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Remembered Today:

POW camps in Russia

Ahmed Pasic

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My paternal Slovenian grandfather fought in the A-H army and ended up as prisoner in "White Russia" - sorry, but I can't provide any other details. Hopefully I will be able to track down his wartime service details at some stage, but I just have no idea as to how or when.

i know the church-chapel that you write of Bob - having visited up that way many years ago. The wonderful walk up the mountains is 'breath taking', and then to see such a building and to know a little about the WW1 history involving Russian POWs is really something else.

Welcome back by the way - you seemed to have gone quiet for a time, missed your insights!

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I was extraordinarily busy for a while, and just dropped out of the Forum for a while while I got some projects out the door. Now I want to ease back into my WW I studies and writing again.

Are you familiar with the Slovene town Kobarid, some miles south down the road to the Adriatic from the Versic Pass? (I'm leaving a lot of accents out here.) I probably drove through it 15 times before I realized it was Caparetto of Ernst Hemmingway/Farewell to Arms fame. They have an excellent WW I museum in the town, fairly recently founded, award-winning.

For a while I thought that my father had fought in the Battle of Caparetto in late 1917, his flame-thrower company did (2 Kompagnie, Garde-Reserve-Pionier-Regiment (Flammenwerfer) ), but I realized that at that time he was in hospital; his worst wound from Verdun caused him trouble for over 10 years, and he spent much of 1917 in and out of hospitals, with a persistently infected left arm, and the observation he told me must have come from chums in his company who were actually there.

Did you ever climb Triglav?

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Kobarid/Caporetto - yes, I know it well - walked up to the monument to the Italian war dead (twice in the same hour). Such a beautiful place! The museum is also a wonderful, if not haunting, reminder of the place and the time. (Did you walk around to the Roman fort remains by chance? I stumbled through the scrub for 30 mins or so -its on the left hand side facing the monument)

I read the book in high school, almost 30 years ago now, so to be at the actual area was a bit of a thrill.

I walked up lots of hills in and around Tolmin/Most na Soci/Kneza - but not Triglav, will need to get some fitness way up before tackling that monster!

I am hoping to get back out there this year - but its long flight from down under! There are several publications that I want to buy based on the battles, with English translations - my cousins don't have an interest in the war, but a few of the older generation (WW2) still like to yarn about their experiences.

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I climbed Triglav (means "three hats", it has three peaks, it was considered a Slovene god in pagan times, I think) twice, both times cleverly with women, but still suffered. But years later, when I trained (mostly on a rowing machine) before going climbing in Switzerland (Zermatt), I could climb in 5 1/2 hours what it took me 1 1/2 days on Triglav, and at a mile higher altitude. (And I had coranary (sp?) heart disease, but did not know it, until three heart attacks soon after). Conditioning is important, but over 10,000 feet one's cardio-pulmonary fitness is probably more important than the strength of one's legs, hence the value of the rowing, although I was not going to row up a mountain. There is almost no technical climbing on the normal routes on Trigav. The first time I headed east with my Slovene guide Tony (Anton), going to Chamonix in France and then Zermatt in Switzerland, he first insisted that we visit an Italian WW I war cemetery somewhere west of Kobarid; he was still angry that the Italians and the Austro-Hungarians made the Slovenes fight each other, he wanted to show me the Slovene names on the graves. It was quite romantic; I don't remember its name; I don't know if I ever did.

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  • 3 weeks later...
Guest pinkleytaurus

Hi, I am wondering if anyone could point me to any list of or record of which German POW went to which Russian camp - or released from which camp? I have family story of my great grandfather I am trying to research but am having great difficulty finding any records of the German POW's in Russia. Thanks!

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  • 1 month later...
Guest pres_ciha

My great grandfather served in the eastern front for six months before he was captured by the Russians and would serve six years in a POW camp, most likely in Siberia where it was probably under Bolshevik control at the end of the war, we believe it was under Bolshevik control because he immigrated to the US, they were one of the reasons he decided to come to the US, my dad told me that growing up he knew when he was cursing, he would always say "oktehimo Bolshevik". My great grandpa would end up escaping from the camp and making his way back to his home village, which was in Bohemia, where he found his first wife had died during the war, but his child was being taken care of by her aunt, the aunt being the sister to his wife. The aunt was forced, by her father, to marry my great grandpa and they would have one child together in Bohemia and my grandpa to be born in the US. I also have heard of stories where towards the end of the war, often times the POWs in the Russian camps would hang themselves on a daily basis every night, we believe my great grandpa most likely had suffered from post traumatic stress disorder throughout his whole life because he also ended his own life in the same manner in his 80s or so.

