• Facebook
  • YouTube

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 № 6

Mass killings and mortality in places of detention of Soviet prisoners of war

An important factor in the high mortality rate of Soviet prisoners of war was the conditions of their detention. As planned by the OKV and OKH, most of the Soviet prisoners of war were to be detained in the frontline zone (involved in work), the Reich Commissariat, the Governor General and East Prussia (disabled and not involved in work). Actually, it was decided not to import Soviet prisoners of war into the territory of the Reich. But the bulk of the prisoners still had to remain in the frontline zone and the Reich Commissariat. This situation continued until September 1941, because the political and military leadership of Germany believed that the campaign in the East could be completed before the onset of cold weather. The first decision on the deployment of 500 thousand prisoners of war in the Reich territory was made on September 23, 1941, and it was not caused by economic reasons, but simply by the fear that a huge number of prisoners in the frontline zone could rise and strengthen the partisan movement that had begun. And only then, at the end of October 1941, there were thoughts about the use of Soviet prisoners of war in the economy of the Reich. But in any case, the construction of camp facilities rested with the prisoners themselves. As in the case of food, instructions were sent everywhere "when building residential premises, be limited to minimal resources." On the ground, the command often did not even provide the prisoners with the opportunity to build some shelters, and sometimes, guided by the axiom of Nazi propaganda that "the Russian subhuman can survive in the most primitive conditions," even forbade the construction of any structures.
So, the Soviet prisoners of war, whom the representatives of the Rosenberg department visited at the beginning of July 1941 in the stationary camp II. Hammerstein was placed under the open sky right on the ground. In the 52nd (Ebenrode) and 53rd (Pogegen) oflag (officer camp) in East Prussia, "prisoners were initially forced to spend the night in the holes they dug. Soon, however, they were placed in makeshift, dug deep in the ground and warmed with grass "The naras consisted of them laid in two rows of boards and were covered with hay."

According to German documents, almost until the beginning of October 1941, Soviet prisoners were almost everywhere placed in the open. For example, in Poland, the construction of enclosed premises for Soviet prisoners of war did not begin until August 22, 1941, when the OKW prisoner of war affairs department ordered prisoners of war to remain in the territory of the governor general for a long period, although it was initially clear that in Poland a large number of Soviet prisoners of war will be kept. The governor general used the old barracks, factories, prisons, and sometimes barracks as winter quarters for prisoners. It was supposed to place 568 thousand prisoners of war in the "winter" camps, of which 100 thousand in dugouts, and the construction of barracks was very slow. An increase in placement was achieved primarily by the fact that the prisoners slept, sitting on bunks in five rows! The transfer of prisoners from the "summer camps" to the "winter" began in early October. By November 1, 84,529 prisoners were still in the "summer" camps, by December 1 there were still 24,330 people left there (the "summer camp" is just a piece of field enclosed by barbed wire). Due to the highest mortality rate, the maximum planned number of prisoners in the Governor General was never reached. That is, people were dying faster than they managed to bring new parties.
The conditions of prisoners in the general government can be illustrated by the example of a stationary camp (stalag) No. 307 in Deblin. Prisoners of the 307th stalag were housed in the former Deblin citadel, and were brought at the end of October from the “special camp” in Biala Podlask. The terrifying conditions were already in Biala Podlask, in September in this camp about 20 thousand prisoners were sick with dysentery, by September 19, 2500 of them had died. Then, in October, an epidemic of typhus began, which was also brought to Deblin. Nothing was done in Deblin to accommodate the prisoners, some of them without blankets and warm clothes lay in the damp unheated casemates of the fortress, thousands of others in the open air in the moat ditches. The food was so scarce that they ate all the foliage from the trees and grass, there were cases of carcass. As of November 30, 14,162 people remained alive. It is impossible to find out exactly how many prisoners died in this camp, it is only known that from October to December 1941, from 200 to 500 Soviet prisoners of war died every day in Deblin! Mass deaths in Deblin forced to close the camp on February 2, 1942 "for hygiene reasons." Approximately the same situation was observed in the camps of the Hill, Islands, Ostrovets, Siedlce, Przemysl and Benyaminov. The German leadership found an original "way out": from the beginning of December, the protection of these camps began to receive "increased allowance for raising morale." Poor things, we all, of course, imagine how their kind hearts were tormented at the sight of Soviet prisoners!

