In September 1941 101 prisoners of war arrived from Central Asia at the livestock unloading facility of Amersfoort railway station, predominantly hailing from from Uzbekistan. They had been captured at the eastern front, not long after the German invasion of the Soviet Union. The soldiers were dressed in rags and after a long train journey they looked desolate, dirty and hungry. The Germans regarded these Asian bolshevists as Untermenschen (sub-humans) and treated them as such, whereas the Amersfoort citizenry took pity on them.
During their incarceration in the Camp Amersfoort (see photo) the Russians, as they were known, were treated brutally. Within half a year 24 of them succumbed to starvation, sickness and abuse. The camp doctor displayed two of their skulls as artefacts in his office.
On 9 April 1942 the remaining 77 were shot. It would turn out to be the second biggest mass execution in the Netherlands of the Second World War. A monument has been erected in the place of execution, where since 2012 the Stichting Russisch Ereveld holds an annual commemoration. After the war their remains were buried at Rusthof. Slowly they passed into oblivion. Their names were never known.
The American Cemetery at Margraten, in the Dutch province of Limburg, held another 691 soldiers from the Red Army. Captured by the Germans, they were transferred to PoW camps, among them Stalag VI A in Hemer and Stalag VIK in Stukenbrock. Many of them ended up in the Ruhr where they had to work under abominable conditions.
Most of the 691 Soviet soldiers buried in Margraten, succumbed to sickness in the last days of the war or the first days and weeks of liberation. The American army had admitted them to hospitals in German towns and cities such as Lüdenscheid, Hamm, Dortmund en Bad Lippspringe. After their deaths – often through tuberculosis – their remains were interred in the nearest cemetery outside Germany, so that no allied war victims would have to be buried in enemy soil.
After the war the governors of Margraten cemetery wanted to dedicate it exclusively to American war dead. The Soviet soldiers were then brought to Amersfoort where they joined their 101 compatriots already buried there.
Amersfoort thus served as collection point for Soviet war victims buried in the Netherlands. The remains of 73 forced laborers and Soviet soldiers in German service (mainly Georgians and Armenians) were also re-interred in Amersfoort.