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German Armed Forces Research 1918-1945

Polish Volunteers in the German Wehrmacht and Auxiliary Forces during WWII

Of all the Nations Germany overran during WWII, the Poles admittedly suffered what was the harshest and brutal occupation of the entire conflict, the only equal being the occupation of the Eastern regions of the Soviet Union between 1941 and 1944.

When Poland was conquered after the Invasion of 1939, its territory was divided into three distinct regions, none of which were to be allowed any notion of the former nation. The western region of Poland was annexed into the German Reich and became Gau Danzig-West Preussen and Gau Posen (later Gau Wartheland). These areas annexed into the German Reich also came under Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS territorial organization, becoming respectively Wehrkreis XX and XXI and SS-Oberabschnitte Warthe and Weichsel. The central portion of Poland came under the civilian control of the Generalgouvernement, and the eastern portion of Poland came under Soviet control beginning on September 17th when the Soviet Union attacked Poland from the east and was officially handed over when all German forces pulled back to the demarcation line of the Bug River. When Germany later attacked the Soviet Union in June of 1941, the eastern region of Poland previously occupied by the Soviets was added to the control of the Generalgouvernement and later came under the Reichskommissariat Ostland and Reichskommissariat Ukraine. Thus, by the summer of 1941, Poland was completely occupied by Germany.

There is no question that the fate of Poland under German and Soviet occupation was harsh. Of all the nations of Europe, Poles suffered the highest per-capita losses, with 1 in every 5.9 persons being killed as a result of the conflict, most under the brutal rule of the German security and police forces. Alongside this cruel reality, Poles pride themselves on the fact that their nation was the only one not to collaborate with the enemy. Although this is true to a degree, if one looks closely at the issue there were, in fact, a few select cases of Polish foreign volunteers during WWII.

There existed in Poland, as in nearly every other region of Europe during the time of WWII, a distinct group that was ripe for voluntary or conscripted service within or alongside the Reich. This group was known as the Volksdeutsche. Volksdeutsche were historic ethnic enclaves resident beyond the German border that for political and/or traditional reasons were considered a part of greater Germany. It was from among these groups that the Germans first gathered volunteers from Poland. Although they are not technically thought of as Poles by the Germans, the ethnic German Volksdeutsche were in reality from Poland and can thus be seen as Polish volunteers.

Initial militia groups and the Selbschutz

The first such instance of ethnic German Volksdeutsche from Poland being formed into units to support Germany was in September of 1939 with the attack on Poland. Upon the entrance of German troops into the regions of Western Poland, small groups of Volksdeutsche came together and formed local militia groups. This Volksdeutsche militia aided the German attack in many areas, and became so useful that shortly after the German Invasion, between September 8th and 10th, it was decided to reorganize the militia groups into Self-Protection units, otherwise known as Selbschutz. The Selbschutz was therefore formed in the early days of the German attack on Poland from ethnic German-Poles between the ages of 17-45 in the regions of Western Poland. The Selbschutz came under the control of the SS, being organized into three regions known as Südlicher Bereich, Mittlerer Bereich and Nördlicher Bereich. Each region was itself divided into districts known as Kreise, and each Kreise into a locality or Ort. The southern and central regions came under the direct control of the SS-Hauptamt, while the northern region came under the control of the RSHA. As September 1939 came to an end, the Selbschutz was reorganized and came under the operational control of Ordungspolizei or Order Police. Throughout its existence, the Selbschutz was entrusted with various rear-area security and support operations, and in many cases earned for itself an infamous reputation - so much so that it was therefore requested that the Selbschutz be disbanded. An order was later placed directing that the Selbschutz be disbanded as of November 8th, 1939, with an effect from the 30th of November, 1939. A select few units of the Selbschutz would go on to serve until April of 1940 when all unit was finally and permanently disbanded. It is thought that a total of 45,000 ethnic German-Poles served in the Selbschutz before it was ordered to be disbanded.

The Sonderdienst

Upon the

SA Wehrbereitschaften

NSKK Einheit Generalgouvernment

Baudienst im Generalgouvernment

Polish Police Forces