It was only when the Red Army regained territory previously controlled by the German Army that the Soviet Government became fully aware of the war crimes that had been committed. Soviet soldiers who had been taken prisoner had been deliberately starved to death. Of the 5,170,000 soldiers captured by the Germans, only 1,053,000 survived.
Women and children were also killed in large numbers. The Jews were always the first to be executed, but other groups, especially the Russians, were also killed. German soldiers were given the instructions that the "Jewish-Bolshevik system must be destroyed". Adolf Hitler was aware that to control the vast population of the Soviet Union would always be an extremely difficult task. His way of dealing with the problem was by mass exterminations.
Soviet authorities estimate that in all, over twenty million of their people were killed during the Second World War. However, it has been argued that Hitler's policy of exterminating the Soviet people guaranteed his defeat. Stories of German atrocities soon reached Red Army soldiers fighting at the front. Faced with the choice of being executed or being killed fighting, the vast majority chose the latter. Unlike most other soldiers, when faced with defeat in battle, the Soviet army rarely surrendered.
This was also true of civilians. When territory was taken by the German Army, women, children and old men went into hiding and formed guerrilla units. These groups, who concentrated on disrupting German supply lines, proved a constant problem to the German forces.