During World War II, Nazi Germany engaged in a policy of deliberate maltreatment of Soviet prisoners of war (POWs), in contrast to their treatment of British and American POWs. This resulted in some 3.3 to 3.5 million deaths.
During Operation Barbarossa, the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union, and the subsequent German–Soviet War, millions of Red Army prisoners of war were taken. Many were executed, arbitrarily in the field by the German forces or handed over to the SS to be shot, under the Commissar Order. Most, however, died during the death marches from the front lines or under inhumane conditions in German prisoner-of-war camps and concentration camps.
It is estimated that at least 3.3 million Soviet POWs died in Nazi custody, out of 5.7 million. This figure represents a total of 57% of all Soviet POWs and may be contrasted with 8,300 out of 231,000 British and U.S. prisoners, or 3.6%. About 5% of the Soviet prisoners who died were Jews. The most deaths took place between June 1941 and January 1942, when the Germans killed an estimated 2.8 million Soviet POWs primarily through deliberate starvation, exposure, and summary execution. A million at most had been released, most of whom were so-called ‘volunteers’ (Hilfswillige) for (often compulsory) auxiliary service in the Wehrmacht, 500,000 had fled or were liberated, the remaining 3.3 million had perished as POWs.
The figure of 3.3 million POW dead is based on German figures and analysis. Data published in Russia presents a different view of their POW dead. Viktor Zemskov estimated Soviet POW deaths at 2.3 million; he published statistics that put Soviet POW losses at 2,471,000 (5,734,000 were captured, 821,000 were released for German military service, 72,000 escaped and 2,371,000 liberated ). Of the 823,000 POWS released for service in the German military forces 212,400 were killed or missing, 436,600 were returned to the USSR and imprisoned and 180,000 remained in western countries after the war.   Russian military historian Grigori F. Krivosheev maintains POW and MIA losses of the combat forces were actually 1.783 million, according to Krivosheev the higher figure of 3.3 million POW dead includes reservists not on active strength, civilians and military personnel reported missing who were recovered during the course of the war.
By September 1941, the mortality rate among Soviet POWs was in the order of 1% per day. According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM), by the winter of 1941, "starvation and disease resulted in mass death of unimaginable proportions". This deliberate starvation, despite food being available, led many desperate prisoners to resort to acts of cannibalism, was Nazi policy, and was all in accordance with the Hunger Plan developed by the Reich Minister of Food Herbert Backe. For the Germans, Soviet POWs were expendable: they consumed calories needed by others and, unlike Western POWs, were considered to be subhuman.
The Commissar Order (German: Kommissarbefehl) was a written order given by the German High Command (OKW) on 6 June 1941, prior to the beginning of Operation Barbarossa (German invasion of the Soviet Union). It demanded that any Soviet political commissar identified among captured troops be shot immediately. Those prisoners who could be identified as "thoroughly bolshevized or as active representatives of the Bolshevist ideology" were also to be executed.
In the summer and autumn of 1941, vast numbers of Soviet prisoners were captured in about a dozen large encirclements. Due to their rapid advance into the Soviet Union and an anticipated quick victory, the Germans did not want to ship these prisoners to Germany. Under the administration of the Wehrmacht, the prisoners were processed, guarded, forced-marched, or transported in open rail cars to locations mostly in the occupied Soviet Union, Germany, and occupied Poland. Much like comparable events, such as the Pacific War's Bataan Death March in 1942, the treatment of prisoners was brutal, without much in the way of supporting logistics.
Soviet prisoners of war were stripped of their supplies and clothing by poorly-equipped German troops when the cold weather set in; this resulted in death for the prisoners. Most of the camps for Soviet POWs were simply open areas fenced off with barbed wire and watchtowers with no inmate housing. These meager conditions forced the crowded prisoners to live in holes they had dug for themselves, which were exposed to the elements. Beatings and other abuse by the guards were common, and prisoners were malnourished, often consuming only a few hundred calories or less per day. Medical treatment was non-existent and an International Red Cross offer to help in 1941 was rejected by Hitler.
