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The Non-Germans in the German Armed Forces 1939-1945

Buss, P. H (1974) The Non-Germans in the German Armed Forces 1939-1945. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86362) (KAR id:86362)


Lack of space precludes a detailed history of each non German unit with the German forces during the Second World War, but it is possible to make generalisations and to reach certain conclusions. Before the War the German Armed Forces had little interest in recruiting foreigners because they were preoccupied with the process of rearmament. An exception was Amt Ausland Abwehr of the high Command, which made contact with, and even enrolled, resident foreigners with a view to using them to facilitate possible German thrusts. The Schutzstaffel of the National Socialist Party meanwhile formed armed units whose members were required to be fitter than those of the German Armed Forces and to be able to prove pure Nordic origin. It was not essential for candidates to be German citizens. The leaders of the S. S. regarded it as a pan-Germanic force and even before 1939 had enrolled a small number of men who were not German nationals. After the outbreak of war the need to maintain its armed units obliged the S. S. to recruit Germans from outside the Reich, over whom the Wehrmacht had no claim. To these were added Germanic volunteers after the campaigns of 1940 were concluded - and Finns. To prosecute the war with Britain the German Army began to recruit Irishmen, Arabs and Indians. The opening of the Russian campaign brought Germany offers of assistance from individuals in occupied and neutral countries. Volunteers of Germanic race were taken into national legions sponsored by the S. S.; volunteers of other races constituted foreign units and formations within the German Army. The prolongation of the campaign and unexpectedly heavy casualties IT revealed the inadequacy of German manpower and forced a number of expedients up--on the German ground forces. One of the most important of these was the use of Soviet citizens individually in German units and in a variety of indigenous elements. Such employment had not been foreseen and was initially forbidden. Moreover, it called for political changes that the German authorities were unwilling to make until it was too late to affect the military situation. Faced with the collapse of her allies, Germany strove to retrieve some of their manpower. At the same time, she drew upon the considerable numbers of refugees and foreign workers in the Reich. National-Socialism, friendship for Germany, hostility to Britain and a wide variety of personal reasons caused foreigners to enlist in the German forces before June 1941. After that date anti-Bolshevism was added to the other motives for enlistment. When these motives and German propaganda failed to produce sufficient recruits various forms of pressure were applied. Non-Germans were employed in a wide variety of roles at the front and in the lines of communication. Through their ranks passed possibly one and a half million men. The treatment they received at German hands varied from unit to unit but in general Eastern volunteers were treated with less consideration than those from other parts of the world. With so many men involved there had necessarily been a decline in the quality of the foreigners taken into the German forces which, coupled with inconsiderate handling and a deterioration in Germany's military situation, led to instances of defection and even mutiny. Nevertheless, hundreds of thousands of foreign soldiers remained under arms until the German capitulation, many of them fighting bravely.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86362
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Uncontrolled keywords: Second World War, Foreign units, Germany, Foreign enlistment
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D731 World War II (1939-1945)
D History General and Old World > DD Germany
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of History
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 29 Oct 2019 16:54 UTC
Last Modified: 23 Feb 2022 11:12 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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