Soviet repressions against former prisoners of war

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Some Soviet prisoners of war who survived German captivity during World War II were accused by the Soviet authorities of collaboration with the Nazis[1] or branded as traitors under Order No. 270, which prohibited any soldier from surrendering.[2][3][4]


During and after World War II freed POWs went to special "filtration camps" run by the NKVD. Of these, by 1944, more than 90% were cleared, and about 8% were arrested or condemned to serve in penal battalions. In 1944, they were sent directly to reserve military formations to be cleared by the NKVD. Further, in 1945, about 100 filtration camps were set for repatriated Ostarbeiter, POWs, and other displaced persons, which processed more than 4,000,000 people. By 1946, 80% civilians and 20% of POWs were freed, 5% of civilians, and 43% of POWs were re-drafted, 10% of civilians and 22% of POWs were sent to labor battalions, and 2% of civilians and 15% of the POWs (226,127 out of 1,539,475 total) were transferred to the NKVD, i.e. the Gulag.[5][6]

Russian historian G.F. Krivosheev gives slightly different numbers based on documents provided by the KGB: 233,400 were found guilty of collaborating with the enemy and sent to Gulag camps out of 1,836,562 Soviet soldiers who returned from captivity.[7] Latter data do not include millions of civilians who have been repatriated (often involuntarily) to the Soviet Union, and a significant number of whom were also sent to the Gulag or executed (e.g. Betrayal of the Cossacks). The survivors were released during the general amnesty for all POWs and accused collaborators in 1955 on the wave of De-Stalinization following Stalin's death in 1953.

While many scholars agree that de-classified Soviet archive data is a reliable source,[8][9][10] Rolf-Dieter Müller and Gerd R. Ueberschär completely ignoring the existence of the newly released archives, claimed "Soviet historians engaged for the most part in a disinformation campaign about the extent of the prisoner-of-war problem."[11] and (without presenting any evidence) claimed that almost all returning POWs were convicted of collaboration and treason hence sentenced to the various forms of forced labour, while admitting that it would be unlikely to study the full extent of the history of the Soviet prisoners of war.[11] Thousands of Soviet POWs indeed survived through collaboration, many of them joining German forces, including the SS formations.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Forced labor: Soviet POWs January 1942 through May 1945, Holocaust Encyclopedia, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
  2. ^ Beichman, Arnold. "Sorting Pieces of the Russian Past". Hoover Institution. Archived from the original on 2009-02-18. Retrieved 2014-03-01.
  3. ^ "Patriots ignore greatest brutality". Retrieved 2014-03-01.
  4. ^ "Joseph Stalin killer file". Archived from the original on 2013-08-03. Retrieved 2014-03-01.
  5. ^ ("Военно-исторический журнал" ("Military-Historical Magazine"), 1997, №5. page 32)
  6. ^ Земское В.Н. К вопросу о репатриации советских граждан. 1944–1951 годы // История СССР. 1990. № 4 (Zemskov V.N. On repatriation of Soviet citizens. Istoriya SSSR., 1990, No.4
  7. ^ (in Russian) Россия и СССР в войнах XX века — Потери вооруженных сил Archived 2010-04-08 at the Wayback Machine Russia and the USSR in the wars of the 20th century — Losses of armed forces
  8. ^ Edwin Bacon Glasnost' and the Gulag: New Information on Soviet Forced Labour around World War IISoviet Studies, Vol. 44, No. 6 (1992), pp. 1069–1086
  9. ^ Michael Ellman, Soviet Repression Statistics: Some Comments. Europe-Asia Studies, Vol. 54, No. 7 (Nov., 2002), pp. 1151–1172
  10. ^ S. G. Wheatcroft, The Scale and Nature of Stalinist Repression and Its Demographic Significance: On Comments by Keep and Conquest. Europe-Asia Studies, Vol. 52, No. 6 (Sep., 2000), pp. 1143–1159
  11. ^ a b Rolf-Dieter Müller; Gerd R. Ueberschär; Bibliothek für Zeitgeschichte (Germany) (January 2002). Hitler's war in the East, 1941–1945: a critical assessment. Berghahn Books. p. 219. ISBN 978-1-57181-293-3. Retrieved 19 June 2011.