BLOOD ROADS – Nazi forced labour in northern Norway
WAR CRIMES IN NORWAY
Extracts from the diary of a Russian P.o.W. Found at Trondenes Camp, North
Norway. The writer is anonymous
Saturday, December 26th, 1942.
Today we celebrate the second Christmas Holiday. The day before Christmas, on Dec.24th, we worked till 12 o’clock. The Christmas Holidays soon to hold first place among the Germans. Where food is concerned these days are not different from any other days, not counting the small package of tobacco that we have received before the holidays and the 6 cigarettes and one cigar which are distributed on all holidays. Tomorrow we’ll get-the usual ration: ‘2 cigars. But otherwise the holiday makes itself felt. In every room there is a fir-tree that we have decorated to the best of our ability. But all that does not make us happy. What kind of a holiday is this, in the foreign northern country Norway, behind barbed wire and under the guard of the German sentries. But it is still more painful and bitter not to know how our people at home spend these days, which of them are alive and which are not. Even though my fate is so bitter, why must old people and children suffer?
Wednesday, January 14th, 1943.
This day has two dates. After the old style, that the Russian cannot forget, it is the 1st of January and New Year, For me it is a festival and also my birthday. Today I am 31 years .old. I remember how we in my family used to celebrate this day in grand style. Now for the second time it passes quietly and without any celebration. And this time in shameful imprisonment, half-starved. Since Dec. 28th I have been lying ill in the camp ward. Life itself would not be so bad, if one only had enough to eat, that is the principal thing for a human being. One notices the care for us,the most trifling illness is being taken care of. We work as much as we are able to, and we are not forced to do any more. We bathe every Sunday and do our laundry.
The winter has also shown consideration towards us prisoners of war. We had some cold days, but even on these the temperature did not go below 15-18 degrees C. In the camp we get newspapers, which have been published in Berlin for prisoners of war: “Klitsch”, “Sarja” and in the Ukrainian language: “Nowa Doba”. I read everything, from the first line to the signature of the editor. But believe me, everybody does that, in his own way.
Tuesday, January 26th, 1943.
On the l7th I was let out of the ward and went to work again, I’d like to write down one thing: At work we get together with Norwegians and with Czechs, Serbs, Poles, Danes and other people who have been forcibly mob-ilized for work. News of the situation at the Eastern Front seep into camp. Everybody who talks about it, speaks with real joy and most of us hear this news with happiness in our hearts and a joyous smile on our lips, that the Red Army has won great victories, that the German Army is being beaten back as quickly as it advanced at the beginning of the war, and that cities like Odessa, Charkow, Kiew and Rostow have been taken by our troops, that the Red Army has cleaned up Esthonia and liberated most of Ukrania.
How I wish it were true that it would all soon take an end, but not an end such as the Ukrainians and the former Kulak elements expect it, who constitute more than half of us. My Russia will “not be conquered and the
Soviets will not die, even though many may want it to happen.
The theory of Karl Marx is undying; Communism must be victorious in all the world. And in this world I must take my place in society as a member with the came rights as any other member. The prisoners will also be put to the test, for not all who were at the South-Eastern Front in July – August, are traitors to their country. From 1 o’clock till evening one may hear distant but strong detonations; those are bombing attacks, I am waiting impatiently for that morning, when we shall wake up without seeing the German sentries any more. It seems to me that this hour is far away. End the war quickly, and our imprisonment still more quickly. Give us liberty.
Tuesday, February 2nd, 1943
I have put down these notes to serve the remembrance of the day that during the latest time was an anniversary in my family. And the following lines are for the family chronicle. One of my dear daughters, Tamotseka, is 5 years old today. My dearest daughter, I know that this day, your birthday, surely would have been celebrated and that your father, who loves you, surely would have given you a present. But this infernal war, which has broken out, from reasons unknown to us and with an object equally unknown to us, has destroyed the lives of all. If you only knew what hardships your father must endure in damp, foggy and rough Norway. There cannot be anything worse than such a life. More correctly termed it is no life, at any rate not the life of a human being; but that of a beast, where all accomplishments of culture, all political rights and freedom and all potentialities of life have been taken away. When they laugh at you and have the right to spit in your face, to strike you without having to answer for it and being punished for it, that is the condition of a slave, what can be worse and more shameful? It may be added that this life is being led in a half-starved condition. All our thoughts turn on one point; How great it would be to be able to eat a good fill. All the mental faculties we have left, are occupied with this problem. But for the time being there is no way out. My dear, precious child. It tortures me just as much as the thought of food, the worry, if you and the rest of the family are still alive, and how you are getting through this heavy time. For you, too, are temporarily perhaps in the territory of the “liberator”.
