Russian Volunteers in the German Wehrmacht in WWII
|It is not known when and where exactly the first units of volunteers from the USSR, and from the countries annexed by Russia after 1939, were organized to fight against the Soviets on the German side. Their beginnings were shrouded in great secrecy, for fear of Hitler who was categorically opposed to any form of participation of Soviet citizens in the war against Russia. But needs of the army on the Eastern Front, and the enthusiastic desire shown by hundreds of captured and escaped officers, by thousands of Soviet soldiers, and by almost the entire local population induced German commanders to accept the services of volunteers to fight the Soviet regime even against the clear orders of the Supreme Command. When the existence of numerous formations of Eastern volunteers came to light with the passing of time, Hitler was unpleasantly surprised. The hopeless military situation of the Reich forced him to approve this state of affairs.|
The creation of eastern volunteer formations was patronized – secretly, of course – by the Section of Foreign Armies East of the Intelligence Department of the Army General Staff, the so-called “Fremde Heere Ost” Section; Officers of this section saw the importance of an anti-Soviet Russian Army fighting on the German side and its possible effect on the outcome of the war. The idea was fully appreciated also by the propaganda section of the Supreme Command, the “Wehrmacht Propaganda IV,” or WPrIV for short, which dealt with propaganda on both sides of the eastern front and had under its control special camps for selected prisoners who were being trained for active propaganda in psychological warfare against Soviet Russia.
A number of German generals also supported the organization of eastern volunteer formations, but for a long time without success. In the autumn of 1941, Field Marshal von Bock had sent to Hitler’s Headquarters a detailed project for the organization of a Liberation Army of some 200,000 Russian volunteers, and for the formation of a local government in the province of Smolensk; It was returned in November 1941 with the notation that “such thoughts cannot be discussed with the Fuehrer,” and that “politics are not the prerogatives of Army Group Commanders.” Of course, Field-Marshal Keitel, who wrote this notation, did not show the project to Hitler. (1)
The forerunner of the volunteer formations was a voluntary auxiliary service, of a para-military character, which was started in the autumn of 1941 by the German Commands on the front. On their own initiative, they organized auxiliary units of various services, made up of Soviet deserters, prisoners, and volunteers from among the local population. These so-called “Hilfswillige,” or “Hiwi,” were employed as sentries, drivers, store-keepers, workers in depots, etc. The experiment surpassed all expectations. In the spring of 1942, there were already at least 200,000 of them in the rear of the German armies, and by the end of the same year, their number was allegedly near 1,000,000. (2)
The next step taken by the German Commands in the east behind Hitler’s back was the organization of voluntary military troops, called “Osttruppen,” clad in German uniforms and designed to guard communication lines, fight Soviet partisans in the rear of the German armies, and sometimes even hold less important sectors of the front. These troops seldom exceeded the strength of a battalion. In the middle of 1942, there were already 6 such battalions in the rear of the Army Group Center alone.
One of the first Russian volunteer formations was RONA – Russian National Army of Liberation – which was organized in the winter of 1941-1942 under the command of a Soviet captain called Kaminski, who was promoted by the Germans to Major-General. His army – which in fact never exceeded the strength of a division – at first fought against Soviet partisans, and later on the front. In the summer of 1944, after considerable losses, RONA was withdrawn to East Prussia, where Himmler took it over from the Wehrmacht and reorganized it into an SS brigade.
Kaminski’s brigade earned the worst possible reputation among all who had anything to do with it, not excluding Russians from other formations. A particularly gruesome fame was gained by this brigade during the quelling of the Warsaw Rising in 1944. Only the infamous SS Dirlewanger Brigade, composed of criminal volunteers from German prisons and concentration camps, could match the deeds of Kaminski’s Brigade. (3) After the Warsaw Rising, Kaminski was shot by order of his protector Himmler, and the remnants of his brigade were sent to the Vlasov Army which was then being formed.
At almost the same time as RONA there was organized in Byelorussia [White Russia] the Gil-Rodionov Druzhina, and near Smolensk, at the end of 1941, the Russian National People’s Army, RNNA. The first, an SS formation, was disbanded in 1943; The second, known as the Boyarski Brigade and backed by the Wehrmacht, met with the same end in 1943. Besides these formations, a number of volunteer battalions, companies and squadrons were formed. At first, they had un-official status, but later they were fully recognized. The majority of them, composed of volunteers of Russian nationality, were later incorporated into the Russian Army of Liberation- ROA- which was not an army in the organizational meaning of the word, but a name given to all Russian voluntary formations which recognized General Vlasov as their leader.
In a better condition were the Eastern Legions, the so-called “Ostlegionen” which, according to Rosenberg’s conception, contained only non-Russian volunteers. Hitler limited them to nationalities living far from the frontiers of the “Great Reich.” On December 30th, 1941 a top-secret memorandum ordered that the Supreme Command was to create, first the Turkestani Legion from volunteers of the following nationalities: Turkomans, Uzbeks, Kazakhs, Kirghiz, Karakalpaks, and Tadjiks. Second, the Caucasian-Mohammedan Legion, from Azerbaijanis, Daghestans, Ingushes, Lezghins, and Chechens. Third, the Georgian Legion; And fourth, the Armenian Legion. (4)
In contrast to the unofficial formations, the Eastern Legions had national committees from the start. It must be explained that a “legion” was not a tactical formation, but a training center where national units, mostly battalions, were organized and trained. It seems that the largest formation was the 162nd Turkoman Infantry Division, composed of Germans, Turkomans, and Azerbaijanis, which according to its commander, was as good as a normal German Division. (5) According to the testimony of Caucasian leaders, the number of volunteers from the Caucasus who fought on the German side was 102,300. (6)
German commanders had great sympathy for the Cossacks, although these did not conceal their political ambition to build their own state, Kazakia. Their bravery, their generally known hatred of the Soviets, and the services rendered from the very beginning particularly in fighting Soviet partisans gave quick results. As early as the middle of 1942, a Cossack cavalry formation existed in Mohylev, under the command of a former Soviet major, Kononov, who had crossed over to the Germans at the first opportunity with the greater part of his regiment and began service on the side of the Germans by guarding the line of communications against Soviet partisans. (7)
When in the summer of 1942 the front in the south was moving fast toward the Caucasus and the Volga, the German armies entered territories inhabited by the Cossacks. Composed of many tribes, these had during the civil war in Russia in 1917-1920 formed six federated republics: the Cossacks of the Don, of the Kuban, of Terek, of Orenburg, of the Ural, and of Astrakhan. The republics had been liquidated by the Bolsheviks with extreme cruelty.
The Cossacks, therefore, greeted the Germans as liberators. The entire population of towns, villages, and settlements went out to meet the German troops with flowers and gifts of all kinds, singing their national anthems. Cossack formations of the Red Army were coming over to the Germans in a body, new formations were springing up,apparently from nowhere, in traditional uniform and armed with swords, pistols, daggers, and rifles that had been buried for years.
One of the old and well-known atamans (Cossack leaders), Kulakov, who since 1919 had been believed dead, came out of hiding and, accompanied by hundreds of Cossacks in resplendent dress and on magnificent horses, made a triumphant drive into Poltava.Thousands of Cossacks in POW. camps offered their services in the first against the Soviets. Even the remnants of the Kalmuk tribe, estimated at some 60 to 80 thousand people, formed and equipped 16 cavalry squadrons which cleared the steppes of the remaining Soviet units, showing no mercy. General Koestring, who knew Russia well and in August 1942 became Governor of the Caucasus, thought he was dreaming or watching a great historical film.(8) Such was the Cossacks’ revenge for years of terror at the hands of the NKVD.
