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The Soviet POWs at Fort Dix
January 13, 2014 7:43 AM   Subscribe

In 1945, the 153 Soviet POWs of Fort Dix disappeared into a void. Their ultimate fate is unknown.

The Undersecretary of State who ordered the repatriation, Joseph Grew, is famous for sending several telegrams from Tokyo to Washington warning about a potential attack on Pearl Harbor while he was Ambassador to Japan.
posted by mattbucher (63 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
Eh, these people were traitors against our greatest ally of the time. If we had Americans who joined the Nazi cause to fight against the US, and the Soviets had recovered them, you would bet we would want to have those traitors back.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:49 AM on January 13 [3 favorites]


Is my browser acting up or is this person really using the two inches on the left side of the screen and nothing else? What a bizarre web design.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:57 AM on January 13 [7 favorites]


I guess this is a good opportunity to think about the enormous shit sandwich that a lot of Russians were served in the 40s, caught between two horrible regimes.
posted by COBRA! at 7:58 AM on January 13 [11 favorites]


these people were traitors against our greatest ally of the time


Well these days some civilized nations have statues that prevent the handing over of people to regimes where they might be tortured/killed etc.

I'm suggesting that we've made an advance.
posted by samworm at 8:00 AM on January 13 [10 favorites]


Is my browser acting up or is this person really using the two inches on the left side of the screen and nothing else? What a bizarre web design.

Looks fine on my VGA monitor, here at the computer museum
posted by theodolite at 8:02 AM on January 13 [43 favorites]


iirc the English had to repatriate Soviet POWs by forcing them onto ships at gunpoint
posted by thelonius at 8:05 AM on January 13 [1 favorite]


Eh, these people were traitors against our greatest ally of the time. If we had Americans who joined the Nazi cause to fight against the US, and the Soviets had recovered them, you would bet we would want to have those traitors back.

Ahem:


By Stalin's paranoid law, any soldier captured by the Germans as a POW -- not simply collaborators, but any POW -- was a potential traitor. And the penalty for treason was death.


American soldiers, on the other hand, are only prosecuted if they obtain preferential treatment as POWs instead of striving to escape.
posted by ocschwar at 8:10 AM on January 13 [4 favorites]


I'm suggesting that we've made an advance.
"A person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.

Article 1, Convention relating to the Status of Refugees
We certainly have, even considering how imperfect the implementation can be.
posted by jaduncan at 8:10 AM on January 13


is this person really using the two inches on the left side of the screen

Looks fine on my VGA monitor, here at the computer museum


This is also much satisfying to read than scanning 24" wide paragraphs that are thinner than rice paper until my eyeballs pop out of my head like hard boiled eggs on a bungee jump.

Kids. Lawn. Off.
posted by CynicalKnight at 8:25 AM on January 13 [5 favorites]


ocschwar, that isn't relevant for these prisoners -- they were fighting for the Germans when captured. There are a lot of sad stories in the repatriation of soviet soldiers, but I can't say that I view Nazi collaborators being returned for punishment as one of them.
posted by tavella at 8:29 AM on January 13 [3 favorites]


I think after losing 20 million of my countrymen, my empathy for those who sided with their murderers would be a bit drained too.
posted by banal evil at 8:33 AM on January 13 [4 favorites]


By Stalin's paranoid law, any soldier captured by the Germans as a POW -- not simply collaborators, but any POW -- was a potential traitor. And the penalty for treason was death.


American soldiers, on the other hand, are only prosecuted if they obtain preferential treatment as POWs instead of striving to escape.


I have a lot of background on this. General Vlasov was a former Soviet general who was captured by the Nazis earlier in the war. He agreed to fight for the Nazis attacking his country and combed POW camps for volunteers to fight against the Soviets for the Nazis. These soldiers were captured wearing enemy uniforms. They were traitors in every sense of the word, traitors who joined the Nazis. You can't godwin this, they fought for the Nazis, who were destroying Russia.

If US soldiers were caught wearing German uniforms and fighting for the enemy, they would be court-martialed and shot. Rightly so.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:36 AM on January 13 [5 favorites]


There was a Lithuanian Labor Service battalion down the street from where I grew up. Dad worked at Stars and Stripes in Germany, and the paper had taken over a Luftwaffe training base and aeronautical research facility after the war just outside of Darmstadt.

