Survivors of Stalingrad?

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Caldric
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Survivors of Stalingrad?

Post by Caldric » 26 Nov 2002 18:29

Was not sure if this belonged in Holocaust or TR.

Anyway anyone have any idea if any of the 180,000 (think that is accurate number) Germans from Stalingrad survived? Also how many survived? I was trying to find an accurate number, in one source I read that almost all of them perished due to neglect, forced march into Siberia and sickness.

This forced march could make Bataan Death March pale in comparison.

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Re: Survivors of Stalingrad?

Post by Roberto » 26 Nov 2002 18:40

Caldric wrote:Was not sure if this belonged in Holocaust or TR.

Anyway anyone have any idea if any of the 180,000 (think that is accurate number) Germans from Stalingrad survived? Also how many survived? I was trying to find an accurate number, in one source I read that almost all of them perished due to neglect, forced march into Siberia and sickness.

This forced march could make Bataan Death March pale in comparison.
Yes indeed.

What follows is my translation from an article by Dr. Rüdiger Overmans that appeared in the June 2001 edition of the German history magazine Damals. Overmans is a historian at the Institute of Military History in Potsdam and author of several studies on the German armed forces during World War II, including Soldaten hinter Stacheldraht. Deutsche Kriegsgefangene des Zweiten Weltkriegs and Deutsche Militärische Verluste im Zweiten Weltkrieg.
Worse than Death?

Of the 110,000 German soldiers taken prisoner at Stalingrad only about 5,000 came back home after the war. What were the reasons for this unparalleled mass dying?

When the soldiers of the 6th Army went into captivity at the end of January/beginning of February 1943, they were closer to death than to life. The supply situation of the 6th Army had already been difficult since the summer of 1942 due to the reduced transportation possibilities during the advance. Assuming a calorific need of a soldier in combat of 3000 to 4000 calories a day, this would have required a daily bread ration of 700 to 800 grams. Already in September 1942, however, a military physician estimated the actually issued daily rations to have a nourishment value of only 1800 calories, the daily bread ration being 300 grams – about three thin slices. When the 6th Army then had to be supplied from the air, the daily bread ration sank until Christmas 1942 to 100 grams, only soldiers able to fight still receiving 200 grams. In the course of January 1943 the situation worsened again – in the end only the fighting men received rations food rations at all, which lay below 100 grams of bread. The wounded and sick were not entitled to rations anymore. Although the picture shown here applied to most of the soldiers, there were a few who were quite well fed. This inequality, however, also resulted from the same cause, too little supplies. This because, after the 12,000 horses originally used by the 6th Army had been slaughtered and eaten by the troops, there were not enough means of transportation and fuel to supply the troops.
This deficit did not only affect the supply of food, but also that of combustion material. In other words: the 6th Army was not only hungry, if was also miserably cold.Additionally the insufficient sanitary conditions already in November 1942 led to the first cases of spotted fever, which many soldiers would die of later in captivity. [emphasis Roberto]
What made the soldiers nevertheless hold out until the end of January? The first main reason was the promise given by Hitler on 27 November 1942 that he would do all that was in his power to support them. The Head of the General Staff of the 6th Army, General Major Arthur Schmidt, coined the following verse: “Drum haltet aus, der Führer haut euch raus.” (“Hold out because the Führer will get you out.” The failure of the relief attempt and the interdiction to break out then made the confidence clearly go down towards Christmas. In the course of January the hope to be freed from the cauldron finally faded away. The most depressing event was Göring’s speech on 30 January 1943, which could also be heard in Stalingrad. In his address he compared the soldiers of the 6th Army with the fighters at Thermopylae, who had also fallen as their duty required. Only through this the soldiers realized that they had been given up.
It would be superficial to explain this late realization only with indoctrination and terror by the leadership. Desertion and capitulation were punishable by death, but who in the collapsing 6th Army of January 1943 could have provided for the execution of such orders? That there nevertheless were little signs of dissolution was on the one hand due to the hunger, which had long exceeded the state of a temporary deficiency and led to dystrophy. The symptoms thereof include, besides a general apathy, the total slowing down of all physical and psychological processes in a human being and the detachment from the outer world. And as the Red Army only after the capitulation offer of January 1943 went over to crush the cauldron from the west without too much of a hurry, the German soldiers at the other fronts of the cauldron could apathetically wait for what was to come.
The deeper reason for the soldiers’ holding out, however, was the lack of an alternative. In this respect it is necessary to understand the soldiers’ views and perceptions. Some of them had still been in World War I as active soldiers, while most of them had after the war read the accounts of those coming home from Russian captivity. Even if those accounts were exaggerated according to what we know today, the fate of German prisoners of war in Russia had been one of the harshest in the First World War. During the construction of the Murman Railway alone around 20,000 to 25,000 out of 70,000 employed prisoners of war had died. These were the images that National Socialist propaganda could successfully hark back to. Defection or capitulation was thus out of the question for German soldiers on the Eastern Front. Many expected Soviet captivity to be worse than death.
In the course of January 1943 the encircled increasingly had to contemplate the threat of capture, however. Committing suicide was often discussed, but in fact happened rarely. The capture itself in the end was the result not so much of a fight or an autonomous decision, but of a “natural process” experienced in apathetic passivity. The prisoners were mostly robbed, but the shootings expected by many nevertheless occurred only very rarely. What surprised the soldiers even more, however, was the treatment of the higher staff officers, but mainly that of the generals. Instead of treating them with especial harshness, the Soviets led them away together with their bags and servants in cars and by rail – all others had to walk, whether they felt in conditions to do so or not.

