Foreign Troops in the Wehrmacht

Non-Germans in the German armed forces during World War II were volunteers, conscripts and those otherwise induced to join who served in Nazi Germany’s armed forces during World War II. In German war-time propaganda those who volunteered for service were referred to as Freiwillige (“volunteers”). At the same time, many non-Germans in the German armed forces were conscripts or recruited from prisoner-of-war camps.

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1st Cossack Cavalry Division

The 1st Cossack Cavalry Division was a Russian Cossack division of the German Army that served during World War II. It was created on the Eastern Front mostly out of Don Cossacks already serving in the Wehrmacht, those who escaped from the advancing Red Army and Soviet POWs. In 1945, the division was transferred to the Waffen SS, becoming the 1st SS Cossack Cavalry Division (1. SS-Kosaken-Kavallerie-Division). At the end of the war, the unit ceased to exist.

1st French – 33rd Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS Charlemagne

The 33rd Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS Charlemagne (1st French) and Charlemagne Regiment are collective names used for units of French volunteers in the Wehrmacht and later Waffen-SS during World War II. From estimates of 7,400 to 11,000 at its peak in 1944, the strength of the division fell to just sixty men in May 1945.

They were one of the last German units to see action in a pitched battle during World War II, where they held central Berlin and the Führerbunker against the onslaught of Soviet infantry. Knowing that they would not survive should Germany be defeated, they were among the last to surrender in the brutal house-to-house and street-to-street fighting, during the final days of the Battle in Berlin.

Its crest is a representation of the dual empire of Charlemagne, which united the Franks in what would become France and Germany. The Imperial eagle on the left-side represents Germany and the fleurs-de-lys on the right-side represents France.

250 Infantry Division – Blue Division

The Blue Division (Spanish: Die Divisionvisión Azul, German: Blaue Division, officially designated as División Española de Voluntarios by the Spanish Army and 250. Infanterie-Division in the German Army) was a unit of Spanish volunteers that served in the German Army on the Eastern Front of the Second World War.

Azerbaijani Legion

The Azerbaijani Legion, or in German, Aserbaidschanische Legion, was one of the foreign units of the Wehrmacht. The Azerbaijani Legion was formed in December 1941 as the Kaukasische-Mohammedanische Legion (Muslim Caucasus Legion) and was re-designated 1942 into two separate legions, the North Caucasian legion and the Azerbaijani legion. It was made up mainly of former Azerbaijani POW volunteers but also volunteers from other peoples in the area. It was part of the Ostlegionen. It was used to form the 162nd (Turkistan) Infanterie-Division of the Wehrmacht in 1943. Later, some of these Azerbaijanis joined the Azeri Waffen SS Volunteer Formations.

Many Azerbaijanis joined here in hopes of liberating their homeland from Soviet occupation. One Azerbaijani soldier who was captured said to the Germans he was anti-Bolshevik, and only wanted an opportunity to free his homeland.

Free Arabian Legion

Free Arabian Legion (جيش بلاد العرب الحرة) was a Nazi German military unit formed from Arab volunteers from the Middle East and North Africa during World War II.

It was created by Amin al-Husseini and Rashid Ali when they suggested the formation of an army of Arab volunteers, which was adopted by Adolf Hitler in 1941. The unit was based on a smaller force, commanded by Hellmuth Felmy, mainly to assist the Pro-Nazi revolt in Iraq which was suppressed by the British. The unit was first settled in Syria and included several Iraqi expatriates, and Syrian Arabs. After the conquest of Syria by the British and Free-French forces, the unit was moved to Sounion in Greece. There it received more Arab and Muslim troops who were on the soil of Europe at the time, as prisoners of war, or as volunteers.

The Nazis planned to use the legion in conquering the Caucasus, rising an Iraqi exiled-government there, and use as a force station, as a way of conquering Iraq (an end that was never taken).

In Operation Torch the Allies took Tunisia, which had been governed by Vichy France. During the fighting the German command called on Tunisian Arabs to join the Legion.