The paper took over the administrative buildings, and the Lithuanians got what I guess must have been enlisted barracks and officer's quarters.

My dad told me that after the war ended, the Lithuanians were being repatriated, but when it was discovered they were being shot, somebody decided to keep them around. I'm not sure how, but they ended up becoming a quasi-American army unit, that was tasked with cleaning ammunition and stuff like that. A Google search revealed that there were a couple of units like that, plus a bridging unit.

My dad and I would walk to work in the morning, and pass through the Lithuanian compound. This was in the days before any real concern about terrorism, and the gates were wide open.

I got to meet their Colonel, which I've noted elsewhere here, when I lost a flipper in their little fish pond. Somehow the next day I ended up in his office, where he had the flipper front and center in the middle of his desk. He was rather short, with thinning gray hair combed back, and wearing what I recall was a light gray uniform, jacket and tie. He was friendly, but stayed focused on me during our interaction in a way that made me extremely uncomfortable.

Anyway, I think there was more than one generation of Lithuanians involved, because I remember some that looked like they were in their twenties.

What became of them I have no idea.
posted by atchafalaya at 8:38 AM on January 13 [10 favorites]


If US soldiers were caught wearing German uniforms and fighting for the enemy, they would be court-martialed and shot. Rightly so.

You're quite bloodthirsty there, Ironmouth. Why not just imprison people?
posted by jaduncan at 8:45 AM on January 13 [4 favorites]


If US soldiers were caught wearing German uniforms and fighting for the enemy, they would be court-martialed and shot. Rightly so

I don't think the story here is about the alliegance to nations (and the supposed monolithic philosophies of those nations), but about individuals caught between two terrifying situations. It made me wonder how I would do, trapped like that?
posted by niccolo at 8:49 AM on January 13 [7 favorites]


I think after losing 20 million of my countrymen, my empathy for those who sided with their murderers would be a bit drained too.

Did you read the whole thing? A lot of them weren't Russian, or anywhere close to identifying themselves with the Soviet Union or its citizens. They were caught in the middle and chose the side they thought would win. An analogy would be something akin to the US fighting Canada with Mexican nationals they acquired through an invasion of Mexico. Why would those Mexicans have allegiance to either country?

Some harsh comments here. The only reasonable way to view most foot soldiers in that situation is 'victims'.

If US soldiers were caught wearing German uniforms and fighting for the enemy, they would be court-martialed and shot. Rightly so.

I think this is an apples-oranges comparison in this situation. There were many 'volksdeutche' who left the US to fight for the Nazis and could be viewed as German nationals through and through. Sure, identifying with the enemy over your own country certainly deserves a court marshall. Shot? Well, what's your view on capital punishment?

'Repatriation' isn't really the case when you're repatriating someone of a different ethnic background to a hostile, totalitarian regime where they already see themselves as occupied against their will before any hostilities got under way. Regardless of a repatriation policy it should not come at the cost of cruel or unusual punishment. Requiring a good relationship with the Soviets in Asian politics does not make it less cruel.
posted by jimmythefish at 8:49 AM on January 13 [16 favorites]


The framing is too black and white for me, it seems like they didn't really care what the country was so long as they got to fight against the worse force in their lives. Did they even have the option to escape, to flee for somewhere not in the hands of the one of two very evil men?
posted by Slackermagee at 8:51 AM on January 13


I thought maybe they disappeared in the US, no such luck for them.

Their ultimate fate is unknown.

Can there be any doubt that Uncle Joe murdered them?
posted by codswallop at 8:59 AM on January 13 [5 favorites]


Yet Russia's Stalin yielded nothing to Hitler in sheer brutality. For a whole decade he had been starving peasants, shooting opponents real and imagined, deporting entire ethnic populations to Siberia. By the time of the Nazi invasion, Soviet Russia was a nation ruled by sheer terror.

Most Red Army soldiers defended their soil ferociously. Others saw no reason to fight for a regime that treated them as prisoners, and flocked to the banner of the swastika.

Still others had no choice in the matter, but were forcibly conscripted into German uniforms after becoming POWs -- and then put to heavy labor.

