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One Hundred and One

H.E. Mr. Dilyor Khakimov, Ambassador of Uzbekistan and H.E. Mr. Alexander Shulgin, Ambassador of Russia during the launch of the book: One Hundred and One.

Commemorating Uzbek soldiers of the Samarkand Unit massacred in The Netherlands during during World War II.

In the picture H.E. Mr. Dilyor Khakimov, Ambassador of Uzbekistan and H.E. Mr. Alexander Shulgin, Ambassador of Russia during the launch of the book: One Hundred and One.

By Tereza Neuwirthova 

On Tuesday, October 15th, the Embassy of the Russian Federation in The Hague hosted an event to commemorate the fate of 101 unidentified Uzbek soldiers who were massacred by the German Wehrmacht during World War II.

The speakers at the event included H.E. the Ambassador of Russia to the Netherlands, Mr. Alexander Shulgin, the Uzbek Ambassador to the BENELUX Nations, H.E. Mr. Dilyor Khakimov, as well as Mr. Remco Reiding, the Dutch journalist who began the process of identifying Soviet POWs buried at Amersfoort some twenty years ago. Mr. Reiding was the one who recorded messages from Mr. Anvar Irgashev, the co-writer of a recently published book about these soldiers.

Guests at the Russian Embassy on The Hague during the launch of the book: One Hundred and One.

            Since beginning of his work in 1998 at the behest of a local newspaper, Mr. Reiding has helped to identify more than 250 of the 865 total soldiers buried in the field, notifying 210 families of the fate of their loved ones who, until then, had been classified as missing in action. 

            The 101 Uzbek soldiers of the Samarkand Unit, however, were not brought to the Amersfoort concentration camp in September 1941 purely for detention purposes, but as a plot concocted by the highest orders of Nazi Germany, to present these soldiers to the Dutch people and prisoners as the ‘Untermensch’ that were being fought on the Eastern Front in an effort to show them that the German cause was a noble one.

A film was going to be made depicting the sorry state of these soldiers and their brokenness as a way to raise army morale before the upcoming Battle of Moscow. 

Ambassadors Khakimov and Shulgin at the Russian Embassy in The Hague.

            Yet, meeting solidarity from Dutch prisoners and attempts to smuggle food and water from the local population, as well as the unbroken spirits of the soldiers, Hitler’s plan was foiled.

Alas, unfortunately these prisoners did not meet a happy fate and, after twenty-four had already died from starvation or illness, the remaining seventy-seven were marched into the woods near the camp, singing a patriotic song, and shot on April 9, 1942, at 6:30 in the morning: the second largest massacre in the Netherlands during the war.

            All of this information has only been revealed as a result of very recent research and compiled into a book, titled One Hundred and One, by Mr. Irgashev and Ms. Yulia Medvedovskaya, with help from Mr. Reiding. 

            The aim of this event was to raise awareness of these Uzbek prisoners, the other Soviet prisoners held at Amersfoort, and in general of the great suffering of all the Soviet citizens during the war. Mr. Reiding helped found, in 2010, the Soviet Field of Honor Foundation to raise historical awareness of events such as this in the Netherlands and abroad, as well as to lobby for a visitors’ center to be built on the site to provide information about the tragic events that took place there.

            The tale of these 101 soldiers is just one of many untold stories of individual bravery and heroism in the face of hopelessness and it is up to the efforts of individual researchers and advocacy by governments at home and abroad to make sure they are not forgotten. As an old Russian proverb says, “the man is alive as long as he is remembered.”

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