Thursday, December 22, 2011

Himmler’s Forgotten Slovakian SS Project

In his ambition to expand his black guards manpower, Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler targeting Independent Slovakia—a Nazi satellite state which had been created in March 1939. Beside his attempt to mobilized Slovakian Volksdeutsche into Waffen-SS, Himmler also tried to attract Slovakian ethnic volunteers to join his private army.  

The idea comes from Günther Pancke, the head of the RuSHA, who developed a plan that envisaged a fusing of the Slovakian population with the local Volkdeutsche. In Pancke’s view, after the removal of Jews and Gypsies, as well as the ‘exclusion’ of the population of Hungarian origin, amounting to around 500,000 people, it would be possible to win back this territory completely for German ethnicity, particularly if, in addition, some 100,000 Volkdeutsche families were settled there. 

Thus, in March 1940 the SS began to set about forming elite from the Hlinka Guards,  Slovakia's paramilitary organization and state police. Like theirs SS counterpart, Hlinka Guards members wore black uniform. 

Himmler sent SS-Sturmbannführer Viktor Nageler to Slovakia in the summer of 1940 to assess volunteers for the Guard in accordance with ‘racial’ principles under a guise as an adviser to the Hlinka Guard. Between November 1940 and January 1941 the Danube SS recruitment office carried out an assessment, disguised as a medical examination, of a total of 4,694 men. More than half of the candidates proved to be ‘suitable’; 40 per cent were even ‘eligible for the SS’. 

Nageler later started to create an elite unit from the members of the Guard, the so-called Wehrmannschaften (defence teams), who were envisaged as in the future helping the SS to integrate Slovakia into a greater Germanic empire. Although the implementation of such ideas would have damaged in the long term the privileged position the Volksdeutsche was claiming for itself in Slovakia, this was a project with which Himmler sympathized. 

Nageler himself told Himmler on 14 June 1941 that with his creation of a cadre within the Hlinka Guard, he was aiming to ensure that ‘in the event of a change in the form of government he would have a suitable leadership available’. Reichsführer SS adopted Nageler to assimilating young Slovaks through service in the SS project in October 1941 and immediately issued detailed instructions for the recruitment of Slovaks. They should be ‘subject racially to the strictest Germanic criteria’. 

On 1 September 1942 Himmler appointed Nageler his special representative for the recruitment of volunteers in Slovakia. In fact, from January 1943 onwards, with the support of the Slovak government, several thousand men were to be ‘recruited’ for the Waffen-SS, sometimes under considerable pressure. However, majority of them came from among the Slovakian Volkdeutsche German minority and Himmler’s idea of ‘Germanizing’ a Slovak elite through service in the SS as dropped.

The failure of his Slovak’s Waffen-SS project didn’t stopped Himmler to use the Hlinka Guard for his other purposes. Since 1941, Hlinka Guard shock troops (known as Pohotovostné oddiely Hlinkovej gardy, or POHG) were trained in Germany. A small group of them, the most radical element in the guard that called Náš Boj (Our Struggle), operated under SS auspices. After the anti-Nazi Slovak National Uprising in August 1944, the SS could took over and shaped the Hlinka Guard to suit its own purposes. They also employed the POHG mainly against partisans and Jews.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Lamaism and Nazism: A Story of Hitler's Buddhist Soldiers

Kalmyk, Buddhist nomadic cattle-breeders of Mongolic descent, populated the steppes to the west of the Volga River. Majority of Kalmyk fought against the Bolsheviks during the Russian Civil War. Resented the communist government effort to settle the nomadic population against its will, they still continued sporadic armed resistance against the authorities until 1926.

When the Red Army hastily retreated across the Kalmyk steppes toward the Volga without much resistance during August 1942, many Kalmyk rebelled against Stalin regime. For a few months, German and Romanian forces fully occupied five of the 13 Kalmyk districts and partially occupied three more. Too overstretched in Kalmykia to administer it, Germans organized a National Committee in Kalmyk to administer the occupied areas. These were supplemented by other Kalmyk who had settled in Belgrade following their flight with White Russian émigrés after the Russian Revolution.

In September 1942, the first Kalmyk cavalry squad is created. Later, the number was ten squads. Those formations were put under the command Sonderführer Ottmar Rudolf Vrba, aka Dr. Otto Doll. The main purpose of Kalmyk auxiliaries was fighting guerrillas and the protected German important installations and communications. They operated in swiftness and stealth, and had proven themselves so efficient that they had both the time and resources to help defend the exposed flanks of the German 16th Motorized Infantry Division.