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  • 6 months later...

Can anyone help me find any information on my Grandfather's time in WWI. He was Slovak from the village of Brehy in central Slovakia. He and his brother Jan were drafted into the Austro-Hungarian army and sent to the eastern front in the artillery corp. At some point they were captured by the Russians and sent to a POW camp Siberia. My grandfather was good with horses and they make him a blacksmith at the camp. At some point they were released and walked home to Slovakia.

Are there resources to find out which unit they were with in the A-H army, when they were captured and which POW camp they were sent to. Their names were Tomas Laco and Jan Laco. Any help wold be very welcome. Thanks.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Just found this discussion. My grandfather was from Krakow, officer in the A-H army, captured by the Russians and sent to a Siberian POW camp. He escaped after several years, but not before the camp had been controlled in turn by the Americans and finally the Japanese. In addition to being curious about my grandfather's experience, I am fascinated by the idea that the US took over the camp for several months before turning it over to the Japanese. Has anyone come across any info on this particular? It might pinpoint which camp it was, but I have found no record that the US ever ran such a camp.

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  • 1 month later...

ICRC August 2014 millions of POW records including a good many (but not complete) for Russia POW camps to go online!


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After the great war, the Russian hinterland began to arrive first echelons of prisoners of war. In the city of Barnaul, Altai region, was established as a camp for prisoners of war.

Below is the article from the journal "Capitalists" of February 21, 2014

Money behind barbed wire.

Among the many ersatz money going in Barnaul in dark times of the revolution and Civil war, deserve special attention, the so-called camp bona - homemade notes that were used by the prisoners of the First world contained in the camps in Altai.

Now it is incredibly rare and expensive collector's items that 100 years ago was appreciated a little more expensive paper. Yes and it is difficult to imagine modern barnauljtsu the fact that foreign currency was the citizens accustomed not in the form of the Euro and the dollar, but in the form of money, which were made prisoners of war to the Europeans.

Traditionally camp boom has been released as themselves administration pow camps and groups of prisoners of war. Prisoner-of captivity, and commodity-money relations work even in prison. Huge surge in production of such bills happened due to the First world war. On the territory of the warring parties proved to be a huge number of prisoners of war.

Only in Russia, according to some estimates, there were about 2 million soldiers and officers of the Germans, Bulgarians, Turks, Austrians, Hungarians, Czechs, Serbs, Slovaks, Macedonians, and so on, Such masses of people just didn't set the barracks, they were actively used as a cheap and available labour force. In this situation, the money that has made the state for the maintenance of the camps themselves prisoners of war, lacked. Therefore camp took often took things into their own hands.

Interestingly, the guards and protected essentially entered into a social contract: "Yes, we are on different sides of the camp fence, but let's establish mutually beneficial and long-term partnership".

Began the creation of cooperatives, unions and even a camp banks, and the printing of bills connected and sometimes local authorities. Bons actively went in deals of the type "pow - pow" and "administration " prisoner of war", as well as between guards and staff. In fact, this camp had begun to live under their own laws, while former adversaries became each other even closer than the government's own country.

In the production of ersatz money was no exception, and Barnaul. The first prisoners of war began to arrive to us even in the autumn of 1914 - literally at the beginning of the First world. Soldiers of the multinational Austro-Hungarian army was carrying on the Ob sea. The first group of war prisoners consisted of two thousand people, and all of the Altai visited about 15 thousand people.

Because the Russian Empire kept the Convention On treatment of prisoners of war, the camp was more like military towns than in prison. Soldiers of enemy armies lived on wasteland near Barnaul Wolf mane (current area Sakharov) - without watchtowers and barbed wire.

The attitude of residents to them neutrally-indulgent, Czechs even managed to create in Barnaul football team and participate in various tournaments. Maybe that's why the appearance of the camp of money was quite natural at the time.

In 1919, Barnaul camp has printed a series of characters in 1, 3, 5 and 10 roubles promissory note and colored paper. As a rule, limited editions, finely-change bills.