The recruiting of Cossacks for the fight against the Soviets was patronized by the Cossack National Movement of Liberation, whose aim was the rebuilding of an independent Cossack state. In the summer of 1943, the 1st Cossack Division was formed under the command of General von Pannwitz. It had six cavalry regiments. Shortly afterward the division was expanded into the XVth SS Cossack Cavalry Corps, which numbered some 50,000 men. Further, two Cossack brigades and 12 Cossack reserve regiments were formed, and a number of smaller units were attached to German formations. In all, Cossack troops on the German side numbered about 250,000 men. (9)
It should be explained here that the granting of the SS status to the Cossack Corps was Himmler’s device, quite often applied, for barring the Wehrmacht’s influence in political concerns of the foreign formations. The Germans used the Cossacks to fight Soviet partisans, to cover the rear of their armies, and sometimes for action on the front. Later on, some Cossack formations were moved to France and Yugoslavia. The Cossack command objected, on the ground that the Cossacks should fight only against the Soviets, but in vain.
Meanwhile, a small group of German officers and civil servants, in spite of many failures and difficulties, continued their effort to create a Russian Liberation Army out of the hundreds of thousands of Russian volunteers who wanted to fight against the Soviets. Their hopes were revived when at last a Russian “de Gaulle” was found: the Soviet General Andrey Andreyevich Vlasov, former commander of the Thirty-seventh and Twentieth Soviet Armies, and later Deputy Commander of the front on the river Volkhov.(10)
General Vlasov was the son of a Russian peasant from the Nizhni, Novgorod district who, although far from rich, had been classed by the Bolsheviks as “kulak” and treated accordingly. The young Vlasov finished school with the financial aid of his brother and began to study first theology and later at the Agricultural College of the University at Nizhni Novgorod. In the spring of 1919, he was called into the Red Army. After a few weeks in a regiment, Vlasov was posted to an officer’s school and finished a four-month course, gaining a commission. As a second lieutenant, he was sent to the front to fight against the “Whites.”
He did not join the Communist Party until 1930, but from then on his career was swift, since he no doubt had great ability. In 1938, already a major-general, Vlasov acted as Soviet Military Advisor to Chiang Kai-Shek in China. In December 1939, he returned to Russia and was given command of a division. During the war with Germany, he commanded, in turn, a tank corps and an army, taking part in the battle of Kiev and in the defense of Moscow. In March 1942 he became Deputy Commander of the Volkhov Front. In mid-June of 1942, the Soviet forces operating on the Volkhov River were surrounded in the woods and marshes, without food and supplies, and by the end of the month surrendered to the Germans. General Vlasov became a prisoner of war. (11)
The IV Propaganda Section of the Wehrmacht, WPrIV, realizing that Vlasov was one of the outstanding officers of the Red Army, took an immediate interest in him. He was transferred to a special, comfortable camp for important prisoners, where he was subjected to subtle propaganda that played on his aversion to the Soviet system. Soon the German supporters of collaboration with the anti-Soviet movement were convinced that their prisoner was the man they were looking for.
His personal charm, his effective manner of speaking, his manners and abilities, and particularly his gift of inspiring confidence as well as his last important position in the Red Army, clearly predestined him to stand at the head of the Liberation Movement and Army, which in spite of Hitler’s strict orders was coming into being. In September 1942, still in the POW camp, General Vlasov wrote a leaflet calling on the officers of the Red Army and the Russian intelligentsia to overthrow the Soviet regime of Stalin whom he accused of being guilty of all the disasters which had befallen Russia. However, the leaflet also contained some Nazi propaganda, included without Vlasov’s knowledge. (12)
This leaflet was dropped by the Luftwaffe in thousands of copies. The German protectors of General Vlasov attached great hopes to it. They expected that the results of this appeal would finally force Hitler to agree to the formation of the Liberation Army, and the results were indeed great. Day after day, the German Supreme Command received reports from all army groups that thousands of deserters from the Red Army who were coming over to the Germans, were asking for General Vlasov, and wanted to fight against the Soviets.
But these reports infuriated Hitler; on his orders, Field-Marshal Keitel forbade everybody, not excluding the General Staff, to present any kind of memorandum or report on the subject of General Vlasov and Russian formations. (13) This failure did not discourage the German supporters of the anti-Soviet movement. They decided to take what constituted a very unusual step under Hitler’s regime. Without official authorization, they brought into being in December 1942 the Russian National Committee, with General Vlasov as chairman.
This was no easy achievement, in view of the strong opposition of the non-Russian nationalities. It was decided that the seat of the Committee would be Smolensk, from where the already prepared “Smolensk Manifesto” was to be broadcast. In its 13 points, the Manifesto declared and promised the following: (1) abolition of compulsory labor, (2)abolition of collective farms, and land grants to the peasants, (3) reintroduction of private commerce and handicraft, (4) termination of terror, (5) personal freedom, (6) freedom of faith, conscience, speech, press, and assembly, (7) free choice of work, (8) guarantee of free development for all nationalities, (9) release of all political prisoners, (10) rebuilding of towns, villages and factories at the expense of the state, and (11) a guarantee of minimum subsistence for all invalids and their next of kin.
Moreover, the Manifesto stated that “Germany, led by Adolf Hitler, pursues the aim of creating a New Order in Europe without Bolsheviks or capitalists,” which, of course, was an addition put into the Manifesto by the German propaganda. The Manifesto ended with an appeal to the soldiers and officers of the Red Army to join the Liberation Army which was fighting on the German side. Thus the promoters of the German-Russian collaboration wanted to present the German authorities with an accomplished fact. (14)
The venture largely misfired. None of the papers controlled by the Germans even mentioned the creation of the Committee and the Manifesto; broadcasting the Manifesto was forbidden; Smolensk was rejected as the residence of the Committee. Soviet citizens in the occupied territories got to know about the Committee and its Manifesto from leaflets which were intended for the other side of the front and were dropped on the German side only “by mistake.”
However, in January 1943 the leaflet campaign had yielded such good results that the Command of Army Groups Center and North invited General Vlasov, on their own initiative, to go on a tour of their areas and deliver speeches to prisoners of war, Soviet volunteers, and the local population.
In March 1943, General Vlasov, who had gained personal freedom, visited Smolensk, Mohylev, Bobruisk, Borisov, Orsha, and other places; Everywhere his speeches brought him thousands of supporters. Later, after a short rest, he toured the areas of Army Group North. In March also, his letter appeared in a newspaper; In it, he gave his reasons for taking up the fight against Bolshevism. In the second half of April, the storm broke. Field-Marshal Keitel demanded to know who had allowed General Vlasov to issue a political proclamation; he also threatened grave consequences if it proved true that General Vlasov was appearing in public, and was being called “the future leader of the Russians.”
A few days later, Keitel issued a new order in which he stated: Vlasov is only a prisoner of war, his “shameless” speeches infuriated the Fuehrer who forbade mentioning the name Vlasov in his presence; The latter should immediately be sent back to the POW.camp, and should be kept under special surveillance; If in future, Vlasov appeared anywhere in public he would be arrested and handed over to the Gestapo.(15)
Yet the friends of General Vlasov succeeded in gaining permission for his further stay in Berlin – under “surveillance,” which in fact was rather fictitious. In the meantime, the leaflet campaign was in full swing. Soon all Army Groups and some of the armies reported that the publication of a political declaration and a change of attitude toward the anti-Soviet volunteers were a necessity; Otherwise, the occupation of the eastern territories would prove an impossible task. Attempts were made also to find a way to Hitler’s reason through Rosenberg, But the difficulty was that Rosenberg regarded the creation of the Russian National Committee as contrary to his own conceptions.
After a few months, Rosenberg’s opposition relaxed, as General Vlasov abandoned his previous stand of the “one and undivided Russia,” consented to the principle of self-determination of the non-Russian peoples, and agreed that Russia, in a peace settlement, would renounce her claims to Ukraine and the Caucasus.(16) Before Rosenberg’s planned intervention, Hitler once more repeated his view on this question. On June 8th, at a conference with his military advisors and chiefs of services, he declared that the Liberation Army was a dangerous folly.
