HIWIS [1]

The German prisoner of war camps, containing millions of Soviet prisoners, were a potential source of manpower. Faced with bad treatment and starvation and a distinct possibility of dying, an increasing number of Russian prisoners volunteered to work for the Germans in exchange for better food and conditions. [2]

The volunteers were called hiwis, a contraction of the German term for volunteer helper. They were widely used in the Replacement Army and railroad construction units for service duties to free men for the front. On February 6, 1943, the Luftwaffe had 100,000 hiwis in construction and antiaircraft units, replacing Germans.

Hiwis became part of the official table of organization of army units. The infantry division was assigned more than a thousand to perform supply duties, care for horses, and other noncombatant roles. In early 1943 the army replaced Germans with 200,000 hiwis and later an additional 500,000. Other ethnic groups were also used as hiwis. On March 18, 1943, the 715th Division in France used 800 black French prisoners, who volunteered to fill 800 vacancies as wagon drivers, grooms, laborers, and other noncombat positions.

In January 1943 the 9th German Army of Army Group Center included 39,400 Russians, either volunteers or conscripted. The infantry divisions in the 9th Army had a total of 7,700 hiwis assigned plus an additional group of 6,000 attached laborers. When the 9th Army evacuated the Rzhev salient, 21,800 more Russians were seized to prevent their working for the Red Army when it reoccupied the territory, and on March 20, 1943, many were assigned to construction battalions to work on fortifications and roads. The Russians made up one-quarter of the manpower for the 9th German Army. On the Eastern Front in 1943 nearly a million Russians were working or fighting for the German Army. Another 900,000 were employed in Germany to work in factories and on the farms.

The Soviet prisoners were also formed into Ost battalions, equipped with captured Russian weapons, and used to fight the partisans. In early 1943 the Germans had 176 Ost battalions; many formed by anti-Communist ethnic minorities from the Caucus, In May 1943 there were 32 Turkestan battalions, 12 Georgian battalions, 11 Armenian battalions, 8 North Caucasus battalions, 16 Muslim and Azerbaijan battalions, and 10 Volga Tartar battalions. By June 1943 there were 320,000 Ost troops.

Ost battalions also replaced Germans in the occupation divisions in France. On January 27, 1943, the German High Command ordered the German divisions in France to send one of their infantry battalions to Russia and in exchange received an Ost battalion. The Ost battalion had German uniforms, but Russian weapons. The first ten battalions were quickly followed at a rate of three battalions in exchange for a single German battalion.

[1] Hilfswillige: Auxiliary Volunteers. After the invasion of the USSR, many thousands of Soviet citizens volunteered to fight the Soviet regime. At first, the German government refused to use them, but later relented (no doubt in the face of mounting casualties) and allowed the German Army to use them in non-combat roles. Hilfswillige served as auxiliaries to the front line troops on various support tasks such as construction or carrying ammo.

[2] Already post June 1941 the army had these Hiwis in their KStN (Unit organizations). The KStN says how many Hiwis are authorized for the unit. Which position they have can be determined by the commander, but they must be in the Tross section.

In this KStN it is the last point of the additional information at the end of the document.

Also note that the “authorized” numbers of Hiwi’s reported by units to be an accurate figure of the numbers that were employed. This is especially true during the early years of the war when “official” Hiwi policies were still unwritten. A lot of the field “improvisations” to solve manpower problems were either unreported or downplayed.

This is also true in the case of Hiwi’s joining combat formations – unfortunately there are no definitive records of when these laborers became soldiers.

After September 1943 thousands of Italian soldiers in Balkans and elsewhere were incorporated as Hiwis in Wehrmacht as an alternative to deportation in Germany.

The State of the German Forces Late 1944

The German Army suffered from a catastrophic shortage of replacements ever since it had gone to war in Russia, but particularly from 1944 onwards. 

That the army had come to this state was in part a response to the failed attempt on Hitler’s life in July 1944, but also due to the draining losses suffered on the Eastern Front.  Since the beginning of the campaign in 1941, to the autumn of 1944, the campaign had cost the Germans in excess of 1,400,000 killed with another million missing and five million more wounded. From a strength of 3.3 million men in June 1941, the Army had been bled white, fielding as few as 2.7 million just a year later.  This situation was not to improve despite the ruthless trawling of the country for replacements.  Following the assassination attempt on Hitler, Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler had been appointed commander of the Replacement Army, replacing General Fromm who had been implicated in the plot.  Instead of ensuring the regular supply of replacements to the Army units in the field, Himmler’s chaotic command saw him concentrate his efforts on rebuilding burnt out infantry divisions as a new generation of Volksgrenadier Division.  These units were based around the remnants of old divisions which had already been shattered in the fighting on the Western or Eastern Fronts. Each rebuilt division comprised three, two-battalion regiments, a theoretical strength of around 10,000 men although few ever achieved anywhere near this. Their experienced cadres were fleshed out with a collection of Hitler Youth, Luftwaffe ground staff, middle-aged businessmen from reserved occupations, recovering invalids and naval cadets.  Training was brief at best, sometimes as little as six weeks but they did receive some of the newest infantry weapons and were lavishly equipped with both light and medium machine guns.  This ensured their morale was relatively high, and if they held together under combat conditions, they could pack a powerful defensive punch.  The Volksgrenadier divisions were intended for holding and defensive operations rather than offensive action and as such lacked the mobility of the Soviet units opposed to them.

Alongside this program, Himmler also massively expanded his Waffen SS, creating a plethora of new divisions.  With the demands on the limited German manpower pool being made by Martin Bormann, who was in charge of the Volkssturm, and Himmler for his Volksgrenadier Divisions and Waffen SS divisions, the Army struggled to secure enough replacements to make good the steady losses it suffered.  That it managed to maintain a defence at all was a testament to the strength of the men and officers of the German Army at that time, despite all of its setbacks. 

The Regular German Army units had been transformed after three years of fighting in the Soviet Union.  The divisions of 1941 which had begun the invasion, well equipped and with up to 17,000 men, were a thing of the past.  The increase in the number of divisions fielded in the succeeding years had been at the expense of their strength.  By 1944 many infantry divisions no longer comprised three battalion regiments as they had originally, but instead had been reduced to just two battalions in order to concentrate their strength and cut down on support services.  The strongest units would number just 12,000 men although like their Soviet opponents, many were often considerably lower than this and were starved of replacements.  Towards the end, divisions numbering in the hundreds of men rather than thousands were all too common.  One factor which had not changed was the mobility of the German infantry divisions.  Even from the earliest days of the war, the German infantry had relied heavily on horse drawn transport to move itself across the battlefield.  The image of the German Army as a highly mechanised force which motored across Europe is inherently false.  Motorisation was largely restricted to the few panzer and panzergrenadier divisions, the many infantry using their feet, as their forebears had before them.  This was one of the major factors which hindered the Germans in their cauldron battles during the early days of Operation Barbarossa.  Quite simply, the infantry simply could not keep up with the armour and as a result many Soviet troops were able to escape from encirclement.

