JUST CURIOUS JANE

JUST CURIOUS JANE - BOOKS AND HISTORY BY JANE GULLIFORD LOWES

MALICE AFORETHOUGHT – THE DESTRUCTION OF SOVIET P.O.W.s IN THE SECOND WORLD WAR

Introduction

According to Christian Streit’s groundbreaking research in 1978,[1] some 3.3 million Soviet POWs perished in German captivity during and after Operation Barbarossa. The majority of these were summarily executed, starved or froze to death, died of disease or physical abuse, were refused medical treatment, or were simply worked to death. How was this allowed to happen? To what extent was this due to negligence or military necessity? Were there deeper, ideological and doctrinal reasons for their mistreatment and murder?

In this article I will examine the factors which influenced the treatment of Soviet POWs by their captors. The arguments that German forces were simply overwhelmed by numbers, resulting in massive logistical failure, will be considered; the role played by Nazi ideology and indoctrination and the so-called ‘descent into barbarism’ postulated by Bartov,[2] together with the impact of the ‘Criminal Orders’ will also be discussed. The destruction of the Soviet POWs will be examined in the context of wider Nazi policy, with reference to the Vernichtungskrieg – the war of annihilation – and the starvation plan. Finally, the use of Soviet POWs as a labour source will be assessed.

The historical debate on the issue falls broadly into two camps – the functional and the ideological. The functionalists argue that the mass death of Soviet prisoners was ultimately due to conditions, circumstance, and practicalities. Fritz and Muller claim that less than five percent of German combat solders actually committed crimes on the Eastern front [3];  Hoffman contends that the cause of mass starvation during the winter of 1941/1942 was ‘not so much ill will, as the technical inability to adequately feed and shelter millions of prisoners, who were often totally emaciated.’[4]

Streit argues that the death of millions of Soviet POWs was both the result of the ideology of the Nazi regime, which strove to eliminate the Bolshevik Untermenschen and a consequence of Hitler’s fear that the economic burden of caring for millions of prisoners would cause German civilian unrest, a view shared by Otto who concluded that unprecedented ‘state mass murder’ was committed,[5] and Gerlach, who describes a ‘conscious policy of murder’.[6]

Bartov, who examines the conduct and ‘barbarisation’ of German troops on the Eastern front (including their treatment of Soviet POWs), argues that this can be explained by three major factors; conditions at the front, the social and educational background of the junior officers, and the political and ideological indoctrination of the troops.[7]

Berkhoff argues that the callousness displayed by the Wehrmacht toward Soviet POWs resulted to a large degree from racist orders by German policy makers who considered the multi-ethnic Soviet prisoners as ‘Russians’ and who tried to eliminate most of these ‘Russians’ in chain of events ‘that can be considered genocidal.’[8]

Rutherford accepts that while Nazi racial ideology provided a legitimizing context in which violence was not only accepted but encouraged, it frequently complemented the army’s own attitudes; it was the Wehrmacht’s adherence to a doctrine of ‘military necessity’ which, in his view, proves the most useful in explaining how the German army fought in the USSR. In other words, it would do whatever was necessary to preserve combat efficiency and emerge victorious on the battlefield.[9]

Rutherford’s view is to some extent shared by Shepherd, who notes that although the Army had not consciously decided to exterminate Soviet POWs at the outset of the Barbarossa campaign, ‘one could fairly say that it may as well have done’ and that it ‘sacrificed such concerns in favour of what it perceived to be the Reich’s domestic and military needs.’[10].

‘Overwhelmed by numbers’

Much of the early ‘functionalist’ academic analysis focused on poor planning and logistics; some historians have argued that German forces were simply overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of Soviet prisoners, with whom their logistics were unable to cope. Thus, tens of thousands of prisoners were crammed into open air camps with no or completely inadequate shelter, little or no food, and often no water, with no protection from the summer sun or as the campaign wore on, the bitter winter weather.

With no medical treatment available, many camps were quickly overwhelmed by disease, particularly Typhus. A high percentage of the deaths of Soviet POWs during the initial stages of the campaign took place in the temporary camps in the rear. No arrangements were made for transporting, accommodating, feeding, or clothing the vast numbers of prisoners anticipated to be captured during the encirclements.

