Inform and Commemorate
Evgenii Aleshin, head of the Office for War Grave Tending and Commemoration Work of the Embassy of the Russian Federation visited the ITS.
Even today, family members of victims of Nazi terror and war from the former Soviet Union are searching for the grave sites of loved ones, as well as for information about their fates. The Office for War Grave Tending and Commemoration Work of the Embassy of the Russian Federation works together with the International Tracing Service (ITS), so that comprehensive answers to questions from relatives and war veterans can be given. In many cases the ITS is able to provide information needed. During his visit to the ITS, the new head of the Office, Evgenii Aleshin, spoke with ITS Director Floriane Hohenberg about his tasks, and learned from the staff members about the work of the ITS and about its archival holdings.
Clarifying the fates of prisoners of war
The majority of inquiries that the ITS receives from the Büro für Kriegsgräberfürsorge und Gedenkarbeit concern Soviet prisoners of war who were in German captivity and who did not survive forced labor or the inhumane conditions in the camps. In order to be able to provide information that is as complete as possible, the ITS staff members do the research for these cases not only in the ITS archive, which holds large collections on Nazi forced labor, but also turn to other sources, among these being the Soviet Prisoners of War databank of the Stiftung Sächsischer Gedenkstätten (Saxon Memorial Foundation). Aleshin expressed his appreciation for the fact that his requests for information could be answered so promptly – and in most cases in the Russian language.
In the late 1940s, in the process of trying to locate graves of Nazi victims and to gain a systematic overview, the ITS was already using a special program to search for graves of foreigners and for identifying the victims. Up through the 1950s extensive investigations were carried out in which city mayors and local governments were questioned and hundreds of gravesites mapped. These historically unique maps will be included in the online placement of collections specially chosen for the ITS Online-Archive.
Currently, the ITS receives individual inquiries from former Soviet soldiers looking for certified proof of their time spent in German captivity. This is due to a decision made by the German Parliament in May 2015 that now, 70 years after the end of World War II, a symbolic compensation sum of 2,500 Euros will be paid to former Soviet prisoners of war. Until September 30, 2017 it is possible to apply for this remuneration. There are only an estimated 4,000 former Soviet prisoners of war who are still alive.
Between June 1941 and May 1945 almost six million Soviet soldiers were in German captivity. Half of those soldiers serving in the Red Army died either in the concentration camps, on the death marches, or in doing forced labor. The prisoners died as a consequence of the systematic shortages - hunger, lack of protection against heat and cold, and the absence of medical treatment. The chances of survival for members of the Soviet Army were far worse than those of the Western Allied soldiers; they fell victim to the Nazi extermination policy. As a comparison: of the soldiers in the West Allied Forces who had been in German captivity, about 97% survived.
Survivors who do not hold certified proof of their captivity can also have the International Tracing Service (ITS) search in its archives for documentation which could confirm eligibility for compensation.