The panzer divisions, the pride of the Wehrmacht, had suffered equally as badly as the infantry formations and by 1944 many comprised just a single panzer regiment with two panzer battalions, plus a panzergrenadier brigade of two regiments (each with two battalions), a force of 13,000 men with around 120 tanks when at full strength. 

The mainstay of the German panzer division was the reliable Panzer IV medium tank.  Originally armed with a short barrel 75mm gun, it had been upgraded a number of times.  By 1944 it sported a long barrelled 75mm gun, had been given additional armour plating on the hull and was protected by armoured skirts against shaped charge anti-tank rounds.  The Panzer IV was a popular tank, although it was only just a match for the T-34 rather than superior to it.  In an effort to overcome the scourge of the T-34 the Germans rushed into service in 1943 the Panzer V Panther. 

This vehicle turned out to be one of the finest tanks of the war, despite its initial teething troubles.  Armed with a long barrel 75mm gun and protected by sloped armour copied from the T-34, it could knock out the Soviet tanks at great ranges.  Unfortunately it was over-engineered and often struggled in the harsh conditions experienced on the Eastern Front.

In late 1942 the heavy Panzer VI Tiger I tank entered service with the Army.  This vehicle was armed with the formidable 88mm gun which had wrought great havoc as an anti-tank weapon.  The Tiger was an effective weapon and could knock out the T-34 at distances where the Soviet tanks could not fire effectively in return. In 1944 the Tiger II appeared, a truly formidable machine, although too slow and heavy, and in too few numbers to make a real difference to the course of the battles to come.

Despite their technical superiority, the Germans simply could not produce enough vehicles to take on the masses of Soviet tanks that opposed them.  In an effort to redress this balance they increased production of assault guns.  Assault guns, grouped into brigades, were crucial anti-tank formations supporting the hard pressed infantry.  Under the command of the artillery service rather than the panzer arm, they were equipped with turretless versions of the Panzer III and IV, and the formidable little Hetzer’s which were based on the reliable Panzer 38(t) chassis.  These vehicles were considerably cheaper and easier to produce than tanks, and offered an excellent defensive capability in the place of wheeled anti tank guns.  The assault gun brigades were used widely, supplementing the infantry’s lack of anti-tank weapons in many instances. 

Fighting a war on a number of fronts had a crippling impact on the German war effort.  The demands of the Western and Italian Fronts, together with the Allied bomber offensive against the industrial heartland of the Ruhr and other areas of western Germany, and in particular the terrible damage done to the supply of fuel, drew badly needed men and weapons away from the Eastern Front.  The Allied bombing of the oil refineries and fuel storage facilities across Nazi occupied Europe had a devastating effect on the armies in the field.  From late 1943, and particularly after the Normandy invasion in the summer of 1944, German fuel production collapsed.  The operations of the Luftwaffe were severely curtailed, the most insignificant use of fuel becoming heavily monitored.  For the men at the front, air support was often just a dim and distant memory.  The greater part of the Luftwaffe had been pulled back to protect the Homeland and what few units were left at the front were desperately short of fuel.  Army units suffered too, often finding they were left immobile, with perfectly usable tanks being lost to the enemy for want of a few drops of petrol.  To counter the threat of the Allied bomber fleets, thousands of the deadly 88mm anti-aircraft guns[18] were used in air defence rather than in their ground role again Soviet armour.

Hitler’s refusal to accept a policy of flexible defence, which would have taken advantage of the space available in the east, merely exacerbated the problems the Germans faced.  His stubborn refusal to allow any form of withdrawal had seen the Ostheer smashed in a number of encirclement operations, culminating in the catastrophic defeat in Belorussia in June and July of 1944.  Through sheer necessity a defence policy was adopted by the armies at the front, which proved successful only when sufficient forces and strong defensive positions were in place. In general outline the German defensive plan meant establishing forward, main and reserve defence positions.  The forward lines were lightly manned and designed to absorb the weight of a Soviet offensive, soaking up the bombardment.  As many troops as possible would be pulled back from this position to the main defensive position in the event of an enemy attack so that their barrage fell on empty positions and vacated artillery sites.  This would ensure that the main defence line remained largely intact.  Effectively, the Germans intended the Soviets to punch into thin air at the forward position, and then they would launch their own counter attacks from the main defensive position to disrupt further attacks and derail the Soviet timetable. The Soviet tendency to undertake reconnaissance attacks before an offensive began gave the German commanders ample warning that an attack was imminent.  It was then just merely a question of timing in pulling out of the forward defence position.  Many generals became adept at judging the correct moment to do so.  This policy provided a sensible defence but experience showed that when the Germans were pushed out of their entrenched positions, their lack of mobile forces, anti-tank and armour reserves generally meant that a collapse of the front would quickly follow. 

As the war had approached the Reich frontiers in late 1944, and with the huge manpower losses suffered both in the West and East, the Germans had been forced to consider the mass employment of civilians in defence of their Homeland.  Guderian, by now Chief of the Army General Staff, had suggested the formation of a Landsturm in the eastern provinces in a discussion with Hitler in early September 1944.  Guderian’s idea had been to establish formations made up of men from reserved occupations, probably from the ranks of those registered with the SA.  Hitler initially agreed with him but just a day later he changed his mind and gave responsibility for the raising of these troops to Martin Bormann and the Nazi Party.  The Volkssturm, as this civilian defence force was named, was officially created by the Führer Decree of October 18th 1944.  Rather than just being an organisation for the defence of the eastern provinces, the Volkssturm was now to be a national defence force, and Bormann envisioned it numbering in the millions.  All males between the ages of 16 and 60 who were capable of bearing arms were liable for conscription.  Volkssturm units were organised into battalions, a battalion generally numbering around 600 men and being commanded by the equivalent of a Major, although battalions of up to 1,000 men were not unknown.  Once part of a unit many men found themselves with just a Volkssturm armband for a uniform.  Sometimes even the Volkssturm armband was not available which meant they went into combat in civilian attire only, in contravention of the Geneva Convention.  Following the disaster at Stalingrad and the continual heavy losses on the Eastern Front there had been many trawls for reinforcements for the army.  Himmler’s tenure as commander of the Replacement Army made an already difficult situation even worse.  The result was that by October 1944, when the Volkssturm was raised, it comprised mainly young Hitler Youth and the elderly; those fit enough to fight having already been called upon.