You have not learnt to pray, it is not necessary, either, but I should like you to ask the forces of Nature to ease my lot, so that I might live through all hardships and all misery, and live to see the day and hour of reunion, and then lead a quiet life in peace. It would not matter if it would be a life in poverty, as long as it would be in liberty. Let us hope, my dear ones, that he who started the war, also will “end” it soon and that we again shall be able to live happily, as we did before the war. We cannot expect a better life from anybody and no power can give us a better one, even if they may promise to do so. The teachings of Communism and Socialism, which were put into practice in Russia, are the ideals, towards the realisation of which all mankind must strive. Other theories and teachings, especailly such as have been expressed in M.K. (Note:- Most probably “Mein Kampf”) should not exist, and when they nevertheless have arisen one should not believe in them. I’ll tell you about prison life as it really is when we meet again. These representations will serve to show you what your father is. For the present my dear, I see you and the whole family often in my dreams. I imagine that I can see even my second daughter, your sister Alja, who was only two months old when I left her, and I cannot picture to myself what she really looks like. In two months she will be two years old already. I do not know what the dreams are supposed to mean, but it seems to me that everything is changed around. What I see in my dreams, I do not see in reality any longer, that is to say that I do not see you and the whole family any more, Oh Lord, what a misfortune, must my faith be so bitter, and will not God be merciful, but let me perish, somewhere amongst strange people on foreign soil and not in Russia.
February, the 18th 1943.
I don’t know whether it is accidentally or intentionally, but the fact is at any rate that we have left Camp No. 3 today. Since the end of January there has been some talk to the effect that our camp was to be dissolved. Lately it has been noticeable. We have mainly been occupied with construction work by a fjord, 23 Km. from Trondheim, for the firm H. Patzer. This firm has now stopped work. During, the last two weeks we have been busy tearing up the field railway and clearing away machinery and apparatus packing them. That seems to indicate plainly that G…. is going to loose. Its position at the front is bad. I am immensely happy about it and in my mind I experienced the victories of the Red Army. I am sorry that a bad faith does not permit me to be in their ranks to take part in the complete annihilation of the intruding lunatic Nazi leaders with their invincible Army and technique. At 1 o’clock we were 200 men in all, brought aboard a small ship. We were driven down into a damp narrow hole like cattle, or still worse. Our destination is unknown to us, what awaits us there is only known to God, to whose will I submit. Farewell, Trondheim and Camp No. 3!
February, 23rd 1943.
We have arrived in the new place, an island. In Harstad, we were taken ashore. The camp is situated 3 to 4 kilometres from the town and is much worse than the one we left. There are summer barracks, which look like stables and are dirty, damp and cold. I’ll find out about rules and regulations tomorrow, but even now it is clear to me that we have been brought here to perish. Of the old 600 PW who arrived here 4 months ago, there are only 274 left, the rest are dead. God be merciful, forgive my sins and help me to endure everything. How terrible to die unknown in a foreign land! And I have a family, two poor little children, an old father. My dear children, pray to the Almighty for the rescue of your father. Or are you too as unfortunate as your father?
