Names and Biographies. The mass murder of Soviet prisoners of war in 1941 and 1942

In 1941 and 1942, the camp SS murdered more than 4,000 Soviet prisoners of war on the shooting range set up two kilometers north of the main camp at Dachau in 1937-1938. Special Gestapo details had “weeded out” the victims beforehand from the prisoner of war camps in the military districts of Munich, Nuremberg, Stuttgart, Wiesbaden and Salzburg according to ideological and racist criteria. Especially Communist functionaries, members of the intelligentsia and Jews fell victim to the mass murder.

The open-air exhibition focuses on the biographies of individual victims. Of the seven biographies originally planned, however, only four were able to be dedicated in 2014. To complete one of these plaques, Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site needs not only documents from the archives, but also private photos, identification papers and documents from relatives. Unfortunately, the relatives often have very little material of this sort owing to the widespread devastation caused by the Germans in the Second World War.

Timofej Egorovich Chaichenko, probably in the late 1930s. His granddaughter responded after an appeal in Komsomolskaya Pravda in May 2018 and provided us with this photo.

Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site tries to find relatives mainly by publishing names in Russian newspapers (for example, Komsomolskaya Pravda). Even if only a few people respond to these appeals – which first have to reach their intended recipients – we usually receive very emotional letters from them. After searching for decades in some cases, our publication is for many the first information they have obtained on the whereabouts of the family members they have missed since the “Great Patriotic War”. Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site is currently working to run similar appeals in newspapers in Ukraine and Belarus, as well.

In addition, Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site has commissioned the historian Dr. Reinhard Otto and the translator Tatjana Szekely to research more names of victims for the commemorative installation “Place of Names”. We assume that the names recorded in the 866 glass modules can in the long term be joined by another roughly 1,000 names. Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site would like to dedicate not only new biographical plaques, but also at least two new name modules together with family members on June 22, 2019.

Grigoriy Dmitriyevich Smirnov (seated, 3rd from right) with comrades from a Communist Party cell, Yaroslavl, 1922. We received this photo and additional material from family members last year.