POWs in the Soviet-Polish War 1919-20

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Reigo
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POWs in the Soviet-Polish War 1919-20

Post by Reigo » 13 Aug 2004 20:14

Unfortunately the topic was locked before I could join the discussion. Anyway here's a short overwiev about some different claims concerning the problem. I have posted most of this text earlier on the RBF forum. It should be also said that my goal is not to prove anything or to accuse anybody. Just thought it may be interesting.

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The well known study by Krivosheev about Russian combat losses on XX century claims that the Poles captured about 165 000 Red Army prisoners. About 75 000 returned from prison. About 1 000 refused to return.

As much I have heard, Polish authors (Karpus) admit only the death about 18 000 Soviet prisoners. And if I remember correctly the Poles claim that there were only about 110 000 prisoners alltogether.

Now, in Russian journal "Voprosy istorii" 2001, nr 9 there is an article on the topic by G. Matveev.
He admits that about 18 000 Red Army prisoners taken by Poles may have joined the White Russian, Ukrainian or Polish armies. However he also claims that when one adds all the figures in the secret bulletins of the Polish General Staff's operational section, then one concludes that during the war the Polish army took alltogether at least 206 000 Soviet prisoners:
16th February - 31st December 1919 29 293 POWs
1st January - 24st April 1920 5 807 POWs
25th April - 5th June 1920 35 374 POWs
6th June - 15th August 1920 9 677 POWs
16th August - 18th October 1920 126 726 POWs

I can add here that the Red Army also liberated some amount of POWs during the war. For example according to Soviet sources on 7. VI 1920 the 1st Cavalry Army liberated about 7 000 POWs in Zhitomir . But I guess such a large amount of liberated prisoners in one time was an exception.


The Russian sources estimate the quantity of Polish prisoners in prison camps in Russia as 30 000 - 40 000 (it seems that no precice data exists). However this probably includes also Polish prisoners taken on the fronts of the Russian Civil War (there were Polish units in the Russian White armies) and also civilians of Polish origin who were imprisoned. According to Russian sources 27 598 Poles returned from the Russian prison and about
2 000 voluntarily remained in Soviet Russia.

Sources for the previous paragraph: Meltiukhov, M. Sovetsko-pol'skie voiny.Moskva, 2001.
Raiskii, N. Pol'sko-sovetskaia voina 1919-1920 godov i sud'ba voennoplennykh, internirovannykh, zalozhnikov i bezhentsev. Moskva, 1999.

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Musashi
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Post by Musashi » 13 Aug 2004 20:29

I'll ask about the Soviet POWs on Polish historical forum.
Cheers,
Chris

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Re: POWs in the Soviet-Polish War 1919-20

Post by Liluh » 13 Aug 2004 20:44

Reigo wrote:I can add here that the Red Army also liberated some amount of POWs during the war. For example according to Soviet sources on 7. VI 1920 the 1st Cavalry Army liberated about 7 000 POWs in Zhitomir . But I guess such a large amount of liberated prisoners in one time was an exception.


That`s also my suspection. I wonder where were Soviet POW`s kept at during the war, as we know Polish forces before battle around Radzymin and "Vistula miracle" retreated rapidly, litterally dozens of camps could be liberated by Soviets. How was it with guarding POW`s? With everyone who was able to fight joinin the army, was the force sent to guard POW camps big enough to prevent escaping?

In any case I believe some number of Soviet POWS died in these camps or en route, due to wounds or diseases spreading widely at that time (note it was just after WWI). I hope we can nail the most propable number. Still I don`t think these deaths were a planned action to exterminate Soviet POWs.

(there were Polish units in the Russian White armies)


There were? I mean different than volounteers? Pilsudski didn`t help the Whites much. I`ll appriciate if anyone could bring me into this topic in other thread and section.

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Post by Sergey Romanov » 13 Aug 2004 21:43

Unfortunately the topic was locked before I could join the discussion.


It is certainly sad when moderators freak out and lock the thread before an informed response can be made.

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Short overview of the following sources:

1) Rajskij N. S., "Pol'sko sovetskaja vojna 1919-1920 godov i sud'ba vojennoplennykh, internirovannykh, zalozhnikov i bezhentsev", Moscow, 1999.
2) Karpus, Z, "Plenniki zabytoj vojny", http://www.ng.ru/ideas/2000-10-19/8_war.html
3) Dajnes, V. O., "Rossija- Pol'sha. Rabota nad oshibkami", http://www.ng.ru/ideas/2000-11-03/8_poland-ru.html
4) Mikhutina I. V., "Tak byla li "oshibka"?", http://www.ng.ru/polemics/2001-01-13/8_error.html

According to [1], estimates of the number of the Red Army POWs are as follows:
Karpus - 110,000
Mikhutina - 165,550
Chicherin's note - 130,000.
In Rajskij's opinion the figure is at least 150,000.
As for Russian and Ukrainian POWs, from 150,000 only 80,000 returned home. About 60,000 died in camps and prisons from diseases and inhumane conditions.


