Another cause of death of Soviet POWs

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michael mills
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Another cause of death of Soviet POWs

Post by michael mills » 08 Oct 2002 04:48

On page 596 of the book "On a Field of Red", we find this passage:
Yet there was one way of getting at those who surrendered. On at least two occasions, at Orel and at Novgorod-Seversky, Russian planes bombed camps where Germans were holding Russian prisoners of war, other planes following to drop leaflets proclaiming: "So will it be with all those who betray the cause of Lenin and Stalin".
The source for the above data is given as Intelligence and Evaluation Branch, Psychological Warfare Div, Planning for the Effective Use of Soviet Prisoners of War, 6 Dec 51, MMR, NA.

Strange, is it not, that the contributors to this forum who have waxed indignant about German treatment of Soviet POWs have totally ignored the fact that the Soviet Government was just as willing to kill them as were the Germans.

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Post by David Thompson » 08 Oct 2002 05:17

Michael -- Many of those Soviet POWs who weren't killed got sent off by Soviet authorities to the Gulag, too, as Solzhenitsyn tells us. But that doesn't mitigate the Nazi treatment of Soviet POWs. Those POWs were trying to live out their lives like everybody else before or since, and they didn't need to be treated like that. Stalin's crimes don't make Hitler's crimes better.

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Post by michael mills » 08 Oct 2002 06:35

Stalin's crimes don't make Hitler's crimes better.
Did I say that they did? It is you who make that statement, not I.

The fact is, atrocities committed by the German state, eg the treatment of Soviet POWs, have been decontextualised and treated as a special category, separate from the environment in which they were committed and which caused them. In that way, those atrocities are made to appear uniquely bad.

My own view is that the atrocities committed by the German state and its servants should be seen as a sub-group of atrocities committed during the Second World War, which in turn need to viewed in the context of the tendency to violence, extremism and atrocity that arose in Europe and other places in the World as a result of the breakdown in borgeois civilisation engendered by the First World War.

Many of the German atrocities of the Second World War can be seen as a reaction to the expereince of the First World War. A case in point is the treatment of Soviet POWs. During the First World War, Germany held more than one million Russian POWs in camps in its territory; these prisoners were treated according to the then existing conventions on the humane treatment of POWs, and were fed at a time when there was widespread starvation in the German civilian population due to the British blockade. In the Second World War, the German Government, faced with the same blockade, chose to feed its own population at peace-time levels, at the expense of the Soviet POWs it was holding, and of the civilian population in the occupied Soviet territories.

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Post by David Thompson » 08 Oct 2002 07:20

Michael -- The statement is clearly mine.

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Post by johnny_bi » 08 Oct 2002 10:53

For Michael Mills :

I do not know how Germans treated Russian soldiers but Germans didn't treat Romanian prisoniers well .The Germans declared that they had in custody, on 13 December 1916, about 145,000 romanian prisoners of war . On 10 May 1917, only 79,033 of those were still alive (according to German-Austrian declarations - I used a post made by Victor). Around 65.000 Romanian POWs perished during a period of 5 months ... Maybe they were too well fed :wink:


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Re: Another cause of death of Soviet POWs

Post by Roberto » 08 Oct 2002 11:05

michael mills wrote:On page 596 of the book "On a Field of Red", we find this passage:
Yet there was one way of getting at those who surrendered. On at least two occasions, at Orel and at Novgorod-Seversky, Russian planes bombed camps where Germans were holding Russian prisoners of war, other planes following to drop leaflets proclaiming: "So will it be with all those who betray the cause of Lenin and Stalin".
The source for the above data is given as Intelligence and Evaluation Branch, Psychological Warfare Div, Planning for the Effective Use of Soviet Prisoners of War, 6 Dec 51, MMR, NA.

Strange, is it not, that the contributors to this forum who have waxed indignant about German treatment of Soviet POWs have totally ignored the fact that the Soviet Government was just as willing to kill them as were the Germans.
One of the most imbecile statements I have ever read from a poster whose contributions do not stand out for much reason anywhere.

Stalin didn't give a damn about Soviet prisoners of war. He considered them as traitors, and what Mills described was the least thing he did in consequence of this attitude. Much worse was his taking survivors of German prison camps directly to the Gulag, where most of them disappeared and were never heard of again.

