Boris Lvin (bbb) wrote,
Boris Lvin

О пленных в советско-польской войне 1920 года

На память - главка из самой фундаментальной, на сегодняшний день, работы по истории советско-польских отношений 1919-1921 годов, книги Ежи Боженцкого (Jerzy Borzęcki "The Soviet-Polish Peace of 1921 and the Creation of Interwar Europe" Yale University Press. 2008)

(текст - страницы 187-189, примечания - страницы 373-375; страница 187 доступна в гугльбуке по линку

The Treatment of Prisoners of War

In the meantime, the Soviets decided to apply still more pressure on the Poles by raising the issue of treatment of prisoners of war. Already in December 1920, the Bolshevik representatives in the mixed commission on prisoner exchange complamed to Zalewski that Communists among Russian prisoners were singled out for particularly bad treatment. They warned that the Polish "treatment of Communist prisoners of war is considered by us an act of utmost unfriendliness." Now, Chicherin judged the time ripe for a frontal attack; accordingly, on 9 January, Ioffe presented Dąbski with an official note on the issue. [12]

The note, claiming to be based on a YMCA report of 20 October 1920, charged that the conditions in the POW camps were "inhuman." The barracks were completely unfurnished and windows had no panes. The POWs had to "sleep on the floor with neither mattress nor blanket." They suffered from "lack of footwear and underwear, and from complete lack of clothes." Food rations were smaller than required by official Polish norms. Camp hospitals were likewise poorly furnished and medical personnel was scarce. Since there was also a shortage of medicines, the rates of sickness and mortality among the POWs were "enormous." For instance, it was estimated that all those in the Tuchola camp were certain to die within five to six months. [13] To make matters worse, the POWs were often subjected to beatings. Communists and ethnic Jews were singled out for particularly bad treatment; for example, they had no right to move freely within the camp. Ioffe ended his note by declaring, "it would not even cross my mind that Polish POWs could face similar conditions in Russia and Ukraine." If, however, the Poles would not improve the conditions under which Bolshevik POWs were kept, the Soviets would be forced to resort to repression toward Polish POWs. [14]

The Polish side could not deny that conditions in the POW camps were very difficult. Instead, they cleverly decided to focus their reply on Ioffe's claim that Polish POWs were not being kept in similar conditions. Their goal was "to overwhelm the Soviets with evidence that in Russia prisoners of war do not, at any rate, fare better than in our country." [15]

The Polish reply charged that "officers, taken prisoner, are very often shot on the spot." Those lucky enough not to have been shot were put in prisons rather than POW camps. Imprisoned officers were usually stripped of their uniforms and boots, and wore only underwear. Kept in unfurnished cells, they slept "on the floor with no mattress, blanket or pillow." Since the cells were extremely overcrowded and had neither ventilation nor proper sanitation, prisoners often fainted. As for the rank and file, they were put under constant pressure to join the Red Army. Those who refused were sent, "almost without clothes," to the Russian North. In this way, eight thousand men found themselves in the Murmansk region and five thousand men in Archangel Province where they "remain in extremely deplorable conditions and die of cold and hunger." "Extremely difficult living conditions" were also the lot of the POWs kept in Krasnoiarsk in Siberia, and of those doing "hard labor in Tula." "All POWs" were subjected to constant, and sometimes violent, interrogations by various organs, including the Cheka. Moreover, the POWs were fed "extremely poorly," usually half a pound of inferior bread and a bowl of inferior soup daily. Finally, pointed out the Polish reply, no third-party charitable organizations had access to POW camps in Soviet Russia, and even the Polish Red Cross had been permitted to assist the POWs only in December 1920. By contrast, Bolshevik POWs in Poland had been assisted by "foreign charitable organizations," including, from 10 September 1920, the Soviet Red Cross. [16]

Overall, there is no doubt that POWs in Poland were kept in very poor conditions, but it appears that conditions in Soviet Russia were even worse. It is estimated, based on archival research, that between sixteen and eighteen thousand Bolshevik POWs died in Poland, mainly from typhus and other infectious diseases. [17] No archival research has been done on the number of Polish POWs who perished in Soviet Russia, but it appears to have been of the same order. [18] Considering that the ratio of Bolshevik POWs to Polish POWs was roughly three to one, [19] the mortality rate in POW camps in Russia must have been three times higher than that in Poland.