The problem of arming the Volkssturm units was also considerable.  Stocks of captured weapons were issued widely but there was no central control over their distribution.  An even greater problem was the supply of ammunition.  Many Volkssturm members were handed a foreign or obsolete rifle with just a handful of rounds apiece.  Weapons from the Great War were brought back into service to try to flesh out the firepower of the Volkssturm battalions.  Perhaps the most deadly weapon the Volkssturm employed was the Panzerfaust, which cost the Soviets many hundreds of tanks destroyed throughout the final months of the war.  Quickly manufactured and relatively easy to use, the one shot Panzerfaust comprised a hollow charge warhead propelled by a small rocket, and proved extremely effective at knocking out tanks.  Unfortunately for the user, the effective killing range of the weapon was between thirty and one hundred metres, depending on the model employed.  This meant that once a hit had been achieved, a safe retreat from any accompanying infantry or other tanks was unlikely.  Training for the new recruits was often rushed and inadequate, many men and boys having to master the use of their weapons when they entered combat for the first time.  For the older members a familiarity with military life from the First World War was common, and younger members had grown up under a Nazi regime which had militarised most aspects of their lives.

With this mixture of forces the Germans waited for the next round of Soviet attacks, attacks which would push across the eastern frontiers of the Reich and bring the war to the German people.

Himmler als Feldherr

From 20 July Himmler was appointed the commander of the Ersatzheer in place of the arrested Fromm and henceforth he was to be responsible for the raising of all new army formations – mainly infantry divisions, these to be known as Volksgrenadier. The manning, discipline and administration of these divisions was to be controlled entirely by the SS, a special Abteilung 10 being set up in the Heerespersonalamt to provide ‘SS approved’ officer replacements for these divisions: thereafter the officers could not be posted elsewhere without SS permission. The Volksgrenadier divisions remained responsible to Himmler, as were the SS divisions, even when they took to the field. The word Volk added to the divisional titles was intended to emphasize the link between these later groupings and the people, and to give expression to the ‘National-Socialist spirit’ of these new troops, in contradistinction to the old style that was tainted by the reactionary officer corps.

On 26 August all army formations that recruited foreigners were transferred to the SS and, since the SS was now raising its own SS army headquarters (SS Armeeoberkommandos) and additional corps headquarters, army general staff officers were transferred to the SS against their will to occupy technical appointments that the SS were not qualified to fill. By January 1945 candidates for army commissions could be compulsorily directed into the SS. Himmler had no wish to absorb the German Army into the Waffen SS, but he wanted to use army personnel, when absolutely necessary, to fill out the SS; for he jealously safeguarded the Waffen SS identity and exclusiveness. His intention was to have the German Army subordinated to, and controlled in its entirety by, the Waffen SS with himself at its head. The V-2 development and production programme and the control of firings and operational units was taken over by the SS immediately after 20 July.

That Himmler had Feldherr pretensions there can be no doubt; in September he became the commander at the front of all troops in the Upper Rhine, taking under his command 19 Army, Wehrkreis V and 14 and 18 SS Corps. At the turn of the year he was to take over Army Group Vistula on the eastern front. According to Goebbels, the question had been mooted, and presumably put to Hitler in late 1944, as to whether Himmler should not also be appointed as the German Army Commander-in-Chief.

Soviet People’s Experience WWII

Defeating the Nazis became the animating force for everything in Soviet society for the next four years. The need to defend Mother Russia became everyone’s duty in the face of Hitler’s barbarism, and the building of socialism, so long trumpeted on the pages of the Soviet press, faded away. The result was the rapid development of a mosaic of moods among the Soviet peoples. Russian historians have recently argued that the events of June 1941 awoke in the Soviet people the ability to think about variants, to critically evaluate a situation, and not to take the existing order as immutable. The effort to repel the Nazis also meant that, at least at the local level of Soviet life, the democratic centralism of Lenin and Stalin’s party was no longer tenable. The key criterion for becoming a Soviet leader was no longer a person’s party loyalty, but rather his or her contributions to the work of the front. Out in the provinces, the Communist leaders were told to train their subordinates in the following fashion: the party is interested in having people think, and stop instructing the masses and learn from them.
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That life in the Soviet Union would now be shaped by the real interests of ordinary people was a big change from the 1930s, when life had been shaped by their imaginary desires, and Stalin’s terror squads had made sure the elites worked to meet them. Meanwhile, Hitler’s armies were well on their way toward Leningrad, Moscow, and central Ukraine by July 1941. Leningrad was soon surrounded and would be under siege for the next three and a half years as 1.5 million Leningrad residents starved to death in the process. The main reason Moscow did not suffer the same fate was Hitler’s decision to concentrate his efforts on capturing Ukraine with its fertile fields, coal mines, ferrous metals resources, and strategic access to the oilfields of the Caucasus. Although the Red Army’s successful counterattacks were another major reason for tl1is diversion to the south, there can be little doubt that Ukraine was also the area that Hitler prized most as the perfect lebensraum for the German people. And such strategic and racial motivations also help explain why Hitler did not take advantage of his being greeted as a liberator by the peoples of western Ukraine, Belorussia, and the Baltic states who had suffered so much from the Nazi—Soviet Non-Aggression Pact.
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Although the Nazis treated these peoples as “lesser-beings” (untermenschen) from the start and would not allow them any rights whatsoever, what really convinced the Ukrainians and others of 1·litler’s malevolent intentions toward the Soviet people was the German army’s treatment of its Red Army POWs and the occupied Jewish population. ln places such as Kiev, where 650,000 Soviet troops were surrounded in September 1941 after a spirited defense of the Ukrainian capital and the Dnieper River region, perhaps two-thirds of the Soviet POWs died of hunger in Nazi captivity. lt was amid the euphoria of such victories in fall 1941 that the Hitlerites devised their Final Solution to rid these captured areas of their “great misfortune”—the Jews. ln the end, almost half the Jews who died in the Holocaust (some 2.5 million people) were Soviet citizens. Importantly, some of these people died in ways more ghastly than the gas chambers of Poland—mass machine gunning was the most popular method used—as the Nazis, the Wehrmacht (or German army), and a still unknown number of local collaborators experimented with methods of killing to find the most efficient way to achieve genocide. Meanwhile, the vast majority of the surviving Ukrainian and Belorussian civilian populations could only hope for the return of the Stalinists and an authoritarian rule that they understood and might be able to manipulate to their advantage.
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ln the face of such calamities, Stalin’s effort to maintain control over the Russian rear certainly did not show any relaxation of his coercive methods. Red Army men who surrendered, for example, were said to be traitors and were liable to court-martial. Meanwhile, Communist Party members who remained behind on occupied territory were automatically suspect, and if for some reason they crossed back into Soviet-held territory, they were subject to a rigorous check of their backgrounds. Workers who violated the 1940 labor legislation on tardiness, absenteeism, or the prohibition of movement from one job to another could be hauled before a military tribunal and the same eventually became true for those civilians who ignored compulsory labor mobilizations, responsibilities that impacted everyone but the elderly and the mothers of young children.
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Stalin’s epic mistakes on the battlefield were soon overshadowed by Hitler’s own bungling, and the Soviets found themselves with a second chance. The Nazi leader’s earlier decision not to take Moscow ensured that fighting for the Russian capital would take place in the winter, only after the Soviets had had enough time to prepare their defenses. Nevertheless, it was mainly the desperate resistance and simple patriotism of rapidly enlisted men and rearguard troops that saved Moscow in winter 1941-1942 from the Wehrmacht’s ”Army Group Center”  But the GKO’s incredibly centralized, command-and-administer system also allowed for the Ural and western Siberian economies to be quickly mobilized to meet the needs of the front. This was particularly important in winter 1941-1942 because the strategic Lend-Lease aid from the Soviet Union’s new American ally would not substantively help the Soviet war effort for another year. Even so, Stalin’s refusal to let his more able generals lead the efforts at the front resulted in yet more devastating defeats in spring 1942, with the Nazis now occupying all of Ukraine and moving toward their strategic goal of taking southern Russia and the Caucasus.
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Here again, though, the Soviets were saved from themselves by Hitler’s hubris. The Nazi leader’s greatest strategic mistake came with his decision to try to destroy the besieged city of Stalingrad in fall 1942 in order to deal a public relations blow to the “man of steel.” Hitler could have concentrated his efforts on occupying the Caucasus and Kuban (Russia’s own breadbasket) and exploiting their petroleum and agricultural resources in order to solidify his rule over his new eastern empire. But he went after Stalingrad in an effort to inflict a decisive blow against the Kremlin leader’s omnipotent presence in Soviet society. Stalin recognized the stakes too, and after a year of terrible retreat, he finally decided to listen to his generals and make a stand at this city lying along the Volga River The crucial point here is that the Wehrmacht was spread too thin by this time; Hitler did not have the resources necessary to continue his blitzkrieg. The Wehrmacht’s supply lines, for example, were stretched to the breaking point. Thus, the Soviets were eventually able to surround the German Sixth Army at Stalingrad and destroy it after Hitler stubbornly refused to let Field Marshal Friedrich von Paulus retreat. This was the beginning of the end for the Germans—the crucial turning point in the war—where the logistics of what they were doing caught up with them. Hitler’s refusal to fully mobilize his own people and l1is murderous treatment of the untermenschen now meant the fighting initiative went over to the Soviet side.
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Meanwhile, Hitler’s refusal to demand sacrifice from his own population resulted in anger and embitterment among the occupied Ukrainians and Belorussians as their sons and daughters were shipped to Germany to become slave laborers (Ostarbeitery). As the Soviets loomed on the eastern horizon, the Germans liberalized their agricultural policy by dissolving Stalin’s hated collective farms; however, at the same time, they were also stripping these areas of anything of value. Not only did the Germans seize raw materials, but they also took tools and macl1ines from factories and valuables from the republics’ museums and private apartments as well. One result of all this was a huge expansion in the forest—based anti—Nazi guerilla movement during 1943. True, many of these partisan fighters were motivated by a desire to curry favor with the advancing Red Army; but in the westernmost regions of the Soviet Union’s post—1939 borders, many partisans were there to fight sincerely for their nation’s political independence as Europe’s two totalitarian empires clashed. These “forest brothers,” many of whom were as hostile to Moscow as they were to Berlin, would eventually be crushed by the NKVD after war’s end. However, their bravery and unhappy end deepened the hostility that many subject peoples felt toward Moscow.