How that makes the German treatment of Soviet prisoners of war look any better, however, remains the mystery of a mind that is increasingly revealing its moronic traits.
Last edited by Roberto on 08 Oct 2002 17:37, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Roberto » 08 Oct 2002 11:17

David Thompson wrote:Michael -- The statement is clearly mine.
Hi David,

Here's an article on the subject that I thought you might be interested in:
The Fate of Soviet Prisoners of War

by

Christian Streit

Among the different groups that fell victim to the Nazi politics of extermination, the Soviet prisoners of war must be accorded a special place. After the Jews, they were the numerically largest group of victims, and there are close ties between their fate and that of the Jews.
What happened to the Soviet prisoners of war in the years between 1941 and 1945 has been largely ignored. A total of approximately 5.7 million Red Army soldiers were taken prisoner between June 22, 1941, and the end of the war. In January 1945, there were some 930,000 Soviet POWs left in the prison camps of the Wehrmacht. About 1 million more had been released from captivity, most of them as so-called “Hilfswillige”, that is, helpers of the Wehrmacht. According to estimates from the German Army staff, another 500,000 of the prisoners either had escaped or were eventually liberated by the Red Army.
The remaining 3,300,000 or about 57 percent of the total number, had perished by 1945. To make these figures more meaningful, they should be compared with statistics on the British and American prisoners of war. Of the total of 231,000 such prisoners in German hands, 8,348 or 3.6 percent, died before the end of the war.
The losses of the German prisoners of war at the hands of the Red Army by far exceeded those of the British and American soldiers. Some 3,250,000 Wehrmacht soldiers were taken prisoner by the Red Army and about 1,200,000, or 36 percent, perished in Soviet camps. The number is huge if compared to Anglo-American losses, but still almost three times as many Soviet soldiers lost their lives in German captivity.
Before I go into the reasons for the death of more than half of the Soviet prisoners, I want to outline briefly the development of the mortality rate.
How rapidly their numbers were decimated is shown by the example of those in occupied Poland. In the fall of 1941, 361,000 Soviet prisoners vegetated in the camps there. Of these, only 44,000 were still in the camps by 1942. Approximately 7,500 had escaped, but 310,000 - more than 85 percent - had perished, and a sizable number had been shot.
The mortality rate in the camps seems to have been relatively low in July and August 1941, but in August epidemics like typhoid and dysentery broke out in a number of camps in the East. The increase in mortality did not bother the German authorities at this point. In October, however, the rate shot up to dreadful levels in the General Government areas of occupied Poland. Fifty-four thousand Soviet prisoners had died before October 20, 1941, but in the next ten days another 45,690 died, almost 4,600 persons a day. The peak of mortality seems to have been reached between October and December, and signs indicate that even the German authorities were surprised by the extent of the deaths.
From December 1941, the death rate dropped slowly to between 8 and 9 percent for the month of March 1942; this decrease was due to the fact that by the end of October 1941, the German leaders had realised that they needed the Soviet prisoners as workers in the German war industry. The measures taken - slightly raised rations, slightly improved housing - were, however, still far from sufficient to force the mortality rates down to a level comparable to that of the other prisoners of war in German custody. The rate was reduced in the summer of 1942, but in late 1943 it started climbing again, and in 1944 there were again camps with dozens, if not hundreds of deaths every week.
There are four main reasons for the death of so many prisoners. The most obvious is hunger. The others are lack of shelter, the methods used in transport, and the general treatment meted out to the prisoners. Supplying provisions for the vast numbers of Soviet prisoners certainly posed immense problems for the German Army, but that was not the true cause of starvation.
Obtaining foodstuffs from the East was one of the principal objectives of the German Reich in the war against Soviet Russia. The breakdown of Germany in 1918 had been a traumatic experience for the German leaders, and it was still remembered by Hitler and his generals. The merciless exploitation of food resources in the East was designed to make it possible for the German people for enjoy food consumption as in peacetime and, thus, to stabilise wartime morale.
The bureaucrats involved in planning this exploitation were perfectly aware of the fact that this implied “without doubt the starvation of umpteen million people.” From the very beginning, the rations handed out to the Soviet prisoners of war were far below the minimum required for subsistence. For example, the prisoners who during the summer of 1941 were marched through the rear area of the army group centre in White Russia received daily rations of “one ounce of millet and three ounces of bread, no meat”; or “three ounces of millet, no bread.” These rations supplied less than a quarter of what an average man needs for survival.
The consequences soon became evident. In August reports reached the Wehrmacht High Command that often only 20 percent of a transport of prisoners arrived at its destination. In that month the Wehrmacht High Command decreed fixed rations for all Soviet prisoners: those who worked were to receive an equivalent of 2,100 calories a day, which fell below the minimum required for existence, but the records indicate that usually the prisoners received much less.
The state of health among the prisoners became desperate in September 1941. Numerous reports show that the despairing prisoners turned to eating raw grass and leaves. In spite of the rapidly climbing death rates in the camps, Army Quartermaster General Eduard Wagner, following the demands of Hermann Goering, ordered the drastic reduction of rations for the prisoners in the front areas. This reduction particularly hurt the weaker prisoners, because non-working prisoners were to receive no more than 1,500 calories a day.
The decimation of large numbers of prisoners was accelerated by winter because the prisoners were without any protection. Even in the Reich area and in occupied Poland, the prisoners had often been left for months to vegetate in trenches, dugouts, or sod houses.
When daily death rates climbed above 1 percent in October, authorities improvised winter shelters in unused factories and prison buildings, but they were not able to put all the prisoners in such shelters before December.
In occupied Soviet areas, conditions were even worse. For example, in many camps in White Russia only roofs were available to protect the prisoners from snow and cold. Even in January 1942 there were camps where many of the prisoners still lived in dugouts.
Tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, lost their lives on the way from the front to the prison camps. Most of the prisoners taken in 1941 had to march for hundreds of miles to the rear areas, even if winter had started. During these marches, thousands of exhausted prisoners were shot. Again and Again, such instances were reported even from the centres of cities like Smolensk and Minsk.
There were army commanders who repeatedly issued orders trying to stop these shootings, but only in May 1942 did the army and Wehrmacht high commands call for a change. Earlier, in the fall of 1941, however, there were army commanders who had entirely different notions. Field Marshall Walter von Reichenau, commander of the Sixth Army - the one that later perished at Stalingrad - ordered guards “to shoot all prisoners who collapse.”