Documents on the Reichskommissariats Ostland and Ukraine are practically absent, but judging by the mortality data for December 1941, the situation in the camps on the territory of the Reichskommissariat was no better than in Poland.
In the front-line zone, in the summer of 1941, the main criteria for the capacity of the camp, no matter how bitter it was, were the security capabilities and equipment of the kitchens. In general, almost no attention was paid to the construction of camps. For example, the 240th transit camp in Rzhev, began to build more or less tolerable premises only when it received an additional batch of 5,000 prisoners at the end of November. Before that, people lived in the open. From the reports of Colonel Marshall already known to us, it follows that until September 1941 in the camps the best that Soviet prisoners of war could hope for was the presence of canopies. In bad weather, in order to fit everything under the awnings, the prisoners had to stand. By November, almost all prisoners were already placed in enclosed spaces, but the presence of at least some heating in them was a rare exception. Almost everywhere prisoners slept in large rooms, sometimes, despite the cold, even without wooden or straw bedding, right on bare ground. In the 22nd army prison camp in Novgorod-Seversky, "most of the prisoners were housed in dugouts" and the guards managed to expel them from there only with the help of ... hand grenades !!! In the 19th assembly point in Mikhailovsky out of 10,400 prisoners "only 5,000 people could be accommodated in decent, heated premises." The 21st army prisoner of war camp in Konotop was overcrowded, even according to German documents in January 1942 the detention of prisoners in this camp was "hopeless and unworthy of man."
The conditions of prisoners of war had, along with food, a huge impact on their mortality. Especially in the period from September to November, when the huge masses of prisoners of war did not receive any protection from the cold and bad weather. Subsequently, the low temperature in unheated rooms still determined the mortality rate. Here is what is written in the report from the 240th transit camp in Rzhev on December 14, 1941:

"Experience has shown that the number of deaths is largely dependent on the cold. So, on extremely cold days from December 5 to 12, it increased to 88-119 people, and with the weakening of the cold weather on December 8 to 98-62 people. Then with the onset of the thaw decreased to 47 people on December 9 and to 30 people on December 10 and 11. With the resumption of cold weather, the mortality curve constantly went up: 35 people on December 12, 38 on the 13th and 53th on the 14th. "

From a letter from Rosenberg to Keitel about the ill-treatment of Soviet prisoners of war

"city of Berlin
February 28, 1942

From the very beginning of its existence, the Imperial Ministry of Occupied Eastern Provinces believed that a large number of Soviet prisoners of war were extremely valuable propaganda material. The treatment of Soviet prisoners of war should, for a number of reasons, differ from the treatment of prisoners of war of other states:

1. The war in the East is not over yet and the desire of the fighting Red Army soldiers to switch to our side to a large extent depends on the treatment of prisoners of war.

2. The German Empire has in mind to occupy and economically develop for its purposes at the end of the war most of the territory of the former Soviet Union ...

3. Germany is fighting against the Soviet Union for ideological reasons. Bolshevism must be overthrown and replaced by something better. Therefore, prisoners of war should first-hand make sure that National Socialism wants and can create a better future for them. Over time, they must return to their homeland with a sense of admiration and deep respect for Germany and the German order, and thus become propagandists in favor of Germany and National Socialism.

This goal has not yet been achieved. On the contrary, the fate of Soviet prisoners of war in Germany was a tragedy of enormous proportions. Of the 3.6 million prisoners of war, only a few hundred thousand are currently fully operational. Most of them died of hunger or cold. Thousands died of typhus.