He did not need such an army and would never consent to its organization. The setting up of any states in the occupied territories was out of the question. There were, unfortunately, too many supporters of such ridiculous schemes in Rosenberg’s circle and in the Army too. Instead of forming volunteer troops from them, the Russians would be sent to Germany to work in coal mines, replacing Germans. Vlasov was needed for propaganda work at the front – any activity of his in the rear was inadmissible. Losses in German formations could be replaced by volunteers from the east only on a very small, never a large scale. (17 & 18) After that conference, Field-Marshal Keitel wrote Rosenberg a very sharp letter in which he informed him of Hitler’s decision and asked him to forget the planned intervention.
Thus Hitler, for the time being, reduced the Russian National Committee, and the Liberation Army which in fact existed only in name, to a mere center of propaganda, controlled by Germans and working mainly by means of newspapers and pamphlets edited in Russian. However, the result of this propaganda was that, in spite of Hitler’s intervention, the Committee and the Liberation Army became a symbol of the Russian nation’s fight against the Soviet yoke. The lot of Soviet prisoners in German captivity improved.
During 1943 the number of volunteers in the eastern formations increased allegedly to some 800,000.(19) In September of that year, a new blow fell upon these formations. (20)According to exaggerated comments on German reports, Soviet troops broke through German lines chiefly because of the “treacherous” behavior of the Russian volunteer formations. Hitler flew into a rage; He ordered that all eastern formations be immediately disbanded and that 80,000 of them, as the first contingent, immediately be sent to France as coal-diggers.
He also demanded that the progress of the disbanding was to be reported to him every 48 hours. The Chief of the General Staff was also furious and at first, did not want to hear of any delay in carrying out the order. However, when he was finally convinced that the facts were greatly exaggerated and that it was impossible to withdraw from the front more than 3-5 thousand men, he decided to intervene. After three days Hitler modified his order; Only formations from the broken sector of the front were disbanded.
According to a statement of the General of Eastern Troops, seemingly made at that time, there were then on the entire Russian Front 427,000 ex-Soviet soldiers serving in the eastern formations, who would have to be replaced by German soldiers in case they were disbanded. (21) This figure did not include over 100,000 “Hiwi” who were not recognized as soldiers, nor Latvian, Estonian and Ukrainian formations. A few days later, when Hitler seemed appeased, he issued a new order: the Eastern Troops were to be withdrawn from the Russian Front and sent to other theaters of operation. Thus, in the autumn of 1943, some 70 to 80% of the Eastern troops were gradually withdrawn from the Russian front and moved to Poland, France, Italy, the Balkans, etc. In this way, Hitler deprived the eastern formations of their essential reason for existence- the fight against the Soviets.
At the end of April 1943, the formation of the Ukrainian Division began. This deviation from Hitler’s policy was the result of the deterioration of the general situation on the Eastern Front, and the appearance of Soviet partisans in the southeastern territories of Poland. The decision to form the Ukrainian Division did not meet with the general approval of the Ukrainian population which, discouraged by the German administration, was divided into two camps. The leaders of the underground movement were against the recruitment, but one main consideration turned the scales in its favor: the fear that if the venture was boycotted, the Ukrainian youth would be deported to Germany as laborers or enrolled in German auxiliary formations. (22)
The Germans, on their part, did not grant special concessions to the Ukrainians. The formation was called the 14th SS Grenadier Division (Galician No.1), which meant that it was under Himmler’s control and formally deprived of its national character. However, the Ukrainians received an assurance that the division would be used only on the Soviet front. In June 1944 the division was engaged, was encircled, and suffered heavy losses fighting its way out. Voluntary enlistment was later replaced by conscription. (23)
In the autumn of 1944, the Germans, at last, agreed to change the name of the formation to”1st Ukrainian Division,” and in March 1945 it became a part of the Ukrainian Army. (24) At the end of 1943, a small Ukrainian Legion was organized, which a year later was disbanded by the Germans for refusing to fight the Polish Home Army. The Commander of the Legion was shot by the Germans. (25) Among the eastern formations may also be classed the “Russian Defense Corps” of Serbia, composed of volunteers from among old Russian immigrants living in Yugoslavia. The corps’ strength [at its peak- the editor] was about 15,000 men. It had quite a different character from the majority of the eastern formations which were mainly composed of Soviet citizens. The creation of the corps was preceded by long endeavors because Hitler was opposed to the participation of old Russian [ex-Czarist] immigrants in the fight against the USSR. He limited the activities of the corps to operations against the local partisans in Yugoslavia, which of course deprived the corps of its raison d’être.
The enforced captivity of the Russian National Committee, and of General Vlasov, continued in spite of many efforts on the part of the German sympathizers of the anti-Soviet movement. (26) An attempt to influence Hitler was made by the “Gauleiter” of Vienna, Baldur von Schirach, who had been won over to the idea of the Liberation Army. Hitler left Schirach’s written interpolation without a reply. In the autumn of 1943, the order appeared which directed the eastern formations from the Russian Front to other theaters of operations; General Vlasov was asked to publish an open letter to the Russian volunteers in which he was to explain that the withdrawal from the eastern front was a temporary measure, dictated by the necessity of giving them repose and time for reorganization. When General Vlasov refused his signature, the “letter” was printed and distributed without his knowledge.
To sum up, by the middle of 1944 the situation of the anti-Soviet movement was as follows: ROA, the Russian Army of Liberation, was not a formation in the sense of a military organization. Units which bore its name were mostly commanded by German officers, and were dispersed all over Europe; General Vlasov and the Russian National Committee had no influence whatsoever and were not recognized by the German government, but the soldiers of the ROA saw in them their leaders.
In July 1944 a sudden turn occurred. Himmler, always a great enemy of General Vlasov and the Liberation Army, finally came to the conclusion that in the critical situation of the Reich it was worthwhile to try a course of policy different from the official one that had so far prevailed. His change of mind was brought about mainly by his closest SS lieutenants. At that time Himmler was, after Hitler, the most important and powerful person in the Reich. He was Chief of the SS, Hitler’s praetorians, Chief of the Police, including the secret Gestapo, Minister of the Interior and, since the attempt on Hitler’s life on July 20th, also Commander of the Reserve Troops [Home Army- the editor]. He had the full confidence of Hitler, who gave him a free hand in dealing with General Vlasov.
The meeting between General Vlasov and Himmler was to take place on July 21st. But this date almost coincided with the attempt on Hitler’s life; the meeting, therefore, took place two months later, on September 16th. It resulted in Himmler’s consent to the creation of a new committee, called KONR – Committee for the Liberation of the People’s of Russia (27), and the KONR Army under General Vlasov’s command. The Committee and Army were to embrace all Soviet citizens living under German rule, in order to unite their political and military activities in the fight against Bolshevism.
General Vlasov confirmed his declaration in the Smolensk Manifesto, that in the new Russia “every people will obtain national freedom, including the right of self-determination. The realization of this right to national independence and freedom is possible, however, only after destroying Stalin and his clique.”(28)
Himmler agreed to this interpretation and promised to help with the formation of the KONR Army. To start with, 5 divisions were to be organized from among prisoners and workers brought to Germany from the occupied territories in the east; their number reached almost 5 million. As the majority of the Eastern Troops (ROA) were engaged at various fronts, their transfer to the KONR Army was to take place gradually. Thus the new Committee and its Army owed their creation to Himmler who, by taking them under his wing, removed them from the sphere of influence of the Wehrmacht and Rosenberg, both of whom he hated.
The creation of the Committee for the Liberation of the People’s of Russia, and the consent to the organization of its Army, met strong opposition in many influential German circles, chiefly because the Committee and Army were led by a Russian, general Vlasov, and were to embrace nationals of all the peoples of Russia. Not only Rosenberg opposed this but also many high officials and officers. Vlasov’s strongest opposition, however, came from the representatives of the non-Russian nations, whose aim was to cut off all bonds with Russia and create their own independent states.