In Stalingrad there were not only German soldiers, however, but also members of a number of nations, both soldiers and civilians. Among these there were about 1,000 members of the Organization Todt (OT), among them civilian workers from Western Europe. Then there were Croatian and Romania units with about 1,000 and 5,000 soldiers, respectively, and a few Italians encircled in the cauldron. The numerically largest non-German group should have been the about 50,000 Russian “auxiliaries” and prisoners of war who as late as the end of January 1943 had surrendered to the German troops in the cauldron. Out of a total of about 250,000 encircled 25,000 had been flown out and 100,000 had perished inside the cauldron. Thus there were about 130,000 soldiers and “auxiliaries”, thereof 110,000 Germans, who went into captivity.
Especially precarious was the situation of the sick and wounded. Until 23 January 1943 planes had still managed to land in the cauldron, the heavily wounded and sick had to a limited extent been flown out. The less lucky had gathered in the ruins of Stalingrad next to the completely overcrowded hospitals. There was no such thing as regular medical attention; in mid-January even the command of the 6th Army admitted that it had lost track of the situation.
When the final collapse came the number of sick and wounded should have been around 50,000.
About the “handling” of the prisoners of war of the 6th Army there are so far no studies from the Soviet point of view, but the procedures of the Red Army can be clearly deducted from the existing accounts. As in Stalingrad and its surroundings there were neither habitable buildings nor usable railway connections, it was not possible to take away the tens of thousands of sick and wounded. In Stalingrad six “hospitals” were installed for them, the medical treatment and accommodation not being much different, however, from what it had been during the “cauldron time”.
The “healthy” were collected and put into march in groups of 20 to 500 headed by German officers to collection camps at the periphery or in the farther surroundings of Stalingrad. For the prisoners from the northern cauldron there were the camps Dubovka, Kissljakov and Frolovo, while those from the southern cauldron were mainly sent to the by far largest camp, Beketovka, about ten kilometers away from Stalingrad. The camp of Krassno-Ameisk, a little further away, mainly housed officers.
The term “march”, however, is an inappropriate description of the reality. An eyewitness saw it like this: “There they hobbled, numb, part of them supporting each other, guarded by only a few guards, in an endless row through the frosty, moonlit night”. Some of the collection camps, especially the largest, Beketovka, were only a day’s march away for a healthy man, but the prisoners’ health did not allow them to cover such distances. Thus the march to the collection camp lasted at least two days, often even longer, there usually being nothing to eat or to drink along the way. The nights were generally spent under open sky. What this meant in wintertime an eyewitness describes as follows: “Each morning the same picture: A part got up with their last strength, a black spot of dear remained behind.”
During the march it happened that the prisoners got hallucinations. If they then departed from the column, like to reach their “approaching saviors”, they were shot by the Soviet guards. What happened when someone lost his forces during the march an eyewitness describes as follows: ”Some sat or lay in the ditch by the road, calling or screaming for help, some were already quiet. Then we saw a covered-up figure approaching them, heard a dry crack – and knew enough.” These actions by the Soviet guards were seen also by the guards not as a crime but as mercy – the alternative to this quick death would have been slow freezing.
Once they arrived at the collection camps the prisoners did not encounter well-prepared accommodations, but makeshift-prepared barracks and factory halls. Often they had to content themselves with completely inadequate food. An eyewitness describes his experiences with grain not ground as follows: ”It is understandable that the individual grains cannot be digested by the weakened stomach and leave the body in the same state in which they have been taken in. The human excrements were washed out and the same wheat grains cooked again.” One of the consequences of this undernourishment which had been going on for about half a year and now worsened was cannibalism. Although there are no official investigations about this, there are accounts from several prisoner war camps about prisoners who were seen cutting chunks of meat out of the bodies of dead comrades.
During the “cauldron time” the soldiers, apart from the sick and the wounded, had been together only in relatively small groups. Now the massing of the prisoners in camps and their physical weakness created ideal conditions for the spreading of the already latently existing infectious diseases. The result was a mass dying the dimension of which maybe becomes clearest on hand of the following account of a survivor about a walk he took after his recovery: “Thus one day I sneaked around the barracks and found myself on the camp’s main street, of which I had no clear notion prior to my disease. At first I didn’t manage to distinguish what it was that I saw there. It all looked so different. I especially could find no explanation for the dams on both sides of the street, which extended for about 500 meters. Only when I got very close I noticed that it was simply dead. Corpses, which filled up the whole ditch and had been stacked in piles about one meter high along both sides of the road, waiting for the columns of cars that were to take them away.” After about a month of the 110,000 Germans who had been taken captive only 35,000 were still alive.[emphasis Roberto]