It was a natural phenomenon for all countries, starting from the Far East to Italy and France. In conditions of financial instability, to use lager coupons was quite profitable. They can be spent on the purchase of clothes, shoes or products, and you pay them some service - from the manufacture of cigarette cases and mouthpieces to casting rings and production of musical instruments. Not all the prisoners wanted to work in conditions of a natural exchange, they wanted money. The camp administration such things were encouraged and could throw a prize for loyalty or salary for a certain amount of work. By the way, Barnaul camp Bons was called Lagerschein.

With the end of the Civil war prison camps ceased to exist, and the foreigners left Barnaul. Camp Bons proved useless and they destroyed almost everything. Collectors have their own opinion. Despite the primitive nature of registration, the low quality of paper and the simplicity of their construction - the bonds are valued now incredibly expensive, as many other ersatz money of the past - at least the 18th century, though the 20th century. For example, 1 Barnaul camp rouble of 1919 now you can get about 35 modern thousand rubles. And this is only the starting price of the auction for numismatists.

You can add that in Barnaul efforts of prisoners of war was built a Catholic Church.



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PRISONERS of war in Siberia.
1. Prisoners of the First world war. During the First world war in Russian captivity was about 2.3 million soldiers and officers of the Austro-Hungarian, German and Turkish armies. The vast majority of them (about 2.1 million) were soldiers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In accordance with decree of the General staff of the Russian army by the Germans and Hungarians, as less reliable in comparison with prisoners Romanians and Slavs, were sent to Siberia, the far East and in Turkestan. Initially, the Russian government planned to place prisoners in areas remote from major cities and railroads, on the territory of Omsk and Irkutsk military districts. However, due to the large numbers of prisoners and the lack of special barracks (camps) 1st party of prisoners of war had to be placed directly in the Siberian cities (Barnaul, Irkutsk, Ishim, Kurgan, Novonikolaevsk, Omsk, Petropavlovsk, Semipalatinsk, Sretensk, Tobolsk, Tomsk, Troitskosavsk, Tyumen, Khabarovsk, Chita, Chelyabinsk, and others). First echelons of prisoners of war arrived in the region in September 1914. By January 1, 1915 in Siberia focused approximately 186 tycoelectronics, in the summer of 1915, their number has sharply increased and reached approximately 150,000 people in the Omsk military district, and about 200 thousand in Irkutsk military district. In 1916-17 accommodation of prisoners of war on the territory of Russia acquired otherwise by reducing the number of prisoners in Eastern Siberia and their transfer a significant part in the European territory of the country for participation in the rear, and agricultural work. By January 1, 1917 in the Omsk military district there were about 200 thousand, in Irkutsk military district, approximately 135 thousand prisoners of war. According to the General staff of the Russian army, on September 1, 1917 on the territory of Omsk, Irkutsk and Amur military district was placed next to 257 thousand prisoners of war Hungarians, Austrians, Germans, poles, Czechs, Italians, Slovaks and others.
Another contingent of prisoners of war were so-called civil prisoners, most of the German and Austro-Hungarian citizens liable for call-up, stayed for the war on the territory of Russia. Later this category ranked in General all foreign nationals of the Central powers, fit for military service. So, by October 1914 in the Steppe of the General government were arrested 246 German citizens. "Civil prisoners housed in Tobolsk, Tomsk and Yeniseisk the provinces, and also in the Yakutsk region. The Russian government is subsidising this category according to the norms of political exiles. The position of the majority "civil prisoners" was heavy, especially in Eastern Siberia. Besides "civil prisoners", in Siberia evacuated so-called oenotherapy - civilians, captured by the current army in enemy territory. This category of prisoners of war in Siberia was small.
Great influence on the conditions of detention of prisoners of war had an extremely limited housing Siberia, in the first place - a severe shortage of heated housing. Lack of special facilities (camps for prisoners of war have led to the attempted military authorities to shift the responsibility for their placing on the city authorities. As a result, housing prisoners in cities passed converted into barracks premises of private houses, warehouses, schools, slaughterhouses, circuses, etc. Prisoners of the Slavs, the authorities sought to place on the homes of ordinary people, the German-speaking prisoners in barracks. On the resettlement of prisoners of war of the Siberian city has spent large sums, however extreme overcrowding and the violation of sanitary norms often led to outbreaks of infectious diseases. Medical assistance POWs received in urban hospitals, whose capabilities were very limited, and only in large cities in the military field hospitals. Requirements of city authorities to the military authorities to arrange for prisoners of war separate facility and provide sanitary control of arriving trains with prisoners was not executed. In result in the concentration of prisoners of war diseases periodically wore an epidemic. By April 1, 1915 among 135 thousand prisoners of war, placed in the Omsk military district, was recorded 518 cases of typhus, 124 - abdominal, 177 - dysentery. Major epidemic outbreak happened in the summer of 1915 in Novonikolaevsk, where prisoners of war were placed in unsuitable buildings near the Kamenka river in unsanitary conditions. 4 083 prisoners sick with typhus, died 1 249, about 2 thousand people fell ill with cholera, typhoid fever, dysentery, among them about 400 died. A large number of victims ended fever epidemic in the autumn of 1915 in pow camp in Sretensk, where they were held for about 11 thousand people. A total of reliable statistics mortality among the prisoners in Siberia does not exist.
