History 01/02/20 How the Geneva Convention could change the fate of Soviet prisoners of war
Soviet prisoners of war in Nazi Germany were kept in extremely poor conditions that led to their high mortality. After the war, the Nazis tried to pin the blame on the Soviet leadership, which has not signed the Geneva Convention of 1929 on the treatment of prisoners of war. If the conditions of detention of soldiers in captivity better if Moscow acceded to the Treaty?
the USSR and Geneva Convention
Geneva Convention relative to the treatment of prisoners of war was prepared by the International Red cross and signed by 53 countries in July 1929. In addition, the document prohibited the use of prisoners for hard labour, obliged the “host” side to provide them with decent food, the ability to send and receive letters and parcels.
the Soviet Union did not join the Convention because of number of reasons of an ideological nature. For example, Moscow was against the separation of soldiers and officers that contradicted the law.
After the war the Soviet Union through Sweden brought to Germany, which de facto recognizes the Geneva Convention. From Berlin there was no answer. In the end, prisoners of war from the USSR was left without the protection of international humanitarian agencies, primarily the red cross.
According to one, was captured more than five million Soviet citizens. The General staff of the armed forces of Russia considers this figure too high and claims to have 4.6 million. After the war, during the Nuremberg trials, leaders of Nazi party tried to shift the blame for the horrific situation of these people on Moscow, stressing that the leadership of the USSR has not signed the Convention. However, article 82 of the document stressed that its total provisions are obligatory for all without exception.
Under the protection of the red cross
Could the situation of Soviet prisoners of war to change for the better in the case of the signing of the Convention? Pure theoreticEski — Yes. The document ordered the warring parties to transmit the lists of prisoners to the Red cross. That, in turn, were taken prisoners under the auspices and tried to alleviate their situation: the representatives of the organization traveled to the camps were provided with humanitarian aid.
the Historian L. Timofeev notes that during the war, red cross volunteers, more than 11 thousand times met with POWs from the USA, UK, Germany and other countries and in total gave them 470 thousand tons of aid, including food, clothing, medicine. The Soviet soldiers and officers of the humanitarian mission is not extended.
it is Likely that in the case of the signing of the USSR of the Geneva Convention the Red cross would be obliged to take protection and Soviet prisoners. Humanitarian assistance could alleviate the adverse conditions of their stay, at least, to improve the supply of food and medicine. In addition, the presence of the red cross a list of names of Soviet prisoners of war could force the Germans to treat them more humanely, to avoid losses and further trials.
the Conditions for Soviet prisoners of war could be if not equal, then approximately similar to the position of captives from USA, UK and other countries. Soldiers and officers of the allied armies were kept in good conditions. So, in the camp at Wolfsberg captured by the British and the Americans staged football games and occasionally went out for a walk, taking a sun bath.
At their disposal was a library, a sports ground, theatre room. Moreover, one of the soldiers in the camp administration allowed to have a camera. Camera captured even smiling prisoners with guards.
the Soviet soldiers would hardly have suffered such liberties, given the ideology of the Nazis, who considered Slavs to be “subhuman”. At the same time, the red army probably would be able to avoid most severe and exhausting work, and their power would be sufficient to maintain decent physical shape.
assuming that the rations of Soviet prisoners of war and the West would equal caloric content, the red army for 28 days, you would get 1600 grams of meat and 500 grams of fat and 800 and 250, as it was in reality.
But it is most likely that the Soviet Union signing the Convention, the fate of Soviet prisoners of war would still not eased. The Nazi theory of “racial inferiority” of the Slavs did not expect that attitude to the Russian, Belarusians and Ukrainians, that is, the overwhelming majority of red army soldiers.
the Result was a terrible mortality of Soviet prisoners of war. German historian K. Streit put the figure at 3.3 million people, two million died before February 1942. For comparison of the captured 1.5 million French soldiers killed 40 thousand people — about 3%, whereas mortality of red army soldiers in captivity has exceeded 50%.
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