The Corner

Veterans Day Blast From the Past: Intelligence Report On Nazi Slave Labor

My friend Cosmo Wenman posts a really fascinating Veterans Day document on his Facebook page: a report written by his grandfather in November 1944, detailing his debriefings of Russian slave laborers recently liberated from Nazi work camps around western Europe.

It’s a fascinating look at how Russian internees were being treated (which jibes with my general impression, formed from sources as impeccable as Slaughterhouse Five and Hogan’s Heroes, that Russians in the hands of the Third Reich suffered in ways that even other prisoners found shocking) and also a great snapshot of how a U.S. junior officer understood the mood within Germany just a few weeks before the ever-resourceful Nazis sprang the Battle of the Bulge on the Western Allies.

Wenman describes the report:

My Grandfather, Boris Krass, was born in Russia, and while still very young spent 5 or 6 years years as a refugee in Germany with other White Russian families before coming to the US.

Fluent in Russian and German, he was an intelligence officer for the US Army during WWII. In 1944, he interrogated hundreds of Russian forced-labor prisoners that the Allies had liberated from the Nazis.

This is a report he made to the Army and OSS about their situation . . . 


“Bombings and black markets afford the only source of extra food.”

“If an Osterbeiter is . . . caught walking with a German girl, he is hanged the next day.”

“By far the great majority of Russians have nothing but hate for the Nazis”

“Incidents of sabotage, killing, plots, and secret organizations have been cited to this interrogator.”

“Several Ost workers have reported that they had been carefully approached by Germans, self-styled Anti-Nazis, who have invited them to listen to Allied broadcasts in the secrecy of their homes.”

The internet has estupidated me to the point that I can barely read a one-page press release through to the end anymore. But I read this eight-page report through without pausing to take a breath. I even applaud the penned-in corrections Krass apparently made. (Always change “amongst” to “among.” Always.) Full report here.


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