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The total number of Soviet prisoners of war in the foreign press is determined within 5.2-5.75 million people. A commission of the Ministry of Defense chaired by M. A. Gareev announced about 4 million. Only 1,836,562 people returned from captivity

Part № 4

Murder by starvation  

The most important factor in the high mortality rate of Soviet prisoners of war was disgusting food. The OKH regarding nutrition of Soviet prisoners of war, in addition to general instructions - to limit itself to as few food products as possible - did not give any instructions. Therefore, until mid-August 1941, army commanders decided this question at their discretion. About rations in the area of ​​responsibility of GA Center, we already spoke in the second part: they amounted to no more than 700 kcal per day. Such a norm inevitably leads to complete exhaustion of a person within literally 2-3 weeks. Moreover, the Germans at that time had no shortage of food. In the zone of responsibility of the 11th Army, the nutritional value of the diet was higher. It consisted of 300 grams of meat, 3000 grams of bread, 300 grams of beans and 100 grams of marmalade per week. When walking marches lasting more than 8 hours a day, the prisoner received up to 500 grams of bread and 100 grams of meat, lard or cheese per day. But even these diets with calories from 1300 to 2035 kcal were significantly lower than the normal needs of an adult and also led to exhaustion. The supply of prisoners in the 11th Army was carried out only from the trophy depots, although the command of the army gave the order that in the event of a shortage of food supplies should also be made from the army depots. But here a factor uncharacteristic for the German army came into force - the lower authorities ignored this order because of its inconsistency with the national socialist racial policy.

On the territory of the Reich, the food of the prisoners was also very poor. For example, in July 1941, in the II II Hammerstein stationary camp (Pomerania), Soviet prisoners of war received 200 grams per day. bread, ersatz coffee and vegetable soup from the waste, the calorie content of this diet was 1000 kcal.

On August 6, a decision was made to unify the nutrition of Soviet prisoners of war in the OKV and OKH responsibility zone, and again it was ordered to provide the prisoners with "only the most necessary food" so as not to "overload the German food balance" and not jeopardize the "morale" of the German population. One of the goals of the war in the East was precisely "expanding the German food base", and when planning the campaign it was decided in advance that the conduct of hostilities in the USSR in terms of supplying troops with food should be "at the expense of the conquered territories." The calorie content of the diets of Soviet prisoners of war was brought up for non-working people to 2040 kcal per day, for those working up to 2200 kcal per day. However, these norms led to depletion and degeneration.

This is how the question of supplying prisoners was formulated in the decisions of the meeting under the leadership of Goering on September 16, 1941:

"First there are active troops, then other troops on the territory of the enemy, and then troops on the territory of the homeland. In accordance with this, rations should be established. Then the German civilian population is supplied. And only after that the civilian population of the occupied territories comes. In occupied lands, food should be provided in principle, only those who work for us, but even if we wanted to feed all the other inhabitants, it still could not be done in the newly conquered regions in the East.

In providing food for the Bolshevik prisoners, we, in contrast to the supply of prisoners of war in other countries, are not bound by any international obligations. Therefore, their supply can be carried out only according to the results of work for us. "

On October 21, when it was already known about the mass death of prisoners from starvation, the caloric content of rations in the frontline zone and the OKV zone was sharply reduced: to 1450 kcal per day. The bread ration remained the same 1500 gr. bread a week, but the rate of release of fats decreased by 36%, potatoes by 44%. Potatoes were replaced with rutabaga, if possible, and bread with buckwheat and millet, meat was completely absent, protein content in the diet fell by 46%, animal proteins were completely absent. The diet of prisoners "employed" was slightly reduced to 2170 kcal per day. In any case, these norms did not even provide an absolute minimum.

The fundamental decision on the use of labor of Soviet prisoners of war in the military industry of the Reich was made on October 31, 1941. This was due to a lack of working hands in the Reich and the understanding that the “blitzkrieg” in the East failed. Accordingly, the campaign in Russia could no longer be completed in 1941. On December 4, the diet of prisoners of war in the Reich was increased to 2540 kcal per day. Bread (the composition of "Russian bread": 50% rye flour, 20% - sugar beet waste, 20% - cellulose flour, 10% straw flour or foliage) - 2850 gr. per week, rutabaga - 16,500 gr., meat (low-grade or horsemeat) - 250 gr., and 2.5 liters of skim milk (low-fat low-grade milk). This diet remained unchanged all winter and was again reduced on April 17, 1942.

On November 26, 1941, the Department of Prisoners of War Affairs OKV ordered a "sorting" of prisoners of war camps according to the degree of efficiency and professional suitability. According to the instructions, prisoners were divided into three categories:
1. Fully functional
2. Prisoners of war who, in their current state, are not operational, but who can be expected to become operational
3. Prisoners of war, who, presumably, will not be able to work.

Prisoners of war of the second category were to be held in conditions of "restoration of working capacity." About how to deal with prisoners of war of the 3rd category was not mentioned, but the logic of events inexorably indicates that they were left to their own devices, and, therefore, are doomed to death from starvation.

