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 literally had stolen everything while initiating illegal war) wasn’t entirely unexpected even if unapproved.

In fact, it was reported that Soviets inside Berlin would not take anything let alone a bicycle away from someone who was 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 about this Nazi woman.

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. Note the cyclist stealing a ride instead of pedaling.

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 commonly thought to have stolen everything given their infamous habit of being lazy and petty thieves who hated hard work and looted everywhere they went.

Who today looks at Nazi promotion of laziness on bikes and thinks “taking a hand off the bars to hold onto a rope that could flog their wheels (instead of just pedaling) seems like a great idea”?

Nazis behind bars before they were put behind bars.

Seriously, stack those bikes on a rack/trailer you can also ride when you don’t want to pedal you idiots. It’s not like they didn’t know how to rack and stack bikes for a long haul after stealing everyone else’s.

Sentiment was particularly bad on the subject of bicycles because Nazis took them in very overt campaigns intended to centrally control all rights including freedom of movement.

Liberating Soviet soldiers thus were restoring freedoms when they would seize bikes from the Germans who couldn’t account for ownership (e.g. stolen). Credentialed owners of bicycles and especially the victims of German crimes were allowed to ride again thanks to denazification.

Now what do you see in that first image?

The German woman appears to be the common Nazi criminal refusing to give up her stolen bike.

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