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Forced labor of Germans in the Soviet Union was considered by the Soviet Unionmarker to be part of German war reparations for the damage inflicted by Nazi Germany on the Soviet Union during World War II.

Polandmarker, Francemarker, the United Kingdommarker and the U.S.marker also made heavy use of Germans as forced labor in order to rebuild several regions from enormous destruction made by Nazi Germany; see the Morgenthau Plan for details and references.

Information about this was suppressed in the Soviet Bloc until the collapse of the Soviet Union. Before that, however, it was known in the West through statistics and recollections of the internees.

The use of German labor was analyzed by the Soviet government starting in 1943, and the issue is present in the paperwork of the Yalta Conferencemarker, but the Potsdam Conference did not discuss it. In fact, the USSR began forcing labor of Germans in 1944.

The NKVD took the lead role in it via its department, Chief Directorate for Prisoners of War and Internees' Affairs (Главное управление по делам военнопленных и интернированных, ГУПВИ, transliterated as GUPVI).


February, 1958.
Return of German scientists from the Soviet Union.
Secret Order 7161 (December 1944) issued by USSRmarker State Defense Committee made possible the internment of all adult Germans from Romaniamarker, Yugoslavia, Hungarymarker, Bulgariamarker and Czechoslovakiamarker. In January 1945 100,000 ethnic Germans, women aged 18–30, men aged 17–45 were sent to the Soviet Union from Romania. 10% died in the camps or in the train transports.. (See also Flight and expulsion of Germans from Romania during and after World War II).

After Christmas 1944 between 27,000 to 30,000 ethnic Germans (aged 18–40) were sent to the USSR from Yugoslavia. Women made up 90% of the group. Most were sent to labor camps in the Donbass(Donez basin) where 16% of them died.

The later Order 7467 (February 3, 1945) of the State Defense Committee called for the mobilization of able-bodied male Germans aged 17–50 from Upper Silesia and East Prussia, "to prevent terrorist acts and diversions" in the rear of active Soviet fronts. Those who served in the regular army or in Volkssturm were considered POWs and deported to NKVD POW camps. The rest had to form labor battalions which were transferred to the Soviet Union for reconstruction works, primarily in the Ukrainian SSR and Byelorussian SSR. Implementation was under the control of the commanders of the corresponding Soviet Army Fronts, with further processing by the NKVD.

According to some sources, in early 1945 close to 165,000 Germans were deported to the Soviet Union from the German territories that were de-facto annexed by Poland.

In total, there were 155,262 civilian internees from Germany, according to the official Soviet sources. Together with the internees from Eastern Europe, the total number of internees by 1945 was about 267,000. They were assigned different status based on their geographical origin: those from Eastern Europe were classified as "mobilized internees," while those from Germany itself were "arrested internees".

From the group "mobilized internees" by October 1, 1946 35,775 had died out of an original 208,239. From the group "arrested internees" which in May 1945 numbered 94,601 by 1946 some 21,250 were repatriated and 25,889 likely died ("or withdrew for other reasons")

The majority were placed within the European USSR. Over 75% worked within Ukraine (Donbass and its mining and metallurgical neighborhood) and 11% in the Uralsmarker.

Forced labor turned out to be inefficient and unprofitable. Repatriation started as early as 1945-1946. Notably, Romania refused to take back its former German citizens.

However, selective internment of skilled workers and engineers continued until 1949, when East Germanmarker communists asked Stalin to discontinue the practice.

The reported death rate was 19% among "mobilized internees" and 39% among "arrested internees".

Thanks to opening of the Russian archives the fates of some of these civilians have been made known, by late 1996 the German Red Cross had received from Russia 199,000 records of deported German civilians who had either been repatriated or died in Soviet captivity. An example of a case record is that of Pauline Gölner; her records reveal that she was born in 1926 in Wolkendorf in Transylvania, was arrested on January 15, 1945 and sent to forced labor in the coal mines of Chanchenkowo (Ukraine) where she died on February 26, 1949, only 23 years old.

There is currently an ongoing research program in collaboration between Russia and Germany; "Deportierte deutsche Zivilverschleppte in der Sowjetunion (1944-1956)"[218980]


A number of German scientists worked in the Soviet Union, e.g. Helmut Gröttrup with his group.


Returning German prisoners of war, 23 July, 1946
The majority of German forced labor after WWII was represented by 2.3 million German POWs left by the end of the war; see POW labor in the Soviet Union.

The last Germans (those who were sentenced for war crimes, defined by the Soviets as being a member of the German armed forces) were repatriated in 1956.

See also



  • Павел Полян, Не по своей воле... (Pavel Polian, Against Their Will... A History and Geography of Forced Migrations in the USSR), ОГИ Мемориал, Moscow, 2001, ISBN 5-94282-007-4
  • Dokumentation der Vertreibung der Deutschen aus Ost-Mitteleuropa./ Bearb. von T. Schieder. Bd. 1–5. Wolfenbattel, 1953–1961
  • Die Deutschen Vertreibungsverluste. Bevolkerungsbilanzen fuer die deutschen Vertreibungsgebiete 1939/50. Wiesbaden, 1958
  • Rhode G. Phasen und Formen der Massenzwangswanderungen in Europa. // Die Vertriebenen in Westdeutschland. Bd. 1. Kiel, 1959.
  • Karner, Stefan, Im Archipel GUPVI. Kriegsgefangenschaft und Internierung in der Sowjetunion 1941-1956. Wien-München 1995.
  • Sharkov, Anatoli, GUPVI Archipelago: Prisoners of War and Internees on the Territory of Belarus: 1944—1951(in Russian) (2003), Minsk, Belarus, ISBN 985-463-094-3
  • Gerhard Reichling. Die deutschen Vertriebenen in Zahlen, Bonn 1995, ISBN 3-88557-046-7
  • Ivan Chukhin, Interned Youth, a history of the NKVD Camp 517 for interned female Germans, Padozero, Kareliamarker
  • The Expulsion of 'German' Communities from Eastern Europe at the end of the Second World War, Steffen Prauser and Arfon Rees, European University Institute, Florense. HEC No. 2004/1 (The section "The "expulsion" of the German speaking minority from Yugoslavia" contains info on their deportation to the SU for forced labor)

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