Captured Red Army men march to the rear.
Most of the Soviet POWS captured in 1941 did not even make it to the camps in Poland. The German Army simply had not prepared/or cared for such massive numbers of prisoners. Here is an example of the attrition they suffered.
It is hard to overemphasize how much these changing policies and the excitement generated by the New Order reoriented SS slave labor toward the end of 1941. With the foundation of Majdanek, the consolidation of the German Commercial Operations GmbH (DWB), and the recruitment of Hans Kammler, Oswald Pohl was consciously striving to integrate vertically all aspects of settlement construction from supply to the management of building sites within one institution.
Himmler was fully aware that the SS would be constrained by more than just money in these endeavors. One of the scarcest resources anticipated after the war was labor, especially in the construction sector, which is highly labor-intensive. Because the Wehrmacht had captured over 3 million Soviet POWs in 1941, Himmler first hoped to feed Kammler’s Building Inspections with this ‘‘unlimited’’ supply of ready slaves as part of the spoils of the eastern campaign. The General Staff of the army agreed by September to send 350,000 into the SS’s camps. In consequence, in November, Himmler ordered the expansion of POW camps at Auschwitz and Lublin to hold 150,000 each. By the end of the year, however, most of the expected Soviet prisoners perished due to mistreatment, starvation, and exposure before they had even arrived.
Of course Himmler was then ‘forced’ to deliver!
Therefore, on 26 January 1942 Himmler next issued orders to Richard Glücks, Inspector of Concentration Camps:
Now that Russian POWs cannot be expected, in the coming days I will send a large number of Jews and Jewesses into the camps that are to emigrate from Germany. In the next four weeks you must make appropriate arrangements in the concentration camps for 100,000 Jews and up to 50,000 Jewesses. In the next few weeks the concentration camps will be assigned great industrial tasks. SS Major General Pohl will inform you of the details.
These Jews (to come predominantly from Germany) were caught in ongoing plans to secure a captive labor pool to build the New Order. The 150,000 ‘‘Jews and Jewesses’’ represented only a small portion of those rounded up at this time. There were already between 200,000 and 250,000 Jews in the district of Lublin alone (an estimate that is probably low). Himmler was not, therefore, planning to halt the genocide of the vast majority of Jews in the name of an expanded labor action. The major departure in policy lay in what kind of prisoners Himmler now intended to deploy to fulfill the [Reichs Kommissar for the Reinforcement of Germandom] RKF’s dreams. While the decision to proceed with the ‘‘Final Solution to the Jewish Question’’ had been made over the past autumn, now Himmler ordered the preservation of some German Jews for the SS Labor Action because he could get no others. One thing is clear. The SS never intended to spare as many Jews for work details as it intended to kill outright, an intent reiterated in the protocol of the Wannsee Conference hosted by top officials of the Reich Security Main Office early in 1942.