The German occupation forces considered escaped Soviet POWs to be a threat from the very start of the war. They feared espionage, sabotage and the organisation of partisan groups.

The German guards would often order Soviet POWs to walk ahead of them, and then shoot them in the back, later to report that the prisoners had been shot while fleeing.

Soviet POWs trying to escape to Sweden had little chance of success. They were usually unable to speak Norwegian and had poor clothing and shoes. They were also undernourished and had no food. Many were caught while on the run, and many died from hunger and cold.

Some of the people who were neighbours of prison camps or construction sites would often report escaping prisoners to the police. Norwegian newspapers would carry warnings of the strictest punishments for helping Soviet POWs escape. The Germans paid well for information about escaped prisoners.