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Russian Volunteers in the German Wehrmacht in WorldWar II

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


Particularly large was the number of volunteers from among prisoners of war and Soviet refugees who had left their native land voluntarily with the retreating German armies, preferring a wandering life in strange and perhaps unfriendly lands to a return under the NKVD yoke. What is still more puzzling, the desertion from the Red Army to the Germans increased after the publication of the Manifesto, although no one any longer doubted the defeat of Germany [This is one of the most perplexing occurrences in the whole story of the eastern volunteer movement. In one particular incident, which occurred in December, 1944 and entire Soviet regiment deserted en-masse from the Red Army and went over to the (German raised) XVth Cossack Cavalry Corps in Yugoslavia. The same thing happened when a Red Army Air Force squadron landed behind the German lines, ready to serve under the KONR! - the Editor.]. Whatever can be said today about this hope and belief, it remains a fact that it was widespread, particularly in the Red Army. 

The KONR Army, called persistently though wrongly "ROA," Russian Army of Liberation - no such army ever existed as a united military force - had begun to form in November 1944, six months before the end of the war. Its birth was accompanied by shortages of arms and equipment [Although for German 1944/45 standards, the only two divisions and one brigade which it created were magnificently manned (around 20,000+ men per division) and equipped (the two infantry divisions even had their own armored compliment in the form of T-34 tanks and tank destroyers!). - the Editor.], and by the chaos of the disintegrating Reich. Its short-lived protector, Himmler, realizing that the venture was belated, abandoned it to the Wehrmacht. The German armies were delaying the transfer of their eastern troops to General Vlasov's command; Many of these formations were by then destroyed or had suffered heavy losses on the western front [For a more complete listing and description of these units of eastern troops who were absorbed into the two KONR divisions, please see: Hitler's Eastern Legions, Vol.II - The Osttruppen, by Antonio J. Munoz, Axis Europa, Inc.: New York, 1997.]. The leaders of the German economy were protesting against the recruiting of [eastern] workers to the Liberation Army. As a result, the 5 divisions to be organized were cut by the Germans to two [eventually 2 1/2 plus a small "Air Force"- the Editor]. The KONR Army would have never been formed, even as a small force, in such a short time but for the great influx of enlistment's, the enthusiasm of the volunteers, and the existence of a skeleton staff which General Vlasov had managed to form during the two years of inactivity [This was based on the so-called "Dabendorf" group who had organized a training school for Russian volunteers by that same name and staffed by Russian officers. - the Editor.].

In spite of all difficulties, General Vlasov formed the Army Headquarters, two motorized divisions, one reserve brigade, and engineer battalion, and a few officers units, with a total strength of some 50,000 men [Soviet Opposition to Stalin, p. 97; According to field post records however, the unit was listed as an infantry division (600. Infanterie-Division (russ.)), but as the appendix shows, it was a "magnificently" equipped infantry division, having even an armored complement! - the Editor.]. On January 28th, 1945 he officially took command of the army. Shortly afterwards, the German insignia was removed and replaced by the army's own insignia. 

The 1st KONR Division, under the command of General [Sergei Kuzmich] Bunyachenko, was given the name of "600th Panzer-Grenadier Division" [Ibid., see also up] Its organization began in November, 1944 in Muensingen [Troop Training Grounds Muensingen, Wehrkreis V - the Editor]. Operational readiness was reached in mid- February, 1945. Because of the Wehrmacht's reluctance to part with their eastern formations, mentioned before, the nucleus of the division consisted of the remnants of the 30th SS Infantry Division (Russian No.2), which was greatly reduced during the fighting in France, and the remnants of the infamous Kaminski SS Division, which was in fact a band of outlaws and not a military formation. When this rabble arrived at the camp where the division was being formed, gangs of armed and un-armed men in all kinds of uniforms, accompanied by women in fancy dresses and bejeweled from head to foot stepped out of the carriages; officers were distinguished from men only by the number of watches on their wrists - from three to five; order and discipline did not exist [While General Anders' comments about the condition of the Kaminski Brigade at Muensingen, and its comportment in Warsaw, Poland are true, it (1) never did get incorporated into the Waffen-SS, although Himmler was planning to do it; and (2) It did in fact perform exemplary as a tough anti-partisan unit while it operated in the area of Lokot (Bryansk region). Its spiral downwards into an un-disciplined, mercenary mob did not begin until its transfer to White Russia in late 1943. For a more detailed study of this fascinating and esoteric unit, please see: The Kaminski Brigade: A History, by Antonio Munoz, Axis Europa: Bayside, 1995. - the Editor.]. At the sight, General Bunyachenko exclaimed in anger: "So this is what you're giving me - bandits, robbers, thieves. You'll let me have what you can no longer use!" [Wen Sie Verdeben Wollen, p. 441.].