The Kalmyk acted so brutally and murderously against their oppressors on the battlefield, in fact so much so that even Nazi sensibilities had been insulted! One German officer had remarked: “… they launched themselves passionately into their work. Indeed, they set about wiping out groups of Russians in the Steppes with such ardor that the German Army at times had to intervene to prevent atrocities”

In August 1943, all Kalmyk auxiliaries were merged in Kalmyk Cavalry Corps (Kalmucken Kavallerie Korps). Most of the officers were Kalmyk themselves, with previous Soviet military experience. A few Germans that were present within the corps performed only auxiliary and administrative functions. German sources state that the “Corps” numbered about 3,000 men by the time it left Kalmykia. They were followed thousands other Kalmyk, mostly theirs family members during the retreated. 

The Kalmyk Cavalry Corps ended for a while defending the coast near the Sea of Azov, before they were transferred to the lower Dnieper. During a battle against Red Army, Major Ottmar Rudolf Vrba was killed in action in July 1944, along with Kalmyk Major Mukeben Chachlysev. Captain Dordzi Arbakoz assumed the post of Chief of Staff, and Colonel Eduard Bataev replaced Vrba.

The Kalmyk were then used to fight against the Polish partisans in Lublin and Radom, Poland. In February 1945, they were withdrawn to Austria. The remnants Kalmyk volunteers were assigned to the XVth SS Corps and surrender to British army in Austria. Nearly all of the surviving Kalmyk soldiers, along with their families that accompanied them, were forcibly repatriated to the Soviet Union. Stalin wreaks a vengeance against Kalmyk by, under codename Operation Ulussy, deported all-Kalmyk people to Siberia and abolished theirs autonomous republic. Only after Stalin died the remaining Kalmyk allowed to return to Kalmykia and theirs autonomous republic reestablished in 1956.

Copyright© 2011 by Nino Oktorino

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Sonderverband Bergmann

Since the early months of the Russo-German war, many German units using the Red Army prisoners as auxiliaries for them. Then, various battalions consisting of Soviet Union citizens was formed and deployed to help the Germans as saboteur, spies, and fought Soviets partisans and the Red Army.

Like many other German military service, the Abwehr think that Germany weakness of human resources when confronted with a giant Soviet Union can be offset through the support groups of local residents if Germans, instead oppressed them, were arming and leading these people.

One of the main proponents of this policy is Dr. Hauptmann Theodor Oberländer, a former economics professor from the University of Königsberg in East Prussia. A former political advisor to the Battalion 'Nachtigall', an Ukrainian volunteer formations, he was one of the officers who urged the Abwehr to seek allies among the population of the Caucasus: Georgians, Armenians, Azeri, Ossetia, Chechens, Abkhazians, and various other small groups in region. Some of them were only conquered by Russia less than a century earlier and saw the Germans as liberators.

Oberländer ideas were later embodied in a Caucasus volunteer’s formation known as the Sonderverband Bergmann, where he became its first commander. The unit is listed under the guise as an Abwehr formation because Hitler initially did not believe in the use of citizens of the Soviet Union in a combat role. Formed in Neuhammer by OKW / AMT Ausland Abwehr II, this unit consists of prisoners of war and deserters from the Red Army made up of Georgians, Armenians, Northern Caucasus, and Azeri. Abwehr II itself is a section of German military intelligence service that responsible for sabotages activities and fomenting rebellion among the natives.

Sonderverband Bergmann formed as battalion strength of about 1,200 people, consisting of 300 Germans and 900 Caucasians. The unit itself is divided into five companies: the 1st and 4th companies consists of Georgians and Armenians; the 2nd company consisted Dagestan; the 3rd  consists of Azeri; and 5th company, the company staff officer, filled out by the Georgian emigrants.

After finishing their initial training in Neuhammer, these volunteers were sent to Mittenwald to be trained as a mountain infantryman. They were armed with rifles, submachine guns, mortars, and anti-tank cannon. According to the German plan, the unit will be used for staged diversion and sabotage. A special unit, called "Tamara” and consisted 130 Georgian volunteers, got a special training to fomenting rebellion in Georgia.