The collaborators had no love for Hitler, who viewed all Slavs as "untermenschen" -- subhumans -- but saw German might as the only way to overturn a despised Communist regime.


History is complicated and messy. Russia was supposedly America's ally. It does not seem unreasonable that America would be expected to repatriate Russian nationals captured in German uniforms fighting with German units. So what if they were to be executed? The British hanged Lord Haw Haw as a traitor and all he ever did was talk on the radio.
posted by three blind mice at 9:01 AM on January 13 [1 favorite]


Great post, I was personally unaware of this. It seems like an impossible situation.
in Soviet Russia in 1942 he had seen women beaten and choked to death for taking in washing from German soldiers. Ended by saying, 'Let them shoot me here, for I will never surrender into the hands of the Bolsheviks.
Fucking wow. My heart goes out to these guys, who were undoubtedly executed regardless of their situation.
posted by corb at 9:02 AM on January 13


If US soldiers were caught wearing German uniforms and fighting for the enemy, they would be court-martialed and shot. Rightly so.

You're quite bloodthirsty there, Ironmouth. Why not just imprison people?


Wearing the uniform of the enemy and shooting at the US? This is a capital offense in the UCMJ. It has been a capital offense since the beginning of time.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:06 AM on January 13 [5 favorites]


Wearing the uniform of the enemy and shooting at the US? This is a capital offense in the UCMJ. It has been a capital offense since the beginning of time.

Ah, but that's not all you said. You said it was the right thing to do to shoot them after their capture. That's what makes me wonder why you'd be so bloodthirsty, and why you say it's 'rightly so' that they'd be executed rather than imprisoned.
posted by jaduncan at 9:10 AM on January 13 [8 favorites]


If these guys were arrested in Afghanistan in 2001 for "shooting at the US" they'd probably still be in Guantanamo.
posted by mattbucher at 9:11 AM on January 13


These Russians/Soviets were not the only ones who had been pressed into service by the Germans. Back in 2007 I posted about a group from the Republic of Georgia who were posted on the Dutch island Texel. As the Allied liberators drew closer, they realized what might happen if they were shipped back to the USSR, so they launched a revolt against the Germans that continued even after VE Day. While the revolt killed quite a few of them, quite a few Germans and quite a few Dutch people, it apparently succeeded in saving the surviving Georgians from the fate of these Fort Dix inmates.
posted by beagle at 9:11 AM on January 13 [2 favorites]


This is just the tip of the iceberg: hundreds of thousands of Russian, Ukrainians, Latvians, Croats, Slovaks, undsoweiter fought and died with the nazis and those who survived were not treated kindly by their countries.

Which is sad until you realise that a great many of these volunteers voluntered just as quickly to help kill Jews, Roma, partisans etc.

It's somewhat of a rightwing meme to see these people as premature anticommunists, rather than fascist scum.

Germany meanwhile is still sheltering Dutch ss men btw.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:13 AM on January 13 [4 favorites]


It's somewhat of a rightwing meme to see these people as premature anticommunists

Is this a reference to the US using the term "premature antifascists" to describe leftists who didn't go along with American involvement with fascist nations before policy shifted?
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:27 AM on January 13


My heart goes out to these guys, who were undoubtedly executed regardless of their situation.

Except of course he then volunteered to help the people that were murdering washerwomen and so many other untermenschen. There's any number of soviet POWs liberated from German camps that the US should feel shitty about returning to death or exile to Siberia. These guys? Yeah, no.
posted by tavella at 9:37 AM on January 13 [2 favorites]


This is not the Metafilter I know, thirsty for the blood of people already dead at the hands of a tyrant. Have I stepped into some kind of alternate reality?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:00 AM on January 13 [16 favorites]


It's less that we're thirsty for blood and more that we're refusing to feel sorry for war criminals who got what other war criminals got. These people fought for the Nazis and died for it. Boo fucking hoo.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:02 AM on January 13 [3 favorites]


It's less that we're thirsty for blood and more that we're refusing to feel sorry for war criminals who got what other war criminals got. These people fought for the Nazis and died for it. Boo fucking hoo.