It goes without saying that supplying such a mass of prisoners of war with food encounters great difficulties. Nevertheless, with a clear understanding of the goals pursued by German politics, deaths on a described scale could have been avoided. According to available information, for example, in the territory of the Soviet Union, the local population is quite ready to deliver food to prisoners of war. Some prudent camp directors have successfully exploited this. In most cases, camp leaders prohibited the civilian population from delivering food to prisoners of war and condemned them to starvation. This was not permitted even when transporting prisoners of war to the camps. Moreover, in many cases when prisoners of war could not march due to hunger and exhaustion, they were shot before the eyes of the horrified civilian population, and their corpses remained abandoned. Numerous camps did not at all take care of the construction of premises for prisoners of war. In rain and snow, they were in the open. They were not even given a tool to dig holes or holes in the ground.

Apparently, there was no systematic disinfection of prisoners of war and the camps themselves. One could hear reasoning: "The more prisoners die, the better for us ...".

TsGAOOR USSR; f, 7445. op. 2 d. 139, l. 97-98. Translation from German

From the foregoing, one can draw a bitter conclusion: the conditions of detention of Soviet prisoners of war in German camps, both in stationary and in transit, were absolutely inhuman! Until the beginning of November, the prisoners were held in the open air in the literal sense, which undoubtedly was an important reason for their high mortality. But mortality did not become much less after the captives were transferred to the premises, because at sub-zero temperatures they did not heat up. Moreover, the people in the camps were not provided with the minimum necessary in everyday life: bedding, warm clothes and shoes. Along with the lack of adequate nutrition, the conditions for the placement of prisoners became the most significant factor in their death.
In the last place among the causes of the mass extinction of Soviet prisoners of war in 1941-1942 are epidemics. The largest of these was the typhus epidemic, which spread among prisoners of war from October 1941 until the summer of 1942. At a meeting on September 4, 1941, Reinecke demanded that the barracks camps be not too large, because this would have a beneficial effect on the sanitary and epidemiological situation. By order of the OKW of June 16, 1941, the creation of an average of 40 thousand prisoners of war camps for prisoners of war was envisaged. In the general government, this figure was already exceeded in September, and in the frontline zone, because of the lack of equipment of the camps, huge masses of prisoners were located on very small plots of land. At the Nuremberg trials, the Wehrmacht leadership stated that as early as December 1941, that is, immediately after the outbreak of the epidemic, measures were taken that brought a positive result in January 1942.

The epidemic of typhus began in the Governor General in the second quarter of 1941, cases of typhus were sharply more frequent among the starving population of Poland. On October 20, cases of typhoid were recorded in the 307th stalag in Biala Podlask. In November, an epidemic broke out in the Reichskommissariat Ostland, and at the end of November - on the territory of the Reich itself. By mid-December, typhus was rampant in all camps outside the Reich and in most camps on its territory. In any case, the number of victims of this epidemic is unknown, but judging by the surviving documents, it does not exceed 5% of the total number of Soviet prisoners of war. In absolute terms, this is about 150 thousand people, unfortunately, there are no more accurate data. Later, an epidemic of tuberculosis broke out. But this will be described in more detail in subsequent materials.
In conclusion, I would like to say that, unfortunately, justice in relation to Soviet prisoners of war did not triumph. The vast majority of Nazi war criminals escaped instead of execution with prison sentences, which were quietly abolished in the 50s of the 20th century. Caught in the Anglo-American zone of occupation, war criminals, for the most part, escaped with generally purely symbolic punishment. It remains only to hope for the justice of God's judgment ...
Despite the fact that some German historians on the basis of a large number of documents prove the inhumane attitude of the German armed forces towards Soviet prisoners of war, the atrocities of the Nazis did not receive a proper assessment in the public and state consciousness in modern Europe. And now there is a much more popular topic there are studies on abuses and crimes by the Soviet troops in Germany after the defeat of the Third Reich. Having officially recognized the genocide of the Jewish people, Soviet citizens are still pursuing a policy of silence and ignoring against Soviet prisoners of war and forcibly driven into the Reich to work by Soviet citizens.