But for prisoners of the second category, an increase in rations did not become a saving measure. Many of them were in such a state of exhaustion that "they were dying without having reached the prescribed readiness for work." Then it was decided on their employment in agriculture. The prisoners were "leased" to agricultural entrepreneurs, including with the goal of "restoring their strength." Subsequently, it was also common practice to rotate Soviet prisoners of war from industrial sectors to Reich agriculture and vice versa.

The OKH also undertook the work of "saving" prisoners of war. Since November 16, it was decided that for 6 weeks prisoners were given a “restorative” dietary supplement: 50 grams of fish and 3,500 grams of potatoes or rutabaga per week (isn't that a “royal” present?) Like OKV, Since November 26, the OKH has increased the diet of Soviet prisoners of war, the caloric content of the diet for non-working prisoners was 2337 kcal per day, and for working prisoners - 2570 kcal per day. These norms provided only the lowest possible level of nutrition for an adult.

In the front-line zone, the situation with food for prisoners of war was slightly better. So, at the 16th transit point in the city of Uman, by August 10, 1941, about 50 thousand prisoners of war had accumulated, and by August 12, already 70 thousand. But they were fed for the first time only on August 13 after a hunger riot and the execution of the instigators. If the condition of the prisoners in the front-line zone was slightly better than in the Reichskommissariats Ostland and Ukraine, this was more likely due to the fact that they did not have to make exhausting multi-kilometer marches. However, in September, symptoms appeared that later led to the mass extinction of Soviet prisoners in all German camps.

In the 112th transit camp in Molodechno in early September there were 20 thousand people. The prisoners arrived at the camp already completely exhausted, as they made the transition to the camp 400 km long. And although they received the "prescribed diet" (I recall, it ranged from 700 to 1400 kcal), the mortality rate reached 1% per day, there were cases of cannibalism and carnivore. In the 314th transit camp in Bobruisk, the J commandant of prisoners of war in the "J" district found their food "sufficient," but the camp doctor warned that "the prisoners would not be able to manage their diet for a long time without the risk of illness and physical exhaustion."

The terrible picture of the extinction of Soviet prisoners of war from hunger is painted by surviving German documents. For example, a very comprehensive report by the J Commandant for Prisoner of War Affairs on November 22, 1941.


"1.203th transit camp in Krichev 11/17/41

The prisoners sleep in 2 huts, one of which is whitewashed with lime. There is no firewood and straw.
[...]
There are 6,000 people left in the camp, who, however, still have to sleep at night on bare boards, and the rest should be evacuated in order to somehow reduce mortality.
[...]
When examining the camp, the prisoners of the choir demanded bread.

2.185th transit camp in Mogilev 11/18/41

Over the past 4 weeks, mortality with a total number of prisoners of 30,000. amounted to 50% or 15,000 people. There were no cases of cannibalism. The food of prisoners not employed at work is 1,400 calories, and those who were involved in labor - 1,600 calories. For 3 weeks, horses intended for slaughter have not been received.
[...]
At the indicated time, prisoners receive only about 10 g of horsemeat within 3 days. The creation of winter stocks is proceeding well, and now they are quite enough for 1 month for 35,000 people (= 3 months for 10,000 people).
[...]
Currently, prisoners receive 340 g of bread per day.
[...]
The camp is in exemplary condition. Watchtowers and an extremely clean infirmary deserve special praise. Subsequently, prisoners should receive:

Attracted to work (per day in grams): potatoes 1200 g, vegetables 120 g, bread 333 gr.
Unaccustomed to work (per day in grams): potatoes 700 g, vegetables 70 g, bread 33 g.

3. 131st transit camp in Bobruisk 20-21 11. 41

[...]
On November 11, the leadership of the 131st transit camp sent a report on cases of cannibalism to the Commandant for Prisoners of War, County “J”. The number of prisoners of 60,000, as well as their evacuation exceed the capacity of the camp.

According to existing standards, prisoners received daily food in 1039 calories. The available reserves are such that, according to the latest standards, working prisoners can be given food equal to 2000 calories, and non-working - 1200 calories ... Open machines for transporting prisoners can no longer be used. The last export from Bobruisk to Minsk killed 20% of prisoners (1,000 out of 5,000 people). In total, 14,777 prisoners have died to date, and 158,000 people have passed through the camp.

Inspection of camp II showed that the huts were not adequately ventilated. Upon entering the room, an unpleasant musty smell strikes. During the last night 430 prisoners died ...