The number corresponds to Chicherin's note of September 9, 1921. At least 22,000 of them died in Tuchola camp, according to I. Matushevskij, the head of the II section of the Main HQ of the Polish army.

Rajskij doesn't accept the figure of 80,000 victims since some of the soldiers were recruited into the White army.

According to [2], there were 110,000 POWs, but this number is "theoretical", since about 25,000 joined the anti-Bolshevik forces. Therefore in the autumn of 1920 there were no more than 80-85,000 of the Red Army POWs. Karpus says that the country was not ready for such a number of POWs and that is the cause of the increased mortality. 65,797 POWs returned home. Thus, about 16-18,000 died while in Polish captivity (8,000 in Strzalkow(sp?), 2,000 in Tuchola, 6-8,000 in all other camps. 60,000 victims are out of question.

POWs were in Tuchola from the end of August, 1920 to the middle of September, 1921. The mortality of 2000 per month would, without doubt, leave traces in the camp documents, press reports, etc. No more than 1950 POWs died in Tuchola in one year.

According to [3], both I. Mikhutina and Z. Karpus erred in their statistics. Dajnes argues that even according to Mikhutina's data there would be no more than 160,550 POWs. Karpus is wrong because his number of the dead in Tuchola is significantly lower than the number given by the Main HQ of the Polish army. Chicherin's figures are more reliable.

According to Polish historians, 65,797 POWs returned until the end of October 1921, according to the Mobilization HQ of the RKKA - 75,699 until the end of November 1921. The latter figure is more reliable. 64,000 died in Polish captivity. The conditions in the Polish camps were insufferable (he refers to the report of the American Union of the Christian Youth).

In [4], Mikhutina argues both with [2] and [3]. She gives a breakdown list of her sources for her number and argues that Dajnes is wrong in accusing her of making an error. According to her, there were 165,550 POWs (or, if one is to take only the minimum figures, 133,000). Mikhutina argues with Karpus concerning his claim that in November 1919 there were only 7096 Red Army POWs in all camps, She says that it may be so, but still 30-35,000 (the figure given by prime-minister Paderewski on Sept. 15, 1919) should be accounted for. She argues that the Polish documents indicate a very high mortality. She also argues that evidence indicates that a large part of the POWs might have been killed on the spot. She argues that the official sources are incomplete.

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Post by David Thompson » 13 Aug 2004 22:31

It is certainly sad when moderators freak out and lock the thread before an informed response can be made.

Garbage does not improve with age.

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Post by Liluh » 13 Aug 2004 23:20

Thank you for this interesting input Sergey, now I`d like to see what Musashi will bring us, as I`d like to take a look on other sources, like the mentioned Polish documents, preferably also some western studies.

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Post by Reigo » 14 Aug 2004 18:55

Liluh,

I posted a short text about the Polish units in the Russian White Armies in the Inter-War Era section.

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Re: POWs in the Soviet-Polish War 1919-20

Post by Peter K » 16 May 2011 20:27

Thus, about 16-18,000 died while in Polish captivity (8,000 in Strzalkow), 2,000 in Tuchola, 6-8,000 in all other camps.
News from Strzalkow:

http://www.thenews.pl/1/10/Artykul/2473 ... lish-camps

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Re: POWs in the Soviet-Polish War 1919-20

Post by Sergey » 17 May 2011 08:52

Let's read Wikipedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camps_for_ ... 80%931924)
Due to epidemics raging at the time, made worse by the very bad sanitary conditions in which the prisoners were held, largely due to overcrowding, between 16,000 to 20,000 Soviet soldiers held in the Polish POW camps died, out of the total of 80,000 to 85,000 prisoners.
...
During a war between two countries experiencing great socioeconomic difficulties, and often unable to provide adequately for their own populations, the treatment of prisoners of war was far from adequate.