The available specific information also suggests that the lot of POWs in Russia was worse. [20] First of all, the Bolsheviks often used POWs as forced labor in difficult or dangerous conditions, as on the Murmansk railroad or in the Donbass mines. [21] By contrast, in Poland the POWs who worked were actually better off than the rest. Working conditions were not too bad, food rations were bigger, living conditions were better, and they were paid a little money. [22] Moreover, the climate in Russia is obviously much harsher. While it was difficult even for hardy Russians to survive a winter in Tuchola without proper clothes, Poles in Murmansk, Archangel, or Siberia were completely helpless without them. Furthermore, the Soviet Red Cross representative in Poland, Stefania Sempołowska, inspected all POW camps and intervened to improve the conditions. [23] Her counterpart in Russia, Ekaterina P. Peshkova, began her activity with a three-month delay owing to Soviet red tape. It is highly unlikely that she was able to visit all POW camps, given their large number, [24] the enormous distances between them, and the deplorable condition of the railroads.

In any case, having received the Polish reply, the Soviets decided to drop the whole matter. They were obviously unable to deny the veracity of Polish data. Indeed, Polish Bolsheviks, appalled by the mistreatment of their co-nationals in Soviet POW camps, protested to Moscow "against the cruelties to which they were subjected." [25] Most importantly, the return of Latvian POWs from Russia, which had just begun, revealed to the world at large the mistreatment they had suffered in POW camps. The Latvian press began to write extensively about their plight. [26] Thus, the Soviets had nothing to gain from any further exchange of notes on this matter.

12. PSV, vol. 2, doc. 210, 140; Chicherin to Ioffe, 9 Jan. 1920, AVPRF 4/32/36/159.

13. This forecast was made by the Soviet Red Cross representative in Poland in regard to the Strzałków camp. (PSV, vol. 2, doc. 210, 139.) It seems exaggerated in regard to either Strzałków or Tuchola. According to archival data, a total of 5,351 Soviet POWs died in the former and 1,867 in the latter. For comparison, 14,624 Soviet POWs were kept in the former and 6,960 in the latter as of late December 1920. (Zbigniew Karpus, Jeńcy i internowani rosyjscy i ukraińscy na terenie Polski w latach 1918-1924, Toruń: A. Marszałek, 1997, 108-109 and 114; Zbigniew Karpus and Waldemar Rezmer, Tuchola: Obóz jeńców i internowanych, 1914-1923, Toruń: UMK, 1997, vol. I, xliii and xlvii; see also Zbigniew Karpus, Russian and Ukrainian Prisoners of War and Internees Kept in Poland in 1918-1924, Toruń: A. Marszałek, 2001, 105 and 129.)

14. DVP, vol. 3, doc. 256, 464-467; AAN MSZ/12673, 11-13, see also 7-8, 13-15, and 19-20.

15. Col. Habicht, M.D., to the High Command, 13 Jan. 1921, AAN, MSZ/12673, 10.

16. AAN, MSZ/12673, 21-22. The Soviet Red Cross began its activity in Poland on the basis of the Berlin agreement of 6 September 1920, which was observed by the Poles. The Soviets, by contrast, refused to implement this agreement domestically (see Chapter VII, "Mutual Accusations").

17. Karpus, Russian and Ukrainian Prisoners of War, 127-128. These or similar numbers have been accepted by I. S. Ivanov et al., Ocherki istori Ministerstva Inostrannykh Del Rossii, Moscow: Olma, 2002, vol. 2, 52; G. F. Matveev in the introduction to KvPP, 14; and B. V. Sokolov, "Liudskie poteri Rossii i SSSR v voinakh, vooruzhennykh konfliktakh i inykh demograficheskikh katastrofakh XX v.," in B. V. Sokolov, Pravda o Velikoi Otechestvennoi voine: Shornik statei, St. Petersburg: Aleteiia, 1998, 277.

Most Russian historians, however, accept Chicherin's claim that as many as 60,000 Bolsheviks died in Polish POW camps, even though he failed to support it with any evidence. (DVP, vol. 4. doc. 210, 319.) Note that his claim is either rejected or contradicted by the only two Russian works based on relevant archival data. Matveev argues that Chicherin's number cannot possibly be true. (KvPP, 14-16.) Chicherin's number is contradicted by G. F. Krivosheev et al., eds., Grif sekretnosti sniat: Poteri Vooruzhonnykh Sil SSSR v voinakh, boevykh deistviiakh i voennykh konjiiktakh, Moscow: VI, 1993. According to this book, the total number of all Red Army soldiers missing in action or taken prisoner on all fronts during 1919 and 1920 was 160,000. The number of those who returned after the war from captivity in Poland and internment in Germany was 117,000. It is thus obvious that the total number of POWs who perished on all fronts cannot exceed 43,000. (Ibid., 30 and 34; my emphasis.)

