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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 № 5

Today it was believed that it was worth a man to be captured by the Germans, and he immediately found himself in a place of constant detention. In fact, this is far from the truth, and if, when conducting a campaign in the West, the German command tried to evacuate prisoners of war (1.9 million people) from the front-line zone to the rear as quickly as possible, for which we used empty freight vehicles and specially allocated trains, then in the East by the Wehrmacht, neither the Hague nor the Geneva Conventions were taken into account. Although it was stipulated that the evacuation of Soviet prisoners of war was to be carried out by empty vehicles, this was rarely carried out in practice.
Often, the commandant's office of the lines of communication and the leadership of the convoys simply refused to transport prisoners. For example, on July 7, the military commandant of the Brest-Lithuanian Railway refused to transport prisoners, arguing that the refusal was “the danger of infection and wrecking of wagons." The convoy commanders were guided by the same argument. These refusals became so widespread that von Schenkendorf, the commander of the rear area of ​​the Center Center, was forced to issue an order that “this must be stopped in the future.” However, this had no effect on the troops. And only at the end of August the prisoners began to be evacuated by trains, and before that the evacuation "involuntarily, despite the great distances, was carried out mainly on foot." In the zone of responsibility of the remaining army groups, refusals to transport prisoners were of the same magnitude. The "hygienic argumentation" led to the Quartermaster-General of the Ground Forces issuing a special order on July 31, and instead of the previously provided procedure for the evacuation of Soviet prisoners of war, he ordered it to be carried out, as a rule, on foot. Thus, the prevailing practice was legalized by order. The exception was open freight cars (that is, railway platforms) - they were allowed to transport prisoners.

Obtaining permission for the allocation of rail and road transport for the transportation of prisoners was associated with such strict conditions that it took weeks until the transport arrived to transport prisoners. Until the late fall of 1941, the evacuation of Soviet prisoners was carried out mainly on foot.
Walking marches led to terrible sacrifices. In August 1941, prisoners from the responsibility of GA Center had to make marches with a total length of about 500 km in order to get to East Prussia and Poland. Prisoners from the Bryansk and Vyazma regions walked across the Bryansk – Gomel and Vyazma – Smolensk districts (from 150 to 250 km), and only after that they were taken by train to the Ostland Reich Commissariat. In early December 1941, Einsatzgruppe B reported from Smolensk about the unrest among the city’s population that “the corpses of Russian prisoners who died during the transition from exhaustion or illness and lay in large numbers on all roads of the route”.
Relatively many German documents survived the evacuation of Soviet prisoners of war from the Kiev boiler to the territory of the Reich Commissariat "Ukraine", which allows a fairly accurate description of their fate.
By September 22, in the zone of operations of the 17th Wehrmacht Army, about 200 thousand Soviet troops were captured. Their food supply was entrusted to the commandant of the 550th rear area. For this, a column of trucks with a total carrying capacity of 60 tons was put at his disposal. Also urgently needed to be taken prisoners from Kremenchug. The prisoners were supposed to move to the railway stations on foot, or on empty vehicles of the 1st tank group. Due to the large number of prisoners, the command of the 17th Army requested permission to use not only open, but also closed wagons, as well as local trains for their transportation. The command of the GA "South" replied that the evacuation of prisoners of war by train is unrealistic, since they are still east of the Dnieper, so on September 25, the command of the 24th infantry division was forced to ask for help from the army command, after 33 thousand were delivered to Lubny. the prisoners began unrest, since the prisoners had neither food, nor water, nor premises for accommodation. The 24th division was to ensure the evacuation of all 200 thousand prisoners, and previously allocated trucks were selected from the commandant of the 550th district, and the 24th division was to supply the prisoners with their trucks, but it did not have them.

As a result, the evacuation of 200 thousand prisoners from the Lubny-Khorol region to Uman took place on foot, and this is almost 400 km. The evacuation was completed on October 24. On October 15, that is, on the second day of the march, the command of the 24th division informed the commander of the rear area of ​​the GA South that, due to the resistance of the prisoners and their extremely poor physical condition, the evacuation was very difficult, and “due to shootings and exhaustion” there are already more than 1000 corpses.
How many prisoners of war survived this transition cannot be said. But it was precisely these prisoners that the representative of the German steel industry saw, who arrived to organize the work of the captured Soviet enterprises:

"Endless columns of prisoners were passing by. 12,500 people were once guarded by German soldiers. Those who were unable to move on were shot. We spent the night in a small village where our car was stuck in the mud. The prisoners’ food consisted of potatoes taken from the inhabitants of the same village. Everyone received at most two potatoes a day. "

According to the report of the Chief Quartermaster of the 17th Army, even the rations prescribed by the order of the OKH of October 21, 1941 were not issued to prisoners of war during the marchs, in fact they did not receive food at all, content with the fact that they would be given by local residents, eating grass on roadsides and foliage on roadside trees picking up fallen horses. With insufficient nutrition and bad weather, mortality of prisoners of war at the stages of evacuation reached 1% per day. That is, from 200 thousand prisoners of war on foot on foot in the Uman region, 10 to 20 thousand died.

The problem of evacuation escalated with the onset of cold weather. As follows from the documents, in November walking marches were not carried out due to cold weather and the state of health of prisoners in the area of ​​responsibility of the Center Center. But the fact is that it was also difficult to transport prisoners of war by rail, as far back as September 1941, the commander for prisoners of war of the "J" district asked OKV "can prisoners in closed wagons be transported now in the cold season," because the order of July 31 it was forbidden. He apparently did not receive a positive answer, because in November transportation of prisoners in open wagons was the rule. The “normal” mortality during such transportation ranged from 5 to 10%, in some cases reaching 30%! Only on November 26, after three weeks of frost, in the area of ​​responsibility of GA Center, a new procedure for the transportation of prisoners was introduced. The procedure for ordering transport for prisoners of war was extremely difficult. The priority of movement by rail was a priori given to military and freight trains, therefore, servicing trains with prisoners as well as their loading / unloading was a third-rate affair, which meant that prisoners had to wait for loading or unloading in the cold.

In addition, the army command was interested in any way to get rid of the prisoners, without thinking about the consequences. Transport in open wagons led to huge casualties. So, in mid-January 1942, the commander for prisoners of war of the "C" district (GA "Sever") complained that during the transportation of prisoners from the 16th Army "several hundred people died on one of the transports." During transportation from the 13th army prisoner of war camp in Chudov on January 16, 1942, out of 2,347 prisoners, "1,600 arrived barely alive, but 760 died." When loading, "already 400 people were in such poor condition that they had to be taken by train in a sleigh." Of the other vehicles with 2,000 prisoners, only 661 people arrived alive, the rest froze, escaped or were shot while trying to escape - the prisoners were also transported on open platforms.

It turns out that from the point of view of mortality, there was not much difference whether prisoners were transported in frost in open or closed unheated wagons. When transported in freight wagons from the Ostland Reichskomisariat, “from 25 to 70% of prisoners” died in one route, not only from the effects of low temperatures, but also because they were practically not fed during the many-day journey.

After Soviet prisoners of war began to be regarded as a “valuable work resource”, on December 8, 1941, the OKW prisoner of war affairs department finally compiled a list of conditions that should be observed when transporting prisoners: stoves should be installed in freight cars, blankets should be given out to prisoners and outerwear, as well as straw bedding to protect against the cold. Before despatch, double disinsection should be carried out, no more than 50 prisoners should be transported in each carriage, it was necessary to ensure "regular meals on the way, the ability to depart for natural needs during long-term parking, etc." There is an opinion that this order can only be considered as creating an alibi, because no material conditions were created for its implementation. Ober-quartermaster of the rear area of ​​GA "Center" noted that "this order is practically impossible due to the lack of stoves, straw and blankets. With very severe frosts at this time (up to -30 ° C) transportation by rail is very difficult and it is opportunities should be avoided. Experience has shown that mortality in such transport is extremely high. " When in March 1942, transport with prisoners of war arrived at the stationary camp II. In Hammerstein (Pomerania) from the Governor General, virtually without loss (12 out of 3,800 people died), the Germans even awarded "special praise" to the Head of the Prisoner of War Service in the Governor General.

Only after the German political and military leadership recognized the need to provide the German economy with labor, measures were taken to radically improve the transportation of Soviet prisoners of war. In particular, an order was given that, when transported by rail, trains with “Ostarbeiters” and Soviet prisoners of war were given priority only to military trains. Particularly noticeable are the changes in the “Instructions for the evacuation of newly arriving prisoners of war" published by the Quartermaster General of the Ground Forces on June 15, 1942:

"When evacuating newly arrived prisoners of war, the main commandment is that the military, political and economic principles of warfare require the fair treatment of prisoners of war and the preservation of their efficiency:

I. Equipment

Leave prisoners of war clothing and equipment (boots, dishes, spoons, blankets, etc.) and take them with them when evacuating. Remove missing items of clothing and equipment from the dead and the dead and distribute them to prisoners of war. Give them captured field kitchens.

II. Walking evacuation

Use all transport capabilities (convoys, etc.). If possible, restrict sending by foot. On foot:

1. For every 25-30 km, build temporary overnight places (preferably covered) and provide hot meals there.

2. Provide food according to the severity of the transition. Organize the supply in accordance with the economic authorities. To contact the stocks of army food depots only in the most extreme case.

3. The number of guards should be at least 2 people per 100 prisoners of war.


4. Marching in groups of no more than 2500 people. The distance between them must be at least 1 km.

5. For each group, have sanitary staff. Take along enough vehicles to transport prisoners who are sick on the way.

III. Evacuation by rail.


3. Use stations as close to their destination as possible to avoid long pedestrian crossings and preserve the working capacity of prisoners.

4. Take care in advance of the distribution of hot food to prisoners of war during transportation in accordance with the competent authorities. Take packed rations with you in closed wagons. At stops, replenish the supply of drinking water.

