Between October 1940 and February 1942, the impending start of the German invasion in June 1941 notwithstanding, the Red Army, in particular the Soviet Air Force, as well as Soviet military-related industries were decapitated by repressions once again. After a pause in mass repressions after the Great Purge, in October 1940 the NKVD (People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs) under its new chief Lavrenty Beria started a new purge that initially hit the People’s Commissariat of Ammunition, People’s Commissariat of Aviation Industry and People’s Commissariat of Armaments. High level officials admitted guilt, typically under torture, then testified against each other and were repressed on fabricated charges of anti-Soviet activity, sabotage and spying.
While the new wave of repression in the military-related industries continued well into 1941, in April–May 1941 Stalin’s Politburo inquired about the high accident rate in the Air Force, which led to the dismissal of several commanders, including Head of the Air Force Lieutenant General Pavel Rychagov. In May, a German Junkers Ju 52 landed in Moscow, undetected by the ADF beforehand, leading to massive repressions among the Air Force leadership. The NKVD soon focused attention on them and started repressions against the alleged anti-Soviet conspiracy of German spies in the military, centered around the Air Force and linked to the conspiracies of 1937-1938. The repression had taken on a large scale by early June, when the suspects were transferred from the custody of the Military Counterintelligence to the NKVD, and continued uninterrupted into well after the German attack on the Soviet Union, which started on June 22, 1941.
Timeline of arrests:
May 30 People’s Commissar of Ammunition Ivan Sergeyev and Major General Ernst Schacht Continue reading