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Many Soviet Nationalities Joined The Germans in 1941....

The Soviet Union was made after 'annexing' many other other nationalities. These countries, if one may call them so, were sick of Stalin's Russia. And when the Germans walked  into the Soviet Union in 1941, many people from these nationalities joined them against Russia.


It is not known when and where exactly the first units of volunteers from the USSR, and from the countries annexed by Russia after 1939, were organized to fight against the Soviets on the German side. Their beginnings were shrouded in great secrecy, for fear of Hitler who was categorically opposed to any form of participation of Soviet citizens in the war against Russia. But needs of the army on the Eastern Front, and the enthusiastic desire shown by hundreds of captured and escaped officers, by thousands of Soviet soldiers, and by almost the entire local population induced German commanders to accept the services of volunteers to fight the Soviet regime even against the clear orders of the Supreme Command. When the existence of numerous formations of Eastern volunteers came to light with the passing of time, Hitler was unpleasantly surprised. The hopeless military situation of the Reich forced him to approve this state of affairs. 

Cossacks in the Wehrmacht


On 22 June 1941, Nazi Germany launched Operation Barbarossa and attacked the USSR, thus bringing Russia into World War II. During the attack some ROVS, especially the Cossack émigré generals Pyotr Krasnov and Andrei Shkuro, asked Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels’s permission to fight beside Nazi Germany against Communist Russia. Goebbels welcomed their idea and by 1942 General Krasnov and General Shkuro had mustered a Cossack force — mostly from Red Army POWs captured by the Wehrmacht — who would be under the command of General Helmuth von Pannwitz.

The Wehrmacht recognized the Cossacks as military units with their own uniforms and insignia; the 1st Cossack Division was established the next year. Although the Cossack units were formed to fight the Communists in Russia, by the time they formed, the Red Army had already liberated most of the Nazi-occupied territory, so they were deployed to the Balkans to fight the Communist Yugoslav Partisans commanded by Josip Broz Tito. By the war’s end, the Cossack units had come under the command of the Waffen-SS. Under their direction, and already imbued with an extreme anti-Semitic ideology, many Cossacks actively participated in the Holocaust, rounding up and executing local Jews at their area of operations and committing atrocities against civilians accused of supporting partisans.



In spite of anti-Communist sentiments nourished by many Cossacks and the cracking-down on many aspects of Cossack traditions by the communist regime, most analysts believed that the overwhelming majority of Cossacks would remain loyal to the Soviet Union and they were proved to be entirely correct; the number of Cossacks in German service was never too great, and the vast majority of Cossacks living in U.S.S.R. remained wholeheartedly loyal to a government that usually treated them with a certain degree of curtness.

In late 1942, Cossacks of at least a single stanitsa (Cossack outpost - settlement) in southern Russia, revolted against Soviet administration and proceeded to join the advancing Axis. Increasingly more frequently Cossack fugitives and rebellious mountain tribesmen of the Caucasus openly welcomed the intruders as if they were their liberators. On the lower Don river, a renegade Don Cossack leader named Sergei Pavlov proclaimed himself an Ataman (Cossack chief) and lodged himself in the former residence of the Czarish ataman at the town of Novoczerkassk on the lower Don (slightly north-east of Rostov-on-Don); he was also responsible for the establishment of a local collaborationist police force of whose many members were either Don Cossacks or were of Cossack descent. By late 1942, he headed a regional krug (Cossack assembly) which had around 200 representatives whom he recruited from the more prominent local quislings. He also requested permission from the Germans for creation of a Cossack Army to be employed in the struggle against the Bolsheviks, but initially he met with only negative responses.

A Cossack in the Waffen-SS


The Betrayal of the Cossacks, also known as the Tragedy of Drau and the Massacre of Cossacks at Lienz  refers to the forced repatriation to the USSR of the Cossacks and ethnic Russians who were allies of Nazi Germany during the Second World War.

