Send to a friendRepatriation The Dark Side of World War II, Part 3
by Jacob G. Hornberger, April 1995
Adolf Hitler did not trust Andrey Vlasov. The Russian general had served in the Russian army since the Russian Revolution. He had fought hard and valiantly in the successful defense of Moscow. It was only because of Stalin's refusal to permit Vlasov and his men to retreat during the subsequent battle at Leningrad that the German forces had defeated and captured Vlasov. It was difficult for Hitler to believe that Vlasov was now willing to lead captured Russian soldiers against Stalin and his communist regime.
So, it was not until the very end of the war January 1945 that Hitler finally relented and permitted Vlasov to lead Russian POWs into battle against the Russian army. But by this time, Germany was close to defeat. The forces under Vlasov's command some 50,000 Russian soldiers played a minor military role in the war.
Ironically, Vlasov's forces did have one very interesting military victory. The Czech underground sought their assistance in helping to liberate Czechoslovakia from Nazi control! Vlasov, who despised the Nazis as much as he hated the communists, agreed to help. The Saturday Evening Post later reported:
Prague really was liberated by foreign troops, after all. Not by the Allies who did not arrive until the shooting was all over, but by 22,000 Russian outlaws wearing German uniforms. The leader of these renegades was General Vlasov, a former hero of the Red Army.
The battlefield was obviously chaotic. The Russians were approaching from the east. The Americans and British were approaching from the west. Vlasov and his forces were in the middle, and German forces were at his back.
On May 7, 1945, Germany capitulated.
Vlasov knew that Stalin was not a forgiving man. After his capture, Vlasov had openly defied the communists and communism. He had tried to arouse the Russian people to revolt against their communist tyrants. Vlasov knew that capture by the communists now meant certain death for him and his men.
Andrey Vlasov chose to surrender to American forces. He did not know that Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin had already sealed his fate. He did not know that these four rulers of the Allied powers had already committed themselves to one of the worst holocausts in history. He did not know that evil pervaded not only the Nazi and communist regimes, but the American and British regimes, as well.
Part of the Yalta Agreement between the Big Three Stalin, Roosevelt, and Churchill involved the repatriation of Russians and Americans to their respective homelands. Keep in mind that the German POW camps contained American prisoners, British prisoners, and Russian prisoners. The Big Three agreed that as the Russians liberated Germany POW camps, American and British POWs would be turned over to the American and British forces. As the Americans and British liberated German POW camps, Russian POWs would be returned to Russia.
There was one big problem with this agreement a problem that each of the Big Three was well aware of. American and British POWs wanted to return to their own forces. Russian POWs did not want to return to Russian forces because they knew the fate that awaited them.
Stalin wanted revenge. The Russian prisoners were traitors to communism. They deserved to die.
And Roosevelt and Churchill felt the exact same way. Russia was "our friend." Stalin was "Uncle Joe" to the American people. Any Russian who had defied Uncle Joe any Russian who had opposed our communist friends and allies deserved to be executed.
The revenge and ensuing holocaust had to be kept secret from the world. The American and British people had to continue maintaining their illusion that this was a war of good versus evil that only the Nazis engaged in cold-blooded murder that the Allies epitomized all the goodness of mankind.
Therefore, the Big Three spelled out their plans not just in the official Yalta agreement but, also, in a March 31, 1945, secret codicil to the agreement. As James Sanders, Mark Sauter, and R. Cort Kirkwood point out in their shocking book, Soldiers of Misfortune (1992), the codicil was kept secret from the American and British people for fifty years . The codicil outlined the secret plan by which the Russians POWs would be forcibly returned to Stalin's clutches.
American government officials called their part in the holocaust Operation Keelhaul. In his book Operation Keelhaul (1973), Julius Epstein described the meaning of the term:
To keelhaul is the cruelest and most dangerous of punishments and tortures ever devised for men aboard a ship. It involves trussing a man up with ropes, throwing him overboard, unable to swim, and hauling him under the boat's keel from one side to the other, or even from stem to stern. Most of those keelhauled under water are already dead when their punishment is over.
And Epstein describes his reaction to the choice of this term by American government officials to describe their part in the Allied holocaust:
That our Armed Forces should have adopted this term as its code name for deporting by brutal force to concentration camp, firing squad, or hangman's noose millions who were already in the lands of freedom, shows how little the high brass thought of their longing to be free.
The roles played by each of the conspirators was clear: Roosevelt and Churchill would force the Russian anticommunists into Stalin's hands. The communists would take over from there and do the actual killing.
How many were turned over to the Russians by American and British forces? Two million individuals . Yes, two million Russian people sent back to the communists where they were either immediately executed or sent to die in the Gulag.
