A fascinating relic of mapmaking on the Eastern Front of World War II, being a field-printed map of Berlin and the surrounding area produced for one of the most infamous groups involved in the Second World War, the Отдел Контрразведки СМЕРШ, or Counterintelligence Division of SMERSH, the Red Army secret police.
Joseph Stalin coined the name СМЕРШ ('SMERSH') as a portmanteau of the Russian-language phrase Смерть шпионам (SMERt' SHpionam, "Death to Spies"). Originally focused on combating German spies infiltrating the Russian military, the organization quickly expanded its mandate: to find and eliminate any subversive elements—hence Stalin's inclusive name for it.
The Russian-language note on the map suggests that it was printed on short notice and in very small numbers for use by only the most senior SMERSH units as the Red Army closed in on Berlin.
The note in Russian in the lower-right corner reads as follows:
НКВД СССР ОК "СМЕРШ"
Карта основных дорог Германии. Для удобства оперативных групп ОК "СМЕРШ" без перевода. Приложение к карте краткий словарь - разговорник. Тираж органичен, только под ответственность старших групп.
NKVD USSR OK "SMERSH"
Map of major roads in Germany. For the convenience of operational groups OK "SMERSH" without translation. Appendix to the map a short dictionary - a phrasebook. The circulation is limited, only under the responsibility of the senior groups.
By early 1945, the Germans had all but lost the war on Eastern Front. The Red Army proved an unstoppable tidal wave, destroying the Wehrmacht division by division. Evacuation measures for Berlin had been prepared for the Reich government, ministries, and security apparatus starting in February of 1945. However, their implementation was delayed so that the commanders would not be seen to be admitting defeat. With two million Soviet soldiers quickly surrounding Berlin, Adolf Hitler finally gave the order to execute the defensive plan for the city on April 20th, 1945, his 56th birthday. The defenses barely slowed down the Red Army, and by early May they had totally subdued the city.