NKVD special camps: Wikis

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NKVD special camps (German: Speziallager) were internment camps in the Soviet occupation zone in post-World War II Germany. They were set up by the Soviet Military Administration in Germany (SMAD) and run by the Soviet secret service (NKVD).[1] On 8 August 1948, the camps were made subordinate to the Gulag.[2] Because no contacts of the camp inmates to the outside world were permitted, the special camps were also known as Silence camps (German: Schweigelager).[3]

The very existence of the camps was kept secret, only massive Western press led the Soviets to respond with a moderate propaganda campaign of their own admitting and defending the camps' existence.[4] Inmates were not released before 1948.[2] In 1950, the camps were handed over to the East German government[2] who tried the remaining detainees.[2] Between 122,000 and more than 150,000 were detained, at least 43,000 did not survive internment.[2]

Contents

Inmates

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Charges

People were arrested because of alleged ties to the Nazis, because they were hindering the establishment of Stalinism, or at random.[5] The legal basis for the arrests was the Beria-order No. 00315 of 18 April 1945, ordering the internment without prior investigation by the Soviet military advocacy of "active" NSDAP members, heads of Nazi organizations, people maintaining "illegal" print and broadcasting devices or weapon deposits, members of the civil administration, and journalists.[6]

Inmates were classified "sentenced" or "interned" depending on whether they were tried by a Soviet military tribunal (SMT) or not.[7] A decree[8] issued by the Allied Control Council on 30 October 1946 made a trial prior to internment obligatory, yet in November 1946 only 10% of the inmates were "sentenced", this proportion rose to 55% in early 1950.[7]

Of the "interned", 80% were members of the Nazi party in early 1945, two thirds in late 1945, and less than half after February 1946.[5] Of the "sentenced", 25% were members of the Nazi party in 1945, 20% in 1946, 15% in 1947, just above 10% in 1948, and less than 10% since 1949.[5] A significant actual persecution of Nazi war crimes by the SMT did not take place.[5] Among the alleged Nazis were also boys suspected to be Werwolf members.[9]

Among the inmates were many supporters or members of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), which especially since 1946 was in the focus of the Soviet authorities.[10] When the Social Democratic Party was merged into the Communist Party of Germany (KPD), renamed Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED), Social Democrats were interned to ensure the Communist dominance in the party.[10] Also, people were interned as "spies" for suspected opposition to the communist regime, e.g. for contacts to organizations based in the Western occupation zones, on the basis of Article 58 of the Soviet penal code dealing with "anti-Soviet activities".[10] In the special camp Bautzen, 66% of the inmates fell into this category.[10]

Isolation policy

Total isolation of the inmates was policy from the beginning. A decree of 27 July 1945 reads: "'The primary purpose of the special camp is the total isolation of the contingent therein and the prevention of flights," and prohibits all mail and visitors.[11] Another decree of 25 July 1946 confirmed the "total isolation from the outside world" as primary purpose, and further reads:

"[Inmates of special camps] are to be isolated from the society by special measures, they are not to be legally charged, and in contrast to the usual procedure in legal cases, their cases are not to be documented."[12]

Neither could an inmate contact a relative nor the other way around, with some exceptions in the early stage of the camps.[12] Relatives were not able to retrieve any information and were not even informed of inmate deaths.[13] Exceptions were not made. In one case, the chief of special camp No. 8 asked the supreme chief of the special camps, Swiridow, if people who were arrested in summer clothes were allowed to request winter clothes from their relatives, and pointed out that the situation was very urgent and that some of the inmates did not even have shoes. Sirikow's answer was negative.[13]

In late 1947, the inmates were allowed limited access to Communist newspapers, which was their first contact to the outside world since their arrests.[14]

First releases

A first 27,749 were released mid-1948 after a revision of 43,853 cases by a joint commission of SMAD, MGB and MWD (the successor of the NKVD).[2] Among the released were primarily people whose arrest was based on a suspected Nazi background, which was found to be of low significance by the commission.[2]

Numbers and casualties

The total number of detainees and deaths is uncertain. The Soviet Ministry for the Interior released numbers in 1990, according to which 122,671[2] were detained, 42,889[2] of whom died primarily due to starvation and diseases, 756[2] were sentenced to death and executed, 45,261 were released, 12,770 were deported to the Soviet Union for forced labour, the status of 6,680 was changed to prisoner of war, and 14,202 were handed over to the Communist authorities of East Germany after their establishment. Historian v. Flocken says these numbers are too low, and places the number of total detainees at 160,000 to 180,000, 65,000 of whom died. Historians Plato, Mirenko, Niethammer, Jeske, and Finn give estimates of about 154,000 detainees, and say the number of deaths given by the Soviets is realistic.[2] Among the dead were an estimated 12,000 discovered in 1990 in mass graves near the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. Six thousand of the captives in Sachsenhausen were German officers sent there from Western Allied camps.[15]

Camps

A total of ten camps existed, set up in former Nazi concentration camps, former stalags, barracks, or prisons.