Malice Aforethought Soviet POWs
Soviet prisoners on the march in their thousands.

Mazower identifies three key factors which impacted on the pre-war prisoner estimates. First, the war did not end in weeks or months as originally anticipated, which undoubtedly put a strain on food, transportation and supply. Secondly, Hitler had forbade the transportation of Soviet POWs into the Reich on racial grounds, increasing bottlenecks and intense overcrowding in transit camps far from the developed infrastructure. Finally, the numbers of prisoners turned out to be much higher than the OKW had ever envisaged.[11]  Shepherd contends that ‘the most basic reason why the POWs could expect a miserable fate was the OKH’s callous indifference to the need to plan and provision the POW camps.’[12] However, this argument disintegrates on close analysis.

At Nuremberg, Keitel and Jodl tried to defend themselves by stressing the logistical difficulties; some recent historians (notably Arnold and Mackenzie) have echoed their ‘explanation’ that this was ‘mass starvation’ but not ‘mass murder.’ However, Mazower notes that it is difficult to disentangle what happened from the ‘ideological attitudes’[13] which underpinned policy making on high, and decisions made by local commanders on the ground.

Bartov compares the situation with the capture of millions of French, Dutch, and Italian troops a year before in Western Europe; then, German forces had been instructed to maintain strict discipline among enemy POWs, but at the same time not to abuse or harm them in any way:

Transport, food, labour and codes of behaviour were all set down so as to avoid chaos and prevent unnecessary hardship…the German soldier was warned that unsoldierly conduct would entail severe punishment.’[14]

In fact, the Wehrmacht had considerable experience in handling large numbers of POWs. In the Polish campaign, half a million had been captured in a matter of weeks, followed by two million Dutch, Belgian and French in the summer of 1940. However, all Dutch prisoners were quickly released on parole, plus the Flemish Belgians and a third of the French. Polish prisoners were used as civilian workers, (later Yugoslavs and Italian prisoners would be used in the same way).[15]  

Even among the Soviets, prisoners from the Baltic states were given preferential treatment, as were some Ukrainians, especially agricultural workers, as Goring recognised, eventually, that they were needed for the harvest. In Mazower’s view, racial stereotypes played a key role in the tragedy which unfolded, and ‘racialism and policy reinforced one another.’[16]

Beorn concludes that ‘while post-war apologists would claim that the army was overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of captured Russians and was unable to properly care for them, the truth is that they were intentionally neglected.’ He cites a Directive from the 4th Army Corps on 9 June 1941 (before the invasion began) which stipulated that prisoners ‘are to be fed with the most primitive rations (e.g., horse flesh). High quality and scarce food and luxury foods may not be given out to them.’ From the outset, the daily calorific intake of Soviet POWs was not sufficient to sustain life. [17] 

Streit argues that,

‘These prisoners had been treated and fed not amid any kind of crisis that had taken the OKH and OKW by surprise, but in accordance with principles that both high command bodies had themselves laid sown in the Spring of 1941.’[18]

Thus, ideology and doctrine were to blame rather than poor planning.

The influence of ideology

But to what extent did this Nazi ideology and doctrine influence and shape decision-making ‘on the ground’ regarding Soviet prisoners of war? Several historians (Hartmann, Fritz) have sought to downplay the importance of ideology to the German troops. Neitzel and Welder comment that,

‘The majority…had little interest in ideology, politics, world order and the like; they didn’t fight the war out of conviction, but rather because they were soldiers and combat was their job.’[19]

Shepherd’s view that ‘on paper’ the German invasion had held out the prospect of decent treatment for the majority of Soviet POWs simply does not hold water.[20] More than two months before the campaign began, Hitler had told his generals to prepare for an ‘all-out war of extermination.’[21] No mercy was to be given to captured Soviet soldiers, whom Hitler regarded as ‘no better than animals – dumb, dangerous and depraved’, resulting in an OKW decision before the invasion that the conventional rules of warfare would not apply to Soviet POWs.[22] 

For the ordinary soldier, Rutherford observes that his own political and military leadership considered him ‘a bearer of inexorable racial value’ in its ideological war that demanded any and all means to destroy the Jewish-Bolshevik system [23]; thus the propaganda and ideology to which the average German soldier had been exposed, probably since his early teens, found its logical manifestation in attitudes towards the Soviets at the front.