If prisoners were carried by train, an order from the Army High Command permitted only the use of open freight cars. This order did not merely limit the transportation available; it also caused enormous losses when temperatures began to drop below the freezing point. In the rear area of the army group centre, transportation in closed freight cars was not permitted until November 22, 1941, after more than three weeks of severe frost. The immediate cause for the change was the fact that out of the transport of 5,000 prisoners, 1,000 had frozen to death.
But even transportation in closed but unheated freight cars was no decisive improvement. A December 1941 report to the Ministry of Labor said that “between 25 and 70 percent of the prisoners” died during transportation. In some cases the prisoners had been left without food for several days.
In 1941 the German soldiers were led to think that the life of a Soviet prisoner of war had very little value indeed. This evaluation was not only a result of Nazi propaganda, which depicted Soviet citizens as “subhuman”, it was also the result of the basic Wehrmacht directives issued for warfare in the East. The most notorious of these was the so-called Barbarossa Directive of May 13, and the Commissar Order of June 6, 1941.
The Barbarossa Directive limited the military jurisdiction to the maintenance of discipline. In accordance with Hitler’s demands, the troops were expected to deal ruthlessly with any “criminal attacks” committed by Soviet civilians. Crimes that Wehrmacht soldiers committed were to go unpunished if the perpetrator claimed political motives for his actions.
The Commissar Order charged the troops to shoot all political commissars of the Red Army upon capture. Recent research has established beyond doubt that during the summer and fall of 1941, Red Army commissars usually were shot by frontline troops.
From the very beginning, the orders for the treatment of the Soviet prisoners were more than harsh. The orders stressed that Bolshevism was the deadly enemy of Nazi Germany. They called for ruthless and forceful action in order to break any resistance. Guards were told to shoot escaping prisoners without warning and to use their weapons to implement their orders. One of the basic directives for the treatment of Soviet prisoners concluded, “the use of arms against Soviet prisoners of war is generally considered lawful.” That was clear license to kill.
The order, however, did not go unchallenged. On the initiative of Helmuth James von Moltke, one of the most impressive minds of the German opposition to Hitler, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, chief of the Wehrmacht High Command Counterintelligence Department, wrote to the commander in chief, Field Marshall Wilhelm Keitel, demanding the repeal of this order.
Canaris not only drew Keitel’s attention to the violation of international law, but also made serious military and political objections. Keitel’s response rejecting the protest left no doubt about his own attitude: “The objections reflect the soldierly concept of chivalrous warfare! What we are dealing with here is the destruction of a world view (Weltanschauung). Consequently I approve of measures as ordered and I support them.”
Keitel’s endorsement of the policies of destruction included actions that have not yet been mentioned. With the killing of the Red Army commissars, the Wehrmacht had accepted a share of the liquidation of the Soviet political system, but the Wehrmacht’s involvement in the war of extermination went even beyond that.
About three weeks after the attack on the Soviet Union had started, General Hermann Reinecke, the general responsible for prisoners-of-war affairs in the Wehrmacht High Command, and the chief of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt, Reinhard Heydrich, negotiated an agreement stating that special units of the SS, so-called Einsatzkommandos, were to “sort out” and do away with “politically and racially intolerable elements” among the Soviet prisoners.
Immediately the number of victims multiplied, because such “intolerable elements” consisted not only of “all important state and party functionaries”, but also “all fanatical communists,” “the intelligentsia,” and “all Jews”. Several thousand prisoners became victims of the ensuing selections, which continued to the end of the war.
The connection between these murderous activities and the so-called Final Solution is obvious, but it is more than a purely factual connection. For one thing, the Wehrmacht collaborated very intimately with the Einsatzgruppen. Furthermore, both Auschwitz-Birkenau and Majdanek extermination camps were originally built to shelter Himmler’s share of the Soviet prisoners. He wanted to use them as slaves in the industrial complexes he planned together with major corporations such as I.G. Farben.
Of the 15,000 prisoners taken to Birkenau and Majdanek in 1941, only a few hundred survived in January 1942. Since no more Soviet prisoners could be expected, six days after the Wannsee Conference Himmler decided to fill these two camps with 150,000 German Jews. The camps built for Soviet prisoners of war thus became part of the infrastructure needed for the destruction of the Jews.
In dealings with the Soviet prisoners of war at Auschwitz, Camp Commandant Rudolf Höss and his deputy Karl Fritzsch discovered the means that made industrial murder feasible. In early September 1941, some 600 Soviet prisoners who had been selected for extermination by the SS arrived at Auschwitz. Anxious to avoid the task of shooting such a large group, Fritzsch decided to use the pesticide Zyklon B to gas them and another 250 camp inmates selected as “unfit to work”. He thus found the way to kill thousands with a minimum effort.
There are many reasons why so many prisoners died, but one reason, in my opinion, has not been given enough attention. After all, it was not part of the tradition of the German Army to kill defenceless prisoners of war by the thousands and to deny them shelter and food. The popular explanation is that the entire Wehrmacht had adopted the Nazi concept that all Soviet citizens were “subhumans” and that the German soldiers acted accordingly. There is some truth in this statement, but I do not think this was the single most important reason. Were this the case, it would be very difficult to explain why a significant number of senior officers, who were committed opponents of Hitler, and who later had a share in the 1944 movement, participated in the policy of destruction in 1941. Their behaviour may be explained only if we identify anti-bolshevism as a powerful motive.
It is very significant that the first murderous activities that the military leaders were asked to accept were designed to eliminate Communist leaders. When the army leadership permitted the employment of the SS Einsatzgruppen in the rear army group and army areas, they did so because these Einsatzgruppen would destroy the party infrastructure.
The same motives made them accept the Commissar Order. It is equally significant that the first Einsatzgruppen massacres were labeled “retaliatory measures for Bolshevist crimes” or “punitive actions”. It seems that most German soldiers, if they ever learned about such massacres, accepted them because the Einsatzgruppen succeeded in identifying them as an integral part of the fight against what was called Jewish bolshevism, or as retaliation against real or alleged crimes of the Soviet regime.
The following example demonstrates how this mechanism worked even with officers for whom the concept of soldierly honour, or chivalrous warfare, was not just a meaningless slogan. On June 30, 1941, one week after the attack had started, Lieutenant General Lemelsen, commanding general of an armoured corps, issued an order sharply criticising the fact that many Red Army soldiers had been shot upon capture in his command area. “This is murder!” The Soviet soldier who had fought bravely, Lemelsen continued, was entitled to decent treatment. These sentences were quite exceptional in an order pertaining to the treatment of Soviet prisoners of war. I have not been able to find anything comparable. But Lemelsen went on to say that this did not apply to commissars and partisans. They were to be led aside and shot on the order of an officer. It was quite obvious that even for Lemelsen, who adhered to the traditional military code of honour, the long-cherished military principle of giving quarter to an enemy who surrendered did not apply to Communists.