In June 1942, Sonderverband Bergmann was placed under the 1st Panzer Army which became spearheading of the German attack in the Caucasus. Those Caucasus volunteers were mainly used for "psychological warfare", where its companies managed to attract many residents of the Caucasus to side with Germany. One group even managed to attract 300 people deserters from the Red Army, which later joined with the Sonderverband! So successfully the unit’s "psychological warfare" campaign that between September and November 1942 Sonderverband Bergmann managed to establish four additional companies as well as many squadrons of cavalry from among the Red Army deserters and prisoners as well as local volunteers. Therefore, towards the end of 1942, the unit manpower was increased to 2,690 people, including 240 theirs German cadre.

In September 1942, several members Sonderverband Bergmann parachuted into line behind the Soviet Union with the mission to gathering intelligence and conduct sabotage. A group of 25 Germans and  Chechens under the leadership of Hauptmann Lange parachuted into the area of ​​Grozny. In a mission  codenamed "Unternehmen Shamil", they were ordered to wage rebellion among the Chechens and seize and retain the oil refineries in Grozny until the arrival of German panzers. But the German attempt to break through into Grozny between 25 to 27 September 1942 failed. The mission was canceled and the remaining group of special forces who had landed in the Chechnya's oil fields had returned to base.

Meanwhile, the main group of Sonderverband Bergmann engaged in combat with the Soviet guerrillas in the rear of German army, especially in the Mozdok-Kalchik area. Then they were also thrown to fight against the Red Army in the frontline. On 29 October, the 1st and 4th companies were sent to the Nalchiks front while the 2nd and the 3rd companies were sent to Ishcherskoye. Although fought vigorously, as it has no heavy weapons and outnumbered compared to the opposing force, Sonderverband Bergmann suffered heavy casualties.

At the end of December, the 1st Panzer units were forced to retreat to north to avoid the cut from other German forces in southern Russia after the Red Army launched a counterattack at Stalingrad. During the German withdrawal from the Caucasus, Sonderverband Bergmann acted as a rear- guard, where they protect the withdrawal of the Germans into Taman peninsula and destroying various industrial objects. They were later escaped from the Caucasus through the Kerch Strait and arrive in the Crimea in late February 1943.

In the summer of 1943, Sonderverband Bergmann upgraded into a regiment that consisted of three battalions: the 1st Battalion (Georgia), the 2nd Battalion (Azerbaijan), and the 3rd Battalion (North Caucasus). They were reinforced by 270 North Caucasus soldiers from the I. Kaukasiche Luftwaffe Feld-Bataillon.

The German defeat at Stalingrad cause problems in Sonderverband Bergmann. Many of its members demoralized, thus becomes easy prey for the Soviet agent who infiltrated into the formation. Even some major elements of the regiment were almost defected to the Red Army! However, the conspirators, who consisted of three officers, three cadet officers, two noncommissioned officers, and four soldiers, captured by the German Military Police. They were later tried and sentenced to death.

Between June 1943 and February 1944, Sonderverband Bergmann was in the Crimea under Commander of Army Group A/Crimea. After that, the regiment was divided for the first time when the 2nd Battalion, which had fought briefly under the Luftwaffe 5th Field Division along the Bug River in southern Russia during the month of February to early March , was ordered to report to the 2nd Regiment of Freiwillige-Stamm-Division (Division Depot Volunteers) in Mende, France. This Azerbaijani battalion later was moved to Warsaw, where they are involved in the German attempt to suppress a mass uprising in the Polish capital that killed hundreds of thousands of civilians. According to German records, those Azeri have good skills for such an operation.

Meanwhile, in late October 1943, the 1st Battalion and a cavalry squadron from the regiment were transferred to the 153rd Infantry Division on the Perekop Isthmus. They were later involved a fierce battle against the Red Army during the winter of 1943-1944. In March 1944, the 1st and the 3rd Bergmann battalions were sent to Romania before being relocated to southern Greece, where they served under the German LXVIII Corps. There they were reinforced by the remnants of Nordkaukasiche Infanterie Bataillon 802. Both Bergmann’s battalions were in Greece until September 1944, where they were moved into Yugoslavia during German withdrawal from Greece. 

On February 12, 1945, the headquarters of the Bergmann Regiment and theirs 13th and 14th squadrons were disbanded. But the third battalion continued to operate independently.

Meanwhile, after putting out the Polish uprising in Warsaw, the Bergmann’s 2nd Battalion was sent to Modlin and placed under the command of the IVth SS Panzer Corps. After fighting on the Vistula front, in April 1945 they were sent to Denmark and placed under the command of the 599th Russian Brigade which fought on the German side. They served in the Scandinavian country until the end of the war. Two other Bergmann’s battalions fought in Croatia until the end of the war and surrender to Western Allied in Austria.

