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Nations at war
Maslov, Aleksander A. (Translated and edited
by David M. Glantz and Harold S. Orenstein.) Captured Soviet Generals:
The Fate of Soviet Generals Captured by the Germans, 1941-1945. London:
Frank Cass, 2001.
Series Editor's Foreword; Introduction; Glossary and Abbreviations; Index
Appendices: Documents and Materials on the Lives and Military Careers of
Soviet Generals Captured, 1941-1945; Published Materials about the Lives
and Combat Activities of Soviet Generals Captured, 1941-1945; Brief
Biographical Information about Soviet Generals Captured 1941-1945
Aleksander Maslov's earlier work from Frank Cass,
Fallen Soviet Generals, investigated death during wartime. The new
volume investigates capture during wartime, but in reality that proves
mostly only prelude to death, either sooner in Hitler's hand or later in Stalin's.
More than seventy Soviet generals fell into German
captivity during the Great Patriotic War. Almost nothing has been written
about them, partly because the Soviet Union preferred to avoid any blemish
on its army's performance during the war, and partly because of the treatment to
which many of the former captives were subjected after their repatriation turned
them into non-persons. Given how mostly they were expunged from Soviet
records, a great deal of research has been required to identify the
generals who were captured. Maslov has gone even further by discovering broader
biographical information about most of them, including in many cases
details of their capture.
The book divides the generals into several categories, each with its own
- Soviet Generals Who Perished in Fascist Captivity
- Forgiven by Stalin: Soviet Generals Who Survived Captivity and Were
- Tried for Treason against the Motherland: Soviet Generals Condemned after
Release from German Captivity
- There Were Such Generals: The Riddle of the Fate of Red Army Generals M.B.
Salikhov, B.S. Rikhter, and M.M. Shapovalov
- The Plight of Captivity Touched Them as Well
The first chapter examines more that twenty generals who
died in German hands. Their stories range from a half page to several
pages, offering more or less detail about the officer's career and the
circumstances of his surrender.
Major-General S. A. Tkachenko
General Tkachenko's 44th Mountain Rifle Division, which was assigned to the 12th Army's 8th Rifle Corps, was engulfed in heavy combat along the borders of Ukraine as soon as Operation Barbarossa began and immediately suffered heavy losses. By 21 July 1941, the division was already short of its establishment (shtat or TO&E) strength by 4,013 rank-and-file soldiers, 1,025 junior command cadre, 199 cargo trucks, 3,000 rifles and carbines, and 66 heavy machine guns. The division also experienced widespread desertion during the initial days of the war. For example, between 22-30 June alone, 19 men willfully deserted from its artillery units. Subsequently, the combat morale of most of the division's soldiers and officers deteriorated sharply, largely due to the seemingly endless series of military misfortunes it experienced.
In mid-July the commander of the 44th Mountain Rifle Division's 179th Howitzer Regiment sent a report to the division's chief of artillery that vividly documented the declining state of morale. In his report, the artillery commander wrote, 'The conditions are terrible. People have lost heart, especially the command cadre. I am putting things in order, [but] it requires considerable effort just to tighten up this lack of discipline a little.' During this period of near constant defeat, however, the division did achieve some small combat successes. It recorded one of these successes in late July when it was engaged in heavy fighting for possession of the town of Lipovets. In this instance, the division's combat reports record a successful attack on 22 July, when the division's soldiers reportedly captured two 37mm guns and 116 shells from the enemy. The following day, the journal records that the division seized another nine guns, three tanks, two heavy machine guns, and several prisoners from the enemy.
Ultimately, however, General Tkachenko's 44th Mountain Rifle Division was encircled and destroyed during fierce combat for the village of Podvyskoe in the Kirovograd and Uman' region. The unfortunate division commander, S. A. Tkachenko, was wounded in the head and arms and taken prisoner by the Germans while attempting to escape from the encirclement. It seems that a treacherous comrade turned him over to the Germans. Tkachenko died in German captivity in February 1945.
The remainder of the first chapter provides general
information about how the Soviet high command kept records of captured
generals, and then details all that is known about the conditions in which
they died. Unlike most of them, Tkachenko did not go down without a fight. His demise provides one of the most dramaticand one of the most chest-beatingly patrioticincidents.