The repatriations were agreed to in the Yalta Conference; most of the repatriated people were Soviet citizens, although some claimed to have left Russia before the end of the Russian Civil War, or to have been born abroad. Those Cossacks and Russians were described as fascists who had fought the Allies in service to the Axis powers, yet the repatriations included non-combatants as well (i.e., women, children, the aged). The Cossacks who fought the Allies did not see their war service as treason to the Russian motherland, but as an episode in the Russian Revolution of 1917 — their continuing fight against the Communist Government in Moscow, in particular, and against Bolshevism, in general. Nikolai Tolstoy describes this and other events resulting from the Yalta Conference, as the “Secret Betrayal,” for going unpublished in the West. In the history of the Cossack repatriations to the USSR, the British repatriation at Lienz, Austria, is the most recognized and studied, because the Cossacks fought the British.


The Cossack flag flies alongside that of Nazi Germany


On 28 May 1945, the British Army arrived at Camp Peggetz, in Lienz, where there were 2,479 Cossacks, including 2,201 officers and soldiers. They went to invite the Cossacks to an important conference with British officials, informing them that they would return to Lienz by six o’clock that evening; some Cossacks worried, but the British reassured them that everything was in order. One British officer told the Cossacks: “I assure you, on my word of honour as a British officer, that you are just going to a conference”. The Lienz Cossack repatriation was exceptional, because the Cossacks forcefully resisted their British repatriation to the USSR; a Cossack noted: “The NKVD or the Gestapo would have slain us with truncheons, the British did it with their word of honor.”

The first to commit suicide, by hanging, was the Cossack editor Evgenij Tarruski. The second was General Silkin, who shot himself. . . . The Cossacks refused to board the trucks. British soldiers [armed] with pistols and clubs began using their clubs, aiming at the heads of the prisoners. They first dragged the men out of the crowd, and threw them into the trucks. The men jumped out. They beat them again, and threw them onto the floor of the trucks. Again, they jumped out. The British then hit them with rifle butts until they lay unconscious, and threw them, like sacks of potatoes, in the trucks. — Operation Keelhaul (1973), by Julius Epstein.

The British transported the Cossacks to a prison where the Soviets assumed their custody.


A Wehrmacht officer welcomes a Cossack into his unit

 The betrayal at Leinz


The Lienz Cossacks were ‘white Russians’ who’d fought bitterly against communism and the rise of the Soviet Union following the Russian Revolution. During the Second World War, when Germany invaded the Soviet Union, the Lienz Cossacks sided with the Nazis in order to try the topple the communist regime and bring ‘freedom’ to their country.

The Lienz Cossacks who’d fought with the Germans were rounded up by the British. It was up to the United Kingdom to decide what to do with them.

Because of the brutality of the Cossack soldiers, who had murdered and raped their way along with the SS and the German army, the British wanted nothing to do with them and ‘repatriated’ these ‘Russians’ to the Soviet Union, where they ‘belonged.’

Trains and trucks were pulled up and Cossack soldiers were forced into them. As were their wives, families and children – many of whom were not even Russian, having been born in the years after the Lienz Cossacks had left Russia.

The Cossacks didn’t go willingly. British troops had to beat them into submission with billy clubs and rifle-butts. Eventually, almost 35,000 Cossacks were transported to their ‘mother country’ where the Soviets ‘welcomed’ them.

The vast majority of them were sent immediately to labor camps in Siberia, which were little better than the death camps the Nazis had built. Almost all of the Lienz Cossacks ‘repatriated’ back to Russia died in brutal suffering.

An officer from the Cossack regiment

A Tatar helps in firing a German mortar

These Tatar men are enthusiastic soldiers in the German army

Ukrainian volunteers in self defence units

An Ukrainian in German uniform

Ukrainians and Germans During WW2

During the military occupation of Ukraine by Nazi Germany, a significant number of Ukrainians chose to cooperate with the Nazis. Their reasons included the hopes of independence from the Soviet Union and past maltreatment by Soviet authorities. However, the absence of Ukrainian autonomy under the Nazis, mistreatment by the occupiers, and the deportation of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians as slave laborers, soon led to a rapid change in the attitude among the collaborators. By the time the Red Army returned to Ukraine, a significant number of the population welcomed the soldiers as liberators. At the same time, more than 4.5 million Ukrainians had joined the Red Army to fight Germany and more than 250,000 served as Soviet partisan paramilitary units.

This Ukrainian woman is cosying up to the German soldiers

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