Polesskaja Setsch

In August 1941 Taras Bulba-Borovets formed the “Polesskaya Host” detachment — the Ukrainian militia armed unit. It had German arms and counted about 3.000 persons. Its mission was to clean the swampy and woody region of north-western Ukraine (and partially Byelorussia) from the remains of Red Army and Soviet partisans. On the October 15th, 1941 the detachment was disarmed and dismissed. Lack of equipment was the official reason, but the pressure of SD — the true one.

Ukrainische Legion

This unit was created before the German invasion to Poland. Together with Slovenian volunteers it fought in the Polish campaign as a part of the Eastern European group. The detachment was called “Berg-Bauern Hilfe”. But this name was not popular and they called it “Ukrainian Legion”. It was formed of the members of OUN (Ukrainian Nationalists’ Organization), Ukrainian students who studied in Austria and Germany, and also of the Carpathians-Ukrainian Army soldiers. Their training schools were in Saubersdorf (Austria) and the chief administration located in Breslau. The training programme of volunteers included sharp-shooting, the skills of arms handling, self-defence, propaganda and sabotage. All the volunteers from two infantry regiments had black Czech uniform. The single distinction was the pin in the form of OUN trident with a sword in the centre and a shield with the same insignia and Ukrainian legend.

Legion was armed with light weapons and included motor-cyclists’ detachment. The “Ukrainian Legion” regiments were attached to various German divisions. The legion crossed the river San and reached Striy and Lvov. Its mission was the propaganda and the search for disappeared Polish Army regiments. When the Polish campaign was finished (December, 1939) the “Ukrainian Legion” was dismissed and its remnants brought in DUN (Ukrainian Nationalists’ Druzhina).

Ukrainian National Army (UNA)

Ukrainian National Army became the largest Ukrainian formation during the war and included most of Ukrainian volunteers from the German Army. The Ukrainian National Committee which was formed in 1944 and approved by Alfred Rosenberg had elected former officer from UNR (Ukrainian People’s Republic 1921) Pavlo Shandruck as the general and supreme commander of UNA. Members of his staff had included Dr. Kubijovych from the Military Board, representatives from Eastern Ukraine and both OUN-M (Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists) and OUN-B factions. Chief of staff was Col. Vyshnivsky and chief of communications V. Serediuk. Other generals included O. Pavlenko and D. Bakun.

In the beginning of 1945 more divisions of UNA began to form. Two divisions were already formed:

a. 1st Division of UNA – from 14th Division SS Galicia which was handed over in March 1945.
b. 2nd Division of UNA – from anti-panzer brigade “Vilna Ukraina”, which grew in strength to equivalence of full division and some Schuma battalions.

There were also plans for creation of 3rd and 4th divisions out of Ukrainian SS youth and members of UVV but these were prevented by the end of the war.


After just a few weeks since German invasion thousands of Soviet citizens desired to serve in the German army. The number of such volunteers was constantly increasing. There are no precise data, but approximately 1.500.000 Soviet citizens had served in Wehrmacht. From the very first day of the World War II a lot of Soviet captives and deserters suggested their help to Germans in subsidiary services. Germans called those volunteers Hiwi (from Hilfswillige-voluntary aide). Those volunteers served as drivers, cooks, hospital attendants, stable-men in the rear services. Thus they gave Germans the possibility to serve in the forward position. And in the battle sub-units Soviet volunteers served as ammunition carriers, sappers and messengers. Hiwi had personal arms for the case of danger. Originally Hiwi continued to wear Soviet uniform and badges of rank, but gradually they were given the German uniform. Sometimes only the armband with the words “Im Dienst der Deutschen Wehrmacht” was the proof of the fact that Hiwi belonged to Wehrmacht.

Another category of volunteers — Osttruppen — was joined in battalions (Ostbataillonen) that were the sub-units of German army. The first battalions were formed according to German commanders’ initiative. Soviet citizens of the non-Russian nationalities were the bases of those battalions: Ukrainians, Balts, Caucasians and Cossacks. The task of the ‘Ostbataillonen’ was to guard the rear. In November 1941 the first six battalions were formed as a part of the “Centre” army group, and soon the high command of Wehrmacht gave its official permission to form such sub-units but with some restrictions. The restrictions did not permit to form the battalions with more than 200 servicemen in them, and they could be used only for guarding the rear.