And for those who weren't war criminals, who were actually fighting on the front and not manning the fences? I find it hard to believe that such people wouldn't make up the majority of those captured. As for fighting for the Nazis, it sounded more like they were fighting against Stalin with whoever happened to be marching eastward.

The lack of nuance in this thread is frightening.
posted by Slackermagee at 10:15 AM on January 13 [18 favorites]


Plenty of people joined the Nazis because they saw them as "'fellow travelers' in the fight against Bolshevism." I'm supposed to feel sympathy for these guys because they did the same, and aided killing their own countrymen and women?
posted by tavella at 10:24 AM on January 13


The lack of nuance in this thread is frightening.

Yes. They may just have been barely literate country boys who believed whatever lies they were told. I don't think anyone's saying it was a good thing to do, just that they didn't necessarily deserve death.
posted by jaduncan at 10:40 AM on January 13 [1 favorite]


I'm supposed to feel sympathy for these guys because they did the same, and aided killing their own countrymen and women?

No, because they were human beings caught in a messy, no-win situation who died, likely violently. We can decry their choices while still empathizing with their plight; sympathy does require the absolving of guilt.
posted by cjelli at 10:45 AM on January 13 [7 favorites]


It's interesting to me that everyone seems more interested in fighting with each other rather than finding further information on this subject other than the original - quite fascinating - article.

wiki page that cites now-lost article

google books excerpt from a book on russian POWs
posted by elizardbits at 10:49 AM on January 13 [4 favorites]


These people fought for the Nazis

We don't know whether they fought. The story says nothing about what they did for the Germans, who tended to use these impressed soldiers for guard duties, not actual fighting.
posted by beagle at 10:49 AM on January 13


WWII was a touch on the vicious side; genocide of 6million, surprise Pearl Harbor attack, the blitzkrieg of Poland, Germany breaking a 'peace' of sorts with Russia, Japan genociding native islanders during their expansion into the Pacific islands, forced "comfort women" prostitution, Dresden being firebombed into oblivion, two cities being nuked, ... the moment to consider many actions was forsaken in the rush to expediency and what is often justified as pursuing an earlier end to the conflict and minimizing casualties.

Proper and correct nouns, verbs, sentences, phrases, statements, ... they are not going to exist to describe these events.
posted by buzzman at 10:50 AM on January 13 [3 favorites]


While many of the Soviet soldiers who collaborated did so for anti-semitic reasons, I am sure there were also many who had managed to survive the Holodomor and the purges and gulags and were not too keen to return to the benevolent workers' paradise of Joseph Stalin (who could also be an anti-semitic bastard when it suited his purposes).

While not exonerating these men by any means, I am more inclined to feel sympathy for them than for Nazi collaborators from Western European countries.
posted by dhens at 11:12 AM on January 13 [3 favorites]


I should add that I am not sympathetic to cases like that of John Demjanjuk (if he did what he was accused of having done) where there is an obvious anti-Semitic/sadistic component.
posted by dhens at 11:18 AM on January 13


This thread shows some truly Michael Gove levels of historical nuance and understanding.

But be that as it may, here's a personal story. One of my grandfathers was forcefully drafted into the German army, and the other voluntarily joined the Soviet army. But they both knew well what they were really fighting for: the independent Republic of Estonia. The basic question at the bottom was: in the hands of which violent dictatorial power could the independence be (against all odds) preserved? Because that was the only choice they felt they had to make. The answer, in the end, was of course neither. But both my nazi and my pinko grandfather believed they were fighting for a free Estonia, and not as flag waving ideologially brainwashed supporters of foreign dictators. And as such, I feel the gleeful bloodthirst in this thread pretty personally disturbing.

The grandfather drafted by the Nazis deserted and escaped, and headed back home. He was with a group of fellow deserters, and as luck would have it, he dropped off the train they were on shortly before the Tallinn train station, so he could get home faster. Luck, because the rest of the group proceeded onwards, were captured by the Soviets and executed.

But wait! After the war, due to all the confusion of the German retreat, all documnetary proof of my grandfather's involvement was lost. But the NKVD knew, so they put a collaborator to spy on my grandfather at the tailor shop he was working at.

After some time, that NKVD spy's sister became my grandmother. My grandfather died peacefully a couple of years ago at the age of 86.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 11:22 AM on January 13 [44 favorites]


We don't know whether they fought. The story says nothing about what they did for the Germans, who tended to use these impressed soldiers for guard duties, not actual fighting.