© 2011 by Nino Oktorino

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Frederik Jensen

Frederik Jensen born on 25 March 1921 in Oslo, Norway. His father was a mechanical engineer and member of the Conservative Party. Jensen was a member of the NS in 1940. When he stays in Germany to study political and language science, the Russo-German war broke and he left his study to join with the Waffen-SS. He served as a machine-gunner with ‘Der Führer’ Regiment and wounded in his lung during a fighting in Moscow front. He was send to Warsaw to get a treatment.

After his recovery, Jensen followed the 8. Shortened Wartime Course (8. Kriegs-Junker-Lehrgang) at Bad Tölz between 8 June to 5 December 1942. Promoted as a SS-Standartenoberjunker der Waffen-SS, he was later joining with SS-Panzergrenadier-Regiment 9 ‘Germania’. He led a company in the regiment and fought with the ‘Wiking’ SS Division until he got another serious wound in Warsaw front.

After his recovery in Norway, where he served as adjutant for the staff chief of Germanske SS Norge, Jensen, now an SS-Obersturmführer der Waffen-SS, first was ordered to a German armored unit and lately to an Unteroffizier school at Kreisheim. When the Americans closed up, the school was ordered to fight them. He was then wounded for the fifth time that was on the 22th April 45 at Ellwangen, Bavaria. He escaped captivity, but was arrested near the Austrian border, at Zell am See. He spent two years in different camps, including Dachau, before he ran away and went to Norwegian consulate in Hamburg. There he was arrested, sent to Norway and was sentenced three months for treason and lost his civil right for 10 years.

After having served his prison sentence, Jensen moved to Sweden. He died at Ystad Hospital on July 31, 2011.

Jensen was the most highly decorated Norwegian. Aside his EK II and I, he got the German Cross in Gold on 7 December 1944 based on "more than three years of distinguished service".

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Biz Alla Bilen: 162. (Turkistan) Infanterie-Division

162. (Turkistan) Infanterie-Division was formed 21 May 1943 from Ostlegionen units in a training center at Mirgorod, Ukraine. The soldiers mainly were prisoners of war from Northern Caucausus and Central Asia. There were also some Georgians and Armenians among her members.

Lead by General Major Prof. Oskar Ritter von Niedermayer, after training in Poland, the division served in Slovenia where it was involved in anti-partisan warfare along the Triest-Ljubijana raiways line. In October 1943, they were sending to North Italy to protect the Ligurian coast. The division was briefly engaged on the Italian front-line, including fought against a Japanese-American regiment, but quickly retired due to poor performances. As a result von Niedermayer replaced by a more-experience fighting soldier, General-Leutnant Ralph von Heygendorff. The division spends the remaining war in North Italy, served as an anti-partisan and guard unit.

Retreated along the Po River, the division later disbanded in the area of Belluno. Like other Soviet volunteers who were captured by the British, many of division members were extradited to Soviets in compliance with the Yalta agreement, where they were executed or thrown to Gulag.

Order of battle
303. Infanterie-Regiment
314. Infanterie-Regiment
329. Infanterie-Regiment
236. Artillerie-Regiment
I. - IV. Bataillon
936. Pionier-Bataillon

Copyright © Nino Oktorino

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Za Rus! The SS Druzhina Brigade Story

Druzhina Brigade came into being when the SD undertook an operation known as ‘Zeppelin', an attempt to raise large units for special operations behind Soviet lines. Under promises of a modicum of freedom and better conditions, SD recruited thousands volunteers among Red Army prisoners from POW camps in occupied Russian territory. However, when the original purpose of ‘Zeppelin’, the deployment of large units in the Soviet rear, had been thwarted due to lack of sufficient aircraft, the SD decided to employ the majority of the personnel for anti-partisan duties.

A combat unit was formed and given the title "Druzhina" (Detachment). The unit's commander was a Kuban Cossack and former Chief of Staff of the Red Army’s 229th Infantry Division, Lieutenant Colonel Vassily.V. Rodinov, also known by his alias of "Gil". The unit's motto was "Za Rus" (For Russia). Theirs participation in anti-partisan operations was to serve as a valuable training exercise and as a test of the Russians' loyalty to the Germans.

