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cial police troika, three-man boards set up speci¬cally to address sotsvrednye.
In 1935, police operations rounded up 160,000 homeless and juvenile delin-
quents, many of whom were sent to NKVD youth labor colonies.28 By the
mid-1930s, many of these “socially harmful elements” had received sentences
of up to ¬ve years™ con¬nement in the camp system. Police troiki sentenced
120,000 “socially harmful elements” in 1935 and 140,000 in 1936. In 1939,
sotsvrednye formed the second largest group among Gulag inmates (285,000,

S. Krasil™nikov and V. P. Danilov, eds., Spetspereselentsy v Zapadnoi Sibiri, 1933“1938, vol. 3

(Novosibirsk: “EKOR”, 1994), 89“99.
GARF, f. 9479. op. 1, d. 19, l. 7. This operation seems to have been better organized, the

deported being settled upon arrival in barracks and given some tools and food to start “working
in the ¬elds.”
RGASPI, f. 17, op. 162, d 15, l. 161. In 1934, over 13,000 “professional beggars” were deported

from Moscow.
Hagenloh, 294.

See, for example, the joint government-Party directive of July 19, 1936, ordering the arrest of

5,000 “socially harmful speculators” in Moscow, Leningrad, Kiev, and Minsk; David Shearer,
“Social Disorder, Mass Repression and the NKVD during the 1930s,” Cahiers du Monde russe
42, no. 2“4 (2001): 526.
Christian Gerlach and Nicolas Werth

or approximately 22 percent of the total inmate population), second only to
“counterrevolutionaries” (445,000, or approximately 35 percent).29
As a result of the regime™s efforts to restore order to its major cities, a per-
manent stratum of social outcasts and expellees emerged. Yet, even under the
watchful eye of the police, NKVD of¬cials lamented that only a small portion
of these “socially harmful” elements were “properly isolated”; the majority
of them, those temporarily expelled or deported, remained ongoing causes of
public disorder. Accordingly, by 1937, formerly “socially harmful” individuals
were reclassi¬ed as potentially dangerous elements on the basis of allegations
that they harbored “anti-Soviet” and “counter-revolutionary” sentiments and
that they were the source of “all sorts of diversionary crimes.” The “mass oper-
ations” of the summer of 1937, launched in accordance with NKVD Order
00447 (“Concerning the Punishment of Former Kulaks, Criminals and Other
Anti-Soviet Elements”), served as the ¬nal and most radical stage in the cam-
paign against “socially harmful elements.” Signi¬cantly, several of the regions
speci¬cally targeted by Order 00447 “ that is, those with the highest “quo-
tas in the ¬rst or second categories,”30 such as Western Siberia, the Southern
Urals, the Far East, and the Azov-Black Sea Territory “ were precisely those
regions that possessed the largest concentration of deportees, expellees and
social outcasts previously driven out of the “passportized areas.”
At the present state of research our knowledge of the 767,000 persons
repressed in the course of the 00447 operations31 (of which half were exe-
cuted) remains quite fragmentary. Who exactly were these “socially harmful
elements,” targeted and marginalized, catalogued by the police when denied
a passport and often simply arrested in markets and at railway stations as
local NKVD authorities sought to ful¬ll “ and overful¬ll “ their quotas?32 The
¬rst and largest group included so-called “ex-kulaks” “who [had] returned
home, [had] escaped labor settlements, [and] who [carried] out anti-soviet
activities.” A second group comprised “criminals “ bandits, robbers, recidivist
thieves, professional contraband smugglers, [and] cattle thieves “ who [car-
ried out] illegal activities or who [were] associated with the criminal under-
world.” A third group included a wide range of social and political out-
casts, such as “members of anti-Soviet parties, former Whites, former tsarist

J. A. Getty, G. T. Rittersporn, and V. Zemskov, “Les victimes de la r´ pression p´ nale dans
e e

l™URSS d™avant-guerre,” Revue des Etudes Slaves 65/IV (1993): 631“43.
People in the “¬rst category” were to be “immediately arrested and, after consideration of their

case by troiki, shot.” People ascribed to the “second category” were “subject to arrest and to
con¬nement in camps for a term ranging from 8 to 10 years.” Numbers of “former kulaks” and
“criminals” to be shot or sent to camps were presented by regional party and NKVD authorities
and approved by the Politburo. Order 00447 was ¬rst published in Trud, no. 88, June 4, 1992.
English translation in J. Arch Getty and Oleg V. Naumov, eds., The Road to Terror (London
and New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000), 473“80.
Lasting from August 1937 to November 1938, the 00447 operations were the largest of the

dozen or so secret “mass operations” of the “Great Terror.”
P. Hagenloh, op. cit.; D. Shearer, op. cit.; N. Werth, “Repenser la Grande Terreur en URSS,

