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Stalin's DefectorsHow Red Army Soldiers became Hitler's Collaborators, 1941-1945$

Mark Edele

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198798156

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198798156.001.0001

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(p.37) 3 Obstacles
Stalin's Defectors

Mark Edele

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter discusses the obstacles which were put in the way of those who wanted to cross the front line from the Red Army to the Wehrmacht. These obstacles were higher here than at other fronts. In addition to the normal military obstacles to crossing the line, and the widespread moral imperatives against betraying the fatherland, came threats to the lives of would-be-defectors and their families from the side of the Soviets, and often criminal behavior towards defectors and prisoners in general by the Germans. The high barriers against defection make the large numbers discussed in Chapter 2 even more striking.

Keywords:   propaganda, terror, war crimes, everyday life, military history from below, obstacles to defection, prisoners of war, treason


The poor accommodations for the prisoners, the, at first—in contradiction to the promises of German leaflet propaganda—completely insufficient nutrition, the fear to step on Russian or German mines and the fear about retaliation against family members have kept many from defection.1

This summary of obstacles to crossing the line was written by the intelligence officer of the German XXVI Army Corps in the summer of 1941. It should give us pause to read the statistics discussed in Chapter 2 in too simple-minded a manner. We could truthfully postulate that the vast majority of Soviet soldiers continued to fight and only a small minority deserted across the line. The ‘plebiscite’ against Stalin failed; the Soviet Union passed the ‘acid test of war’. As the quotation indicates, however, such an interpretation would be misleading. For one, defection was among the most extreme forms of evading front-line service on the Soviet side.2 Desertion to the Soviet hinterland was another option, as was draft evasion. Stalin’s security services detained 1.5 million people in this category throughout the war.3 In addition, more than 212,000 were listed as ‘not found after deserting, becoming detached from troop convoy or missing in military districts in interior’.4 Altogether, estimates Roger Reese, at least 4.4 million Soviets ‘attempted to avoid service, or fighting’, a number which includes those who ‘actively sided with the enemy’.5 This (p.38) larger category would have made up 13 per cent of the entire armed forces (34.5 million) during this war.6 And, of course, even this share does not include those who simply went along, because the other options were too dangerous.7 The German tallies also exclude the number of people who unsuccessfully attempted to cross the front line, let alone contemplated this course of action. And finally, many who thought of themselves as defectors were not acknowledged as such by the German troops.

Any interpretation of the meaning of defection must account for the simple but central fact that crossing over to the enemy was not an easy matter. ‘Giving oneself up is the most difficult operation in war’, wrote a veteran of multiple wars.8 The front line itself is the most obvious obstacle standing in defection’s way. The entire organization of an army in the field is directed towards preventing the enemy breaking the line of defence while attempting to overcome the adversary’s positions. At the German–Soviet front, periods of movement warfare were interspersed with stationary, trench warfare. Both created specific obstacles to the would-be defector. If the front was stable, both sides dug in, fortified their defences with trenches, machine guns, barbed wire, and anti-personnel mines. Overcoming these was difficult and dangerous. Thus, among three ‘not very intelligent’ defectors trying to cross the line on July 1943, one perished in a minefield, while another was wounded. Only one of the three made it across unharmed.9 During stationary warfare, then, defection was particularly hard. Two prisoners, who had come across bearing German leaflets (Passierscheine) in March 1942, were asked why more of their comrades had not acted likewise. They cited ‘the distance from their quarters to the German lines’ which made defection an option only ‘during an attack’.10 But even then, the problems for the would-be defector were not over. When moving forward, giving up was particularly dangerous, as the retreating enemy would find it hard to evacuate such deserters. Chances were that one would be shot upon capture, or find oneself back on Soviet-held territory in front of a field tribunal, and soon the firing squad. Thus, the best moment to defect was during retreat, particularly when one’s own (p.39) side was disorganized and the chances seemed slim that the movement would be reversed any time soon. In other words: in 1941 and to some extent 1942. The continuing defections in 1943–5, by contrast, are nothing less than astonishing as they happened during times when the Germans were, by and large, on the run and defection was extremely risky.

The problem of overcoming the front line is a universal in the history of defection. Any soldier who contemplates giving himself up to the enemy has to surmount this barrier. This is a fact of life in any war. But in the German–Soviet war, the obstacles were higher than usual. They are the topic of this chapter. It shows that both sides in this war erected—sometimes willingly, sometimes against their better judgement—extremely high disincentives against defection. The costs and the risks of attempting to cross from the Soviets to the Germans were extraordinary, and contemporaries perceived them as such. Thus, whether or not we use the most conservative estimates for 1941 (in the thousands) or the more realistic higher estimates (in the tens or maybe hundreds of thousands) we must see these numbers as no more than the tip of the iceberg. If we see defection and its discontents in 1941–5 as a ‘plebiscite’ for or against Soviet power, we need to consider that the rules of this particular ‘vote’ were rigged against saying no to the dictator. This conclusion endows the already significant numbers discussed in Chapter 2 with even greater weight.


From the very start of the war the Soviet side was alert to the danger of its soldiers going over to the Germans. The military and political leadership took determined counter-measures against what it perceived as a significant threat. The Soviet tactic combined atrocity propaganda with threats to the life and freedom of the defectors and their families.

The first plank of this policy was information. The ‘fascist atrocities (zverstva) towards POWs’ were one set of ‘facts’ propagandists were to use to incite a will to take revenge. So ordered the Head of the Main Administration for Political Propaganda in the Red Army, Lev Mekhlis, while taking stock of the experience gained in the first three weeks of fighting against the Germans.11 From the very beginning of the war, then, (p.40) and despite treating captivity as treason, the Soviet side disseminated knowledge about the inhuman treatment Soviet captives received. Red Army men, claimed Soviet propaganda, not without reason, were ‘tortured’, ‘bestially murdered’, starved, and shot dead. Death was preferable to capture not only because the former was honourable and the latter shameful, but also because captivity spelled incredible suffering before a terrible death. As early as 2 July 1941 a booklet entitled Fascist Brutality towards POWs was published to aid propagandists; on 12 July the slogan ‘the fascist barbarians torture and bestially murder prisoners of war’ was promoted for front-line propaganda; and on 16 October the Red Army newspaper Krasnaia zvezda published a first detailed report about the horror of German POW camps.12 Flanking the dissemination of information through the official channels was the deliberate opening of informal pathways. Once the first POWs were recovered, the military censors were ordered not to delete reports about the horrors of captivity from letters they checked. Only those with positive descriptions were to be confiscated.13

