Russian Volunteers in the German Wehrmacht in WorldWar II | Russian Liberation Army

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Russian Volunteers in the German Wehrmacht in WorldWar II

by Lt. Gen. Władysław Anders and Antonio Muňoz [ed.]


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 [Wen Sie Verderben Wollen, pp. 82-83.].

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 [Soviet Opposition to Stalin, p.45.].

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 Army Group Center alone.

Russian National Army of Liberation








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