Hitler considered the Russians as Untermenschen; subhuman. So the German army clearly had no intention of treating Russian prisoner-of-war well. As the Wehrmacht drove quickly into Russia in the second half of 1941, millions of Russian soldiers were captured.
They were kept in camps and made to starve. Or used as cattle.
When the Russians started pushing the Germans out of Russia, the German POW were treated equally lousily. It was total war, you see. Even in conflicts today are POW treated humanely? Rarely.
* 12 March 1995 Times-Picayune: nearly 3.5M
* Our Times: 3,300,000
* Rummel: 3,100,000
* MEDIAN: 3.0-3.1M
* Mazower, Dark Continent: 3M
* Harper Collins Atlas of the Second World War: 3,000,000
* Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (1960): 2,000,000 dead and 1,000,000 never accounted for, presumed dead.
* Britannica: 2,600,000
StepanIgnatevich Odiniktsev, a clerk in 60th Cavalry Division, was one of those captured at Millerovo on 17 July. Along with thousands of other Russian prisoners, he was herded to a makeshift cage at Moro-zovsk, next to the main railway line which ran east to Stalingrad and westwards back through the Ukraine. Some prisoners were dispersed over the following weeks to other hastily erected camps, and Odi-niktsev found himself in another open barbed-wire cage near the village of Golubaya. 'We were starved to death,' he recounted after78
being found over three months later by Red Army troops. 'On the best days we received a little rye in boiled water. Meat from a dead horse was a delicacy. We were constantly beaten with rifle butts,sometimes without any reason. Each day, dozens of people died from starvation or beating.' Although the NKVD was highly suspicious of any Red Army soldier taken by the Germans, Odiniktsev's interrogator believed his story. 'This man', he scribbled in pencil at the bottom of the typed report, 'looks like a skeleton covered with skin.'
This man is clearly miserable. He had every reason to be. The Germans were not very nice folks!
HOW THE GERMANS TREATED SOVIET POW: IN A NUTSHELL
Second only to the extermination of the Jews, the massacre of Russian prisoners of war must rank as the greatest of tragedies of World War II. During the first seven months of the Russian campaign, over three million Soviet soldiers were captured. By February, 1942, only 1,020,531 were still alive. Some two million had died of starvation and cold during their forced march to the rear (up to 400 kilometres). Out in the open, day and night, they fell by the wayside in their thousands. When finally they reached their POW enclosures and given their first real meal, they 'simply collapsed and lay dead on the floor'. Starved to death in their POW cages, they died in the open, having eaten the last blade of grass. Many were reduced to a state of cannibalism after begging for a scrap of food or a cigarette. In one camp a German guard was killed and eaten and a dead dog, thrown over the wire fence, was pounced upon and torn to shreds with their bare hands, so desperate were the prisoners for food. Thousands were tortured and then shot in concentration camps, or, as slave labourers, worked till they dropped in quarries and in factories. Of the 9,000 prisoners sent to the Buchenwald camp only 800 were alive when US troops liberated the camp in 1945. In the notorious Dachau camp, of the 10,000 Russian POWs who arrived there in 1941, only 150 were alive by mid-1942. By 1944, it is estimated that around 3,299,000 Russian prisoners of war were disposed of in this way. At the end of May, 1944, there were a total of 5,160,000 Soviet soldiers in German custody. Of these, only 1,053,000 survived the war.
While it is true that the Wehrmacht generally fought within the recognized rules of war in Western Europe, the conflict on the Eastern Front was entirely different. In the vast expanse of the Soviet Union, the Wehrmacht was responsible for some of the worst excesses of the war.
The first 3,000 Soviet prisoners of war arrived at the Buchenwald Concentration Camp during September 1941. After months of marching hundreds of miles they finally entered the camp completely exhausted and emaciated into mere skeletons. They had received almost nothing to eat during the march. Some weeks later another 4,000 arrived and during the ten kilometre march from the station in Weimar to the camp, 417 collapsed and died. In the camp, one of the most vile cold-blooded war crimes took place in a facility hastily constructed inside the camp's horse stables. When no longer able to work in the stone quarry the prisoners were taken to the stable and ordered into the shower-room eight at a time. The door was then closed and through a slit in the door the unsuspecting victims were simply shot down by an automatic pistol. To cover the cries of the dying loud music was played over loudspeakers. After the killings the showers were turned on but only to wash away the blood. Another method used was for the prisoner to stand against a measuring device to measure his height. Concealed behind the device was a small cubicle in which stood the SS murderer who then fired a shot into the neck of the prisoner through a slot in the partition. One such murderer was a Horst Dittrich an SS member of Kommando 99 at Buchenwald who confessed to having shot at least thirty-eight Russians POWs this way. Around 500 killings a day was achieved through these methods. In all, about 7,200 Russian POWs were murdered in Buchenwald.
German guards set dogs on a Russian POW
Using the stick to control the "Russian pigs"
Soviet POW carry a injured comrade
September 1942. Women Soviet POW getting bread from a German soldier. The ladies were treated better?