This concerted effort of the Soviet propaganda machine paid dividends. As the intelligence officer of Panzer Group 3 observed in July 1941, the Soviet ‘atrocity propaganda’ was ‘so effective’ that Red Army men did ‘not want to surrender for fear of getting shot’ by their captors.14 Nevertheless, defection remained a concern of Soviet authorities. As we have seen in Chapter 2, the problem, while most likely less common than in 1941, continued on a level that was high by any measure until the end of the war. Hence, both German attempts to encourage it and Soviet counter-measures persisted. The ‘deceitful enemy propaganda’ had to be ‘unmasked more decisively’, wrote the Head of the Red Army’s Main Political Administration on 12 August 1942. Hatred towards the enemy had to be kindled through information about the war aims of the Germans and their atrocities. ‘Concrete examples’ were to be employed in order to show that ‘any Red Army man who falls into fascist captivity’ could expect ‘torture, insults, hunger, and inevitable death’, Fascist captivity was ‘worse than death’.15 As (p.41) late as May 1944, recruits from territories recently liberated from German occupation were told ‘that the Germans…murder every prisoner and defector’.16

The second plank of the Soviet policy was threats to soldiers and their families, and the determined dissemination of knowledge about these threats among the troops, usually together with atrocity stories. Surrender, if not ‘caused by the battle situation’, had long been illegal. The Russian Criminal Code of 1926 had already threatened offenders with the ‘highest measure of punishment—shooting with confiscation of property’, and during the Winter War with Finland, recovered POWs were treated with extreme hostility.17 On 16 July 1941, the State Defence Committee (in other words, Stalin) passed a resolution to be read to all soldiers, which threatened ‘the toughest possible measures against cowards, panic mongers, and deserters’. These people were ‘worse than the enemy’ and were to be treated as ‘traitors of the Motherland’, i.e. shot.18 As this threat seemed hollow in the context of the rout of the Red Army, the stakes had to be increased for the soldiers involved. The now famous Order No. 270 of 16 August 1941 therefore punished the families of captured officers to make the threat real. They were to be arrested ‘as families of deserters, who have betrayed their Motherland’. Those of rank and file soldiers were deprived of welfare payments.19

Threats against family members of surrendering troops had been made much earlier than 16 August, however. An order of NKGB, NKVD, and State Prosecutor of 28 June had already demanded the arrest of family members of defectors.20 It implied that these would be exiled rather than shot, but many of the reported threats were much more severe. ‘The soldiers were informed that the Germans shoot all captives. The family members of defectors are exiled to Siberia, or shot’, (p.42) as the intelligence officer of XVII Army Corps summarized what he had learned from POWs in June 1941.21 The already cited Shcherbakov directive of 12 August 1942 combined the demand that the atrocities of the enemy were to be painted in the brightest colours with the order that soldiers should be told ‘every day’ that the families of traitors going over to the enemy would be ‘repressed’. The soldier, if recovered, would be tried for treason.22 After 16 August, the threat of shooting (rather than arrest) of relatives became a refrain in reports. In September, 18 Motorized Infantry Division reported that ‘officers and commissars threaten to shoot the relatives of defectors and captured soldiers’.23 Soviet archival materials confirm the German evidence. In late September 1941, the Political Directorate of the Baltic Fleet ordered the explanation that ‘family members of those who went over to the side of the Germans and surrendered to the Germans would be immediately executed as family members of traitors of the Motherland’.24 And the threats persisted well beyond the catastrophe of 1941. In April 1942, ‘many were keen to come across the line’, claimed prisoners during interrogation, ‘but they are worried because they are constantly threatened with the execution of their relatives’.25 Similar threats were reported in August 194226 and in February 1944.27

These were no idle warnings, although we cannot be sure, given the current state of knowledge, if executions of family members were indeed performed in 1941. Certainly, there were acts of repression. Stalin’s security services reported that, ‘in accordance with existing normative acts, repression extended to family members of servicemen’. Between 17 July 1941 and 10 August 1942, the NKVD had ‘called to account’ 2,688 family members of ‘traitors of the Motherland’ and convicted 1,292 (p.43) of them.28 Arrest statistics for 1942, 1943, and 1944 also include 6,913 ‘family members of traitors of the Motherland’.29

As noted above, however, ‘repression’, ‘arrest’, and ‘conviction’ did not necessarily mean ‘execution’. Already the law on treason of 8 June 1934 had decreed that the immediate adult family members of a traitor were to be sentenced to ‘exile to remote regions of the Soviet Union’.30 The already quoted 28 June 1941 NKVD order had also implied that the arrested family members would be exiled, not shot.31 And a State Defence Committee resolution of 24 June 1942 also specified that relatives of traitors ‘are liable to arrest and exile (ssylka) for five years to remote regions of the USSR’.32 The same ‘punishment’ is mentioned in the 18 June 1942 report from Beria to Stalin, which prompted this resolution and which cites the same legal acts as the basis for the repression of families as had the 28 June 1941 NKVD order.33 The wife and mother-in-law of General Kachalov—a man undeservedly accused of defection in Order No. 270, as we shall see in Chapter 4—were arrested and punished with eight years in a labour camp. They were not shot.34 Likewise, Stalin’s daughter-in-law, Iulia, was locked up in a concentration camp in late 1941, after her husband, the dictator’s son Iakov, had been captured by the Germans.35 (p.44) All this evidence makes it extremely likely that in 1941 front-line propagandists simply miscommunicated the policy or that soldiers misunderstood what they heard. In any case, the fact of the matter is less important for our discussion here than the way the policy was clearly understood at the front line: as a mortal threat to those near and dear. A potential defector thus knew that others were held responsible for his actions—a very strong deterrent, unless the family resided on occupied territory to begin with.

The third plank of the Soviet effort at preventing front-line crossings, then, was the actual administration of violence rather than its simple threat. The main conduits of this coercion were unit commanders, political officers (commissars, politruki), and the ‘special sections’ of the security police within the army (later called Death to Spies or SMERSh). ‘Harshest measures are taken to prevent desertion and defection’, reported XVII Army Corps in June 1941. ‘He who throws away his rifle is shot.’36 In August, the 56 Infantry Division reported similar observations according to which ‘at least 75 percent of the [Soviet] troops would defect, would not the political commissars and the registered communist Party members threaten the soldiers with execution. Those who are caught with German leaflets, are shot’.37 Sources from the other side of the line confirm that executions for attempted defection did take place. One memoirist remembered two cases of ‘withdrawal to the enemy’ in a penal unit. ‘One was successful, in the second case they liquidated the defector’ (perebeshchika likvidorovali).38 In a letter home on 15 July 1941, the company commander Petr Mitrofanovich Sebelev wrote:

About twenty people of our regiment threw away their rifles, crawled out of the trenches and, with white handkerchiefs and pieces of white cloth, apparently ripped off shirts, ran towards the Germans. But they did not succeed in going over to the fascists. From all directions we heard cries ‘Open fire on the traitors of the motherland!’ I ordered the same to my fighters. The traitors were shot with machine guns.39

Later in the same year, a Soviet officer witnessed the execution of two men who had attempted to cross the line. They were shot in front of their (p.45) assembled comrades waiting for their breakfast.40 In May 1942, a group of convalescing soldiers were marched into a nearby wood before returning to front-line duty. Here, a macabre spectacle awaited them, as one of them remembered decades later with audio-visual clarity:

In the middle of the clearing: two pits. Beside them stand two [soldiers] in their underwear, with their greatcoats thrown over [their shoulders]. And the colour of the faces of these two is no different from the colour of their undershirts. They begin to read to one of them the sentence by the military tribunal: ‘Traitor of the Motherland, has broken his oath…tried to defect to the enemy…sentenced to death by shooting…’

They make the first one kneel in front of the pit. The major, Nagan in hand, steps up. Bam!—he shoots him in the back of the head. He falls into the pit—plop! The same happens to the other one.…

Then again he turns to us: ‘Fall in! A song!’ Nobody sings. Silence! However much they tried to break us, we dug our heels in. He yells: ‘At the double.’ All right, we run. But we won’t sing!41

Executions could also be more immediate, as during the defence of the city of Glukhov in late September 1942. The defection attempt of a group of 900 recent replacements was thwarted by their Division commander, Major General A. Z. Akimenko, who recalled in a 1953 memoir:

a large number of replacement troops from Kursk, numbering about 900 men, committed treachery to the interests of our homeland. As if by command, this group rose up, threw away their rifles, and, with raised hands…proceeded to the side of the enemy tanks.… I gave an order for two artillery battalions to open fire on the traitors and the enemy tanks. As a result, a considerable number of the traitors were killed and wounded, and the enemy tanks were scattered.42

By April 1942 captives reported that ‘many want to defect, but this is not so easy to do, because the politruks and commissars were particularly suspicious recently, and paid close attention’.43

(p.46) This vigilance paid dividends. As a 1941 Soviet report on defection (already cited in Chapter 2) indicated, by early December the Soviets had not only registered 102 group defections of altogether 1,944 people, but had also prevented 4,646 Soviet soldiers from deserting across the line.44 While the Soviet data under-report the successful attempts, they do show how many were actively prevented from ‘voting with their feet’, and not only at the start of the war: in 1943, the authorities arrested 6,013 people for defection to the enemy.45


Together, the purely military obstacles to crossing the front line and the Soviet counter-measures created strong disincentives to defection. They reinforced spontaneous, widespread and cross-cultural notions that defection is dishonourable. As one former Soviet soldier noted when American interviewers asked him after the war, if he had ever considered deserting to the enemy:

I did not want to desert, even though I did not like the social system in which I was living. Desertion is not an honorable act; I wanted to be an honest man. I would desert only as a last resort. It is true that during the battle [of Stalingrad] I had great conflicts in myself, I was looking for the truth and wondering why the people were so badly dressed, so hungry, living in such bad conditions although they were working hard. But I could not have made my decision with a step like desertion. That was unthinkable for me.46

As a former Red Army officer put it during a post-war interview: ‘Those bastards had no business deserting to the enemy. If you want to desert, do so before or after the war. But during military operations it is unfair to the other soldiers.’ He thought that execution of such men was ‘entirely justified’.47 Even threats to the own life did not warrant defection. The interviewee had felt under threat ever since the Great Purges, but thought that was par for the course.

(p.47) I thought that I myself might get into trouble. I began to feel that, true enough, defense demanded purges but that I was insecure myself—although this would not have been a cause for me to desert. I am a soldier. I have taken an oath. I must abide by it. If you were an enemy of the regime, then you have no business surrendering during a battle.48

‘So long as I was in military service’, said another Russian who defected to the west after the war, ‘I could not get myself to desert. After all I had taken an oath to the government.’49 Another DP recalled similar sentiments when interviewed in 1951:

I saw then that the people are not willing to defend the system. Still at that time I considered the Germans my enemies and thought that one has to defend the fatherland. I did not surrender myself. I faught [sic] until I was captured and was taken captured with a typhoid fever.

(How did you look at those who surrendered?) I considered them traitors and cowards.50

Indeed, when defectors were not separated from other POWs in German camps, they often paid with their lives for their treason. If anybody was unwise enough to announce to his comrades ‘that he went over on his own accord, deserted to the Germans, then the other POWs would murder him in the same night’, remembered a Soviet soldier who survived German captivity.51 Even staunch anti-Bolsheviks equated defection with treason.52


These sentiments, however, were not shared by all.53 It is questionable if the widespread disdain with which an important segment of the Soviet population regarded defectors would have sufficed to keep soldiers in line, even if backed up by Soviet atrocity propaganda and terror. However, the (p.48) inhuman treatment of Soviet prisoners would be confirmed again and again by witnesses, who shared their knowledge with their comrades in arms.54 ‘Hundreds of thousands surrendered early in the war’, remembered one witness later, ‘but when the people saw what the Germans did to the Red Army soldiers, then they said, whether the system is good or bad, it’s better to kill the Germans then [sic] to be killed by them.’55

The problems began with crossing the front line. If the defector managed to evade being shot by the Soviet side, he often fell victim to German bullets. ‘Our machine guns’, noted a Sonderführer Gross of the 299 Infantry Division in July 1941, ‘are immediately put into action if somebody shows himself’, a fact making ‘defection too risky’.56 At times, German reaction to attempted defection descended into blatant slaughter of unarmed and clearly surrendering troops. As a former Soviet commander, who had considered surrender himself and would later collaborate with the Germans, remembered an attack on German positions in the autumn of 1941:

The front row of Red Army men ran with raised arms [towards the German trenches] and the German machine guns cut them down, row after row. Nevertheless, the others continued to run ahead and also put up their arms. At first, I did not believe my eyes.57

To his horror, the Germans machine-gunned not only masses of surrendering troops rushing towards them, but also shot, point blank, individuals with clear intentions to defect:

As I was lying between the corpses giving me cover I noticed not far from me somebody waving a white handkerchief. I turned around in order to observe better and saw several other white dots. I was interested to learn what would happen next. These handkerchiefs disappeared at times, but then reappeared. Finally, I saw how a man got up and went over to a place where another handkerchief was visible. I recognized in him one of my officers. He gave the other man his hand and helped him up. Then he took off his belt with the pistol holder, held it up for a moment, and then threw it to the ground. Then they ran quickly towards the German trenches. I saw how two German soldiers, who peered over the trench, observed what these two were doing, and as they got closer, their heads slowly disappeared again in the (p.49) trench.…They let the two approach not closer than 100 metres and then opened fire. Both fell to the ground.58

A would-be defector, then, found himself quite literally between the front lines. ‘If he came during the day, he was shot by his own people; if he came by night, ours shot him’, as a German intelligence officer summarized the situation during the retreats of early 1942.59 The deterrent effect these bullets had was noted, with some irritation, by an SS officer in August 1943:

During the [anti-partisan] operation ‘Hermann’ we captured a bandit [i.e. a Soviet partisan]. During his interrogation he indicated that his group of about 200 men had received German propaganda leaflets and had decided to defect. As the first man from this group walked with raised arms towards the German positions, he was shot dead. After that, the group decided to fight to the last man, as they thought that one could not trust the promises made in the leaflets.60

The tendency to shoot at surrendering troops was at times enhanced by deliberate escalation of front-line behaviour by the Soviet side exploiting German fears. When, in early 1943, defections to the enemy became endemic in his unit, the scout Georgii Ivanovich Karpov and his comrades devised the following solution to the problem:

