This post is about Nazi Germany’s murder of millions of Russian prisoners of war. A mass murder to compare with the concentration camp killings.
In Summer 1941 Germany launched Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union. In the following months they won a series of battles of encirclement. Few in the West have heard of these but they were military victories on a scale that the world had not seen before and has not seen since. They were only possible between such unmatched foes and in the vast steppes of Russia.
These victories produced huge numbers of prisoners of war.
Vyazma and Bryansk 512,000
During the war in Russia German forces captured 5,700,000 Russian POWs. About 3.3 million of the POWs died in German camps, 2.8 million of them in the short period between the start of Barbarossa and the Spring of 1942.
About half a million escaped from the camps or were liberated by the advancing Red Army. About a million were taken as forced labour when manpower shortages started to hit the German economy. Finally, some 930,000 more were found alive in the camps after the war.
Some were shot or gassed. In Gross-Rosen concentration camp the SS killed more than 65,000 Soviet POWs by starvation. In Flossenbürg, they burned Soviet POWs alive. In Majdanek, they shot them in trenches.
However, the vast majority were killed in Dulags [POW transit camps] and Stalags [POW camps] by starvation, desease and exposure. The Germans set up a number of camps, usually by doing nothing more than stringing up some barbed wire. Prisoners were herded inside and then left in the open with little or no food, sanitation or shelter. Starvation, exposure and epidemics (especially typhoid and dysentery) did the rest.