The above was published in: A Mosaic of Victims. Non-Jews Persecuted and Murdered by the Nazis. Edited by Michael Berenbaum. New York University Press, 1990.

Christian Streit, a West German scholar, is the author of Keine Kameraden: Die Wehrmacht und die sowjetischen Kriegsgefangenen 1941-1945, first edited in 1978, a standard work about this subject.

http://www.amazon.de/exec/obidos/ASIN/3 ... 91-0778420

Cheers,

Roberto

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Post by David Thompson » 08 Oct 2002 14:38

Roberto -- Thanks for an interesting and informative post. For those interested in this subject, there is additional information at:

http://www.ess.uwe.ac.uk/genocide.htm and

in vol. 7 of the International Military Tribunal at:

http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/imt/proc/v7menu.htm

Both Dr. S.D. Stein's site (http://www.ess.uwe.ac.uk/genocide.htm) and the Avalon IMT site generally also have material on the mistreatment and murder of allied POWs. Stein's site has digests of a number of allied war crimes trials involving the 1944-1945 Nazi lynching program directed against captured allied airmen. Both sites also cover the Stalag Luft III ("Great Escape") murders as well.

Vol. 9 of the IMT proceedings at:
http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/imt/proc/v9menu.htm
has the direct and cross-examination of Goering on the Stalag Luft III murders.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn has a fair amount of history on Stalin's treatment of repatriated Soviet POWs throughout the three volumes of the Gulag Archipelago.

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Re: Another cause of death of Soviet POWs

Post by Scott Smith » 08 Oct 2002 15:20

Roberto wrote:Stalin didn't give a damn about Soviet prisoners of war. He considered them as traitors, and what Mills described about was the least thing he did in consequence of this attitude. Much worse was his taking survivors of German prison camps directly to the Gulag, where most of them disappeared and were never heard of again.