THE STORY OF HITLER’S ‘MIRACLE WEAPON’

When the Soviets advanced into eastern Germany, the Nazis tried to quickly evacuate the jet factory. But by then, it was too late for the jet to have much effect on the outcome of the war.

By Uli Suckert

At the very end of World War II, Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler still hoped that state-of-the-art technology could turn the tide in his favor. One of those projects, the Messerschmitt jet fighter, found a home in a remote corner of eastern Germany. But it was too late.

It took four and a half years, but finally, on March 20, 1944, World War II — and more specifically, the armaments industry — came to a remote corner of eastern Germany called the Lausitz. As the Allies flew an ever-increasing number of air raids over Germany’s industrial and urban centers, large weapons factories in Nazi Germany began an exhaustive search for suitable places to relocate — sites as inconspicuous and isolated as possible. Indeed, by 1943, Hermann Göring, commander of the Luftwaffe, had already forged plans to relocate the aviation industry to areas the Allies were unlikely to bomb.

It took a year, but then Junkers, an airplane and engine manufacturer from Dessau, moved into a factory belonging to the Moras Brothers textile company in Zittau, which today is located near Germany’s border with Poland and the Czech Republic.

Disguised as a company called Zittwerke AG, it was far from run-of-the-mill as far as armaments factories go. Zittau was to be where the world’s first production-ready jet engine would be completed, the same engine that was to power Hitler’s secret weapon, the Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter.

Jürgen Ulderup from Junkers’ Dessau production site was tasked with taking over as plant manager in Zittau. He immediately set up a network of manufacturing plants throughout the region, all top secret. Key to getting the project off the ground was his demand that 18 long-established textile producers make space in their factories for armaments production. Some companies had to turn over their factories in their entirety. It proved a further blow for the region’s textile industry, already largely crippled and converted to the war economy.

Core of the Enterprise

But winning the war took priority, and the remote corner of Nazi Germany now began producing components for the clandestine jet engine. Ulderup hired over 2,500 employees and put them to work in the Zittwerke plants, under the direction of aviation industry experts. They worked in the Moras factory, the Haebler Brothers textile company in Zittau, the Rudolf Breuer mechanical weaving mill in Reichenau, the Kreutziger & Henke company in Leutersdorf, the Ebersbach spinning and weaving mill, and at 13 other factories located in regional towns and villages.

But the core of the enterprise was to be found on the grounds of a former World War I prisoner of war camp in the present-day Polish town of Porajów — a camp which had been converted for use by the German armed forces. The factory, guarded by the 17th SS “Totenkopf” battalion, simply moved into several half-finished barracks.

Deep in the heart of the compound, behind several rows of barbed wire, was the administration building where a detachment from the Gross-Rosen concentration camp was housed. Along with prisoners of war and the so-called “Eastern workers” — forced labor from countries such as the Ukraine — over 850 concentration camp prisoners did most of the work in the Zittwerke factories.

Not long after Junkers had settled in, the sound of industry filled the Neisse River Valley day and night. Rumors of a “miracle weapon” circulated among the local population, but no one knew exactly what the factory produced. It wasn’t until final assembly that the object in question could be recognized for what it was: a special turbojet engine for a new type of jet fighter.

Shiny New Me 262s

Technicians had already tested the engines. A Messerschmitt plane, the Me 262-V 1, powered with a Junkers Jumo 004A-0 jet engine, took to the air as early as March 2, 1943. The test proved successful. And before long, the Zwittau factories mastered all aspects of the jet engine’s production, from pre-assembly to shipment.

