Golden discovery in Moscow: information on the ‘101’

During research in Moscow an extraordinary discovery has been made. Six little papiers possibly disclose the identity of several Soviet soldiers who 78 years ago were murdered in Amersfoort.

The Soviet Military Cemetery Foundation as well as Kamp Amersfoort have both expressed their joy at this breakthrough.

“A golden discovery”, says researcher Remco Reiding. ‘I have been looking for clues like that for over twenty years. Hopefully we can now give some of these soldiers a name and a face.”

Kamp Amersfoort is also pleased with the discovery. “Hopefully this information leads to solving the puzzle”, says Willemien Meershoek. “To us it is also an important group of prisoners. In our new museum we will of course pay attention to this category.”

The documents consist of six papers in Russian handwriting. They are part of the personal possessions that the Soviet soldiers had on them when they arrived in Amersfoort. The original objects were handed over to the Soviet authorities in 1946. It was unknown what happened to them.

The only photograph showing two recognizable Soviet soldiers in Kamp Amersfoort (Photo Eemland Archives)

“During earlier requests for information by me in the nineties these documents did not surface”, says Reiding. “But a new search through the Russian files this spring revealed that the State Archives in Moscow did have info about this special group of soldiers.”

The inventory did not immediately make Reiding’s heart beat faster. “But when we persuaded a staff member to pull the files and take a look at their contents it became clear that they might contain very important, hitherto unknown information.”

Today it became apparent that it concerns six papers with addresses of soldiers or next of kin of the soldiers. “A revelation”, according to Reiding.

After 22 years of research Reiding already possessed six names. “But we were dealing with corrupted surnames or just first names, insufficient for identifying the soldiers.” This spring another name was added after finding a tobacco tin at the nearby police academy.

In the coming weeks Reiding and a group of Russian researchers are going to apply themselves to deciphering and analysing the scraps of information. “Hopefully that will help us establish the identity of some of these soldiers after eighty years “, says Reiding.

The Soviet soldiers arrived at the cattle ramp of Amersfoort railway station on 27 September 1941. They had been captured at the Eastern front and been transferred across Europe not long after the German invasion. Most of them probably hailed from Soviet republics in Central Asia, such as Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.

The soldiers were dressed in rags and after the long train journey they looked desolate, tired and famished. The sight of these sub humans was meant to convince the Dutch people that they should join the Germans in the war against the Soviet Union.

During their stay in Kamp Amersfoort the Russians, as they were called, were treated brutally. Camp doctor Van Nieuwenhuijsen, before the war a respected surgeon and member of the city council, had two skulls boiled and placed on his desk as interesting study objects. Another time he deliberately pulled the wrong tooth – without local anaesthetic – when a ‘Russian’ with tooth ache sought his help.

Within half a year a lot of them died of starvation, illness and abuse. The remaining 77 were shot on 9 April 1942. It would turn out to be the second largest mass execution in The Netherlands. The card index with their names was likely destroyed by the camp guards in 1945.

After the war 101 bodies were reburied at the Soviet Military Cemetery. Slowly but surely they passed into oblivion. Their names were never revealed.

In the past twenty years Reiding managed to track down the identity of 250 other war victims who lie buried at the Soviet Military Cemetery. Of 219 of these soldiers the Amersfoort researcher also traced and informed the relatives.