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Fate of German ss POWs in USSR post war


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#1 Terang

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Posted 29 July 2012 - 12:16 AM

Hi there I am new to the forum . Just joined last night ...

My user name Terang is just the local town near where I live . South west Victoria in Australia !

I was googling Wrangel island after learning that mammoths still lived there up untill about 4000 years ago and I read that many German SS POWs were sent there after the war and that none survived .

What a damn miserable death that must have been if true ? I tried a search of the forum on Wrangel island but no luck . I am wondering if any of you have knowledge of the fate of German ss POWs generally ? The ones who ended up in Soviet hands ?

Is it likely that they were worked to death slowly in far flung gulags ?

I have read a couple of books about the Soviet gulags .
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#2 Orwell1984

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Posted 29 July 2012 - 12:39 AM

http://www.ww2talk.c...ing-russia.html
http://www.ww2talk.c...sian-gulag.html
Funnily enough I got a couple of hits when I searched Wrangel on this forum.
Wrangel Island - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The wikipedia article claims that

However, despite the legends, there never was a Gulag camp on Wrangel

The area is also a UNESCO heritage site.
Googling Wrangel and gulag leads you down a wormhole of weirdness with claims of Soviet gulags on American soil and to some dubious websites.
It would take a lot of work to sort the worthwhile from the wacky.
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When in the light of the present we look back on the past our eyes are opened, and we see things that were invisible to contemporaries - Walter Alexander Raleigh, Official RAF Historian, 1922

#3 spidge

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Posted 29 July 2012 - 01:48 AM

Welcome to the forum Terang from a Melbournite!

This article from Military History Magazine.

In early April 1945, the United States was responsible for 313,000 prisoners in Europe; by month's end this total had shot up to 2.1 million. After the fall of the Third Reich, the number rose to a staggering 5 million German and Axis POWs. Of those, an estimated 56,000, or about 1 percent, died—roughly equal to the mortality rate American POWs suffered in German hands.
Those held in Soviet-occupied territory fared far worse. 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. The immense suffering Germany and her Axis partners had caused surely played a key role in the treatment of enemy POWs. "In 1945, in Soviet eyes it was time to pay," wrote British military historian Max Arthur. "For most Russian soldiers, any instinct for pity or mercy had died somewhere on a hundred battlefields between Moscow and Warsaw."
Josef Stalin's regime was ill equipped to deal with prisoners: In 1943 as more enemy units fell into Soviet hands, death rates among POWs lingered around 60 percent. Roughly 570,000 German and Axis prisoners had already died in captivity. By March 1944, conditions began to improve, but for economic reasons: As its manpower was swallowed up in the war effort, the USSR turned to POWs as a surrogate work force. While POWs were not technically part of the gulag system, the lines were often blurred. Camps and detainment centers often comprised poorly constructed huts that offered scant protection from bitter Russian winter winds. The Soviet Union repatriated prisoners at irregular intervals, sometimes in large numbers. As late as 1953, however, at least 20,000 German POWs remained in Russia. After Stalin's death, those men were finally sent home.


Cheers

Geoff
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Spidge,


My project is the collection of over 11,400+ RAAF Headstone/Memorial photos located in 70 countries during WW2 and the 360+ from WW1. Can you assist? Do you know someone that can?
-------------------------------------------------------
My Signature photo is the Battalion history of WW2 and the patch of the 2/8th battalion. (Blood & Bandages)
My Avatar is my dad, Gunner Frederick Edwin Swallow "C" Company, 2/8th Battalion, 19th Brigade, 6th Division AIF. Critically wounded on the first attack on Tobruk, January 21st 1941.



 


#4 Terang

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Posted 29 July 2012 - 01:51 AM

Thanks Orwell , I saw those links but there is really nothing in there about wrangel island .

I find the subject of the People who have disappeared in the vast area of soviet Russia fascinating . I read that it is possible that as many as 700 000 German POWs may have died while in Soviet captivity post war . That is a hell of a lot of men . Even half that number?

No doubt there are people who do know . I suppose the truth is out there......:)
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#5 Terang

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Posted 29 July 2012 - 02:02 AM

Hello Spidge , thanks for that . I think I have read this before somewhere and it leaves me wanting to know more . Where are the eye witness accounts from former soviet soldiers post war ? Men who were guards at camps etc . People of influence and so on ?

