Russia Abroad | The Vlasov Movement | Russian Volunteers in the German Wehrmacht

The Vlasov Movement, ROA, Russian Army of Liberation, KONR, Committee for the Liberation of the Peoples of Russia, Eastern Troops, Russian Defense Corps, Russian National Committee, General Vlasov, Russian National Army of Liberation, Vlasov, Andrey Vlasov, Dabendorf, Prague, Эмиграция, Русская Прага, Русская эмиграция, Чехословакия, Mochola, Мохоля, РОА, РОД, КОНР, Власов, Власовцы




Фотоархив | Библиотека | Acta Rossica | Энциклопедия Зарубежной России | Форум 

Russian Volunteers in the German Wehrmacht in WorldWar II

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


The Vlasov Movement was one of the strongest ideological movements known in modern history, because of the number of supporters it gained and of the drastic form in which it expressed itself: the fight with arms in hands against its own government at the side of the enemy of its own nation. And yet, in spite of its force and vitality, it did not bring the expected results and gave the Germans more trouble than advantages. The reasons were not so much in the movement itself as in the circumstances in which it was born and had to exist [For an excellent discussion as to the initial success and ultimate failure of the Eastern volunteer movement, please see the book: Hitler's Eastern Legions, Volume II - The Osttruppen by Antonio J. Munoz, Axis Europa: Bayside, 1997.- the Editor.].

Up to the middle of 1944, during three years of war with the Soviets, Hitler fought the Vlasov Movement and the national anti-Soviet movements as well as Stalin. And even when these movements finally gained his approval, it was never a full one. As late as January 27th, 1945 he said in a tirade against dressing foreigners in German uniforms, particularly people from the USSR: "One has no sense of honor around here. Every wretch is put in German uniform. I was always against it" [Soviet Opposition to Stalin, p. 96.]. 

Nor was the development of the anti-Soviet movement stopped by the bad treatment the Eastern formations received from many German commanders [Not to mention the regular German NCO or enlisted man, who often times showed great insensitivity and a lack of understanding when dealing with the Eastern volunteers. - the Editor.]. All too often they were regarded as third class troops which deserved no care. Not until the middle of 1944 did the Chief of the General Staff of the Army issue instructions for the treatment of soldiers and volunteer troops which guaranteed them the rights and privileges of soldiers [Wen Sie Verdeben Wollen, p. 325.]. Even so, in many cases when these troops were in action they were left on their own instead of being withdrawn in time; this often resulted in disaster for them. Many of them perished in this way during the fighting in Normandy. At the end of August 1944, the Americans alone had some 20,000 prisoners from the Eastern formations [Ibid, p. 402. Between June-December, 1944 the western Allies captured about 74,000 Eastern volunteers, with an additional 30,000 being taken from January-April, 1945. - Hitler's Eastern Legions, Vol. II - The Osttruppen, Axis Europa: Bayside, 1997; p. 30. - the Editor.].

And yet, in spite of all this, the Eastern formations were growing almost to the end. What is still more extraordinary: their development escaped not only Hitler's notice but even that of his watchful policeman, Himmler. When in October 1944 the General of Eastern Troops informed Himmler that at the time of the Anglo-American invasion of the continent over 800,000 Eastern volunteers served in the German Army and about 100,000 in the Navy and Luftwaffe, Himmler simply could not believe it, nor conceal his fear that this mass constituted a threat to the Germans [Wen Sie Verdeben Wollen, p. 410-411.].

Hitler knew even less; on March 23rd, 1945 he exclaimed at a conference in great surprise: "We just don't know what is floating around. I have just heard for the first time, to my amazement, that a Ukrainian SS Division has suddenly appeared. I don't know a thing about this" [Soviet Opposition to Stalin, p. 96.]. If then, the Vlasov Movement and the anti-Soviet non-Russian movements did not give the results they could have given, Hitler is first of all to blame for it. To the very end, neither he nor his henchmen ever learned the lesson. Even the last attempt to change their policy was unsuccessful, because they did not understand [nor care about] the aspirations of the non-Russian nations who rejected the Soviet system as well as the rule of Russia over their countries. This is reason why the rallying of all anti- Soviet movements under the banner of General Vlasov, so strongly forced by Himmler, miscarried. 

True, the Prague Manifesto acknowledged the right to independence of all nations under the [anti-Communist] Russian rule, but the lack of confidence in Russia stopped the separatists from joining the Russians. As a result, the Committee for the Liberation of the Peoples of Russia was mainly a Russian venture. Its army had even a stronger Russian flavor. 