In their eyes, the KONR was mainly a Russian enterprise and controlled by Russians whom they did not trust. The declaration of “equality of all peoples of Russia and their real right for national development, self-determination, and state independence” (29) was regarded as merely a concession to circumstances which in the future, as so often in the past, would be forgotten. This time, the non-Russian representatives expressed the experience of hundreds of years of relations between their peoples and Russia.
Thus, although Himmler – who wanted only one all-Russian committee rather than several national committees – exercised pressure and made various threats, the following nationals refused to join KONR: Ukrainians, White Ruthenians, Georgians, Cossacks. The Kalmuks, who were grouped as “Cossacks”, decided to join KONR. General Vlasov however, prompted by his closest friends, came to an understanding with certain Ukrainians, White Ruthenians, Cossacks, and Georgians who pretended to be”representatives” of their nations. Thus, for example, the Russian General Balabin joined KONR as “representative” of the Cossacks although his only ground for “representation” was that he had served some time ago in the Cossack troops.
General Vlasov by the way, had no illusions; He realized fully his defeat. When one of the Germans congratulated him on the “satisfactory” solution of the non-Russian representatives, he replied sadly: “Those?” “The others are only the shadows of their peoples, but those are the shadows of the shadows.”(30) The majority of the old Russian emigrants who declared themselves against KONR and General Vlasov, describing his program as “Bolshevistic” because it stressed the preservation of the fruits of the 1917 Revolution. However, those factions of the old emigrants which realized that a return to the state of affairs before 1917 was impossible, backed General Vlasov. Yet KONR remained to the end under the influence of the Russians who were Soviet citizens; It was the expression of their protest against the tyranny of Stalin.
On November 14th, 1944 the Committee for the Liberation of the Peoples of Russia held its inaugural meeting in Prague. Here the Prague Manifesto was proclaimed. In it the aims of the KONR were described: “a) The overthrow of Stalin’s tyranny, the liberation of the peoples of Russia from the Bolshevik system, and the restitution of those rights to the peoples of Russia which they fought for and won in the people’s revolution of 1917;b) Discontinuation of the war and honorable peace with Germany; c) Creation of anew free people’s political system without Bolsheviks and exploiters.”(31)
The political program was almost identical with that of the Smolensk Manifesto of December 1942; But it stressed in its very first point the right of the peoples of Russia to self-determination and full national independence. The Manifesto stated further that it”decisively rejects all reactionary projects connected with a limitation of the peoples’rights,”(32) and that it welcomed Germany’s help under conditions which would not impair the honor and independence of Russia. The declaration ended with an appeal to officers and soldiers of the Red Army to stop the war of aggression and turn their arms against the Bolshevik usurpers and to “brothers and sisters” in the “motherland,” to continue in the fight against Stalin’s tyranny and the war of aggression.
After its first meeting, the Committee for the Liberation of the Peoples of Russia met a few more times in Prague, but it had no opportunity to develop its activity. The end of the Third Reich was approaching with great speed; Besides, German control was constantly hampering the Committee’s work, and all decisions and instructions had to be”coordinated” with the appropriate German commissar. Nevertheless, the publication of the Prague Manifesto made a deep impression on the Russians. First of all, it brought forth a great number of voluntary applications for service in the Liberation Army, a number surpassing all expectations. in one single day, the 20th of November, about 60,000 applications were received. (33)
Particularly large was the number of volunteers from among prisoners of war and Soviet refugees who had left their native land voluntarily with the retreating German armies, preferring a wandering life in strange and perhaps unfriendly lands to a return under the NKVD yoke. What is still more puzzling, the desertion from the Red Army to the Germans increased after the publication of the Manifesto, although no one any longer doubted the defeat of Germany. (34) Whatever can be said today about this hope and belief, it remains a fact that it was widespread, particularly in the Red Army.
The KONR Army, called persistently though wrongly “ROA,” Russian Army of Liberation – no such army ever existed as a united military force – had begun to form in November 1944, six months before the end of the war. Its birth was accompanied by shortages of arms and equipment,(35) and by the chaos of the disintegrating Reich. Its short-lived protector, Himmler, realizing that the venture was belated, abandoned it to the Wehrmacht. The German armies were delaying the transfer of their eastern troops to General Vlasov’s command; Many of these formations were by then destroyed or had suffered heavy losses on the western front. (36) The leaders of the German economy were protesting against the recruiting of [eastern] workers to the Liberation Army. As a result, the 5 divisions to be organized were cut by the Germans to two [eventually 2 1/2 plus a small “Air Force”- the Editor]. The KONR Army would have never been formed, even as a small force, in such a short time but for the great influx of enlistment’s, the enthusiasm of the volunteers, and the existence of a skeleton staff which General Vlasov had managed to form during the two years of inactivity. (37)
In spite of all difficulties, General Vlasov formed the Army Headquarters, two motorized divisions, one reserve brigade, and engineer battalion, and a few officers units, with a total strength of some 50,000 men.(38 & 39) On January 28th, 1945 he officially took command of the army. Shortly afterward, the German insignia was removed and replaced by the army’s own insignia.
The 1st KONR Division, under the command of General [Sergei Kuzmich]Bunyachenko, was given the name of “600th Panzer-Grenadier Division”(40) Its organization began in November 1944 in Muensingen [Troop Training Grounds Muensingen, Wehrkreis V – the Editor]. Operational readiness was reached in mid-February, 1945. Because of the Wehrmacht’s reluctance to part with their eastern formations, mentioned before, the nucleus of the division consisted of the remnants of the 30th SS Infantry Division (Russian No.2), which was greatly reduced during the fighting in France, and the remnants of the infamous Kaminski SS Division, which was, in fact, a band of outlaws and not a military formation. When this rabble arrived at the camp where the division was being formed, gangs of armed and unarmed men in all kinds of uniforms, accompanied by women in fancy dresses and bejeweled from head to foot stepped out of the carriages; officers were distinguished from men only by the number of watches on their wrists – from three to five; order and discipline did not exist. (41) At the sight, General Bunyachenko exclaimed in anger: “So this is what you’re giving me -bandits, robbers, thieves. You’ll let me have what you can no longer use!”(42)
Although the division soon was operationally up to strength, there were acute shortages of arms, equipment, and supplies. (43) There were allegedly only some 50% of the required books so that only half of the soldiers could leave the barracks for exercises, while the other half had to wait their turn. (44) After finishing its training, the Division waited until the beginning of March for marching orders, and a month later reached the front on the Oder. These delays were mainly the result of general chaos in Germany. On the way to the front, the division was joined by a few thousand Russian laborers and soldiers from the Eastern formations.
The 2nd KONR Division, under the command of General G. A. Zveryev, was named the 650th Panzer-Grenadier Division;(45) Its formation began in January 1945 in Baden, some 43 miles from the camp of the 1st Division. (46) Owing to the shortages in arms and equipment, it never really reached operational readiness. The base of the division consisted of a few battalions withdrawn from Norway and some recently captured Russian prisoners. (47)
The KONR Army’s Headquarters, the reserve brigade, the engineer battalion, the officers’ school, and other units, in all some 25,000 men, were being formed in the same area as the 2nd Division. The organization of the 3rd Division was begun in Austria, but its strength apparently never exceeded 2,700 men.
The Cossack Cavalry Corps of General von Pannwitz, which had about 50,000 men, and the Russian Defense Corps of Serbia, about 15,000 strong, were also to be included in the KONR Army; but the Cossacks joined the 2nd Division when it was all over, and the Defense Corps of Serbia never joined Vlasov’s forces.(48) From the KONR formations only two took part in the fighting: a small [light armored] detachment of Colonel Sakharov’s, at the beginning of February 1945; and in mid-April, the 1st Division which, after reaching the front, was given the task of capturing the Soviet bridgehead in the area of Frankfurt-on-Oder. (49)
This bridgehead had been previously attacked by the Germans but without any success. The attack of the 1st Division also failed, with heavy losses owing to the lack of adequate artillery and air support. (50) From the time the division left the training camp, General Bunyachenko had been delaying the execution of all orders issued by the Germans, each time waiting for General Vlasov’s approval.