Not to mention that among other crimes that would get you forcibly repatriated eastward after the war, there was the crime of being a Jewish prisoner at Belsen.

If the Zionists hadn't gone seriously bugfuck violent in that era, the Allies might have followed all the way through on that idea.
posted by ocschwar at 11:31 AM on January 13


Did you read the whole thing? A lot of them weren't Russian, or anywhere close to identifying themselves with the Soviet Union or its citizens. They were caught in the middle and chose the side they thought would win. An analogy would be something akin to the US fighting Canada with Mexican nationals they acquired through an invasion of Mexico. Why would those Mexicans have allegiance to either country?

My comment was that I can see how that, after having gone through a pretty severe trauma (one out of every ten dead, many cities leveled, thousands of villages burned), it would be difficult to have much empathy. Were their deaths at the hands of the Soviets justifiable? In my opinion, no. Personally I don’t find it ethical to kill someone who poses no direct threat to you under any circumstances. That being said I can’t say with full certainty I would feel the same had I suffered through that war.
posted by banal evil at 11:48 AM on January 13


And some were not Russians at all, but Central Asians, Ukrainians, or Caucasians who never considered themselves citizens of the Soviet Union.
Eh, these people were traitors against our greatest ally of the time.


This would be like the U.S. conquering Canada and declaring Canadians who took up arms against U.S. to be traitors. These poor bastards found themselves in a situation where there was no lesser evil to choose.
posted by MikeMc at 11:51 AM on January 13 [1 favorite]


These people fought for the Nazis

We don't know whether they fought. The story says nothing about what they did for the Germans, who tended to use these impressed soldiers for guard duties, not actual fighting.


They were of allied nationality, captured wearing the uniform of our mutual enemy. Even the photo shows Vlasov in German uniform. We do know what they actually did. They put on the uniform of the enemy, the Nazis (not like the Nazis, not as bad as the Nazis, the real honest-to-God Nazis), and fought for them. This is a well-documented part of history. The fact that there is only one side of the story from a poorly documented webpage doesn't mean that this isn't a well documented part of history.

And this was all-out-war. These persons defected from our most important allies and fought in the uniform of our enemy.

And yes, after Court Martial, soldiers defecting to our enemies should be shot. That's the UCMJ. It would be seriously impossible for the Army to maintain its own discipline if people who went over to the Germans and shot at the enemy were allowed to then be given another chance.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:59 AM on January 13 [2 favorites]


The "Saving Private Ryan" movie has a sub-plot where a German is allowed to surrender, and then let to leave; and is later found fighting against the Allies. Shot in the face is the end of that scene IIRC.
"Enemy at the Gates"; one of the Russian snipers was simply out of country when the Nazis invaded Russia; and got his teeth removed in the process of finding out whether he was a traitor or not.
WWI had soldiers machine gunned by their own gun pits if they were not clearing the trenches or ceased rushing forward towards an enemy gun pit; during the Civil War the officers on horseback would do the same to any that were not moving forward.

... nasty stuff all around. Best worst fpp for some time. Bleah.

Last few defectors (national rather than military) that are found fighting/representing the Taliban/Al Quieda/"terrorists" I have read about lately have been droned. Kinda skips the whole civil trial or court martial.
posted by buzzman at 12:11 PM on January 13


And yes, after Court Martial, soldiers defecting to our enemies should be shot. That's the UCMJ.

No. The UCMJ allows for a death penalty in such cases. It does not require it. The exact language is: "...the accused shall be punished by death or such other punishment as a court-martial may direct."

People who find themselves in war zones are frequently confronted with awful choices. Those who have not had the experience would do well to show them compassion.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:13 PM on January 13 [5 favorites]


The lack of nuance in this thread is frightening.

I say everybody take a break, go read Babi Yar and meet back here in a week. Then we'll all come to the agreement that the only ethical solution would have been to shoot them as requested.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:18 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


So for the past few years I was doing a research project in rural Guatemala. I got to spend a lot of time hanging out in rural towns in the highlands — Maya towns that had been devastated to some extent or another by the civil war that ended in the 1990s. By the time I got there, everything was rebuilt, and people weren't talking about the war much. Just about everyone seemed eager to put the whole thing in the past.