The Western public (except for a rather narrow circle of professional historians) is not particularly interested in the history of Nazi atrocities in the USSR. In Germany itself, in order to get rid of guilty feelings, they began to instill in their heads the idea that this was allegedly the work of some other evil uncles, and the current generation of Germans has nothing to do with it.
Christian Streit, author of "They Are Not Comrades to Us. Wehrmacht and Soviet Prisoners of War in 1941-1945," cites data that out of 3.4 million Soviet troops and civilians who fell under the category of military personnel captured by the Wehrmacht in 1941, in just six months (by January 1942) it was reduced to 1.4 million people !!! Two million of our compatriots became victims of executions, epidemics, hunger or cold. Hundreds of thousands were destroyed by the Einsatzkommands, or military units for political reasons (the “order of commissars”) or racial motives. According to German data (they did not expect to lose the war) by May 1, 1944, the total number of Soviet prisoners of war destroyed reached an astronomical figure of 3,291,157 people. Of these, died in the camps: 1 981 000 people, executed and killed while trying to escape: 1 030 157 people, died "on the way": 280 000 people. Three million two hundred ninety one thousand one hundred fifty seven people !!! And this is a year before the end of the war. Can this be forgiven? What about forgetting?

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.

A. Dallin "German rule in Russia 1941-1945. Analysis of the occupation policy." M. From the Academy of Sciences of the USSR 1957
"SS in action." Crime Documents. M. IIL 1960
S. Datner "Crimes of the Nazi Wehrmacht against prisoners of war in World War II" M. IIL 1963
"Criminal goals are criminal means." Documents on the occupation policy of Nazi Germany in the USSR. M. "Politizdat" 1968
"Top Secret. Command Only." Documents and materials. M. "Science" 1967
N. Alekseev "Responsibility of Nazi criminals" M. "International relations" 1968
N. Müller "The Wehrmacht and the occupation, 1941-1944. On the role of the Wehrmacht and its governing bodies in the implementation of the occupation regime in Soviet territory" M. Military Publishing 1974
C. Streight "They are not to be considered soldiers. Wehrmacht and Soviet prisoners of war 1941-1945." M. "Progress" 1979
V. Galitsky. "The problem of prisoners of war and the attitude of the Soviet state to it." "State and Law" No. 4, 1990
M. Semiryaga "The prison empire of Nazism and its collapse" M. "Jur. Literature" 1991
V. Gurkin "On casualties on the Soviet-German front in 1941-1945." Scientific Research Institute No. 3 of 1992
"The Nuremberg Trials. Crimes Against Humanity." The collection of materials in 8 volumes. M. "Legal literature" 1991-1997
M. Erin "Soviet prisoners of war in Germany during the Second World War" "History" No. 11-12, 1995
C. Streit "Soviet prisoners of war in Germany / Russia and Germany during the years of war and peace (1941-1995)." M. "Gaia" 1995
P. Polyan "Victims of two dictatorships. Life, labor, humiliation and death of Soviet prisoners of war and ostarbeiters in a foreign land and at home." M. "ROSSPEN" 2002
M. Yerin "Soviet prisoners of war in Nazi Germany 1941-1945. Problems of research." Yaroslavl Yaroslavl State University 2005
"Destruction war in the east. Wehrmacht crimes in the USSR. 1941-1944. Reports" edited by G. Gortsik and K. Shtang. M. "Airo-XX" 2005
W. Vette "The Image of the Enemy: Racist Elements in German Propaganda Against the Soviet Union." M. "Yauza", EXMO 2005
C. Streit "They are not our comrades. Wehrmacht and Soviet prisoners of war in 1941-1945." M. "Russian Panorama" 2009
"The Great Patriotic War without a signature stamp. Book of losses." The team of authors led by G.F. Krivosheeva M. Veche 2010