Russian Volunteers in
the German Wehrmacht in WorldWar II
Lt. Gen. Władysław Anders and Antonio Muňoz [ed.]
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:
abolition of compulsory labor,
abolition of collective farms, and land
grants to the peasants,
reintroduction of private commerce and handicraft,
termination of terror,
freedom of faith,
conscience, speech, press, and assembly,
free choice of work,
of free development for all nationalities,
release of all political
rebuilding of towns, villages and factories at the expense of
the state, and
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 [Soviet Opposition to
Stalin, pp. 58-60.].
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 [Wen Sie Verdeben Wollen, p. 220.].
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 the Ukraine and the Caucasus [Soviet Opposition to
Stalin, pp. 62-63.]. 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 [Ibid., p. 63; Also Appendix II, pp.176-187. 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.].
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
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.