Did German Slave Labor Rebuild Stalingrad and Perhaps Other Cities?

Were German captives of the Soviets used as slave labor to rebuild Stalingrad?

I live in Los Angeles and we have many Russian immigrants here. I was visiting my local Ralphs and was chatting with the Russian security guard about Euro 2012. He happened to mention that his grandmother was from Stalingrad (Volgograd today) and that after the Germans had been driven back German prisoners and slave labor rebuilt the city.

So much is unknown to me at least about what happened to Germans captured by the Soviets. I am aware that many German prisoners werent returned until the 1950’s.

It would be uncomfortably ironic if the Soviets were using slave labor at the same time they were presiding over the Nuremberg trials that accused the Germans of just the same thing.

About 90,000 Germans were taken captive at Stalingrad, so figure several 100k German
POW in the East 1941-45 total.

I see nothing ironic about using them, unpaid, to help repair the appalling devastation
the German armed forces created.

It would be more plausible to object in the cases of many German POW taken in the East
who never returned home, but that is a different issue.

So then you would have been OK with the Nazis using British and American POWs to rebuild German cities destroyed through Allied bombing?

Yes, because then Slaughterhouse-Five wouldn’t have been written and that would be a shame.

The point is that German POWs were kept in the USSR well into the 1950’s to be slave labor. Now, that would be just fine using Hitlers or Stalins values. But in any reasonable ethical system this abuse of German prisoners is just as evil as Hitlers abuse of Soviet prisoners. If any Soviet officials involved in this are alive they should be prosecuted for war crimes.

Yes, I do not think the practice is unethical, as long as the POWs
are not worked to death.

In fact, I wonder if it was even forbidden by Geneva (to which
the USSR was not a signatory).

The practical fact of the matter was different post-war of course.

BTW there were several million Soviet POW taken by the Germans,
of whom most died in captivity, including one of Stalin’s sons.
Those who survived and were repatriated were sent straight to Gulag.

I doubt there are any pre-1955 Soviet policy-makers still alive.

And I repeat, there is nothing wrong with using unpaid POW labor
that I can think of, and that includes post-war labor as long as there
is damage to be repaired.

Besides the specific question, I wonder besides our Stalinist friend if anyone else believes that POWs should be used as slave labor? Especially when the same nation has presided over criminal precedings criminalizing said behavior?

They did.
Well, OK, not *rebuild *rebuild admittedly. But throughout the war French, British and Slav POWs housed in camps within or around the big cities (Berlin, notably) were routinely formed into workgangs, escorted through the city by armed guards and tasked with sorting through the wreckage, digging for survivors, pulling down walls left standing, schlepping repair materials around and so forth. Dangerous work all around, because of the unexploded munitions & unspent incendiary devices lying around.

French journalist François Cavanna wrote about the practice in his autobiography - he spent his young adult years in the STO, the “voluntary” French civilian slave labour force sent to Germany, and was eventually assigned to such a crew after a string of disciplinary incidents. He found it to be more pleasant than his previous job in a munitions factory, because it was outdoors work and the SchuPos would sometimes take the crews out for cheap lunches on the way back to the prison camp.

IMO POWs shouldnt be a source of slave labor. Those of us in the West are so ignorant about what happened in the East…both during and post war. The East allowed for genocide and ethnic cleansing on both sides; we in the West sold our souls when we allied with the Soviets. The Soviets also never returned their part of Poland they annexed when they invaded in 1939.

Not even close. Soviet abuse of German prisoners was slave labor. German abuse of Soviet prisoners was genocide.

From the US Holocaust museum

From wiki:

Hitler’s Commisar Orderissued before the invasion of the USSR:

As Hitler explained the Commisar Orderto his generals:

So one war crime excuses another

MMmmm, wouldn’t this be closer to indentured servitude as the prisoners were returned after some time? They were not kept for life.

I would also note, that prisoners in the U.S are used as a source of extremely cheap (sometimes free?) source of labor as well.

I vote, not a war crime.

Ethically fuzzy, but nearly as bad as what the Germans did.


Interestingly, the non-genocidal abuse of German prisoners by the Soviets resulted in a 35.5% mortality rate, while the genocidal abuse of Soviet prisoners by the Germans resulted 57.5% mortality rate. Those numbers don’t seem to indicate a qualitative difference in treatment.

Soldiers aren’t criminals. At least not until they’re convicted of some crime. At which point they wouldn’t be a POW, they’d just be a prisoner. When a war is over, you can’t just keep people as slaves, even if you give them back later.

Rules of war? On the East Front? There *were *no rules of war on the East Front. Both sides were playing for keeps.

It’s probably worth noting that the UK and France both used German prisoners for forced labour after the war. At least one of the US prosecutors had serious reservations about this. The Geneva conventions don’t forbid it as such, so long as the work is not related to a war industry and befits the rank and health of the prisoners. On the other hand, holding them for years after the fighting had stopped probably was a violation.

You also have to keep in mind that the Soviets were employing slave labor from within their own country for years before World War II.

So, not defending their use of slave labor in any form. But ethics, or for that matter concern for human life, didn’t really enter into the equation when it came to Stalinist rule.

Where on earth do you get this from? One war crime was far worse than the other; you had claimed them to be equal.

You can of course cite this from something other than the high end estimate of Niall Ferguson, right?

German and Italian POWs in the United States were used for farm labor, road work, and clearing land; they also worked in factories and mills. I’ve read accounts in which the German POWs, at least, felt pretty good about the farm work – getting some sun and three square meals a day in Iowa compared favorably to a gulag in Siberia.

Interestingly, one reason so many POWs were shipped to America (as opposed to being held in camps in North Africa or Europe) was to alleviate shipping shortages. That sounds counterintuitive, but US production was so high that we were already shipping food overseas to Europe and the Soviet Union to help with shortages there – feeding POWs locally-produced European food would simply add to the local shortages and have to be replaced by more shipments from the US. Vessels returning to the US were not carrying nearly so much in the way of goods, so it made sense to load them up with POWs and feed the men directly from US farms, freeing up the ships that would have been used for future shipments to overseas camps.