GWA commemorates the 65th Anniversary of the genocidal deportations of the Russian-Germans

By Dr. J. Otto Pohl

German World Alliance/Deutsche Weltallianz, News/Nachrichten, August 28,2006

The 28th August of this year marks the official day of commemoration for the 65th anniversary of the deportation of the Russian-Germans. On 28 August 1941, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet issued Ukaz no. 21-160, On Resettling the Germans, Living in the Region of the Volga. This resolution ordered the resettlement of all the German population, living in the region of the Volga, to other regions. It specified these regions as Kazakhstan and Novosibirsk Oblast, Omsk Oblast and Altai Krai in Siberia. Ukaz no. 21-160 came in the wake of earlier decisions by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and Council of Peoples Commissariats to deport the Volga German. It is due to the fact that the decree by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet was widely publicized soon after passing that gives it such symbolic weight. Due to this public symbolism, the 28th of August has become a day of remembering for the repression of all Russian-Germans in the USSR during World War II and after.

The forced removal of Russian-Germans from their traditional homes by the NKVD had already begun on 15 August 1941 with the evacuation of the Crimean Germans to the Kuban and North Caucasus. In less than two weeks these communities, some of which dated back to 1804, permanently ceased to exist. Over 50,000 people had been uprooted with a complete disregard for their human rights. Later in October, the Soviet government again displaced the Crimean Germans. This time it sent them to Kazakhstan and Siberia.

The Stalin regime then ordered and carried out the deportation of the Volga Germans. The Russian-German communities in the Volga German Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, Saratov Oblast and Stalingrad Oblast had a total population of nearly 450,000 prior to their annihilation in 1941. Some of the original German settlements on the Volga had existed without interruption since 1764. During the first three weeks of September 1941, the NKVD assisted by the Red Army and regular police forcibly herded these men, women and children into train wagons meant for the transport of freight or livestock. Each rail car averaged more than forty deportees. Many wagons had only a pail to serve as a latrine. The deportees did not receive sufficient food or water during transit. They thus had to rely upon the food they had hurriedly packed while being rounded up for deportation. Much of the food they brought with them from the Volga, however, spoiled in the stifling heat of the enclosed boxcars. These overcrowded and unhygienic conditions led to numerous outbreaks of contagious diseases. This horrifying journey into exile averaged around two weeks. Some trains, however, took much longer. Echelon 816 took an agonizing 25 days to reach its final destination in Krasnoiarsk Krai. The deportation resembled a modern Middle Passage.

After the deportation of the Volga Germans, the Soviet government rapidly proceeded to ethnically cleanse all of the USSR west of the Urals remaining under its control of ethnic Germans. The NKVD forcibly rounded up and loaded onto trains bound for Kazakhstan and Siberia another 400,000 plus Russian-Germans from Ukraine, the Caucasus, and European Russia. In total over 850,000 Russian-Germans started this journey into punitive internal exile before the end of 1941. Less than 800,000 of them arrived in captivity alive. Over 200,000 more perished from malnutrition, disease, exposure, over work and abuse in Kazakhstan, the Urals and Siberia during the next several years.

The German World Alliance calls upon members worldwide to commemorate, on August 28th, the deportation of the Russian-Germans and to educate their friends and neighbors regarding the fate of this large, peaceful and loyal ethnic group at the hands of the Soviets.

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller