Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Shoah in Ukraine: History, Testimony, Memorialization

The Shoah in Ukraine: History, Testimony, Memorialization
Edited by Ray Brandon and Wendy Lower
Indiana University Press/ US Holocaust Memorial Museum
392 pages; $35

This extensive collection of studies on the Holocaust in Ukraine originated in the summer research workshop held at the US Holocaust Museum in 1999. Since then, the editors - Ray Brandon, a historian based in Berlin and the former editor of the English edition of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and Wendy Lower, of the Ludwig Maximilian University at Munich and the author of Nazi Empire Building and the Holocaust in Ukraine - sought out additional contributions from international experts who were doing groundbreaking research on this subject.

They show how Hitler's grandiose plan to settle 10 million Germans and establish his private paradise in Ukraine failed dismally, but more than 1.5 million Jews were robbed and murdered there.

Lower describes how the Nazis developed a sinister, utopian plan for exploiting Ukraine's human and natural resources. They firmly believed that this was absolutely essential to secure the Reich's future and the continued sustenance of the Wehrmacht, and since the largest population of Soviet Jews resided there, they had to be eliminated, and as fast as possible.

The plan put an end to Ukrainian hopes for independence, but this did not prevent them from cooperating with the regime, at least insofar as the robbery and the murder of Jews was concerned.

Hitler appointed the Nazi ideologue Alfred Rosenberg to be the minister of the Reich Commissariat Ukraine. Accompanied by top Nazis, Rosenberg had brought in commissars, or "the torch bearers of the German nation," especially educated for this purpose. They were no bureaucrats, but dictators who ruled with the gun and a whip, which they placed on their desk in office hours. When one became "too soft," he was quickly sidelined by others. Social outcasts, amateurs, adventurers and careerists became the colonial-style governors and decided who shall live and who shall die.

The detailed history of the district of Zhytomir provides an example of such a "settlement." Dieter Pohl, of Munich's Institute of Contemporary History, describes how the first mass killings by the Einsatzgruppen and the Wehrmacht, accompanied by Ukrainian auxiliaries, were followed by a planned, systematic murder, robbery and destruction of Jewish communities.

The Jewish existence in Western Wolhynia from 1921 to 1945 in general, and in the typical village of Kolky in particular, is described in depth by Timothy Snydor of Yale. There was not much love lost between the local Jews, Ukrainians and Polish settlers. Each community lived more or less according to its own agenda. Poles sought to "polonize" the area; Ukrainians fought for their independence and were largely responsible for violence. The Soviet occupation of September 1939 offered Jews comparative safety and new opportunities, but the German invasion of June 1941 turned their lives into burning inferno.

Frank Golczewski, of Hamburg University, presents Galicia as an important case study of mutual German-Ukrainian relations. Ukrainians knew that they were cheated by Germans, but this did not stop them from serving in various German military detachments, robbing and killing Jews, and being described as "the worst" by Holocaust survivors. The Ukrainian auxiliaries were often assigned the bloodiest tasks and their collaboration made a significant contribution to the Jewish genocide.

Dennis Deletant, of London University College, examines the deportation of Jews from Bessarabia and Bukowina to Transnistria, which Romania occupied after the joint German-Romanian attack on the Soviet Union. Transnistria became the graveyard of more than 250,000 Jews, the principal victims of Romanian dictator Ion Antonescu and his deputy Mihai Antonescu. Both subscribed to the "ethnic purification" of Romania, free of Slavs and Jews, sharing a common border with Nazi Germany.

It was only after Stalingrad that Antonescu put a stop stop to the Jewish deportations and turned down the German request to send the remaining Romanian Jews to the extermination camps in Poland.

Andrei Angric, of the Hamburg Foundation for the Promotion of Science and Culture, writes about the Thoroughfare IV, Hitler's grandiose plan to build a highway across Ukraine, which was expected to support both the conquest and the German settlement. Soon, however, the Germans realized that the anticipated large numbers of Jews and Soviet POWs needed for the heavy labor had already been murdered. German civilian authorities, who badly needed slave labor, often vainly tried to persuade the SS that it would be more convenient to murder Jews by hard labor, hunger and exhaustion.

Martin Dean, a scholar from the US Holocaust Museum's Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, describes how the ethnic Germans settled in Russia before the October Revolution served Hitler rather well, with few exceptions.

Alexander Kruglov, a writer from Kharkov, provides us with detailed statistics of the Jewish losses during those crucial years of 1941-1944.

Karel Berkhoff, of the Center for Holocaust Studies of the University of Amsterdam, comments on the story of Dina Pronicheva, one of the few survivors of the Babi Yar massacre.

Omer Bartov, of Brown University in his "White Spaces and Black Holes" describes Galicia's past and present. The "white spaces" illustrate the omissions and poverty of the Ukrainian Holocaust memory, while the "black holes" note the selective marginalization of the past.

An extensive index accompanies this well-edited, printed and bound volume. Ukraine has almost completely erased its Jewish past. In the town of Kosiv, for instance, where once 2,400 Jews lived, the house which belonged to a local rabbi was turned into a museum in memory of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) which murdered Jews. We find almost no traces of shame or regret.

Bitter memories and the specter of the Holocaust continue to haunt Jewish-Ukrainian relations. However the fact that 1,200 Ukrainians were awarded the title of Righteous Gentiles by Yad Vashem testifies that there must have been many more Ukrainians who helped Jews in hiding. But only a full admission of the disturbing facts of the past and a full respect for the perpetuation of the memory of the former Jewish communities may at least partly exorcise the guilt and open a new page of the mutual relations. Perhaps this book may serve as one of the guiding lights in this direction.

