Joint declaration by Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on the Russian-German project to search and digitise archive materials relating to Soviet and German prisoners of war and internees

22.06.2016 - Press release

During the Second World War, more than 5.7 million Soviet officers and soldiers were taken prisoner by the Germans. In Nazi Germany, this meant suffering and death for many citizens of the former Soviet Union. Over 3 million people died in German captivity. Between 1941 and 1945, 3.15 million Wehrmacht soldiers were captured by the Soviet Union. 1.11 million of them did not survive.

In the context of that difficult shared history, preserving the memory of the horrors of World War II is an indispensable element of genuine rapprochement and reconciliation between Russia and Germany. Today, therefore, as we commemorate the day Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, we wish to announce our joint decision to reinstate the names of the German and Soviet prisoners of war and internees whose personal fate was previously undocumented and to enable those who come after them to honour their memory.

Between 2000 and 2014, with financial support from the German Government and active assistance from the Russian Government, the Saxon Memorial Foundation ran a project uncovering the fate of Soviet and German prisoners of war and internees. It was able to collate data for around a million Soviet citizens and 2.2 million Germans, and provide information on them. Conscious of our historical responsibility, we intend to fill the remaining gaps and continue the research and documentation work in a new joint project that will build on the previous project. We wish to locate existing archive materials, systematically collate them and make them accessible, in order to bring the investigation of the personal fate of so many people to its logical conclusion. The data already collected and still to be gathered are to be digitised and collated in digital databases to enable the relevant authorities and other bodies in Germany and Russia to answer queries from the public and researchers. We intend this also as a means of putting names to the grave sites of those who died in captivity, in so far as that is possible.

We call on the staff of the relevant Russian and German authorities, archives, researchers and experts to cooperate closely in the implementation of this project. The German and Russian Governments will do all they can to support the project and particularly provide backing with regard to access to archives, provision of archive materials and creating favourable conditions for researchers and experts as they search for, process and digitise the data. The relevant ministry staff from both sides will agree the details of the project. The German side will provide the funding required to implement the project.

The Russian side has conferred the duties of project coordination on the Directorate-General for Commemorating Those Fallen in Defence of the Fatherland at the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation and entrusted the war memorials association Voennye Memorialy with practical implementation. On the German side, the project will be coordinated by the German War Graves Commission. Practical duties will be undertaken by the German Historical Institute in Moscow.

We see our joint endeavour not only as an expression of our commemoration of those who fell amid the horrors of war but also as a sign of the forward-looking nature of German-Russian cooperation. The tragedies of our past oblige us to work together without war and violence to preserve peace and create a brighter future. Our joint project is intended as a contribution to that.

The joint declaration in Russian PDF / 168 KB

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