Some of the Soviet POWs were also experimented on. In one such case, Dr. Heinrich Berning from Hamburg University starved prisoners to death as "famine experiments". In another instance, a group of prisoners at Zhitomir were shot using dum-dum bullets.
The camps established especially for Soviet POWs were called Russenlager ("Russian camp"). The Allied regulars kept by Germany were usually treated in accordance with the 1929 Geneva Convention on Prisoners of War. Although the Soviet Union was not a signatory, Germany was, and Article 82 of the Convention required signatories to treat all captured enemy soldiers "as between the belligerents who are parties thereto." Russenlager conditions were often even worse than those commonly experienced by prisoners in regular concentration camps. Such camps included:
In the "weeding-out actions" (Aussonderungsaktionen) of 1941–42, the Gestapo secret police further identified Communist Party and state officials, commissars, academic scholars, Jews and other "undesirable" or "dangerous" individuals who had survived the Commissar Order selections, and transferred them to concentration camps, where they were summarily executed. At Stalag VII-A at Moosburg, Major Karl Meinel objected to these executions, but the SS (including Karl von Eberstein) intervened, Meinel was demoted to reserve, and the killing continued.
In all, between June 1941 and May 1944 about 10% of all Soviet POWs were turned over to the SS-Totenkopfverbände concentration camp organization or the Einsatzgruppen death squads and murdered. Einsatzgruppen killings included the Babi Yar massacres where Soviet POWs were among 70,000–120,000 people executed between 1941 and 1943 and the Ponary massacre that included the execution of some 7,500 Soviet POWs in 1941 (among about 100,000 murdered there between 1941 and 1944).
In January 1942, Hitler authorized better treatment of Soviet POWs because the war had bogged down, and German leaders decided to use prisoners for forced labour on a large scale (see forced labour under German rule during World War II). Their number increased from barely 150,000 in 1942, to the peak of 631,000 in the summer of 1944. Many were dispatched to the coal mines (between July 1 and November 10, 1943, 27,638 Soviet POWs died in the Ruhr Area alone), while others were sent to Krupp, Daimler-Benz or other companies, where they provided labour while often being slowly worked to death. The largest "employers" of 1944 were mining (160,000), agriculture (138,000) and the metal industry (131,000). No less than 200,000 prisoners died during forced labour.
The Organisation Todt was a civil and military engineering group in Germany eponymously named for its founder Fritz Todt. The organisation was responsible for a wide range of engineering projects both in pre-World War II Germany, and in Germany itself and occupied territories from France to the Soviet Union during the war, and became notorious for using forced labour. Most of the so-called "volunteer" Soviet POW workers were consumed by the Organisation Todt. The period from 1942 until the end of the war had approximately 1.4 million labourers in the service of the Organisation Todt. Overall, 1% were Germans rejected from military service and 1.5% were concentration camp prisoners; the rest were prisoners of war and compulsory labourers from occupied countries. All non-Germans were effectively treated as slaves and many did not survive the work or the war.
Inhumane treatment of Soviet prisoners included proceedings at Shitomir in August 1941 where a group of them were shot with captured Red Army dum-dum bullets so that German military doctors could precisely observe, and write up, the effects of these munitions upon the human body.95(See Streim reference below for original source).
Six kilometres from Pogostie Station (Leningrad region) German troops, retreating from Red Army units, shot over 150 Soviet prisoners with dum-dum bullets, after terrible floggings and bestial tortures.
Alexander 'Sasha' Pechersky (Russian: Алекса́ндр Аро́нович Пече́рский; 22 February 1909 – 19 January 1990) was one of the organizers, and the leader, of the most successful uprising and mass-escape of Jews from a Nazi extermination camp during World War II; which occurred at the Sobibor extermination camp on 14 October 1943.
