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German Armed Forces Research 1918-1945
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Eastern Ethnic Legions "Ostlegionen"


Without going into too much historical detail about motivations such as anti-Soviet sentiment, long standing ethnic rivalries among the Caucasian peoples, etc, let it suffice to say that a strong tribal - nationalistic sentiment among the Georgians, Azerbaidjanis, Turkoman, Kazaks, Khirgiz, and Uzbeks, just to name a few, was the prime factor upon which the Germans capitalized to establish these groups into mercenary formations beneath their control. Because the Asiatic and Caucasian peoples came from regions that lay beyond the area of the Soviet Union the Germans intended to occupy permanently once the Eastern War was successfully concluded, they felt that the establishment of Eastern Legion comprised of these ethnic groups presented no real conflict of interest. However, Hitler forbade that individual units exceed Battalion strength, to keep them easily in hand, and that Battalions from the same ethnic groupings were never to be allocated en masse to the same area of operations. Thus they were widely distributed across German occupied Europe throughout the war with Ost-Bataillonen from Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaidjan to name a few, operating not only in the Pripet Marshes, but also the Balkans, the Normandy front, Italy, and even Occupation duty on the Channel Islands. Because many of these men volunteered according to their Anti-Soviet and anti-Communist sentiments, being posted to the Western front as garrison troops rather than being allowed to fight the Red Army in the East, produced very low morale, and in some cases, instances of outright mutiny.

The sweeping initial victories of Operation Barbarossa produced hundreds of thousands of non-Russian soldier prisoners in the POW cages of the German Army. Many did not speak Russian, and most showed varying degrees of distaste for their former Soviet overlords - all of them were hungry, many were starving. There had always been an element within the OKH that empathized with the non-Russian nationalities and ethnic groups which made up Stalin's Soviet Empire, and motions were made long before the Germans had physical access to the Caucasus regions that these men came from, to form National Legions for combat duties against the Soviets in the East.

From a top secret order from the OKW dated December of 1941 the following units were formally created:

CAUCASIAN MOSLEM LEGION
GEORGIAN LEGION
ARMENIAN LEGION

Further expanded when the Caucasian Moslem Legion was split in two to create:

NORTH CAUCASIAN LEGION
AZERBAIDJAN LEGION

In the middle of 1942 two further legions were added:

CRIMEAN TARTAR LEGION
VOLGA TARTAR LEGION (also known as IDEL-URAL LEGION)

Cossacks and Kalmucks were also allowed to form military units at this time.