By the end of 1941 the formation of several Asian and Caucasian legions (Ostlegionen) had began. Their structure was identical to the one of the western legions. In summer of 1942 Germans tried to put their mixed uniform in order. But they could not achieve the unification. There were three types of the badges of rank. The first one was to be used in Russian and Ukrainian sub-units, the second — in Asian sub-units, the third — in Cossack sub-units. There were two types of shoulder-straps: for Russians, Ukrainians, Cossacks and for Asians. But the practical use of all these badges of rank became a real mess. The cockades and chevrons were also designed for each nationality. The German eagle (Hoheitsabzeichen) was replaced by the insignia — swastika in rhombus with stylized wings. The stripe was made with grey threads on the steel-blue field. But the stripe was not very popular.

The 5th degree award for courage and merits was established instead of German awards. But in reality the majority of the volunteers was decorated by customary German awards. In 1944 Germans permitted officially to decorate Ostbataillonen soldiers with Third Reich awards.

In June of 1942 the antipartisan detachments and so called Jagd-units were formed by division headquarters. They were small and good equipped with automatic guns and consisted of trustworthy and trained fighters. By the end of 1942 almost every division on the Eastern front had one or two Eastern companies, and corps had Ostbataillon. The major part of those sub-units had standard numbers: 601-621, 626-630, 632-650, 653, 654, 656, 661-669, 674, 675 and 681. Other battalions had line regiments numbers (510, 516, 517, 561, 581, 582), corpses numbers (308, 406, 412, 427, 432, 439, 441, 446-448, 456) and divisions numbers (207, 229, 263, 268, 281, 285). It depended on the place they had been formed at.

After the defeat under Stalingrad the German command began to form SS volunteers divisions in Western Ukraine and the Baltic states. It was done under the motto of ‘crusade against bolshevism’. In the early 1944 the Ukrainian, Estonian and two Latvian SS-divisions had been formed. The Byelorussian krai defences were formed in Byelorussia, the Lithuanian territorial corps — in Lithuania. Since May 1944 Hitlerjugend began to recruit teenagers (15-20 years old) in Ukraine, Byelorussia and the Baltic states. The majority of young volunteers served in subsidiary units of military aircraft forces and anti-aircraft defences. There were more than 16.000 servicemen in those units.

The majority of Ostbataillonen were dislocated in the West and were taken immediately into action when allies got off in Normandy. Their poor armament was the cause of heavy losses, but they proved to be trustworthy. From 1941 till 1945 2 million Soviet citizens fought on the German side.

Legion Roland

Just like Legion Nachtigal, Roland was set up by OUN prior the German Invasion to Soviet Union. The training began in May 1941 and vas done in complete secrecy in the castle Saubersdorff in Austria. Supplied with the German instructors the Legion was trained very harshly, spending a lot of the time in the Alps. From Ukrainian side the commander of the Legion was Pobihyshyj and from German side captain Novak. The Legion was outfitted in the old West-Ukrainian Army Uniforms with blue and yellow ribbons on the shoulders.
With the outbreak of the war against the Soviet Union, the Legion followed the German and Rumanian Armies into the Southern Ukraine, around the Black Sea to Odessa. Latter the Unite was transferred to Frankfurt am Oder where it was joined with the Nachtigal Legion.


The Soviet experience of warfare was very different from that of its Allies, Britain and the United States. Large in territory and population, the Soviet Union was poorer than the other two by a wide margin in productivity and income. It was Soviet territory that Hitler wanted for his empire, and the Soviet Union was the only one of the three to be invaded. Despite this, the Soviet Union mobilized its resources and contributed combat forces and equipment to Allied fighting power far beyond its relative economic strength.

These same factors meant that the Soviet Union suffered far heavier costs and losses than its Allies. After victory, Hitler planned to resettle Ukraine and European Russia with Germans and to divert their food supplies to feeding the German army. He planned to deprive the urban population of food and drive much of the rural population off the land. Jews and communist officials would be killed and the rest starved into forced migration to the east.

The Soviet Union suffered roughly 25 million war deaths compared with 350,000 war deaths in Britain and 300,000 in the United States; many war deaths were not recorded at the time and must be estimated statistically after the event. Combat losses account for all U.S. and most British casualties; the German bombing of British cities made up the rest. The sources of Soviet mortality were more varied. Red Army records suggest 6.4 million known military deaths from battlefield causes and half a million more from disease and accidents. In addition, 4.6 million soldiers were captured, missing, or killed or presumed missing in units that failed to report. Of these approximately 2.8 million were later repatriated or reenlisted, suggesting 1.8 million deaths in captivity and a net total of 8.7 million Red Army deaths. But the number of Soviet prisoners and deaths in captivity may be understated by more than a million. German records show a total of 5.8 million prisoners, of whom 3.3 million had died by May 1944; most of these were starved, worked, or shot to death. Considering the second half of 1941 alone, Soviet records show 2.3 million soldiers missing or captured, while in the same period the Germans counted 3.3 million prisoners, of whom 2 million had died by February 1942.

