The 1945 Soviet DeNazification of Bicycles

After Soviet soldiers had walked on foot an estimated 2,500 km from Stalingrad to Berlin, their sentiment went something like this: commandeering a bicycle from Nazis (who had literally stolen everything while initiating illegal wars) wasn’t entirely unexpected even if unapproved.

In fact, it was reported that Soviets inside Berlin would not take a bike off someone clearly a victim of Nazis. I say this all up front because an archival photo below represents something of a de-nazification problem within a constant false victim narrative by fascists.

What do you see here?

Sowjetischer Soldat versucht, einer deutschen Frau das Fahrrad zu entwenden; Foto: Fotograf unbekannt, Berlin, 1945

Note a crowd stands aside and looks silent (a failure to Raleigh — pun obviously intended), which gives a clue.

Nazis were notorious for stealing bicycles even before and throughout WWII, particularly in rural areas and from elderly women (people who needed them most).

Nazis fled The Hague on September 2, 1944 (Mad Tuesday), terrified by rumors that Allied armies were coming. They stole far more than just bicycles.

Or as they say in Dutch…

“Hé, waar is mijn fiets”? […] Het klopt dus dat de Duitsers de fietsen van veel Nederlanders inpikten. Want in laten leveren en niet teruggeven is een vorm van stelen.

Roughly translated: on July 28, 1942 the Nazis stole all men’s bikes in Amsterdam. Allegedly they collected bikes in occupied cities not least of all to send into Germany and be melted into weapons.

In Copenhagen when Nazis stole bikes it was reported as being luckier than in Amsterdam:

…Hitler personally approved mass bike theft in Denmark. And it could have been worse as his original orders had been for all bicycles to be taken.

For more insight into the situation after liberation, a book called “Unbroken Chain” by Holocaust survivor Henry Oertelt explains from a personal view — in Berlin he rode one around without any hassle from Soviets.

Oertelt, H. A., Samuels, S. O. (2000). An Unbroken Chain: My Journey Through the Nazi Holocaust. United States: Lerner. Page 146

Germans after WWII were presumed to have stolen everything (an accurate assumption) and sentiment was particularly bad with bicycles because Nazis had taken them in campaigns to centrally control all rights including freedom of movement.

Liberating Soviet soldiers thus were said to seize bikes from Germans who couldn’t account for ownership, while credentialed owners of bicycles or survivors were allowed to ride again.

Now what do you see in that first image? The German woman could be a criminal refusing to give up a stolen bike.

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