April 15, 2015

1943. Curfew in Moscow

The Midnight to 5 AM Curfew
Bill Downs' Moscow pass from 1943:
ПРОПУСК № 011011
Выдан гр. Доунс В.
За утерю настоящего пропуска и передачу его другому лицу виновные привлекаются к ответственности.
Комендант г. Москвы генерал-майор СИНИЛОВ
Москва. Гознак. 1943. Зак. 5554."
The parentheses indicate text that did not pass Soviet censors for military security or propaganda reasons.

(For more, see the complete 1943 Moscow reports.)
Bill Downs

CBS Moscow

August 26, 1943

(The fighting advance northwest of Kharkov has placed the Red Army in a position to outflank the railroad city of Poltava. The capture of the farming town of Zinkov places the Russians abut forty miles north of the railroad leading from Poltava to Kiev. This is one of the main Nazi supply lines into the Ukraine. Thus the Soviet command appears to be developing the same kind of attack against Poltava that earlier resulted in the capture of Kharkov. Two Red Army groups already threaten the city from the north and from the east. The third group appears to be swinging around to cut Poltava's communications from the west.)

(German resistance here is being bolstered by fresh reserves brought from neighboring sectors of the front. Other reserves are being rushed to the Donbass, where the Germans are trying to organize counterattacks to ease the pressure striking through the Russian bridgeheads across the Donets River as well as the blows the Russians are striking southwest of Voroshilovgrad. The advance in the Donbass is slower but is making progress and seriously draining German resources.)

The series of Red Army successes this summer has resulted in a great boost in civilian morale which has been reflected in the easing of the tension which once characterized Moscow as a city under siege.

However, I learned last night that there has been no relaxation of the rigid military control over the capital—control which puts all people off the street at midnight unless they have a special permission slip from city authorities. I was scheduled to make a broadcast at 1:50 o'clock this morning. While walking from the foreign office to the radio studio, a young soldier packing a very business-like rifle and bayonet stopped me and asked to see my documents. I handed him my official press card, the pass which allows me on the street during air raids, and my precious night pass. Everything was in order except for the night pass. It had run out and had to be replaced.

So the soldier very politely put all the documents in his pocket and told me to follow him. I protested. I was only two blocks from the studio. But he just kept walking, and I had to follow him.

I was taken to militia headquarters. They were on the second floor of a downtown building. (Police headquarters look the same the world over. The rooms are pretty black and bare, and there are hard chairs around the walls. This one was about the same.)

At the headquarters a very polite young captain explained to me that I would have to get a new pass. I signed a report he made on my documents, and he detailed another cheerful young soldier to escort me back to my hotel. The captain explained that I couldn't go to the studio without a pass because other patrols would pick me up and I would end up at the same place anyway.

This is a minor incident, but a significant one. It displayed to me for the first time the completeness and efficiency of the organization which is defending the Russian home front. It also revealed an official attitude of business-like courtesy. (Everyone was being treated with this same courtesy. I think that, because I was a foreigner, I was granted a special escort back to the hotel. The police don't keep a regular staff of headquarters to see people home through the patrols. Usually they wait all night until five in the morning when the curfew is lifted.)

(It brought home to me the fact that, while the Red Army is advancing, and when the first gleams of victory can be seen reflected on the horizon, Russia is taking no chances. She hasn't let down her guard an inch.)