How that makes the German treatment of Soviet prisoners of war look any better, however, remains the mystery of a mind that is increasingly revealing its moronic traits.
Of course not but why does our pettifogger not wax indignant over such treatment of doomed classes except when he can pretend, perhaps using supporting rhetoric, that it must have been due to some racial or other ideological agenda instead of wartime circumstance and indifference in a very brutal struggle? Does he with his discriminating nose for morality not simply have his own axe to buff? If the Russians didn't even care about Russian POWs then it isn't surprising that the German General Staff would ignore the issue. As I said, if the Russians had been willing to sign the Geneva convention then it would have shown that they cared about their prisoners and the Germans would have reciprocated, which would have been better for both sides. But they didn't. War is sad. Another smoking-gun fizzles...
:roll:

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Post by Dan » 08 Oct 2002 15:33

David Thompson wrote:Michael -- Many of those Soviet POWs who weren't killed got sent off by Soviet authorities to the Gulag, too, as Solzhenitsyn tells us. But that doesn't mitigate the Nazi treatment of Soviet POWs. Those POWs were trying to live out their lives like everybody else before or since, and they didn't need to be treated like that. Stalin's crimes don't make Hitler's crimes better.
David, I've been wondering for several hours why you felt the need to point out to Mills that one man's crime doen't excuss anothers.

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Re: Another cause of death of Soviet POWs

Post by Roberto » 08 Oct 2002 15:57

Roberto wrote:Stalin didn't give a damn about Soviet prisoners of war. He considered them as traitors, and what Mills described about was the least thing he did in consequence of this attitude. Much worse was his taking survivors of German prison camps directly to the Gulag, where most of them disappeared and were never heard of again.

How that makes the German treatment of Soviet prisoners of war look any better, however, remains the mystery of a mind that is increasingly revealing its moronic traits.
Scott Smith wrote:Of course not but why does our pettifogger not wax indignant over such treatment of doomed classes except when he can pretend, perhaps using supporting rhetoric, that it must have been due to some racial or other ideological agenda instead of wartime circumstance and indifference in a very brutal struggle?
Can Smith demonstrate that the mass dying of Soviet prisoners of war was due to "wartime circumstance and indifference in a very brutal struggle"?

No, he cannot.

I, on the other hand, can provide sources demonstrating that the Soviet POWs were victims not of circumstance but of ideologically motivated contempt that first placed them at the bottom of humanity and then led to a conscious decision that those among them who were not working for the Germans (i.e. the overwhelming majority) were to starve to death.

So Smith would do well to keep his big mouth shut.
Scott Smith wrote:Does he with his discriminating nose for morality not simply have his own axe to buff?
Why discriminating, Mr. Smith?

Did I say anything positive about Stalin's attitude towards the surviving POWs?

And is this a Third Reich Forum, or a forum about Uncle Joe?

Last but not least, what is this axe of mine supposed to be, other than contempt for apologetic propagandists like yourself?
Scott Smith wrote:If the Russians didn't even care about Russian POWs then it isn't surprising that the German General Staff would ignore the issue.
Smith seems to be trying hard to exceed the absurdity of a "Revisionist" peer's reasoning.

What could the relation between the ideologically motivated animus of Smith's beloved Nazis and Stalin's indifference possibly have been, other than the latter providing a handy pretext to support the former?
Scott Smith wrote:As I said, if the Russians had been willing to sign the Geneva convention then it would have shown that they cared about their prisoners and the Germans would have reciprocated, which would have been better for both sides.
Smith keeps repeating this junk no matter how often you explain to him that

i) according to prevailing contemporary legal opinion the Hague and Geneva Conventions had become customary international law by the end of the 1930, which means that Soviet POWs enjoyed their protection independently of the Soviet Union having ratified the Geneva Convention, and

ii) treating the Soviet prisoners of war according to the rules of international law, whether to obtain reciprocacy or for any other reason, was the last thing his beloved Führer intended to do, because the war against the Soviet Union was to be a no-hold-barred war of annihilation. Soviet proposals for bilateral adherence to the Hague Rules of Land Warfare were accordingly snubbed.

Which again illustrates the accuracy of the assessment of Smith once made by one of our fellow posters: the poor fellow would so badly like to believe certain things that he switches off his brain.

The tone of Smith's foaming and feeble attack, on top of the repetitiveness of his rubbish, makes me wonder if the fellow is really trying to make any points, by the way.

I wouldn't be surprised if Smith were just shooting off his mouth because he's raving mad at me on account of the beatings he has received in the past days.