1937“1938,” Le D´ bat, no. 122 (November/December, 2002): 118“39.
State Violence “ Violent Societies 143

policemen and functionaries, re-´ migr´ s, sectarian activists, church of¬cials and
e e
others . . . who [were] hiding from punishment or [had] escaped from places of
con¬nement and continue[d] to carry out anti-soviet activities.” Regional and
local studies, which have only just begun to emerge on the topic of NKVD
Order 00447, con¬rm that most victims belonged to the categories of social
Subsequent to the burst of radicalization under Order 00447, repression
against social outcasts and marginals continued, but at more moderate levels.
Yet, even during the war, large-scale police sweeps were occasionally launched
in major towns. Police reports note, however, that the task of extracting
“socially harmful elements” was becoming increasingly dif¬cult, as marginals
and social outcasts mixed with and merged into the masses of deportees and
During the immediate postwar years, police authorities, alarmed by the high
level of social disorder and petty criminality, once again systematically purged
the principal “regime cities” of “antisocial and parasitic elements” (these terms
had, by then, replaced the label “socially harmful”). Exploiting the widespread
sense of insecurity and the general desire for “order,” police authorities increas-
ingly relied upon night patrols that comprised demobilized soldiers, networks
of voluntary “police assistance groups,” and superintendents and doorkeep-
ers to round up “violators of the passport regime,” vagrants, beggars, the
homeless, and other marginals. By the end of 1946, the “passport depart-
ments” of the regular police claimed to have received the “assistance” of over
560,000 voluntary and auxiliary persons. The participation of such auxiliaries,
however, was broadly considered to be “ineffective” and “unprofessional.” In
1946, they accounted for less than 15 percent of all alleged “passport viola-
tors” (all the same, 15 percent represents 230,000 alleged violators).35 During
1947, as poverty and famine spread over much of the postwar country, the
number of vagrants, beggars, homeless, and other marginal individuals sky-
rocketed.36 During that year, over 500,000 “violators of the passport regime”
were expelled from “regime cities;” and over 50,000 were sentenced to forced
labor as “malicious violators of the passport regime,” “antisocial elements,”
“parasites,” and “persons not engaged in any form of socially useful work.”37

See, for example, for Smolensk, R. Manning, “Massovaia operatsiia protiv kulakov i prestup-

nykh elementov,” in Stalinizm v rossiiskoi provintsii: Smolenskie arkhivnye dokumenty v
prochtenii zarubezhnykh istorikov, ed. E. V. Kodin (Smolensk: SGPU 1999), 230“54; for
Tatarskaia ASSR, see A. Stepanov, “Provedenie kulatsko¨ operatsii v Tatarii,” in Kak Terror
stal “Bolshim,” eds. Marc Junge and Rolf Binner (Moscow: Airo-XX, 2003), 260“321.
See, for example, NKVD Order no. 001693 (December 17, 1941), “On the Cleansing of the

City of Kuibyshev of Its Socially Harmful Elements.”
GARF, f. 9415, op. 3, d. 1419.

According to police sources, there were over 2 million beggars in 1947. See V. F. Zima, Golod v

SSSR 1946“1947 godov: Proiskhozhdenie/ Posledstviia (Moscow: In-t rossiiskoi istorii, 1996),
GARF, f. 9415, op. 3, d. 1429.
Christian Gerlach and Nicolas Werth

The highest state authorities actively promoted this policy: in February 1947,
a secret government resolution “authorized” the MVD in Moscow to arrest
5,000 “antisocial elements” within a two-month period. Processed via extra-
judicial procedures, they were sentenced to exile or sent to camps. In 1948,
1949, and 1951, an array of secret governmental resolutions ordered the fur-
ther intensi¬cation of police measures against beggars and vagrants, many of
whom were war invalids.38
In Germany, too, a rather vaguely de¬ned set of social subgroups was
accused of deviant behavior and persecuted as “asocials.” After 1939, they
were categorized as Gemeinschaftsfremde and Gemeinschaftsunfahige, “alien
to the community” and “socially un¬t,” respectively. Experts with the regime,
however, criticized the lack of a common de¬nition for “asocial.” In order
to differentiate between those “alien” to society and those only temporarily
“alienated” from it as a result of adverse conditions, they de¬ned “asocial-
ness” as a biologically determined condition. Yet, the term remained quite
arbitrary: among those groups included under the label “asocial” were beg-
gars, tramps, and vagabonds; the homeless; “idlers;” people who lived off
public welfare for long periods; the “work-shy,” those who refused to work,
and, during the Second World War, persons with records of poor work perfor-
mance; alcoholics unable to work; persistent criminal offenders; “roughnecks;”
“grousers;” “psychopaths”; prostitutes, pimps, and persons with unconven-
tional sexual tendencies; hard-nosed traf¬c offenders; men who failed to pay
alimony or child support; persons unable to maintain a respectable household
or to educate their children; and asoziale Großfamilien (large families from the
lower strata of society).39
There was often little de¬nitional distinction between “asocials” and other
persecuted groups, such as Gypsies, criminals, homosexuals, and the mentally
disabled. Moreover, the term “asocial” was often simply used as a reinforcing
epithet for groups already targeted for other reasons. For example, one might
¬nd reference to an “asocial Gypsy” or an “asocial Jew” “ a somewhat prob-
lematic description in that it makes it virtually impossible to determine whether
or not a person was persecuted or killed as an “asocial” or as a member of
some other category. This remains the case despite the fact that, in concentra-
tion camps, “asocials” were forced to wear a distinctive black triangle on their