Before dawn, three volunteers, including myself, jumped over the parapet and moved towards the German trenches.…The Fritzes noticed the approach of our group. ‘Halt!’ ‘Hände hoch!’ commanded a German, invisible in the darkness. The ‘defectors’, that is, us, put up our hands. We yelled: ‘We are coming to you! We surrender!’ All the while we continued to move, hands in the air, towards the German trenches. The entire defence of the enemy came out to greet their ‘reinforcements’. We moved another couple of steps—and suddenly the grenades we had hidden in our sleeves flew into the German trenches.…Wails and moans emanated from the Fritzes.…The outing was successful and the number of those desiring to go over to the side of the fascists diminished significantly.61

The same technique to reduce defection (and thus leakage of information) was described in a top secret report of the Soviet military counter-intelligence (p.50) (SMERSh) to Deputy Commissar of Defence V. S. Abakumov of 19 June 1943.62 These were desperate attempts to solve a large-scale problem at this front, where between April and June 1943 ‘nearly sixty per cent of the 6,360 prisoners taken’ by the Germans were defectors.63

Those who despite trigger-happy German sentries managed to get across were still not safe. They were liable to be shot behind the line rather than evacuated. The commander of the XXXXVII Panzer Corps complained already on 30 June 1941 in an order to his troops that all too often ‘captives, defectors, and deserters’ were shot by his men, which was likely to decrease the willingness of the enemy to surrender.64 By early 1942, such incidents had become so widespread that the German military leadership felt compelled to attempt to de-escalate the situation. In the revealing prose of a Panzer Corps commander:

The exceptionally hard fighting of the last months has led to a situation where only very few prisoners are taken. Among the [German] troops the view has gained more and more ground that the bestially fighting Russian soldier, who has mutilated German prisoners of war or tortured them to death, does not deserve to be captured. This in itself very understandable view leads to significant disadvantages for ourselves. Because of the constant dissemination of news through their population both the Russian leadership and the individual Russian soldier learns that he will be shot by the German troops, should he surrender or defect. All cases of execution by shooting of captured Russian soldiers, which become known to the Russian leadership, are used by it in a most sustained way in its propaganda, which hammers it home that every Russian soldier who surrenders or defects, loses his life. The Russian soldier fights, therefore, to the last, which increases resistance and makes the fighting harder for us.…[Therefore] I categorically forbid, that Russian soldiers who surrender or defect…are shot. I do understand the difficulties the necessity to guard and evacuate these prisoners causes our troops…but they have to be accepted out of self-interest.

It should be said in passing that we, as a people of high culture, cannot allow ourselves to be pulled down to unculturedness (Unkultur) and barbarism, even while fighting a people devoid of culture and ruled by the lowest and most base instincts.65

(p.51) The tentative attempts of German commanders to de-escalate, shot through as they were with racist arrogance, had at best mixed results.66 By late 1942, little had changed, according to a Soviet defector. Many Red Army men, he claimed, were longing to give themselves up to the Germans, but were afraid, because German infantry fired on anybody, even those with hands above their heads. He himself defected during the light of day, arms raised, and was wounded in the hand and leg by a German machine-gunner. He commented with some sarcasm on German efforts to encourage defection. The best propaganda against it was the corpses of Soviet defectors lying between the lines, he noted. Commissars exploited these by assembling all troops and pointing out their fate, should they consider such an option.67

Nevertheless, like this man, tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, or even millions surrendered to the enemy (Table 2.3). If they managed to do so, they then faced the entire horror of German prisoner of war camps. In 1941, defectors by and large shared the often lethal fate of their involuntary peers, a question of life and death we return to in Chapter 7. What interests us here is not so much what actually happened, but what Soviet would-be defectors could know about their future. The shootings at the front line they could observe themselves, as we have seen. What happened after capture could not be observed directly, but was nevertheless common knowledge. By the end of August 1941, a wealth of stories about German atrocities towards POWs already circulated by word of mouth on the Soviet side. Soldiers who had escaped from captivity and crossed the line back to Soviet territory could confirm that what the newspapers wrote was indeed true.68 Their stories were further passed on by word of mouth and the resulting rumours then fed into the official atrocity propaganda, as a captured Red Army soldier reported back to the Germans in November.69 By January 1942, knowledge of what could happen to POWs on the German side had become a strong deterrent to defection. As a captured Soviet commander reported:

(p.52) Rumours about [what is going on in] the POW camp in Kharkov have a negative influence on plans to defect. The first lieutenant asked, if it was really true that in the Kharkov camp 50–70 people die every day. He also did not really believe that the Germans do not shoot Russian officers.70

These, of course, were no rumours. Germans did shoot POWs more or less spontaneously. Until 1942 there was also an official policy to exterminate political officers (along with Jews and women soldiers who remained a target thereafter). And the conditions in the camps amounted to a war crime of serious proportions.71 More importantly for our discussion here, they formed a massive disincentive against defection. ‘It’s an agonizing thought that our prisoners are starved to death in German camps’, a Soviet officer told British journalist Alexander Werth in 1942. ‘But, politically, the Germans are making a colossal blunder.…It’s a horrible thing to say; but by ill-treating and starving our prisoners to death, the Germans are helping us.’72

German military leaders did understand that fear of their fate under the Germans kept Soviet soldiers in line. Already a few days after the start of Barbarossa, reports were passed along the chain of command that the fear of being shot discouraged surrender.73 By August 1942, such insight was formulated quite explicitly as a policy proposal.

The second weapon in the fight for the increase of defector numbers are good and humane (menschenwürdige) conditions in the POW camps, in particular a good and humane treatment. The news about the conditions in the POW camps move along uncontrollable channels through the enemy lines. The best course of action would be a generous release of many prisoners after a careful checking of them. 99 percent of them would not pick up a weapon again against the German troops, but would actively participate in their village in the fight against partisans and, moreover, would also constitute a significant and extremely needed labour force. Finally…the (p.53) formation of volunteer units [to fight alongside the Germans] would serve as maybe the best form of propaganda of the deed (Tatsachenpropaganda).74

While individual aspects of this programme would be realized as the Germans continued to recalibrate their approach in reaction to declining fortunes of war, they always remained patchwork in an ideologically driven war of extermination.75


It is indeed remarkable that so many Red Army soldiers did cross the line, given the Soviet threats, the pervasive atrocity propaganda, the widespread shooting of those trying to defect across the line, the absolutely appalling, murderous conditions in German POW camps, and the dissemination of knowledge about these outside of the official channels of communication, which helped validate what the media pronounced. How did soldiers decide that despite everything they would try to go over to the enemy? How did they overcome the doubts and fears which crossing the front line entailed?

