Mikhail Vasilevich Levshenkov

20.07.1914 - 22.03.2004
M. W. Lewszenkow, 1940. © Buchenwald Memorial / Militärhistorisches Freilichtmuseum Pskov

In 1940, at the age of 26, Mikhail Levschenkov was conscripted into the Red Army for military service. As a Soviet prisoner of war, he was sent to Buchenwald Concentration Camp in autumn 1941. There he joined the resistance organization of Soviet prisoners.

Mikhail Levshenkov grew up in a peasant family in the small village of Tsareche near Pskov in Russia. He was dedicated to learning and teaching. At the age of 18 he was already working as a teacher in a village school. He rose to become the principal of the village school while completing a teacher training course at a university at the same time. He met his wife. They taught together. A year after the wedding, their daughter was born in 1939. But the war destroyed the domestic bliss. Just a few weeks after the German invasion of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Levshenkov was taken prisoner of war by the Germans near Minsk.

In dealing with the Soviet prisoners of war, the German Wehrmacht deliberately violated all international legal conventions. Countless prisoners were murdered or starved to death in POW camps behind the front lines. Mikhail Levchenkov passed through various camps before he was deported to Buchenwald Concentration Camp in October 1941 with a group of 2,000 Soviet prisoners of war. There they were to be used for forced labor. However, the SS locked the men in a cordoned off area of the camp and reduced their rations. One in three died of starvation or disease in the following six months.

But Mikhail Levschenkow survived this first winter in Buchenwald. From 1942 he had to work in the quarry, and later in the carpentry detail and as a paramedic. He helped set up a secret resistance organization for Soviet prisoners. His tasks were gathering information and looking after the Soviet youths imprisoned in the camp. Along with other inmates, he taught the boys, few of whom had attended school, how to read and write. Secret concerts or chess tournaments helped them to keep their will to live, despite the hostile conditions in the Concentration Camp.

Mikhail Levshenkov managed to escape while on a death march in April 1945. He recorded his return home in his diary: “On the old paths. I returned home on December 1, 1945. How much joy and how much sorrow.” His village had been destroyed by the German occupiers, his two brothers had died as soldiers, his wife had died of tuberculosis. He found his parents and daughter in a hut they had built by themselves. Mikhail Levshenkov stayed true to his passion and worked as a teacher again until he retired.

The animation is a result of the collaboration with the St. Joost School of Art & Design in Den Bosch and Breda.