Nazi Anti-Soviet Propaganda Poster, 1939. Note the linking of Judaism and Bolshevism.

According to Bartov, the Russians [24] and Jews were not to be treated according to any accepted rules of military conduct as they had lost their right to such a treatment both by their racial and cultural inferiority and by the historical role they had played against Germany. An OKW order of 8 September 1941 stipulated that Soviet prisoners had ‘lost all claim to treatment as an honourable opponent in accordance with the Geneva Convention.’[25]

Asian prisoners (or those of Asian appearance) were frequently separated out by the Wehrmacht and then shot by the Security Police; Kay attributes this to ‘the most primitive racist thinking…a traditional identification of Russia as an “Asiatic menace”, poised to engulf Europe.’[26] A month before Barbarossa had even begun, the OKW issued guidelines describing the ‘Asiatic’ Red Army soldiers as ‘unfathomable, unpredictable, devious and cruel.’[27]

This ideology was reflected in General von Reichenau’s reminder to the troops, issued on 17 November 1941 (by which time millions of Soviet POWs were already dead):

‘The soldier in the east is not only a fighter by the rules of war, but also the carrier of an inexorable racial concept and the avenger of all bestialities inflicted upon the Germans… for this reason the soldier must have complete understanding for the necessity of hard, but just measure against Jewish sub-humanity…Only in this manner will we do justice to our historical task, to liberate the German people once and for all from the Asiatic- Jewish danger’.[28]

These doctrines and guidelines were then manifested in practical instructions and ‘criminal orders’ issued to the troops.

The ‘Descent into Barbarism’ and the Criminal Orders.

According to Bartov, the barbarisation of warfare on the Eastern Front was ‘almost inevitable.’

‘For the men who were educated in Hitler’s Germany, indoctrinated in the Wehrmacht of the Third Reich and sent into a war of unimaginable ferocity, barbarism was normality, humaneness long forgotten.’[29]

He argues that the fact that German forces often treated their enemies as sub-humans, cannot be divorced from their indoctrination, though it also had to do with the generally brutal nature of the war itself.[30]  This argument suggests that ideology was one factor of several; however I would submit that ideology was the overwhelming influence,  which underpinned German policy on the Eastern front in general, and towards Soviet POWs in particular, as evidenced by the fact that atrocities were committed almost from the very beginning of the Barbarossa campaign.  

Bartov himself concedes that ‘wild, undisciplined and indiscriminate shooting’ of Red Army soldiers who had already surrendered began during the very first days of the campaign and was carried out by troops despite the objections of some commanders.[31] He believes that this phenomenon was a result of the policies and ideological concepts pursued and encouraged by the army, as well as of the viciousness of the campaign.[32] A demonstration of this early escalation in violence can be seen in the orders that female Soviet Soldiers were to be shot out of hand.[33]

Bartov argues that the most direct cause for the criminal activities of the German forces in the East (including the treatment of Soviet prisoners) were the ‘criminal orders,’ issued by the OKW and OKH on the eve of the invasion, and which provided a ‘pseudo-legal and disciplinary framework.’[34] These orders consisted of four sets of instructions:

The first allowed the Einsatzgruppen murder squads to operate with relative freedom within the areas controlled by the army groups.

The second curtailed military jurisdiction and stipulated that guerrillas and their civilian helpers were to be shot, but if no guilty party could be found, collective measures were to be taken against local civilians.

The third, the notorious ‘Commissar Order’ of 6 June 1941 ordered the execution of any captured Red Army political commissar.

Finally, the ‘Guidelines for the Conduct of the Troops in Russia’ ordered ruthless measures against ‘Bolshevik agitators, guerrillas, saboteurs, and Jews’ and ordered the complete elimination of any resistance, passive or active. Thus, Nazi propaganda and ideology was constantly reinforced in the field of combat, and behind the lines.

