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Runaway tank: Fiction or real events formed the basis of the sensational film "T-34"
Runaway tank: Fiction or real events formed the basis of the sensational film "T-34"

At the end of the past year, the sensational film by Alexei Sidorov "T-34" was released on the screens of Russia. The film tells about the selfless feat of the Soviet tanker Ivushkin, committed in the enemy's rear. According to the director, the film is based on the real war history of a single Russian T-34 crew at a German training ground, where the Nazis used a Soviet tank as a human target for training. However, some critics believe this story is not documented.

Interpretations of the feat of an unknown tanker

The Soviet version of the legend is the film Lark (1964)
The Soviet version of the legend is the film Lark (1964)

According to legend, during the war years, the Germans managed to capture the Soviet T-34 in an unequal battle. The Nazis decided to carefully examine the prey by organizing a test of new armor-piercing shells on the trophy. Such experiments were very important to the Germans, because the T-34's armor did not penetrate the forehead with traditional anti-tank ammunition.

Then the tank was delivered to the military training ground in the city of Ohrdruf, and the captured tank captain was also brought here from Buchenwald. They gave him instructions according to which he must drive the car under open fire from the gunners. After the start, the T-34 immediately turned off the given trajectory and at maximum speed rushed to the flank of the nearest firing position. The German artillerymen did not have time to deploy their guns in the course of the masterful following of the tank, the insolence of the Russian tanker shocked the Germans, and they could not stop the Soviet car. As a result, the captain managed to escape onto the highway, but the fuel tank was empty and the fugitive was captured.

According to one version, he was shot on the spot. Another says that he was simply returned to the walls of the concentration camp. And the most spectacular scenario was the shooting of the prisoner by General Guderian himself, who was present at the scene.

One of the versions in 1962 was presented in the newspaper "Guards". A year later, Pravda published its version of events on the Day of the Tankman. The author of the article, G. Mironov, referred in his material to the testimony of reserve major Ushakov.

Investigation of Lev Sheinin and his script for the film

Even the Kaiser's troops conducted exercises at the Ohrdruf training ground
Even the Kaiser's troops conducted exercises at the Ohrdruf training ground

Mironov's Pravdin publication brought the writer Lev Sheinin to the small Thuringian town of Ohrdruf. Lev Romanovich went to the GDR for material for a script for a future film. Winter that year in Germany was especially snowy, it was difficult to move around the area. All that the guest was offered to see was a view of the same military training ground from the highest point of the command headquarters.

Sheinin left with virtually nothing. And a few months later, Literaturnaya Rossiya published the finished Sheinin's script, where the author conjectured everything that he could not clarify on a business trip. The main storyline largely coincided with the prevailing military legend, but Lev Sheinin colorfully strengthened the ending. Before a shot in the heart of the captain, General Guderian lays a guard of honor in the courtyard of the headquarters, and then delivers a sincere speech to the military about the heroism of the Russian officer.

The search for the truth by Samuil Aleshin

Tank duel T-34 and Panthers
Tank duel T-34 and Panthers

The playwright Samuil Alyoshin conducted the investigation more thoroughly. Together with Major Raevsky, assigned by the military command as an accompanying person, Aleshin traveled around the Orruf lands in search of reliable information about the captured hero tanker. In the suburban village of Kravinkele, an ex-nurse at a military hospital told how one day the bodies of crippled Germans, allegedly injured during the exercise, were brought from the same test site.

Aleshin and Raevsky hastily considered their greatest success to be meeting with the German Koch, who during the war years served as a non-commissioned officer at the notorious Ordruf training ground. He himself did not possess information about the tanker, but he directed it at a knowledgeable person - the former head of the proving ground machine yard.

READ ALSO: "You are not injured, you are simply killed …": poems by a 19-year-old tanker that will never get into textbooks

However, the conversation with this witness turned out to be fruitless. The former lieutenant colonel did not want to speak, claiming that he had lived in France all summer of 1943. As a result, Alyoshin's business trip resulted only in a creative result - the play "To Each His Own" appeared, plotting close to the traditional version of the heroic feat of a tanker. This play served as the basis for the script for the film "Skylark".

Memoirs of General Popel

In 1960, the final volume of the memoirs of Nikolai Popel, a lieutenant general of tank forces, was published. In the book, he writes about the trip to the Kummersdorf training ground of Colonel Dyner and Lieutenant Colonel Pavlovtsev. In April 1945, after the occupation of the legendary training ground by the 1st Tank Guards Brigade, destroyed tanks with the remains of prisoner tankers were found here.

Describing the terrible finds, Pavlovtsev recalls an episode from the Sandomierz bridgehead, where a Russian tanker who had escaped from captivity approached the Soviet positions. He soon died of extreme exhaustion, having managed to tell about his escape. He and two more soldiers were taken to a military training ground, forcing them to take part in tests of the armor resistance of the tank. If the captives survived, they were promised release from captivity. Having agreed, the Russian crew plunged into the car, which immediately rushed towards the observation tower. The German artillerymen could not shoot at their own people, so a German armored personnel carrier went to pacify the Russian captain. Since the Russians did not have shells, they crushed everything that was on the way with their tracks.

Military memoirs of Popel
Military memoirs of Popel

Having escaped from the territory of the test site, the tankers left the tank with an empty tank and risked to wade through the forest. However, the commander with the driver-mechanic died, and only the radio operator got alive.

Pavlovtsev tried to find out the details personally, but found out a little, because people were afraid to speak. Only one local old man gave valuable testimony. According to him, in 1943, a tank really escaped from the landfill, and when it reached a nearby concentration camp, it crushed it into the entrance booth and demolished the barbed wire fence. Thanks to this many prisoners managed to escape from captivity. The Germans found or killed almost all the prisoners on the spot, so this case was not made public.

The time frame of the incident described by the witness did not coincide with the discovery of an escaped tanker at the Sandomierz bridgehead. Therefore, it could be concluded that such an escape was not the only one. It is possible that captured Russian tanks were used by the Nazis as human targets more than once. Most likely, such facts were not widely known only because the witnesses and participants were not left alive.

Where else did Soviet tanks leave their mark:

>> In Prague, liberated by the Red Army

>> Of course, in Berlin. In the last days of the Great Patriotic War during the storming of Berlin not without them.

>> Today they don't like to remember this, but also during the fighting during the war in Afghanistan.

>> During August putsch and the unconstitutional takeover of power in 1991.

But in an ideal world, tanks shouldn't be used in wars. Better when they are literally become part of nature.

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