Subtracting up to 10 million Red Army war deaths from a 25-million total suggests at least 15 million civilian deaths. Thus many more Soviet civilians died than soldiers, and this is another contrast with the British and American experience. Soviet sources have estimated 11.5 million civilian war deaths under German rule, 7.4 million in the occupied territories by killing, hunger, and disease, and another 2.2 million in Germany where they were deported as forced laborers. This leaves room for millions of civilian war deaths on territory under Soviet control, primarily from malnutrition and overwork; of these, one million may have died in Leningrad alone.

In wartime specifically Soviet mechanisms of premature death continued to operate. For example, Soviet citizens continued to die from the conditions in labor camps; these became particularly lethal in 1942 and 1943 when a 20 percent annual death rate killed half a million inmates in two years. In 1943 and 1944 a new cause of death arose: The deportation and internal exile under harsh conditions of ethnic groups such as the Chechens who, Stalin believed, had collaborated as a community with the former German occupiers.

The war also imposed severe material losses on the Soviet economy. The destruction included 6 million buildings that previously housed 25 million people, 31,850 industrial establishments, and 167,000 schools, colleges, hospitals, and public libraries. Officially these losses were estimated at one-third of the Soviet Union’s prewar wealth; being that only one in eight people died, it follows that wealth was destroyed at a higher rate than people. Thus, those who survived were also impoverished.



The Vlasov Movement (Vlasovskoye Dvizhenie), or Russian Liberation Movement, designates the attempt by Soviet citizens in German hands during World War II to create an anti-Stalinist army, nominally led by Lieutenant-General Andrei Andreyevich Vlasov (1900–1946), to overthrow Stalin. Vlasov gave his name to the movement and died for his role in it. He did not create the situation and had little influence over developments.

Vlasov has been interpreted both as a patriotic opponent of Communism and as a treacherous opportunist. The Vlasov movement illustrates the way in which Nazi policy towards the USSR was developed by the competing requirements of ideology and military expediency and the various agencies involved in policy.

The outbreak of war witnessed popular disaffection within the territories of the USSR. Many opposed to Stalinism hoped that the Germans would come as liberators. Hitler saw the war in racial terms, and his main aim was to acquire living space (Lebensraum).

A successful commander, Vlasov had impressed Stalin. Having fought his way out of the Kiev encirclement, he was appointed to repulse the German attack on Moscow in December 1941. In March 1942 Vlasov was made deputy commander of the Volkhov front and then commander of the Second Shock Army. For reasons that are still unclear, the Second Shock Army was neither strengthened nor allowed to withdraw. On June 24, Vlasov ordered the army to disband and was captured three weeks later. As a prisoner-of-war, Vlasov met German officers who argued that Nazi policy could be altered. Relying on his Soviet experience, Vlasov believed that their views had official sanction and agreed to cooperate.

In December 1942 the Smolensk Declaration was issued by Vlasov in his capacity as head of the so-called Russian Committee, and was aimed at Soviet citizens on the German side of the front. In response, Soviet citizens began to sew badges on their uniforms to indicate their allegiance to the Russian Liberation Army, which in fact did not exist although the declaration referred to it. In the spring of 1943, Vlasov was taken on a tour of the occupied territories and published his Open Letter, which attracted much support among the population. Hitler was opposed to this and ordered Vlasov to be kept under house arrest as there was no intention of authorizing any anti-Stalinist movement. Dabendorf, a camp near Berlin, became the main focus of activity. Mileti Zykov was particularly influential in developing some of the program at Dabendorf. Finally, on September 16, 1944, Vlasov met Heinrich Himmler, who authorized the formation of the Committee for the Liberation of the Peoples of Russia (KONR, Komitet Osvobozhdeniya Narodov Rossii). The Manifesto was published in Prague on November 14, 1944. Two divisions were formed, but Soviet soldiers already serving in the Wehrmacht were not allowed to join.