Sunday, February 28th, 1943
Now I have spent five days in the new camp on the island, have got to know about the work and food etc, Even though I have been living in a half-starved condition, there was some hope of pulling through, general conditions of life taken into consideration, but here the last hope is gone. I continue with my notes, although I believe that we shall not be of any use to anybody, because they will not experience the return to our home but perish with me. Our rations are as follows: in the morning we get soup. I do not know what kind of a soup it is, boiled water made cloudy with some flour, and there is no fat of any kind to discover in it. At home I used to give better things to my pigs. Dinner is at twelve o’clock: Bread, one kilo bread for three men and about 25 to 30 grams fat combined with fish conserves, – 800 grams for twelve men, and three quarters of’ a liter of coffee. Supper is at six o’clock and the soup is very bad, it consists mainly of refuse. Very seldom one finds a potatoe, the soup is naturally cooked on tinned meat. It tastes good, but is very thin, and as we must eat the soup without any bread it is a very insufficient meal indeed. The way we want it is: the thicker the better. The work is not heavy, but there is plenty of it. Today we start working nights, from 7 p.m. till 5 a.m., that means ten hours. The ten-hour working-day is being introduced from today. Until now we have been working eight hours. We are working at the fortifications of the island. They are building concrete bunkers. To be compelled to trample around in the cold in wooden shoes for ten hours on meagre rations, it is plain murder. So I have given up hope of living through this to the end of the war and of being rescued of this damned bondage,
Sunday, March 6th, 1943
Today seven months have passed since I started this miserable life of a prisoner, half -starved and devoid of all rights. It does not sound like so much, perhaps, but it is difficult to imagine such a thing from day to day, seven months – 210 days – at every meal, breakfast dinner and supper, only being able to tease your stomach and having to stop eating when your appetite is at its highest, It is not for nothing that I dream every night “hunger dreams”. I dream that I am at home, having a good fill of all the good things that I used to eat. It is strange that it is my mother who serves me the food. Always when I am awake I cannot get rid of the thoughts of food, in my leisure time and at work. I see in my thoughts a fat “borschtsch” with tomatoes and mustard, a dish full of meat, milk and cheese, bread cut without thinking of rationing, and many other dishes and eatables. And here
one does not see any other than the one “one-pot dish”. And how this stuff tastes; it looks like, pigs food or a drink for cows, there are no onions, tomatoes and mustard to be found in it. It is not even necessary to mention bread; it is eaten with such voracity even to the last crumbs that fall on the ground. When I think of how we at home used to sweep the bread crumbs and left-overs from the table and throw them away, my heart is aching. Words like “It does not taste good, I don’t like it,” “I won’t” have got completely out of use here. We have been told to economise on rations and smokes.. But, has anybody seen me looking for cigarette-stubbs among the refuse, or in a disgraceful way begging German soldiers or workers for food, when I myself in former days used to give out cigarettes, cigars and tobacco not only by the piece but by the package! That all happened once, and I cannot imagine that it will happen again, because I cannot hope to survive the imprisonment, not even with such a strong constitution as I have. Although I have been here ten days only, my strength is ebbing away. My legs are so weak that I cannot get up without using my hands. I walk slowly and drag my feet along, I have forgotten altogether how to run. And only a year ago those same legs enabled me to run 100 metres in 12 seconds. If by the will of fortune I should succeed in getting home alive, I cannot imagine that I shall ever become a fully normal human being again, fit for work. Or shall I always remain marked by death without ever winning back my physical powers? Not until here in captivity do I grasp the meaning of a proverb “No hour strikes for the happy”. Only we who have been condemned to a slow death count every hour and minute waiting for the meals on which all our thoughts are concentrated. Rumours are being passed among us, partly originating with the Germans themselves, to the effect that the Reds are marching forward victorious and that the cities Kharkov and Kiew are already in our hands, that all Finland is in the hands of the Red Army and that the German Command has ordered the Army to retreat to the old Reich border. Dear brothers, I rejoice with all my heart over your victories. I deplore not being able to be with you, to witness together with you the destruction of “Gross Deutschland” and its “invincible Army”, Countrymen, we, too, are expecting you liberators here in far-off Norway and hoping that the hour of deliverance will soon come. The power of the enemy may be figured out in minutes. I send you brotherly and heartfelt greetings. May we soon meet in Russia.
Sunday, March 7th, 1943.
Today we rest, We have been through the camp roll-call and the roll-call for clothing. The third blanket was given out, also a waistcoat, socks and tobacco (one package for two men).
