Persecution in Russia

Jewish persecution is most typically associated with the Holocaust, but Soviets were brutally victimized as well. The Nazi party wished to push eastward in order to fulfill their dream of Lebensraum, or living space, and forced millions into labor and POW camps in the process. “German treatment of Soviet POWs differed dramatically from German policy towards POWs from Britain and the United States, countries the Nazis regarded as racial equals to the Germans.” [1] Germans invaded Russia, Belarus, Ukrainians, and Baltic states in their pursuit to wipe out communism and Judaism.


At left, a column of Soviet prisoners of war, under German guard, marches away from the front. Place uncertain, July 1, 1941.

— Archiwum Dokumentocji Mechanizney

“German military and police authorities intended to wage a war of annihilation against the Communist state as well as against the Jews of the Soviet Union, whom they characterized as forming the “racial basis” for the Soviet state.” [2] To the Nazis, the Slavic population was subhuman and their treatment towards them reflected this belief. Conditions in soviet camps were so terrible that in 1941, 5,000 prisoners died each day [3] due to disease and hunger.


Soviet prisoners of war pause for rations during forced labor at the narrow-gauge railroad station. Mlawa, Poland, about 1943.

— Instytut Pamieci Narodowej


The war against Jews in the East, also called the Holocaust by Bullets, killed groups in their own villages through mass shootings “between 1941 and 1944, Nazi SS and German police forces, German military units, and locally recruited collaborators killed more than 2 million Jews residing in the Soviet Union (borders of 1941) in mass shooting operations.” [4] These executions were carried out in public settings, even in front of other villagers, and afterwards, the Nazis would simply move on to the next village. Even after Soviet victories in 1943, Jews were still trapped in German-controlled ghettos. Soviets reached Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka in mid-1944 and also liberated camps in the Baltics and Poland in the beginning of 1945. [5]


[1] “Nazi Persecution of Soviet Prisoners of War.” United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Accessed March 16, 2017.

[2] “The German Army and the Racial Nature of the War Against the Soviet Union.” United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Accessed March 19, 2017.

[3] “The Treatment of Soviet POWs: Starvation, Disease, and Shootings, June 1941–January 1942.” United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Accessed March 19, 2017.

[4] “Online Exhibition — United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.” United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Accessed March 19, 2017.

[5] “Liberation of Nazi Camps.” United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Accessed March 18, 2017.

One thought on “Persecution in Russia

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  1. Wow – great post on such a disturbing and horrible part of history. The Holocaust could be felt among the Russian people and Eastern Jews as much as the Jews of western and central Europe although they don’t get as much attention as the latter. This was truly a savage and brutal war and I think you did a solid job exposing one of the most terrible parts of WWII.


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