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Post by Roberto » 08 Oct 2002 16:21

Dan wrote:
David Thompson wrote:Michael -- Many of those Soviet POWs who weren't killed got sent off by Soviet authorities to the Gulag, too, as Solzhenitsyn tells us. But that doesn't mitigate the Nazi treatment of Soviet POWs. Those POWs were trying to live out their lives like everybody else before or since, and they didn't need to be treated like that. Stalin's crimes don't make Hitler's crimes better.
David, I've been wondering for several hours why you felt the need to point out to Mills that one man's crime doen't excuss anothers.
Though he is now denying it, Mills was making a moral equivalency argument.

The implicit message of his post could be summed up as “the mass starvation or execution of Soviet prisoners of war by the Nazis wasn’t all that bad because Stalin also treated the same prisoners like garbage.”

Which is how it was obviously understood by Mr. Smith.

David obviously doesn’t think much of such arguments.

And neither do I.

Cheers,

Roberto
Last edited by Roberto on 08 Oct 2002 18:00, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Another cause of death of Soviet POWs

Post by Scott Smith » 08 Oct 2002 16:30

Roberto wrote:Last but not least, what is this axe of mine supposed to be, other than contempt for apologetic propagandists like yourself?
Well, see that's your problem right there, Roberto. It's the same one as it has always been as long as I've known you.
:cry:

No, I don't think you can prove that the neglect of the Soviet POWs was anything other than that. Yes, you have some bellicose rhetoric and carefully-culled hyperbole, perhaps. The German General Staff neglected intelligence and logistics and other mundane matters in order to concentrated on operational excellence. Barbarossa planning suffered from that greatly, with Halder as the chief culprit. The Germans simply had no reason to reciprocate because they considered the Bolsheviks to be an "outlaw" regime, but if there had been agreements in place on the treatment of Soviet POWs due to the signing of the Geneva convention, the Germans could hardly have ignored this. The idea that international agreements are binding upon non-signatories is absurd, and they are not going to be followed, most likely, which is the bottom line--whether or not Victors can hold the Vanquished to whatever standards of conduct after the fact. I'm sure the Germans did have contempt for the Bolsheviks; they were going to fight them in a bitter Crusade, an ideological war. That alone increases the potential for unnecessary violence. But the stilted notion of some kind of racial or other ideological axe reflects your own prejudices, IMHO. I have said many times that the treatment of the Soviet POWs was reprehensible. But lets not wax too indignant when the treatment of German POWs was not any better, and the Soviets didn't even care about their own prisoners. Furthermore, conditions eventually improved as the Germans got a handle on the overwhelming situation of 1941-42 with enormous prisoner bags and found work for the Russians. German captivity was not a guaranteed death-sentence nor motivated by race, as you imply--some Genocidal bugaboo. The fact of the matter is that in historical context, enemy POWs are at the bottom of the priority hierarchy; only through reciprocation and agreements does this treatment improve, especially when resources are tight. Hard to care about reciprocation when the enemy doesn't care about their OWN prisoners let alone yours. Sorry, I think you are being naïve, and that is meant with kindness.
:)

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Post by Roberto » 08 Oct 2002 17:29

Scott Smith wrote:No, I don't think you can prove that the neglect of the Soviet POWs was anything other than that.
What Smith thinks has ceased to matter to me long ago.
Scott Smith wrote:Yes, you have some bellicose rhetoric and carefully-culled hyperbole, perhaps.
Whatever doesn't fit into Smith's ideological bubble he will call "bellicose rhetoric and carefully-culled hyperbole", so that objection is also irrelevant.
Scott Smith wrote:The German General Staff neglected intelligence and logistics and other mundane matters in order to concentrated on operational excellence.
The German General Staff neglected its obligations to make at least minimum preparations for ensuring that the Soviet prisoners of war, whose numbers did not come as a surprise to it but were foreseen in military planning before the outbreak of the war, did not starve to death.

This behavior stands in stark contrast with the careful and extensive preparations made the year before to handle an also enormous number of French, Belgian and British prisoners of war.
Scott Smith wrote:Barbarossa planning suffered from that greatly, with Halder as the chief culprit.
Who suffered most were the Soviet prisoners of war.

But then, they were "no comrades before and after", representatives of a mortal enemy who did not deserve being treated as human beings.
Scott Smith wrote:The Germans simply had no reason to reciprocate because they considered the Bolsheviks to be an "outlaw" regime, but if there had been agreements in place on the treatment of Soviet POWs due to the signing of the Geneva convention, the Germans could hardly have ignored this.
Just how often do you intend to repeat this junk, Mr. Smith?

In a memorandum of 15 September 1941, the Foreign/Defense Department (Amt Ausland/Abwehr) of the OKW under Admiral Canaris pointed out that the basic international principles of war concerning the treatment of prisoners also applied in a war without written conventions, because the provisions contained in the Hague Rules of Land Warfare had been accepted as customary law in the meantime. In this regard the memorandum referred to an enclosed Soviet directive on the treatment of POWs dated 1 July 1941, which largely corresponded with the fundamental principles of international law.