I loved the people I met, but I have to admit I always found it depressing to spend time there. It was a very isolating place for me to be. People were incredibly private: reluctant to talk to strangers, disinclined to spend time out in public places if they didn't have to. Most people's social lives were limited to their job, their church and their extended family. It got dark at 6 PM every night, even in the middle of the summer, and nobody was ever on the streets after dark except drunks passed out in the gutter.

Once you finally got to know someone — and it could take a very long time — it was different. Among close friends, the people there were warm and convivial. They loved bantering and teasing and giving each other shit. But that warmth and sociability always seemed to go on behind closed doors, and only among people with close ties.

I just figured that this was what Maya culture had always been like — closed and private and reserved around everyone but kin and close friends. But then on the last trip I took, I visited a small town that blew that idea out of the water. All the friendly banter that I was used to hearing behind closed doors (if at all) was going on out in public. Old ladies on the bus telling dirty jokes at the top of their lungs! People sitting out on their front stoops! Neighbors strolling up and down the street at ten at night, chatting and bullshitting and buying stuff from food carts! The other towns I'd known and loved suddenly seemed like pale, timid, inhibited imitations. It felt like everyone else was carrying around a heavy burden on their shoulders, and in this town the burden had been lifted. After all the isolation and loneliness, just to walk down the street and wave to people was a tremendous relief.

What I learned was, this last town had fought on the government's side during the civil war. They had been spared the terrible genocide that was inflicted on other highland Maya towns, because the army had counted them as allies. And when I learned that, all the traits that I had seen in other towns — the caution, the suspiciousness, the unwillingness to go out at night or talk to strangers — started to look less like inherent parts of Maya culture, and more like traumatic reactions to that genocide. Still, twenty years later, in the towns that had been targetted, everyone was terrified. This town was different because it had been spared — their lives had been allowed to go on without disruption.

Here's what scared me about that experience: I realized I would probably do it too. And I say this as a Jew and a grandchild of Holocaust survivors: I understand why someone might, for purely personal reasons, choose the Germans over the Russians. If I had reason to believe that enlisting in a fascist genocidal army would somehow spare my children that permanent lifelong burden of trauma and fear, I'd probably do it. It wouldn't be the right thing to do. I'd deserve to be shot and killed for it. But I'd do it.
posted by this is a thing at 12:20 PM on January 13 [19 favorites]


Well these days some civilized nations have statues that prevent the handing over of people to regimes where they might be tortured/killed etc. I'm suggesting that we've made an advance.

The United States most certainly is not showing more respect for the rights of prisoners than it did in 1945. Quite the contrary. American allies now face the same sort of moral dilemma seen in the Fort Dix case. In the Afghanistan war there was considerable controversy in Canada about the fact that our soldiers had handed prisoners over into American custody, some of whom were tortured. It became an election issue in Canada.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:28 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


wiki page that cites now-lost article

https://web.archive.org/web/20080319143035/http://www.fff.org/freedom/0295a.asp

Here it is. Viva la Wayback Machine!
posted by codswallop at 12:32 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


>Rightly so.

Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends. -The Fellowship of the Ring
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:35 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


These people fought for the Nazis

Against Stalinism. Be glad you've never been forced to choose between fighting for the empire that performed the holocaust and the empire that performed the holodomor. Those who were forced to choose deserve our pity.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:36 PM on January 13 [11 favorites]


There is a tendency to forget that there was a point after WW2 when it was not a certainty that the Soviets and US would engage in a protracted Cold War.
posted by humanfont at 12:37 PM on January 13


And yes, after Court Martial, soldiers defecting to our enemies should be shot. That's the UCMJ.

No. The UCMJ allows for a death penalty in such cases. It does not require it. The exact language is: "...the accused shall be punished by death or such other punishment as a court-martial may direct."

People who find themselves in war zones are frequently confronted with awful choices. Those who have not had the experience would do well to show them compassion.


