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Post war Germans in Soviet captivity


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#1 skywalker

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Posted 07 September 2009 - 09:14 AM

What kind of treatment did the Germans recieve other than the obvious.
Were Romanians, Bulgarians, Hungarians, Germans etc placed in the same camps and if so did these former allies see each other as much. How many Germans that got taken as POWS actually made it back to Germany ?

#2 aglooka

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Posted 07 September 2009 - 01:47 PM

I have numbers on the Stalingrad prisoners (tough i'm not sure how accurate they are)
Anyway 107.800 were captured of which 6000 ever saw the heimat back.

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#3 Totenkopf

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Posted 07 September 2009 - 05:27 PM

It is well known that not many Axis prisoners had ever seen their homeland after Soviet captivity.

I saw I webpage with statistics about this a few weeks ago and I will look for it.

Edited by Totenkopf, 08 September 2009 - 09:01 PM.

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#4 marc780

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Posted 08 September 2009 - 07:15 PM

Well i have read the accounts and i know somebody who's dad was a German POW in Russian captivity, post war.
The guy who i know was born about 1942. As he got the story told to him, his Dad was a Werhmacht supply enlisted man on the trains shipping supplies in the east. Near the end of the war he got captured by the Russians and shipped east- not sure exactly where. When the war ended the Russians came and told them about it but did not let them go home! The Russians just kept them in the POW camp, not telling them their fate, as if nothing had changed. After a year or so of this, he andv a couple of his buddies stole or made some wire cutters and planned their escape, and one night they cut hole in the wire and high-tailed it west. (Evidently the Russians did not put alot of effort into recapturing them.) They moved only at night and hid during the day, avoiding the local population and being as stealthy as they could lest a local commie arrest them and turn them in. stealing food from farms as they walked west. I dont know how many miles they went but it must have been hundreds. Finally he knew he was home when he knocked on his sister's door in Berlin.

#5 Sloniksp

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Posted 08 September 2009 - 08:40 PM

This has been discussed in this forum before.

German prisoners of war in Russian captivity received all which the Russians in German captivity failed to receive themselves.

Many returning German POW's claimed that they had been treated humanly (for the most part) and even received the same rations which the Soviet guards ate.

Im sure some here will give more accurate figures, but from what I remember out of more then 2 million German POW's less then 400,000 died in captivity and most of those deaths occurred from work exhaustion; rebuilding what they had destroyed.
The war against Russia will be such that it cannot be conducted in a knightly fashion. This struggle is one of ideologies and racial differences and will have to be conducted with unprecedented, unmerciful and unrelenting harshness. -Adolf Hitler


#6 olegbabich

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Posted 08 September 2009 - 09:48 PM

I also saw documents where Germans were used to clear mine fields after the war.
Many high ranking Party Officials had their Summer Homes (Dachas) constructed by master carpenters from the ranks of prisoners.

Germans were worked on rebuilding infrastructure, but Stalin was never in short supply of Forced Labor Crews.

#7 Mehar

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Posted 08 September 2009 - 10:11 PM

I also saw documents where Germans were used to clear mine fields after the war.
Many high ranking Party Officials had their Summer Homes (Dachas) constructed by master carpenters from the ranks of prisoners.

Germans were worked on rebuilding infrastructure, but Stalin was never in short supply of Forced Labor Crews.


The Germans also used Germans to clear/set mines, more specifically the Germans who disobeyed orders.

Slightly off topic but the French did this as well to Afrika Korp and Italian prisoners of war. This one case I was reading said the French had maps the Germans drew telling them exactly where the mines were but refused to give them to the prisoners because they wanted to punish them. The German prisoners weren't fed properly at all and were only given their fingers to diffuse the mines. It goes without saying that with these conditions many of them died.

I don't think the Russians were this tough on the German prisoners they had, I've heard things like "the soldiers treated them nicely but the superiors were harsh", not sure how true that is though.

#8 Sloniksp

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Posted 08 September 2009 - 10:51 PM


I don't think the Russians were this tough on the German prisoners they had, I've heard things like "the soldiers treated them nicely but the superiors were harsh", not sure how true that is though.


Yes, for this reason many returning German POW's expressed their surprise at how well they were treated by the very same "sub-humans" who they systematically starved in German POW camps.
The war against Russia will be such that it cannot be conducted in a knightly fashion. This struggle is one of ideologies and racial differences and will have to be conducted with unprecedented, unmerciful and unrelenting harshness. -Adolf Hitler


#9 Mehar

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Posted 08 September 2009 - 11:52 PM

Yes, for this reason many returning German POW's expressed their surprise at how well they were treated by the very same "sub-humans" who they systematically starved in German POW camps.


Were the Wehrmacht aware of the conditions in the prison camps? Since a majority of the prisoners taken by the Russians were Heer IIRC. But I do agree, people always say the Russians were tough on the Germans, in comparison to what the French had done (even going as far as not telling the Allies they took prisoners) the Russians were treating them like residents of a 5 star hotel!

#10 JagdtigerI

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Posted 08 September 2009 - 11:58 PM

I also saw documents where Germans were used to clear mine fields after the war.