The tragedy of the Vlasov Movement was that it was fighting one totalitarian system at the side of another, that it was fighting for the liberation of its own nation at the side of another nation which wanted to enslave it. Its liberal programs were a kind of paradox. The same held true for the national anti-Soviet movements of the non-Russian peoples have not met with understanding in the West. In those days, all Soviet citizens who took up arms against the USSR were in the eyes of the West traitors to their country who did not deserve leniency. This was of course, a much too simple way of looking at the whole question. 

From the moral point of view, the Ukrainians, Byelorussians, Cossacks, the Georgians, Armenians, and Turkomans, and the members of all the other non-Russian nations were not traitors. No matter under which government they were born and in which part of the world, they all fought against a government which was not their government and against a country which was not their country, but which had enslaved them. By contrast, the Russians of General Vlasov fought only against their government but not against their own nation; what is more, they fought for the liberation of their nation from the system which enslaved it. One could say of them that they were traitors to their government but not traitors to their nation, and in Soviet Russia the government and the nation are not the same, as in the West. 

There never was in Russia a government of the people, the affairs of the state are not controlled by the people, and the state (and government) does not exist for the people but the other way around. General Vlasov and the thousands of his soldiers and millions of his supporters were good Russians and not Hitler's hirelings which, unfortunately, they appeared to be and which Hitler wanted them to be. Already in the autumn of 1942, the German Foreign Office stated in a memorandum that General Vlasov "is not....a mere seeker after political glory and accordingly will never become a purchasable hireling and will never be willing to lead hirelings" [Ibid, p. 36.]. 

General Vlasov did not become the leader of the mutiny against the Soviet system because of personal grievances; far from it, to the very end of his service in the Red Army he was making an excellent career. Treason does not come easy even to people of a low moral level. At the side of General Vlasov almost a million Soviet citizens were fighting shoulder to shoulder with the invader, and millions of others were showing sympathy for the invader: there must have been very important reasons for this phenomenon.

In my opinion there is one reason which explains everything: the general hatred of the Soviet system, a hatred greater than inborn patriotism and loyalty to one's own government. Those who have not seen the limitless degradation of man in what was the Soviet hell cannot understand that a moment may come when a man out of sheer desperation will take up arms against the hateful system even at the side of an enemy. The responsibility for his mutiny falls on the system and not him. Here the notions of loyalty and treason lose their meaning. If, in the eyes of many people, Germans who fought against Hitler were not traitors, why should the Russians who fought against the Soviet system be traitors? 

How little public opinion in the West understood the real state of affairs is perhaps best shown by the text of the leaflets, addressed to Soviet soldiers in German uniform, which were dropped by the Allied Air Forces in France in the summer of 1944. These leaflets called for the cessation of fighting and promised as a reward - speedy repatriation of prisoners to the USSR! The effect was of course, such that some of the Eastern troops fought desperately to the last man [Ibid, p. 116.]. Thus, for example, an Armenian battalion perished completely in bitter fighting [This is in complete contrast to an Armenian battalion which revolted in Holland - see: Eastern Troops in Zeeland, Netherlands 1943-1944 by Hans Houterman - the Editor.]. Soldiers of the Eastern formations were the unhappiest soldiers of the Second World War. Deprived of their fatherland, scorned by their protectors, regarded generally as traitors, although in their consciences they were not traitors, they fought often for an alien and hateful cause; the only reward which they eventually received for their pains was toil and death, mostly in a foreign land, or "repatriation" to the hell from which they had tried to escape. Old General [Ernst] Koestring, in a conversation with an American colonel, has allegedly said: 

"We Germans, owing to our lack of reason, our limitless appetite, inability and ignorance, have lost the greatest capital that existed and can exist in the fight against Bolshevism. In the imagination of countless Russians we have thrown the picture of European culture into the mud. And yet, we have left certain capital which in future could grow. You will not understand me today when I tell you that during the last few weeks you have destroyed this capital for the second time, not only in the material sense, but also in the souls of all those who had counted on your help and understanding after the Germans let them down. It may easily happen that in the near future you will be calling for what is now perishing" [Wen Sie Verdeben Wollen, p. 579.]. 

So ends the Story of The Russian Volunteer in the service of the German Armed Forces in WWII.









Rambler's Top100 copyright © 2002 by mochola, last updated October, 21th Y2K+2, best with IE5.5 1024x768px, 8 sec over 56.6 bps