Many, of course, did not overcome them at all. The various obstacles convinced them that it was better to fight than to defect. We have already seen an example where a group defection turned into determined resistance, once one defector was shot trying to cross the line. This was not a singular example. To quote again the Soviet commander and future Nazi collaborator, who had considered defection but then, lying behind corpses on the battlefield, witnessed the deliberate murder of surrendering troops: ‘I had not expected that the Germans would shoot at soldiers who tried to defect to them with arms raised above their heads’, he remembered his ‘distressed’ reaction:76

The German shooters were looking between the corpses for those still alive, in order to shoot people who had tried to become their captives voluntarily. Is it possible that they do not understand what they are doing? It was bitter for me to recognize that what I had dismissed as Bolshevik propaganda lies indeed corresponded to the facts! My survival instinct awoke inside of me and, probably even more, a feeling of spite or anger (Bösheit). I did not want to give away my life so cheaply, and I pledged to myself, that I would not go into captivity! I will fight!77

(p.54) Such deliberations were traumatic enough to be crisply remembered many years later. They could lead to various outcomes. Another memoir, written in the 1950s for the drawer, reconstructs a detailed argument taking place in February 1942 between the author and a front-line comrade. They shared defeatist attitudes and did not want to fight. In particular, they did not want to die. They both felt that they were candidates for certain death and hence had little to hide from each other. We need not believe that this conversation happened in exactly this way—too much time had passed, and we cannot even be sure that the interlocutor actually existed. But even if we simply take it as a reconstruction of an internal dialogue, it is revealing of the kinds of struggles would-be defectors went through. They weighed the available evidence to make up their mind about how to proceed. Should one go over to the Germans? ‘But there they die of starvation.’ But did they? Could one really believe ‘all these fabrications’ (basni) in the papers? After all, it would be mightily stupid of the Germans to mistreat POWs—that would only help the enemy! Surely, therefore, what the newspapers wrote could not be true. But then there were the stories of those who actually returned from German captivity. Surely, those could be trusted? Well, maybe they were individual cases? To believe that this was a policy of the Germans was illogical. And surely not everybody would end up in the worst camps!78

Later in the same year, in March, the anonymous author had another discussion about defection. Again the options were weighed: staying at the front line meant serving the ‘enemies of the people’ (i.e. the Bolsheviks) but crossing the front line meant shifting to another ‘evil’; staying meant near-certain death at the front line, but defection meant near-certain death in a German POW camp. But then, maybe only non-qualified POWs were mistreated by the Germans? Maybe bringing one’s diploma would ensure better conditions? Surely, the Germans were interested in the help of qualified workers? And maybe then one would get a chance to fight the Soviets?

As the would-be defectors made up their minds to actually attempt to go across, they also deliberated on the threats to their families from the Soviet side. They decided that in order to avoid victimizing their relatives, they needed to ensure that nobody saw them defect—they hoped to be counted as missing in action rather than as deserters to the Germans. They also gambled that if they did not cause a major scandal, nobody would report them as defectors, because their superiors might be held responsible and threatened with a penal battalion should they admit that three of their (p.55) men had gone to the enemy. The attempt failed, but in the summer of 1942, the memoirist tried again with two comrades. And again they deliberated their options, and again they decided to give it a try.79

Given what we know about the German way of war, and given what contemporaries could know, such decisions might appear insane. However, the information about what the Germans did to Soviet POWs in particular and to the Soviet Union in general was not completely straightforward to men in the trenches who tried to figure out what to do. The knowledge about the enemy that circulated around them was contradictory and shot through with question marks. While there was a lot of evidence for German brutality from very early in this war, much of it came from official media, and was always received with a good dose of scepticism by Soviet citizens. Moreover, there was also countervailing (and, as it turned out, misleading) information.

One source of false information were people who had been in German captivity during the First World War, a far from benign experience in reality. However, even the worst examples of the First World War came nowhere near the normality in German POW camps for Soviet captives in 1941.80 Moreover, what came next was often far worse: return to a country destroyed by war, civil war, and famine; an only slow and tentative normalization of life in the 1920s before Stalin’s revolution from above, dekulakization, collectivization, renewed famine and the Great Terror again led life back into catastrophe at the end of the decade. Hence, in retrospect the years in German camps seemed not so bad after all. Older men who had experience with the Germans from the previous war sometimes doubted what they heard about German atrocities, and told their comrades not to fear captivity. Once German intelligence learned about this phenomenon from captives, it immediately incorporated this line into its own misinformation campaign designed to encourage defection.81

(p.56) Men who fought in both wars were a not insignificant group, notwithstanding the widespread misjudgement among historians who believe that the Red Army was made up of youth born after the October Revolution.82 While we do not have detailed conscription statistics by age group, several good proxies are available. Among the Soviet casualties of this war, no less than 14 per cent were older than 40 years when they died fighting the Germans;83 and among men who had been subject to wartime conscription and who were still alive in 1946, 28 per cent were of a generation who had fought in both world wars.84

Reminiscences about the relatively benign captivity in the First World War were also passed on within families, which exposed an even larger number of people to them than would have been the case if old soldiers had been the only vessels. ‘I defected, because already my father had been in German captivity’, as one soldier put it.85 Fathers were cited frequently: ‘Prisoners are not afraid of German troops’, reported the 298 Infantry Division in August 1941 with a good dose of hyperbole, ‘because their fathers enjoyed German captivity very much.’86 The brother of a 1943 defector ‘was during the [First] World War in German captivity and was treated well there’. This brother suggested to his sibling that ‘would he be deployed at the German front, he should defect’.87 Others cited their cousins or other relatives, who had had similar experiences. The promise of decent treatment could help anti-Soviet soldiers make up their minds: ‘The defector does not fight for people who have destroyed his life’, as the 157 Rifle Division recorded the reasons of one such man. ‘He knows the Germans from 1918.’88 Family connections divided Soviet captives into two groups, claimed the intelligence officer of the 93 Infantry Division. Those with relatives who had been POWs in the first war did not believe Soviet propaganda about German atrocities; those who had no such family background ‘stoically await their execution’.89 Likewise, German leaflet (p.57) propaganda was most successful in cases where the memory of stories about the First World War reinforced what the enemy promised and undermined the agitation of the Soviet side.90

Another source of information about what to expect in German captivity was the population of liberated territories. One prisoner claimed that he did not believe in the Soviet atrocity propaganda, because the locals he had talked to ‘had never witnessed anything like that’.91 This particular soldier was an exception, although he was not singular.92 By and large, what Red Army men learned from the populations they liberated was the opposite: Germans had plundered, looted, raped, and killed.93


Together, German and Soviet actions and reactions created extremely strong incentives against surrender. By early 1942, they had hardened into a system which discouraged defection. In the summary of a German political officer:

The effect of the leaflets during the cauldron battle of Viasma was good. However, it was increasingly noticeable, that the very much more brutal oversight of the commissars complicated both keeping leaflets as well as defecting. Word had also gone around that the prisoners were suffering from starvation in the camps.…Our retreat made defection even harder for the enemy.94

Given this context, the numbers for 1942 discussed in the previous chapter are nothing less than astonishing. They show that only a mild re-configuration of the POW policy (that is, the end of the mass dying in the camps) combined with a determined propaganda effort and a still unclear outcome to the war was sufficient to make tens of thousands betray their homeland and go over to the enemy. It is even more remarkable that in the years to come, when the eventual result of the war was less and less in doubt and the Red Army scored victory after victory, while German genocidal warfare became all but impossible to ignore, the tally of (p.58) defectors still reached tens of thousands in 1943, and thousands in 1944. Given the extreme obstacles Soviet soldiers had to overcome to join the German side, the fact that the overall share of defectors among POWs on the German–Soviet Front was at least three times higher than at the Wehrmacht’s western front, where the disincentives were much lower, is also worth pondering. Clearly a significant minority of people were not only disinclined to fight for Stalin’s regime, but were determined to leave it, cost what it may.


