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The existence of the Russian Liberation Army is often supported by its former members

as well as Russian nationalists.1 However, it is possible that the Russian Liberation Army never

existed and was merely a fantasy supported by the propaganda of the Third Reich.2 Former

Slavic collaborators attest to the fact that after the events of Stalingrad in which the German's

suffered heavy losses, National Socialist high command was willing to accept Slavs into SS

divisions and the German army.3 An examination of Nazi racial ideology concerning the Slavs,

the effects of this racial ideology on the creation of "Slavic" SS divisions such as the 14th SS

Freiwilligen Galizien, and the actual experience and dispersal of Slavs in what is now called the

Russian Liberation army shows that ROA could have never existed and in fact never did.

First and foremost it is necessary to examine the attitudes that Germans had towards

Slavs during the Second World War. The contents of what was called "Ostpolitik" accurately

shows what ranking the German racial ideology held for Slavs.4 Slavs were considered the worst

of all races, "the Slav had long been the Nazi symbol of depravity, cowardice, and disloyalty

second only to the Jew".5 The effects of this racial ideology can be seen in SS Fuhrer Himmler's

speech in October of 1943 in which the German's seem to regret the loss of the lives of their

Soviet prisoners of war.6 However, this is not a genuine regret for the loss of life as Slavs were

only considered to be human raw material.7 The German's regretted the loss of life as they

realized that the prisoners of war could have been better used as a labour force for Germany.8

Further support for the disregard of Slavs by the German state is found in one of Hitler's

speeches on July 16, 1943 in which Hitler states that "It must always remain a cast-iron principle

that none but Germans shall be allowed to bear arms. Only the German must be permitted to bear

arms, not the Slav, not the Czech, nor the Cossack, nor the Ukrainian".9 This speech was made
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several months after the German defeat at Stalingrad on January 31, 1943 which shows that even

after the Germans began to lose the war on the eastern front, Nazi high command was still

reluctant to use racial classes that they deemed as untermenschen to their own benefit.10 Thus it

seems that the idea of any Slavic, Czech, Ukrainian, or Cossack SS divisions or even their

general participation in the German army was out of the question.

However, this is not entirely the case for there exists records of a Cossack SS division

and a Ukrainian SS Division.11 The creation of these SS divisions seems contrary to Hitler's

speech in which Ukrainians and Cossacks are prohibited just like Slavs from bearing arms. The

XV. SS "Cossack" Cavalry Corps is indeed in direct conflict with Hitler's orders though it is

known that the Cossacks received preferential treatment over their Slavic counterparts as the

Germans admired the "warrior type of anti-Communism".12 This admiration could be one of the

reasons that this SS division was permitted as it was also allowed to have Cossack's in high

command, one of which had the distinction of being the first Slav to receive the Iron Cross.13

This SS division received so much praise that all Slavs began to try and identify themselves as

Cossacks in order to receive better treatment and in order to fight against the Soviets.14 The

division was even praised by Hitler in 1945 who had previously been opposed to Cossacks

bearing arms.15

The Ukrainian SS division, more formally known as the 14th SS Freiwilligen Galizien, is

a different story. Its creation is mostly attributed to the defeat at Stalingrad, the Red Army's

recapture of the eastern borderlands, and the successful Allied landing of troops in North

Africa.16 However, in much the same way as the image of the Cossack was distinguished from

other Slavs, German high command was able to distinguish Ukrainians from Slavs. This, for the
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Germans was not sufficient enough and a further distinction was made which can be seen in the

preference of the Galician name and emblems for the SS division rather than a Ukrainian name

and symbols.17 This was a result of Germany considering western Ukrainians (from Lvov

westward) to be sufficiently Germanized and have overwhelming amounts of European culture

as the area used to be a part of Austria-Hungary.18 Thus, the Ukrainians that were fighting in the

SS division were not Ukrainians, nor were they Slavs. To the Germans this SS division was

comprised of Galicians which under their racial ideology was acceptable. In the same way that

the Germans were able to change their view of the Cossacks and effectively separate them from

the Slavs, the Germans were able to change their view of the Western Ukrainians and effectively

separate them from their Slavic Eastern Ukrainian counterparts.

These two instances of "Slavic" SS divisions shows the tendency of German high

command to bypass its racial laws in favour of gaining more troops by changing the identity of

the Slavic soldiers. It is important to note here that the Russian Liberation Army was never

intended to be an SS division.19 The Russian Liberation Army was to be a solely Russian

fighting force situated on the Eastern Front to fight Soviet forces and would be comprised of

Russian officers, commanders, and headed by General Vlasov.20 The utopianism inherent in this

concept is extraordinary. The past experiences of the Cossack SS Divisions and Ukrainian SS

Divisions even show that while these divisions contained some Slavic officers, they were

ultimately headed by German General von Pannwitz and German Fritz Freitag respectfully.21

Furthermore, it is already noted that these divisions and likewise their commanders were not

considered Slavs but Cossacks or Galicians. Thus the existence of a Slavic army, with Slavic

officers, and Slavic high command seems completely absurd as it would require the German
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distinction of these Slavs as a superior race. The idea of the military being under the leadership

of a Slav, General Vlasov, is also farfetched as past experience shows that any "Slavic" division

always had German command so as to keep it in line with German interests.22 These were not

individual armies fighting for themselves, these were individual divisions of a German army,

fighting for German interests.