After the failure of this attack, he withdrew the division on his own authority, (51) and a few days later began the march towards the frontier of Czechoslovakia, together with Sakharov’s detachment [regiment] and Russian volunteers which brought his forces from the initial 12,000 to over 20,000 men. On the way, the Germans tried in vain to induce him to obey their orders. At the end of April, the division reached the frontier of Czechoslovakia. There General Vlasov joined Bunyachenko.
On May 2nd, they stopped at a distance of 30 miles from Prague. There a German emissary reached General Vlasov and informed him that the Army’s Headquarters, the 2nd Division and the remaining formations of the KONR, were on their way through Austria to Czechoslovakia; and that the Germans no longer needed the 1st Division but wanted to be assured it would not turn against them. (52)
At that time, Prague seemed to be the objective of American and Soviet armies which were approaching from two directions. This induced the Czechoslovak National Council to call [for] an uprising against the Germans. It began on May 5th. On the same day, Czechs implored the Allies by radio to come to their aid because Prague was threatened by the Germans. Their call was in vain. On the strength of the agreement with the Kremlin which included Czechoslovakia in the sphere of Soviet influence, the Americans had stopped. The Red Army did the same, probably in order to give the German SS men time to deal in their own way with the anti-Soviet insurgents. Thus the Russians repeated what they had done in August and September  during the Warsaw rising.
Receiving no reply to their call for help, the Czechoslovak National Council turned for help to General Bunyachenko. On the morning of May 6th, the 1st Division joined the fight, and by evening cleared Prague of the German SS men. (53) The Czechs greeted Vlasov’s men joyfully, but on the next day, General Bunyachenko was informed that Prague would be occupied by the Red Army, not by the Americans as he had expected,(54) and that the Czechoslovak National Council was being replaced by the Benes government; the latter demanded that the forces of General Vlasov were either to await the Red Army’s entrance in order to surrender or leave Prague as soon as possible. In the morning of the 8th, General Bunyachenko’s troops began to march toward the same area from which they had come to Prague only four days before. (55)
Meanwhile, on April 19th, the 2nd Division and the Army’s Headquarters received marching orders to proceed to Linz. from there they were to go on the front after being armed and equipped. On its way, the division passed a POW. camp of Soviet soldiers who, seeing the marching columns of their comrades, began to break the fences and join the troops. The German sentries opened fire which was returned by the Russian volunteers. German liaison officers succeeded in settling this incident. On May 1st, the division reached the area of Linz. Hitler was already dead. The end of the war was a question of days.(56) At approximately the same time, two emissaries of General Vlasov, one of them a German officer, reached the Headquarters of the 7th American Army.
The command of the Army instructed them to await the decision of his government, and after a few days, they were told that they were prisoners. General Vlasov, having no news from his emissaries, lost all hope of saving his soldiers from the vengeance of the Kremlin. He was a completely disillusioned man. A few days after leaving Prague, the 1st KONR Division laid down its arms in the small Czech village of Schluesselburg, in the American zone. Soviet emissaries spared no effort to induce General Bunyachenko to surrender to the Red Army. General Bunyachenko played for time, trying to convince the Americans that they should intern his soldiers and not hand them over to the Soviets. However, on May 12th he was informed that Schluesselburg would be included in the Soviet zone and that the local American commander did not consent to let the division march beyond the new demarcation line.
The only possible solution, suggested by an American officer, was that soldiers of KONR might try to cross over to the American zone individually. General Bunyachenko immediately disbanded the division, advising subordinates to try their luck on their own. During the flight, however, many were shot by Soviet troops, the majority were captured by the Red Army, and others were handed by the Americans. (57) Some 17,000 of them are said to have been deported to Russia, where they met death or imprisonment for life. General Vlasov fell into Soviet hands on May 12th, . After the change in the demarcation line, he was going by car from Schuesselburg to the American zone. There are various versions, not much different from each other, as to the circumstances under which he was captured, but all agree that he was a victim of ill luck, and was not purposely handed over by the Americans. (58)
The 2nd KONR Division split into two parts; the greater part, together with the Cossack Corps of General von Pannwitz, surrendered to the British on May 12th, in Austria, to be interned in the area of Klagenfurt – St. Veit. One regiment of the 2nd Division and the Army’s Headquarters reached the American zone after a long and weary journey and were interned at Landau, in western Bavaria. The commander of the 2nd Division, General Zverev, had fallen into Soviet hands on May 11th, 1945. Wanting to stay with his dying wife, he had locked himself in his quarters with his aide-de-camp and decided to fight it out. In the exchange of shots with Soviet soldiers, the aide-de-camp was killed, and General Zverev [was] wounded and captured.(59)
On May 27th, in accordance with the agreement signed in Vienna by British and Soviet authorities, the British began to hand over to the Soviets the interned soldiers of the Eastern formations as well as the Cossacks. On that day, in Graz, there were handed over the generals von Pannwitz, Krasnov, and Shkuro. All three hoped to the last that they would be spared this fate, for the first was a German and the other two old [Czarist]Russian emigrants. (60)
At the same time, the British commander arrived at the command post of the 2nd KONR Division and announced that on the following day the prisoners would leave the camp in national groups. Asked whether this was the first step on the way to Siberia, he replied in the affirmative and began to explain that politics sometimes compel a soldier to perform actions with which he does not agree in his soul. (61) During the night, the Germans from the liaison section [of the Division] and a few hundred prisoners, mainly Cossacks, escaped from the camp with the help of a British officer and some British soldiers.
The majority remained because they either could not make up their minds or lacked the strength to risk such an adventure. In the morning they were loaded on trucks and handed over to the NKVD. On their way, already in the Soviet zone, many tried to escape, but almost all were shot, either by the members of the convoy or by Soviet patrols in the country. After the arrival in Vienna, the surviving prisoners were sent by rail to Russia. (62) The number of Cossacks delivered to the Soviets, reported in a written statement of a Cossack immigrant, merits special attention. The delivery of the interned to the Soviet authorities began on May 28th.
On this day a conference was called in the little town of Spittal in Austria, to which the British commander had invited the entire officers’ corps from the Cossack camp: 35 generals, 167 colonels, 283 lieutenant-colonels, 375 captains, 1,752 subalterns, 136 military functionaries and doctors, two chaplains, two bandleaders, two photographers, and two interpreters, in all 2,756 persons. At the time of the departure from the camp,2,201 reported ready for the journey, the remainder having refused to be loaded on the trucks, or having disappeared.
On the way to Linz, 55 of them committed suicide; 2,146 were handed over to the NKVD. Among them were 1,856 Cossack officers, 176 Russians, 63 Ukrainians, 31 Caucasians, and a handful of other nationals. As to the fate of those delivered: 12 generals were sent to Moscow, 120 officers were shot on the way to Vienna by Soviet soldiers of the convoy, 1,030 officers died during the interrogations by the NKVD, 983 officers were “passed along”; many of this group were sent to mines in the Urals, and deprived of the right to come out to the surface of the earth.
Two Cossack generals were killed in their quarters on the day of delivery to the Soviets. On June 1st, about 25,000 people were handed to the Soviets from the Cossack camp in Linz which held 32,000 persons, mainly old men, women, and children who were in fact refugees, though among them were also Cossack soldiers. Even after the specified period of the delivery of prisoners, Soviet military missions made unexpected raids on Displaced Persons camps in the American and British zones and took from them many people by force. In all, over 150,000 Cossacks were handed over to the USSR.
