Polish Volunteers in the German Wehrmacht and Auxiliary Forces during WWII
Of all the Nations Germany overran during WWII, the Poles admittedlysuffered what was the harshest and brutal occupation of the entire conflict,the only equal being the occupation of the Eastern regions of the SovietUnion between 1941 and 1944.
When Poland was conquered after the Invasion of 1939, its territory was divided intothree 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 Reichand became Gau Danzig-West Preussen and Gau Posen (later Gau Wartheland). Theseareas 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 thecivilian control of the Generalgouvernement, and the eastern portion of Poland came under Soviet control beginning on September 17thwhen the Soviet Union attacked Poland from the east and was officially handed overwhen all German forces pulled back to the demarcation line of theBug River. When Germany later attacked the Soviet Union in June of 1941, the eastern region ofPoland previously occupied by the Soviets was added to the control of the Generalgouvernement andlater 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 thehighest per-capita losses, with 1 in every 5.9 persons being killed as aresult of the conflict, most under the brutal rule of the German securityand 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. Althoughthis 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 timeof WWII, a distinct group that was ripe for voluntary or conscriptedservice within or alongside the Reich. This group was known as the Volksdeutsche.Volksdeutsche were historic ethnic enclaves resident beyond the German border that forpolitical and/or traditional reasons were considered a part of greaterGermany. It was from among these groups that the Germans first gathered volunteersfrom Poland. Although they are not technically thought of as Poles by the Germans,the ethnic German Volksdeutsche were in reality from Poland and can thusbe seen as Polish volunteers.
Initial militia groups and the Selbschutz
The first such instance of ethnic German Volksdeutsche from Poland beingformed into units to support Germany was in September of 1939 with theattack on Poland. Upon the entrance of German troops into the regions ofWestern Poland, small groups of Volksdeutsche came together and formedlocal militia groups. This Volksdeutsche militia aided the German attackin many areas, and became so useful that shortly after the German Invasion,between September 8th and 10th, it was decided to reorganize the militiagroups into Self-Protection units, otherwise known as Selbschutz.The Selbschutz was therefore formed in the early days of the German attackon Poland from ethnic German-Poles between the ages of 17-45 in the regionsof Western Poland. The Selbschutz came under the control of the SS, beingorganized into three regions known as Südlicher Bereich, Mittlerer Bereichand Nördlicher Bereich. Each region was itself divided into districtsknown as Kreise, and each Kreise into a locality or Ort. The southernand central regions came under the direct control of the SS-Hauptamt, whilethe northern region came under the control of the RSHA. As September 1939came to an end, the Selbschutz was reorganized and came under the operationalcontrol of Ordungspolizei or Order Police. Throughout its existence, theSelbschutz was entrusted with various rear-area security and support operations, and in many casesearned for itself an infamous reputation – so much so that it was thereforerequested that the Selbschutz be disbanded. An order was later placeddirecting that the Selbschutz be disbanded as of November 8th, 1939, withan effect from the 30th of November, 1939. A select few units of the Selbschutzwould go on to serve until April of 1940 when all unit was finally andpermanently disbanded. It is thought that a total of 45,000 ethnicGerman-Poles served in the Selbschutz before it was ordered to be disbanded.
NSKK Einheit Generalgouvernment
Baudienst im Generalgouvernment
Polish Police Forces