Ukrainians found themselves in the German Wehrmacht just as the majority of the

members of ROA did.23 However, the Ukrainians found in the German army were from

Ukraine's western portions and most likely were not identified by their German allies as

Ukrainians but as Galicians.24 Likewise, it is reasonable to assume from the previously

mentioned tendency of Slavs to label themselves as Cossacks in order to join military fighting

units and the reciprocal tendency of Germans to refer to their Slavic allies as Cossacks, that the

Germans did not think (or chose not to care) that there were Slavs in their armies. So, in line with

Hitler's speech about only Germans using arms, Ukrainians never did, it was the Galicians, Slavs

never did, it was the Cossacks, Cossacks did but their usefulness as a fighting race had been

overlooked and thus it was acceptable to use this race in Germany's war.

There must have been some recognition of the existence of Slavs in the Wehrmacht for

their membership is estimated at being close to a million.25 While these Slavs were most likely

considered Cossacks by their German allies it is clear that German high command was aware of

the inclusion of Slavs in its armies. This is supported by the three unsuccessful attempts to make

Slavic "armies". Specifically the experience of the Russian National Army of Liberation or

RONA, the Druzhina I, and the Russian National People's Army or RNNA can be cited.26 It is

important to note that each of these armies never had more members than for one division.27
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RONA was created in 1941 as a self defense unit against Soviet partisans.28 There was an

attempt made to give it SS status but this was abolished when friction between the Germans and

members of RONA erupted as a result of RONA's extreme acts of plunder and savagery and led

to its leader, Kaminsky being assassinated by SS sponsors.29 Druzhina I experienced the same

situation, it attained SS status but was quickly dissolved in 1943 as a result of friction between

German authorities.30 Lastly, the RNNA which was founded in 1941 was, unlike former Russian

Army attempts, never an SS Division.31 The division nonetheless experienced friction between

its leaders and German officials and was disbanded in 1943.32 These experiences likewise

thwarted any German high command optimism of a Slavic SS division or army as they were seen

as uncontrollable. Consequently all peoples that were considered Slavs by high command (but

most likely labelled as Cossacks to keep up Nazi racial ideology) were placed in the Wehrmacht

as Hilsfillige (individual recruits).33 These Slavs were eventually organized into Ostbattaliones

which were collections of about 1000 troops from different Slavic areas.34 It is important to note

that these battalions were never referred to as Russian but rather as the areas from which they

were recruited, for example Volga, Berezina, or Dnieper.35 These battalions were eventually

formed into Osttruppen which were divided by non-Slavic nationalities.36 Eventually these units

were seen as a threat to Hitler from the experience of former Slavic "armies" and they were all

deported from the Eastern Front to fight on the Western Front as they could be better controlled

when they were not fighting their "own war".37

This move of 70 to 80 percent of the Osttruppen to the Western front could have

effectively crushed the morale of the Slavic troops as they were no longer fighting a war of

liberation against the Soviets but were now undoubtedly fighting for purely German interests.38
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However, their morale was not crushed and the idea that they were fighting the Soviet union was

promoted by propaganda of Vlasov's Russian Liberation Army.39 ROA was effectively "the

promise that there was in formation an independent, united, anti-Stalin force of Soviet nationals,

and that soon all Soviet opposition could join its crusade".40 This propaganda which was

propagated by the German high command showed that the Germans knew that there were in fact

Slavs fighting in their armies regardless of their tendency to call them Cossacks. This

propaganda was so imbedded in Russian Osttruppen that even today when survivors of the war

reference ROA it is in terms of the blueprint of the ROA and not what actually happened.41

Further instances of this propaganda can be found in the Russian newspaper that was distributed

to the Osttruppen called Dobrovolets.42 These newspapers contained references to the ROA in

the East that was apparently being put together and addressed questions about the ROA.43 It is

important to note that the answers to these questions were always vague and ultimately never

revealed anything substantial about the ROA. The ROA was not recognized by the Germans, the

size of the ROA was a military secret, and the reason for German officers was shruged off as a

need for the ROA to have German collaboration.44 To make matters worse (for Russians) or

better (for Germans) the Germans supplied a ROA uniform with "insignia, shoulder patches, and

rank epaulets for Osttruppen".45 The keywords here are "for Osttruppen" the ROA uniform was

never for ROA members but for Osttruppen within the Wehrmacht. This most likely made Slavs

even more convinced of the existence of the Russian Liberation Army when in fact it "was

merely a meaningless collective term for scattered Osttruppen units".46

The Russian Liberation Army was never an actual formation and could never have been.

