RUSSIAN PRISONERS-OF-WAR

LeHavre, France

Winter 1944

 

By the winter of 1944, our troops had captured many German soldiers and, along with them, men of various nationalities–many of them, Russian!  These men willingly worked for the Germans, some of them even fought alongside them. Their reasoning was: they were at least alive, being fed, and living conditions–if you could call it that–were better than they’d had on the Russian front.  (See next page.)

Our army had set up a number of prisoner- of-war camps. Many of those men were sent to England and to the US for the duration of the war.   In France, a prisoner camp for Russians –whom we had to refer to as “internationals” –was set up in Normandy. On occasion, a few of them came into our Liaison office with orders (in Russian) directing them to go to Paris.

Of course, we didn’t read or speak Russian so took them at their word. We had to accommodate them and put them on trains going to Paris.  What puzzled us was some of the same Russians returned, dressed in new Russian uniforms. They smiled and showed off their ranks as officers or non-coms.

Then one day, a Russian ship arrived in Le Havre to take a load of the captured Russians in the camp back to Russia.  I did not see what happened but, the grapevine being what it was, told of problems they had in getting the Russians onto the ship.  The men attempted to hide or run away. If they were caught and taken to the ship, they fought wildly. The Russians knew that when they arrived back home, they would be executed for desertion and fighting with the Germans.

The first ship left with its cargo of Russian soldiers and returned about five or six days later for another load! There is no way the ship could have gone to Russia and back in such a short time.  Evidently, they threw the deserters overboard  and returned to Le Havre for another batch.

Future Russian prisoners-of-war were told they were going to England or America, whereupon they gladly got aboard.

The rail yard where Le was stationed.

The rail yard where Le was stationed.

Le (July ‘15) says: “During wartime, both German and Allied forces did not always hold to the Geneva Convention of prisoner treatment.”

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