The listed penalty is death. A court martial may consider other penalties, but the listed penalty is death. As it should be. How would we maintain discipline under fire of our own soldiers if we did not punish those who fired at them despite being an American?
posted by Ironmouth at 12:40 PM on January 13


herf durf evil Nazi's - ship 'em out deaths too good for 'em, glad it happened

Say now, what about Operation Paperclip and that Von Braun chap who was involved with that NASA thing?

Odds are that is just too subtle and hard to understand, like placing your old ships in port, your new ships out of port, and your airplanes on the field in a circle with the propellers facing inward while talking about a sneeky attack know won could have possibly anticipated. Best way to deliver such a speech about a sneaky attack is to read from the handwritten notes in the margin of "Magic" reports.
posted by rough ashlar at 12:48 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


Ironmouth, much as I appreciate your deep and abiding love of the UCMJ, I think Kirth Gerson really has it right when he says "People who find themselves in war zones are frequently confronted with awful choices. Those who have not had the experience would do well to show them compassion."

Because it's starting to sound an awful lot chickenhawky.
posted by corb at 12:50 PM on January 13 [4 favorites]


How would we maintain discipline under fire of our own soldiers if we did not punish those who fired at them despite being an American?

Did someone say we wouldn't punish such soldiers? Stop trying to move those goalposts.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:55 PM on January 13 [3 favorites]


(I didn't post this article to editorialize or enlist sympathy for the dead or to dole out hate on traitors, but merely because it is a part of history I did not know about. And I found this account of the story well-written. I could tell from the first comment, however, that the "conversation" was going to suck.)
posted by mattbucher at 1:29 PM on January 13 [3 favorites]


[Couple comments removed, please flag and move on from comments that seem like silly baiting so we don't have to delete replies-to-deleted-stuff on top of deleting the original thing.]
posted by cortex at 1:55 PM on January 13


Whatever else happens in this thread, these two comments are the kind of thing I hope to find when I read Metafilter.
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:45 PM on January 13 [3 favorites]


They were traitors in every sense of the word, traitors who joined the Nazis.

Nazi's wouldn't have them. Not as party members, anyway. Too Slavic. The general attitude in the Nazi high command towards Russian POWs was a little less warm than the Union Army's attitude towards blacks in the American Civil War. Soldiers? Possibly useful for bucket and spade work. This, despite lots of enthusiasm among the ranks.

A little more on General Vlasov. Son of a kulak, he studied in the seminar before joining the Red Army in 1919, in which enterprise he rose steadily. He escaped the purges of 1936 in part because he was then overseas as an adviser to Chiang Kai Shek(!). When the war broke out, he served in the defense of Moscow and of Kiev, rising to a general's rank.

Once he was taken prisoner by the Germans, he became a hardened anti-communist, blaming them for all the ills that had befallen Russia since 1917. He was permitted to write propaganda (air-dropped over the Russian front) and give speeches calling on his fellow Russians to overthrow Stalin. His efforts had results, and thousands crossed over to join the newly formed Russian Liberation Army.

Despite this, the RLA did not do a lot of fighting - that untermenschen thing again - and it was not until 1945 that Vlasov himself was allowed to lead them into battle. They fought exactly once, in February of that year.

In May 1945 they joined Czech units to attack an SS unit (whether out of conviction of in deference to the new wind a'blowin' is under debate still). Captured by the allies, he basically wanted to pull a Patton and go after the Soviets. Instead he was turned over to the Soviets under the aptly named Operation Keelhaul and hanged instead. (Some say that he was offered the chance to escape, but refused out of loyalty to his men.)

It's a pretty interesting story, and apparently younger Russians today are not quite as iron fisted as others on the subject. See here, and here.

None dare call it treason indeed. How bad would your native country have to be before you took arms against it?
posted by BWA at 5:22 PM on January 13 [4 favorites]



As a rule, people aren't too big on nuance when they're getting shot at.
posted by jason's_planet at 6:21 PM on January 13


This is a thing, that's a fantastic comment and a powerful reading of your Guatemalan research experience. Thank you.
posted by spitbull at 6:56 PM on January 13


While not exonerating these men by any means, I am more inclined to feel sympathy for them than for Nazi collaborators from Western European countries.

That's for sure. It's still shameful that so many Dutch men joined the Waffen-SS and supported the nazis in everything they did, up to and including helping with the Holocaust.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:16 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


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