How is the weather in Melbourne today ? :D
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#6 spidge

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Posted 29 July 2012 - 02:20 AM

Hello Spidge , thanks for that . I think I have read this before somewhere and it leaves me wanting to know more . Where are the eye witness accounts from former soviet soldiers post war ? Men who were guards at camps etc . People of influence and so on ?

How is the weather in Melbourne today ? :D


COLD!
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Spidge,


My project is the collection of over 11,400+ RAAF Headstone/Memorial photos located in 70 countries during WW2 and the 360+ from WW1. Can you assist? Do you know someone that can?
-------------------------------------------------------
My Signature photo is the Battalion history of WW2 and the patch of the 2/8th battalion. (Blood & Bandages)
My Avatar is my dad, Gunner Frederick Edwin Swallow "C" Company, 2/8th Battalion, 19th Brigade, 6th Division AIF. Critically wounded on the first attack on Tobruk, January 21st 1941.



 


#7 TTH

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Posted 29 July 2012 - 02:30 AM

For the Gulag in general (and POWs often fell into it), you should begin with Anne Applebaum's book Gulag. As you have already discovered, however, any search online related to the Soviet regime and the Stalin era will bring up a bizarre trawl of legend, neo-Fascism, anti-Semitism, Russian nationalist extremism, etc. Throw the SS in there and you can double it. It's like dragging a fishnet through the Marianas Trench, you pull up creatures that have never seen the light of day.

Also, welcome to the forum!
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#8 canuck

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Posted 29 July 2012 - 03:10 AM

Thanks Orwell , I saw those links but there is really nothing in there about wrangel island .

I find the subject of the People who have disappeared in the vast area of soviet Russia fascinating . I read that it is possible that as many as 700 000 German POWs may have died while in Soviet captivity post war . That is a hell of a lot of men . Even half that number?

No doubt there are people who do know . I suppose the truth is out there......:)


700,000 is a huge number and that is only post war. Long after they had ceased to be combatants and well after the Nazi regime had disappeared. I'm sure many will have no sympathy but death/murder on that scale is a Holocaust in itself. The motivation was probably no different than that which resulted in the Katyn Forest murders.
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#9 Terang

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Posted 29 July 2012 - 04:02 AM

Thanks TTH , that's a great analogy . I have actually read that book all be it a few years ago. Heavy reading ....

All that said though , there must be plenty of people still around who know more .
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#10 alieneyes

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Posted 29 July 2012 - 05:37 AM

This topic has been visited before on the forum:

http://www.ww2talk.c...g-russia-3.html

I have heard the number as high as 5,000,000. IIRC, Sepp Dietrich's book mentions that 5 million German POWs went into the gulag but less than half returned. Those who did return in the 1950s were interviewed by American intelligence personnel for amongst many things, any information they had on sightings of Allied personnel in the gulag. That was known as Operation Wringer (Japanese POWs returning to Japan from the Soviet Union in the 50s were also interviewed as part of this program).

WRINGER Collection - Federal Research Division,Libraryof Congress

Following World War II, thousands of German and Japanese prisoners of war (POWs) were incarcerated in the forced labor camps of the Soviet Union. These POWs were forced to help rebuild the Soviet Union following the Second World War. Beginning in 1946, the Soviet Union began releasing thousands of these German and Japanese POWs to their homeland. U.S. Air Force officers quickly realized the tremendous political and military information these ex-POWs possessed, and initiated an intensive interview program. From 1947 through 1956, U.S. Air Force personnel in the U.S. Zone of Germany interviewed over 300,000 ex-POWs. A similar program was initiated by the U.S. Air Force in Japan upon the return of thousands of Japanese POWs.
WRINGER sources ranged from common laborers to highly skilled technicians. These men were detained in forced labor camps throughout the former Soviet Union. The fact that an ex-POW had no particular knowledge did not make the individual valueless. Almost all German and Japanese ex-POWs had the ability to remember at least the broad details of the places where they had worked. Most importantly, some of them remembered meeting, seeing, or hearing about U.S. and allied servicemen who were also detained in the forced labor camps.
Researchers from the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Persons Office (DPMO), Joint Commission Support Directorate (JCSD) have initiated a concerted effort to review the WRINGER reports. They are specifically searching for reports that may shed light on the numerous eyewitness sightings of U.S. servicemen reportedly held in Soviet forced labor camps. The WRINGER reports are now declassified and stored in 1,350 boxes at the National Archives’ College Park repository.
In addition, the WRINGER reports have triggered considerable interest among many outside researchers. Scholars of the Soviet period have commented on the detail and accuracy contained in the reports, indicating the importance they have for their own inquiries into those individuals unaccounted-for in the Gulag.


