union. Few Americans today know that in World War II the vast majority of German divisions were arrayed on the eastern front and the Soviet Union bore the brunt of the fighting. As a result of the Cold War, the great struggle of America’s wartime ally have largely been erased. One of the greatest Soviet wartime feats was evacuation, a massive, coordinated effort.

After Hitler invaded the Soviet Union, German troops moved swiftly to conquer vast tracts of land, villages, and cities. The first months of the war proved a disaster as the Red Army fell back in disordered retreat. The richest agricultural lands and most developed industry lay in the these frontline zones. If captured by the Germans, they would be used to fuel Hitler’s war aims: to build a vast colony of slaves under German rule in the east.

The Soviet state moved quickly to save the people, animals, and the industrial base. It created a Soviet of Evacuation within days of the invasion to pack up the factories, load the machinery on boxcars, and send them thousands of miles east to safety. Workers labored round the clock, often under bombardment, to dismantle and load. Millions of people joined the great exodus. Cattle, grain, coal, oil, and food products were shipped east. After long and dangerous journeys, workers began reconstructing a new industrial base, churning out armaments, guns, ammunition, tanks, and airplanes. Without evacuation, the Soviet Union would not have been able to supply the Red Army with what it needed to drive the Nazis all the way back to Berlin.

Goldman is a social and political historian of Russia. Her early work, Women, the State and Revolution: Soviet Family Policy and Social Life, 1917-1936 (Cambridge University Press, 1993) and Women at the Gates: Gender and Industry in Stalin’s Russia (Cambridge University Press, 2002) focused on family policy, women’s emancipation, and industrialization. More recently, she has written about Stalinist repression in Terror and Democracy in the Age of Stalin: The Social Dynamics of Repression (Cambridge University Press, 2007) and Inventing the Enemy: Denunciation and Terror in Stalin’s Russia (Cambridge University Press, 2011.) She recently edited two volumes, Hunger and War: Food Provisioning in the Soviet Union During World War II (Indiana University Press, 2015 with Donald Filtzer), which examines wartime food policy, and The Ghetto in Global History: 1500 to the Present (Routledge, 2018, with Joe Trotter.) She is now finishing a big book about the Soviet home front in World War II, Fortress Dark and Stern. Life, Labor, and Loyalty on the Soviet Home Front during World War II (Oxford University Press, forthcoming). Her articles and books have been translated into Russian, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, German, Czech, and Japanese. She travels regularly to Russia to work in the archives and libraries.

Questions can be directed to Csaba Toth.  

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