“The Germans are prisoners at the construction site …” The fate of the failed conquerors

The number of prisoners of war who ended up on the territory of the Soviet Union after the victory of the USSR in the Great Patriotic War is still a subject of controversy among various researchers. Most likely, it is worth starting all the same from the official figures indicated in the statistics of the People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs, which was engaged in their placement, “employment”, security and, accordingly, accounting. According to these, about 3.5 million failed conquerors visited the USSR, about 2.5 million of whom were actually Germans.

More than a million uninvited guests came to us from other European countries as part of both the Wehrmacht and the SS, and the armies of the states allied to the Third Reich. This whole crowd had to be kept somewhere, fed with something, somehow dressed and put on shoes. And proceeding from the fact that the horde of invaders managed to do something in those territories of our Motherland, where they managed to manage for some time, the use of the “Aryans” in work to restore everything that they managed to destroy and ruin (up to a third of the entire potential of the national economy of the USSR ), was more than logical and correct.

As a matter of fact, the issue of prisoners of war as a problem of a state scale has arisen in the Soviet Union since 1942, before which there were not even ten thousand of them. It acquired particular relevance after the victorious end of the Battle of Stalingrad, as a result of which about 100 thousand enemy soldiers, officers and generals surrendered to the Red Army. There was even a field marshal, as you remember. Now some historians (including, surprisingly, domestic ones) allow themselves to grieve about the “tragic fate” of these first mass “waves” of prisoners of war who, in the cold winter, stomped into the camps that were hastily created for them in a huge crowd, frozen and lice …

Like, they fed badly, and medical care was to hell, and they were freezing for nothing. Sufferers, in a word. Let me remind you that at this very time the siege of Leningrad was still continuing, where women, old people and children were dying of hunger and cold just by the “mercy” of the comrades-in-arms of these “sufferers” and the possessed Fuhrer. There was not enough food and warm clothes for either the front or the rear, not to mention medicines and qualified doctors. In order to immediately put an end to speculations about the “torment” of the German and other invaders in Soviet captivity, I will give two numbers. The mortality rate of our soldiers who found themselves in the clutches of the Nazis was at least 60% (in many camps it was much higher). Only 15% of the captured Germans and their allies did not return home from our land.

Another comparison: in a country that was far from booming after the terrible war years, the food standards in the camps of the specially created Office for Prisoners of War and Internees (UPVI), later transformed into the Main Directorate, amounted to at least 2,200 kcal per day, while Soviet soldiers and officers in German captivity were provided with food based on the norm of 900 kcal per day for the most difficult jobs and 600 kcal for “less significant” ones. Feel the difference, as they say. Moreover, the Fritzes in our camps also received a monetary allowance – from 7 to 30 rubles a month, depending on the rank. For conscientious work, they could be rewarded additionally in the amount of 50 to 100 rubles, which happened all the time.

Where was the labor of prisoners used? Yes, almost everywhere. People in the remnants of the Wehrmacht, devoid of insignia, worked hard not only at construction sites. Logging, mining – from coal to uranium and gold. In the structure of the GUPVI there was a special department, whose employees were looking for representatives of really valuable and rare specialties in the huge mass of yesterday’s warriors, using which to dig ditches, dismantle debris or even erect walls would be an unforgivable waste. Having found, they were assigned to the case according to professional skills and abilities. Such, of course, were kept in better conditions. Especially valuable cadres had a chance to find themselves in scientific “sharashkas”, where life was, by the standards of the prisoners, simply heavenly.

It is worth dwelling in more detail on some of the well-established myths regarding German prisoners, which to this day have a fairly wide circulation. Someone undertakes to argue that the Fritzes and their allies rebuilt almost half of the USSR destroyed by them: they say, their contribution to the restoration of the country was “enormous” and almost every third or fourth of the machines standing at that time or at construction sites woods was yesterday’s occupier. This is certainly not the case. Yes, according to the same NKVD, for the period from 1943 to the end of 1949, prisoners of war for the more than a million man-days worked by them brought benefits to the national economy of the USSR by about 50 billion rubles. It sounds impressive, but this is if you do not take into account the entire colossal scale of the great construction project that was then boiling on our land. Yes, we did. But certainly not better than the Soviet people.

Another fable: “Evil Stalin” and his comrades-in-arms did not let the Germans “Nakht Vaterlyand”, intending to rot them all in Siberia, and saved the poor people from inevitable death “kind Khrushchev”. Again, not true! Firstly, prisoners of war worked and, accordingly, were kept far from only beyond the Urals and in places of the Far North: most of the GUPVI camps, of which there were about three hundred, were located just in the European part of the USSR, where there was the most destruction and work … Secondly, what does it mean not to let go? In this context, Comrade Molotov is often quoted as saying that not a single German will go home until Stalingrad is rebuilt as good as new. You never know what someone said …

In fact, in the summer of 1946, the Council of Ministers of the USSR adopted a resolution to send disabled and sick prisoners of war to their homeland. After a meeting of the foreign ministers of the victorious countries held in Moscow the following year, it was decided to repatriate all prisoners before 1948. Well, we didn’t have time, the process lasted a couple of years longer. So there was a lot of work … After 1950, only those occupiers who were convicted of specific military crimes remained in the Soviet Union. It was their “darling” Khrushchev who sent them home. In 1955, after a visit to our country by German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, he was imbued with the ideas of German-Soviet friendship so much that, at his suggestion, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet released and repatriated almost 15 thousand Nazi thugs: punishers, murderers and rapists. Those who, by and large, deserved not even a camp term, but loops …

The fate of prisoners of war from Germany and its allied states was, by and large, more than merciful. Whatever they built and mined there, it still did not compensate for our cities and villages burned down by the invaders, and, most importantly, for the ruined lives of Soviet people. And as for hardships and suffering … So we did not invite them to us!

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