The factories were well connected to the Third Reich’s rail network, with covered freight cars lugging the completed engines — once they had passed inspection — to the south. There, in the forests surrounding the Bavarian towns of Regensburg and Augsburg, workers installed the new engines into the jets. A converted Autobahn nearby served as a runway from which the shiny new Me 262s took off for their test flights. Only then would they be loaded onto freight trains for delivery to the Luftwaffe.

The Nazis had high hopes for the new jets. By the beginning of 1945, with the Russians closing from the east and the US and Britain marching in from the west, it was clear that Germany faced a catastrophic defeat, but the Nazi leadership refused to give up hope. On February 28, 1945, Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels announced to the nation that Germany’s “miracle weapon” would soon turn the tide of the war.

For Zittau, however, indications were mounting that it would be too late. The day before the Goebbels speech, the city of Görlitz just north of Zittau had been declared part of the front. Workers in the jet engine factories could already hear the thunder of enemy guns.

Hectic Evacuation

It wasn’t long before the hectic evacuation got underway. A Wehrmacht counterattack near the present-day Polish town of Luba on March 7 and 8, 1945 managed to push back the Red Army. But after heavy losses on both sides, the Soviets halted the German advance, such as it was, and the factories ceased production.

Given the importance of the jet engine project, it didn’t take long for evacuation of both workers and factory machinery to get underway. In early March, two special trains carrying the most vital elements of the production chain made their way from Zittau to the west, one on the 6th and another on the 10th. They ultimately ended up in the town of Nordhausen, located in the state of Thuringia, some 100 kilometers west of Leipzig.

Luftwaffe soldiers, who had guarded the Zittwerke’s various factory locations producing jet engines for the Me 262, also boarded the train in Zittau. Two trains with over 500 people left directly from the factory premises for Halberstadt in Saxony-Anhalt. A final train, belonging to the Wehrmacht, left on April 30, just days before the end of the war, presumably carrying the last of the military units.

Mass Grave

But the Nazis didn’t evacuate everything. Inside the remaining restricted military area, the forced laborers and concentration camp prisoners remained. Many of them died. A factory doctor issued 70 handwritten death certificates in April and the beginning of May. The causes of death listed were primarily “acute heart failure with asthenia,” “pulmonary tuberculosis,” “pneumonia,” or “scurvy.”

The role Zittwerke plant manager Jürgen Ulderup played in the deaths remains something of a mystery. According to his own reports, Ulderup fled by bicycle from Zittau to Osnabrück in western Germany in the last days of the war, with a backpack crammed full of copper bars. His driver, along with his company car, had long since disappeared, according to the former Nazi plant manager.

Today only a mass grave in Zittau’s women’s cemetery provides a reminder that the so-called “miracle weapon” was produced locally. A well-kept lawn covers the area behind the cemetery wall, where civilian victims of World War II are buried. They include the prisoners and forced laborers who sweated away in Nazi Germany’s final attempt to turn the tide of onrushing World War II destruction.

Operation ‘Landfried’

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Walter Girg (left).

On 24 August 1944, a Russian offensive in north-west Romania tore through the Romanian Third and Fourth Armies, allowing the Russians, in turn, to inflict heavy losses on the German Eighth Army and nearly destroy the German Sixth Army for the second time in its existence, the first having been at Stalingrad. On the same day the young King Mikhail deposed the pro-German Marshal Antonescu and ordered all German personnel to leave the country. Two days later, the new Romanian government formally declared war on Germany. While most of Germany’s former European partners followed the same pattern of surrendering to the Allies and subsequently going to war against Germany, Romania performed its volte-face with astonishing speed. In a short space of time, Germany was facing nearly twenty Romanian divisions under Russian control. German military forces in Romania and many of their families who had been comfortably far from the front now found themselves hundreds of miles behind enemy lines almost overnight.

Skorzeny received an order from the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW): ‘Form two special platoons for immediate operation to start from Temezvar airport, Romania. The object is to bar the Carpathian mountain passes, reconnoitre behind the enemy, wreck his communications and help German civilians to safety.’ The operation was codenamed ‘Landfried’ and was placed under the command of a young Untersturmführer called Walter Girg, who had been posted to Friedenthal only four months previously, directly after his commissioning at the Waffen-SS officer school at Bad Tolz.

Due to the Waffen-SS system, Girg was a hardened combat veteran and the holder of the Iron Cross in both classes even before commencing officer training. He was placed in charge of a team which included Russian speakers, demolition experts – and one incognito Irishman, whom it might be speculated was thought well of by his commanders. James Brady recalled: ‘About August 1944, about fifty members of the battalion, including myself, but not Stringer, were posted to Romania. We were in Romania for about three weeks, during which time I helped to blow up two river bridges and one railway bridge.’ At the last moment, Girg was warned that Temezar airport had fallen into Russian hands and his team instead diverted to an emergency airfield from which they commenced operations. According to Skorzeny’s account: ‘They operated behind the Russian lines, in Russian, Romanian and Bulgarian uniforms, according to the territory … Fifty men were committed, who operated 700 km behind the lines. They were divided into an eastern group, a western group and a central group. The first [Brady’s group] obstructed three passes and located appr. 2,000 men from the Ploesti AA batteries in the vicinity of Kronstadt [Brasov], of whom 250 were brought back.’ This was a German anti-aircraft regiment guarding the vital Ploesti oil fields, smartly turned out and equipped with the latest air defence artillery, who were patiently waiting to surrender to the Russians. The aforementioned 250 troops who were persuaded to stage a breakout succeeded in returning to German lines. Skorzeny recalled: ‘The western group brought back German residents and collected intelligence. The central group was under the command of Girg. It placed demolitions in the Rotenturm pass, south of Herrmanstadt [Sibiu] and observed Russian preparations in that vicinity. On one occasion they marched for about fifteen km in a Russian column. They were discovered and condemned to death. Girg however managed to escape from the firing squad and reach the German lines. He submitted a report containing valuable information on Russian order of battle and was awarded the Ritterkreuz [Knights Cross].’ According to Brady’s all too brief account of this spectacular special operation, his first time in combat: ‘There were only twenty-two of us left when we pulled out of Romania. Some men were killed by the Russians and others by the Romanians.’ Girg’s central group bore the brunt of the casualties, the other two escaping with minor losses. Interestingly, apart from Girg’s Knights Cross, two NCOs of the party were awarded the also prestigious German Cross in Gold. It would be reasonable to speculate that the nineteen remaining personnel received some lesser decoration.

