Russian Volunteers in
the German Wehrmacht in WorldWar II
Lt. Gen. Władysław Anders and Antonio Muňoz [ed.]
During 1943 the number of volunteers in the eastern formations increased
allegedly to some 800,000 [Soviet Opposition to Stalin, p. 45.].
In September of that year, a new blow fell upon
these formations [Wen Sie Verdeben Wollen, pp. 283-285].
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 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 [Soviet Opposition to
Stalin, p. 45.]. 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issued a new order: the Eastern Troops were to be withdrawn from the Russian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70 to 80% of the Eastern troops were gradually withdrawn from the Russian front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 [According to a German officer in the Division
(Wolf-Dietrich Heike), the
Division absorbed the 4th-8th "Galician" (Ukrainian) Police Regiments. - the
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 [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; p. 22.].
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 [Prawda o Ukrainskiej Dywizji.].
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 [Ukraińcy a Likwidacja Powstania
Warszawskiego, p. 85.].
Among the eastern formations may also be classed the "Russian Defense Corps" of
Serbia, composed of volunteers from among old Russian immigrants living in
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'etre.
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 [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.]. An attempt to influence Hitler was made by the
"Gaulieter" 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