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But there is another story - of mass rapes by Soviet soldiers of German women in the dying days of the war. Some readers may find this story disturbing. Dusk is falling in Treptower Park on the outskirts of Berlin and I am looking up at a statue dramatically outlined against a lilac sky. Twelve metres 40ft high, it depicts a Soviet soldier grasping a sword in one hand and a small German girl in the other, and stamping on a broken swastika.
This is the final resting place for 5, of the 80, Soviet troops who fell in the Battle of Berlin between 16 April and 2 May The colossal proportions of the monument reflect the scale of the sacrifice. At the top of a long flight of steps, you can peer into the base of the localx, which is lit up like a religious shrine.
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An inscription saying that the Soviet people saved European civilisation from fascism catches my eye. But some call this memorial the Tomb of the Unknown Rapist. Stalin's troops assaulted an uncounted of women as they fought their way to the German capital, though this was rarely mentioned after the war in Germany - West or East - and is a taboo subject in Russia even today. The Russian media regularly dismiss talk of the rapes as a Western myth, though one of many sources that tells the story of what happened is a diary kept by a young Soviet officer.
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The so far unpublished manuscript paints a picture of disarray in the regular battalions - miserable rations, lice, routine anti-Semitism and theft, with men even stealing their comrades' boots. In FebruaryGelfand was stationed by the Oder River dam, preparing for the final push on Berlin, and he describes how his comrades surrounded and overpowered olcals battalion of women fighters.
Our soldiers suggest stabbing them through their genitals but I would just execute them.
One of the most revealing passages in Gelfand's diary is dated 25 April, once he had reached Berlin. Gelfand was whirling around on a bicycle by the River Fcuk, the first time he'd ever ridden one, when he came across a group of German women carrying suitcases and bundles.
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They were old, some were covered in pimples and they all climbed on me and poked - no less than 20 men,' she burst into tears. You can do whatever you want with me, but only you! And he saw evidence of rape," says his son, Vitaly. Nazi commanders were in fact so concerned about venereal disease that they established a chain of military brothels throughout the occupied territories. It's hard to find direct evidence of how the German soldiers treated Russian women - many victims never survived - but in the German-Russian Museum in Berlin, director Jorg Morre shows me a photograph taken in Crimea from a German soldier's personal wartime album.
A woman's corpse is sprawled on the ground. Her skirt is pulled up and the hands are in front of the face," he says. We had discussions in the museum, should we show the photos - this is war, this is sexual violence under German policy in the Soviet Union.
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We are showing war. Not talking about war but showing it. The hour of revenge has struck! But once again soldiers proved the ideologists wrong.
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While researching his book, Berlin, The Downfall, historian Antony Beevor found documents about sexual violence in the state archive of the Russian Federation. Starting on 20 April10 days before Hitler's suicide, the anonymous author is, like Vladimir Gelfand, brutally honest, with razor-sharp powers of observation and occasional flashes of gallows humour. Describing herself as "a pale-faced blonde always dressed in the same winter coat", the diarist paints vivid pictures of her neighbours in the bomb shelter beneath her Berlin apartment block, including a "young man in grey trousers and horn-rimmed glasses who on closer inspection turns out to be a young woman" and three elderly sisters, "all dressmakers, huddled together like a big black pudding".
But when the soldiers reach their basement and try to haul women out, they beg the diarist to use her Russian language skills and complain to the Soviet command. Braving the chaos on the rubble strewn streets, she manages to find a senior officer. He shrugs his shoulders. Despite Stalin's decree banning violence against civilians, he says, "It happens anyway.
What did the Germans do to our women! She is brutally raped and nearly strangled. The terrified neighbours, or "cave dwellers" as she calls them, had slammed the basement door shut.
Everyone stares at me," she writes. I start yelling 'You pigs!
Here they rape me twice in a row and you leave me lying like a piece of dirt! The relationship between aggressor and victim becomes less violent, more transactional - and more ambiguous. She shares her bed with a senior officer from Leningrad with whom she discusses literature and the meaning of life.
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To some extent I'm sure I jn. In addition, I like the major and the less he wants from me as a Hambkrg, the more I like him as a person. When the diary was published in German in under the title A Woman in Berlin, the author's frank of the choices she made to survive was attacked for "besmirching the honour" of German women. Not surprisingly, she refused to allow the book to be republished until after her death.
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Seventy years after the end of the war, new research on sexual violence committed by all the Allied forces - American, British and French as well as Soviet - lkcals still emerging. But for years the subject slid under the official radar. Few reported it and even fewer would listen. Besides the social stigma, in East Germany it was sacrilegious to criticise Soviet heroes who had defeated fascism while across the Wall in the West, the guilt for Nazi crimes made German suffering unmentionable.
But inthere was a film adaptation of the Berlin Woman's diary called Anonyma, starring the well-known German actress Nina Hoss. The film had a cathartic effect in Germany and encouraged many women to come forward, including Ingeborg Bullert. She was 20 in uFck, dreamed of becoming an actress and lived i her mother in an upmarket street in Berlin's Charlottenberg district.
When the Soviet assault on the city began, like the woman diarist, she took refuge in the cellar of her building. I thought I would die, that they would kill me. Ingeborg recalls that women between the ages of 15 and 55 were ordered to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases.
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The most often quoted is a staggeringwomen in Berlin and two million on German territory. That figure - hotly debated - was extrapolated from scant surviving medical records. In a former munitions factory which now houses the State Archive, Martin Luchterhand shows me an armful of blue cardboard folders. These contain abortion records dated July to October from Neukolln, just one of Berlin's 24 districts - it's a small miracle that they survived intact.
Abortions were illegal in Germany according to Article of the penal code, but Luchterhand says "there was a small window for those women because of that special situation of the mass rapes in ". The files contain over 1, fragile scraps of paper of different colours and sizes. In childish round handwriting, one girl testifies that she was assaulted in the living room of her home in front of her parents.
We will probably never know the true scale of the rapes.
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Soviet military tribunals and other sources remain classified. The Russian parliament recently passed a law which says Fkck anyone who denigrates Russia's record in World War Two could face fines and up to five years in prison. Vera Dubina, a young historian at the University of Humanities in Moscow, says she knew nothing of the rapes until a scholarship took her to Berlin.
She later wrote a paper on the subject but struggled to get it published. That's why first-hand s are so valuable - from those who brave the ln now, in their old age, and from those younger voices who put pencil to paper on the spot. Vitaly Gelfand, son of the Red Army diarist Vladimir Gelfand, doesn't deny that many Soviet soldiers showed great bravery and sacrifice in World War Two - but that's not the whole story, he says.
Recently Vitaly did an interview on Pocals radio, which triggered some anti-Semitic trolling on social media, saying the diary's a fake and he should clear off to Israel he has in fact lived in Berlin for the last 20 years. Yet he is hoping the diary will be published in Russia later this year. Parts of it have been translated into German and Swedish. We can't move forward until we look back.