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ENCIRLCEMENT & PRISONERS OF WAR

 

In five major battles alone over two million Soviet troops were encircled by German forces.  As food, medicine and ammunition ran out, surrounded soldiers fought to break out and rejoin their units; some succeeded, others joined the guerilla partisan effort.  Millions, however, were taken prisoner.  By December, 1941 the Germans had amassed nearly four million prisoners of war; most were killed in Nazi camps.  Hitler had promised a short-lived war and had not counted on the mass of prisoners; only the policy towards Jews and commissars was clear: immediate extermination.  As the war dragged on, the Wehrmacht faced increasing obstacles in providing supplies for its own army, let alone for prisoners. Brutal and inhumane treatment killed most and reduced the survivors to a primitive and desperate state.  Nazi propaganda presented the Russian prisoners as Untermenschen – subhuman, unfeeling machines – thereby condoning their gross maltreatment.  Word about the horrific mistreatment eventually spread and promoted the patriotic unification of Soviet citizens, including some who may have welcomed the Germans in the beginning.


VETERAN TESTIMONY

AARON CHERNYAK

Inside the Vyazma encirclement.
VETERAN PROFILE