I have been thinking about POWs and forced laborers lately. My article on digital memory of World War II came out with Memory Studies and in it I analyzed projects like the Russian governments OBD-Memorial, a huge database of Soviet soldiers who died in the war. I’ve also been working on a project on the repatriation of Soviet citizens after World War II, including prisoners of war. Part of the challenge of this project is identifying who repatriates were–who was likely to end up as a forced laborer or POW in the war and how did that effect the experience of imprisonment and return to the USSR.
In thinking about this issue, I started looking at available data on prisoners of war. OBD-Memorial hides its data behind a web app, making it impossible to analyze the database. However, I found a database of Soviet prisoners here, run by the Center of Documentation of the Saxony Memorial for the Victims of Political Terror. The database (in Russian or German) includes basic data on each prisoner (name, date of birth, birthplace, nationality, date of death) culled from Wehrmacht documents in former Soviet and German archives. The site says it includes prisoners from “the territory of the former German Reich.” In total, the database includes 881,035 entries, which is a substantial number of the Soviet soldiers taken prisoner.