In May 1945, the KONR First Division deserted their German sponsors and fought on the side of the Czech insurgents against SS troops in the city. Vlasov wished to demonstrate his anti-Stalinist credentials to the Allies, but when it became clear that the Americans would not be entering Prague, the First Division was eventually ordered to disband. Vlasov was captured, taken back to Moscow, tried, and hanged as a traitor in August 1946. For many years, mention of Vlasov and the anti-Stalinist opposition was taboo in the USSR. Since the 1980s more material has been published. An attempt to rehabilitate Vlasov and to argue that he had fought against the regime—not the Russian people—was turned down by the Military Collegium of the Russian Supreme Court on November 1, 2001.


One of the most important specialized organizations of the Third Reich, the Todt Organization (OT), named after its director, Fritz Todt, was used for the construction of military and related sites, especially in occupied Europe. Labor service “volunteers” and private construction firms were first used by the OT in the building of the Siegfried Line in 1938–1939. During the war hundreds of thousands of foreign civilian workers, prisoners of war, and in places close to concentration camps, Jewish and other slave laborers were used to repair war damage and construct military-related projects. It was one of the few organizations in Hitler’s Reich to enjoy extensive administrative autonomy and worked all the more efficiently as a result.

We work week after week, five to six hundred men, on a piece of land that could be taken care of in four days with two steam plows. That’s called “productive labor.” We call it “slave labor, sheer drudgery.” The foremen think the acidic soil will be OK in maybe another ten or fifteen years. But already by next year, it’s supposed to become farmland and be planted. . . .We stand out on the moor for months, often sinking up to our knees in the swamp. Frequently, our spades can’t cut through the gigantic roots and tree stumps of the sunken forests in this moor. . . . Often, one of us collapses and is taken to a field hospital by two fellow prisoners and a sentry. And then there’s this constant pressure to work, driving us on and on, the humiliating insults, the tormenting feeling you’re not human any more. Just some animal. An animal that’s herded together in flocks, housed in ten long stables, given a number, hounded and beaten as need requires, exposed to the whims of its drovers.


Organization Todt (OT), named for German Minister of Arms and Munitions Fritz Todt, handled construction projects throughout territory occupied by the German army during World War II. Formed in 1933 by Todt, then head of technology and road construction, the OT was at first chiefly identified with construction of the great autobahn road system in Germany that was the pride of the Third Reich. In 1938, German leader Adolf Hitler assigned OT the task of quickly completing the West Wall (also known as the Siegfried Line), defenses in western Germany that were designed to hold back a French army attack in order to allow Germany to concentrate its military resources in the east. Todt was an adroit manager, and in record time, some 500,000 workers constructed 5,000 concrete bunkers.

With the beginning of World War II, the OT provided the German army with engineers and construction specialists involved in the building and repair of bridges, dams, airfields, and fortifications, as well as factories. In March 1940, Todt became the Reich’s minister of arms and munitions. The OT was in fact the only organization in the Third Reich, apart from the Hitler Youth, that bore the name of a member of the governing elite.

Following the German invasion of the Balkans in the spring of 1941, the OT was in charge of extracting minerals there and shipping them to the Reich. With the invasion of the Soviet Union, it took on the great responsibility of reconstructing and maintaining the Soviet transportation network. OT also made use of vast numbers of conscript laborers throughout German-occupied Europe. In all, the OT mobilized some 1.4 million people, 80 percent of whom were non- Germans (many were (Soviet citizens) prisoners of war).

At the end of 1944, the entire number of concentration camp inmates was some 600,000. Of these, 480,000 were fit for deployment: 140,000 were with the Kammler staff, 130,000 deployed under Organisation Todt, and 230,000 were in private industry.

OT’s most ambitious task was the construction of the Atlantic Wall, the German defenses against an invasion of France by the Western Allies; it ran from Norway to the Bay of Biscay. On this effort, the OT expended some 13.3 million tons of concrete and 1.2 million tons of steel in 3,000 fortifications. The ruins of many of these may still be seen today. The OT also built the submarine pens in France that proved so difficult for Allied aircraft to destroy.

Following Todt’s death in an airplane crash in February 1942, his assistant, Albert Speer, took over the organization, and under him, it reached its greatest extent. Increasingly, the OT was involved in cleaning up bomb damage from Allied air raids on Germany. In autumn 1944, the organization was renamed the Front-OT, when it was armed and enlisted in the defense of German territory.


Guse, John C. “The Spirit of the Plassenburg: Technology and Ideology in the Third Reich.” Ph.D. diss., University of Nebraska, Lincoln, 1983.

Seidler, Franz Wilhelm. Die Organisation Todt: Bauen für Staat undWehrmacht, 1938–1945. Koblenz, Germany: Bernard and Graefe, 1987.