According to Rohmer’s study, Soviet calculations suggest that more than 100,000 Commissars were lost, of whole 57,608 were killed in combat and the remaining 47,126 were ‘missing’, the vast majority of whom were likely to have been summarily and systematically executed in accordance with the Commissar Order.[35] Wachsmann points out that for the Nazi leadership, the commissar was ‘an almost mythical figure…the personification of Jewish Bolshevism.’[36]

malice aforethought soviet POWs
Soviet propaganda poster

Jewish and ‘Asiatic’ prisoners were also pulled out of the lines in the camps and shot, and Soviet prisoners were murdered en masse in early gas chamber experiments. Tens of thousands of sick, wounded or simply exhausted prisoners were shot on the ‘death marches’ westwards to the rear areas and civilians were forbidden from approaching with food for the prisoners.[37] Four thousand prisoners were shot after the battle of Vyazma alone, en route to Smolensk. Elsewhere, from 1942, tens of thousands of sick and wounded prisoners who were unfit for work were either shot in the camps (Gomul, Bolomisk, Polotsta, Stalag 324) or left to freeze to death.[38] Those that were not murdered were simply left to starve. But how does the deliberate starvation of Soviet POWs fit into the German plan for the Soviet Union?

Starvation policy

At a meeting of the Staatssekretare on 2nd May 1941, economic policy guidelines were drawn up, and issued three weeks later, which conceptualised the death by starvation of ‘many tens of millions’ of Soviet citizens, in order prioritise food supplies for the German armed forces in the occupied Soviet territories.

According to Kay, those present not only declared their willingness to accept Soviet deaths from starvation on an unprecedented scale, but indeed ‘stated that their objective could not be met without this enormous loss of life.’[39] Again, Nazi racial theory and ideology underpinned economic (and ultimately military) planning:

‘Although the gains to be made from creating food surpluses by physically cutting off millions of Soviet consumers from their sources of nutrition were chiefly economic, it was the thoroughly racist view towards its intended victims of those responsible for formulating this strategy that made the contemplation of such an idea possible in the first place.’[40]

Kay argues that because of the unexpected course taken by the military campaign, and the unfeasibility of implementing the starvation policy in the form originally intended due to lack of troops, the vast distances, and the impossibility of cordoning off entire regions, it was the Soviet POWs who constituted the largest group among victims of the starvation policy. They were viewed by the economic planners and military leadership alike as the German troops’ direct competitors for food. [41] The obvious limitation on their freedom of movement, and the relative ease with which they could be segregated, and rations controlled were crucial factors in the death of over three million prisoners.[42]

The mass mortality of prisoners increased significantly in Autumn 1941; Kay describes how the decision to switch from a ‘regional undernourishment’ and neglect of prisoners to a ‘systematic, selective murder of most through starvation’ was taken in mid-October, before the two encirclement battles of Bryansk and Vyazma, in which 662,000 prisoners were captured.[43] This followed Goring’s directive of 16 September 1941 in which he announced that they could not feed all the prisoners even had they wanted to; further rationing could not be risked in Germany, and that prisoners’ rations could only be determined by their work performance.

Malicce aforethought - soviet POWs
A Soviet POW compound. The only shelters available are the burrows dug by the prisoners with their bare hands.

Indeed, by 13 November 1941, Army Quartermaster General Wagner was explicitly stating that non-working Soviet prisoners should be left to starve to death, with the intention that this would ease his own troops’ supply problems, but also with an eye on the regime’s plan to keep up German civilian morale by avoiding rationing.[44]

Although Soviet POWs were not explicitly  targeted prior to the invasion, it was clear what numbers were expected to be captured. Kay describes a ‘consensus of opinion’ within the German leadership prior to the beginning of Barbarossa to the effect that the Soviet POWs would suffer gravely as a result of undernourishment:

‘Thus, from the German point of view, the Soviet prisoners became the ideal victims of a policy seeking to isolate large groups of people who otherwise would have had to be fed from German-occupied territory and to let them starve.’ [45]

The deaths of millions of Soviet prisoners of war were, it is submitted, the inevitable and logical outcomes of the German starvation strategy in the Soviet Union.

A change in policy- Soviet prisoners as a labour resource  

Beorn believes that it was only towards the end of 1941 when the disastrous POW policy had already had devastating effects, did the Nazis realise the growing labour shortage and the potential utility of Red Army POWs as slave labour.[46] From the beginning of the campaign, non-Russian ethnicities (Ukrainians, Balts) were often released to join German auxiliary forces, but the Army soon realised it would need to release more POWs to help with the harvest.

