Leaving with the enemy? The flight of soviet citizens into the "Third Reich" 1944/45.

After the Battle of Stalingrad and the beginning German retreat, several hundred thousand soviet citizens, especially numerous from the territories annexed in 1939, fled westwards with the Wehrmacht. They feared the return of the Soviet power because of their collaboration with the Germans (e.g. local administrative stuff), because of their political views (e.g. Ukrainian nationalists), their social status (e.g. priests, big farmers) or former experience of repression. The Germans in many cases in fact brutally forced people to leave, in order to use their workforce or just to lower the soviet recruiting base. Many of these deportees never came into the Reich. If so, they were treated as badly as other "Ostarbeiter".  Here, the unforced refugees are of interest. If they indeed preferred the national socialist rule to the soviet one or farsightedly intended to get into the sphere of the western allies, remains to be answered case by case. Whatever the individual preference may have been, they all continued to live under the Nazi-regime. The reception and treatment of these refugees from Eastern Europe (excluding “Volksdeutsche”) in the Reich was dependent on the outcome of a struggle between various forces inside the German power elite. The three main motives were firstly the use of manpower; secondly loyalty to anti-communist auxiliary forces that still could be of political and military use; and thirdly the racist rejection of “sub-human Slavs”. Economic, military-political and ideological considerations were never fully reconciled during the occupation of soviet territory. Towards the end of the war the formerly dominant ideological arguments of the RSHA had to step back to some degree and the influence of the more pragmatic political, military and economic views of the General Plenipotentiary for Labour Deployment (GBA), the Ministry of Armaments and War Production and the Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories grew. Although there never was a straight line in the policies towards the refugees, new concessions became apparent. In October 1944 the Ministry of the Interior (RMI) ordered a preferential treatment for families of members of the auxiliary forces. They were allowed to seek private accommodation and could receive pocket money. An even bigger step away from the racist doctrines was the agreement between RMI, RSHA and National Socialist People's Welfare (NSV) to let the NSV take care of Eastern Europeans, who fled the soviet advance. Those capable of work were to be deployed according to their skills, special camps were designed to place high qualified personnel like physicians, pharmacists, engineers and chemists. New fields of work opened up to the anti-communist refugees, in 1944 the Hamburg fire brigades consisted to one quarter of Ukrainians.

Immediately after coming on territory of the Reich, refugees were to be registered by so-called "Albert-Commissions" that were created especially for this task. Refugees, who were unable to work, were sent to special reception camps in Swinemünde, Parchim und Branadorg.

German authorities not only treated the refugees better than the millions of "Ostarbeiter" and POWs, they also prepared the German population to accept them as refugees. Newspapers informed the population, that the majority of the people in the occupied territories joined the retreating German authorities in the hope of getting put to work and intended to go back home as soon as the "Bolshevik devils" would be finally driven out of their homelands.

After the liberation at least the western allies could not distinguish the refugees, who in many cases were collaborators, from the “Ostarbeiter”. Via the Displaced Persons Camps a substantial number finally immigrated into western countries.

last modified Dec 01, 2015 02:19 PM

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