Since March 1943 the prisoners of war were then taken from the collection camps to permanent camps. For the transport cattle cars were used. Depending on the distance and the handling of the rail transport, the ride took a few days to several weeks – like in the case of the further away camps Begovat and Astrakhan. An officer describes his transport to Jelabuga on the Kama as follows: ”In the wagon it was all dark, the slits were closed, nailed with planks and barbed wire, no light, nothing. Every other day they gave us 200 grams of bread and a dirty salt fish. No tea and no water …With great effort one of the slits had been opened a bit. With a cup we gathered snow.” When arriving at their destination the prisoners were often no longer in conditions to stand, but often still had to march a long way to the camps. The result of such living conditions was that of the 35,000 prisoners still alive, but weakened and sick anyway when the transports started, only 18,000 arrived at their places of destination.
Originally the purpose of the transports had been to bring the prisoners to their future places of work – in the case of Begovat this was the construction site of the Syr-Darja dam. Things happened differently, however, a part of the prisoners was still suffering from spotted fever or typhus, and the others became infected or got sick on the transport. Thus there was another mass dying. ”Soon most of the sick had fallen into apathy and were partially lying in agony. The task of the medics was to empty the five wooden buckets for the necessities and to sort out the dead. Only a few could get up from their sick beds and carry themselves to one of the available buckets. Often it happened that the so-called medics were themselves grabbed by spotted fever during their service and thus nobody was there to take out the buckets. They spilt over, and the excrements ran among the sick. These were lying in their own dirt anyway …”
[emphasis Roberto]
These waves of disease affected the huge camps for the rank and file and the officer camps, such as Jelabuga, but not the VIP-camps Susdal and Krassnogorsk, where also the generals lived. While the living conditions in the VIP-camps remained unknown to the mass of the prisoners, however, the difference between “normal” supplies and those given to officers was visible every day. The food rations were only a little higher, for sure – but this difference could in a situation of scarcity that lasted for months mean the difference between life and death. The emotionally most important difference, however, was that the officers received tobacco.
At the end of May 1943 a considerable change occurred in all camps. In the meantime news of the mass dying of the “Stalingraders” had reached the Moscow leadership. Unlike the German leadership in the case of Soviet prisoners of war in Germany Stalin was not interested in the death of the prisoners. They should be used as means of propaganda and used as a labor force. Thus the food norms were increased and the prisoners actually fed better. Equally important it was that now the prisoners also had to be registered. Deaths from now on had to be immediately reported, increased mortality leading to inspections from higher up.[emphasis Roberto] Thus life in a certain way began to normalize, without a sufficient living standard being however achieved throughout the war.
How many “Stalingraders” lost their lives in this second period of captivity has not become exactly known. Presumably in the summer of 1943 of the 18,000 who arrived at the work camps no more than 10,000 were still alive. In quantitative terms their trace is lost in the following years in the general fate of the increasing number of German prisoners of war in Soviet custody.