The use of prisoners as Hilfswillige (known as Hiwis) by combat formations at the front (necessitated by mounting casualties and chronic lack of manpower) is recorded from late 1941. These were used for tasks such as roadbuilding, burying the dead, construction, and mine clearance.

In Autumn 1941, the Nazi leadership realised that the best way to avert unrest among German civilians would be to mobilise the Soviet POWs (and Soviet civilian population) for labour in the German war effort; even before war broke out, Germany’s economic situation was such that in order to continue its military build-up and satisfy the civilian population, the eventual need to rely upon foreign labour was already self-evident.  

Many senior commanders only showed proper concern for the POWs’ situation when they began seeing their value as a source of labour, noting that ‘this need grew more urgent as the Germans went over from offensive to static warfare’ and needed POW labour for a host of practical tasks such as building defensive positions or clearing roads and minefields.[47] As Mazower puts it, ‘Labour had not been a priority so long as victory seemed imminent.’[48]

However, Kay notes that the decision in principle to use Soviet POW labour, taken at the end of October 1941, was undermined by Goring’s announcement that Soviet civilians were to be sent to labour in the Reich; Soviet citizens were considered a better alternative source of labour than starving, weak and diseased POWs.[49] ‘Deliberate and organised mass starvation on the one hand was thus compatible with an expansion of forced labour deployment on the other.’[50]

Bartov notes that paradoxically, the decision to use Soviet labour brought about an improvement in the treatment of prisoners but that the ‘ruthless exploitation of those prisoners…ultimately led to another wave of mass deaths during 1943’.[51] He also points out that even as late as April 1943, troops constantly disobeyed orders not to shoot POWs.[52] Sick and wounded prisoners continued to be shot en masse.

As Kay points out, ‘the chronically sick and seriously wounded among the POWs were never regarded as a valuable labour force; from the German perspective, they were expendable.’[53] Wachsmann comments that the treatment of Soviet POWs in late 1941 ‘seems baffling’ and questions why so many POWs earmarked for slave labour were pushed to their graves. However, he notes that for those who ran the labour camps (in particular the SS), their deaths were not contentious, and would have raised concerns only if the lives of Soviet labourers had held any real value, particularly when an infinite surge of Soviet prisoners was anticipated.[54]

As German forces began to contemplate occupying the Soviet Union on a long-term basis, they also began to see the benefit of keeping Soviet POWs alive for propaganda purposes; as Shepherd has noted, ‘because the mass death of Soviet POWs took place under the noses of the occupied populations, it did much to embitter civilians against the Germans.’[55]

Conclusion

Ganzenmuller notes that prior to the campaign, the view within the political and military elites was that it could only be won with utmost ruthlessness, and that this was therefore legitimate, had already hardened into a doctrine. All problems which arose were therefore met with a radicalisation of methods.[56] Kay points out that in this context, alternative suggestions for solutions were regarded as defeatist and excluded from discourse. In this way, the decision not to feed the Soviet population (and by extension, Soviet POWs) during the war became a dogma.[57]

By the beginning of February 1942 (just seven months after Barbarossa began), two million Soviet POWs died or were murdered in German custody, a death rate of around 60%. Of those POWs sent to Germany as slave labour, 53% also died. These statistics illustrate the horrific living conditions for Soviet captives in Germany, and

‘throw into stark relief the common fate of Soviet POWs in German captivity regardless of their whereabouts, and gives the lie to the claim that long transportation routes and associated supply problems were to blame for the mass mortality.’ [58]

In Streit’s opinion:

‘The military leadership of the OKW through its willing co-operation in the creation of a hierarchy of POWs placed itself in a situation in which active collaboration with Nazi extermination policy was a logical result.’ [59]

According to Calvocoressi and Wint,

‘The slaughter of prisoners cannot be accounted for by the peculiar chaos of war in the east…The true cause was the inhuman policy of the Nazis towards the Russians as a people and the acquiescence of army commanders in attitudes and conditions which amounted to a sentence of death on their prisoners.’ [60]

As Berkhoff contends, the shooting of Red Army commissars and other Soviet POWs, along with the starvation of millions more, constituted a single process, a genocidal massacre.