Friday, November 21, 2008

"AXIS & FOREIGN LEGION MILITARIA" - Axis & Legion Militaria

European Waffen-SS Map issued by Amtsgruppe B of the Main Office on 1 February 1945. This map illustrates cloth insignia worn by foreign volunteers in the German Armed Forces.

During the early 1930s the Fascist and Nazi movements spread all over Europe. Almost each western and later eastern European country formed one type of Fascist or Nazi Party.

These pro-nazi groups made and issued numerous types of cloth insignia that represented their political party.

The purpose of this page is to illustrate some of the types of foreign volunteer legion cloth insignia that existed during those turbulent years. I would not attempt to describe each political party that existed but if your interested in learning more about it then I recommend you read the reference books listed in my "Bibliography" Section.

via "AXIS & FOREIGN LEGION MILITARIA" - Axis & Legion Militaria

COMBAT Magazine: Stalin's Enemies

Between 1944 and 1947, over two million Russians who'd been living in the occupied countries of Europe, some voluntarily, some not, were forcibly repatriated to the Soviet Union. Many met death by execution immediately while others were literally worked to death in the hundreds of Gulags that dotted the largest slave society in history. Whether civilian or soldier, Joseph [Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili] Stalin, who was the Soviet government, reasoned that anyone who'd been living outside the borders of the Soviet Union was to be considered contaminated by anti Soviet ideology, and therefore could not be trusted. It mattered not that many had been forcibly removed from their homeland, by the German enemy.

Approximately one million of the expatriates were military men who for various reasons took up arms against Stalin and volunteered to fight with Germany. Most, but not all, were Soviet citizens. Never before in the annals of warfare had so many soldiers abandoned their own to fight for the enemy. The reasons for this say more about the horror of life under the Bolsheviks after the 1917 Revolution, than Hitler's Germany. Sadly, these happenings also say much about the English and to a lesser extent the Americans, many of whom were willing participants in the forced repatriation. It would not be until the nineteen eighties when the awful truth began to emerge, that the world would come to know about what has come to be known as — The Secret Betrayal.

via COMBAT Magazine: Stalin's Enemies

Don Cossacks by Gabby de Jong

The problem of the Cossacks

In September of 1944, the German authorities allocated Northern Italy to the Cossacks for resettlement. This region was chosen because it was far from the Soviet lines and was one of the small not-German areas that were still situated inside the territories of the decreasing Third Reich.

The Cossacks settled first in Gemona del Friuli, but quite soon they moved to Tolmezzo in the Carnic Alps. Already before their arrival, they had been promised land and houses, which of course extremely irritated the local inhabitants.

Again, the Cossacks tried to start a life as in a Don-stanitsa. They formed a settlement rather than a military force, though their ‘regiments’ waged war against the communists again.

In the winter of 1944-1945, the allied intelligence services in Italy received messages that a large Cossack group had settled in the far end of Northern Italy. Since Suvorov's famous campaign in 1799, this was the first time that they showed up in the Alps, but it was no surprise. British and American troops had continually arrested little groups of Russians, mostly members of convict battalions.

via Don Cossacks

Ukrainian “Flakhelfers” in German Luftwaffe in 1944—1945.

The increasingly difficult state of affairs facing the German Reich’s military machine since 1943, caused by the heavy losses on the East front and bombings of German industrial cities by the Western Allies necessitated the shifting of focus on reinforcing the manpower pool with youth resources. In the sphere of anti-aircraft defence already in 1943 with the aid of Hitler-Youth (HJ) movement infrastructure the young Germans were employed for the needs of the armed forces in auxilary role on considerable scale. At the beginning of 1944, however, the non-German youth also entered the combat in similar capabilities. Ideological service of the SS system, co-ordinating the campaign of employing the foreign youth, defining foreign Waffen SS formations as “international European anti-Communist armed forces”, envisioned the SS-Youth as the reserve base for the elder comrades-in-arms and future “European youth front”, as gradually part of the German SS-Youth was transferred for frontline service in German divisions.

via 1.JmA - Ukranian Flak gunners in german service

Monday, November 17, 2008


GSA 32nd Annual Conference, St. Paul, October 2-5, 2008

Panel 140: Perpetrators or Victims? Letters from German Soldiers at the Eastern Front, 1939-1945

Moderator: Gerhard Weinberg, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

"Lieutenant Peter Stoelten's Letters: Loyal and not a Nazi"

Astrid Irrgang, Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes

"Through My Father's Eyes: From Accomplice to Victim"

Konrad H. Jarausch, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

"Wehrmacht Soldiers' Choices: Between Enthusiasm and Reluctance"

Klaus Jochen Arnold, Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung

Commentator and reporter: Dirk Bönker, Duke University

This well-attended panel featured three thought-provoking papers that focused on the deeds, experiences, and agencies of Wehrmacht soldiers and their participation in the Nazi pursuit of war and racial empire. Two of the papers focused on the particular stories of two individual soldiers, based on careful analysis of large and extraordinarily rich surviving collections of personal correspondence. In contrast, the third paper offered general reflections upon the choices and complicities of the nearly 20 million male soldiers who served in the Wehrmacht.

Drawing on her monograph on the subject published in 2007, Astrid Irrgang offered a lucid study of Peter Stoelten, a young front soldier and junior officer. Born in 1922 into a protestant-bourgeois family, Stoelten joined the Wehrmacht after the completion of the Notabitur and served in army combat units on the eastern and western fronts throughout the war until he was killed in military action in the spring of 1945. Portraying Stoelten as a willing, enthusiastic soldier and engaged officer who eagerly participated and fought in the war, Irrgang argued that Stoelten kept his distance from Nazi ideology and was capable of engaging in humane behavior towards enemy soldiers that ran counter to the dictates of Nazi Vernichtungskrieg. His nationalist-protestant-statist outlook and bildungsbuergerlich aspirations combined with his sense of identification with soldiering and the military community propelled Stoelten, who remained, by and large, silent in his field postal letters on Nazi mass murder and the Holocaust in particular. Eventually, suggested Irrgang, Stoelten was ready to sacrifice himself in the face of impending defeat, consumed by despair over the course of the war and survivors' guilt towards his fallen comrades.