In the summer of 1915 in Siberia part of prisoners of war, mainly Slavs, was moved to the countryside and stationed in the villages and the Cossack stanitsas. Another means of unloading cities and solve the problem of accommodation of prisoners of war was the construction of concentration camps. All in Russia by 1917, there were about 400 camps, including in Irkutsk military district - 30, in Omsk - 28, in Petropavlovsk - 15.
The camp consisted, as a rule, from 20-25 large barrack buildings, in which was situated 10-15 thousand people. Often the territory of the camp twine fence topped with barbed wire. As a rule, to leave the camps had the right officers upon presentation of a badge or accompanied by guards. The possibility of being outside the camp lower ranks was limited. Inside the camp there was freedom of movement. Prisoners also had the right to correspond with their relatives in Russian, French and German languages, using special postcards. Letters of prisoners of war is subject to compulsory censorship. Since 1916 Siberian camps were actively supplied with books from abroad, resulting in the creation of the camp library, numbering over 2 thousand books and more. In the same year the wide dissemination in the camps received sporting events, organized choirs and Amateur theatres. In the camps there were cases of violation of rights of prisoners of war, insults human dignity, by reason was the hatred of protection to former war enemies.
The policy of authorities towards prisoners of war corresponded to the basic principles of the Hague Convention of 1907. In October 1914 Nicholas II approved the "Regulations on prisoners of war," in which he put forward the requirement to treat prisoners of war genial, "as legitimate defenders of the Fatherland". Orders of the Minister of war Russia was strictly prohibited to use prisoners of physical punishment or long imprisonment. The largest penalty of 30 days arrest followed an escape attempt. One common punishment was reduced diet for the guilty. Unlike Slavs, who lived in captivity in fact neglected, Austrians and Germans, first of all officers, were under the control of the administration of the camps, chiefs escort teams, gendarmes.
Soldiers in captivity ate on the norms established for the lower ranks of the Russian army. Officers were accommodated separately from the lower ranks, military had paid them a salary depending on rank. In addition to the provision of Treasury, POWs received money transfers from their homeland and are widely used by the Swedish red cross. Last during 1915 organized along the TRANS-Siberian railway network of bases, most of which lasted until the end of the Civil war. The established norms of food is not always followed in practice, however, prisoners of war in Siberia starved due to the wide involvement of workers in private workshops and camp on the railroad, participate in agricultural work. The number of prisoners of war, helped Siberian peasants to gather in the harvest, were estimated at tens of thousands. So, in Tobolsk province to 1 January 1917, there were 26 700 captive, from them 10,8 thousand were sent for work in agriculture, 5,200 - in industry, trade and transport, 3.3 thousand - logging, 600 in the city economy. The acute shortage of working hands in Siberia allowed prisoners to use their skills and sometimes even to choose the place of work. The labour of prisoners of war were paid by employers, work performed not only material support, but also a means of social and psychological adaptation to the new conditions. Mortality among the prisoners from infectious diseases and harsh living conditions was large but had a mass character and were not the result of purposeful policy of the tsarist authorities. Escapes from captivity were extremely rare.
In 1915 on the territory of Russia began the formation of the prisoners of Slovaks, Czechs and Romanians military units, intended for military action against Germany. While the Germans and Hungarians remained in the camps, Czechs and Slovaks were given freedom, and that caused a conflict between prisoners of war. This conflict has been largely predetermined the active participation of prisoners in the Civil war in Siberia. Brest Treaty, signed in March 1918, provided for the release of all prisoners of war, but their evacuation prevented a collapse of the transport and highly unstable political situation. Since the German command was sent returning from Russian captivity soldiers on the Western front, a significant part of the POWs had not wanted to return. Only in 1918, the home of Russia returned 101 thousand German prisoners of war, 214 thousand German civil prisoners", 725 thousand prisoners of war and civilian prisoners of Austria-Hungary and 25 thousand Turks.