The fate of the Cossacks was shared by the 162nd Turkoman Division which surrendered to the British in Italy,(63) and by almost all prisoners – Soviet citizens – from other Eastern formations. As late as February 1946, the same happened to that part of the 2nd KONR Division which together with the Army’s Headquarters, had been interned by the Americans in Landau. The commanders of these formations tried to persuade the American authorities to sponsor the remnants of the KONR Army, keeping their character of anti-Soviet formations. The Americans explained that this was quite impossible, and often pointed out that there was always the possibility to escape from the poorly guarded camp.
Many of the interned availed themselves of this opportunity, but some 3,000 decided to stay put. In the autumn, the prisoners were moved to Regensberg and later to Platting. There, one Sunday at 6 o’clock in the morning, began the forcible delivery of the prisoners to the Soviets. This was a terrible surprise to the prisoners, who did not think they would be forcibly handed over. The camps at Kempton, Landshut, and other places were liquidated in a similar way. (64) Half of the leaders of the Vlasov movement were handed over to the Soviets. (65) The statement of the Cossack emigrant mentioned before quotes the impressions of a British sailor given here without alteration:
“I took part in the evacuation of Dunkirk. Our soldiers felt very badly. I helped to fish out Germans from the sunken Bismarck, which received the greatest number of torpedoes in history. I saw the population of Malta sitting in the cellars for many weeks. I saw Malta being bombed incessantly and deafened by explosions of bombs and shells. They were exhausted from constant explosions and alarms. I lived through the sinking of my own ship. I know about jumping into the water at night, dark and without bottom, and the terrifying shouts for help of the drowning, and then the boat, and looking for the rescue ship. It was a nightmare. I drove German prisoners captured during the invasion of Normandy. They were almost dying from fear. But all that is nothing. The real, terrible, unspeakable fear I saw during the convoying and repatriation of people to Soviet Russia. They were becoming white, green, and gray with the fear that took hold of them. When we arrived at the port and were handing them over to the Russians, the repatriates were fainting and losing their senses. And only now I know what a man’s fear is who lived through hell and that it is nothing compared to the fear of a man who is returning to the Soviet hell.”
The Russian Defense Corps of Serbia which surrendered to the British escaped the terrible fate. Its soldiers were saved by the fact that they were old Russian emigrants or sons of such emigrants(66) In a similar way the soldiers of the Ukrainian Division were saved. As the majority of them were Polish citizens and the others claimed the same privilege, they did not, in the eyes of the Western governments, fall into the category of”traitors” to the Soviet Union.
However, before this decision was reached, in May 1946, the Ukrainians lived through a dreadful period of uncertainty. Nor were the soldiers of the Estonian and Latvian formations delivered to the Soviets, since they were citizens of states whose annexation by the Soviet Union in 1939 was not formally recognized by the Western powers. On August 2nd, 1946 the first mention of the Vlasov movement appeared in the Soviet Press. The last page of Pravda, Moscow’s greatest newspaper, announced the death by hanging of the following: Vlasov, Malyshkin, Zhilenkov, Trukhin, Zakutny, Blagoveshchenski, Meandrov, Maltsev, Bunyachenko, Zverev, Korbukov, and Shatov. “All accused admitted their guilt in the charges made against them… The sentence has been executed.”(67)
The Vlasov Movement was one of the strongest ideological movements known in modern history, because of the number of supporters it gained and of the drastic form in which it expressed itself: the fight with arms in hands against its own government at the side of the enemy of its own nation. And yet, in spite of its force and vitality, it did not bring the expected results and gave the Germans more trouble than advantages. The reasons were not so much in the movement itself as in the circumstances in which it was born and had to exist. (68)
Up to the middle of 1944, during three years of war with the Soviets, Hitler fought the Vlasov Movement and the national anti-Soviet movements as well as Stalin. And even when these movements finally gained his approval, it was never a full one. As late as January 27th, 1945 he said in a tirade against dressing foreigners in German uniforms, particularly people from the USSR: “One has no sense of honor around here. Every wretch is put in German uniform. I was always against it.”(69)
Nor was the development of the anti-Soviet movement stopped by the bad treatment the Eastern formations received from many German commanders. (70) All too often they were regarded as third-class troops which deserved no care. Not until the middle of 1944 did the Chief of the General Staff of the Army issue instructions for the treatment of soldiers and volunteer troops which guaranteed them the rights and privileges of soldiers. (71) Even so, in many cases when these troops were in action, they were left on their own instead of being withdrawn in time; this often resulted in disaster for them. Many of them perished in this way during the fighting in Normandy. At the end of August 1944, the Americans alone had some 20,000 prisoners from the Eastern formations.(72 & 73)
And yet, in spite of all this, the Eastern formations were growing almost to the end. What is still more extraordinary: their development escaped not only Hitler’s notice but even that of his watchful policeman, Himmler. When in October 1944 the General of Eastern Troops informed Himmler that at the time of the Anglo-American invasion of the continent over 800,000 Eastern volunteers served in the German Army and about 100,000 in the Navy and Luftwaffe, Himmler simply could not believe it, nor conceal his fear that this mass constituted a threat to the Germans. (74)
Hitler knew even less; on March 23rd, 1945 he exclaimed at a conference in great surprise: “We just don’t know what is floating around. I have just heard for the first time, to my amazement, that a Ukrainian SS Division has suddenly appeared. I don’t know a thing about this.”(75) If then, the Vlasov Movement and the anti-Soviet non-Russian movements did not give the results they could have given, Hitler is first of all to blame for it. To the very end, neither he nor his henchmen ever learned the lesson. Even the last attempt to change their policy was unsuccessful because they did not understand [nor care about] the aspirations of the non-Russian nations who rejected the Soviet system as well as the rule of Russia over their countries. This is the reason why the rallying of all anti-Soviet movements under the banner of General Vlasov, so strongly forced by Himmler, miscarried.
True, the Prague Manifesto acknowledged the right to independence of all nations under the [anti-Communist] Russian rule, but the lack of confidence in Russia stopped the separatists from joining the Russians. As a result, the Committee for the Liberation of the Peoples of Russia was mainly a Russian venture. Its army had even a stronger Russian flavor.
The tragedy of the Vlasov Movement was that it was fighting one totalitarian system at the side of another, that it was fighting for the liberation of its own nation at the side of another nation that wanted to enslave it. Its liberal programs were a kind of paradox. The same held true for the national anti-Soviet movements of the non-Russian people shave not met with understanding in the West. In those days, all Soviet citizens who took up arms against the USSR were in the eyes of the West traitors to their country who did not deserve leniency. This was, of course, a much too simple way of looking at the whole question.
From the moral point of view, the Ukrainians, Byelorussians, Cossacks, the Georgians, Armenians, and Turkomans, and the members of all the other non-Russian nations were not traitors. No matter under which government they were born and in which part of the world, they all fought against a government which was not their government and against a country which was not their country, but which had enslaved them. By contrast, the Russians of General Vlasov fought only against their government but not against their own nation; what is more, they fought for the liberation of their nation from the system which enslaved it. One could say of them that they were traitors to their government but not traitors to their nation, and in Soviet Russia, the government and the nation are not the same, as in the West.
There never was in Russia a government of the people, the affairs of the state are not controlled by the people, and the state (and government) does not exist for the people but the other way around. General Vlasov and the thousands of his soldiers and millions of his supporters were good Russians and not Hitler’s hirelings which, unfortunately, they appeared to be and which Hitler wanted them to be. Already in the autumn of 1942, the German Foreign Office stated in a memorandum that General Vlasov “is not….a mere seeker after political glory and accordingly will never become a purchasable hireling and will never be willing to lead hirelings.”(76)
General Vlasov did not become the leader of the mutiny against the Soviet system because of personal grievances; far from it, to the very end of his service in the Red Army, he was making an excellent career. Treason does not come easy even to people of a low moral level. On the side of General Vlasov almost a million Soviet citizens were fighting shoulder to shoulder with the invader, and millions of others were showing sympathy for the invader: there must have been very important reasons for this phenomenon.