Thus, according to the results of the inspection, it is clear that even the rations officially approved on October 21 were not issued to Soviet prisoners of war, although there was a supply of food. Moreover, both the commander of the Center GA von Bock and the commander of the rear area of ​​the Center Center von Schenkendorf knew about this situation. Moreover, on November 13 at a meeting of the chiefs of staff of army and army groups with the chief of the general staff Halder and the general quartermaster Wagner in the city Orsha, Wagner bluntly stated that "non-working prisoners in the camps must die of hunger. Working prisoners in exceptional cases can receive food from army supplies." And he further explained that "the population should receive only the minimum necessary for subsistence. At the same time, the village will get out of the situation to one degree or another, but the problem of the nutrition of large cities is insoluble. There is no doubt that in particular Leningrad will have to die of starvation, as it feeds this city is impossible. " Such statements by Wagner become understandable only taking into account the position of the National Socialist leadership and the Wehrmacht command, namely: the entire Wehrmacht had to eat at the expense of the conquered territories, and also taking into account the fact that a huge part of the requisitioned food was allocated for the nutrition of the Reich population, even if the consequence such a policy would be the death of "tens of millions of people."

The decision to use Soviet prisoners of war in the military economy of the Reich did not affect the situation of prisoners in the frontline zone until April 1942. The decision of the OKH on increasing rations of November 26, 1941 was not fully implemented. For example, in the 240th transit camp in Rzhev, in December 1941 prisoners received an average of 300 grams of bread per day, 30 grams of horse meat and 175 grams of other products (1435 kcal). The surviving documents on this camp allow us to assess the situation of prisoners in it, within a few weeks. On November 23, the camp commandant received 5582 people. Mortality in this period was 2% per day and by November 27 reached its peak - 125 corpses per day (2.3%). On December 4, the commandant reported that "it has now become possible to give food twice a day." Of course, there are fewer mouths! But with the onset of cold weather, mortality increased again. In total, between November 25 and December 14 (in just 19 days) 1,191 prisoners died, that is 22%.

In the subordinate 1st brigade of the SS camp in Novgorod-Seversky, the situation was approximately the same. Mortality was 2% per day, 40% of prisoners who were not sent to work were actually suicide bombers, and the head of the Waffen SS camp could not clearly explain to the J commandant of prisoners of war how the difference between the previously announced total number of prisoners (12 thousand people) and the current number (2.8 thousand people) (!!!). But no one paid attention to such a “trifle”.
In another camp of the district, also under the control of a SS company, working prisoners received 200 grams. bread, 1000 gr. potatoes and 200 gr. cabbage (1415 kcal), and non-working - 125 gr. bread, 500 gr. potatoes and 100 gr. vegetables (770 kcal). But the check showed that "food in the dishes, actually issued even less." In the 220th transit camp in Gomel, "the food was good. The prescribed standards were almost reached." That is, one must understand that prisoners of war there "almost" ate and "almost" survived.
Thus, in the zone of responsibility of Army Groups North and South, the prescribed standards were not achieved until March 1942. The reason for the improvement of the nutritional status of prisoners was honestly outlined by the “C” prisoner of war affairs: “Non-viable elements died out, and the nutritional level of the prisoners of war remaining after a number of evacuations became higher.” Just like that, the "non-viable elements" died, which allowed the survivors to raise their diets.

As a result, after reading the documents and analyzing the figures, we come to the bitter conclusion that the diets of Soviet prisoners of war did not provide even the minimum nutritional needs of the body and steadily decreased until the end of October 1942, in favor of supplying the German troops and the German population. And although, under the influence of economic reasons (namely, the use of prisoners of war in the Reich), the diets of Soviet prisoners were subsequently slightly increased, but the food supply of the German troops and the Reich population remained an unconditional priority. This is also evidenced by the fact that when on April 6, 1942, the dietary standards for the Germans were reduced, the diets of prisoners were also reduced. Until October 1942, the diets of Soviet prisoners of war remained lower than the "restorative" rations of the winter of 1941-1942.

Sources:
Funds of the Federal Archive of Germany - Military Archive. Freiburg (Bundesarchivs / Militararchiv (BA / MA)
OKV:
Documents of the propaganda department of the Wehrmacht RW 4 / v. 253; 257; 298.
Particularly important cases under the Barbarossa plan of the L IV department of the Wehrmacht operations headquarters RW 4 / v. 575; 577; 578.
Documents of GA "North" (OKW / Nord) OKW / 32.
Wehrmacht help desk documents RW 6 / v. 220; 222.
Documents of the Department of Prisoners of War Affairs (OKW / AWA / Kgf.) RW 5 / v. 242, RW 6 / v. 12; 270,271,272,273,274; 276,277,278,279; 450,451,452,453. Documents of the Department of Military Economics and Armaments (OKW / WiRuArnt) Wi / IF 5/530; 5.624; 5.1189; 5.1213; 5.1767; 2717; 5.3064; 5.3190; 5.3434; 5.3560; 5.3561; 5.3562.
OKH:
Documents of the chief of armament of the ground forces and the commander of the reserve army (OKH / ChHRu u. BdE) H1 / 441. Documents of the Vostok Foreign Army Division of the General Staff of the Ground Forces (OKH / GenStdH / Abt. Fremde Heere Ost) P3 / 304; 512; 512; 728; 729.
Documents of the Chief of the Land Forces Archive N / 40/54.

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