The First Eastern SS Legions Part I


In October 1941, when German victory still seemed certain, Professor Wolfgang Abel of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology Human Heredity and Genetics led a team of race examiners (Eignungsprüfer) lent by the SS Race and Settlement Office (RuSHA) to occupied Poland to conduct studies of some of the millions of Soviet POWs held in sprawling, open-air German camps. It was a journey into hell. Historians now believe that the German army killed 2.8 million prisoners through starvation, gross neglect and execution. This barely remembered slaughter has been called the Forgotten Holocaust. Historian Karel Berkhoff argues:
I submit that the shootings of the Red Army commissars and other Soviet POWs, along with the starvation of millions more, constituted a single process. It was a process that started in the middle of 1941 and lasted until at least the end of 1942. I propose to call it a genocidal massacre. It was a massacre because it was ‘an instance of killing of a considerable number of human beings under circumstances of atrocity or cruelty.’
This genocidal massacre was also a turning point in the evolution of German racial pseudoscience.
After the German invasion of the Soviet Union, tens of thousands of Soviet soldiers surrendered to the Germans. Any identified as Jews or ‘Bolshevik Commissars’ were immediately executed according to Hitler’s notorious Commissar Order. They also killed Muslims and ‘Asiatics’ who were discovered to be circumcised and mistaken for Jews. Completely indiscriminate killing ended in September, when Nazi officials ordered that North Caucasians, Armenians and Turkic peoples, as well as Ukrainians and Belorussians, should be spared. After this spasm of killing, German troops and SS units began marching the Soviet captives to temporary camps known as ‘Dulag’ and then on to permanent ‘Stalag’ camps. During these forced marches, prisoners received minimal rations or none at all; guards often shot dead civilians who tried to supply food as the pitiful columns of starving, brutalised men passed through villages and towns. The Germans executed any stragglers who fell behind, even by a few metres. The survivors finally ended up penned inside an archipelago of vast, windswept camps enclosed by rudimentary barbed wire fences. Inside this cruel world, chaos ruled. Or seemed to: German policy was perfectly clear. In the words of Field Marshall Keitel, the purpose of this murderous internment was the ‘destruction of a Weltanschauung’ – meaning the Bolshevik world view that allegedly infested the minds of the prisoners.
According to the ethos of the German camp system, providing more than a few ladles of watery lentil soup was theft from the German people. Starvation was camp policy. Quartermaster General Eduard Wagner (who had negotiated the ‘Einsatzgruppe agreement’ with RSHA chief Reinhard Heydrich) insisted that the prisoners ‘should starve’. Provision of food, according to Keitel, was ‘wrongheaded humanity’. This German army policy reflected a radical ministerial strategy that had been formulated by SS-Obergruppenführer Herbert Backe which assumed that ‘the war can only be continued if the entire Wehrmacht is fed from Russia’. As a consequence, ‘there can be no doubt that tens of millions of people will die of starvation’. One Ukrainian official was told bluntly: ‘The Führer has decided to exterminate Bolshevism, including the people spoiled by it.’ Mortality rates varied from camp to camp, but, taken as a whole, were shockingly high. In some camps, over 2,500 prisoners died every day. This was the realm of hunger. To live a few days longer, starving, lice-tormented prisoners would eat anything, including bark. Some resorted, inevitably, to cannibalism. Alexander Solzhenitsyn provided this account of a German camp in The Gulag Archipelago: ‘around the bonfires, beings who had once been Russian officers but had now become beastlike creatures who gnawed the bones of dead horses, who baked patties from potato rinds, who smoked manure and were all swarming with lice. Not all these two-legged creatures had died as yet.’ There was just one way out: to be selected for service in the auxiliary police or for labour service, digging mass graves or rebuilding roads and bridges in the most gruelling conditions. Few Germans who discovered what was taking place in the camps protested – with one surprising exception. The German ‘eastern expert’ Alfred Rosenberg sent letter after letter to Keitel complaining about the murderous treatment of Soviet POWs. He recognised that Germany was squandering a reservoir of potential good will since many Soviet minorities hated Stalin. Now they were dying like flies in German camps. Rosenberg’s appeals fell on deaf ears.
Now in October, the prisoners who remained alive in the hellish German camps would be preyed on by German scientists led by anthropologist and SS officer Wolfgang Abel. Although the camp administrators referred to the prisoners as ‘Russians’, they came from every corner of the Soviet Empire; for Abel, the gulag was a tainted human treasure trove. The ‘Abel mission’ examined more than 42,000 prisoners from many different ethnic groups, which included Russians, Turkic peoples, Mongolians and various Caucasians. Abel’s team measured, photographed and blood tested their subjects. Then they returned to their spacious offices in Berlin. When they processed their data, Abel was astonished. Their captive subjects revealed that the ‘Slavic Untermenschen’ of the east exhibited a markedly higher level of ‘Germanic’ characteristics than he and his colleagues had anticipated. The new findings troubled Abel and other RuSHA race experts. His findings provided powerful evidence that ‘Asiatic peoples’ had, during periods of German expansion, been ‘strengthened by Germanic blood’; the colonisers, to put it another way, had enjoyed sexual congress with the colonised. History, as geneticist Steve Jones puts it, ‘is made in bed’ – or the wheat field. The troubling consequence, Abel realised, was a kind of biological theft: German blood had been stolen from its rightful bearers.
The findings of the Abel mission echoed Himmler’s remarks about ‘harvesting Germanic blood wherever it might be found’. Now he had scientific backing. Traditionally many German anthropologists had regarded the mixing of races or miscegenation as a weakening process. That was certainly the view of Adolf Hitler. But a number of German race experts came to more nuanced conclusions. One was Alfred Ploetz, who argued that racial mixing of peoples ‘not too far apart’ was a means of ‘increasing fitness’: he cited the Japanese as an example. Head of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Anthropology, Human Heredity and Eugenics, Professor Eugen Fischer had come to similar conclusions when he had studied the so-called ‘Rehobother Bastards’. Fischer recommended that the offspring of unions between Aryans and Jews or Africans should be compulsorily sterilised. But in cases where the two parents had closer ethnic bonds, then their offspring might be treated more leniently. This implied that, as Himmler put it, Germanic blood lines in non-Aryan peoples were a resource that might be ‘harvested’. When the Abel mission published its conclusions, the existence of far flung Germanic blood reservoirs had scientific backing. The time had come to exploit these prized corpuscles. The Abel mission to the German gulag would soon have a decisive impact on Waffen-SS recruitment strategy. For Himmler and the SS recruitment experts the question was where to start.