In my opinion, there is one reason which explains everything: the general hatred of the Soviet system, a hatred greater than inborn patriotism and loyalty to one’s own government. Those who have not seen the limitless degradation of man in what was the Soviet hell cannot understand that a moment may come when a man out of sheer desperation will take up arms against the hateful system even at the side of an enemy. The responsibility for his mutiny falls on the system and not him. Here the notions of loyalty and treason lose their meaning. If, in the eyes of many people, Germans who fought against Hitler were not traitors, why should the Russians who fought against the Soviet system be traitors?
How little public opinion in the West understood the real state of affairs is perhaps best shown by the text of the leaflets, addressed to Soviet soldiers in German uniform, which was dropped by the Allied Air Forces in France in the summer of 1944. These leaflets called for the cessation of fighting and promised as a reward – speedy repatriation of prisoners to the USSR! The effect was of course, such that some of the Eastern troops fought desperately to the last man. (77) Thus, for example, an Armenian battalion perished completely in bitter fighting. (78) Soldiers of the Eastern formations were the unhappiest soldiers of the Second World War. Deprived of their fatherland, scorned by their protectors, regarded generally as traitors, although in their consciences they were not traitors, they fought often for an alien and hateful cause; the only reward which they eventually received for their pains was toil and death, mostly in a foreign land, or”repatriation” to the hell from which they had tried to escape. Old General [Ernst] Koestring, in a conversation with an American colonel, has allegedly said:
“We Germans, owing to our lack of reason, our limitless appetite, inability, and ignorance, have lost the greatest capital that existed and can exist in the fight against Bolshevism. In the imagination of countless Russians, we have thrown the picture of European culture into the mud. And yet, we have left certain capital which in future could grow. You will not understand me today when I tell you that during the last few weeks you have destroyed this capital for the second time, not only in the material sense but also in the souls of all those who had counted on your help and understanding after the Germans let them down. It may easily happen that in the near future you will be calling for what is now perishing.”(79)
So ends the Story of The Russian Volunteer in the service of the German Armed Forces in WWII.
1 “Wen Sie Verderben Wollen,” pp. 82-83.
2 “Soviet Opposition to Stalin,” p.45.
3 “Panzer Leader,” p.356; “Ukraincy a Likwidacja Powstania Warszawskiego,”pp. 76-78; “Soviet Opposition to Stalin,” pp. 42-43.
4 “Soviet Opposition to Stalin,” p. 48.
5 Ibid., pp. 48-49.
6 Ibid., p. 51.
7 “Wen Sie Verdeben Wollen,” p. 80.
8 Ibid., pp. 118-119.
9 “Ukraincy a Likwidacja Powstania Warszawskiego,” p. 80.
10 Steenberg, Sven. “Vlasov.” Alfred A. Knopf: New York, 1970. Page 21. According to Sven Steenberg, a former German officer intimately involved in the Russian Liberation Army, General Vlasov was appointed acting commander in chief of the entire Northwest Front on March 6, 1942.
11 General Vlasov’s personal history is quoted here mainly from “Soviet Opposition to Stalin,” pp. 26-32.
12 “Vlasovskoye Dvizhenye v Svieti Dokumentov,” p. 78.
13 “Wen Sie Verderben Wollen.” p. 173-174.
14 “Soviet Opposition to Stalin,” pp. 58-60.
15 “Wen Sie Verdeben Wollen,” p. 220.
16 “Soviet Opposition to Stalin,” pp. 62-63.
17 Ibid., p. 63; Also Appendix II, pp.176-187.
18 Apparently, this rule was ignored by the divisional commander of the German 134th Infantry Division who, according to the author, Alexander Dallin [“German Rule in Russia, 1941-1945”] stated that its personnel consisted of 50% Russian and other eastern volunteers by late 1942.- the editor.
19 “Soviet Opposition to Stalin,” p. 45.
20 “Wen Sie Verdeben Wollen,” pp. 283-285.
21 “Soviet Opposition to Stalin,” p. 45.
22 According to a German officer in the Division [Wolf-Dietrich Heike], the Division absorbed the 4th-8th “Galician” (Ukrainian) Police Regiments.- the editor.
23 According to the author’s R. J. Bender & H. P. Taylor, the initial batch of Ukrainian volunteers for the division turned out to be around 80,000 men, out of which only the fittest 13,000 were chosen. – “Uniforms, Organization And History of the Waffen-SS” Vol. IV. R. James Bender Publishing: San Jose, 1975. Page 22.
24 “Prawda o Ukrainskiej Dywizji.”.
25 “Ukraincy a Likwidacja Powstania Warszawskiego,” p. 85.
26 This initially included most of the staff of “Fremde Heer Ost” (Foreign Armies East) headed by Reinhard Gehlen, but including officers that were 200% committed to realizing a Russian Liberation Army, like Captains Wilfried Strik-Strikfeldt, Sven Steenberg, and Egon Peterson (among the more “active” elements), but later included most of the higher ranking generals on the Russian Front, as well as officers within the SS organization and within the Nazi political leadership. – The Editor.
27 “Komitet Osvobozhdyeniya Narodov Rossii” – the Editor.
28 Soviet Opposition to Stalin, p. 74.
29 Ibid, “Prague Manifesto,” Appendix IV, p.196.
30 Wen Sie Verderben Wollen, p. 424.
31 Soviet Opposition to Stalin, “Prague Manifesto,” pp. 196-199.
32 Ibid, pp.196-199.
33 Ibid, p. 96. Kasantsev states in his Tretia Sila, p. 290, that the number of applications that day was 62,000, in November grew to 300,000 and at the end of December was 1,000,000.
34 This is one of the most perplexing occurrences in the whole story of the eastern volunteer movement. In one particular incident, which occurred in December 1944 and entire Soviet regiment deserted en-masse from the Red Army and went over to the [German raised] XVth Cossack Cavalry Corps in Yugoslavia. The same thing happened when a Red Army Air Force squadron landed behind the German lines, ready to serve under the KONR! – the Editor.
35 Although for German 1944/45 standards, the only two divisions and one brigade which it created were magnificently manned (around 20,000+ men per division) and equipped (the two infantry divisions even had their own armored compliment in the form of T-34 tanks and tank destroyers!). – the Editor.
36 For a more complete listing and description of these units of eastern troops who were absorbed into the two KONR divisions, please see “Hitler’s Eastern Legions, Vol.II – The Osttruppen” by Antonio J. Munoz, Axis Europa, Inc.: New York, 1997.
37 This was based on the so-called “Dabendorf” group who had organized a training school for Russian volunteers by that same name and staffed by Russian officers. – the Editor.
38 Soviet Opposition to Stalin, p. 97.
40 According to field post records, however, the unit was listed as an infantry division [600. Infanterie-Division (russ.)], but as the appendix shows, it was a “magnificently” equipped infantry division, having even an armored compliment! – the Editor.
41 While General Anders’ comments about the condition of the Kaminski Brigade at Muensingen, and its comportment in Warsaw, Poland are true, it(1) never did get incorporated into the Waffen-SS, although Himmler was planning to do it; and (2) It did, in fact, perform exemplary as a tough anti-partisan unit while it operated in the area of Lokot (Bryansk region). Its spiral downwards into an un-disciplined, mercenary mob did not begin until its transfer to White Russia in late 1943. For a more detailed study of this fascinating and esoteric unit, please see: “The Kaminski Brigade: A History” by Antonio Munoz (Axis Europa: Bayside,1995). – the Editor.
42 Wen Sie Verdeben Wollen, p. 441.
43 Again, perhaps General Anders may have been speaking of the unit’s condition at the beginning of its formation, for as the appendix at the end of this book shows, the division was excellently supplied with all types of weapons and arms that would make it the envy of any German unit. By April 2nd, 1945 the arms listed in this appendix were under the division’s control. – the Editor.
