740.00114 EW/6–1145: Telegram

The Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Harriman) to the Secretary of State

2013. Reurtel 2064, June 7, 7 p.m. to Dept.16 While Embassy has no evidence to support reports of stern treatment of Soviet citizens repatriated from Allied occupied areas, it would be unwise to discount the general basis for these reports. Soviet Govt and military authorities have never been at pains to disguise their scornful attitude toward Soviet troops taken prisoner. Soviet Govt is not signatory of Geneva Convention and during entire course of war refused all overtures from enemy powers for agreement regarding treatment of prisoners which might have improved lot of Soviet prisoners in Germany.

Furthermore, many Soviet prisoners and civilians removed to Germany apparently accepted service in German military or labor formations and were in German uniform when “liberated”. Soviet attitude toward such individuals will inevitably be harsh and many of them will probably be considered guilty of actions harmful to state, one of most serious crimes in Soviet book.

Although repatriation of liberated Soviet citizens has now been proceeding for months, Embassy knows of only a single instance in which a repatriated prisoner has returned to his home and family in Moscow and resumed his prewar pursuits. This man was suffering from tuberculosis and was released after being held under guard in a camp near Moscow for four months.

It is known that repatriates are met at ports of entry by police guard and marched off with little ceremony to unknown destinations. Trainloads of repatriates are passing through Moscow and continuing east, the passengers being held incommunicado while trains stand in Moscow yards. Although little info is available, it is believed that repatriates are first subjected to an intense screening by police. Given Soviet attitude towards surrender, it is probable that prisoners are assumed guilty of desertion unless they can present convincing evidence of mitigating circumstances. Those found serving in German uniform will probably be charged with anti-state activity. It is quite possible that persons considered guilty of deliberate desertion or anti-state activity are being shot, while some few with good war records [Page 1098] who have been captured when severely wounded or under similar circumstances and have refused service with Germans may be released to return home. Great bulk of repatriates, however, are probably being placed in forced labor battalions and used on construction projects in Urals, Central Asia, Siberia or Far North under police supervision.

Attitude of Soviet authorities toward surrender and anti-State activity is, of course, well known to Soviet citizens not yet repatriated and they can have few illusions concerning treatment awaiting them on their return. It is, therefore, not surprising that many of them do not display enthusiasm at prospect of return to Soviet Union and are seeking to avoid it by any means at their command.

Reports of executions at Murmansk may be result of this state of mind. Embassy is attempting to verify and will keep you advised of developments.17

Sent to Stockholm as 29; rptd to Dept as 2013 and London as 265.

  1. Telegram 2064 from Stockholm, which had also been sent to Moscow (not printed), reported information regarding the reluctance of liberated Soviet prisoners of war to return to the Soviet Union and the rumor that Soviet firing-squads were busy in Murmansk dealing with repatriated citizens returning by way of that port (740.00114 EW/6–745).
  2. Telegram 1805, August 11, 1945, 7 p.m., to Moscow, asked for information as soon as possible as to whether any decrees were issued by the Soviet Government during the war divesting Soviet nationals of their citizenship because they were captured by the enemy, and if any such decrees were issued, whether they subsequently were rescinded (711.62114/8–1145). In telegram 2924, August 16, 1945, 7 p.m., from Moscow, the Embassy reported that it had found no evidence that any such decree had ever been published but had been privately informed that, in general, Red Army men considered to have surrendered without adequate justification were regarded as traitors, whereas, those who fell into enemy hands through circumstances beyond their control were merely considered guilty of breach of discipline (711.62114/8–1645).