In addition, numerous prisons were either directly assigned to or seized by the NKVD.[7]

Prisons and camps east of the Oder-Neisse line

In addition, numerous prisons and camps were set up east of the Oder-Neisse line, in an area that was about to be handed over to Poland and Russia. These prisons and camps were set up according to the same Beria-doctrine as their counterparts west of the Oder-Neisse line.[16] Almost the complete male German population remaining east of Oder and Neisse, numbering several tens of thousands, was arrested as "Hitlerists" by the NKVD.[17] Only very few actual Nazis were among them.[17]

As of 10 May 1945, there were NKVD camps in Rembertów, Łódź, Poznań, Danzig, Kraków, Schneidemühl, Schwiebus, Landsberg (Warthe), Preußisch Eylau, Domnau, Panart and Mysłowice; NKVD prisons in Grudziądz, Gollnow, Stargard, Insterburg, Tapiau, Bartenstein, Königsberg, Wadowice, Bielsko-Biała and Ratibor; and NKVD camps as well as NKVD prisons in Tost, Oppeln and Rawicz - an additional NKVD prison was in Slovak Ružomberok.[18] A couple of weeks after the war had come to an end, these camps and prisons were subsequently transferred to the Soviet Occupation Zone.[19]

Handover to East Germany

The Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union decided on 28 September 1949 to hand the camps over to the authorities of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), that was about to be established from the Soviet occupation zone in Germany.[2] The East German republic was founded on 7 October 1949. On 6 January 1950, Soviet Minister of Internal Affairs Kruglov ordered[20] the handing over to the East German Ministry of Internal Affairs of 10,513 inmates for further detention and of 3,500 for trial.[2]

These trials were the so-called Waldheim trials (German: Waldheimer Prozesse), show-trials ending with previously prepared and overly long sentences.[2] Many of these sentences were revised in 1952.[2]

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Kai Cornelius, Vom spurlosen Verschwindenlassen zur Benachrichtigungspflicht bei Festnahmen, BWV Verlag, 2004, p.126, ISBN 3830511655
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Kai Cornelius, Vom spurlosen Verschwindenlassen zur Benachrichtigungspflicht bei Festnahmen, BWV Verlag, 2004, p.131, ISBN 3830511655
  3. ^ Kai Cornelius, Vom spurlosen Verschwindenlassen zur Benachrichtigungspflicht bei Festnahmen, BWV Verlag, 2004, pp.126,133-134, ISBN 3830511655
  4. ^ Petra Haustein, Instrumentalisierung, Verdrängung, Aufarbeitung: die sowjetischen Speziallager in der gesellschaftlichen Wahrnehmung 1945 bis heute, Wallstein Verlag, 2006, p.12, ISBN 3835300512
  5. ^ a b c d Kai Cornelius, Vom spurlosen Verschwindenlassen zur Benachrichtigungspflicht bei Festnahmen, BWV Verlag, 2004, p.128, ISBN 3830511655
  6. ^ Petra Weber, Justiz und Diktatur: Justizverwaltung und politische Strafjustiz in Thüringen 1945-1961 : Veröffentlichungen zur SBZ-/DDR -Forschung im Institut für Zeitgeschichte, Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag, 2000, p.98, ISBN 3486564633
  7. ^ a b c d Kai Cornelius, Vom spurlosen Verschwindenlassen zur Benachrichtigungspflicht bei Festnahmen, BWV Verlag, 2004, p.127, ISBN 3830511655
  8. ^ Kontrollratsdirektive Nr.38
  9. ^ Petra Weber, Justiz und Diktatur: Justizverwaltung und politische Strafjustiz in Thüringen 1945-1961 : Veröffentlichungen zur SBZ-/DDR -Forschung im Institut für Zeitgeschichte, Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag, 2000, p.99, ISBN 3486564633
  10. ^ a b c d Kai Cornelius, Vom spurlosen Verschwindenlassen zur Benachrichtigungspflicht bei Festnahmen, BWV Verlag, 2004, p.129, ISBN 3830511655
  11. ^ Kai Cornelius, Vom spurlosen Verschwindenlassen zur Benachrichtigungspflicht bei Festnahmen, BWV Verlag, 2004, pp.133-134, ISBN 3830511655
  12. ^ a b Kai Cornelius, Vom spurlosen Verschwindenlassen zur Benachrichtigungspflicht bei Festnahmen, BWV Verlag, 2004, p.134, ISBN 3830511655: "... werden nach Sonderregelungen von der Gesellschaft isoliert, sie werden nicht angeklagt, und über sie werden keine Gerichtsakten, wie in der Strafprozeßordnung vorgesehen, angelegt."
  13. ^ a b Kai Cornelius, Vom spurlosen Verschwindenlassen zur Benachrichtigungspflicht bei Festnahmen, BWV Verlag, 2004, p.135, ISBN 3830511655
  14. ^ Kai Cornelius, Vom spurlosen Verschwindenlassen zur Benachrichtigungspflicht bei Festnahmen, BWV Verlag, 2004, p.136, ISBN 3830511655
  15. ^ "Ex-Death Camp Tells Story Of Nazi and Soviet Horrors" NYT, December 17, 2001
  16. ^ Kirsten, Holm (2005). Stiftung Gedenkstätten Buchenwald und Mittelbau-Dora. ed. Das sowjetische Speziallager Nr. 4 Landsberg/Warthe. Wallstein Verlag. p. 9. ISBN 389244952X. 
  17. ^ a b Urban, Thomas (2006) (in German). Der Verlust: Die Vertreibung der Deutschen und Polen im 20. Jahrhundert. C.H.Beck. p. 116. ISBN 3406541569. http://www.google.de/books?id=xlctn5n33uYC&pg=PA116. Retrieved 2009-09-01. 
  18. ^ Kirsten, Holm (2005). Stiftung Gedenkstätten Buchenwald und Mittelbau-Dora. ed. Das sowjetische Speziallager Nr. 4 Landsberg/Warthe. Wallstein Verlag. pp. 9–11. ISBN 389244952X. 
  19. ^ Kirsten, Holm (2005). Stiftung Gedenkstätten Buchenwald und Mittelbau-Dora. ed. Das sowjetische Speziallager Nr. 4 Landsberg/Warthe. Wallstein Verlag. p. 11. ISBN 389244952X. 
  20. ^ "order 0022"

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