44 Tretia Sila, p. 302.
45 Again, German records listed the unit as an infantry division [650.Infanterie-Division (russ.)].- the Editor.
46 Once again, German records list the unit as being in Wehrkreis V but stationed at Troop Training Ground Heuberg, later being transferred to Muensingen. – the Editor.
47 This is not exactly the whole picture, for the German military historian, Joachim Hoffman states that several Ost-bataillonen were added to this division: 427, 600, 642, 667, 851, IIIrd Bataillon/ (russiche)Grenadier Regiment 714, and Bau Pioneer (Construction Engineer) Bataillon 851. [“Die Geschichte der Wlassow-Armee” von Joachim Hoffman. 1986 Rombach: Verlagshaus KG, Freiburg im Breisgau]. – the Editor.
48 This is very true. On March 29th, 1945 the men of the Cossack Cavalry Corps unanimously voted to place all Cossack formations under Vlasov(after naming von Pannwitz as the first-ever non-Cossack Ataman in all history), and to suspend the Cossack administration headed by General Krasnov. As General Anders relates here, however, this transfer of command did not take place, because it was not immediately approved by Himmler until April 28th, 1945. By that time, the end of the war was just a week away. It was impossible, therefore, for the Cossacks to reach the Vlasov divisions, let alone merge with them.- the Editor.
49 Actually, Anders was not aware of a third KONR contingent, sent from Denmark which one military historian has identified as the 1064 Russian Grenadier Regiment of the 599th Russian Brigade, while another author states that it was the 1604 Russian Regiment of the same brigade [which was simply the re-designated Grenadier Regiment 714th (Russian)]. Also, the 1st KONR Division fought at Furstenberg-Erlenhof (which is about 30 kilometers south of Frankfurt an Oder). Additionally, Colonel Sakharov’s command of the 150-strong light armored contingent lasted from February 9th, 1945 until the end of the month and beginning of March, when it was returned to Muensingen. The unit initially fought against a Soviet bridgehead in Neulowin and then in Pomerania, where it gained notoriety,capturing many prisoners. Colonel Sakharov was assisted by Count Grigoryvon Lamsdorf. Both of these officers next set off for Denmark, where they gathered together one of the three regiments under the 599th Russian Brigade (transport by rail was only available for one of the regiments), and set off in the direction of Stettin. It was there that they came under the command of Otto Skorzeny, who had meanwhile taken up the defense of that city on the River Oder. The regiment under Sakharov & Lamsdorf fought just south of Stettin from March 10th through April 10th, when it was pulled out of the lines by Sakharov and directed south (towards Vlasov and the 1st & 2nd Divisions). It is a mystery still, how Sakharov could have achieved this, but he, Lamdsdorf, and their regiment reached Vlasov’s command around April 19th, at Rodeberg (near Dresden).- the Editor.
50 In fact, Vlasov had told the 1st Division’s commander, General Bunyachenko that the attack was an impossible mission, and that he should just make an attempt, then withdraw immediately. The attack had to go on, however, since Vlasov had been told by Himmler that the future expansion of the KONR depended on the initial employment of its combat-ready units in order to “prove” themselves. The Russians attacked for four hours, then withdrew. In all fairness to Bunyachenko and the men of the 1st KONR Division, the area was not suitable for attack (which began at 5 am on April 14th), mainly due to (1) the swampy and very narrow avenue of attack, (2) barbed-wire defenses that the Reds had thrown up, and (3) the flanking and artillery fire that the KONR men were subjected to from the opposite bank of the river, with its higher elevation.- the Editor.
51 General Vlasov had meanwhile become conveniently “unavailable” (so the Germans didn’t have any means to officially countermand Bunyachenko’s withdrawal).- the Editor.
52 According to Sven Steenberg (“Vlasov” Alfred A. Knopf: New York, 1970), the German OKH or Army High Command, had mobilized the 2nd Division, the staff and personnel of the officers’ school, and the replacement brigade, and sent them towards Linz, Austria to join Army Group Rendulic. At around this time (late April 1945) the 1st KONR Division was also marching south.- the Editor.
53 The Czechs had made assurances to Bunyachenko that he and his division would be given asylum in Czechoslovakia if they intervened in their favor, but Vlasov didn’t believe that even the Czech Democrats would act without America’s OK, and as things stood, the US was not willing to negotiate with what their current Communist allies in Moscow were calling”treasonous turncoats.” After a heated argument, Vlasov relented and let Bunyachenko have his way since the majority of the division’s men were is a mood to “repay” their German benefactors back for years of ignorance, lost opportunities, and humiliations.- the Editor.
54 Or been led (conveniently for the Czechs) to believe. – the Editor.
55 In the description of the 1st Division’s activity, I rely mainly on”Soviet Opposition to Stalin”, pp. 98-102.
56 The fate of the 2nd KONR Division is described according to “Wen Sie Verdeben Wollen”, pp. 514-517.
57 Ibid., pp. 117-118.
58 Ibid., pp. 117-118. In addition, this region was controlled by the Third U.S. Army, which was led by General George S. Patton, whose anti-Communist beliefs were widely known. In fact, Patton’s wish to continue the war (this time against the Soviets) was a much-publicized” scandal,” which was played up in the papers- the Editor.
59 “Wen Sie Verdeben Wollen,” p. 564.
60 In fact, international law specifically stated that only those people who were Soviet citizens as of June 22nd, 1941 were to be handed back. This excluded most of the men who had formed the Russian Guard Corps (in Serbia); but apparently, the Communists and British had their own agenda about who qualified for this law!- the Editor.
61 Personally, this sounds very much like the alibi that many Germans gave regarding the Jewish holocaust. To these wretched and dejected men, their handover by Britain and the US to the “tender” mercies of Stalin and his henchmen, represented a 2,000,000-man”holocaust,” and is very well documented in Nicholas Bethell’s classic study: “The Last Secret” (Basic Books, Inc.: New York, 1974).- the Editor.
62 “Wen Sie Verdeben Wollen,” p. 571-572.
63 “Soviet Opposition to Stalin,” p. 116.
64 Ibid, pp. 116-117.
65 Ibid, p. 119.
66 Although as mentioned earlier, this “law” was circumvented by the Allies and Russians whenever it suited them, as in the case of German General von Pannwitz and Czarist-era Cossacks like Shkuro, Krasnov, Klych, and Girey. Shkuro was a well-known officer even to the British, who had awarded him a senior British military honor in 1919, so it wasn’t that the British were unaware of who he (and the rest of these men) were. Yet, they were handed over to the Communists anyway.- the Editor.
67 Soviet Opposition to Stalin, p. 120.
68 For an excellent discussion as to the initial success and ultimate failure of the Eastern volunteer movement, please see the book, “Hitler’s Eastern Legions, Volume II – The Osttruppen” by Antonio J. Munoz (Axis Europa: Bayside, 1997).- the Editor.
69 Soviet Opposition to Stalin, p. 96.
70 Not to mention the regular German NCO or enlisted man, who oftentimes showed great insensitivity and a lack of understanding when dealing with the Eastern volunteers.- the Editor.
71 “Wen Sie Verdeben Wollen,” p. 325.
72 Ibid, p. 402.
73 Between June-December, 1944 the western Allies captured about 74,000 Eastern volunteers, with an additional 30,000 being taken from January-April, 1945.- (“Hitler’s Eastern Legions, Vol. II – The Osttruppen.” Axis Europa: Bayside, 1997. Page 30. – the Editor.
74 “Wen Sie Verdeben Wollen,” p. 410-411.
75 “Soviet Opposition to Stalin,” p. 96.
76 Ibid, p. 36.
77 Ibid, p. 116.
78 This is in complete contrast to an Armenian battalion that revolted in Holland. (see “Eastern Troops in Zeeland, Netherlands 1943-1944” by Hans Houterman).- the Editor.
79 “Wen Sie Verdeben Wollen,” p. 579.