What happened to high ranking German PoWs in the USSR?

#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
 

Alsacien

LE
Moderator
#5
Praetorian said:
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.
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
Regards
Archer
 

AlienFTM

MIA
Book Reviewer
#12
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.
 

the_boy_syrup

LE
Book Reviewer
#13
AlienFTM said:
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.
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
 

Mr_Fingerz

LE
Book Reviewer
#14
#15
castlereagh said:
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.
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):

http://www.generals.dk/

http://www.feldgrau.com/search.php?ID=2

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.

lancslad
 
#16
Archer mentioned Yalta and repatriated Russian POW being shot. Whilst this maybe a little off the German POW thread the circumstances make it perhaps the other side of the same coin. As I understand it, whilst some of those unfortunates suffered from Stalin's belief that they had betrayed the Motherland most of them were former prisoners of the Allies who had been captured fighting for the German Wehrmacht (because they would rather National Socialism than Communism). These soldiers were forcibly repatriated to the USSR when Stalin held hostage at the Yalta conference thousands of "liberated" allied prisoners inside the territory taken by the Red Army. His motive it seems was not only to ensure that the West returned to him those he considered as criminal traitors but that he needed the skills of the many technicians, artisans and other tradesmen who were amonst his "catch" to rebuild the infrastructure of the USSR. Having blackmailed the Allies into sending these men to certain death he reneged on his part of the deal and many thousands of allied personnel were never returned home. There is a very good book on the subject called "The Iron Cage" sorry can't recall the author but it should be easily found on Google. Hope this helps put the whole thing into context along with the idea of depriving the Germans of the chance to recycle their senior commanders.
 
#17
Having just finished watching Downfall again I had some of the same questions! The end of that film has a pretty good summary of the major figures from the end of the Nazi era. Weilding and a couple of others have always come across in literature and now in that film to have been morally a cut above the rest and I found myself sighing when the film ran up that Weilding had died in Soviet Captivity in 1955!
From a historical perspective, or something, I have great respect for Rommel. He seems incredibly highly thought of by some of those who served with him, though with some hating him, and yet those fighting against him probably had the highest words of praise.
And then he was forced to take his own life. The Nazi regime not only deserved to collapse, but postively begged for it at times
 
#19
After watching yet another TV Doku on German telly;The Russians captured I think 8 generals,who were well treated and fed as befitted their rank,in stark contrast to the other ranks of whom 90% died in captivity.One General died of stomach cancer and the rest returned to Germany,one of whom(Mannstein??) became the top General in the newly formed Bundeswehr.
 
#20
Keep in mind wrt Paulus (not von Paulus) that not only did he surrender, but he went to work for a Soviet-sponsored German "free army" sort of thing. Not that a lot of people joined the Legion of St George, but I don't imagine that we'd have treated a renegado like that any more kindly.

(Paulus recognised his promotion to field marshal as a bit of cynical manipulation: no German F-M had ever surrendered, so the legend ran, so F-M Paulus couldn't possibly surrender at Stalingrad.)
 

Similar threads

Top