5. Take along enough security.


To bring the above instructions to every German soldier engaged in the supply or protection of prisoners of war. "

Another important factor in the huge losses of Soviet prisoners of war during the evacuation was the mass executions on the way. On August 22, 1941, the Commander of the Center Center Field Marshal von Bock wrote in his diary: “During the evacuation of the prisoners, cruelties occurred against which I issued a very severe order. When the prisoners were exhausted and it was impossible to feed them on long routes through wide and uninhabited areas, it was more or less tolerable "Their evacuation remains a serious problem." But executions and beatings continued. Despite the fact that the army leadership constantly issued threatening orders saying the inadmissibility of "uncontrolled reprisals" of prisoners of war, virtually nothing has changed. And then things went even worse.
The commandant of the 240th transit camp in Smolensk reported on October 25, 1941:
“It has repeatedly happened that the guards treat prisoners of war with exaggerated cruelty. So, on the night of 19 to 20 of this month, about 30,000 prisoners who could not be received in the Sever camp were sent back to the city. On the morning of the 20th, only one there were 125 prisoners of war killed from the station to the Sever camp. Most of them lay on the road with a shot through the head. In most cases, this was not about an attempt to escape and not about actual resistance, which can only justify the use of weapons " .
The propaganda department "V" under the command of the rear area of ​​the GA "Center" in early November noted:

“There are cases when prisoners who, due to complete exhaustion, can no longer continue the march to the rear zone, are simply shot. If this happens in secluded areas and outside settlements, the population may not know about it. However, there are rumors about cases when the prisoners were simply shot within the settlements, spreading along the edge with the speed of the wind. "

As you can see the propagandists from Goebbels’s department are more concerned not with the facts of the executions themselves, but with the fact that this is happening in front of the population.

The propaganda department "B" under the command of the Ostland Reichskommissariat troops, in turn, complains that the treatment of prisoners of war "often negates all propaganda work":

"The prisoners are completely exhausted due to insufficient nutrition, they fall at their jobs, remain lying on the roads during marches and therefore are often shot before the eyes of the civilian population."

The same department at the end of January 1942 complains that the number of executions is not decreasing. In Minsk, during a march from the station to the camp, right on the main street of the city, prisoners of war were allegedly shot trying to escape. The next day, "the bodies lay in large numbers for several kilometers along the road; only in the evening partly the bodies that had already begun to decompose were removed." Just think: a few kilometers ...
In GA "South" things were the same. The chief of the Vostok military-economic headquarters, Lieutenant General Schubert, noted in September 1941 that "the mood of the Ukrainian population towards the Wehrmacht has deteriorated sharply due to food shortages, repeatedly observed cruel treatment of prisoners of war, shootings of prisoners of war in front of the local population. All it causes indignation of the ordinary Ukrainian population. "
We must pay tribute: such generals as von Bock, von Schenkendorf and von Tettau (commander of the 24th PD) tried by orders to at least somehow stop the bullying and arbitrary executions of prisoners. But their orders came into conflict with National Socialist propaganda and the orders emanating from the Wehrmacht’s high command. The orders of the top leadership of the Wehrmacht gave each soldier the right to act with Soviet prisoners at his discretion, for any cruelty in the war in the East could be justified as "necessary" if it did not happen in front of witnesses who were ready to speak out. Needless to say, there were probably very few German soldiers who were ready to speak out against their own comrades. The soldiers, who sincerely believed in national-socialist "ideals," did not see any difference between what the military leadership ordered the treatment of "Bolshevik cattle" and what was considered "arbitrariness" by the same leadership. The Wehrmacht soldiers witnessed the “selection” of the Einsatzkommand, mass executions of civilians (in particular Jews), saw the corpses of hanged partisans or “partisan accomplices”, and, accordingly, concluded that the life of prisoners and civilians for the military and political leadership of the Reich no value, an additional proof of this was the official attitude towards the prisoners. It was not far from here to the conclusion that the killing of prisoners was permitted.

Despite the attempt to contrast the “white and fluffy” Wehrmacht with the “green and slimy” SS troops, the Wehrmacht had quite a few military commanders who considered the executions of exhausted prisoners of war to be correct. Some of them were guided by "military necessity," while others were racially or politically motivated. The head of the II Abwehr department in OKW, Colonel Lahuzen, reported on October 31, 1941 that "the command of the 6th Army (commander Field Marshal F. Reichenau) ordered the execution of all weakened prisoners. Unfortunately, this happens on the streets, in the settlements, that the local population is witnessing all this. "

Conclusion: The number of victims of the transportation of Soviet prisoners of war is not amenable to exact calculation, but these are SIX-VALUE NUMBERS, and they tentatively make up 250-280 thousand people. And there are reasonable grounds to believe that there were many more. So: a quarter of a million dead are just on the way

Funds of the Federal Archive of Germany - Military Archive. Freiburg (Bundesarchivs / Militararchiv (BA / MA)
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.
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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Death marches