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Emerged in 1918 on the territory of Siberia anti-Soviet government has not recognized the Brest peace and established for prisoners of war - Germans, Austrians, Hungarians - the hard mode of existence. The usual reaction to the expression of discontent was the shooting. In response prisoners of war was created by the self-defense groups in the territory, which had not controlled the white guards the square. The units were armed with local councils and, as the most combat-ready units, were on the side of the Bolsheviks in the hostilities in 1918. The Bolsheviks, in turn, were subjected prisoners active indoctrination for a number of purposes. Some of them were subject to in the West as the revolutionary underground. Inside Russia, the prisoners were indispensable material for forming an international military forces. Exploitation of the labour of prisoners of war for the benefit of Soviet Russia were held in these plans not the last place. Were put forward a task to keep in Russia more skilled workers for the recovery of the industry. Foreign Communists, supporters of Soviet power, it was also planned to attract to the activity on the Sovietization of Western ethnic minorities.

Recruited from the ranks of prisoners of war of the active supporters of Soviet power was vested in 1918 at the national, primarily German and Hungarian, group, with the VKPb. In April 1918 the part of prisoners of war, gathered in Moscow on the Congress of the Union declared war on his own "imperialist governments. From the 24 April 1918 was created by the German group at the Central Committee of VKPb, which received the name of the Central Bureau of German groups under the Central Committee of VKPb and existed until 1920. In February 1920 German group were renamed in the German section, the Presidium of the sections was renamed the Central Bureau (CB). In accordance with the decision of the Politburo of the CC VKPb of 19 April 1920 in Moscow on 16-21 August 1920 was held the first conference of the German sections of the RSFSR. The conference had identified two priority tasks of the German sections: the agitation and propaganda work among the prisoners, and among the German peasantry of Russia. November 11, 1920 the Central Committee of VKPb officially approved the "Regulations of national sections at the committees of the VKPb." One of the main objects of activity of the sections was Siberia.
The German group in Siberia was established after the restoration of Soviet power in January 1920, in the Committee of foreign groups in the Omsk provincial organizing Bureau of the VKPb sent from Moscow Communists. Under the leadership of the military Commission of the German group began forming international parts. A significant part of the POWs had hoped that the Soviets would bring them back home, and was ready to earn it back. Unauthorized attempts departure were harshly suppressed. A small part of prisoners of war sincerely defended the Communist ideals with weapons in hands. Communist propaganda among the prisoners quickly brought in Siberia their results. In March 1920 in the military Commission of the German group was registered already 9.6 thousand German internationalists.

In March 1920 the German group stood out from the Committee of foreign groups as an independent unit. 18 April 1920 was created by the German regional office when Sibura the CC VKPb. The task of the Bureau and its subordinate German sections included the work of agitation and propaganda among the former German prisoners of war, as well as among German farmers, from which they hoped to achieve effective support bread Soviet Russia (see The Germans in Siberia). 19-22 may 1920 in Omsk 1st conference of the German sections of Siberia and Ural, which brought together representatives from more than 2,000 former prisoners - members and candidates of the party. In the summer of 1920 subordinated to the Bureau was already about 30 sections in Siberia and the Urals. In accordance with the instructions of the Central Committee of VKPb local party organisations must remain until the evacuation time intensive use of prisoners of war in the interests of Soviet Russia. One of the priorities of the foreign sections in Siberia in 1920 were the creation of prisoners of war harvesting, threshing units and the recruitment of volunteers at the Polish front. During the evacuation of prisoners of war the authorities tried to hold in Russia the part of international Communists. This order was approved by resolution of the organizing Bureau of the Central Committee of VKPb of June 21, 1921, in accordance with which the responsible employees of prisoners of war, was evacuated only with the consent of the CC VKPb, and the German Central Bank of the sections, the rank and file Communists - with the consent of the local party Committee and sections. The lists of those who left the Communists with indication of their precise location in Germany the party committees were obliged to report to the Central Committee of VKPb. All other foreign Communists were declared to be mobilized.
Mass evacuation of Russian prisoners of war and civilian prisoners" was held at the expense of the RSFSR to April 1, 1922. on March 27, 1922 Sibura the CC VKPb proposed German regional Bureau allow all former prisoners of war to return home, replacing them with party and Soviet work of the so-called " Russian Germans or the Germans, who arrived from abroad to partyboy. The part of officials because of the impossibility of replacing left in Russia, in the future they were guaranteed to leave by the government. The fate of those who remained in the Soviet Russian prisoners of war was tragic. During the mass operations of the NKVD on "national" 1937-38 (German, Polish operations) of them were repressed as one of the target groups of terror.

