The Red Army Enters Berlin
Right out of the sewer’s grate, I have to acknowledge and thank Greg Cihlar and his diorama, Death from Below (Berlin 1945), for adding inspiration to this work. I also took this diorama’s title from Cornelius Ryan’s vaunted The Last Battle. (Read it, if you’re interested in this diorama, you’ll like it.)
This diorama depicts the early engagements of the Red Army entering Berlin in April, 1945. It took them three-weeks to take the city, and they hoisted a Russian flag above Berlin’s Reichstag on May 2nd, 1945. I loathe Stalin as I do Hitler, but the world owes a debt to the Russians for their fierce resistance to the Nazi’s, then their overpowering offensive, and finally taking Berlin as the coup de grâce of Hitler’s demise.
During the war, the Berlin sewers weren’t as famous as those in Warsaw, but they were used by both the Germans and the Russians during the Battle of Berlin. As I noted above, I was inspired by Greg Cihlar to do a Berlin city + Berlin sewer double-decker thing, but I didn’t want to copy him specifically. In Greg’s commentary about building his diorama, he was concerned about the light and how to display the diorama without a “black hole.” He wanted to display a lot of figures and details. I also wanted to display a lot of figures and details and struggled with that black hole reality. But I also wanted to do something new, and not do a cut-away and be a copy-cat. So I decided to do a couple intersecting tunnels and that made a square foundation for the city above; I knew it would be really dark in there, so I went with a lot of LEDs to light the place up. It looks great in person, but it is difficult to illustrate with photos. For the 1st time, I’ll be including a video to try and illustrate this “hard-to-capture” diorama (if it goes well). But I love the new micro-LEDs on the market today, and took advantage of them. I used 1mm random incandescent flashers to simulate fluctuating power in the tunnel. (I know, in reality the power would be knocked out and the soldiers would be using flashlights or torches, but make-believe is fun, and it looks a lot cooler!) Down in the sewer are a group of Russian “Shock” troops. They were used for reconnaissance and to clear out target areas before the general infantry arrived. What they are doing in Berlin’s sewers is a mystery. Perhaps curiosity is what led them there…did you notice that diamond ring…those fancy shoes and a stockpile of ammunition? They also have a flame-thrower…is that advisable in a sewer? New territory, to be sure. As an aside, it is ironic that the sewer is relatively cleaner than the streets above. War is upside down. There is a ladder and an open man-hole cover above, but the Russian soldier looking up will only see the bottom of the T-34; what to make of that? The sewer is filled with discarded items from the city above, including a suitcase presumably from a pedestrian trying to escape. There are also rats and the skeletal remains of a German soldier (thanks, GC, though I didn’t make the rats from miliput).
Above the sewers, we have a dramatic scene unfolding. The crew of a T-34 and their light accompaniment of infantrymen were taking a short break in the war-torn outskirts of Berlin. Out of nowhere, a German tankman ambushes the group on some sort of suicide mission. He shoots one Russian, but before shooting another, he is overtaken by a Russian tanker and stabbed in the eye; the knife tip didn’t strike deep enough, and now they are in hand-to-hand combat. The surrounding Russian’s are, for the most part, trying to calm the situation down. It’s clear that the German tankman will die, but can the Russian’s kill him without harming their own?
Then there is the Russian infantry commander behind the T-34 who is about to throw a hand grenade in the blown-out butcher shop. “Clearing the room!” What will the Wehrmacht sniper on the second floor think of that? Perhaps the explosion will be the sniper’s perfect cover; lie down and wait for the smoke to clear and the soldiers to move on. At this point, there are no good decisions for the German soldiers, just differing levels of bad and worse.
This T-34/85 still has its winter wash. It seems to work ok in this urban setting. (I meant to paint the tank Russian’s dark green, but it just didn’t pop, so I decided to white-wash it for dynamic weathering and harmony in the composition.)
Judging from all the 20mm shell casings, an anti-aircraft gun was in heavy use recently. The Red Army has a few more weeks of fierce fighting before their work is complete. Then a new historical chapter begins…