General von Küchler is known to have done the same thing at one point....you're always gunna get those few crazies....

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#11 Sloniksp

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Posted 09 September 2009 - 12:06 AM

Were the Wehrmacht aware of the conditions in the prison camps? Since a majority of the prisoners taken by the Russians were Heer IIRC. But I do agree, people always say the Russians were tough on the Germans, in comparison to what the French had done (even going as far as not telling the Allies they took prisoners) the Russians were treating them like residents of a 5 star hotel!


Not sure I would go so far as to criticize French or British treatment of German POW's. Even though isolated incidents of brutality did exist and occurred in all allied camps (can you blame them?) it was not standard practice. ;) The truth of the matter is that post war Europe had a huge shortage in food. Many German POW's simply could not be fed (this is also a fact of German POW's in Soviet hands). In reality more German POW's died in Russian captivity than in French or British. Then again this is also because Russia had more prisoners and they stayed longer rebuilding what they had destroyed.

If the treatment of German prisoners is in question, well then the United States wins the gold.

Edited by Sloniksp, 09 September 2009 - 12:22 AM.

The war against Russia will be such that it cannot be conducted in a knightly fashion. This struggle is one of ideologies and racial differences and will have to be conducted with unprecedented, unmerciful and unrelenting harshness. -Adolf Hitler


#12 Sentinel

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Posted 09 September 2009 - 01:03 AM

Prisoners of Stalingrad.

On January 31, Von Paulus surrendered German forces in the southern sector, and on February 2 the remaining German troops surrendered. Only 90,000 German soldiers were still alive, and of these only 5,000 troops would survive the Soviet prisoner-of-war camps and make it back to Germany.


That's a death rate of 94%. I don't think the Nazis or Soviets were that much different in their treatment of each other's prisoners.

#13 JagdtigerI

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Posted 09 September 2009 - 01:10 AM

It seems like the only real example cited are the troops of Stalingrad. Do keep in mind these troops had just gone through 6 months of hell. Most if not all were undernourished and exhausted.
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#14 LRusso216

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Posted 09 September 2009 - 01:14 AM

I found this material on one of the US camps.

Camp Bliss was originally a tent camp, with room for 200 prisoners. In 1942, it was enlarged to accommodate 1,300. Camp Bliss was home for German and Italian prisoners for approximately 18 months and housed and average of 3,000 prisoners each month it was open. It closed on June 15, 1946, when the last prisoners were sent back to Europe.

Even though the prisoners worked hard, they had a great deal of free time. Generally they had many activities to occupy that spare time. Sports, painting and gardening were some of the more popular activities. Some of the prisoners showed more of an interest in academics, and they attended classes in the barracks and recreation rooms of the camps. Prisoners took classes in everything from chemistry and physics to American government, English language and journalism. These classes were taught by German prisoners who had been school teachers and professors before the war.

The only real evidence of the POWs that remains, besides El Pasoans during the war who knew about them, are the graves of 26 German and 15 Italian soldiers and the three graves of Japanese civilians who were detained here in El Paso. These graves can be found in the Fort Bliss National Cemetery in the G section of the old post cemetery.


German Prisioners

image001.png

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#15 Mehar

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Posted 09 September 2009 - 01:16 AM

Not sure I would go so far as to criticize French or British treatment of German POW's. Even though isolated incidents of brutality did exist and occurred in all allied camps (can you blame them?) it was not standard practice. ;) The truth of the matter is that post war Europe had a huge shortage in food. Many German POW's simply could not be fed (this is also a fact of German POW's in Soviet hands). In reality more German POW's died in Russian captivity than in French or British. Then again this is also because Russia had more prisoners and they stayed longer rebuilding what they had destroyed.

If the treatment of German prisoners is in question, well then the United States wins the gold.


Unless the Germans they are keeping did something wrong, I don't see why you can't blame them. I do recall the food issue which is excusable if the prisoners and guards were eating the same. This was not the case with the French prison camps I was talking about, I found the interview if you would like to read it.

Hans Klein Recalls His Time in Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps » HistoryNet

It's 3 pages long so don't forget to turn pages at the bottom.

I don't know how the British camps were though.

#16 Sentinel

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Posted 09 September 2009 - 01:27 AM

It seems like the only real example cited are the troops of Stalingrad. Do keep in mind these troops had just gone through 6 months of hell. Most if not all were undernourished and exhausted.


There are other references.

Officially, the Soviet Union took 2,388,000 Germans and 1,097,000 combatants from other European nations as prisoners during and just after the war. More than a million of the German captives died.

So, overall the documented death rate of German POWs was 42%. That's not as high as the Stalingrad rate, but it's still very high.

Both Hitler and Stalin ran brutal regimes and their war was very bitter. It's no surprise that prisoners were ill-treated on both sides. After all, these tyrants murdered millions of their own people, so they could hardly be expected to treat enemies with kindness.

#17 JagdtigerI

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Posted 09 September 2009 - 02:04 AM

There are other references

Right, there hadn't been before ;)

So, overall the documented death rate of German POWs was 42%.