In 1948, Pechersky was arrested by the Soviet authorities along with his brother during the countrywide Rootless cosmopolitan campaign against Jews suspected of pro-Western leanings but released later due in part to mounting international pressure. However, the harassment did not stop there. Pechersky was prevented by the Soviet government from testifying in multiple international trials related to Sobibor, including the Eichmann Trial in Israel. The last time he was refused permission to exit the country and testify was in 1987, for a trial in Poland.Amersfoort concentration camp
Amersfoort concentration camp (Dutch: Kamp Amersfoort, German: Durchgangslager Amersfoort) was a Nazi concentration camp in Amersfoort, Netherlands. The official name was "Polizeiliches Durchgangslager Amersfoort", P.D.A. or Police Transitcamp Amersfoort. During the years of 1941 to 1945, over 35,000 prisoners were kept here. The camp was situated in the southern part of Amersfoort, on the city limit between Amersfoort and Leusden in central Netherlands.Anti-Russian sentiment
Anti-Russian sentiment (or Russophobia) is a diverse spectrum of negative feelings, dislikes, fears, aversion, derision and/or prejudice of Russia, Russians or Russian culture. A wide variety of mass culture clichés about Russia and Russians exists in the Western world. Many of these stereotypes were originally developed during the Cold War, and were primarily used as elements of political war against the Soviet Union. Some of these prejudices are still observed in the discussions of the relations with Russia. Negative representation of Russia and Russians in modern popular culture is also often described as functional, as stereotypes about Russia may be used for framing reality, like creating an image of an enemy, or an excuse, or an explanation for compensatory reasons. Hollywood has been sometimes criticised for its excessive use of Russians as the villains.On the other hand, Russian nationalists and apologists of Russian politics are sometimes criticised for using allegations of "Russophobia" as a form of propaganda to counter criticism of Russia.The opposite of Russophobia is Russophilia.Anti-Sovietism
Anti-Sovietism and anti-Soviet refer to persons and activities actually or allegedly aimed against the Soviet Union or government power within the Soviet Union.Three different flavors of the usage of the term may be distinguished.
Anti-Sovietism in international politics, such as the Western opposition to the Soviet Union during the Cold War by anti-communism.
Anti-Soviet opponents of Bolsheviks shortly after the Russian Revolution and during the Russian Civil War.
As applied to Soviet citizens (allegedly) involved in anti-government activities.Belgian prisoners of war in World War II
During World War II, Belgian prisoners of war were principally Belgian soldiers captured by the Germans during and shortly after the Battle of Belgium in May 1940.
225,000 men, approximately 30 percent of the strength of the Belgian army in 1940, were deported to prisoner of war camps in Germany. Large repatriations of prisoners, particularly of soldiers of Flemish origin, to occupied Belgium occurred in 1940 and 1941. Nevertheless, as many as 70,000 remained prisoners remained in captivity until 1945, and around 1,800 died in German camps during the course of the war.Collaboration in German-occupied Soviet Union
A large numbers of Soviet citizens of various ethnicity collaborated with Nazi Germany during World War II. It is estimated that the number of Soviet collaborators with the Nazi German military was between one and two and a half million.Commissar Order
The Commissar Order (German: Kommissarbefehl) was an order issued by the German High Command (OKW) on 6 June 1941 before Operation Barbarossa. Its official name was Guidelines for the Treatment of Political Commissars (Richtlinien für die Behandlung politischer Kommissare). It instructed the Wehrmacht that any Soviet political commissar identified among captured troops be summarily executed as an enforcer of the Judeo-Bolshevism ideology in military forces.
According to the order, all those prisoners who could be identified as "thoroughly bolshevized or as active representatives of the Bolshevist ideology" should also be killed.Death march
A death march is a forced march of prisoners of war or other captives or deportees in which individuals are left to die along the way. It is distinguished in this way from simple prisoner transport via foot march. Death marches usually feature harsh physical labor and abuse, neglect of prisoner injury and illness, deliberate starvation and dehydration, humiliation and torture, and execution of those unable to keep up the marching pace. The march may end at a prisoner-of-war camp or internment camp, or it may continue until all the prisoners are dead (a form of "execution by labor", as seen in the Armenian genocide among other examples).