HE WILL SOON LOSE THAT SMILE…

 

…whether sharing a joke with his comrade or just happy to have survived…so far…

 

The war between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia (1941–1945) was arguably the largest and most brutal theater of land warfare in the twentieth century. Fueled by bitter ideological antagonism, the enormous cruelty at the front extended directly into the treatment of prisoners of war on both sides. Of 5.7 million captured Red Army soldiers, about 3.3 million died in German captivity—a staggering mortality rate of 57 percent. By comparison, the mortality rate of British and American POWs in German hands lay between 3.5 and 5.1 percent. On the other side, almost one-third of up to 3 million German and Austrian prisoners of war perished in Soviet captivity. And Germany’s allies fared little better: 2 million of their soldiers, mainly Hungarians, Rumanians, Czechs, and Italians, were captured by the Red Army during the war and suffered mortality rates at times comparable to that among the Germans. In Soviet and German POW camps, years of hard labor and almost unbearable living conditions shaped the lives of those who were to survive. Facing this prospect, many soldiers on both sides decided to fight to the bitter end rather than to give up, thus intensifying and prolonging what already was a savage war.
In the early morning hours of 22 June 1941, the German Wehrmacht (armed forces) and its allies invaded the Soviet Union. Taken by surprise, the Red Army initially offered only sporadic resistance. In the first week of July alone, the German army encircled and captured over 320,000 Russian troops at Biasystok and Minsk. Heading further east, it continued to capture huge numbers of Soviet soldiers, most notably at Smolensk, Kiev, and Bryansk. By the time the Wehrmacht’s advance came to its first significant standstill near Moscow in December 1941, over 3.2 million Soviet soldiers had fallen into German captivity. By February 1942, 2 million of them had lost their lives. This mass death had been clearly premeditated. Prior to the German attack, in March 1941, Hitler had relieved his troops from allegiance to the traditional code of military honor: “The Communist is from first to last no comrade. It is a war of extermination.” And despite occasional criticism out of its ranks, the Wehrmacht generally complied with the regime’s genocidal premises.
Thus, for many Soviet soldiers, death came immediately after their capture: according to German orders, political officers (commissars) were to be shot on the spot and others, especially Jewish soldiers, were handed over to SS execution squads. Undernourished and liable to be shot if they were physically unable to carry on, tens of thousand then perished during the seemingly endless marches from the front to camps in Poland and Germany. Prisoners who made it to their permanent camp locations usually found nothing but a barren field surrounded by barbed-wire. For shelter, they were forced to dig holes into the ground. With no sanitary facilities, these “camps” soon became breeding grounds for typhus and dysentery. Then the coming of winter hit the inmates in their makeshift shelters. The most common cause of death among the POWs at that time, however, was starvation. In order to maintain the food supply of their own troops and that of the German civilian population, the leadership of the Third Reich had decided to induce a “natural” decimation of the Russian prisoners, whom they branded “subhumans” and “worthless eaters.” Some Soviet POWs even became the first victims of the gas chambers at a number of concentration camps, including Auschwitz. Clearly, the treatment of the Soviet POWs in 1941–1942 fell into line with Nazi designs of a racist war of conquest and annihilation in which no rules, be they legal or ethical, were recognized.

In early 1942, however, pressure mounted to make use of prisoners of war in industry and agriculture. Following the anticipated victory, the German leadership had initially planned to demobilize large portions of the Wehrmacht in order to create a manpower pool for the defense industry. But with the advance stalled, demobilization became impossible. Instead, a first batch of 400,000 Soviet prisoners in Germany were forced to toil on projects such as highway construction and mining. Requiring a healthy workforce, the labor program led to the gradual betterment of the prisoners’ living conditions. In the spring of 1942, the death rate in the POW camps began to drop, though this was not entirely due to sudden German benevolence: by now, so many prisoners had died that in many cases the meager allotments of food became sufficient for those who remained. Yet, not until July 1944 did the food supply for the working Soviet prisoners reach a level comparable to that of other Allied prisoners in German captivity.
In addition to labor, service in the German army seemed to offer a way of survival for Soviet prisoners. In 1942, the Wehrmacht and the SS began to recruit volunteers among the POWs. Appealing to anticommunist sentiment and the will to survive among the captives, their efforts had some success. Tens of thousands of former Soviet soldiers served in special German-led battalions, in the army of Lieutenant General Andrei Vlasov, a former Red Army commander who had switched sides, and in German work battalions. The total number of former Soviet prisoners in the German armed services is unknown, with estimates ranging from 250,000 to about 1 million. The remaining POWs became part of the gigantic slave labor pool that propped up the Third Reich’s industry in the later years of the war. Their living conditions remained harsh, and another 1.3 million perished in German captivity between 1942 and 1945. Furthermore, in spite of Allied victory, the plight of many Soviet prisoners did not end in 1945. Of approximately 1.8 million prisoners eventually repatriated to the USSR, 150,000 were sentenced to six years forced labor for “aiding the enemy,” and almost all others experienced the hostility engendered by Soviet leader Josef Stalin’s infamous Order 270, which had called all Red Army soldiers who allowed themselves to be captured alive “traitors to the motherland.”
To fall into enemy captivity on the eastern front turned out to be highly perilous for German soldiers as well. Here too, legal considerations made no impact. Even though the USSR had not signed the Geneva Convention, it had indicated that it would observe the Hague Order and the Second Geneva Convention for the protection of the wounded. Nevertheless, retreating Red Army forces more often than not executed their wounded POWs. But during the Wehrmacht’s initial advance in 1941 and 1942, the number of German soldiers in Soviet hands remained relatively low. Until the battle of Stalingrad, which ended in January 1943, the number of German POWs did not exceed 100,000. At Stalingrad, however, another 93,000 fell into Soviet captivity, of whom barely 6,000 were to survive their internment. The mortality rate among German POWs at the time rose to 90 percent, as the majority never made it to permanent prison camps. But unlike their Soviet counterparts in 1941–1942, the German prisoners were not subjected to a policy of systematic mass murder. Instead, they fell victim to the unorganized state of the Soviet POW camp system (GUPVI), to the chaotic conditions of a country ravaged by war, and to individual acts of retaliation. In addition, after months of winter fighting, many German soldiers went into captivity in pitiful physical state, at least one-third of them in need of medical attention, which the Russians generally failed to provide.
Following the defeat at Kursk in the summer of 1943, the German army began its final retreat from Russia. The rising number of POWs now entirely overwhelmed Soviet capacities. The number of base camps in the Soviet Union tripled from 52 to 156 in 1944, yet scarcities remained everywhere, especially in food provision, winter clothing, and medical supplies. At the end of the war in May 1945, another 1.5 million Axis soldiers who had failed to reach American or British front lines flooded into Russian temporary POW camps. Once in camps in the Soviet Union, they were put to work to reconstruct the war-torn country. In fact, the USSR’s first five-year economic plan after the war depended heavily on POW labor. For many years and under often gruesome conditions, German and Austrian prisoners built power plants and railway tracks, the Metro in Moscow, defense industries in the Ural mountains, gold mines in eastern Siberia, and much more. Even the Russian atomic bomb program owed much to the labor and technical expertise of German prisoners of war.
Given their suffering, the German prisoners showed little positive reaction to Soviet propaganda efforts. Attempts to organize them into an opposition to Hitler’s regime largely fell on deaf ears, even though small groups such as the National Committee for a Free Germany served as recruiting grounds for administrative personnel for the Soviet occupied zone of Germany after the war. The majority of the prisoners, however, experienced Soviet political influence as oppressive. Most infamous were the camp hierarchies established by the Antifa, groups of antifascist, mainly communist, German POWs who had been handpicked by Soviet authorities in order to control their fellow inmates. Usually, these selected prisoners occupied privileged positions in the camps and could be easily identified among their undernourished comrades by their healthy, well-fed appearance.
The living conditions in Soviet captivity failed to improve after the war. Constant hunger, slave labor, and a lack of medical care led the prisoners to develop specific strategies of survival. The German prisoners adopted the “plenny-step,” a mode of slow movement designed to conserve the body’s energy that soon turned the camp inhabitants into a mass of bent, crawling figures. The “hunger winter” of 1946–1947, which followed a Russian crop failure, took yet another heavy toll on them. Soviet authorities had to declare a state of emergency for the entire GUPVI camp system in order to battle the dramatically decreasing labor output and the surging mortality rates. And given the importance of prisoner labor, repatriations began only gradually. In mid-1947, when the first mass repatriations of Austrian and Hungarian prisoners commenced, there were still over 1 million German POWs in the Soviet Union whose repatriation did not begin until a year later. By 1950, their number had slowly dropped to 30,000.
The story of those last 30,000 German prisoners constitutes the final chapter of the sad history of POW internment on what had been the eastern front. Stripped of their status as prisoners of war and instead considered as convicted war criminals, these internees became a lever used by the Soviets in the Cold War, particularly with respect to the newly established Federal Republic of Germany. While some of these former German soldiers had undoubtedly committed war crimes, many others had received their original sentences—25 years of hard labor—for petty offenses or simply out of bad luck. For another five years, German prisoners toiled in the Soviet Union until that country finally repatriated them in 1955–1956 in exchange for the establishment of diplomatic relations with the Federal Republic. The last German POW did not return home until 1956, more than 10 years after the end of the war.