(1) ‘Das XXVI: Armeekorps im Rußlandfeldzug am linken Flügel der Heeregruppe Nord vom 20. August 1941 bis 6. Mai 1942’, BA-MA RH 24-26/278, Anlage 5a, folio 4.

(2) Mark Edele and Michael Geyer, ‘States of Exception: The Nazi–Soviet War as a System of Violence, 1939–1945’, in Beyond Totalitarianism: Stalinism and Nazism Compared, ed. Michael Geyer and Sheila Fitzpatrick (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 345–95,

(3) G. F. Krivosheev, ‘O dezertirstve v Krasnoi Armii’, Voenno-istoricheskii zhurnal 6 (2001): 94.

(4) G. F. Krivosheev, Soviet Casualties and Combat Losses in the Twentieth Century (London: Greenhill Books, 1997), 91.

(5) Roger Reese, ‘Motivations to Serve: The Soviet Soldier in the Second World War’, Journal of Slavic Military Studies 20 (2007): 263–82,

(6) For the total see Krivosheev, Soviet Casualties and Combat Losses, 91.

(7) Roger Reese, Why Stalin’s Soldiers Fought: The Red Army’s Military Effectiveness in World War II (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2011).

(8) Shimon Tzabar, The White Flag Principle: How to Lose a War (And Why), 2nd edn. (New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 2002), 107.

(9) 21 ID, Ic, to Generalkommando LIV. A.K, Betr.: Überläufervernehmung, 7.7.1943, BA-MA RH 26-21/102, folio 765.

(10) 294. ID, Ic, Vernehmungsbericht Nr. 206, 3 March 1942, BA-MA RH 24-17/185, folio 155.

(11) Lev Mekhlis, ‘Direktive GUPP KA voennym sovetam, nachal’nikam UPP frontov ob itogakh partiino-politicheskoi raboty za tri nedeli voiny’ (15 July 1941), reprinted in Glavnye politicheskie organy vooruzhennykh sil SSSR v Velikoi Otechestvennoi voine 1941–1945 gg. Dokumenty i materialy (Moscow: Terra, 1996), (=RA/VO 17–6 (1–2)), 42–4, quotation: 43.

(12) Mark Edele, ‘Take (No) Prisoners! The Red Army and German POWs, 1941–1943’, The Journal of Modern History 88 (2016): 342–79,

(13) NKVD circular no. 002117 or 27 September 1942. Cited in Z arkhiviv VUChK-GPU-NKVD-KGB 1 (42) (2014): 247.

(14) Panzergruppe 3, Ic, ‘Lage in Weißrußland, 14.7.1941’, BA-MA RH 21-3/437, folios 311–12.

(15) A. Shcherbakov, direktiva no. 8, 12 August 1942, reprinted in Glavnye politicheskie organy vooruzhennykh sil SSSR v Velikoi Otechestvennoi voine 1941–1945 gg. Dokumenty i materialy (Moscow: Terra, 1996), (=RA/VO 17–6 (1–2)), 159–60. Quotation: 160.

(16) Panzer-Armeeoberkommando 3, Ic, ‘Zusammenfassender Bericht von Überläufer- und Gefangenenvernehmungen Nr. 15 (23.5.44)’, BA-MA RH 21-3/512, folio 37reverse.

(17) L. G. Ivashov and A. S. Emelin, ‘Nravstvennye i pravovye problemy plena v Otechestvennoi istorii’, Voenno-istoricheskii zhurnal, no. 1 (1992): 44–9;

(18) I. Stalin, ‘Postanovlenie GKO SSSR No. GOKO-169ss’ (16 July 1941), reprinted: 1941 god., ed. V. P. Naumov, 2 vols. (Moscow: Demokratiia, 1998), II: 472–3.

(19) Stavka order no. 270, 16 August 1941, published in Voenno-istoricheskii zhurnal 9 (1988): 26–8; here: 28.

(20) Prikaz NKGB SSSR, NKVD SSSR i Prokuratury SSSR NO. 00246/00833/PR/59ss: ‘O poriadke privlecheniia k otvetstvennosti izmennikov Rodiny i chlenov ikh semei’, 28 June 1941, reprinted in Organy gosudarstvennoi besopasnosti SSSR v Velikoi Otechestvennoi voine. Sbornik dokumentov. Tom vtoroi, Kniga 1: Nachalo 22 iiunia–31 avgusta 1941 goda (Moscow: Izdatel’stvo Rus’, 2000), 114–15.

(21) Generalkommando XVII A.K., Abt. Ic: ‘Zusammenfassender Bericht über Gefangenen-Vernehmungen (26.-30.6.1941)’ (2 July 1941), BA-MA RH 24-17/170, folios 100–1.

(22) A. Shcherbakov, directive no. 8, 12 August 1942, reprinted in Glavnye politicheskie organy vooruzhennykh sil SSSR v Velikoi Otechestvennoi voine 1941–1945 gg. Dokumenty i materialy (Moscow: Terra, 1996), (=RA/VO 17–6 (1–2)), 159–60. Quotation: 160.

(23) 18. ID (mot.), Abt. Ic, Feindnachrichtenblatt Nr. 9 (6.9.1941), BA-MA RH 26-18/57.

(24) Nikita Lomagin, ‘Soldiers at War: German Propaganda and Soviet Army Morale During the Battle of Leningrad, 1941–44’, The Carl Beck Papers in Russian & East European Studies 1306 (1998),

(25) 18ID(mot), Abt. Ic, ‘Anlagenheft zum Tätigkeitsbericht 1942, 9.1.1942-30.4.42’, BA-MA RH 26-18/60.

(26) 18 ID(mot), Ic, ‘Anlagen zum Tätigkeitsbericht, 1.5.1942-24.8.1942’, BA-MA RH 26-18/62.

(27) Panzer-Armeeoberkommando 3, Ic, ‘Zusammenfassender Bericht von Überläufer- und Gefangenenvernehmungen (20.2.44)’, BA-MA RH 21-3/540, folio 110.

(28) A. G. Bezverkhnyi, SMERSh. Istoricheskie ocherki i arkhivnye dokumenty (Moscow: Izdatel’stvo Glavarkhiva Moskvy, 2003), 28.

(29) O. B. Mozokhin, ‘Statistika repressivnoi deiatel’nosti organov bezopasnosti SSSR (1921–1953)’, available at website ‘istoricheskie materialy’: http://istmat.info/node/255 (accessed 20 August 2015).

