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Russian Volunteers in the German Wehrmacht in WorldWar II

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


This bridgehead had been previously attacked by the Germans, but without any success. The attack of the 1st Division also failed, with heavy losses owing to the lack of adequate artillery and air support [In fact, Vlasov had told the 1st Division's commander, General Bunyachenko that the attack was an impossibly mission, and that he should just make an attempt, then withdraw immediately. The attack had to go on however, since Vlasov had been told by Himmler that the future expansion of the KONR depended on the initial employment of its combat ready units in order to "prove" themselves. The Russians attacked for four hours, then withdrew. In all fairness to Bunyachenko and the men of the 1st KONR Division, the area was not suitable for attack (which began at 5am on April 14th), mainly due to (1) the swampy and very narrow avenue of attack, (2) barbed-wire defenses that the Reds had thrown up, and (3) the flanking and artillery fire that the KONR men were subjected to from the opposite bank of the river, with its higher elevation.- the Editor.]. From the time the division left the training camp, General Bunyachenko had been delaying the execution of all orders issued by the Germans, each time waiting for General Vlasov's approval. 

After the failure of this attack, he withdrew the division on his own authority [General Vlasov had meanwhile became conveniently "un-available" (so the Germans didn't have any means to officially countermand Bunyachenko's withdrawal).- the Editor.], and a few days later began the march towards the frontier of Czechoslovakia, together with Sakharov's detachment [regiment] and Russian volunteers which brought his forces from the initial 12,000 to over 20,000 men. On the way, the Germans tried in vain to induce him to obey their orders. At the end of April, the division reached the frontier of Czechoslovakia. There General Vlasov joined Bunyachenko. 

On May 2nd, they stopped at a distance of 30 miles from Prague. There a German emissary reached General Vlasov and informed him that the Army's Headquarters, the 2nd Division and the remaining formations of the KONR, were on their way through Austria to Czechoslovakia; and that the Germans no longer needed the 1st Division but wanted to be assured it would not turn against them [According to Sven Steenberg - Vlasov, Alfred A. Knopf: New York, 1970, the German OKH or Army High Command, had mobilized the 2nd Division, the staff and personnel of the officers school, and the replacement brigade, and sent them towards Linz, Austria to join Army Group Rendulic. At around this time (late April, 1945) the 1st KONR Division was also marching south.- the Editor.].

At that time, Prague seemed to be the objective of American and Soviet armies which were approaching from two directions. This induced the Czechoslovak National Council to call [for] an uprising against the Germans. It began on May 5th. On the same day, Czechs implored the Allies by radio to come to their aid because Prague was threatened by the Germans. Their call was in vain. On the strength of the agreement with the Kremlin which included Czechoslovakia in the sphere of Soviet influence, the Americans had stopped. The Red Army did the same, probably in order to give the German SS men time to deal in their own way with the anti-Soviet insurgents. Thus the Russians repeated what they had done in August and September [1944] during the Warsaw rising. 

Receiving no reply to their call for help, the Czechoslovak National Council turned for help to General Bunyachenko. In the morning of May 6th, the 1st Division joined the fight, and by evening cleared Prague of the German SS men [The Czechs had made assurances to Bunyachenko that he and his division would be given asylum in Czechoslovakia if they intervened in their favor, but Vlasov didn't believe that even the Czech Democrats would act without America's OK, and as things stood, the US was not willing to negotiate with what their current Communist allies in Moscow were calling "treasonous turncoats." After a heated argument, Vlasov relented and let Bunyachenko have his way, since the majority of the division's men were is a mood to "repay" their German benefactors back for years of ignorance, lost opportunities, and humiliations.- the Editor.]. The Czechs greeted Vlasov's men joyfully, but on the next day, General Bunyachenko was informed that Prague would be occupied by the Red Army, not by the Americans as he had expected [Or been led (conveniently for the Czechs) to believe. - the Editor.] and that the Czechoslovak National Council was being replaced by the Benes government; the latter demanded that the forces of General Vlasov were either to await the Red Army's entrance in order to surrender, or leave Prague as soon as possible. In the morning of the 8th, General Bunyachenko's troops began to march toward the same area from which they had come to Prague only four days before [In the description of the 1st Division's activity I rely mainly on Soviet Opposition to Stalin, pp. 98-102.]. 

Meanwhile, on April 19th, the 2nd Division and the Army's Headquarters received marching orders to proceed to Linz. from there they were to go on the front after being armed and equipped. On its way, the division passed a POW. camp of Soviet soldiers who, seeing the marching columns of their comrades, began to break the fences and join the troops. The German sentries opened fire which was returned by the Russian volunteers. German liaison officers succeeded in settling this incident. On May 1st, the division reached the area of Linz. Hitler was already dead. The end of the war was a question of days [The fate of the 2nd KONR Division is described according to Wen Sie Verdeben Wollen, pp. 514-517.]. At approximately the same time, two emissaries of General Vlasov, one of them a German officer, reached the Headquarters of the 7th American Army. 

The command of the Army instructed them to await the decision of his government, and after a few days they were told that they were prisoners. General Vlasov, having no news from his emissaries, lost all hope of saving his soldiers from vengeance of the Kremlin. He was a completely disillusioned man. A few days after leaving Prague, the 1st KONR Division laid down its arms in the small Czech village of Schluesselburg, in the American zone. Soviet emissaries spared no effort to induce General Bunyachenko to surrender to the Red Army. General Bunyachenko played for time, trying to convince the Americans that they should intern his soldiers and not hand them over to the Soviets. However, on May 12th he was informed that Schluesselburg would be included in the Soviet zone, and that the local American commander did not consent to letting the division march beyond the new demarcation line. 

Russian Army of LiberationThe End of the World War II








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