1941. A hospital for Soviet POW. Not clean but surprising that it existed at all
When the frost and snow came, however, even those shelters were of little use. Many died of exposure in that living hell, but far more died through starvation. The frontline army policy in Russia of withholding food was continued in the camps, which given their fixed location should have been able to receive and distribute what was necessary. Although some prisoners were doubtlessly hungry when captured, the bulk of the deaths in 1941 actually took place hundreds of miles from the front, weeks or months after capture. As administrators of the Russenlager, it was the OKH that set the amount of rations to be supplied or withheld.
The commandant of Stalag 318, a Colonel Falkenberg, noted on September 11, 1941: 'These cursed Untermenschen [sub-humans] have been observed eating grass, flowers and raw potatoes. Once they can't find anything edible in the camp they turn to cannibalism.' 'The prisoners live in the open air,' a witness to conditions at the Karolowka camp reported. 'At the camp the hunger is so terrible that a mile away they can be heard groaning and shouting `Food.' They eat grass. Dozens die from starvation.' A Hungarian tank officer recalled: 'I woke up one morning and heard thousands of dogs howling in the distance. I called my orderly and asked, `Sandor, what is all that moaning and howling?' He answered: `Not far from here there is a huge mass of Russian prisoners in the open air. There must be 80,000 of them. They are wailing because they are starving to death."
Officers with traditional values were even more appalled when they heard of soldiers taking pot-shots at the columns of Soviet prisoners trudging to the rear. These endless columns of defeated men, hungry and above all thirsty in the summer heat, their brown uniforms covered in dust, were seen as little better than herds of animals. An Italian journalist, who had seen many columns, wrote: 'Most of them are wounded. They wear no bandages,their faces are caked with blood and dust, their uniforms are in rags,their hands blackened. They walk slowly, supporting one another.'The wounded generally received no medical assistance, and those who could not march or who collapsed from exhaustion were shot.Soviet soldiers were not allowed to be transported in German military transport in case they infected it with lice and fleas. It should not be forgotten that 600 Soviet prisoners of war were gassed in Auschwitz on 3 September 1941. This was the first experiment there with Zyklon B.For those who reached prisoner-of-war camps alive, the chance of survival turned out to be not much better than one in three. Altogether,over three million Red Army soldiers out of 5.7 million died in German camps from disease, exposure, starvation and ill-treatment.The German Army itself, not the SS nor any other Nazi organization,was responsible for prisoners of war. Its attitude was reminiscent of Kaiser Wilhelm IPs remark in 1914 that the 90,000 Russian prisoners captured at Tannenberg 'should be left to starve'.On the southern front, a German camp at Lozovaya, overrun byTimoshenko's January advance, revealed appalling conditions, with Red Army prisoners dying 'of cold, of starvation, of brutal maltreat-ment'. Yury Mikhailovich Maximov of the 127th Rifle Division, captured in the autumn of 1941, was one of those taken to Novo-Aleksandrovsk. The so-called camp there had no huts, just open ground with a barbed-wire fence. The 18,000 men were fed from twelve cauldrons in which odd hunks of horseflesh were boiled. When the guards on duty gave the order to come forward to receive food,sub-machine-gunners shot down anybody who ran. Their corpses were left there for three days as a warning.
From Stalingrad by ANTONY BEEVOR
The German clearly is not very sympathetic
Under such deplorable conditions, disease began to stalk the camps. Tetanus and blood poisoning, diphtheria, malaria, pellagra, tuberculosis, pneumonia and typhus decimated the camps. In Stalag 304, prisoner Gutyrya remembered that in the wake of starvation, 'the typhoid fever epidemic began.' He continued: 'Up to 500 men died of this illness each day. The dead were thrown in mass graves, one on top of the other. Misery, cold weather, hunger, disease, death. That was camp 304.'
Soviet prisoners scrape meat from a dead horse. There were reports of cannibalism too. This photo was retrieved from dead or captured German soldiers later in the war.
The treatment of prisoners of war (POW) varied widely from country to country. The Germans were the first country to acquire large numbers of POW. German policy varied as to the nationality of the POW. The Germans treated French, British, and later American POW relatively correctly. They did try to separate Jewish POW from the general POW population. POW were also used to some extent as forced labor. The German treatment of Polish and Soviet POW, however, was barbaric and many died from starvation, exposure, and mistreatment. The German policy was in part a planned method of elimination and in part their inability to deal with the massive numbers involved. German treatment improved somewhat as they began to use Soviet POW for forced labor, but it was still brutal. British and American treatment of POW was correct, although there were difficulty handling the large numbers in 1945. German POW in camps located in America were amazed at their treatment and diet. Strangely German and Italian POW were often treated more courteously than Black U.S. servicemen. I'm unsure about Italian policies. Soviet treatment of German POW was also brutal, but not as genocidal as German policies. In fact German POW fared better than domestic prisoners in the Soviet Gulag. It is unclear why. Some believe that Stalin wanted to influence POW that were to be repatriated. The Japanese treatment of POW was barbaric. POW were starved, brutalized, and used for forced labor. Some were even used for medical experiments, including live vivisection and assessments of biological weapons. American combat soldiers were often brutal with Japanese soldiers, but once in camps the treatment was correct.
Disposing off dead, starving Russian POW