(30) Ivashov and Emelin, ‘Nravstvennye i pravovye problemy plena’, 48.

(31) Prikaz NKGB SSSR, NKVD SSSR i Prokuratury SSSR NO. 00246/00833/PR/59ss: ‘O poriadke privlecheniia k otvetstvennosti izmennikov Rodiny i chlenov ikh semei’, 28 June 1941, reprinted in Organy gosudarstvennoi besopasnosti SSSR v Velikoi Otechestvennoi voine. Sbornik dokumentov. Tom vtoroi, Kniga 1: Nachalo 22 iiunia–31 avgusta 1941 goda (Moscow: Izdatel’stvo Rus’, 2000), 114–15.

(32) I. Stalin, GKO resolution no. GOKO-1926ss, ‘O chlenakh semei izmennikov Rodiny’ (24 June 1942), reprinted in Lubianka: Stalin i NKVD-NKGB-GUKR ‘SMERSh’. 1939–mart 1946, ed. V. N Khaustov, V. P. Naumov, and N. S. Plotnikova (Moscow: Demokratiia, 2006), 350–1, quotation: 350. Text available also at: http://soldat.ru/doc/gko/text/1926.html (accessed 25 March 2015).

(33) The two legal acts in question are Central Committee and SNK resolution of 7 December 1940, and article 58-1b or the RSFSR Criminal Code. Beria’s report listed 1,852 people sentenced under these rules. An additional 650 families could not be found, either because they were on enemy-held territory or because they had disappeared somewhere in the hinterland. An additional 45 families were subject to the same sanction because one of their relatives had killed their commanders before going over to the enemy (the NKVD know of 16 such cases). Of these families only 24 had thus far been brought to ‘justice’. See Beria to Stalin, 18 June 1942, reprinted in Lubianka: Stalin in NKVD-NKGB-GUKR ‘SMERSh’, 349–50, here: 349.

(34) Leonid Reshin and V. S. Stepanov, ‘Iz fondov voennykh arkhivov: Sud’by general’skie’, Voenno-istoricheskii zhurnal 8 (1993): 20–7,

(35) Svetlana Alliluyeva, 20 Letters to a Friend (London: Hutchinson, 1967), 172–3.

(36) Generalkommando XVII. Armeekorps, Abt. Ic, ‘Zusammenfassender Bericht über das Ergebnis der bisherigen Gefangenenvernehmungen (26.6.41)’, BA-MA RH 24-17/170, folio 63reverse.

(37) 56. ID, Ic, an Generalkommando XVII. Armeekorps, 8.8.1941, BA-MA RH 24-17/171, folio 186–186reverse.

(38) Vladimir Daines, Shtrafbaty i zagradotriady Krasnoi Armii (Moscow: Eksmo, 2008), 337.

(39) Letter reprinted in Po obe storony fronta: Auf beiden Seiten der Front. Pis’ma sovetskikh i nemetskikh soldat 1941–1945 gg (Moscow: Sol’, 1995), 153–5, here: 154.

(40) V. Valentinov, ‘Wie ich “Kollaborateur” wurde’. Typescript memoirs, c.1952, Bakhmeteff Archive, Columbia University Rare Book and Manuscript Library, 16–18.

(41) S. Smoliakov, interview with A. A. Sotskov (22 March 2013), http://iremember.ru/memoirs/razvedchiki/sotskov-sotskov-aleksey-andreevich/ (accessed 16 July 2015).

(42) A. A. Maslov, ‘How Were Soviet Blocking Detachments Employed?’, The Journal of Slavic Military Studies 9, no. 2 (1996): 427–35; here 430–1, citing a manuscript memoir from the Russian Military Archive. See also David M. Glantz, Colossus Reborn: The Red Army at War, 1941–1943 (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2005), 580–1.

(43) 18ID(mot), Abt. Ic, ‘Anlagenheft zum Tätigkeitsbericht 1942, 9.1.1942-30.4.42’, BA-MA RH 26-18/60.

(44) Bezverkhnyi, SMERSh, 26–7.

(45) O. B. Mozokhin, ‘Statistika repressivnoi deiatel’nosti organov bezopasnosti SSSR (1943 gg.)’, Voenno-istoricheskii arkhiv 9 (2005): 184–91,Chapter 7, Table 7.1

(46) Harvard Project on the Soviet Social System. Schedule A, Vol. 16, Case 323, p. 64. (Male, 33, Ukrainian.) Widener Library, Harvard University.

(47) Harvard Project on the Soviet Social System. Schedule A, Vol. 5, Case 56, p. 11.

(48) Ibid., p. 27.

(49) Harvard Project on the Soviet Social System. Schedule A, Vol. 26, Case 517, p. 4. (Male, 38, Great Russian, electrical engineer.) Widener Library, Harvard University.

(50) Harvard Project on the Soviet Social System. Schedule A, Vol. 14, Case 240, p. 75. (Male, 27–8, Great Russian, Student.) Widener Library, Harvard University.

(51) G. Koifman, interview with Afroim Aronovich Fraiman (25 March 2011), http://iremember.ru/memoirs/pekhotintsi/frayman-afroim-aronovich/ (accessed 3 November 2015).

(52) V. Samarin, ‘Grazhdanskaia zhizn’ pod nemetskoi okkupatsiei, 1942–1944’, in ‘Svershilos’: Prishli nemtsy!’ Ideinyi kollaboratsionizm v SSSR v period Velikoi Otechestvennoi voiny, ed. Oleg Budnitskii (Moscow: Rosspen, 2012), 227–318,

(53) See, for example, Harvard Project on the Soviet Social System, Schedule B, Vol. 11, Case 485, p. 4. Widener Library, Harvard University.

(54) See Edele, ‘Take (No) Prisoners’, 368–9.

(55) Harvard Project on the Soviet Social System. Schedule A, Vol. 14, Case 191, p. 32. (Male, 25, Mordvin, Tractorist.) Widener Library, Harvard University.

(56) Sonderführer Gross, 299. Infanterie-Division, Ic, ‘Betr.: Gefangnenvernehmung (12.7.1941)’, BA-MA RH 24-17/171, folio 31.

(57) Valentinov, ‘Wie ich “Kollaborateur” wurde’, 11.

(58) Valentinov, ‘Wie ich “Kollaborateur” wurde’, 12–13. His use of the term ‘officer’ is anachronistic. Until 1943 there were only ‘commanders’.

(59) Panzerarmeeoberkommando 3, Ic, ‘Propaganda in den Feind. Propaganda des Feindes’ (28 January 1942), folio 53.

(60) Security Police and SD Commander Weißruthenien, SS Strurmbannführer Friedlichs (Minsk) to SS and Police Leader Weißruthenien, SS-Gruppenführer v. Gottberg (Minsk), 11 August 1943, BArch R70 (Sowjetunion)/26, folio 20.

(61) Memoirs of Georgii Ivanovich Karpov (published 23 October 2011), http://iremember.ru/memoirs/razvedchiki/karpov-georgiy-ivanovich/ (accessed 16 July 2015).