General S. A. Tkachenko died a heroic death in captivity. After organizing one in a series of escape attempts from the German prisoner-of-war camp at Sachsenhausen, he was captured shortly after midnight on 2 February 1945, and was led away for execution. He was among 200 anti-fascists in the camp who had been betrayed by traitors. Not far from the crematorium, on Tkachenko's command, the unarmed prisoners jumped the heavily armed guards. Those who live in the Sachsenhausen region will long remember the extremely bloody struggle that took place that night and marked the final resistance of this group of exhausted heroes who were inspired by hatred of the inhuman fascist executioners. Everyone could hear the general's voice shouting, 'Beat the Nazi vermin! Long live the Soviet Army!' Those proved to be the final words of the fiery patriot. The tenacious general's hands managed to grab the throat of a German guard, a private who was walking near him, but at the same moment dozens of enemy bullets tore into the hero's body. The small group's spasm of resistance was over in a matter of minutes. On the ground lay the bodies of the 200 dead who had never yielded. Among them was the valiant Ukrainian native son, S. A. Tkachenko.
Of the generals who entered German captivity and
survived the experience, some were "forgiven by Stalin." Maslov reviews
about twenty-six such officers, including three who managed to escape from
the Germans. Here's an example of one who was not lucky enough to escape.
Major-General A. S. Zotov
Among the first in this group of 'fortunate forgiven' to fall captive to the Germans during the initial period of war were Generals A. S. Zotov, I. P. Bikzhanov, and P. V. Sysoev. Major-General A. S. Zotov was born in St Petersburg in 1897 and was a veteran of the Russian Civil War (1919-21) and the Soviet-Finnish War (1939-40). He rose through the infantry ranks to command a rifle brigade in 1939 and the 128th Rifle Division of the Baltic Military District's 11th Army on the eve of war. During this period the Soviet government awarded him the Order of the Red Star (1936), the Order of the Red Banner (1940), and the medal commemorating '20 Years of the RKKA [Workers' and Peasants' Red Army]'. Zotov was promoted to the rank of major-general on 4 June 1940 as a part of the infamous general officer 'Class of 1940'.
When Operation Barbarossa began, Zotov's 128th Rifle Division occupied defenses along the East Prussian border southwest of Vilnius in the first echelon of the Northwestern Front's 11th Army. The initial attacks by the German Third Panzer Group's armored spearheads smashed the division's defenses and sent it reeling back in disorder toward the Neiman River. In these harrowing circumstances, Zotov lost control of his units, was wounded, and fell captive to the Germans. Soon after, he earned the dubious distinction of being one of the first Soviet generals to end up in a German prisoner-of-war camp.
This chapter is rounded out with material on treatment of
the prisoners, their liberation (or, with the three mentioned above,
escape), how they were interrogated upon return to the Soviet Union, and their post-war fate.
The next chapter deals with captured generals who were
not treated so kindly when they were finally liberated. This amounts to
nearly twenty generals who are divided into "The Unjustly Condemned" and
"The Vlasov Generals" (including Lieutenant General A. A. Vlasov himself).
These accounts tend to be considerably longer than earlier ones, often
running to five or six pages. Here's one of the shorter ones.
Major-General F. I. Trukhin
General Trukhin, Chief of the Northwestern Front's Operations Department, fell captive to German forces on 27 June 1941 at the end of the first week of the war. At the time of his capture, he was riding along a road near the front to check on the operational situation. His vehicle encountered a German armored vehicle, and the Germans opened machine-gun fire. The general's adjutant and sergeant were killed in the ensuing firefight as they tried to escape into a nearby forest. Although wounded in the chest, Trukhin's driver, A. G. Mudrov, hid in the nearby forest and followed Trukhin's order to observe the Germans. The general himself tried to escape, but a German tank soon caught up with him and the German tank crew took him captive.