General Masaharu Homma was charged with failure to control his troops in 1945 in connection with the Bataan Death March.French prisoners of war in World War II
During World War II, the French prisoners of war were primarily soldiers from France and its colonial empire captured by Nazi Germany. Although no precise estimates exist, the number of French soldiers captured during the Battle of France between May and June 1940 is generally recognised around 1.8 million, equivalent to around 10 percent of the total adult male population of France at the time. After a brief period of captivity in France, most of the prisoners were deported to Germany. In Germany, prisoners were incarcerated in Stalag or Oflag prison camps, according to rank, but the vast majority were soon transferred to work details (Kommandos) working in German agriculture or industry. Colonial prisoners, however, remained in camps in France with poor living conditions as a result of Nazi racial ideologies.
During negotiations for the Armistice of 22 June 1940, the Vichy French government adopted a policy of collaboration in hopes for German concessions allowing repatriation. The Germans nevertheless deferred the return of prisoners until the negotiation of a final peace treaty, which never occurred due to the United Kingdom's refusal to surrender and Germany's loss in the Battle of Britain. The absence of a large proportion of the male population of France also had important consequences on the position of women in occupied France and charity fundraising on behalf of the prisoners played an important role in French daily life until late in the occupation. Limited repatriation of certain classes of POWs did occur from 1940 and the government was keen to encourage the return of prisoners, even launching the unpopular relève system in order to exchange prisoners of war for French labourers going to work in Germany. Nevertheless, many prisoners remained in German captivity until the defeat of Germany in 1945. Prisoners who returned to France, either by repatriation or through escaping, generally found themselves stigmatised by the French civilian population and received little official recognition.German military brothels in World War II
German military brothels were set up by Nazi Germany during World War II throughout much of occupied Europe for the use of Wehrmacht and SS soldiers. These brothels were generally new creations, but in the West, they were sometimes set up using existing brothels as well as many other buildings. Until 1942, there were around 500 military brothels of this kind in German-occupied Europe. Often operating in confiscated hotels and guarded by the Wehrmacht, these facilities served travelling soldiers and those withdrawn from the front. According to records, at least 34,140 European women were forced to serve as prostitutes during the German occupation of their own countries along with female prisoners of concentration camp brothels. In many cases in Eastern Europe, the women involved were kidnapped on the streets of occupied cities during German military and police round ups called łapanka or rafle.German prisoners of war in the Soviet Union
Approximately three million German prisoners of war were captured by the Soviet Union during World War II, most of them during the great advances of the Red Army in the last year of the war. The POWs were employed as forced labor in the Soviet wartime economy and post-war reconstruction. By 1950 almost all surviving POWs had been released, with the last prisoner returning from the USSR in 1956 . According to Soviet records 381,067 German Wehrmacht POWs died in NKVD camps (356,700 German nationals and 24,367 from other nations). German historian Rüdiger Overmans maintains that it seems entirely plausible, while not provable, that one million died in Soviet custody. He also believes that there were men who actually died as POWs amongst those listed as missing-in-action (MIA).German war crimes
The governments of the German Empire and Nazi Germany ordered, organized and condoned a substantial number of war crimes in World War I and World War II respectively. The most notable of these is the Holocaust in which millions of Jews, Poles, and Romani were systematically murdered or died from abuse and mistreatment. Millions also died as a result of other German actions in those two conflicts. The true number of victims may never be known, since much of the evidence was deliberately destroyed by the perpetrators in an attempt to conceal the crimes.Order No. 270
Order No. 270, issued on 16 August 1941, by Joseph Stalin during the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union, ordered Red Army personnel to "fight to the last," virtually banned commanders from surrendering, and set out severe penalties for senior officers and deserters regarded as derelicting their duties. Order 270 is widely regarded as the basis of subsequent, often controversial Soviet policies regarding prisoners of war.Ostarbeiter
Ostarbeiter (German: [ˈʔɔstˌaɐ̯baɪtɐ], lit. "Eastern worker") was a Nazi German designation for foreign slave workers gathered from occupied Central and Eastern Europe to perform forced labor in Germany during World War II. The Germans started deporting civilians at the beginning of the war and began doing so at unprecedented levels following Operation Barbarossa in 1941. They apprehended Ostarbeiter from the newly formed German districts of Reichskommissariat Ukraine, General Government Distrikt Galizien, and Reichskommissariat Ostland. These comprised German occupied Poland and the conquered territories of the Soviet Union. According to Pavel Polian over 50% of Ostarbeiters were formerly Soviet subjects originating from the territory of modern-day Ukraine, followed by Polish women workers, approaching 30%. Among the Eastern workers were ethnic Ukrainians, Poles, Belarusians, Russians, Tatars, and others. Estimates of the number of Ostarbeiter range between 3 million and 5.5 million.By 1944 most new workers were very young, under the age of 16, as those older than that were usually conscripted for service in Germany; 30% were as young as 12–14 years of age when they were taken from their homes. The age limit was dropped to 10 in November 1943. Since about half of the adolescents were female, Ostarbeiter were often the victims of rape and tens of thousands of pregnancies due to rape occurred.Ostarbeiter were often given starvation rations and were forced to live in guarded camps. Many died from starvation, overwork, bombing (they were frequently denied access to bomb shelters), abuse and execution carried out by their German overseers. Ostarbeiter were often denied wages but when they did get paid they received payment in a special currency which could only be used to buy specific products at the camps where they lived.