 ‘In the Nazi frame of mind, “Russians” were either superfluous or positively dangerous…racism was the motor behind the unmistakable tendency deliberately to destroy most of the “Russian” POWs.’ [61]

That over three million Soviet prisoners perished in German hands was never simply a matter of ‘negligence,’ a term suggestive of an almost ‘accidental’ want of care. An atmosphere was created in which it was both allowed to happen, and in which it was actively encouraged, because it served the purposes of the Nazi regime and the racist ideology which underpinned decision-making at the highest level, particularly in the context of the starvation policy. Kay notes that in all areas, and in different territories, the numbers of deaths point towards a common cause for mass mortality of Soviet POWs.[62]  

Nazi ideology created an atmosphere and a mindset which dictated the responses of military and political leaders, and of troops on the ground, to the various situational crises which confronted them. The destruction of the Soviet POWs was neither accidental nor necessitated by military expediency or functionalism; it should be viewed as an integral, and calculated extension of the Vernichtungskrieg against the Soviet Union. This was not a matter of negligence or indifference, but ‘malice aforethought.’

If you’ve enjoyed this article, you may be interested in ULTRA INTELLIGENCE & ALLIED STRATEGY IN THE BATTLE OF THE ATLANTIC – JUST CURIOUS JANE and BRING UP THE PIAT! THE LEGACY OF ‘A BRIDGE TOO FAR’ – JUST CURIOUS JANE

For more on this topic, I recommend Alex Kay’s book, Empire of Destruction: A History of Nazi Mass Killing

Bibliography:

Books:

Omer Bartov, The Eastern Front 1941-45, German Troops and the Barbarisation of Warfare, (Palgrave MacMillan, New York), Second Edition 2001.

Chris Bellamy, Absolute War – Soviet Russia in the Second World War, (Macmillan, London), 2008, Chapter 2.

Waitman Wade Beorn, Marching into Darkness: The Wehrmacht and the Holocaust in Belarus, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press), 2014.

Peter Calvocoressi and Guy Wint, Total War: The Story of World War II, (New York, Pantheon Books), 1972, pp. 450-459.

Alex J Kay, Empire of Destruction – A History of Nazi Mass Killing, (Yale University Press, New Haven and London), 2021.

Ed. Alex J Kay, Jeff Rutherford and David Stahel, Nazi Policy on the Eastern Front, 1941: Total War, Genocide and Radicalization, (University of Rochester Press, New York), 2012.

Mark Mazower, Hitler’s Empire – Nazi Rule in Occupied Europe, (Allen Lane, London), 2008.

Jeff Rutherford, Combat and Genocide on the Eastern Front: The German Infantry’s War, 1941-1944, (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge), 2014.

Ben H Shepherd, Hitler’s Soldiers – The German Army in the Third Reich, (Yale University Press, New Haven and London), 2016.

David Stahel, Operation Barbarossa and German’s Defeat in the East, (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge), 2009.

Niklaus Wachsmann, KL: a History of the Nazi Concentration Camps (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux), 2015.

Articles:

Karel C. Berkhoff, ‘The “Russian” Prisoners of War in Nazi-Ruled Ukraine as Victims of Genocidal Massacre,’ Holocaust and Genocide Studies, V15 Nl, Spring 2001, pp 1-32

Alex J Kay, ‘“The Purpose of the Russian Campaign is the Decimation of the Slavic Population by Thirty Million”: The Radicalization of German Food Policy in Early 1941,’ in Ed. Alex J Kay, Jeff Rutherford and David Stahel, Nazi Policy on the Eastern Front, 1941: Total War, Genocide and Radicalization, (University of Rochester Press, New York), 2012.

S. P. MacKenzie, ‘The Treatment of Prisoners of War in World War II,’ Journal of Modern History, Sep. 1994, Vol. 66, No. 3 (Sep. 1994), pp. 487-520.

Jurgen Matthus, ‘Controlled Escalation: Himmler’s Men in the Summer of 1941 and the Holocaust in the Occupied Soviet Territories’, Holocaust and Genocide Studies 21, no. 2 (Fall 2007): 218-242

Ilse Dorothee Pautsch, Review: ‘Prisoners of War and Internees in the Second World War: A Survey of Some Recent Publications,’ Contemporary European History, May 2003, Vol. 12, No. 2 (May, 2003), pp.225-238.