The Wrangell Island stories have been around since the early 1930s when it was alleged that US POWs of the 339th Infantry who had fought the Bolsheviks during the Archangel intervention of 1918-19 were seen alive circa 1930.

Regards,

Dave
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#11 Jedburgh22

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Posted 29 July 2012 - 06:46 AM

A book As Far as My Feet Will Carry Me by J M Baur - relates the escape of a German POW from post war Russia, it was made into a film in Germany I believe, the book covers the harsh conditions suffered by the prisoners and the high death rates. There are also some German language books dealing with the topic.
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#12 Pete Keane

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Posted 29 July 2012 - 10:26 AM

The total number of pow deaths is a drop in the ocean of the lives that Stalin wasted - one road alone in Siberia claimed 1 million lives, its called The Road of Bones because the dead were interred in the road itself, the ground away from the road being too hard to dig graves.

Hard to show the slightest concern for SS troops tbh.

Pete
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#13 BarbaraWT

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Posted 29 July 2012 - 02:23 PM

Hi
I was in Germany recently and heard firsthand about the treatment of captured German soldiers after the war. So the figures are probably true. But 2 wrongs don't make a right!
Regards Barbara
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#14 Jedburgh22

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Posted 29 July 2012 - 02:52 PM

I can recall many German Railway Stations having notice boards with cards asking for info on missing people from WWII - this was in the late 1960s. I believe the service was sponsored by the Red Cross.
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#15 TTH

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Posted 29 July 2012 - 07:43 PM

The last German POWs (including a number of the Stalingrad generals, I think) were not released until 1956. As to the SS, I suspect that many of them were simply shot out of hand when they tried to surrender. Even Western troops were harsh with the SS, so one can imagine how the Soviets felt. By the closing days of the war, the SS uniform was a mark of Cain and many members of the corps couldn't take it off fast enough. (Gunter Grass was one of those, I believe.)
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#16 Terang

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Posted 30 July 2012 - 03:39 AM

Hans Von Luck wrote his memoirs about capture on the eastern front and time spent in the salt mines of the Caucuses . I recall he was released in 1954 with most of his men . I really enjoyed reading that and am curious about other accounts from the time...
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#17 Harry Ree

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Posted 30 July 2012 - 06:20 PM

Konrad Adenauer,the first post war Chancellor of West Germany and regarded as the father of the new Germany found himself in early 1955 engaged in negotiations with the Soviet Union, who after Stalin's death, wished to establish diplomatic relations with Western Germany.Adenauer for his part was also aware of the POWs still being held in Russian camps.

Those German POWs in Russian hands who were regarded by the Soviet Union as not being tainted with Nazism,ie those who were not regarded as war criminals were generally released and by 1949 approximately 2 million had been returned to the two Germanys.Some 10000 were still retained in 1955 on the basis of being war criminals or for anti Soviet activity in the POW camps.After Stalin's death in March 1953 some thought was given to the release of these remaining prisoners and certain individuals were released to the keeping of the GDR.

Against this background in early 1955, the new Soviet regime wished to establish diplomatic relations with West Germany and with this new turn in foreign policy in mind,Adenauer was invited to visit the Soviet Union.Adenauer had his own agenda and saw the chance to negotiate for the release of the remaining POWs.What he did not know was that the Russian intended to release these criminals as a measure of goodwill during Adenauer's visit to Moscow.

The outcome was that after Adenauer's week visit in September 1955,the repatriation of German POWs began from October 1955.Progress was not smoooth and repatriation resumed after a number of Russians in German goals were released to the Russians but by the end of January 1956,all German POWs were released to the west.

Early in 1955,the notorious,widely abhorred Field Marshal Ferdinand Schoerner had already been released from Soviet captivity to face charges from the German Association of Returned Prisoners for his drumhead courts martial and his execution of soldiers without trial.One of the POWs released under the Adenauer negotiations was Wilhelm Moncke who although accused of the murder of British POWs in 1940 lived his life out in Hamburg, seemingly untouchable as regards being apprehended by the British authoritories.
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