Konrad Jarausch expertly explored the wartime pursuits of his own father, Konrad Jarausch, drawing on his new edition of the latter's wartime personal correspondence. Born in 1900, Jarausch was drafted in 1939 and then spent his time in non-front units, eventually working at a camp for Soviet prisoners-of-war where he contracted typhoid fever and died in early 1942. A reluctant soldier, who attempted, for a while, to be dismissed from military service, Jarausch supported and participated in the Nazi pursuit of war after 1939 as a volkish nationalist, his historian son argued. The elder Jarausch did so even as he increasingly voiced misgivings about German brutality against civilians in German-occupied Poland and grew concerned about the prospects of ultimate German victory.

Jarausch argued that his father eventually began to undergo a process of reorientation, if not personal conversion, as he became complicit in the murderous treatment of captured Soviet soldiers in a Durchgangslager. This reorientation expressed itself in the recognition of shared humanity framed in stark Christian terms and subsequent reaching out to inmates on a personal level.

Klaus Jochen Arnold, the co-editor of the collection of Konrad Jarausch's wartime correspondence, offered some thoughts on the agency and complicity of Wehrmacht soldiers in Nazi Vernichtungskrieg. Noting that the public and scholarly perception of the Wehrmacht has been dominated by those small groups of soldiers who either fully embraced Nazi ideology or engaged in active resistance, Arnold cast the vast majority of Wehrmacht soldiers as reluctant participants in the war who sought to fit in and avoid conflict with Nazi regime while identifying with the larger German national collective. These soldiers participated in, and knew about, Nazi mass murder to different degrees, with "tens of thousands" of Wehrmacht soldiers on the eastern front being personally involved in the Holocaust, even if often not directly as killers. According to Arnold, the average soldier lacked the information and imagination to recognize the scale and scope of Nazi genocidal and mass murder. Moreover, rank-and-file soldiers had little room to maneuver, let alone to openly counteract the regime, if they did not want to put their own well-being at risk, with some soldiers thus couching moral disagreement in strictly technocratic-utilitarian terms or engaging in small acts of resistance to protect potential victims.

These three engaging papers prompted productive debate among the panelists and the audience. The commentator, Dirk Bönker, praised the papers' salutary emphasis on the complexities and diversity of individual experiences. He also identified three larger analytical issues that the papers drew attention to: how the Nazi pursuit of war and racial empire tapped into nationalist outlooks and desires, setting in motion continuous and open-ended processes of negotiation, convergence, and differentiations between nationalist Germans and Nazis; how the wartime history of Wehrmacht soldiers was a history of continuous individual choices and moral judgments involving the terms and meanings of the participation in the Nazi pursuit of war and mass murder, with (some) soldiers capable of acts of kindness or solidarity towards "the other" regardless of continuous participation in the Nazi machinery of war or comprehensive knowledge of the Nazi murderous pursuits; and, finally, how important it is to explore the complicity of Wehrmacht soldiers in the Nazi war and genocide in the wider contexts of military Vergemeinschaftung and the specific practices and experiences of war in the military killing zones.

Questions surrounding the use of field postal letters as sources were at the center of several contributions from the audience. Speakers from the floor asked about the importance of surveillance and self-censorship and their impact on the contents of the field postal letters. In addition, Doris Bergen, University of Toronto, asked to what extent the analysis of the letter exchanges between soldiers and their correspondents back in Germany could yield insight into the conflict-ridden relations between "front" and "home." The nature and pervasiveness of war enthusiasm among Wehrmacht soldiers also attracted considerable attention as did the comparison to World War I and the issue of post-war memories. And, finally, Gerhard Weinberg, the chair, argued against the validity of the analytical distinction between combat units and rear units, between "Front" and "Etappe," as a way of making sense of the varying complicity of Wehrmacht units and personnel in Nazi Vernichtungskrieg.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Uniforms V

Above left: Tank driver of the Russian Peoples Liberation Army (RONA)

Above, middle: A soldier of the RONA Storm Brigade

Above right: Colonel Sacharow, Deputy Commander of the Russian National People’s Army (RNNA)

Lower left: A first lieutenant of the RNNA, 1942

Lower right: Standard bearer of the 1st Russian National Brigade, 1943

Uniforms IV

In addition to the ROA, there existed additional units of Slavic volunteers, such as the 1st National Russian Army (RNA), the volunteer regiment “Warjag” In the course of the war, most of these units joined with Vlassov’s forces.

Left: Private Lance Corporal and machine gunner in the Russian guard

Right: Lieutenant of Artillery in a guard regiment.

Middle: Major General Holmston-Smyslowskij, Commander of the 1st Russian National Army in 1945

Uniforms III

Left: Soldier of the ROA Guard Brigade

Upper right: Commander of the Rifle Battalion of the ROA Guard Brigade, Captain Graf Lambsdorff

Below: Noncoms and trainees of the Dabendorf Propaganda School.

 Far right: an ROA propagandist

Uniforms Part II

Upper left: Sergeant, 1st ROA Division, wearing German and Russian medals

Upper right: A soldier of the ROA Tank Destroyer Unit

Lower left: Lieutenant in the ROA Eastern Battalion.

Lower right: ROA Rifleman, 1945

Uniforms Part I

Uniform insignia of the armed forces of the Committee for the Liberation of the Russian Peoples (KONR).

Underneath: A soldier of the Infantry Regiment of the First ROA Division in 1945.

Next to that: Cavalry of the Intelligence Branch of the 1st ROA Division.

Beneath that: A First Lieutenant on the Staff of the First ROA Division.


The Russian Army of Liberation (ROA): Corrective Revision by Russian Historians

By Wolfgang Strauss

On a spring day in East Prussia in 1945 an officer of the Red Army observed a mounted sergeant flaying a young Russian captive with a long leather knout. The captive was exhausted, half naked and completely covered in blood. Every time the whip cut into his flesh, the young man raised his bound hands and hoarsely addressed the officer in cultivated Russian: “Captain, Sir.” Crack! “Captain, Sir.” Crack! Crack! The captain, who was also a cultivated man, appeared impassive. He made no attempt to save the doomed youth, however. He knew that he would be arrested on the spot if he intervened and he knew that his gold epaulettes would not protect him. The flayed youngster was not Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s first encounter with captured Vlassov soldiers, but it seems to have been the most gripping. On another occasion he was watching as three captured Vlassovtsis were being escorted to the rear. When a Soviet tank came thundering past, one of the three suddenly threw himself under its treads.


When the Red Army began its offensive against Königsberg, Stalin’s orders were unmistakably simple yet inconceivably brutal: “Everything is allowed!” The soldiers of the Red Army were officially encouraged to pillage, rape, and massacre. Simple soldiers were allowed ten pounds weight of plunder, generals several boxcars full. By terrorizing the civilian population the Russians caused them to panic and clog the roads behind the German lines, further hampering movement of the German army.


Solzhenitsyn instructed his men to maintain discipline, spare civilians, and observe the ten pound limit as he read Marshall Rokossovsky’s orders of the day to his battery of artillery:

“Tomorrow morning at five o’clock begins our final offensive. All Germany lies before us! One final blow and our enemy will collapse. Our army will be crowned with immortal victory!”

He did not repeat Stalin’s order to rape and slaughter, but every member of the Red Army was aware of it. The terrible exhortation “Everything is allowed!” had no need of confirmation by an insignificant officer such as himself.


All East Prussia was soon in flames. In Nights in East Prussia , written in a slave labor camp later in 1945 and published in Germany in 1974, Solzhenitsyn describes the brutality of this volcanic eruption of rape and slaughter. Nights is a depiction of stark terror in verse form, filled with vivid and horrifying images of cows bellowing in their blazing stables while the bodies of their owners char in the flames of their houses. Donald M. Thomas, Solzhenitsyn’s English biographer, has attempted a prose reconstruction which releases the horror from its lyric form. What remains is the protocol of an orgy of blood. Its title is simply Solzhenitsyn.


He describes the fate of an old peasant woman in an isolated farmhouse. A merry group of Red Army soldiers tell her, “Cook us some eggs, Mother!” which she hurriedly does. They thank her, eat the eggs and shoot her down, then murder her bedridden husband. The grandson of the elderly couple is able to escape by jumping out of a window. “Halt! Click your heels together!” they laugh while shooting at the fleeing child.


According to Solzhenitsyn, the women who were shot were fortunate. He recalls one woman lying on a blood-soaked mattress next to the body of her young daughter. The woman is battered and mutilated but still alive. How many soldiers have raped her? A platoon? An entire company? The woman begs the Russians to shoot her. The author does not tell us whether she gets her wish, although he cannot bring himself to release her from her torment. His entire book is filled with such ghastly and haunting depictions. In another passage he describes the Red Army as “human hordes gone berserk.” Donald Thomas asks: Were they really human? (Solzhenitsyn, page 156.)


Solzhenitsyn recalled that on January 26 his unit suddenly found itself isolated and cut off by the enemy. On this occasion, however, they were surrounded by their own countrymen: Vlassov’s soldiers were attacking with desperate bravery. On page 252, volume 1 of The Gulag Archipelago (Paris edition) Solzhenitsyn writes:

“I was watching when, in the early dawn, they suddenly sprang up from the snow where they had gathered in their camouflage coats. With a great ‘Hurra!’ they suddenly attacked the positions of the 152mm section with hand grenades, putting the heavy guns out of commission before they could fire a shot. Pursued by their flares, our last little group of survivors fled for three kilometers across the snow covered fields, all the way to a footbridge across the narrow river.”

Even as early as 1945, Solzhenitsyn felt admiration for his countrymen in Wehrmacht uniform with the St. George cross on their arm, who fought so heroically. He created a human and literary monument to them in his epic story of the Gulag, written twenty years after the War. After another twenty years had passed, he completed the Vlassov epic with a radical revision of the history of the “Great Patriotic War,” for which he won the Nobel Prize in literature. He did more than demolish the Stalinist interpretation of World War II as a “good war,” however. He was also the first Soviet combat officer to make the transition from military tribute to political rehabilitation of the Vlassovtsis. In his essay “The Russian Question at the End of the Twentieth Century,” which appeared in the renowned Russian literary magazine Noviy mir In July 1994, Solzhenitsyn wrote:

“As for the attempt on the German side to form Russian volunteer units, and the belated formation of the Vlassov army, I have already covered that in the Gulag Archipelago. […]

It is indicative of their valor and devotion that at the end of the winter of 1944-45, when it was obvious to everyone that Hitler had lost the war, in those last few months, tens of thousands of Russians volunteered for that Russian army of liberation. This was the real voice of the Russian people. The story of the Russian Liberation Army has been slandered by ideologues as well as the nations of the West, which could not imagine that the Russians desired liberation for themselves. Nevertheless it represents a heroic and manly page in Russian history. We still believe in its continuation and future today.” (Page 120 of Piper’s German translation, Munich, 1994)


Solzhenitsyn defends General Vlassov against accusations of high treason with the historically based argument that in the history of the Russian Empire there have been times when domestic repression was a greater danger than the external usurper. “The enemy within was too dangerous, too deeply rooted,” he writes. In order to overthrow the internal enemy, it was necessary to form an alliance with an external force. In order to overthrow Stalin, Vlassov was forced to form an alliance with Germany.


When these revelations appeared in the leading Russian forum of the intelligentsia in July of 1994, the publisher received sharp criticism as well as enthusiastic agreement. The criticism came primarily from the old, hard-line Stalinist historiography, which dictated that a renaissance of Vlassov style idealism should not and would not be tolerated. Now, five years later, the situation has changed dramatically. The counterrevolutionaries are in retreat and Stalin’s Great Patriotic War is no longer dogma for the young generation of historians. Vlassov and his Liberation Army have become the icons of a nationalistic young intelligentsia which has an anti- Bolshevik as well as anti-liberal view of the world.


The most recent evidence for this comes from the military historians S. Drobyasko and A. Karashtshuk, the authors of the lavishly illustrated Wtoraja Mirowaja woina 1939–1945: Russkaya Osvoboditelnaya Armija (The Russian Liberation Army in World War II), published late in 1998 by the renowned Moscow military publishing house AST. There are several reasons for the rapid advance of revisionism in Russia. In the first place, “Stalinist-Antifascist Political Correctness” has been effectively neutralized. In the second place, the formerly secret Soviet archives have been opened to international historians. In the third place, the influence of revisionist literature from the West has had a profound influence. In the fourth place, the process of deideologizing historiography is continuing apace in Russia, as everywhere. In addition, there is no entrenched tradition of anti-nationalism in Russia comparable to that which now wields such powerful influence in Germany. As a result, Russia is relatively free of the historical and political censorship oppressing Germany. And finally, the Russian media provide no forum for Russians infected with the self-incrimination malaise, as do the German media. The printing of the pro- Vlassov book in 1998 is perhaps the most striking symbol of the irreversible advance of historical revisionism in Russia. It is obvious that in view of this extensive documentary work on the Russian Liberation Army (ROA), Germany’s wartime Eastern policy must also be considered in a different light. After all, the development and deployment of the ROA were possible only with the support of the Wehrmacht. In the introduction, one reads:

“For fifty years, Soviet publications about World War II ignored the fundamental fact that more than a million of our countrymen fought on the German side.”

It says that these official publications slandered the Vlassov soldiers as “traitors” and hid the fact that

 “[…] they too were patriots who passionately undertook the noble attempt to liberate our country from its inner enemy, which in their opinion was much more vicious and dangerous than the external opponent.”

The introduction states that from the beginning, German front line troops made every effort to win both prisoners and civilians over to the war against Bolshevism. According to Drobjasko the Wehrmacht was interested primarily in volunteers with clear political convictions—both men and women who saw themselves as victims of Bolshevik terror, collectivization, and the “Great Cleansing.” In addition to personal reasons, national reasons were also important. From these developed an explosive complex of motivations to seek vengeance. After June 22, 1941 there were a great many reasons for Soviet citizens who had been robbed and humiliated to change over to the side of the Germans. The Wehrmacht realized this and began early to mobilize an armed opposition. They began organizing an ideological mass movement designed to overthrow the Stalinist regime. Its goal was to incite revolutionary upheaval within the Soviet Union.


Drobjasko writes that the Germans soon realized that such a mass movement required a political center in the form of a counter-government in exile. This counter-government in turn required a charismatic leader at the head of the future national government of Russia. The man chosen for this role was Lt. General Andreij Vlassov, Commander of the 2nd Assault Army, who had been captured on July 12, 1942 after the defeat of his encircled troops. As early as September of that year, Vlassov agreed to a proposal of the German Army Staff to create an army composed of Russian prisoners of war, which would fight against the Stalinist dictatorship. Vlassov signed the Declaration of the Russian Committee of Smolensk “…to all the soldiers and commanders of the Red Army, the Russian people and all peoples of the Soviet Union.”


(The depiction of these events is based on a nearly literal translation of the Drobiasko text in The Russian Liberation Army in World War II.)


Drobjasko explains that it was a very long march from the initial propaganda campaign with its buzzwords of a Russian Liberation Army to the realization of the political and military missions named in the Smolensk appeal. The reasons for the delay, he tells us, were the crassly differing and often diametrically opposed views of Third Reich leaders regarding their Eastern policy. Until the turning point in the fall of 1944, the ROA consisted almost solely of individual Russian units in the Wehrmacht. It was not until the catastrophic military situation on the Eastern Front had become clear to all, that the decision was finally made to create a politically autonomous Russian central command and organize powerful Russian combat units under Russian commanders. Drobjasko writes:

“The founding congress of the Committee for the Liberation of the Russian Peoples (KONR) took place in Prague on November 14, 1944. In this Committee all the Russian anti-Soviet forces on German territory joined together. This included immigrants, national committees and East European military units, all united in the goal of fighting for a free new Russia which would be free of Bolshevik exploiters. […] At the Prague Congress it was decided to organize all the combat forces of the KONR under the command of General Vlassov. Regarding the activities of these combat forces, the ROA was given the status of army of an allied nation, subordinate to the Wehrmacht only in operational decisions.”

The principal aims of the Russian liberation movement as proclaimed in Prague were the same as had been announced in Vlassov’s appeals of September 1942: the overthrow of Stalin and his clique, the extermination of Bolshevism, the conclusion of an honorable peace with Germany, the creation of a new Russia without Bolsheviks or capitalists, and friendship with Germany and the other nations of Europe. Again, the Red Army and all other Russians were urged to defect to the Russian Liberation Army which was allied with Germany.


Drobjasko’s terminology and argumentation clearly and consistently show his revisionist position. Throughout his book, the terms “Russian Liberation Movement” and “Russian Liberation Army” appear without limiting, relativizing, or otherwise discriminating quotation marks. In his introduction he emphasizes his objective attempts to depict the history of the Vlassov army without prejudice and without polemic. He is interested only in discovering why millions of Russians voluntarily chose to take part in a nationalist and socialist war of liberation on the side of the Wehrmacht. Drobyasko is solely interested in finding the answer to this question. From his analysis it is clear that his sympathies lie with the ROA.


As a historical investigator, Drobyasko observes no taboos. He describes Hitler’s decisions following the Prague congress objectively and in great detail. Hitler approved the appointment of Vlassov as commander in chief of all volunteer Russian units on January 28, 1945. This authorized Vlassov to create and appoint the officers corps of the ROA according to his own judgment. And that was not the limit of his authority. General of Cavalry Ernst Köstring, in his capacity as Inspector General of German forces, transferred control of two complete divisions to the Russian commander on February 10. After passing in review, all the officers, noncommissioned officers, and soldiers swore an oath to fight against Bolshevism “to the last drop of blood, for the sake of the Russian people.” Hitler’s name was not mentioned in their oath.


Two assault brigades of the ROA, “Rossiya” and “Weichsel,” received their baptism of fire near Küstrin and Frankfurt/ Oder in early May during the battle of the Oder. Under the command of Colonel Galkin they were successful in smashing the Soviet bridgeheads on the west bank of the Oder. Himmler congratulated Vlassov personally on his success. After the 15th Cossack Cavalry had been attached to the combat forces of the KONR, Vlassov commanded more than 100,000 men. Drobyasko describes the ROA’s heavy weapons in detail: heavy artillery, anti-aircraft artillery, as well as the training schools for officers and noncoms, the training camps, even press relations (there was no German censorship). Colonel Meandrov served as commander of the officers’ school. When he was captured in August of 1941, interrogating officer Herre of the German General Staff asked his opinion about whether Soviet resistance would soon collapse. Meandrow, Chief of Staff of an entire Soviet corps, replied:

“I have the highest regard for the Wehrmacht. Nevertheless the German army will not be able to defeat the Soviet Union unless they are able to mobilize the Russian people against Stalin.”

Mobilize the Russians against Stalin! At the end of 1944 it was already too late. There was no longer any question of which side had superior manpower and materiel. On December 19, 1944 Göring agreed to the formation of an air force for the ROA. This was the Voyenno-vosdushnikh sil, or VVS. On February 4 it was placed under the command of Vlassov, who named Maj. Gen. Malitsev to head it. The 1st Airplane Regiment consisted of six squadrons (Me 109, Ju 88, He 111, Do 17) and one parachute battalion: 5,000 men altogether.


Most of the ROA commanders had served in the Red Army as staff officers or high-ranking troop commanders, some among the very highest. Included were the highly decorated front commanders Turkyl, Baidak, Bunyachenko, Shilenkov, all former members of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. In the early stages of the war they had defected to the side of the conqueror for political and ideological reasons. This was because the external enemy, Germany, offered the only possibility of vanquishing the internal enemy, the greater enemy. An alliance between the Wehrmacht and a Russian army of national liberation offered hope of national salvation. Such was the dream during the stormy summer of 1941, as Guderian’s and Hoth’s tanks were rolling toward Moscow. The reality was that it was March 1945 before the Vlassovtsis received their first tanks and attack guns under the white blue and red flag of Peter’s Russia, three tragic years after the Battle of Moscow.


At the beginning of 1945 Major General Trukhin, a former teacher at the Academy of the Soviet General Staff, served as chief of the general staff and deputy commander of the Russian National Armed Forces. According to Drobyasko, he was a first-class war strategist. What course would the war have taken if an East European liberation army had been created, not in November 1944, but two years earlier, in the fall of 1942, when Vlassov called for his people to join in a war of national liberation on the side of the Wehrmacht? The Russian revisionist Drobyasko does not present this portentous question in so many words, but his study supports the conclusion that Stalin would have been the loser.


This view is shared by author and former editor of the Deutsche Welle Botho Kirsch, a renowned German Slavicist and expert on Russia. “History must be rewritten,” he declared at a presentation of the Society for Defense and Security Policy (Gesellschaft für Wehr- und Sicherheitspolitik, GWS) in Gießen in February, 1999.

“Historical truth is clearing its path. […] Young Russian historians have proven with Soviet documents that Stalin was planning to attack Germany as early as 1938.”

This is the gist of Botho Kirsch’s speech as reported in the Gießener Allgemeine Zeitung, February 4, 1999. Russian revisionists report that Stalin was extremely anxious about the possibility that the Wehrmacht might smash the gathering Soviet assault before he could finish preparations for the coming war, which is precisely what happened on June 22, 1941. We now know that purges in the commanding staffs of the Red Army, combined with the unwillingness of the terrorized soldiers and officers to sacrifice themselves for the hated Communist Party, had brought Stalin’s regime to the verge of total collapse in the first months of the war. In a short time three and a half million members of the Red Army surrendered or defected “just to get something to eat,” reports the historian Kirsch. Today Russian authors confirm that the Russians who lived under German occupation were better off than those under Soviet rule. In the end, as Kirsch points out, the political and psychological blindness of the German leadership, combined with massive aid from America and England, were decisive for the defeat of Germany.


Today even the German media realize that the fate of the Soviet Empire was balanced on the razor’s edge in the summer and fall of 1941. A large part of the repressed population welcomed the Germans as liberators, and the advance of the foreign troops as salvation. This was particularly true in White Russia, the Ukraine, and the Baltic nations, as well as western parts of central Russia. The most recent illustration of this phenomenon is provided by the motion picture Unternehmen Barbarossa Juni 1941 (Operation Barbarossa) which was broadcast February 28, 1999 by the ZDF (Second German Public Television.)


This film, directed by Stefan Brauburger, is anything but objective, which is of course in keeping with the intention of the producer. The film ends with numerous interviews with German veterans of the campaign. Their recollections all support the views of German and Russian revisionists. Millions of Slavs, Balts, Turkmens, Caucasians, Christians, and Muslims were hoping after June 22 for “Salvation” by the Germans—a campaign to liberate them. “Better Hitler than Stalin!” was the watchword for millions of Soviet citizens in the summer of 1941, according to the eyewitnesses.


None of those hoping for salvation by the Germans could have foreseen the consequences of Hitler’s Eastern policy. In 1942, Hitler was simply not interested in Vlassov’s proposal— not until the military catastrophe in the summer of 1944, i.e., the destruction of his entire Central Army Group. He did not consider playing the Russian card until January 28, 1945 when he sanctioned an alliance with the ROA. All German hopes for a political and military turning point sank in the mud between the Vistula and Oder in the decisive battles of the spring of 1945. And yet, as Solzhenitsyn records, the struggle for freedom and desire for independence had not yet died among those repressed by Stalin’s rule. Staring death in the face, Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians, White Russians, Ukrainians, and Russians continued fighting for the survival of their countries.


Today, Russian historical revisionism embraces every aspect of German-Russian relations since 1917, both in war and peace. The German Influence on the History of the Soviet Air Force is the title of the most recent publication of the revisionist publishing house RITS AVIANTIK in Moscow. Compiled by Dimitriy Sobolyev in cooperation with the German researcher Gerhard Wissmann and British specialist Steven Ransom, it contains 128 pages with numerous documentary photographs. The book describes German-Soviet collaboration in aeronautical research between 1921 and 1930 (the first trimotor, all metal bomber was developed and built by Junkers in the Soviet Union) as well as the continuing development of the most advanced German rocket and jet airplanes (Me 262, Me 163, He 162, Ju 287). Photographs of German aircraft production teams in Odessa taken in 1946 as well as of the research facilities at Podberesie and Savelova, which were unknown in the West, appear here for the first time, supplement this chapter of history. Sobolyev makes it clear that the modernization of the Soviet air force during the period 1945-1953 was due primarily to hijacked German developmental teams.


We eagerly await the next disclosures by the Russian revisionists. Not all the formerly secret archives have been “cracked” yet!

For Further Reading

– Fritz Arlt, Polen-, Ukrainer-, Juden-Politik, Askania (Wissenschaftlicher Buchdienst Herbert Taege), Lindhorst 1995

– S. Drobyasko, The Russian Liberation Army (Russian), Moscow 1998

– Erwin Erich Dwinger, Die 12 Gespräche 1939–1945, Verlbert und Kettwig, 1966

– Gregory Klimow, Berliner Kreml, Cologne/Berlin 1953

– Heinrich Jordis von Lohausen, Reiten für Rußland: Gespräche im Sattel, Graz 1998

– Ernst Nolte, Der europäische Bürgerkrieg 1919–1945, Munich 1997

– Dimitriy Sobolyev, The German Influence on the History of the Soviet Air Force (Russian), Moscow 1996

– Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Die russische Frage am Ende des 20. Jahrhunderts, Munich 1994

– Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Ostpreußische Nächte, Darmstadt 1976

– Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Der Archipel GULag, Paris 1975

– Donald M. Thomas, Solzhenitsyn, Berlin 1998

– Jürgen Thorwald, Wen sie verderben wollen: Bericht des großen Verrats, Stuttgart 1952

First published in Vierteljahreshefte für freie Geschichtsforschung 3(3) (1999), pp. 250-256. Translated by James M. Damon

Vlasov and Vlasovites

But how could generals of the Red Army have envisaged collaborating with Hitler?  If they were not good Communists, surely these military men were at least nationalists?


This question will first be answered with another question. Why should this hypothesis be any different for the Soviet Union than France? Was not Marshal Pétain, the Victor at Verdun, a symbol of French chauvinist patriotism? Were not General Weygand and Admiral Darlan strong defenders of French colonialism? Despite all this, these three became key players in the collaboration with the Nazis. Would not the overthrow of capitalism in the Soviet Union and the bitter class struggle against the bourgeoisie be, for all the forces nostalgic for free enterprise, be additional motives for collaborating with German ‘dynamic capitalism’?


And did not the World War itself show that the tendency represented by Pétain in France also existed among certain Soviet officers?


General Vlasov played an important role during the defence of Moscow at the end of 1941. Arrested in 1942 by the Germans, he changed sides. But it was only on September 16, 1944, after an interview with Himmler, that he received the official authorization to create his own Russian Liberation Army, whose first division was created as early as 1943. Other imprisoned officers offered their services to the Nazis; a few names follow:


Major-General Trukhin,  head of the operational section of the Baltic Region Chief of Staff, professor at the General Chiefs of Staff Academy. Major-General Malyshkin, head of the Chief of Staff of the 19th Army. Major-General Zakutny, professor at the General Chief of Staff Academy. Major-Generals Blagoveshchensky, brigade commander; Shapovalov, artillery corps commander; and Meandrov, Brigade commander Zhilenkov, member of the Military Council of the 32nd Army. Colonels Maltsev, Zverev, Nerianin  and Buniachenko,  commander of the 389th Armed Division.


What was the political profile of these men? The former British secret service officer and historian Cookridge writes:


‘Vlassov’s entourage was a strange motley. The most intelligent of his officers was Colonel Mileti Zykov  (a Jew). He had a been a supporter of the “rightist deviationists’” of Bukharin and in 1936 had been banished by Stalin to Siberia, where he spent four years. Another survivor of Stalin’s purges was General Vasili Feodorovich Malyshkin,  former chief of staff of the Far East Army; he had been imprisoned during the Tukhachevsky  affair. A third officer, Major-General Georgi Nicolaievich Zhilenkov, had been a political army commissar. They and many of the officers whom Gehlen recruited had been ‘‘rehabilitated’’ at the beginning of the war in 1941.’



E. H. Cookridge, Gehlen: Spy of the Century (New York: Random House, 1972), pp. 57--58.



So here we learn that several superior officers, convicted and sent to Siberia in 1937, then rehabilitated during the war, joined Hitler’s side! Clearly the measures taken during the Great Purge were perfectly justified.


To justify joining the Nazis, Vlahos wrote an open letter: ‘Why I embarked on the road of struggle against Bolshevism’.


What is inside that letter is very instructive.


First, his criticism of the Soviet régime is identical to the ones made by Trotsky and the Western right-wing.


‘I have seen that the Russian worker has a hard life, that the peasant was driven by force into kolkhozes, that millions of Russian people disappeared after being arrested without inquest or trial .... The system of commissars eroded the Red Army. Irresponsibility, shadowing and spying made the commander a toy in the hands of Party functionaries in civil suits or military uniforms ... Many thousands of the best commanders, including marshals, were arrested and shot or sent to labour camps, never to return.’


Note that Vlasov called for a professional army, with full military autonomy, without any Party control, just like the previously cited U.S. Army.


Then Vlasov explained how his defeatism encouraged him to join the Nazis. We will see in the next chapter that Trotsky and Trotskyists systematically used defeatist propaganda.


‘I saw that the war was being lost for two reasons: the reluctance of the Russian people to defend Bolshevist government and the systems of violence it had created and irresponsible command of the army ....’


Finally, using Nazi ‘anti-capitalist’ language, Vlasov explained that the New Russia had to integrate itself into the European capitalist and imperialist system.


‘(We must) build a New Russia without Bolsheviks or capitalists ....


‘The interests of the Russian people have always been similar to the interests of the German people and all other European nations .... Bolshevism has separated the Russian people from Europe by an impenetrable wall.’



From the Book: Vlasov and Vlasovites.  New Times 44 (1990), pp. 36--40. 

ANDREI ANDREYEVICH VLASOV, (1901–1946) - Short Biography

Soviet army general who would head the German-sponsored Russian Liberation Army. Born on 16 December 1901 in Chepukhimo, Nizhni-Novgorod Province, Russia (now Kursk Oblast), Andrei Vlasov fought in the Red Army during the Russian Civil War. In 1928, he attended a course in infantry tactics in Moscow, and two years later, he became an instructor at the Leningrad Officers’ School. Between 1937 and 1938, Vlasov was a military adviser in China to Nationalist leader Jiang Jieshi (Chiang Kai-shek). He returned to the Soviet Union and, as a general major, led the 90th Infantry Division into Bessarabia.


After Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, Vlasov assumed command of IV Mechanized Corps in delaying actions around Przemysl and L’viv (Lvov). In August, he had charge of Thirty-Seventh Army in the defense of Kiev. In December 1941, Vlasov, now a lieutenant general, commanded the reinforced Twentieth Army before Moscow and was regarded as one of the principal heroes of the battle that drove the Germans from the Soviet capital city. In January 1942, he was awarded the Order of the Red Banner.


Vlasov was one of Josef Stalin’s favorite generals, and in March 1942, the Soviet dictator sent him to beleaguered Leningrad as second in command of the new Volkhov Front. The next month, Vlasov took over the Second Guards Army. Under heavy German attack, their supply lines severed, and permission to withdraw denied until it was too late, he and his unit were surrounded. Vlasov ordered his troops to split into small units and fend for themselves. He himself was taken prisoner in July 1942.


Vlasov’s hatred of Stalin for his disastrous mismanagement of the military situation led German intelligence officers to seek his cooperation in heading an army of Soviet prisoners of war (POWs) committed to fight against the Soviet Union. Hundreds of thousands of Soviet POWs were already serving as auxiliaries to the German army in noncombat roles, many of them doing so simply to stay alive. Vlasov worked out a political program for a non-Communist Russian state, but this concept flew in the face of Adolf Hitler’s policy of subjugating and colonizing the Soviet Union. Although German intelligence officers proceeded to create the Russian Liberation Army (ROA), Hitler refused it any combat role, and it became a device only to encourage Red Army desertions.


German Schutzstaffel (SS) Chief Heinrich Himmler met with Vlasov in September 1944 and promised him a combat role. Himmler also arranged for the creation of the multiethnic Committee for the Liberation of the Peoples of Russia (KONR), which was announced in Prague that November. Two divisions of the ROA came into being, one of which was sent along the Oder River in mid-April 1945 but retreated before the Red Army. The “Vlasov Army” then changed sides. Cooperating with the Czech Resistance, it helped liberate Prague and disarmed 10,000 German soldiers, hoping to be recognized by the Western Allies.


At the end of the war, Soviet authorities demanded Vlasov’s return in accordance with repatriation agreements reached at the Yalta Conference, and on 12 May 1945, U.S. units handed him over, together with other ROA prisoners of war. On 13 August 1946, the Soviet Supreme Court condemned Vlasov as a “German collaborator” and an “enemy of the Russian people” and imposed the death penalty on him the same day.



Andreyev, Catherine. Vlasov and the Russian Liberation Movement: Soviet Reality and Émigré Theories. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

Elliott, Mark. “Andrei Vlasov: Red Army General in Hitler’s Service.” Military Affairs 61 (April 1982): 84–87.

Steenberg, Steve. Vlasov. Trans. Abe Fabsten. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1970.

Strik-Strikfeldt, Wilfried. Against Stalin and Hitler: Memoir of the Russian Liberation Movement, 1941–1945. New York: John Day, 1973.