British handover of London Russian refugees in exchange for French 1941-42?

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Dili
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British handover of London Russian refugees in exchange for French 1941-42?

Post by Dili » 21 Dec 2020 20:03

Almost 200 French military personnel were able to escape from German prisoner camps after French defeat to Soviet Union. With German-Soviet Pact they were made prisoner. When Germany attacked Soviet Union it was possible for them to go to Britain but Soviets managed to get same number of of Russian refugees in return, which seems a very reprehensible act. Anyone have information on this?

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Re: British handover of London Russian refugees in exchange for French 1941-42?

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 22 Dec 2020 06:38

Not directly. I have seen descriptions of the Soviet government procrastinating on the return of US & British PW liberated from the Germans by the Red Army. They wanted as many of the former Red Army soldiers held by the Germans returned & released the Allied soldiers only when assured the people they wanted were returning. How accurate those accounts were I can't say, but they are out there

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Re: British handover of London Russian refugees in exchange for French 1941-42?

Post by Dili » 22 Dec 2020 08:33

This case regards French military personnel it is told without reference in french Wikipedia for example.
https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre_Billotte
Évadé de l'Oflag II-D en Poméranie, le 1er février 19412, il gagne l’URSS où il est interné jusqu’au moment de l’attaque allemande à l'été 1941. Il devient alors représentant de la France libre à Moscou. Avec d’autres Français, il est échangé contre des réfugiés russes de Londres et s’embarque à Arkhangelsk sur un bateau qui lui permet de gagner le Royaume-Uni.
Now, it is possible these Russian persons were willing to return to Soviet Union. But remembering the Western Allied behavior regarding prisoners in later war given to Tito and Stalin i am not sure.

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Re: British handover of London Russian refugees in exchange for French 1941-42?

Post by Steve » 24 Dec 2020 17:40

This may be pertinent but quite possibly not.

Nikolai Tolstoy in his book Victims of Yalta made no mention of any exchange of Russian refugees for French prisoners in 1941 which you would have expected him to mention if he knew. The book is generally critical of how the British handled the repatriation of Soviet citizens and even some non citizens. The first repatriations of Russian prisoners seemingly started in 1942-43 after they fell into British hands in North Africa.

When the British started advancing along the North African coast they came across Russian prisoners employed as forced labour. These men were usually placed in a transit camp in Alexandria for a week before being transported by road and rail to Haifa, Baghdad, Tehran and then on to the Russian frontier. A British official (presumably he spoke Russian) heard a Soviet officer tell prisoners that they only intended to shoot one in ten. Initially they were put into a desert camp on the shore of the Caspian Sea and then sent on to an Arctic labour camp at VorKuta.

Interestingly in the books notes Tolstoy mentions a group of 120 members of the Spanish International Brigades who had crossed into France in 1939 and were interned in Algeria. In May 1943 when Russian forced labourers were captured at Enfidaville in Tunisia these men were among the prisoners. As they were with the Russian forced labourers presumably they were Russian. I would guess that they did not want to return to the Soviet Union.

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Re: British handover of London Russian refugees in exchange for French 1941-42?

Post by reedwh52 » 25 Dec 2020 00:05

Bearing in mind that this question arises from an unsourced comment on Wikipedia, it is reasonable to look for other explanations.
Here is a likely one since it concerns the repatriation of 185 Frenchmen to England from Russia. It also involves the repatriation of nearly 2000 Russian citizens to Russia.
The Royal Navy and Canadian Army occupied Spitsbergen on August 24, 1941, for the purpose of evacuating the population to Archangel (i.e. Russia) and destroying mining facilities on the island. The operation was approved by both the Norwegian and Soviet governments.
On August 27, the entire population, including 1955 Soviet and 765 Norwegian citizens, were evacuated on RMS Empress of Canada to Archangel. On or about September 1, the RMS Empress of Canada departed Archangel having embarked 185 French internees and 800 Norwegian civilians for Great Britain.
This was an evacuation of Soviet nationals to Soviet territory with the approval of the Soviet government. They were refugees in light of leaving Spitsbergen, not of fleeing the Soviets.

The fact that nearly 2,000 Soviet citizens arrived in Archangel , were disembarked, and 185 Frenchmen went aboard Empress of Canada may have been assumed by the French to represent an exchange; it was not.

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Re: British handover of London Russian refugees in exchange for French 1941-42?

Post by Dili » 26 Dec 2020 20:17

Thanks, both. reedwh52 you might have found it. If so nothing nefarious. Do you have a source? I will try to get French sources.

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Re: British handover of London Russian refugees in exchange for French 1941-42?

Post by reedwh52 » 27 Dec 2020 15:42

The source is Canadian Military Headquarters report number 56. The Spitzbergen OPERATION, August-September 1941 (Special Expedition 111; Exercise "HEATHER"; OPERATION "GAUNTLET"). http://www.cmp-cpm.forces.gc.ca/dhh-dhp ... =2&RfId=56

The discussion of the evacuation of Russians is noted on page 18 of the report.

The French evacuees from Archangel are noted on Page 24.

Page 18
Your 1940A 27.
(i) 2175 Russians now being disgorged from womb of GFXQ (EMPRESS OF CANADA) each with own baggage. To be disembarked also there are 200 tons repetition tons of communal property (2 corrupt groups) SPIRIT was delayed 7 hours.
(ii) Army reports only discourtesy was on part of Russian Consul who with (friends) was carried on board dead drunk.
(iii) Today Consul in presence of Admiral Dolini and self expressed himself fully satisfied with all arrangements.
Page 24
87. At 2230 hrs on 1 Sep the "Empress of Canada" again dropped anchor in GREEN BAY, havlng successfully completed her mission to the WHITE SEA. She had anchored some distance from ARCHANGEL at 1200 hrs on 29 Aug, and discharged her Russian passengers to a Russian vessel the same day. On 30 Aug she embarked 192 Free French military personnel, 14 of whom were officers (this figure from signal in para.101 below, confirmed by the War Diary of medical detachment on board "Empress"; (Appendix “K" to Brigadier Potts' report gives total as 191). These men had escaped to Russia from German prison camps, and were now en route to England to join the forces of General De GAULLE.

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Re: British handover of London Russian refugees in exchange for French 1941-42?

Post by Dili » 27 Dec 2020 21:29

Thanks reedwh52.

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