Much has been written, with varying degrees of authority, on the RLM (Russian Liberation Movement, RLA (Russian Liberation Army) and General A.A. Vlasov.
General Andrey Vlasov General Andrey Andreyevich Vlasov (alternative transliterations of his names appear as Andrei Andreievich and as Vlassov or (in German) Wlassow) (September 14 (September 1 O.S.), 1900, Lomakino, Nizhny Novgorod Oblast – August 2, 1946, Moscow) was a Soviet Army General who later worked for Nazi Germany during World War II.
Originally a student at a Russian seminary, he quit his study after the Russian Revolution and in 1919 he joined the Red Army fighting in the southern theatre in the Ukraine, the Caucasus, and the Crimea. He distinguished himself as an officer and gradually rose through the ranks of the Red Army.
He joined the Communist Party in 1930. He became one of Stalin’s most trusted military leaders. Following the outbreak of war in 1941, Vlasov played an important role in the defence of Moscow. Described by some historians as “charismatic”, Vlasov was decorated following his efforts in the defence of Moscow and of Kiev. After this success Vlasov was put in charge of a group of shock troops that were to try and lift the Siege of Leningrad. His expedition was unsuccessful and this force, the 2nd Shock Army, was destroyed in June 1942.
Vlasov was forced into hiding in German occupied territory. The Germans found him on July 12 1942, and soon sent him to a special prison for high-ranking officers. There he informed the Germans of his desire to defect.
Vlasov was captured in summer 1942 after German forces had encircled his army. Marshal Kirill Meretskov in his memoirs depicted Vlasov as a sheer “careerist” who withdrew himself from the command of the encircled army. Soviet relief forces broke the encirclement several times, but without organized support from within the encirclement, they failed to secure the withdrawal of Vlasov’s army. As the result, according to Meretskov’s figures, sixteen thousand men of the encircled army escaped through a narrow (only 300 to 400 meters wide) “corridor” along the railway line, six thousand were killed in action and eight thousand were missing in action. From the post-war search and exhumation efforts in 1980s and later it is now obvious that most of the MIAs should be presumed dead.
Vlasov’s German captors persuaded him to assist them to fight Stalin. Vlasov blamed Stalin and the excesses of the Soviet police state and for his defeat and capture.
Vlasov argued that Germany should set up a Russian provisional government and recruit a Russian army of liberation under his command. Vlasov wrote an anti-Bolshevik leaflet which aircraft dropped by the millions on Soviet forces, and as a direct consequence thousands of Soviet troops deserted.
As proof of his willingness to collaborate with the Germans, Vlasov founded the Russian Liberation Committee and the Russian Liberation Army—known as ROA (from Russkaya Osvoboditel’naya Armiya)—and became its commander-in-chief. Together with some other captured Soviet generals, officers and soldiers, the army was created to “liberate” Russia from Stalinism. Vlasov promised a return to private property and capitalism; he had no interest in freedom or democracy, however. Still, many Russian POWs did choose to join his force.
Hitler was very wary of Vlasov and his army. He worried that Vlasov could succeed in overthrowing Stalin, which would halt Hitler’s dreams of expanding Germany to the Urals. German commanders therefore pulled Vlasov’s forces away from direct battles with the Red Army and sent them to other fronts. Only in the closing stages of the war did Germany finally agree to the deployment of two Russian divisions under Vlasov’s command on the Eastern Front, but again they did little fighting against the Soviets.
One important action fought by the Russian Liberation Army took place against an SS force intending to subdue the Prague Uprising with hope to obtain credit with Allies. The ROA prevented the SS from putting down the uprising, but were then asked to leave by the communist forces which had led the uprising.
Vlasov and the rest of his forces, desperate to escape the revenge of the Red Army, attempted to head west to join with the Allies in the closing days of the war in Europe. In May 1945, Vlasov and his men surrendered to western Allied forces.
The British and Americans had little interest in providing aid to Nazi collaborators that would anger an important ally, and thus rebuffed Vlasov’s requests for long-term asylum. Vlasov and most of his supporters came into the hands of the Soviet authorities, either directly or indirectly.
Soviet authorities sent Vlasov and his men to Moscow, and in a summary trial held in the summer of 1946 sentenced him and eleven other senior officers from his army to death. They were hanged on August 2 1946. This was the last sentence to death by hanging in the Soviet Union. The remaining soldiers were loaded into boxcars and sent back to Russia. It was reported that some of them were machine gunned as they got off the train; however the majority of surviving Vlasov soldiers and low-ranking officers were not executed, but imprisoned to labor camps. Some of them were among 55 thousand collaborators that were pardoned by the post-Stalin Soviet government on September 17, 1955.
Review of his case
A so-called “popular movement”, named “For Faith and Fatherland” applied in 2001 to the military prosecutor for a review of Vlasov’s case. The military prosecutor concluded however that the law of rehabilitation of victims of political repressions did not apply, and there was no grounds to reopen the case.
The history of the Russian Liberation Army is described in Wilfried Strik-Strikfeldt: Against Stalin and Hitler. Memoir of the Russian Liberation Movement 1941-5. Macmillan, 1970.