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)
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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