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During the First World war on the territory of Eastern Siberia Main Directorate of the General staff posted, mostly Germans, Austrians, Hungarians and Turks. Also included individuals from among the Slavic nationalities, mainly filed Austria-Hungary.

On the social origin of a large piece of prisoners (up to 60 %) were farmers.

According to the Russian General staff, on September 1, 1917, on the territory of Omsk, Irkutsk and Amur military district was placed 257 695 prisoners of war (on other data - 335 000 people).

Here you need to add a significant part of prisoners of war of the Kazan military district, located on the territory of Vyatka, Perm, Ufa, and Orenburg provinces and the Ural region.

In the Omsk military district was located 28 pow camps, Irkutsk 30, Kazan-36. In Krasnoyarsk there were 13 000 people, Irkutsk - 8 800 people, Omsk - 14 000 people, Tobolsk - 5 000 people, Tyumen - 5 000 people, Novo-Nikolaevsk - 12 000, Barnaul - 2 500, Ust-Kamenogorsk, 1 000, Tomsk - 5 200, Biysk - 3 000.

In the beginning of the war, the Russian government is not expected to exploit the labour of prisoners of war. However, some time later, when it became clear that in the rear is already a shortage of able-bodied men, and the content of prisoners is a pretty big burden for the Treasury, the Russian government decided to bring prisoners of war for work.

Already 10 October 1914 appeared Rules "On allowing prisoners of war to work on the construction of Railways private companies", February 28, 1915 approved Regulations "On release of POWs on agricultural work", and on March 17, 1915 - "On release of prisoners of war for work in private enterprises.

By the autumn of 1915 at the Omsk section of Transsib is from Chelyabinsk to Novo-Nikolaevsk had about 7,000 prisoners of war. Their protection was rated themselves and prisoners actually switched to the position of a regular maintenance workers. In the end, the captive soldiers was free to travel in trains and without escort, and without tickets.

The commander of the Omsk district, General of cavalry N.A. Sukhomlinov after inspection trip on the TRANS-Siberian railway in order to the troops of the district from September 15, 1915 stated that: "... upon line the road saw many prisoners, alone and in groups wander without any examination...".

Prisoners of war from among the Germans, Slavs, Austrians, Hungarians, Italians worked in rural areas, and worked, and in cities - doctors, cobblers, tailors, harness-makers, garbage collectors, caretakers.
From the order for Tomsk camp from 8 August 1915 # 26: "When new barracks are excluded from contentment in their companies from 8 August war prisoners from among 300 people sent to work on the land at the disposal of the head of Altaisky district.
And, in Novo-Nikolaevsk prisoners of war worked at private enterprises not only as skilled craftsmen and labourers, but even accountants.

As a result, thousands of prisoners of war have been relatively free and wittingly or unwittingly participated in public and economic life of Siberia.

This was the first step towards engagement of prisoners of war in the internal life of the country. While in the ranks of prisoners of war already Mature conflicts on ethnic grounds - the Germans, the Austrians and Hungarians negatively treated the captives from among the Slavs.

The Austro-Hungarian Empire was a multinational and multiconfessional state, and the internal contradictions of their state prisoners brought in the atmosphere of the Siberian camps.
In his letter of November 28, 1915, # 1500, urban-the head of Krasnoyarsk Governor of the Yenisei province drew his attention to the need for fencing prisoners of war Slavic nationalities, friendly related to Russia from the attacks of the captive Germans, Austrians and Hungarians, for which it was proposed to separate prisoners Slavs from the Germans not only while they are in the camp, but when sent to work. To monitor the execution of this order was supposed to police.
Among the prisoners of the Slavs was constantly campaigning for recruitment in the Czechoslovak Legion and the Serbian part in the Russian Army. Many of Czechs, Slovaks and Yugoslavian enrolled in these units, which increased dislike of Germans and Hungarians to their fellow sufferers of Slavic origin.

These circumstances also serve as the basis of the separation of the positions of different groups of prisoners of war during the Civil war in Russia, and in many respects has predetermined their role in the future of Russian civil strife.

