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Collaboration in German-occupied Soviet Union

Cossacks in the Wehrmacht under the Swastika flag, 1942. South-western Soviet Union

A large numbers of Soviet citizens of various ethnicity collaborated with Nazi Germany during World War II. It is estimated that the number of Soviet collaborators with the Nazi German military was between one and two and a half million.[citation needed]



Mass scale collaboration was a result of the Wehrmacht attack on the Soviet positions during Operation Barbarossa of 1941.[1]

Aftermath of Operation BarbarossaEdit

Ukrainian Liberation Army oath to Adolf Hitler
The St. Andrew's Flag, frequently used by Russian collaborators

The two main forms of mass collaboration in the Nazi-occupied territories of the Soviet Union throughout World War II were both military in nature. It is estimated that anywhere between 600,000 and 1,400,000 Soviets (Russians and non-Russians) joined the Wehrmacht forces as Hiwis (or Hilfswillige) in the initial stages of the German Operation Barbarossa, including 275,000 to 350,000 “Muslim and Caucasian” volunteers and conscripts,[2] ahead of the subsequent implementation of the more oppressive administrative methods by the SS. As much as 20% of the German manpower in Soviet Russia was composed of former Soviet citizens, about half of which were ethnic Russians. The Ukrainian collaborationist forces comprised an estimated 180,000 volunteers serving with units scattered all over Europe.[3] The second type of mass collaboration were the indigenous security formations (majority ethnic Russian) running into hundreds of thousands and possibly as high as two million (250,000 volunteers in the East Legions alone). Military collaboration – wrote Alex Alexiev – took place in truly unprecedented numbers suggesting that, more often than not, the Germans were perceived at first as lesser of two evils by Soviet non-Russians.[4]

In the autumn of 1941, Field Marshal von Bock had sent to Hitler's Headquarters a detailed project for the organization of a Liberation Army of some 200,000 Russian volunteers, and for the formation of a local government in the province of Smolensk. It was returned in November 1941 with the notation that "such thoughts cannot be discussed with the Führer," and that "politics are not the prerogatives of Army Group Commanders." Of course, Field-Marshal Keitel, who wrote this notation, did not show the project to Hitler.[5]

Russian Liberation MovementEdit

SS Sturmbrigade RONAEdit

Patch worn by RONA soldiers.

The SS Sturmbrigade RONA (Русская освободительная национальная армия, РОНА; in Latin, RONA), nicknamed the "Kaminski Brigade" after its commander, SS-Brigadefuhrer Bronislav Kaminski, was a collaborationist force originally formed from a Nazi-led militia unit in the Lokot Autonomy, a small puppet regime set up by the Germans to see if a Russian puppet government would be reliable. Kaminski and the leader of the government, Konstantin Voskoboinik, killed by partisans in 1942, formed a unit that had a strength of 10,000—15,000. As the Red Army advanced, the Kaminski troops were forced to retreat into Belarus, and then into Poland in 1944. There, the RONA was reorganized into an SS brigade, the majority of which were Russians, with the rest comprising other Soviet ethnicities including Ukrainians, Belarusians and Azerbaijanis. In August, 1,700 brigade troops under Major Yuri Frolov were sent to Warsaw to quell an uprising. During it, the RONA troops became infamous for their atrocities, committing murder, rape, and theft. Some were reported to have left the combat zone with carts full of stolen goods. About 400 soldiers were lost in combat, including Frolov.

At the end of August, Bronislav Kaminski was killed. His death was surrounded with mystery as, while official records state that he was killed by Polish partisans, it is believed that Kaminski was executed by the SS. The reasons are thought to be his unit's war crimes and/or now that Heinrich Himmler supported the Russian Liberation Army of General Andrey Vlasov, he wanted to eliminate a potential rival. The rest of the brigade was reformed into the 29th SS Waffen Grenadier Division "RONA", which was disbanded in November 1944. Its remaining 3,000–4,000 members were sent to join Vlasov's army.[6]


  • Dobrovoletz (Der Freiwillige) – Russian volunteer units
  • Novoye Slovo (English: New Word) — Official political news of Andrei Vlasov, in Berlin

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Edele, Mark (2017). Stalin's Defectors: How Red Army Soldiers Became Hitler's Collaborators, 1941-1945. Oxford University Press. p. 126. ISBN 0198798156.
  2. ^ Audrey L. Alstadt (2013). "The Azerbaijani Turks: Power and Identity under Russian Rule". p. 187. ISBN 9780817991838
  3. ^ Carlos Caballero Jurado (1983). Foreign Volunteers of the Wehrmacht 1941-45. Translated by Alfredo Campello, David List. Osprey. p. 29. ISBN 0850455243.
  4. ^ Director of the Net Assessment, Office of the Secretary of Defense. "Soviet Nationalities in German Wartime Strategy, 1941–1945" (PDF file, direct download). MDA 903-80-C-0224. The Rand Publications Series. pp. vi, 26–27, 34. ISBN 0833004247. Retrieved 15 July 2014.
  5. ^ Lt. Gen Wladyslaw Anders and Antonio Munoz. "Russian Volunteers in the German Wehrmacht in WWII". Retrieved 15 July 2014. Source: Wen Sie Verderben Wollen [Gebundene Ausgabe] by Jürgen Thorwald, pp. 82-83. ASIN: B0000BOL08.
  6. ^ RONA Brigade, Warsaw Uprising