The legion mainly assisted the assigned forces. Their morale was low and it seems that the Nazis were not satisfied with the Legion’s service. After the death of its commander, the Legion was taken out from the Front, and in the war’s latter years, fought in Greece.

Indische Legion

The Legion Freies Indien (German: “Free India Legion”) or Indische Freiwilligen-Legion Regiment 950 (“Indian Volunteer Legion Regiment 950”), referred to colloquially as the Indische Legion (“Indian Legion”), variously known also as the Tiger Legion and the Azad Hind Fauj (Hindi: “Free India Army”), was an Indian military unit raised during World War II in Germany. It was initially raised in 1941 and attached to the German Army, and from August 1944 was attached to the Waffen-SS. Ostensibly, the legion was to serve as an Indian liberation force, as conceived by Subhas Chandra Bose, chairman of the Indian National Congress and a prominent leader of the Indian independence movement, who co-founded the legion when he came to Berlin in 1941. The initial recruits were volunteers from the Indian students resident in Germany at the time, and a handful of the Indian prisoners of war (POWs) captured by Erwin Rommel during his North Africa Campaign. It would later draw a larger number of Indian POWs as volunteers.

Though it was initially raised as an assault group that would form a pathfinder to a German-Indian joint invasion of the western frontiers of British India, only a small contingent was ever put to its original intended purpose. A hundred of the legionnaires were parachuted into eastern Iran in Operation Bajadere to infiltrate into India through Baluchistan and commence sabotage operations against the British in preparation for an anticipated national revolt. The majority of the troops of the Indian Legion were only ever stationed in Europe – mostly in non-combat duties – from the Netherlands, to Atlantic Wall duties in France until the Allied invasion of France. A small contingent, including much of the leadership and the officer corps, was transferred to the Indian National Army, which worked with the Japanese, and fought in the Burma Campaign. In Italy in 1944, the legion saw action against British and Polish troops and undertook anti-partisan operations.

At the time of the surrender of the Third Reich in 1945, the remaining troops of the Indian Legion made efforts to march to neutral Switzerland over the Alps, but these efforts proved futile as they were captured by American and French troops and eventually shipped back to India to face charges of treason. Because of the uproar the trials of Indians who served with the Axis caused among civilians and the military of British India, the legion members’ trials were not completed.

Ostlegionen

Ostlegionen (literally “Eastern Legions”) or Osttruppen (“Eastern Troops”) were conscripts and volunteers from the occupied eastern territories recruited into the German Army of the Third Reich during the Second World War.

The staff of the disbanded 162nd Infantry Division in Poland, then Generalgouvernement (for the occupied polish areas), was charged with the raising and training of the six Eastern Legions. It eventually raised and trained 82 battalions. A total of 98 battalions were raised with 80 serving on the Eastern Front and in the Balkans. 12 were later transferred to France and Italy in 1943.

Russian Liberation Army

The Russian Liberation Army (Russian: Russkaya osvoboditel’naya armiya, Русская освободительная армия, abbreviated in Cyrillic as РОА, in Latin as ROA, also known as the Vlasov army) was a group of predominantly Russian forces subordinated to the Nazi German high command during World War II.

The ROA was organized by former Red Army general Andrey Vlasov, who tried to unite anti-communist Russians opposed to the communist regime. Amidst the volunteers were Soviet prisoners of war, and White Russian émigrés (some of whom were veterans of the anticommunist White Army during the Russian Civil War). On 14 November 1944 it was officially renamed the Armed Forces of the Committee for the Liberation of the Peoples of Russia (VS-KONR). On 28 January 1945, it was officially declared that the Russian divisions no longer formed part of the German Army, but would directly be under the command of KONR.

 

Individuals:

  • Oberleutnant Ramón Escudé Gilbert
  • Yang Kyoungjong
  • Tobias Rimpf

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German Military History with a focus on World War 2 History including other areas of German History