The ideas expressed by the Amt Ausland/Abwehr in its memorandum on the validity of customary law in the field of the law of war were nothing new; this was the opinion prevailing at the time. The source of jus in bello, the law of warfare, is not just limited to positivist rulings. The source can be extended to unwritten customary law, as was emphasized after the war at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials.

The Amt Ausland/Abwehr’s memorandum had no effect. Keitel, rejected it, noting that these reservations corresponded to the soldierly views of chivalrous warfare, whereas this war was about the annihilation of a Weltanschauung. Keitel had been swayed by Hitler’s opinion concerning the nature of war with the Soviet Union, and had thus squashed the plans of the AWA, his department responsible for prisoners of war, to treat captured Russians according to customary law analogous to the Geneva Convention.

According to Hitler, the war with the USSR was the collision of two fundamental world-views, in which the doctrine of the law of war was based solely upon Nazi ideology, with the aim of totally wiping out the ‘Judeo-Bolshevist system’. This ideological definition of war meant that nothing was unlawful that served the execution, security, and consolidation of National Socialism, the preservation of the Nazi state and its people. Hitler considered international law to be old-fashioned, still based upon the ideal of ‘chivalrous war’, as Keitel put it in his statement on the Amt Ausland/Abwehr memorandum. It was an obstacle in the Nazi world-view’s path. Since for Hitler, as in the Third Reich as a whole, the law was merely a part of his world-view, law of war had no place in the total ideological struggle.

It goes without saying that this view is totally contrary to the rule of law. It fails to recognize what the law of war is and what its aims are, and is outside the system of law as we know it. If it was left up to one side in a conflict to decide whether the international law of war is to be applied or not, then that would be the end of the rules of warfare.
Scott Smith wrote:The idea that international agreements are binding upon non-signatories is absurd,
It was prevailing legal opinion even at the time, Mr. Smith. See above.
Scott Smith wrote:and they are not going to be followed, most likely, which is the bottom line—
What has become customary international law is compulsory whether or not it is actually complied with. Non-compliance is a violation of international law.
Scott Smith wrote:whether or not Victors can hold the Vanquished to whatever standards of conduct after the fact.
Not “whatever standards”, Mr. Warlord. The standards in force and acknowledged at the time the crime was committed.
Scott Smith wrote:I'm sure the Germans did have contempt for the Bolsheviks; they were going to fight them in a bitter Crusade, an ideological war. That alone increases the potential for unnecessary violence.
“Umpteen million” starvation deaths, among other things – Smith calls it “unnecessary violence”.
Scott Smith wrote:But the stilted notion of some kind of racial or other ideological axe reflects your own prejudices, IMHO.
Smith’s opinion seems humble indeed in the face of Keitel’s above mentioned statements and of his beloved Führer’s own words, as recorded by Halder at Hitler’s briefing of his generals on 30 March 1941:
The preparedness of the military leadership to take part in the ideologically motivated war of annihilation was scanned by Hitler on March 30, 1941, in a speech of two and a half hours he held before about 250 high officers – the commanders and chiefs of staff of the army groups, armies, army corps and divisions that were to carry out the war in the East – in the Reichskanzlei. Hitler had already attempted to convey the attitude desired by him to high troop commanders before previous campaigns, but never in front of so large an audience. Prior to the Polish campaign he had already announced that the war would be “conducted until the total destruction of Poland with the greatest brutality and without considerations”. At that time, however, the commanders had remained uncertain about the tasks attributed to the SS Einsatzgruppen. On this 30th of March 1941 however, he made clear to the assembled generals with an unprecedented openness what methods he wanted to be employed in the war against the Soviet Union. Chief of the General Staff Halder took the following notes:

“[….]
Colonial tasks!
Two world-views fighting each other. Demolishing verdict about Bolshevism, which is equal to asocial criminality. Communism is an enormous danger for the future. We must depart from the standpoint of soldierly comradeship. The Communist is no comrade before and no comrade afterwards. This is a fight to annihilation. If we don’t see it as this, we will defeat the enemy, but in 30 years we will again be faced with the communist enemy. We don’t make war to conserve the enemy.
[…..]
Fight against Russia:
Annihilation of the Bolshevik commissars and the communist intelligence. The new states must be Socialist states, but without an intelligence of their own. It must be prevented that a new intelligence comes into being. A primitive Socialist intelligence is sufficient.
The fight must be conduced against the poison of disintegration. This is not a matter for military tribunals. The leader of the troops must know what this is about. The must lead in the fight. The troops must defend themselves with the means by which they are attacked. Commissars and GPU-people are criminals and must be treated as such.
For this the troops need not come out of the hands of their leaders. The leader must issue his directives in consonance with the feelings of the troops. [Marginal note by Halder: This fight is very much differentiated from the fight in the West. In the East harshness means mildness in the future.]
The leader must require themselves to do the sacrifice of overcoming their considerations.
[Marginal note: Order of the Commander in Chief of the Army]”
I translated the above from Christian Streit’s book Keine Kameraden: Die Wehrmacht und die sowjetischen Kriegsgefangenen 1941 –1945.