18. According to Polish archival data, 46,400 Polish soldiers were taken prisoner by the Soviets. 20,000 of them did not return. (ZZD, viii.) Some of them may have joined the Red Army; however, the overwhelming majority of the 20,000 most likely perished in captivity.

19. According to Karpus, the total number of Bolshevik POWs in Poland was 110,000; Mel'tiukhov maintains the number was 146,000, and Sokolov gives it as 130,000. (Karpus, Russian and Ukrainian Prisoners of War, 62; Mikhail I. Mel'tiukhov, Sovetsko-pol'skie voiny: Voenno-politicheskoe protivostoianie 1918-1939 gg., Moscow: Veche, 2001, 104; Sokolov, "Liudskie poteri Rossii i SSSR," 277.) The number of Polish POWs appears to have been 46.400. (ZZD, viii.)

20. At least until February 1921, when Moscow decided "immediately to return all Polish POWs from work on the Murmansk railroad"; to improve Polish POWs' food and ease their lack of clothing; to take care of their sick and wounded; and actually to pay those of them who were used as forced labor in industry. (DiM, vol. 3, doc. 264, 548.) Whether this decision was implemented is not clear, however. According to Kumaniecki, Polish POWs remained in the Murmansk region. Jerzy Kumaniecki, Pokój polsko-radziecki 1921: Geneza, rokowania, traktat, komisje mieszane, Warsaw: IKS PAN, 1985, 130 n.1.)

21. As Markhlevskii complained to the Bolshevik Central Committee, "in the Donbass, they treated [Polish] POWs scandalously (Comrade Feliks Kon had to intervene against the cruelties to which they were subjected)." (13 May 192I, RGASPI 17/861210/53.)

22. Karpus and Rezmer, Tuchola: Obóz jeńców, vol. I, xxxvii-xxxviii; Karpus, Russian and Ukrainian Prisoners of War, 112. Nonetheless, there were individual cases where POWs refused to work. (Bogna Wojciechowska, Bolszewicy pod Strzałkowem: Rzecz o obozie jeńców i internowanych z czasów wojny polsko-bolszewickiej 1920 roku, Poznań: B. Wojciechowska, 2001, 105.)

23. For example, as Ioffe put it, "thanks to the efforts of Sempołowska, it was possible to secure improvements in the [Strzałków] camp, and the administration was removed .... After Sempołowska's intervention and at her expense, electricity was installed [in the barrack for Communist POWs]. Thanks to the efforts of Sempołowska, it was possible to secure the right for the Communists to use the camp library." (PSV; vol. 2, doc. 210, 139-140.) For a comprehensive account of the improvements, see Wojciechowska, Bolszewicy pod Strzałkowem, 87-88. Sempołowska was granted permission to enter all POW camps on 2 November 1920; prior to that she was able to visit only some of them. (Karpus, Russian and Ukrainian Prisoners of War, 99 n. 4.)

24. According to PSV, vol. 2, 141 n. 1, Polish POWs were kept in thirty-nine camps as of 1 December 1920. According to Kumaniecki, Polish POWs were repatriated in 1921 from as many as forty-seven regions or localities; the number of camps may have been even larger. By contrast, in Poland there were only six POW camps in late 1920. (Karpus, Russian and Ukrainian Prisoners of War, 103.)

25. Markhlevskii to the Bolshevik Central Committee, 13 May 1921, RGASPI 17/861210/53.

26. For instance, a Soviet representative in Latvia described the first group of Latvian POWs, returning from Russia in late December 1920 as follows: "All of them badly clothed, many in torn bast shoes and even without greatcoats .... Until the moment of departure, the Latvian POWs were forced to work, in breach of the treaty. They were given half a pound of bread a day for 8 people [sic]; they were harshly punished, even beaten, for the slightest fault. They were also victimized for turning to the Latvian representatives; the Cheka took two Latvian POWs off the transport for unknown reasons .... Such and other similar actions of our organs just give abundant material for the press campaign against Russia." (Pel'she to Radek, cc: Ganetskii, 23 Dec. 1920, RGASPI 325/2/27/117.)
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