The bad conditions in these camps were known to public opinion in Poland at the time, as a number of Polish newspapers openly wrote about them, criticizing the government for not correcting the situation...
The situation with Polish POWs in the Soviet union was about the same.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camps_for_ ... 1919-1921)
The prisoners had no access to neither medical care, nor medication. Their daily food rations were made of half-a-pound of bread and watery soup. Moreover, the guards were robbing the prisoners, in some instances even taking their clothing. The high mortality rate was contributed to by the spread of diseases (like typhoid).
...
About 20,000 out of about 51,000 Polish POWs died in Soviet and Lithuanian camps...
From my point of view it is pointless to hold a question what side was more guilty. Both were guily. And a treatment of POWs on both sides was about the same as in the Nazi death camps.

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Re: POWs in the Soviet-Polish War 1919-20

Post by Peter K » 17 May 2011 10:37

out of the total of 80,000 to 85,000 prisoners.
Weren't the totals much higher? Even as much as two times higher?

According to previous posts in this thread Poles held even up to 165,500 Soviet POWs (Mikhutina).

Considering that the Polish army took altogether 206,000 Soviet POWs (but some of them were liberated by Soviet units yet during the war) - the number of 165,500 seems much more probable than just 85,000.

Especially that most of Soviet POWs were taken in the last, victorious for Poland, phase of the war:

"16th August - 18th October 1920: 126 726 POWs"
The situation with Polish POWs in the Soviet union was about the same.
There is a difference between 20 k dead out of 51 k (mortality rate 39%) and 18 k out of 160 k (11%).

As you can see mortality rate (in %) of Polish POWs in Soviet camps was 3 - 4 times higher.
And a treatment of POWs on both sides was about the same as in the Nazi death camps.
Nonsense - most of Soviet POWs who died in Polish POW camps, died of disease.

1919 - 1921 was the time of numerous epidemies in Europe, including pandemy of Spanish Flu.

I don't claim that in Soviet camps reasons of deaths were different, but if we assume that Polish POWs weren't murdered, then it is clear that sanitary conditions in Soviet camps were 3 - 4 times worse than in Polish...

And BTW - Nazi death camps had gas chambers. I don't think POWs were held in gas chambers...

You probably confused Nazi concentration camps with Nazi death camps - these are 2 different things.

But comparing Polish POW camps even to concentration camps is a huge exaggeration.
Let's read Wikipedia
Let's better not - Wikipedia cannot be trusted as a reliable source of information.

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Re: POWs in the Soviet-Polish War 1919-20

Post by Peter K » 17 May 2011 11:22

BTW - I can't understand what's the problem with investigating how those Soviet POWs died.

We know exactly where all of them are buried (cemeteries + numbers of buried were mentioned above). Nowadays we have modern technology, good specialists on forensic pathology and efficient methods.

Let's carry out exhumation of all Soviet POWs and investigate how they died - do they have bullet holes in their skulls like Polish victims of Katyn, or maybe they have signs of disease in their bones and remains of soft tissues. Let's find out if their bones carry signs of any tortures. Bones, teeth and hair can also tell us about malnutrition.

For example if they were tortured, there must be signs of it (broken bones, avulsed teeth, etc.).

So far every claim that they were killed or mistreated is based only on speculations of some Russian fanatics.

And basing just on speculations you cannot judge anyone as guilty of any crime.

Everything can be proved - bodies are still there buried in the ground. We can find out how they died.

After 90 years there would still be not only bones but also some remains of soft tissues.

==========================================================

To summ up:

If Russia is interested in accusing Poland of any crime - there are no obstacles to do it. Just pay specialists, finance research and spent several years on investigation. Then publish a reliable and objective report about results.

This investigation can be co-financed by Poland if you stop your groundless political accusations first.

Convicing the world (and Russians themselves) that Russia commited the Katyn crime took ca. 60 years, despite the fact that exhumation and detailed research of all victims had been carried out yet during WW2.

And even today many Russian fanatics still deny that Soviet Russia was responsible for Katyn.

Why do you expect Poland to admit that it commited any crime if there are no proofs, only speculations?

Convincing everyone that Russia is responsible for Katyn took thousands of documents and 60 years.

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Re: POWs in the Soviet-Polish War 1919-20

Post by jola » 17 May 2011 11:58

You can read up on the issue before you post more: http://wyborcza.pl/1,76842,6986378,Jak_ ... &startsz=x

No one serious is accussing anyone. The issue was studied by Polish and Russian historians in 2004 and there is a report:

Waldemar Rezmer, Zbigniew Karpus, Gennadij Matvejev, "Krasnoarmieitsy v polskom plenu v 1919–1922 g. Sbornik dokumentov i materialov", Federal Agency for Russian Archives, Moscow 2004

Yes, wikipedia.
The issue was finally settled in 2004, where a joint team of Polish and Russian historians (prof. Waldemar Rezmer and prof. Zbigniew Karpus from Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń and prof. Gennady Matveyev from Moscow State University), after reexamining documents from Polish and Russian archives published their results (printed in Russia by Federal Agency for Russian Archives). Their findings show that the number of Russian POWs can be estimated at between 80,000 and 85,000, and that the number of deaths in the camps can be estimated from 16,000 (Karpus, Rezmer) to 20,000 (Matveyev). Existing documents and proofs does not also confirm thesis made by many Russian historians that Russian POWs were specially exterminated in Polish camps because of their nationality, religion or other issues.[1][8] They also show that the main cause of death were various illnesses and epidemics (influenza, typhus, cholera and dysentery), noting that these diseases also took a heavy toll among fighting soldiers and the civilian population.[1].

A similar number of Polish POWs - about 20,000 out of about 51,000 - died in Soviet and Lithuanian camps.[9]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camps_for_ ... 80%931924)

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Re: POWs in the Soviet-Polish War 1919-20

Post by Peter K » 17 May 2011 12:13

I know about this report but they investigated only various documents and reports.

I was talking about exhumating and investigating actual bodies, which are still there.

You can go to Strzalkow and see the cemetery with 8,000 Soviet POWs - they are still buried there.

Those who died in other camps are also buried near the places where they were held.

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Re: POWs in the Soviet-Polish War 1919-20

Post by Art » 17 May 2011 12:21

Sergey wrote:Let's read Wikipedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camps_for_ ... 1919-1921)
The prisoners had no access to neither medical care, nor medication. Their daily food rations were made of half-a-pound of bread and watery soup. Moreover, the guards were robbing the prisoners, in some instances even taking their clothing. The high mortality rate was contributed to by the spread of diseases (like typhoid).
...
About 20,000 out of about 51,000 Polish POWs died in Soviet and Lithuanian camps...
I don't advice to rely on wikipedia, they have no idea about the thing they write about. First of all, the number of 51 000 is the number of missing in action (not POWs) in conflicts with Germany, Lithuania and Soviet Republics. I don't understand whether missing in the war against Western Ukrainian Republic are included, probably they are. Quite naturally, not all of missing in action were POWs. As concerns the origin of the 20 000 number, the book to which the wiki article gives the reference ("Zwycięzcy za drutami...") says that 27 000 POWs were repatriated by 12 October 1921 and there were about 20 000 more "mostly in Soviet captivity" and then adds that most part of them probably didn't survive the captivity. Which as you can see is quite different from the statement given by these wiki-guys. Moreover it's easy to see that here we are dealing with guesses and hunches rather with certainly established facts.
See the relavant pages from the editorial foreword to "Polskiye voennoplennye v RSFSR, BSSR i USSSR v 1919-1922 gg. dokumenty i materialy", Moscow 2004:
http://s002.radikal.ru/i198/1105/94/86aa4171516f.jpg
http://s60.radikal.ru/i170/1105/e6/f1189ebe642e.jpg
It must be added that repatriation continued after 12 October 1921 till the first months of 1922. In all according to the Soviet side 34 839 Polish POWs were repatriated. In addition at least 133 men who escaped managed to find their way home. A considerable number of POWs preferred to stay in Soviet republics after being released. It is not known for sure, the authors of the editorial article in "Polskiye voyenoplennye..." estimate it as 3 thousands. In all according to the same article from 26 to 34 thousands men were taken prisoners during the Polish-Soviet War, plus about 8 thousands from the 5 Polish Division in Siberia surrendered at Kranoyarsk in January 1920 for a total of 34-42 thousands. According to "fragmentary and incomplete" data about 2 thousands deaths were registered in captivity. The fate of 42-35-3-2=2 thousands POWs according to the article remains unknown.

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Re: POWs in the Soviet-Polish War 1919-20

Post by Znamya » 18 May 2011 21:10

Russian historians I. Ratkovsky and M. Khodyakov in their History of Soviet Russia , which I think is a very objective and fair work of history, state that 130 thousand Russian soldiers were captured by the Polish, of which about 60 thousand perished in the concentration camps

В польском плену оказалось около 130 тыс. красноармейцев, из которых за два года 60 тыс. умерло в концлагерях для военнопленных.
I don't advice to rely on wikipedia
Thank you, Art, for that post. I also found very questionable the claim about 20,000 dead POWs in Russian captivity.

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