Russian Volunteers in
the German Wehrmacht in WorldWar II
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
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  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
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.