Sunday, March 21st, 1943.
We have now been staying on the island for nearly one month. The state of health, as I have already mentioned, has become worse, but I am still able to move about on my legs. Up to now we have had no cold weather and no frost during our stay here. The weather is mild but damp. Wet snow is falling continuously and it often changes into rain. The snow is lying rather thick, up to 1 meter. Since the l8th there has been a change in the weathe. It is warm, the sun is shining, during the last two days we have had some rain. Spring is on the way, the snow is melting, on the roads there are rills of thaw-water, but the frame of mind is not springlike but more like September. Oh, to be able to see spring at home now! Today we are having a holiday again. We received a package of tobacco again. By and by the German admits his failures. From the newspaper “Sarja” we have learnt that the cities of Krasnodar and Charkow have been evacuated, but we do not know when.
Thursday, April 1st, 1943
My dear little daughter Alja, However gloomy and cheerless may be the weeks in captivity, where all our thoughts are directed towards food, I do not forget you children and the whole family. Today you are two years old. When I left you, you were only 3½ months old.
Dear child, you do not know me, and I cannot picture to myself what you are like. I do not know whether the Lord will be so merciful as to let us succeed in being together once more and learning to know each other. I am alarmed by the thought that I shall not see you again, and especially that you will grow up without knowing your father.
On March 28th, the weather changed and has again become wintry. The snowfall is heavy and at night we have frost, in the daytime the frost abates. I wish spring would come in earnest, warm and dry. Then our hope of sur-viving everything would become stronger.
Sunday, April llth, 1943.
Today is a holiday. We again get a package of tobacco. It is the fourth Sunday in succession that we get a package of tobacco each. In one way it is very good, for when you smoke you forget for a few minutes the burden of captivity, but only for a few minutes, Otherwise life is bitter and cheerless, painful and without hope. The confinement is worse than penal servitude and much worse than prison and concentration camp. Who ever survives it will have something to remember.
April 14th, 1943.
There are rumours about, coming from a reliable source and also from the Germans, that Sweden has declared war on Finland and that hostilities have been going on for four days already.
Sunday, April 18th, 1943.
Again I have heard news, t hough not confirmed, of Italy having been occupied by the English troops, I wish it were true, then we shall soon see the end of the war that we have been so impatiently waiting for. Most of the Germans who are sincere with the prisoners admit and feel the early destruction of the Germans and Germany.
Wednesday, April 21st, 1943.
Today, .for the first time in my life and during my captivity, I have committed a crime. I went into a room where the Germans have their dinner and rest, and from two pockets I stole sandwiches with liver sausage. Hunger compelled me to do it. I am hardly able to keep on my legs. It seems to me that I am no longer alive in this world. When I went to war, I took leave of my friends, comrades, relatives and of my family. Now I should like to add: Farewell, my home, Don and Busynovka. I have gone too far away from you, now I cannot get back to you. Now it is spring there, nature has awakened from the wintry cold. The people are working in liberty in the country and are getting the seed into the soil. In the gardens people are also at work, and all this under the warm rays of the Russian sun. The children are running in the street, picking up dust, and among them are my children without knowing there is a war and how much misfortune it has brought on mankind. And nevertheless they all have fathers, who are fighting at the front or have died or are passing their numbered days in infernal captivity, days of a life that was, mostly, a happy one. It is spring here too but it is not pleasant and the weather changes from one day to another, so I often think I have never seen such weather anywhere else. When we are at work, the inhuman wretches insist on our taking of f our coats. Considering our state of health, it is no better than murder. In short, at times they torment us quite thoroughly. But, you wretches, it might so happen that we prisoners of war shall compel you to work. Then you will find out how Russia works, because you demand work from us starving people, work that can only be done by a well-fed and healthy man and not by one starving. Fortune often changes. The Russian people is patient and can tolerate much, but there is a limit to everything.
Easter Sunday, April 25th, 1943.
Today is the great Christian festival,
the resurrection of Christ, First
we were told that————————–
(NOTE: With this the entries close).