That is an important stat, do you have comparative rates for different countries?
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#18 Sentinel

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Posted 09 September 2009 - 02:21 AM

Right, there hadn't been before ;)That is an important stat, do you have comparative rates for different countries?


Wikipedia (yes, I know) gives a death rate of 57.5% for Soviet prisoners captured by the Nazis. This is higher than the 42% for Nazi prisoners captured by the Soviets. But the ill-treatment of Russians by the Nazis is well-known.

Further,

According to the findings of the Tokyo tribunal, the death rate of Western prisoners was 27.1% (American POWs died at a rate of 37%),[28] seven times that of POWs under the Germans and Italians.[29] The death rate of Chinese was much larger. Thus, while 37,583 prisoners from the United Kingdom, Commonwealth and Dominions, 28,500 from Netherlands and 14,473 from USA were released after the surrender of Japan, the number for the Chinese was only 56.[30]

There were of course some Axis prisoners killed or mistreated by the Western allies. However, prisoners taken by the US and UK forces were generally well treated after they were shipped back from the front. The link I gave in my previous post suggests that German POWs in American hands suffered only a 1% death rate.

I've found all these stats by googling (actually binging) while reading the thread. However, they back up the general impressions I've had: that Soviets and Nazis treated each other's POWs very badly, Japanese treated everyone's POWs very badly, and US/UK were somewhat nicer to prisoners.

It's fair to say, looking at these stats, that the Japanese treatment of Chinese POWs and the German treatment of Russian POWs were the worst. But the Russian treatment of German POWs was a close third.
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#19 brndirt1

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Posted 09 September 2009 - 02:53 AM

I think that sums it up nicely, the Japanese take the cake for brutal POW treatment, no matter which enemy, and the German and Soviet treatments of each other's prisoners are almost "humane" by comparison.

Only the USSR's record in respect to the Italian POWs seems surprising. Perhaps it was the different climate, or foods, or something, but, at least 54,000 Italian POWs died in captivity, with a staggering mortality rate of 84.5% at the hands of the Soviets. There must be mitigating circumstances here or something.

Happy Trails,
Clint.

#20 Sloniksp

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Posted 09 September 2009 - 03:02 AM

But the Russian treatment of German POWs was a close third.


Yes, I would have to agree with this statement. I have however, stumbeled upon other sources which put the German casualty rate in Soviet hands smaller, I will try to find them.
Perhaps our moderators can assist?

With that said however, the Russians did not systematically starve their prisoners. As I have stated before, many returning Germans claimed that they were even fed with the same rations which the Soviet guards ate. Most died of work exhaustion.

Had the Russians treated the Germans with the same chivalry and honor which they themselves had received, none would have ever returned.

As for the victims of the 6th army, many simply died on the march to the Prison camps. Considering the shape which these soldiers were in, it should be no surprise.
The war against Russia will be such that it cannot be conducted in a knightly fashion. This struggle is one of ideologies and racial differences and will have to be conducted with unprecedented, unmerciful and unrelenting harshness. -Adolf Hitler


#21 Sloniksp

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Posted 09 September 2009 - 03:07 AM

Were the Wehrmacht aware of the conditions in the prison camps?


My guess is probably yes, however its hard to tell for sure. One thing is definate, most German soldiers knew of the fate which awaited the "sub-humans".
The war against Russia will be such that it cannot be conducted in a knightly fashion. This struggle is one of ideologies and racial differences and will have to be conducted with unprecedented, unmerciful and unrelenting harshness. -Adolf Hitler


#22 Sentinel

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Posted 09 September 2009 - 03:56 AM

Sloniksp, I acknowledge that the Nazis treated their Russian prisoners even more harshly than the Soviets treated their German prisoners. But both were treated badly -- and in the context of a 'war of annihilation' as decreed by Hitler, this is understandable.

I don't blame the Russian people or the German people for this cruelty. I blame the deluded ideologies that created Stalin and Hitler. The people of both sides were the victims of evil men who seized power and control.

The brutality of dictators was the main cause of wartime atrocities. The common people were expendable puppets and cannon fodder for the selfish leaders.

Edited by Sentinel, 09 September 2009 - 04:34 AM.

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#23 Triple C

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Posted 09 September 2009 - 06:16 AM

One quibble: Was the Russian treatment of German POWs worse than how Soviet citizens would have been treated in a gulag?

#24 Skipper

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Posted 09 September 2009 - 06:29 AM

I'd say they were treated the same, being considered as a "traitor" to the Revolution wasn't any bette rthan being a "fascist" and for a guard a prisonner was more like a number than anything else ,Death took it's toll regarless nationalities and social class.

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#25 Sloniksp

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Posted 09 September 2009 - 05:19 PM

I'd say they were treated the same, being considered as a "traitor" to the Revolution wasn't any bette rthan being a "fascist" and for a guard a prisonner was more like a number than anything else ,Death took it's toll regarless nationalities and social class.


I would say thats a pretty accurate assessment. Perhaps a little worse than Soviet citizens but if so, definitely not by much.
The war against Russia will be such that it cannot be conducted in a knightly fashion. This struggle is one of ideologies and racial differences and will have to be conducted with unprecedented, unmerciful and unrelenting harshness. -Adolf Hitler





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