Initially, the unit proved exemplary in combat against the Belarusian partisans. A second group was founded on 11 December, 1942, when 135 turncoats were recruited in Stalag 319A by Major Blazhevicz with the help of two camp leaders named Alelekov and Makarenko. This second unit was dispatched to Gajdow in vicinity of Lublin in south-eastern Poland. In March of 1943 both units were moved to the Glubokoye area in Belorussia, where they were combined into a single larger unit, consisting possibly of four battalions and a headquarters, which became known as the "SS Druzhina Brigade".

In February of 1943 the Germans selected a group of 50 of these Russian renegades and send them on an indoctrination trip to Germany. However, this trip proved to be counter-productive as the Russians learned from their fellow countrymen held at the Oranienburg Concentration Camp as well as from Russian slave workers, of the brutal treatment they endured at the hands of the Germans. As a result many of the 50 Russians began to question the very logic of collaborating with the Germans. These doubts about the genuine intentions of the Germans helped give rise to a patriotic anti-Nazi cell within the SD brigade. This cell was led by Gil-Rodionov, who was so fed up with all the German atrocities committed on his fellow compatriots that he arranged a meeting with the Zhelezniak Partisan Brigade.

The Soviet partisans, conducted the negotiations with the permission of the Soviet government, promised Gil-Rodionov that no retribution will be undertaken against all those Russian SD-men who decide to join them, provided that they will go over with all their weapons, join in the struggle against the Germans, and hand-over pro-Nazi officers in the unit like ex-Red Army general Bogdanov and a certain émigré captain named Count Mirski. Gil-Rodionov decided to agree to these terms.

On 13 August, in what would appear to have been a prearranged encounter, the Zhelezniak Partisan Brigade ambushed the brigade and demanded its surrender. Gil-Rodionov then threatened to shoot anyone unwilling to change side. All the German liaison staff were killed. Despite this, some 30 officers and 500 other ranks refused to go over to the partisans and fought their way out of the encirclement to return to the German lines. They were later incorporated into the ROA unit.

The defectors later were transformed into the Soviet First Anti-Fascist Brigade, and Gil-Rodionov was awarded by Stalin the Order of the Red Star. The brigade went on to fight numerous engagements against the Axis, some of which involved fighting what remained of the SS "Druzhina" Brigade. During the German anti-partisan operation ‘Spring Feast’ in April 1944, a group of 300 defectors (including Gil-Rodionov) was encircled and destroyed by SS Kampfgruppe von Gottberg in vicinity of the Zyabki Railway Station.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

1. SS-Sonder-Regiment "Väreger”

Formed as a battalion size in Belgrade, Serbia, in March 1942, the unit consist 600 ex-Red Army. They were lead by a White-Russian officer, Captain Mikhail Alexandrovich Semenov. Initially, the Germans have a plan to train them as an anti-partisan and saboteurs unit under the Zeppelin Kommando, but the plan never realized. The SS-Jäger Battalion, known informally as "Väreger” (Varjagov), later served as an anti-partisan unit in Yugoslavia until the end of the war.

In 1943, Semenov handed over his command and left to Germany, where he participated to form Vlasov Army. In early 1944, the battalion, lead by SS-Haupsturmführer A. Orlov, was send to Slovenia to fought Tito’s partisan. In November 1944, the battalion expanded to regiment sized and known as 1. SS-Sonder-Regiment "Väreger”.
"Väreger” participated in some anti-partisan operations in Slovenia, including in "Frühlingsanfang" and "Winterende" actions under Kampgruppe Dippelhofer between end March to early April 1945. They were also participated in last large German anti-partisan operation in Slovenia from 9-15 April 1945 along the road Kočevje-Stari Log-Dvor-Soteska.

After Germany collapsed, the regiment surrendered to British army and its members were put into POWs camp near Taranto, Italy. Some soldiers and officers were extradited to the USSR and Yugoslavia. Only a very small group that joined the Russian Guard Corps during the last days of war evaded the common fate.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Ostbataillon Huber

An ad hoc formation, Ost-Bataillon Huber comprised of various eastern volunteer units, mainly Russians and Ukrainians, from a training facility at Quetquidan in Brittany. During the Normandy campaign, they were put under LXXXIV Armeekorps, AOK 7, and was intended to be sent to Normandy. But it had not arrived during June 1944.

In Normandy, the battalion were put as a part of German defence against the American First Army’s drive toward St-Lo. Unlike other Osttruppen formations in Normandy, Ostbataillon Huber fought hard during the campaign, where they lost 80 percent in casualties when defending la Haye-du-Puitsand and was overrun. The bad conduct of this (non-German) unit was blamed for the day’s loss in ground, described as a “deep penetration.”