The Soviet Traitors: The Fascinating Story of Soviet Army that Fought for Hitler During WWII
During World War II, the German military had over 1.5 million non-ethnic Germans serving within its ranks. These included soldiers from countries such as Italy, Romania, Hungary, and even India. However, one of the most intriguing groups were the former Soviet soldiers and civilians who volunteered to serve Adolf Hitler. These individuals, who numbered in the tens of thousands, were motivated by their hatred of Stalin and the Soviet Union, which they viewed as the greater of two perceived evils.
The Soviet volunteers came from a variety of backgrounds. Some were prisoners of war who had been captured by the Germans early in the war and were given the option of fighting for the Germans or remaining in captivity. Others were civilians who had fled Soviet-occupied territories and were living as refugees in Nazi-occupied Europe. And still others were former members of the Soviet armed forces who had deserted and sought refuge with the Germans.
Whatever their background, these volunteers were initially organized into various auxiliary units that supported the German military effort. They were used primarily as laborers, with many working in factories or on infrastructure projects. However, as the war progressed and Germany’s manpower shortage became more acute, these volunteers were increasingly drafted into combat units and sent to fight on the Eastern Front.
One of the most notable units composed of Soviet volunteers was the 1st Russian National Brigade, which was established in 1941. This unit was initially intended to serve as a propaganda tool, with its members broadcasting anti-Soviet messages to the Russian people over the radio. However, in 1943, the brigade was sent to the front lines and saw action in some of the most intense fighting of the war.
Despite their initial enthusiasm for serving Hitler, many of these Soviet volunteers soon realized that they had made a grave mistake. They were appalled by the brutality of the German army and its treatment of civilians, particularly those who were Jewish or Slavic. Many became disillusioned with the Nazi cause and sought to defect or desert, often at great risk to themselves.
One of the most famous defectors was Vasily Grossman, a Soviet writer who had volunteered to serve with the Germans as a war correspondent. Grossman was initially sympathetic to the German cause and wrote articles that were critical of the Soviet Union. However, as he witnessed the horrors of the war, including the massacre of Jews at Babi Yar, Grossman became increasingly disillusioned with the Nazi regime. He eventually deserted and joined the Soviet partisans, where he fought against the Germans until the end of the war.
Despite the efforts of these volunteers, the Soviet Union ultimately emerged victorious in World War II. After the war, many of the former Soviet volunteers were captured by the Soviets and punished severely for their collaboration with the enemy. Some were executed, while others were sent to labor camps or imprisoned for many years.
The Germans were certainly impressed with the willingness of the Soviet volunteers to fight against their own people. As the war progressed, more and more former Soviet citizens volunteered to join the German forces, and by the end of the war, there were an estimated 200,000 Soviet citizens serving in German military units.
One of the most infamous units comprised of Soviet volunteers was the Russian Liberation Army (ROA), also known as the Vlasov Army, named after its leader, General Andrey Vlasov. The ROA was made up of Soviet prisoners of war who had been recruited by the Germans, and it was intended to be used as a tool to help establish a new government in the Soviet Union, one that would be sympathetic to German interests.
However, despite the efforts of the ROA and other Soviet volunteer units, the German war effort ultimately failed, and the Soviets emerged victorious in the war. Many of the Soviet volunteers were captured by the Red Army and either executed or sent to the gulags. The fate of those who survived the war and were able to return to their homeland was not much better, as they were often viewed as traitors and treated harshly by the Soviet authorities.
Today, the legacy of the Soviet soldiers who fought for Hitler is a controversial and sensitive topic, particularly in Russia. Some view them as heroes who bravely fought against Stalin’s brutal regime, while others see them as traitors who turned their backs on their country and people.
Regardless of how they are viewed, the story of the Soviet volunteers who fought for Hitler remains a fascinating and complex chapter in the history of World War II. It serves as a reminder of the many different factors that contributed to the conflict, as well as the difficult choices that individuals often had to make in times of war and turmoil.
The story of the Soviet Army that fought for Hitler remains a fascinating and little-known chapter of World War II history. While the motivations of these volunteers may have been misguided, their experiences offer a unique perspective on the war and the complex political and social dynamics that shaped it. The bravery and sacrifice of those who fought against both Stalin and Hitler should not be forgotten, even as we condemn their actions and recognize the atrocities committed by the Nazi regime.