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January 6, 1917 in Barnaul, a delegation of the red cross, which included: the Austrian nurse Princess Kunigunda von Croy, the captain of the Danish army R. Wolfe, collegiate assessor A. Zvorykin. Accompanied the company translator headquarters of Omsk district warrant officer Sharov. It soon became clear that in addition to the distribution of gifts to the captives, Austrian she secretly performed an assignment of his government. At this time in Russia ended in the formation of the volunteer corps of the prisoners of Slavs-former servicemen of the Austro-Hungarian army. The Austro-Hungarian government was important, if not to prevent the formation of the case, at least to intimidate oscillating and possibility to reduce the number of volunteers. So the Princess von Croy during a visit to the concentration camps and barracks pointedly questioned the degree of loyalty of the captured officers of the Austro-Hungarian monarhii. Having arrived in Barnaul, the Princess with the help of a local Russian officials, wanting to seem polite in the eyes titled foreigner and therefore not annoy her by curiosity, sent out in the apartments of the captured officers, personal letters, which contained the tricky questions. By the nature of the answers to these questions Austrian command could judge their political sympathies and oath were in captivity of the Russian officers.
As have informed in the police Department head of Tomsk GRU Colonel Subbotin, not having signed questionnaires officers "will give rise to his charge as from the content of the letters shows that the delegation would like to subscribe to the attached sheets those prisoners of war who consider themselves to belong to the Austro-Hungarian army, therefore, those who will not sign, will be considered as not belonging... are registered as changed their state... their families now will come the indignation of the Austrian government"
Lived in Barnaul prisoners Czechs, Slovaks and poles scared such a "Hello" from the homeland and they sent a deputation to the local gendarmerie censor with the request to stop sending out emails Princess von Croy. Only after that the overly shy authorities learned about the content of the letters, and the police investigation began. According to collegiate assessor Zvorykina, silently watching the Princess up to call for the interrogation to the police Department, Austrian woman set out to determine the names of officers who gave his word of honour to the Russian government not to escape from captivity.
This incident had nothing to espionage direct relationship, however, has illustrated the apparent ease of establishing uncontrolled by the Russian authorities contacts of delegates of the red cross with prisoners. However, unequivocally negative assessment of the work of these delegations in Russian army was not.
The chief of General staff General Belyaev quite allowed for participation in espionage German and Austrian nurses, but did not see much of a threat to the Empire.

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Players from camp no. 161

In August 1914 the First world war and the fall in our city began to arrive the first batch of prisoners of war. At first there were 1,500. After the famous Brusilovsky breakthrough in 1916, when the Russian army had captured 45 thousand soldiers and officers, in Altai were many former members of the Austro-Hungarian army. To 1917. in Barnaul, Biysk and Kamen-na-Obi, there were 15 thousands of prisoners. Among them were Germans, Austrians, Czechs, Slovaks, Hungarians, poles etc.

In Barnaul the first prisoners were accommodated in two months on educational institutions, for which they were suspended classes. During this time, the vast wastelands of Dunking groves (in the area of the present Glavpochtampt) and the maned Wolf (now there is the sports Palace) was built Barnaul camp №161.

The detention camp was gentle, be it was not necessary. Many of the prisoners lived and worked entrepreneurs or farmers. Believers visited a nearby camp Catholic Church (today this building pharmacies near ASTU them. I.I. Polzunov) and other temples.

Foreigners often created couples with local women. A lot of them then went to his own home, there were many, and those who have been in the Siberian land for a new home.

Well, but I legionaries? Here is what. In 1915. in Barnaul the football tournament, founded retired General Sterligova N. K. already participated command prisoners Chekhov "Slavia" is the first reference about football in Barnaul dates from 1913). In the semifinal the "Slavia" defeated the local "Chaika" with the score 10 : 3. And in the final, long before the end of the match with the score 5 : 2 in favor of "Slavia" Barnaul "Sport" left the field.

In 1920. in Omsk passed 1st Red Siberian Olympiad. Just competed 6 provinces: Omsk, Tomsk, Tobolsk, Altai, Irkutsk and Yenisei.

By decision of the "Education" at the Demidov square was held match between Bernoulli and bicane, as introduced, for the right to participate in Omsk. Were won by the home team, but the level of training of footballers city bosses were not satisfied. In the end, it was decided to send to the Olympics team, the backbone of which was 8 legionaries-prisoners of war at the head of the playing coach Austrian Ranft. Strange there's nothing there, prisoners of war were scattered throughout Siberia and everywhere participated in the development of football.

