Uploaded on May 6, 2007
Because of all the different nationalities that used to form the Soviet Union, the term Russian or Soviet is use interchangeable and loosely. For simplification purposes it will be use unless otherwise mentioned.
During the German invasion, thousands of Soviet soldiers were surrendering or deserting their post. By August 1941, there were closed to half a million Soviet prisoners of war. Because of the sheer quantity of prisoners taken, the Germans had placed them in temporary internment camps.
The internment camps were unsafe since hundreds of thousands of Soviets prisoners were dying from starvation and decease. Many of the Russian prisoners volunteered for German military service. The Germans took this needed manpower, since casualties were amounting on the Eastern Front. The German Army used these volunteers as auxiliaries called "Hilfsfreiwillige."
The Germans formed "Ost" (Eastern) Battalions from recruited prisoners of war and deserters. These Ost Battalions were fitted among the German Regiments and Divisions. The volunteers from the Ost Battalions were used as rear-area police duties.
Most of these Legions were used to fight anti-partisan operations in Russia and later in Yugoslavia.
One of the most distinguishing combat formations were members of the Turkistan Legion. The Legion was formed in the spring of 1942 as part of the German 162nd Infantry Division, referred as the "Turkoman Division." It saw extensive action in Yugoslavia and Italy.
In November 1943, the "Ostmanische SS-Division" was formed comprising of three separate eastern groups: Turkistan, Idel-ural and Crimea.
Reichsfьhrer Himmler was very interested in this Eastern SS formation because his intent was to utilize some of the cadre personal for a training unit with the hope of raising further Eastern volunteer units. Because of volunteer shortages the unit was later designated as "1. Ostmusselmanisches SS-Regiment" in July 1944.
Finaly by October 1944, with more volunteers and conscriptions it was re-named as the "Osttьrkischer Waffen-Verband der SS.
By November 1941, Legions were created from Asiatic and Caucasians in southern Russia. These Legionnaires were from Armenia, Azerbaijan, North Caucasus, Turkestan and the Volga Tartar. Again many of the volunteers saw the Germans as liberators of their homeland. The Legionnaires were trained in Poland and Germany.
Because of the high combat casualties that the Waffen-SS had suffered in the Eastern Front, these Eastern troops were transferred to the Waffen-SS by 1944-45. These Legionnaires wore either German or Russian uniforms.
Most of the Legionnaires were transferred to occupational duties on the Western Front in such places as the Channel Islands and France. These Legionnaires were disappointed and dismayed because they wanted to fight the communist. Many of them deserted their post, eventually the Germans transferred Legionnaires to the Eastern Front.