At first, the Germans sent their prisoner to corps headquarters, where he was interrogated and then confined in the German prisoner-of-war camp at Stalupenen. The next day, his captors transferred the general to the Hammelburg officers' camp. Once in the camp, in the fall of 1941 General Trukhin became a member of the Russian National Labor Party (Russkaia trudovaia narodnaia partiia - RTNP) and later taught for a week at the Germans' Intelligence and Sabotage School in Warsaw. In May 1942 the Germans appointed him the commandant of the Zittenhorst prisoner-of-war camp, where he trained cadres for German installations on occupied territory. Beginning in September 1942, he served as a senior instructor in the Zittenhorst camp, and, in March 1943, he became the director of propaganda courses in Dabendorf for the German Armed Forces Department of Propaganda. At this time, although he bore the rank of major-general in the Russian Liberation Army, his salary was only 280 marks per month, or that of a sergeant-major in the Wehrmacht.
Throughout 1944 Trukhin worked actively on establishing the KONR and became the chief of staff of this organization's armed forces. On 18 November 1944, he assessed the prospects for ROA participation in the struggle with the Red Army in an article that he wrote for the KONR journal, Volia naroda (The People's Will). In the article he concluded:
One can already state that forces that will not be inferior either in terms of equipment or combat training will oppose the Red Army. They will undoubtedly be superior morally because the officers and soldiers of the Russian Liberation Army's armed forces will be completely independent and subordinate to General-Lieutenant A. A. Vlasov, the Commander-in-Chief, and they will consist of all types of forces necessary to wage modern war, armed with the latest equipment.
During the final days of the war, through his representatives, Trukhin attempted to make contact with the Anglo-American command, but failed. On 7 May 1945 he wound up in the custody of Soviet officers in the region of Prizibram, Czechoslovakia.
Trukhin's apprehension by Soviet authorities came as a surprise to Red Army cadre organs, which believed throughout the war that he had perished. For example, on the basis of only fragmentary evidence, the GUFUKA had removed Trukhin's name from the Red Army officer cadre list on 6 October 1941 as having been killed in action. Furthermore, according to a 15 February 1942 report from the Northwestern Front's Cadre Department to the GUFUKA, Trukhin had been declared killed in action in the Dvinsk region on 27 June 1941.
In many ways, the fourth chapter, "There Were Such
Generals," is the most interesting, piecing together the incomplete stories
of M. B. Salikohov, B. S. Rikhter, and M. M. Shapovalov. Maslov looks into
all three stories in considerably more detail than other generals in the
book, although the only facts that can be stated with certainty about this trio are
that they were captured by the Germans but never accounted for at the end
of the war. Based on testimony of other prisoners, fragmentary evidence,
and shadowy allegations, Maslov speculates that these three might still be
alive, might have defected to the West, and might even have some contact
with Allied intelligence organizations.
The final chapter looks at nine more generals whose
captures prove unique enough not to fall into any of the previous
categories. For the most part, these are officers who were either captured
only very briefly (blending into masses of POWs, unrecognized as generals,
and promptly slipping into the forests), had already been mortally wounded
when they fell into German hands, or were immediately executed.
In his Conclusions, Maslov quantifies all the captured
generals according to branch of service, position when captured (including
a Deputy Front Commander), how many were captured in each campaign, the
battles in which generals were captured, and the Front in which each
general served when captured.
While the book focuses on biographical sketches of the
generals, most accounts are fleshed out with varying amounts of additional
information about unit strengths, combat operations, losses, weapons, unit
morale, and so on. Some of this information is quite expansive and very
detailed, and transcends simple biography. Similarly, the lengthy Appendix
1 consists of a vast assortment of official reports and extracts from
various sources concerning the overall wartime environment in which these generals
found themselves. The book ends with Appendix 3, an alphabetical listing of
all the captured generals, each with one paragraph of basic biographical
In sum, Captured Soviet Generals reveals a great
deal which has been hidden away since the war, and amounts to an impressive
compilation of original research. Individually, each and every story reads
like a miniature docu-drama of combat, captivity, andfar too
oftendeath. Students of the wider war will appreciate the newly
revealed information about so many Soviet generals. Readers looking for
human interest stories will be fascinated by each dramatic tale.
Available from online booksellers, local bookshops, or
directly from Frank Cass.
Thanks to Cass for providing this review copy.
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Reviewed 21 October 2001
Copyright © 2001 by Bill Stone
May not be reproduced in any form without written permission of Stone