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German Armed Forces Research 1918-1945

Freiwillige - WW2 German Wehrmacht Foreign Volunteers

WW2 German Wehrmacht Foreign Volunteer SoldiersOne 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 integrated into all areas of the military, while a great number of others formed distinct 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.

The basis for Feldgrau lays within our unit histories. In this section you will find all units documented to one degree or another. The many gaps in these listings will be filled during the coming months and years as additional research aids completing this monumental reference tool.

Unit histories are but one source for information on the German armed forces. Another vital source that can provide personal observations and unique perspectives that unit histories usually can not are veteran accounts.

Here are various interviews and autobiographies:
Included here are various other related articles:
Before embarking on any study of German unit histories it's helpful to have access to research material regarding ranks, formations, terms and other related concepts.If you have a question about a concept or something specific, you can post a message in our German Armed Forces Forum.