(62) ‘Ognennaia duga’: Kurskaia bitva glazami Lubianki, ed. A. T. Zhadobin, V. V. Markovchin, and V. S. Khristoforov (Moscow: Moskovskie Uchebniki, 2003), 25–8.

(63) Timothy P. Mulligan, ‘Spies, Ciphers and “Zitadelle”: Intelligence and the Battle of Kursk, 1943’, Journal of Contemporary History 22, no. 2 (1987): 235–60,

(64) Ortwin Buchbender, Das tönende Erz: Deutsche Propaganda gegen die Rote Armee im Zweiten Weltkrieg (Stuttgart: Seewald Verlag, 1978), 104.

(65) Generalkommando XXXXVIII. Pz. Korps, order by Oberst (?) Kempf, 12 February 1942, BA-MA RH 27-3/181, folio 2.

(66) Christian Hartmann, Wehrmacht im Ostkrieg: Front und militärisches Hinterland 1941/42, 2nd edn. (Munich: R. Oldenbourg Verlag, 2010). On cycles of escalation and de-escalation see also Mark Edele, ‘Learning from the Enemy? Entangling Histories of the German–Soviet War, 1941–1945’, in Totalitarian Dictatorship: New Histories, ed. Daniela Baratieri, Mark Edele, and Giuseppe Finaldi (London: Routledge, 2014), 190–211.

(67) Generalkommando XXVIII. A.K., Ic, Betr: Überläuferaussage, 10 December 1942, BA-MA RH 26-21/77, folio 110.

(68) See Anonymous, ‘V boiakh za Rodinu i za Stalina’, unpublished memoir, typescript (1951), Bakhmeteff Archive, Columbia University Rare Book and Manuscript Library, 119–20.

(69) 3. Panzer-Division, Bericht. Behandlung der Überläufer und Gefangenen, 17 November 1942, BA-MA RH 27-3/185, folio 48.

(70) ‘Gefangneneinvernahme (21.1.42)’, BA-MA RH 24-17/185, folio 56.

(71) Christian Hartmann, ‘Massensterben der Massenvernichtung? Sowjetische Kriegsgefangene im “Unternehmen Barbarossa”: Aus dem Tagebuch eines deutschen Lagerkommandanten’, in Der deutsche Krieg im Osten 1941–1944. Facetten einer Grenzüberschreitung, ed. Christian Hartmann, Johannes Hürter, Peter Lieb, and Dieter Pohl (Munich: R. Oldenbourg Verlag, 2009), 307–67.

(72) Alexander Werth, Russia at War 1941–1945, 2nd edn. (New York: Carroll & Graf, 2000), 422.

(73) For some examples (in chronological order) see: 299. ID, Ic, Betr.: Gefangenenvernehmung (12 July 1941), BA-MA RH 24-17/1871, folio 30; Hauptmann und Lagerführer [name illegible], Dulag 172 (z. Zt. Zwiahel), Vernehmung von Kriegsgefangenen, 19 July 1941, BA-MA RH 24-17/171, folio 65; Generalkommando XVII. Armeekorps, Abt. Ic, ‘Zusammenfassender Bericht über das Ergebnis der bisherigen Gefangenenvernehmungen (26.6.41)’, BA-MA RH 24-17/170, folio 63reverse.

(74) 3. Panzer Division, Abt. Ic., ‘Betr.: Propaganda in den Feind, 19.8.1942’, BA-MA RH 27-3/181, folio 9-2reverse–9-3.

(75) See Edele and Geyer, ‘States of Exception’.

(76) Valentinov, ‘Wie ich “Kollaborateur” wurde’, 12.

(77) Ibid. 13.sic

(78) Anonymous, ‘V boiakh za Rodinu’, 147–8.

(79) Ibid. 193–4, 206–7, 233–4.

(80) Robert Jackson, The Prisoners, 1914–18 (London and New York: Routledge, 1989); Uta Hinz, Gefangen im Großen Krieg: Kriegsgefangenschaft in Deutschland 1914–1921 (Essen: Klartext Verlag, 2006); Heather Jones, ‘A Missing Paradigm? Military Captivity and the Prisoners of War, 1914–18’, Immigrants & Minorities 26, no. 1/2 (2008): 19–48; O. S. Nagornaia, Drugoi voennyi opyt: Rossiiskie voennoplennye Pervoi mirovoi voiny v Germanii (1914–1922) (Moscow: Novyi khronograf, 2010); Joshua A. Sanborn, Imperial Apocalypse: The Great War and the Destruction of the Russian Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 133–7. Some did remember the inhumanity they had experienced quite clearly. See Johannes Due Enstad, ‘Soviet Citizens under German Occupation: Life, Death, and Power in Northwest Russia 1941–1944’, PhD diss., University of Oslo, 2013, 54–5.

(81) Panzer-Armeeoberkommando 3, Ic, ‘Propagandabericht (15.10.42)’, BA-MA RH 21-3/454, folio 11.

(82) Mark Edele, ‘“What Are We Fighting For?” Loyalty in the Soviet War Effort, 194–1945’, International Labor and Working-Class History 84, no. Fall (2013): 248–68,

(83) Ibid. 257.

(84) Mark Edele, ‘Soviet Veterans as an Entitlement Group, 1945–1955’, Slavic Review 65, no. 1 (2006): 111–37,

(85) 18ID(mot), Abt. Ic, ‘Anlagenheft zum Tätigkeitsbericht 1942, 9.1.1942-30.4.42’, BA-MA RH 26-18/60.

(86) 298 ID, 1 August 1941, BA-MA RH 24-17/171, folio 149reverse.

(87) Panzerarmeeoberkommando 3, Ic, ‘Zusammenstellung von Gefangenen- und Überläuferaussagen (7.4.43)’, BA-MA RH 21-3/472, folio 46.

(88) Panzer-armeeoberkommando 3, Ic, ‘Zusammenfassender Bericht von Überläufer- und Gefangenenvernehmungen (20.2.44)’, BA-MA RH 21-3/540, folio 109.

(89) 93. I.D, Ic, ‘Tätigkeits- und Erfahrungsbericht’ (not after 6 May 1942), BA-MA RH 24-26/132.

(90) 18ID(mot), Abt. Ic, ‘Anlagenheft zum Tätigkeitsbericht 1942, 9.1.1942-30.4.42’, BA-MA RH 26-18/60.

(91) Panzerarmeeoberkommando 3, Ic, ‘Zusammenstellung von Gefangenen- und Überläuferaussagen (24.6.43)’, BA-MA RH 21-3/472, folio 74.

(92) See, for another example, 296. Inf. Div., Ic, ‘Anlage zu Gefangenen-Vernehmungsergebnis Nr. 352 und 343, 13.10.1943’, BA-MA RH 26-296/107.

(93) See Edele and Geyer, ‘States of Exception’, 390.

(94) Panzerarmeeoberkommando 3, Ic, ‘Propaganda in den Feind. Propaganda des Feindes’ (28 January 1942), folios 52–3.