“POWs in the Soviet Union are no public but state prisoners, and they are treated accordingly. They work in brigades in the agricultural cooperatives and in various workshops”
“[Red Army soldiers] who have voluntarily surrendered and are working in the industry, in their leisure time”
“Surrender voluntarily! – Russian officers are welcome to the camp. They are happy to answer the questions of the POWs, and therefore they are always encircled by those who want to know more.”
These postcards mostly followed the same pattern. Their illustrated side clearly informed the enemy about who is responsible for the horrors of the war: Stalin and the Jews on the one hand and Hitler on the other. And their message side, on which they called upon the enemy soldier to surrender and described the humane nature of captivity, also served as “safe-conducts” – Passierschein or пропуск, respectively. As if without it you would have not even been taken prisoner.
“Soldiers! Commanders! You have two choices: senseless death or switching over to the Germans the earliest possible”
“The Jew as a rat devours the goods of your people. Wipe out the Jews from your country, so we could finish this senseless war as soon as possible!”
Among the German Passierscheins calling upon to wipe out the Jews, the following one is of particular interest. On the one hand because its message tallies with the “comissar order” issued on 6 June 1941, specifying that the captured Soviet political commissars should not be considered POWs, but executed on the spot. And on the other hand because for the visual interpretation of the message they chose the well-known Soviet representation on which the rebel soldiers of 1917 kill or chase away their Tsarist officers.
History of the civil war, vol. I, Moscow, 1935. Chapter 13: The army and the fleet on the eve of the October revolution
But the main message of the safe-conducts was that whoever voluntarily surrenders, will see no harm, he can work in decent conditions until the end of the war, and afterwards can return to his family.
“This is how your comrades live in the German captivity. After work you are master of your time. If you want, you can read, sleep, walk. You are not summoned to gatherings and Communist Saturdays”
“Winter on the Eastern front: 300 thousand soldiers frozen. German soldiers! The second Russian winter will kill you!”
“Winter in the POW camp: protected from bullets and cold. German soldiers! Save your lives from the second Russian winter by voluntarily surrendering!”
From the 5.7 million Soviet prisoners of war 3.3 million died in German labor camps or on the way there until the end of the war. From the 3.2 million German prisoners of war about 1 million died in Soviet labor camps until 1955, when on Konrad Adenauer’s intercession in Moscow the last survivors were let go home. The fate of a further 1.3 million German prisoners of war is still unknown.