Although the division soon was operationally up to strength, there were acute shortages of arms, equipment, and supplies [Again, perhaps General Anders may have been speaking of the unit's condition at the beginning of its formation, for as the appendix at the end of this book shows, the division was excellently supplied with all types of weapons and arms that would make it the envy of any German unit. By April 2nd, 1945 the arms listed in this appendix were under the division's control. - the Editor.]. There were allegedly only some 50% of the required books, so that only half of the soldiers could leave the barracks for exercises, while the other half had to wait their turn [Tretia Sila, p. 302.]. After finishing its training, the Division waited until the beginning of March for marching orders, and a month later reached the front on the Oder. These delays were mainly the result of general chaos in Germany. On the way to the front the division was joined by a few thousand Russian laborers and soldiers from the Eastern formations. 

The 2nd KONR Division, under the command of General G. A. Zveryev , was named the 650th Panzer-Grenadier Division [Again, German records listed the unit as an infantry division (650. Infanterie-Division (russ.)).- the Editor.]; Its formation began in January 1945 in Baden, some 43 miles from the camp of the 1st Division [Once again, German records list the unit as being in Wehrkreis V, but stationed at Troop Training Ground Heuberg, later being transferred to Muensingen. - the Editor.]. Owing to the shortages in arms and equipment, it never really reached operational readiness. The base of the division consisted of a few battalions withdrawn from Norway, and some recently captured Russian prisoners [This is not exactly the whole picture, for the German military historian, Joachim Hoffman states that several Ost-bataillonen were added to this division: 427, 600, 642, 667, 851, IIIrd Bataillon (russiche) Grenadier Regiment 714, and Bau Pioneer (Construction Engineer) Bataillon 851: Die Geschichte der Wlassow-Armee von Joachim Hoffman. 1986 Rombach: Verlagshaus KG, Freiburg im Breisgau. - the Editor.].

The KONR Army's Headquarters, the reserve brigade, the engineer battalion, the officers' school and other units, in all some 25,000 men, were being formed in the same area as the 2nd Division. The organization of the 3rd Division was begun in Austria, but its strength apparently never exceeded 2,700 men. 

The Cossack Cavalry Corps of General von Pannwitz, which had about 50,000 men, and the Russian Defense Corps of Serbia, about 15,000 strong, were also to be included in the KONR Army; but the Cossacks joined the 2nd Division when it was all over, and the Defense Corps of Serbia never joined Vlasov's forces [This is very true. On March 29th, 1945 the men of the Cossack Cavalry Corps unanimously voted to place all Cossack formations under Vlasov (after naming von Pannwitz as the first ever non-Cossack Ataman in all history), and to suspend the Cossack administration headed by General Krasnov. As General Anders relates here, however, this transfer of command did not take place, because it was not immediately approved by Himmler until April 28th, 1945. By that time, the end of the war was just a week away. It was impossible, therefore, for the Cossacks to reach the Vlasov divisions, let alone merge with them.- the Editor.]. From the KONR formations only two took part in the fighting: a small [light armored] detachment of Colonel Sakharov's, in the beginning of February, 1945; and in mid-April, the 1st Division which, after reaching the front, was given the task of capturing the Soviet bridgehead in the area of Frankfurt-on-Oder [Actually, Anders was not aware of a third KONR contingent, sent from Denmark which one military historian has identified as the 1064 Russian Grenadier Regiment of the 599th Russian Brigade, while another author states that it was the 1604 Russian Regiment of the same brigade [which was simply the re-designated Grenadier Regiment 714th (Russian)]. Also, the 1st KONR Division fought at Furstenberg-Erlenhof (which is about 30 kilometers south of Frankfurt an Oder). Additionally, Colonel Sakharov's command of the 150-strong light armored contingent lasted from February 9th, 1945 until the end of the month and beginning of March, when it was returned to Muensingen. The unit initially fought against a Soviet bridgehead in Neulowin and then in Pomerania, where it gained notoriety, capturing many prisoners. Colonel Sakharov was assisted by Count Grigory von Lamsdorf. Both of these officers next set off for Denmark, where they gathered together one of the three regiments under the 599th Russian Brigade (transport by rail was only available for one of the regiments), and set off in the direction of Stettin. It was there that they came under the command of Otto Skorzeny, who had meanwhile taken up the defense of that city on the River Oder. The regiment under Sakharov & Lamsdorf fought just south of Stettin from March 10th through April 10th, when it was pulled out of the lines by Sakharov and directed south (towards Vlasov and the 1st & 2nd Divisions). It is a mistery still, how Sakharov could have achieved this, but he, Lamdsdorf, and their regiment reached Vlasov's command around April 19th, at Rodeberg (near Dresden). - the Editor.]. 

KONR: Committee for the Liberation of the Peoples of RussiaThe Fall of Vlasov








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