British Imperial War Museum - Invasion of the Soviet Union display (Holocaust Exhibition)

The adjoining image is of the only display case within the IWM that gives any serious attention to the fate of Soviet POWs. (1)

The main text in that display case: 

  >On 22 June 1941 Germany suddenly broke its treaty with the Soviet Union and invaded in overwhelming force.  With this escalation of the war, Nazi fanaticisim reached new levels and terror turned into systematic mass murder.  [The reference is to mass murder of  Jews --- which began in the summer of 1941.]
   Code-named Operation Barbarossa, the invasion was Hitler's crusade gainst 'Jewish Bolshevism'.  Soviet leaders were caught unprepared and the German army reached the outskirts of Moscow by December.  Three million Soviet prisoners of war were taken in the first eight months.  Jews and suspected Communists among them were shot immediately; the rest were mostly left to starve or freeze to death in makeshift camps.
  Behind the front lines, SS murder squads, known as Einsatzgruppen  ('Action Groups"), began rounding up and shooting Jews and Communists.<

About half of the significant visuals within the "Soviet Invasion" display case and about half the main text bring to mind Jewish POWs and the fate of Jews in German hands -- but under 5% of dead Soviet POWs were Jews.  (And Jewish persecution and death is quite well covered in the adjoining 1195 square meteres of the IWM exhibition.)

No 'innocent' visitor will come away from this "Soviet Invasion" Imperial War Museum display case with a full sense of the massive Gentile Soviet death tolls of 1941 and early 1942.   To convey effectively these Gentile death tolls  -- and to do justice to the Soviet Barbarossa experience --  visuals that direct attention to the Soviet Jewish POW experience need to be removed from the display.  And the main text of the display needs to state clearly and forcefully -- in a sentence not mentioning Jews --  that the Germans captured over two million Gentile Soviets in 1941, had killed most of these prisoners by the spring of 1942, and total Soviet military losses for 1941 were circa three million.

For an exchange on H-Holocaust in 2006 between myself and the writer of the text quoted above  go to and, employing the search function at the left, enter "Paulsson Petrie 'forgotten' holocausts".  For a wider discussion of representation issues and also a follow up to the Petrie-Paulsson exchange enter "Rhetoric of 'forgotten' holocausts".

(1) The image is composed of two photos joined together, and  both the  main text (left) and Star of David  worn by the POW in the small photo (right) are enhanced -- but not the Star of David on the prisoner's coat in the foreground of the dispay case.  There are other 'mentions' of Soviet POW losses within the Holocaust Exhibition beyond the pictured display case, but they are simply passing mentions.


Coverage of Russian losses / Soviet POW losses in the Museum's World War I & II exhibits  

The Imperial War Museum does direct attention to Russian losses in World  War I, e.g.: "One million six hundred thousand killed ... over four million wounded ... [Russia] could not sustain such losses."  

But a few hundred feet away, within its World War II exhibit, a film entitled 'Barbarossa' gives no indication of total 1941 Soviet losses and leaves listeners with the impression that the Germans captured less than a million prisoners in 1941, not over two million.  (And the film gives no indication that most of those Soviet 1941 prisoners were dead within six months.) 

And near the 'Barbarossa' film screen is a display case titled "Prisoners of War" that avoids any hint that Germans were responsible for a holocaust of Soviet POWs.  The only reference to Soviet POWs:

"The war of rapid movement ... lead to unprecedented numbers of combatants being taken prisoner.  Conditions varied greatly in prisoner of war camps.  While most POW's suffered levels of privation and boredom, the situation of Soviet and German captives on the Eastern front was particularly harsh." 

(The accepted figure for Soviet POW death/ murder at German hands is three million three hundred thousand.  The "particularly harsh" statement quoted above is the sole reference within the Museum's World War II display cases to the German army's unprecedented slaughter of millions of POWs.)


For the memorial to Soviet WWII losses located just outside IWM's boundaries within a public park see:
(building in the background is the Museum) (text on monument)


See ><  for the US Holocaust's Museum's treatment of the 1941 Soviet losses.

And some readers may also be interested in the systematic misrepresentation of the history and meanings of the word "holocaust" by Holocaust scholars documented at ><

Jon Petrie (