If at the end we ask for the reasons for the extreme fate of the 6th Army, one aspect must be pointed out that cannot be exactly established chronologically and differed from prisoner to prisoner. Up to the mentioned speech of Göring the members of the 6th Army had more or less relied that “the Führer would get them out”. But now not only the 6th Army was at the end. The whole war seemed lost, the existence of Germany seemed to be at issue. For the mass of the prisoners this breakdown of all future perspectives represented a catastrophe without parallel. It deprived them of the will to live that was essential for survival.
The second main factor was the underfeeding in captivity. In this respect it would be wrong to assume that the Soviets allowed their prisoners to starve to death on purpose. Most prisoners of war could observe that the Soviet civilians were also hungry.[emphasis Roberto] A consequence of this deficiency, however, was that the Soviet guard personnel took away a part of the anyway scarce food supplies. This was due not to greed and eagerness for profit, however, but to naked need. Also the German personnel at the camp administrations did not behave differently – comradeship in a general, group-oriented sense did not exist in the first years of captivity. Here it was every man for himself. With medical supplies things were no different. Apart from rather few, who for instance wanted to take revenge for the loss of relatives, many merciful actions by Soviet medical personnel are known. But of course there were also both German and Soviet medics who traded medications instead of treating the sick therewith.
On the whole it can be concluded that, while most of the “Stalingraders” died, this was not due to an intention of the Soviet state leadership. On the contrary, the dying of the “Stalingraders” was what alarmed the Soviet leadership. In its last consequence the catastrophe of the 6th Army contributed to the prisoners later arriving in masses having a harsh, but by no means comparable fate.[emphasis Roberto] Another thing should also have become clear from the above account. If the army leadership had capitulated at Christmas 1942, when the relief attempt had failed, or at the latest accepted the Soviet capitulation offer at the beginning of January, the soldiers would still have gone into captivity hungry and freezing, yet by no means in such a desolate state as at the end of January / beginning of February 1943. Even though the effect cannot be exactly calculated, such a decision would certainly have saved tens of thousands of lives.[emphasis Roberto] As it was, of the 170,000 Germans who were lastly encircled in the cauldron and not flown out, only 5,000 came back home.
There were differences, however. Due to the Soviet preferential treatment of the generals and VIPs only a few died, and these usually of natural causes. Of the officers more or less half survived, whereas the proportion of survivors among non-commissioned officers and common soldiers was about two per cent.

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Post by Caldric » 26 Nov 2002 18:47

Thanks Roberto that is exactly what I was looking for. Sad and harrowing story however.