A large proportion (over 40 percent) of the “beggars” arrested in 1951“2 were war invalids

(V. Zima, 220“2).
Wolfgang Ayaß, “Asoziale” im Nationalsozialismus (Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 1995), 105“6, 106“

13; Lisa Pine, Nazi Family Policy, 1933“1945 (Oxford and New York: Berg, 1997), 117“
23; Ayaß, “˜Asoziale™: die verachteten Verfolgten” in Verfolgung als Gruppenschicksal, eds.
Wolfgang Benz and Barbara Distel (Dachau: Verlag Dachauer Hefte, 1998), 50“66, here 51“3;
Martin Broszat, “Konzentrationslager,” in Anatomie des SS-Staates, vol. 2, 4th ed., ed. Hans
Bocheim (Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1984), 9“135, here 70“1 and 76“7; Ernst
Klee, ed., “Euthanasie” im NS-Staat: die “Vernichtung lebensunwerten Lebens” (Frankfurt
am Main: Fischer, 1986), 356“7; Klaus Scherer, “Asozial” im Dritten Reich: die vergessenen
Verfolgten (Munster: VOTUM Verlag, 1990), 48“56.
State Violence “ Violent Societies 145

uniform to differentiate them from criminals (who donned green triangles),
homosexuals (pink), Gypsies (brown or, often, also black), and Jews (marked
with an additional yellow triangle). Within the camps, there was little group
solidarity between the socially diverse “asocials,” and they enjoyed little respect
from other groups of prisoners.40
Interestingly, pressure for more rigorous policies against the above-
mentioned groups, including policies of internment sterilization, long preceded
the Nazi assumption of power in 1933. The historical record amply demon-
strates that welfare of¬cials, medical doctors, and political parties had been
discussing precisely such repressive policies and regulations well back into the
nineteenth century; and, after the First World War, the German state actively
began to extend its in¬‚uence over labor markets by trading welfare provisions
for increased control.41 In this light, new steps, such as a September 1933
police raid on beggars that netted more than 10,000 individuals, only contin-
ued and radicalized previous tendencies. Yet, throughout much of the 1930s,
everyday measures against “asocials” remained relatively mild and were gener-
ally con¬ned to threats, registration, compulsory work, exclusion from welfare
payments, communally organized interment in labor houses (Arbeitshauser),
camps for compulsory work (P¬‚ichtarbeitslager), or homes for vagabonds
From 1938 on, however, these relatively mild forms of internment were
replaced by mass imprisonment in concentration camps. “Operation Work-
Shy in the Reich,” which speci¬cally targeted unemployed men considered ¬t
for work and resulted in the arrest of over 12,000 people, was one of the initial
steps in the radicalization of policy toward “asocials.” The restructuring of
the concentration camp system (until early 1940, “asocials” constituted the
largest group of prisoners) and the related recruitment of forced labor in the
camps for construction projects were major factors in the radicalization of
policy, especially considering that full employment in the economy had been
While many sick and disabled were in fact arrested, it was, perhaps, the
intimidation of those spared that represented the key objective “ and not only

Ayaß, Asoziale, 169.

Horst Kahrs, “Die ordnende Hand der Arbeitsamter: Zur deutschen Arbeitsverwaltung 1933 bis

1939,” in Arbeitsmarkt und Sondererlaß: Menschenverwertung, Rassenpolitik und Arbeitsamt,
ed. Wolf Gruner (Berlin: Rotbuch Verlag, 1990), 9“61, in particular 11“19, 41“3; Klee, 29“33,
36“43; Patrick Wagner, Volksgemeinschaft ohne Verbrecher: Konzeption und Praxis der Krim-
inalpolizei in der Zeit der Weimarer Republik und des Nationalsozialismus (Hamburg: Chris-
tians, 1996), 19“189; Claudia Brunner, Frauenarbeit im Mannerstaat: Wohlfahrtsp¬‚egerinnen
im Spannungsfeld kommunaler Sozialpolitik in Munchen 1918“1938 (Pfaffenweiler: Centaurus,
Ayaß, Asoziale, 20“32, 41“104, 118“23. In Bavaria alone, 16,000 people had been interned in

the Wanderhofe at different times by 1940. See also Gotz Aly and Karl Heinz Roth, Die restlose


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( 115 .)