Emphases are mine.
Scott Smith wrote:I have said many times that the treatment of the Soviet POWs was reprehensible.
“Reprehensible” is a nice euphemism for mass murder.
Scott Smith wrote:But lets not wax too indignant when the treatment of German POWs was not any better, and the Soviets didn't even care about their own prisoners.
So what, Mr. Smith?

Did that make murdering the Soviet prisoners of war legitimate?

Did that make murdering them less of a crime?

Does any murder look better on account of another murder?
Scott Smith wrote:Furthermore, conditions eventually improved as the Germans got a handle on the overwhelming situation of 1941-42 with enormous prisoner bags and found work for the Russians.
The “overwhelming situation” was not much more overwhelming than the situation in the summer of 1940, when the Wehrmacht managed to handle and feed two million French prisoners of war without a single one of them having died of starvation.

The contention that in 1941/42 they were “overwhelmed” is, to use one of Smith’s favorite terms, nothing but hogwash.
Scott Smith wrote:German captivity was not a guaranteed death-sentence
But it came close. Mortality remained high even after the spring of 1942, and by the end of the war 57 % of all Soviet prisoners in German hands had perished. Not a guaranteed death-sentence, but extremely low odds for survival. Even those of German prisoners in the Soviet Union or Allied POWs taken by the Japanese were somewhat better.
Scott Smith wrote:nor motivated by race, as you imply--some Genocidal bugaboo.
Where exactly did I “imply” that the mass killing was motivated by racial considerations alone, Mr. Smith?

Show us.

As Streit pointed out, anti-Bolshevism is likely to have been a far stronger determining factor than racial prejudices, especially among the armed forces.
Scott Smith wrote:The fact of the matter is that in historical context, enemy POWs are at the bottom of the priority hierarchy;
That used to be so in the days of medieval warlords that Smith obviously yearns for. It started changing after the Thirty Years War, and by the beginning of the last century there were very clear-cut rules as to the treatment that prisoners of war were entitled to.
Scott Smith wrote:only through reciprocation and agreements does this treatment improve,
The Hague Rules of Land Warfare and the 1929 Geneva Convention had become customary international law by the end of the 1930’s, entitling prisoners of war to treatment according to the principles of these conventions even if their governments had not ratified them.
Scott Smith wrote:especially when resources are tight.
The problem was not one of resources being “tight”, but an unwillingness to make resources available due to overriding policy considerations:
[…]Obtaining foodstuffs from the East was one of the principal objectives of the German Reich in the war against Soviet Russia. The breakdown of Germany in 1918 had been a traumatic experience for the German leaders, and it was still remembered by Hitler and his generals. The merciless exploitation of food resources in the East was designed to make it possible for the German people to enjoy food consumption as in peacetime and, thus, to stabilise wartime morale.
The bureaucrats involved in planning this exploitation were perfectly aware of the fact that this implied “without doubt the starvation of umpteen million people.” From the very beginning, the rations handed out to the Soviet prisoners of war were far below the minimum required for subsistence.[…]
Source of quote:

Christian Streit, ”The Fate of Soviet Prisoners of War”, published in: A Mosaic of Victims. Non-Jews Persecuted and Murdered by the Nazis. Edited by Michael Berenbaum. New York University Press, 1990.

Emphasis is mine.
Scott Smith wrote: Hard to care about reciprocation when the enemy doesn't care about their OWN prisoners let alone yours.
Reciprocation and the home state’s attitude towards the prisoners are completely irrelevant to their right to be treated in accordance with rules and principles that have become international customary law, as explained above.
Scott Smith wrote: Sorry, I think you are being naïve, and that is meant with kindness.
Cut out the crap, Smith.

I’m not naïve, I’m pragmatic.

Unlike you, I draw the conclusions warranted by legal rules and evidence, not those dictated by pre-conceived ideological notions.

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Scott Smith
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Post by Scott Smith » 08 Oct 2002 19:55

Roberto wrote:
Scott wrote:only through reciprocation and agreements does this treatment improve
The Hague Rules of Land Warfare and the 1929 Geneva Convention had become customary international law by the end of the 1930’s, entitling prisoners of war to treatment according to the principles of these conventions even if their governments had not ratified them.
Well, Mr. International Lawyer, I really don't think that soldiers can count on any "entitlements" that go beyond what their warring governments mutually agree to. For example, the North Vietnamese signed the Geneva convention but when it came to American POWs at the Hanoi Hilton they said that this didn't apply because the Americans were War Criminals.
:wink:

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