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Post by Dan W. » 28 Nov 2002 09:37

Well stated Roberto. Thanks for your work. :)

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Post by cybercat » 29 Nov 2002 01:16

Many of the Croatian legion survivors of Stalingrad that returned to what was Yugoslavia were imprisoned or executed by the communist regime after the war.

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Post by David C. Clarke » 29 Nov 2002 01:35

Excellent Post Roberto, the only thing missing is the question (and answer to it) of why the Soviet leadership didn't repatriate all of the prisoners from Stalingrad before 1955. They were, after all, captured in 1943.
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Post by viriato » 29 Nov 2002 14:18

David C. Clark wrote:
Excellent Post Roberto, the only thing missing is the question (and answer to it) of why the Soviet leadership didn't repatriate all of the prisoners from Stalingrad before 1955. They were, after all, captured in 1943.
Maybe the Soviets were using the POW's as a leverage in future negotiations with the Germans (read the BRD). As far as I remember the Soviets hoped for a neutral and unified (including some eastern territorires annexed after WW2 by Poland) Germany and made some overtures on this respect. The BRD leadership was however not respondent, I think mainly due to their subservience to the USA and other occupying forces who were against that outcome.

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Post by Roberto » 29 Nov 2002 16:07

viriato wrote:David C. Clark wrote:
Excellent Post Roberto, the only thing missing is the question (and answer to it) of why the Soviet leadership didn't repatriate all of the prisoners from Stalingrad before 1955. They were, after all, captured in 1943.
Maybe the Soviets were using the POW's as a leverage in future negotiations with the Germans (read the BRD). As far as I remember the Soviets hoped for a neutral and unified (including some eastern territorires annexed after WW2 by Poland) Germany and made some overtures on this respect. The BRD leadership was however not respondent, I think mainly due to their subservience to the USA and other occupying forces who were against that outcome.
There was the so-called Stalin Note, in 1952 IIRC, wherein the Soviet dictator proposed a unified but nonaligned Germany. The proposal was not accepted.

The term "BRD", by the way, gave me a chuckle because it was frowned on in the Federal Republic of Germany prior to the extinction of the "DDR", being the term by which the latter referred to its main capitalist opponent. In school we were taught to always spell out "Bundesrepublik Deutschland" and never use the abbreviation.

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Post by viriato » 29 Nov 2002 16:21

Roberto wrote:
There was the so-called Stalin Note, in 1952 IIRC, wherein the Soviet dictator proposed a unified but nonaligned Germany. The proposal was not accepted.
It seems that after the death of Stalin the Soviet leadership offered again Germany an agreament of the same type, Beria being the chief negotiator behind the scenes. Again the German refused the offer. However it seems that many in Germany were considering these proposals including the SPD leadership and Kurt Schumacher in particular. The feeling that one has is that Adenauer and the German government refused the proposals due to extreme US, UK and France pressure. What do you think? Do you know of any literature/sites dealing about it?

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Post by David C. Clarke » 29 Nov 2002 16:58

Viriato wrote:
Maybe the Soviets were using the POW's as a leverage in future negotiations with the Germans
(read the BRD). As far as I remember the Soviets hoped for a neutral and unified (including some eastern territorires annexed after WW2 by Poland) Germany and made some overtures on this respect. The BRD leadership was however not respondent, I think mainly due to their subservience
to the USA and other occupying forces who were against that outcome.
With respect Viriato, I'm not prepared to "assume" that this was the reason. I think the rationale behind the Soviet Union's refusal to repatriate some German prisoners of war, while releasing others, is one of the major remaining questions about the end of WWII and its aftermath. It would be nice to know the actual explanation, because Soviet policy on this matter was incredibly inconsistent. I would hope there was some real logic behind deciding who should be returned in 1948 and who should be kept until 1955, seven years later. I suspect that a centralized state such as the Soviet Union would have had a coherent policy, since it is in the nature of totalitarian regimes to have policies which determine the fates of individuals.
Best Regards, David