BEST BOOKS – The Third Reichs Eastern Legions and POWS



Catherine Andreyev
Review
“Her main aim is to synthesize and comment on the political ideas of the Russians and others associated with what she properly calls not simply the ‘Vlasov movement’ but the Russian Liberation Movement….Her book includes a comprehensive and judicious survey of what others have done, full citations to sources, and an extensive bibliography. The writing is clear, graceful, and precise.” American Historical Review”…an elegant, authoritative but highly readable book.” The Journal of Soviet Military Studies

“Andreyev’s book is likely to become the standard reference work on an important movement whose leading figures were hanged in Moscow in August 1946” Journal of Ukrainian Studies

#
Every so often a text appears which dispels the conventional wisdom of what we come to accept as history. Catherine Andreyev’s “Vlasov and the Russian Liberation Movement” is such a work. This narrative tells the story of one of the strangest, yet most compelling episodes in the history of the Second World War. In July of 1942, a Soviet Army general, Andrei Vlasov was captured by the invading German Army. He later came to lead a non-existent force known as the ROA, or Russian Liberation Army. Although this force had never existed, he was in fact the ideological leader of an estimated 800 million Russians who were opposed to Stalin and served in various capacities during the war. Throughout the war it was clear that the movement was not, as their opponents had charged, blind collaboration with the Nazi forces but a political movement in its own right. The goal of Vlasov and his group was none other than a free and democratic Russian state. In the course of the movement, it was in fact the Nazis themselves that provided the strongest opposition to the goals of the ROA. They, in fact had desired to use Vlasov only for the purpose of propaganda against the Soviets. Andreyev’s story tells the story of the various individuals in the movement and the tragic outcome of this movement. Particular emphasis is placed on different factions involved. In this story we learn about the soldiers themselves who were mostly Russian prisoners of war, as well as the civilian émigré groups who supported the ROA. We also see the internal struggle between the Vlasov’s group who sincerely wanted to liberate their homeland and the Nazi hierarchy who considered the Russians as being racially inferior and wanted to use them as puppets. In short this is an excellent story of an idealistic, but doomed group of people and their struggle.
Tom Pierce

Product Description
This book deals with the attempt by Soviet citizens to create an anti-Soviet Liberation Movement during the Second World War. The Movement’s ultimate importance lies in its expression of grass-roots opposition to the Soviet regime, the first substantial such efflorescence since 1922. The motivation of its titular leader, Vlasov, is examined in detail, as is its fundamental ideology, analyzed within the context not merely of wartime but of prewar Soviet and Russian emigré society.
Die Geschichte der Wlassow-Armee (Einzelschriften zur militarischen Geschichte des Zweiten Weltkrieges)
Joachim Hoffmann
Publisher: Rombach (1984)
Language: German
ISBN-10: 3793001865
ISBN-13: 978-3793001867
“Die geschichte der Wlassow-Armee” is best on the military history of the ROA.

 

Against Stalin and Hitler: Memoir of the Russian Liberation Movement, 1941-1945
Author: Wilfried Strik-Strikfeldt
Publisher: Macmillan
Published in: London
Year: 1970
“It can be argued that it was Hitler’s idiotic policy towards Russia and Russians that lost him the war in the East, and, incidentally ensured the survival of the Stalinist regime. By the summer of 1944 when Himmler (of all people) sponsored a change of course it was already too late. In the event the German armies were overwhelmed, and the Russian Liberation Movement under General Vlasov became one of the might-have-beens of history. The Movement, however, has a significance of its own, apart from the moving human story of its leaders and its followers. Here we have an authentic account from the man best qualified to give it…”—–from the Foreword by David Footman.
The author was on the staff of Field Marshall von Bock, commander of the Central Group of Armies in Hitler’s invasion of Russia. He kept a full diary from then till the end of the war, and it is on this that he has based this book. An account of the Russian Liberation Movement under the leadership of General Vlasov. The author was closely associated with Vlasov. Hitler failed to exploit the readiness to co-operate among the populations of Russia which greeted his troops when they first advanced into the Soviet Union. This one is good if you want to know the person Andrej Andrejevich Vlasov and his ideals.

 

Booklist:
Fischer, George: Soviet opposition to Stalin. 1952.
Dwinger, Edwin Erich: General Wlassow, eine tragödie .. 1951.
Steenberg, Sven: General Wlassow, verräter oder patriot. 1968.
English translation Vlasov, traitor or patriot.
Strik-Strikfeldt, Wilfrid: Gegen Stalin und Hitler. 1970.
English translation Against Stalin and Hitler. The John Day Company. 1973.
Thorwald, Jürgen: Die illusion: Rotarmisten in Hitler´s heere. 1974.
English translation The illusion:..1975.
Hoffmann, Joachim: Die Geschichte der Wlassow-Armee. 1984.
Andreyev, Catherine: Vlasvov and the Russian Liberation Movement. Cambridge University Press. 1987. Contains a list of literature, much in Russian.
Drobjasko, S.: Russkaja osvoboditelnaja armija. 1998. Soldat series no. 5.
Okorokov, A.V.: Materialy Po Istorii Russkogo Osvoboditel Nogo Dvizheniya, three parts 1997-99. Moscow.
To read of the repatriation to the Soviet Union:
Tolstoy, Nicolay: Victims of Yalta. Hodder & Stoughton. 1977.