Thomas Earl Porter, ‘Hitler’s Rassenkampf in the East: The Forgotten Genocide of Soviet POWs,’ Nationalities Papers, Vol. 37, No.6, 6 November 2009, pp.839-859.

Geoffrey P. R. Wallace, The Causes of Prisoner Abuse in War, Journal of Conflict Resolution, 56(6), 2012, 955-981.


[1]  Christian Streit, Keine Kamaraden: Die Wehrmacht und die sowjetischen Kriegsgefangenen 1941-1945 (Stuttgart, Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt),  1978, cited in  Omer Bartov, The Eastern Front 1941-45, German Troops and the Barbarisation of Warfare, (Palgrave MacMillan, New York) 1985, second edition 2011, p. 107.                        

[2]  Bartov, The Eastern Front, p.4.

[3] Stephen Fritz, Ostkrieg: Hitler’s War of Annihilation in the East (Lexington, 2011), p.482, and Rolf-Dieter Muller Die Wehrmacht: Historische  Last und Verantwortung. Die Historiographie im Spannungsfeld von Wissenschaft und Vergangenheitsbewaltigung‘, (Eds) Muller and Volmann, Die Wehrmacht: Mythos und Realitat (Munich, 1999), p. 18, cited in Jeff Rutherford, Combat and Genocide on the Eastern Front: The German Infantry’s War, 1941-1944, (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge), 2014, p.12.

[4] Joachim Hoffmann, Stelms Vernichtungskrieg, 1941-1945, (Munich, Verlag fur Wehrwisensschaften), 1995, p.89, cited in Karel C. Berkhoff, ‘The “Russian” Prisoners of War in Nazi-Ruled Ukraine as Victims of Genocidal Massacre’, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, V15 Nl, Spring 2001, p.2.

[5] Reinhard Otto, Wehrmacht, Gestapo und sowjetischen Kriegsgefangene im deutschen Reichsgebiet

1941/42, (R Oldenbourg, Munich), 1998, cited in Berkhoff, ‘The “Russian” Prisoners of War in Nazi-Ruled Ukraine as Victims of Genocidal Massacre’, p.2.

[6] Christian Gerlach, “Die Ausweitung der deutschen Massenmorde in den besetzten sowjetischen

Gebieten im Herbst 1941 Uberlegungen zur Vernichtungspohtik gegen Juden und sowjehsche

Kriegsgefangene” in his Krieg, Ernahrung, Volkennord Forschungen zur deutschen

Vernichtungspolitik im Zweiten Weltkrieg (Hamburg: Hamburger Edition, 1998), pp. 10-84, cited in Berkhoff, ibid., p.2.

[7] Bartov, The Eastern Front, p. 4.

[8] Karel C. Berkhoff, ‘The “Russian” Prisoners of War in Nazi-Ruled Ukraine as Victims of Genocidal Massacre,’ Holocaust and Genocide Studies, V15 Nl, Spring 2001, p.1.

[9] Jeff Rutherford, Combat and Genocide on the Eastern Front: The German Infantry’s War, 1941-1944, (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge), 2014, p.7.

[10] Ben H Shepherd, Hitler’s Soldiers – The German Army in the Third Reich, (Yale University Press, New Haven and London), 2016, p. 217.

[11] Mark Mazower, Hitler’s Empire – Nazi Rule in Occupied Europe, (Allen Lane, London), 2008. p.161.

[12] Shepherd, Hitler’s Soldiers, p. 212.

[13] Mazower, Hitler’s Empire, p.161.

[14] Bartov, The Eastern Front 1941-45, p.110.

[15] Mazower, Hitler’s Empire, p.160.

[16] Mazower, Hitler’s Empire, p.161.

[17] Waitman Wade Beorn, Marching into Darkness: The Wehrmacht and the Holocaust in Belarus, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press), 2014, p.55.

[18] Streit,  Die sowjetischen Kriegsgefangenen-Massensterben, Massenmord, Ausbesustung, conference paper presented at Pforzheim, 27 January 2010, cited in Shepherd, Hitler’s Soldiers, p.214.