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Post by viriato » 29 Nov 2002 22:07

David C Clark wrote:
...I'm not prepared to "assume" that this was the reason.
..and it's your right. :)
I think the rationale behind the Soviet Union's refusal to repatriate some German prisoners of war, while releasing others, is one of the major remaining questions about the end of WWII and its aftermath.
And what do you think than might have been the reason for the Soviets not having released the German POW's? As I view the subject, I think that there is some logic for retaining the POW's while awaiting for an agreement with the BRD (sorry Roberto 8) ) government and then use this factor as a bargaining tool... Especially knowing that the Soviets were indeed intersted in reaching a modus vivendi with Germany back then.

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Post by David C. Clarke » 29 Nov 2002 22:26

Viriato wrote:
David C Clark wrote:

Quote:
...I'm not prepared to "assume" that this was the reason.



..and it's your right.
Sorry Viriato, I think that quote came out a lot more strident then I intended it to be. My real point was that this is one of the last remaining unsolved mysteries of the end of the war in Europe. If I had an inkling of the answer, I wouldn't have posted what I posted.

The theory that these Germans were held as hostages to insure that a revived Germany didn't side with the West doesn't hold too much weight with me. Germany in the late 40s and early 50s was prostrate, divided and without the means to cause the Soviet Union any real harm. I doubt that Stalin saw the Germany of that period as a player in european power politics--he certainly went to great lengths to make sure it wasn't.

My own opinion is that these sickly, demoralized survivors were retained as punishment for their role, as individuals, in causing the destruction of a once prosperous city. that they were, to some extent, symbolic of both the defeat the nazis suffered and the destruction they caused. But that is just a hunch and speculation.

One thing that intrigued me about their continued imprisonment was that, at the end of the war, it was common for German prisoners to receive ten-year terms of imprisonment for "Destruction of Soviet Property" or some other crime against the Soviet State. If we assume that these trial weren't held until after 1945, then it makes a perverted sort of sense that some men, regardless of their date of capture, weren't released until 1955.

But once again that is speculation. What we need is some historical evidence applied to this question....
Best Regards, David

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Post by viriato » 30 Nov 2002 14:15

David C Clark I am prepared to accept your explanation for the German POW's were still in captivity in the early 50's. However I haven't read yet nothing that could lead me in that direction. As you say:
But once again that is speculation. What we need is some historical evidence applied to this question....
As to your opinion to
...that these Germans were held as hostages to insure that a revived Germany didn't side with the West doesn't hold too much weight with me. Germany in the late 40s and early 50s was prostrate, divided and without the means to cause the Soviet Union any real harm. I doubt that Stalin saw the Germany of that period as a player in european power politics--he certainly went to great lengths to make sure it wasn't.
I would think Stalin (and others in the Politburo, you should not forget that the feelings towards a treaty with the BRD were also stated by Beria after Stalin death) possible thought that a neutral Germany would ensure a departure or at least a great diminished presence of the USA in Europe. Furthermore a united and stronger Germany would also have been good for the reconstruction and development of the USSR itself, would diminish the "western" political and then incipient but growing economical power and finaly would have been a formidable propaganda coup (as was the case of the Austrian treaty of 1955).

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Post by Caldric » 30 Nov 2002 23:49

Beria being the chief negotiator behind the scenes.
It must have been fairly fast negotiation because Beria did not hold his position or life for long after Stalin’s death in March 1953, towards the end of the year he would be on the other end of the bullet in the back of the neck, a just end since he sent so many out the same way. I do not know why they would pick Beria to make these proposals anyway since he lost almost all of his power after the Boss died.

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Post by johnny_bi » 04 Dec 2002 10:52

I do not know if it is the right thread or not ... but I have a question :
Were German soldiers , captured erman soldiers, recruited by the Soviets for the future army of DDR ?

BI

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