Foreign Volunteers in the German Wehrmacht in WWII
One of the most amazing aspects of WWII, and one of the least well known, is the incredibly large number of foreign volunteers that joined the German Armed Forces between 1939 and 1945. During WWII, nearly 2,000,000 foreigners served within the German fighting forces, many as willing volunteers, others through varying degrees of conscription. The reasons these volunteers joined the German Wehrmacht were varied, but a simple look at the numbers begins to tell the story - in the East alone nearly 1,000,000 men volunteered for service with Germany. This number is a direct result of the situation millions faced under the brutal rule of the Soviet Empire. Many foreign volunteers and conscripts were anonymously intergrated into all areas of the military, while a great number of others formed distict units consisting either partly or entirely of volunteers of specific ethnic, cultural or political backgrounds. These units were employed in all varieties of combat tasks from carrying wounded and supplies, to fighting partisans, to serving on the front line. Some of these units would prove to be tenacious and elite formations - the match of any regular German units - while others would prove worthless in serious combat. Some units even mutinied and resisted the Germans after having been fully trained and armed! In the end, many volunteers were openly slaughtered by the partisans, and in some cases by the Allies themselves, while most others were handed over to their respective former homelands. In most cases, as with those sent to the former Soviet Union, these volunteers would never be seen again.
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