What happened to high ranking German PoWs in the USSR?

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by castlereagh, Jul 30, 2007.

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  1. For some reason got thinking about the German General Helmuth Weilding who issued the final call for German Soldiers to surrender. I know that he was captured by the Soviets but where exactly was he held and what were the conditions like? Also, why were high ranking PoWs like Weilding held so for long? I know in Weilding's case he died in 1955 before he could be released.

    I know nothing about the subject, so apologise in advance for any presumed stupidity.
  2. It depended, some were treated fairly and others were treated as harshly as their subordinates. Many were re-educated in camps and became the core officer-corps of the Nationale Volksarmee (NVA) East German ARmy, one of the warsaw pacts most highly trained and efficient armies!
  3. Generalfeldmarschall Friedrich von Paulus, CinC VIth Army, was later released back to Germany. He became a police Inspector, and died in obsurity, never having received a pension befitting his rank.
  4. I can think of 2 possible reasons.

    1 Revenge. The top man/men who invaded the motherland and held forever to show others what could happen to them if they invaded

    2 The future.
    I believe that after Yalta Stalin embarked on a very different plan than was agreed with the Allies.
    I think his mind was on European domination- post 1945 and by returning high ranking military men it would be providing leadership for the Western Forces that would oppose him- remember the purges?
    He he knew the value of leadership and although he kept a tight grip on his generals he had a good understanding of how the West would respond
    and so he blocked that possibility.

    Cannot back either 1 or 2 with hard facts, it's just a theory
  5. Alsacien

    Alsacien LE Moderator

    This might have something to do with it:

    Speaking about the surrender of Paulus, Hitler told his staff:

    “What hurts me the most, personally, is that I still promoted him to field marshal. I wanted to give him this final satisfaction... a man like that besmirches the heroism of so many others at the last moment. He could have freed himself from all sorrow and ascended into eternity and national immortality, but he prefers to go to Moscow. ”

    Paulus himself said of Hitler's expectation: "I have no intention of shooting myself for that Bohemian corporal."
  6. So to be objective on this one:

    Define high ranking so that those who may know something about those ranks can answer - personally I think that it will be hard to:

    a. Define the target set beyond von Paulus and Weidling (due to the lack of literature).

    b. Work out what happened to them for reasons in brackets above.

    c. Work out why some got lesser sentences than others for reasons in brackets above.

    Unless KGB_Resident lurks on this thread - and even then I doubt your questions will come close to being answered even if you set the threshold as low as General.
  7. Perhaps the Russians treated themthe way the Germans had treated the Russians . I could well understand a nation that had been treated worse than animals by the Germans when they were in charge being less than compassionate when they themselves were in charge. It is really impossible for us to imagine the Russian attitude as we were never subjected to then atrocities that they were. Possibly they were tried as War Criminals, which they probably were, and treated accordingly. Before condemming anyone we must try to see things from the viewpoint of those , German and Russian, who were involved.
  8. Never mind the high ranking ones, what if you were a Coy Comd at Stalingrad and were captured? Marched off to Siberia and then freed back to Germany in 1955, to find that your Mrs has re-married because she thought you were dead and that the Germany you left was now two countries and wanted nothing to do with you...

    Tough call.
  9. Craftsmanx,
    Could you offer a reason why repatriated russian POWs were shot by the side of the railway line when my father returned them to their country.

    Strange times, Strange times indeed
  10. In essence, archer, Stalin thought that those troops who'd been captured had betrayed the USSR. The penalty for treason was death, so...

    There's a debate over Stalin's son, who was a PoW; Stalin refused the German offer to trade him for a German general. However, whether he did this because of his mistrust for PoWs or because he (for once) didn't wish to exploit his position for his own benefit is a subject for debate. Until recently, it was thought the former motivated his decision, although there is now some evidence to suggest that the latter reason was the actual cause for him allowing his son to remain in captivity. The son was shot while trying to escape from Sachsenhausen in 1943.
  11. Oh I knew the reason Archimedes, my father was the senior British NCO on the train.
    It was really to make the point that the Soviet mindset was so very different to ours.

    Didn't know about Stalins son though- thanks for the info
  12. AlienFTM

    AlienFTM LE Book Reviewer

    You may want to pop down to your library and find Hans von Luck's autobiography. He tells of being in the first wave of Barbarossa.

    Later he found himself up against a British cavalry regiment (unspecifed - but I always had the feeling it was QOH) in the Western Desert. He and the British CO came to the decision that the desert was the mutual enemy and that hostilities should cease at 1700hrs daily so that each side might recover their wounded from the desert's grip.

    One evening, an NCO came in, proud as Punch, having captured a British truck full of goodies. von Luck spat out his dummy and asked him when this had happened. About 1730hrs. von Luck instructed that the lorry be returned to where it had been captured, along with another truck of goodies to be offered to the British as a sign of good faith.

    By war's end I think he had risen to Full Colonel and CO of a Panzerregiment (multiple battalions). He fell into the hands of the Russians who sent him to a gulag. His crime was illegal entry into Russia.

    They were so isolated from the world that escape was never even considered and the prisoners were quite autonomous. As senior German officer, he was allowed to spend his time administering rather than breaking rocks. He would go out around the countryside scavenging for food. One day he stumbled across a warehouse. All that was in it was a pile of beans. Nobody wanted them because no matter how long they were boiled, they never went soft.

    von Luck took them all. He recognised them as coffee beans, a luxury not seen by the Germans in ten years. Properly roasted, they drank coffee the like of which they had probably never imagined.

    His sentence served, he returned to the Fatherland. He became well-known to Sandhurst and was regularly invited to lecture to officer cadets. ISTR he became a firm friend of Maj Howard (Pegasus Bridge) who did the same lecture circuit.

    If he is still alive (I don't recall ever seeing an obituary) he must be incredibly wrinkly by now.
  13. the_boy_syrup

    the_boy_syrup LE Book Reviewer

    Hans Von Luck died 15th January 1997 (from wiki although I can't find an obit)
    His book is one of the best I've read and I recomend it to the house
    Amongst other things he swapped his captured doctor for a load of Quinine becuse the British were down on their arrses with Maleria like wise when the British captured his workshop vehicle and crew they sent it back as they didn't want him to get stranded
    During Operation Goodwood he persuaded a Luftwaffe captain to depress his 88mm anti - aircraft guns and engage British armour by placing his pistol to the mans forehead and saying '' in five minutes you will have won a medal or be dead your choice

    He also did 15 years in Russian captivity after being captured trying to break through to Berlin IIRC

    They don't make em like that anymore
  14. Mr_Fingerz

    Mr_Fingerz LE Book Reviewer

  15. On the back of reading von Luck's autobiography and another, "Soldat" by Siegfried Knappe (both excellent books recounting the experience of German POWs) my curiosity on what happened post war led me to find the following websites via google that give you a reasonable breakdown of what happened to the German Generals of WWII (plus a host of other nationalities in the case of one):



    Stretching the issue beyond the army perspective - one account I think that would be very interesting to read is that of Erich Hartmann who spent 10 years as a POW.