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Prisoners taken by the Russians can scarcely have experienced worse treatment. In order to find similar situations it is necessary to go back to Biblical or barbarian times.

Prisoners were routinely tortured, starved, beaten, shot at random, hung, worked to death, or stripped and allowed to freeze. It is a testament to the endurance and strength of the German POW that 2 of 3 survivied the treatment.

However, while I have never seen specific breakdown in numbers, I suspect that most of the survivors are POWs that were released quickly. Men who went to Siberian work camps had a very high mortality rate. For example, out of about 200,000 POWs taken at Stalingrad in early 1943, only 5,000 lived to see Germany again - a mortality rate of over 97%. POWs taken late in the war, 1945, fared somewhat better.

The Russians used to tell jokes about the POW situation, referring to the Germans as 'Stalin's little ponies'. This is a reference to the brutally hard labor - ponies......and the reference to 'little' tells us that all the larger men were dead, probably from starvation. On the skimpy rations provided only very small men could survive more than a year or so. Very funny.

POWs taken by the Germans in the west were very well treated, suffering no more death or disease than similar German prisoners in American or British hands, this despite a German economy much more strained than that in the west. Russian POWs in German hands were terribly treated early in the war with many starving. To some extent this was due to the extremely high number of Russian POWs. No nation, not even the wealthy USA, could have properly handled the vast numbers captured by the German army in 1941. Communist agents were generally shot on sight. However, after the first year or so of war, the Germans got their POW situation straightened out and, in fact, began recruiting large numbers of X Soviet soldiers into the German army. These men were not used much in combat were useful in support roles - logistics, truck drivers, security. The western allies ruthlessly and unconscionably turned these men over to the Stalinist forces at the end of the war - essentially a death sentence.

German POWs in the west generally suffered more after the war than during. Eisenhower was quick to relabel prisoners as 'disarmed combatants' thus relieving himself of the moral duty owed POWs. The Americans allowed a minimum of 10,000 German POWs to starve (probably higher) after the war ended. The French had a system much smaller but almost as brutal as the Soviets. About 5,000 German POWs were worked to death in French coal mines in the two or three years after the war ended. A friend of mine had an uncle in the German army that escaped British interrogation near the end of the war. He reported that the British were torturing German officers, often to death.

CommentThe author of the above has fallen victim to his own rhetoric or to extreme German nationalist Propaganda - or both. For example, the answer claims:
  • "Prisoners taken by the Russians can scarcely have experienced worse treatment. In order to find similar situations it is necessary to go back to Biblical or barbarian times".

The author seems unaware of the horrific treatment meted out, usually as a matter of routine, by the Japanese to Allied prisoners.

There's an interesting account by Helmut Gollwitzer, " ... und führen, wohin Du nicht willst", first published in 1951 by Christian Kayser Verlag, Munich, of his experiences as a German prisoner-of-war in Soviet hands. Obviously, conditions were tough, but they **varied** a lot.

Moreover, Konrad Adenauer did the German prisoners a disserive by refusing to recognize the USSR till 1955.

As for that friend quoted, he's talking nonsense! The British did NOT toture German POWs. Towards the end of the war, the British has problems with large numbers of Germans fleeing from the Eastern Front in order to try to surrender to them. In fact, they had a reputation for treating prisoners well.

Oh, just in case people forget. About 60% the Russians taken prisoner in World War 2 perished in German captivity.

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2010-01-01 21:56:18
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Q: How were POWs treated in Russia?
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