Russian Volunteers in
the German Wehrmacht in WorldWar II
Lt. Gen. Władysław Anders and Antonio Muňoz [ed.]
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the summer of 1944, after considerable losses, RONA was withdrawn to East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 [Panzer Leader, p.356; Ukraińcy a Likwidacja Powstania
76-78; Soviet Opposition to Stalin, pp. 42-43.].
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 [Soviet Opposition to
Stalin, p. 48.].
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 [Ibid., pp. 48-49.]. According to the testimony of Caucasian leaders, the number of
volunteers from the Caucasus who fought on the German side was 102,300 [Ibid., p. 51.].
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 [Wen Sie Verdeben
Wollen, p. 80.].