It was not easy to "persuade" the Russian prisoners to return to the communists. Sometimes, subterfuge was used. Epstein details several examples. One took place on May 28, 1945, in Lienz, Austria. British forces ordered all Cossack officials to attend an important British conference with high British officials. The Cossacks were told to leave their coats since they would be back by six in the evening. Their families were advised so that family members would not worry over their short absence. When the Cossacks appeared nervous, an English officer told them, "I assure you on my word of honor as a British officer that you are just going to a conference."
The 2,749 Cossacks 2,201 of whom were officers were driven straight into a prison camp and were advised by British officials that Soviet authorities would soon arrive to pick them up. Epstein writes:
One Cossack officer remarked: "The NKVD or the Gestapo would have slain us with truncheons, the British did it with their word of honor." The first to commit suicide by hanging was the Cossack editor Evgenij Tarruski. The second was General Silkin who shot himself. . . . The Cossacks refused to board [the trucks]. British soldiers with pistols and clubs began using their clubs, aiming at the heads of the prisoners. They first dragged the men out of the crowd and threw them into the trucks. The men jumped out. They beat them again and threw them onto the floor of the trucks. Again, they jumped out. The British then hit them with rifle butts until they lay unconscious and threw them like sacks of potatoes in the trucks.
The same scenes were repeated all along the lines two million Russian people tricked and beaten by British and American forces so that Stalin could finish the job later on.
Some of this dirty work even took place on American soil. Epstein describes what happened to Russian POWs who were imprisoned at Fort Dix, New Jersey:
First, they refused to leave their barracks when ordered to do so. The military police then used tear gas, and, half-dazed, the prisoners were driven under heavy guard to the harbor where they were forced to board a Soviet vessel. Here the two hundred immediately started to fight. They fought with their bare hands. They started with considerable success to destroy the ship's engines. . . . A sergeant . . . mixed barbiturates into their coffee. Soon, all of the prisoners fell into a deep, coma-like sleep. It was in this condition that the prisoners were brought to another Soviet boat for a speedy return to Stalin's hangmen.
Andrey Vlasov the man who hated communism the man who hated Nazism carefully explained his position and reasoning to the American generals. In his book Vlasov , Sven Steenberg describes Vlasov's conversation with one of his American captors:
He began to speak, at first slowly and dispassionately, but then with growing intensity. For one last time, he spoke of all the prospects, hopes, and disappointments of his countrymen. He summed up everything for which countless Russians had fought and suffered. It was no longer really to the American that he was addressing himself this was rather a confession, a review of his life, a last protest against the destiny that had brought him to a wretched end. . . . [Vlasov] stated that the leaders of the ROA were ready to appear before an international court, but that it would be a monumental injustice to turn them over to the Soviets and thereby to certain death. It was not a question of volunteers who had served the Germans, but of a political organization, of a broad opposition movement which, in any event, should not be dealt with under military law.
Vlasov could not know that he was a dead man before he even surrendered to American forces. Roosevelt, Stalin, Churchill, and Truman had already decided that he needed to be executed for the "crime" of betraying his own government. There was no need to go through the time, expense, trouble, and possible embarrassment of a trial. All that needed to be done was for the Americans to turn him over to their friendly executioner, "Uncle Joe" Stalin.
American military officials delivered Andrey Vlasov to Soviet military authorities. On August 2, 1946, the Soviet press reported that Andrey Vlasov had been hanged by Soviet officials for "treason as well as active espionage and terrorist activity against the Soviet Union."
Unfortunately, all of the facts of the forcible repatriation of the Russian anticommunists have not been revealed. American and British government officials take the position that "national security" will be jeopardized if the citizenry is ever permitted to know all of the details of the Allied holocaust. Thus, fifty years after World War II, American "adults" are still not permitted by their public officials to see the government's files and records on America's involvement in the "good war" and, specifically, in the Allied holocaust.
As with most claims of "national security," the concern is not so much with the security of the nation but rather with the security of the U.S. government and, specifically, the U.S. military-industrial complex. For it is entirely possible that the American people will finally pierce through all the lies and deceptions that have clouded their minds since the first grade in the public schools to which their parents were forced to send them. It is quite possible that they will recognize the wisdom of their Founding Fathers and see that the biggest threat to their well-being lies not with some foreign government, but rather with their own government.
Was the Allied holocaust the end of the repatriation story? Unfortunately, no. The last chapter of Stalin's, Roosevelt's, Truman's, and Churchill's horrid tale of deception, brutality, and murder involves Americans "liberated" from German POW camps by the Russians and the role played in this chapter by the U.S. government, the same government that has always insisted that the American people "support the troops."
Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.
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