Prisoners of war, foreign

   During World War II, the Red Army captured more than 2.5 million Germans and Austrians and held them as prisoners of war. It also took 766,000 soldiers prisoner from the armies of Hitler’s Hungarian, Italian, and Romanian allies. Treatment of these prisoners was harsh, in part because of conditions on the Eastern Front and in part because neither the Red Army nor the NKVD expected to have so many prisoners. Of the 90,000 German soldiers taken prisoner at Stalingrad in February 1943, 90 percent perished in the first six months of their captivity. Conditions gradually got better, but over 40 percent of the German soldiers taken prisoner between 1941 and 1945 never saw Germany again.
   Beginning in 1942, the NKVD Institute 99, which was responsible for foreign prisoners of war, began to recruit prisoners to serve as espionage agents, and as part of a future pro-Soviet German government. The Free German Committee recruited senior officers, including Field Marshall Friedrich Paulus, who had been captured at Stalingrad, and the German commander of Army Group Center, captured in the summer of 1944. Many of the German officials collaborated with the Soviets to save their lives and the lives of their troops. Others believed that a pro-Soviet Germany would be the best future for their country. German prisoners were also prized as laborers; some of the best-constructed apartment buildings in Moscow were built by German prisoners of war in the late 1940s. The last German prisoners of war returned to West Germany in 1955.
   Institute 99, later known as the NKVD’s Chief Directorate for Prisoners of War and Internees (Glavnoye Upravleniye po delam Voennoplennikh i Internirovannikh, or GUPVI), also targeted the officers and soldiers of Hitler’s allies. As Moscow began to plan for the occupation of Eastern Europe, the NKVD began a program of recruiting future agents from the prison population. Pal Maleter, who later led the Hungarian revolt against Moscow in 1956, was initially recruited while languishing in a prison camp to serve in a pro-Soviet Hungarian military unit. Despite thousands of words written about American prisoners of war in Soviet camps, there is no evidence that there was any effort to keep Americans who had been in German captivity.

Historical dictionary of Russian and Soviet Intelligence. . 2014.

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