Assault on the Soviet Union 75 years ago
75 years ago today, on 22 June 1941, the German Reich began its assault on the Soviet Union. Right from the start the military campaign was planned to be a ‟race-biological” war of annihilation. The goal was the economic exploitation of the population and the region, the conquest of ‟living space”, and the systematic murder of both the Jewish population and the Soviet elite. What is more, the attack also resulted in the starvation of millions of people in the conquered territories. The military jurisdiction responsible for the civilian population and prisoners was abrogated by the National Socialists.
Millions of Soviet prisoners of war fell victim to this Nazi annihilation policy: Almost six million Soviet soldiers were in German captivity from June 1941 until May 1945. One of every two Red Army soldiers died from systematic shortages during his captivity – in the camps, during foot marches or while performing slave labor. As a comparison: of the soldiers in the West Allied Forces who had been in German captivity, about 97% survived.
Documenting the names and individual fates of each of these victims has not been possible. However, deportation lists, registration records of forced laborers as well as copies of documents from Russian archives can be found in the ITS archive; of these records, many of the originals are no longer accessible. Using all these documents as a source, the ITS provides information to survivors and their families. In 2015 the ITS received inquiries from the Russian Federation on more than 2,000 individuals.
A fate is clarified after 75 years
Nikolai Schpola from Ukraine was officially declared missing since the first days of the war after the assault on the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941. The only information his family had: as a Red Army soldier he had been taken prisoner by the German Wehrmacht in Brest. Today, 75 years after his captivity, Nicolai Schpola’s family received information and documents from the ITS about his fate. As a prisoner of war, Schpola had been abducted for slave labor and died on 22 November 1942 in the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. In March 2016 the family had sent an inquiry about his fate to the ITS and received the information today.