On the way to Omsk Ranft took out of Kamen-na-Obi another two POWs Austrians, who personally knew and certified as former players of the national team of Austria.

The bright performance of the football team from Barnaul was a surprise to everyone: in the finals were defeated Tomic (considered together with Omsk favorites) and "our" became Champions.

By the way, one story he told writer Alexander Rodionov.

During the II world war, one of Barnaulli was captured by the Germans. Him to his employees took one German Bauer, which is a pretty good spoke Russian. As barnaule asked for a new owner: where he well knows Russian language. And he says:

- I'm trapped in was in the First world war in Russia. A bridge built in Barnaul.

- So I did himself from Barnaul. That's a meeting.

- A bridge worth something?

- Stands.


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  • 2 years later...
On 2014. 02. 01. at 02:49, Rlaco said:

Can anyone help me find any information on my Grandfather's time in WWI. He was Slovak from the village of Brehy in central Slovakia. He and his brother Jan were drafted into the Austro-Hungarian army and sent to the eastern front in the artillery corp. At some point they were captured by the Russians and sent to a POW camp Siberia. My grandfather was good with horses and they make him a blacksmith at the camp. At some point they were released and walked home to Slovakia.

Are there resources to find out which unit they were with in the A-H army, when they were captured and which POW camp they were sent to. Their names were Tomas Laco and Jan Laco. Any help wold be very welcome. Thanks.



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My Grandfather, Wilhelm Salzmann from Bochum, Ruhrgebiet, Germany, volunteered as a private in the 18th Von Grolman (1st Posensches) Prussian regiment in 1914, was wounded at Waplitz by Samsonov's machine-gunners during the Battle of Tannenberg. He was captured and treated for a thigh-wound by Russian medical staff after being taken back into Poland through the rapidly-narrowing path, before the bulk of Samsonov's army surrendered. He worked on the Murmansk Railway, being a steel worker and able to shoe horses as a blacksmith. In 1916, he was transferred to the camp at Barnaul, and finally released in 1920, by which time he had married a local lady, my grandmother Tatiana Pankratyevna Kuznetzova. After many journeys and adventures, the couple went to live in Bochum in 1927. His best friend was Bruno Streich, the father of the famous opera-singer Rita Streich, who was born in Barnaul, as was my own mother, Valentina, in 1926. Being a gifted natural musician, he was, with Bruno, often in demand for piano-playing and, above all, the violin. You can see more of the story on my blog, uniquearoma.blogspot.com, 'Smoke Signals' - First World War Centennial Bloodlines. A French newsreel film of the camp in about 192O exists, and it is an amazing document.

Barnaul POW Camp 1919.jpg

Before & After.jpg



Salzmann Family 1914.jpg

Tatiana Kuznetzova & Class.jpg

Tatiana Kuznetzov & Family 1925.jpg

Prisoner in Siberia.jpg

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There is quite a lot about the Central Powers' prisoners of war in Vladivostok and Irkutsk in the official records and memoirs relating to the British Military Mission to Siberia.  John Ward's description of the Battle of Dukhovskaya on 24th August 1918 (the only Siberian battle officially recorded in the Government's list of British battles of the Great War) reveals that the Bolsheviks were reinforced by Austrian p-o-w.  Despite this, the Austrians were well regarded by the British command who employed them in Vladivostok and there is a touching lament from the final commander, Lt Col Wickham, who tried to get them all work with decent employers when the British evacuated the Maritime State in April 1920.

They are also mentioned in a diary written by a British prisoner of war of the Bolsheviks.  In Irkutsk in May 1920 the British prisoners played a footbal match against the Austro-Hungarian prisoners (Brits lost 2 - 4) and learned that after five years many of the first prisoners had "more or less been assimilated into the local community".  One of the British prisoners recorded that he had no qualms about buying some tooth powder made by Austrian prisoners that was in a box decorated by other prisoners with ink made by yet more captives.  They also noticed that seven out of eight of the Red Army guards who formed their escort were either German or Austrian.  The British prisoners hired two Hungarian "sous chafs" and a German prisoner, Hummel to help with their administration clean and stoke the fire when their Chinese labourers left them and they managed to bring these prisoners out through Finland when they were released in November.      

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