[19] Sonke Neitzel and Harald Welzer, Soldaten: Protokolle vom Kampfen, Toten und Sterben (Frankfurt, 2011), p.14, cited in Rutherford, Combat and Genocide on the Eastern Front, p.13.

[20] Shepherd, Hitler’s Soldiers, p.212.

[21] Niklaus Wachsmann, KL: a History of the Nazi Concentration Camps, (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux), 2015, p.259.

[22] Wachsmann, KL, p.259.

[23] Rutherford, Combat and Genocide on the Eastern Front, p.2.

[24] Bartov and other historians use the incorrect term ‘Russian’ to describe ‘Soviet’ prisoners.

[25] Beorn, Marching into Darkness, p.55.

[26] Alex J Kay, Empire of Destruction – A History of Nazi Mass Killing, (Yale University Press, New Haven and London), 2021, p.162.

[27] Kay, Empire of Destruction, p.162.

[28] 17.11.1941, as quoted in Bartov, The Eastern Front 1941-45, p.85.

[29] Bartov, The Eastern Front 1941-45, p.6.

[30] Bartov, The Eastern Front 1941-45, p.99.

[31] Bartov, The Eastern Front 1941-45, p.114.

[32] Bartov, The Eastern Front 1941-45, p.150.

[33] Beorn, Marching into Darkness, p.60-61.

[34] Bartov, The Eastern Front 1941-45, p.106.

[35] Beorn, Marching into Darkness, p.58.

[36] Wachsmann, KL, p.259.

[37] Kay, Empire of Destruction, p.155.

[38] Kay, Empire of Destruction, p.164.

[39] Alex Kay, ‘Germany’s Staatssekretare, Mass Starvation and the Meeting of 2 May 1941’, Journal of Contemporary History, vol.41, no.4 (October 2006), p.697.

[40]  Kay, ‘Germany’s Staatssekretare, Mass Starvation and the Meeting of 2 May 1941’, p. 697.

[41]  Alex J Kay, ‘“The Purpose of the Russian Campaign is the Decimation of the Slavic Population by Thirty Million”: The Radicalization of German Food Policy in Early 1941,’ in Ed. Alex J Kay, Jeff Rutherford and David Stahel, Nazi Policy on the Eastern Front, 1941: Total War, Genocide and Radicalization, (University of Rochester Press, New York), 2012, pp.115-116.

[42] Kay, The Purpose of the Russian Campaign, p.116.

[43] Kay, Empire of Destruction, p.150.

[44] Shepherd, Hitler’s Soldiers, p.214.

[45] Kay, ‘Germany’s Staatssekretare, Mass Starvation and the Meeting of 2 May 1941’, p.700.

[46] Beorn, Marching into Darkness, p.59.

[47] Shepherd, Hitler’s Soldiers, p.216.

[48] Mazower, Hitler’s Empire, p.166.

[49] Kay, Empire of Destruction, p.152.

[50] Kay, Empire of Destruction, p.152.

[51] Bartov, The Eastern Front 1941-45, p108.

[52] Bartov, The Eastern Front 1941-45, p.118-119.

[53] Kay, Empire of Destruction, p.165.

[54] Wachsmann, KL, p.285.

[55] Shepherd, Hitler’s Soldiers, p. 216.

[56] Jorg Ganzenmuller, Das belagerte Leningrad, 1941 bis 1944: Die Stadt in den Strategien von Angreifern und Verteidigern (Ferndinand Schoningh, Paderborn), 2005, cited in Kay, ‘The Purpose of the Russian Campaign,’ p.116.

[57] Kay, ‘The Purpose of the Russian Campaign,’ p.116.

[58] Kay, Empire of Destruction, p.153.

[59] Streit, Keine Kamaraden, p. 79.

[60] Peter Calvocoressi and Guy Wint, Total War: The Story of World War II, (New York, Pantheon Books), 1972, p.456.

[61] Berkhoff, ‘The “Russian” Prisoners of War in Nazi-Ruled Ukraine as Victims of Genocidal Massacre,’ p.3.

[62] Kay, Empire of Destruction, p.152.

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