Following the war, the over 2.5 million liberated Ostarbeiter were often repatriated and in the USSR they suffered from social ostracization as well as deportation to gulags for "re-education." American authorities banned the repatriation of Ostarbeiter in October 1945 and some immigrated to the U.S. as well as other non eastern-bloc countries. In 2000 the German government and thousands of German companies paid a one-time payment of just over € 5 billion to Ostarbeiter victims of the Nazi regime.Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army (Russian: Рабоче-крестьянская Красная армия (РККА), Raboče-krestjjanskaja Krasnaja armija (RKKA)), frequently shortened to Red Army (Красная армия (КА)code: rus promoted to code: ru , Krasnaja armija (KA); Army of Work) was the army and the air force of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, and, after 1922, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The army was established immediately after the 1917 October Revolution (Red October or Bolshevik Revolution). The Bolsheviks raised an army to oppose the military confederations (especially the various groups collectively known as the White Army) of their adversaries during the Russian Civil War. Beginning in February 1946, the Red Army, along with the Soviet Navy, embodied the main component of the Soviet Armed Forces; taking the official name of "Soviet Army", until its dissolution in December 1991. The former official name Red Army continued to be used as a nickname by both sides throughout the Cold War.
The Red Army provided the largest land force in the Allied victory in the European theatre of World War II, and its invasion of Manchuria assisted the unconditional surrender of Imperial Japan. During operations on the Eastern Front, it accounted for 75–80% of casualties the Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS suffered during the war and ultimately captured the Nazi German capital, Berlin.Russian collaboration with Nazi Germany
A large numbers of Soviet citizens of various ethnicity collaborated with Nazi Germany during World War II. It is estimated that the number of Soviet collaborators with the Nazi German military was between one and two and a half million.Rusthof cemetery
The Rusthof cemetery (Dutch: begraafplaats Rusthof) is located at the Dodeweg 31 in Leusden, the Netherlands. It is the largest cemetery that services the nearby town of Amersfoort.Soviet repressions against former prisoners of war
Some Soviet prisoners of war who survived German captivity during World War II were accused by the Soviet authorities of collaboration with the Nazis or branded as traitors under Order No. 270, which prohibited any soldier from surrendering.Wehrmachtsausstellung
The Wehrmachtsausstellung (German for "Wehrmacht Exhibition") was a series of two exhibitions focusing on war crimes of the Wehrmacht during World War II. Both exhibitions were produced by the Hamburg Institute for Social Research (Hamburger Institut für Sozialforschung); the first under the title "War of Annihilation. Crimes of the Wehrmacht 1941 to 1944" (Vernichtungskrieg. Verbrechen der Wehrmacht 1941 bis 1944), which opened in Hamburg on 5 March 1995 and travelled to 33 German and Austrian cities. It was attended by 800,000 visitors claimed the organizers. The second exhibition – which was first shown in Berlin in November 2001 – attempted to dissipate considerable controversy generated by the first exhibition according to the Institute.
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