While one historian notes that at the outset of the war in 1941 "initially some captured Soviet
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military personnel entertained hopes that realistic political considerations could be brought to

bear on Nazi policy makers" these hopes were eventually crushed after the experience of the

RONA, the Druzhina I, and the RNNA.47 Furthermore, the racial ideology of Nazi Germany did

not support the existence of a Slavic army as they were so far down the racial hierarchy. Thus

Ukrainian SS Divisions were labelled Galician and Cossack SS Divisions were permitted on the

basis that Cossacks were actually great warriors. Likewise, there was a German tendency to refer

to all Slavs fighting in the SS as Cossacks and a tendency for Slavs to call themselves Cossacks

in order to get preferential treatment. German high command however, knew that there existed

Slavs in the German Wehrmacht and likewise deported them to the Western Front after the

experiences of other Slavic fighting forces which could not be controlled. In the West Germans

were able to supply propaganda that was able to keep up the morale of the Slavs and make them

think that they were fighting a war for Russia while in a Russian division when in fact they were

fighting Germany's war in a German division. This harsh reality that the Russians were never

fighting for Russia led to ROA being supported during the war and after the war as Russians

most likely did not want to admit that their purpose actually never existed. During the

deportment of Slavic soldiers to the Western Front Hitler stated at a conference on June 8, 1943

"I can only say this: we will never build up a Russian army, that's a phantom of the first order".48

The fate of the Russian Liberation Army was imminent even before the outbreak of the war. Past

experience, an inability to differentiate the Russians from Slavs, and therefore the racial policy of

Nazi Germany would keep a Russian army from ever being formed.
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Endnotes

1. George Fischer, Soviet opposition to Stalin: a case study in World War II. Cambridge:
Harvard University Press (1952): 42.
2. George Fischer, Soviet opposition to Stalin: a case study in World War II. Cambridge:
Harvard University Press (1952): 52.
3. Michael O. Logusz, Galicia Division: The Waffen-SS 14th Grenadier Division 1943-
1945. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 1997: 51.
4. Richard Landwehr, Fighting for Freedom: The Ukrainian Volunteer Division of the
Waffen-SS. Silver Spring, MD: Bibliophile Legion (1985): 19.
5. George Fischer, Soviet opposition to Stalin: a case study in World War II. Cambridge:
Harvard University Press (1952): 49.
6. George Fischer, Soviet opposition to Stalin: a case study in World War II. Cambridge:
Harvard University Press (1952): 45.
7. Michael O. Logusz, Galicia Division: The Waffen-SS 14th Grenadier Division 1943-
1945. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 1997: 55.
8. George Fischer, Soviet opposition to Stalin: a case study in World War II. Cambridge:
Harvard University Press (1952): 45.
9. Michael O. Logusz, Galicia Division: The Waffen-SS 14th Grenadier Division 1943-
1945. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 1997: 50.
10. Sol Littman, Pure Soldiers or Sinister Legion: The Ukrainian 14th Waffen-SS Galicia
Division. Montréal: Black Rose (2003): 59.
11. Sol Littman, Pure Soldiers or Sinister Legion: The Ukrainian 14th Waffen-SS Galicia
Division. Montréal: Black Rose (2003): 65.
12. George Fischer, Soviet opposition to Stalin: a case study in World War II. Cambridge:
Harvard University Press (1952): 49.
13. George Fischer, Soviet opposition to Stalin: a case study in World War II. Cambridge:
Harvard University Press (1952): 49.
14. George Fischer, Soviet opposition to Stalin: a case study in World War II. Cambridge:
Harvard University Press (1952): 49.
15. George Fischer, Soviet opposition to Stalin: a case study in World War II. Cambridge:
Harvard University Press (1952): 49.
16. Sol Littman, Pure Soldiers or Sinister Legion: The Ukrainian 14th Waffen-SS Galicia
Division. Montréal: Black Rose (2003): 61.
17. Sol Littman, Pure Soldiers or Sinister Legion: The Ukrainian 14th Waffen-SS Galicia
Division. Montréal: Black Rose (2003): 64.
18. Richard Landwehr, Fighting for Freedom: The Ukrainian Volunteer Division of the
Waffen-SS. Silver Spring, MD: Bibliophile Legion (1985): 19.
Ryabtsun, 9
19. George Fischer, Soviet opposition to Stalin: a case study in World War II. Cambridge:
Harvard University Press (1952): 52 - 53.
20. George Fischer, Soviet opposition to Stalin: a case study in World War II. Cambridge:
Harvard University Press (1952): 52 - 53.
21. George Fischer, Soviet opposition to Stalin: a case study in World War II. Cambridge:
Harvard University Press (1952): 49.
Richard Landwehr, Fighting for Freedom: The Ukrainian Volunteer Division of the
Waffen-SS. Silver Spring, MD: Bibliophile Legion (1985): 28.

22. George Fischer, Soviet opposition to Stalin: a case study in World War II. Cambridge:
Harvard University Press (1952): 53.
23. Michael O. Logusz, Galicia Division: The Waffen-SS 14th Grenadier Division 1943-
1945. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 1997: 51.
24. Sol Littman, Pure Soldiers or Sinister Legion: The Ukrainian 14th Waffen-SS Galicia
Division. Montréal: Black Rose (2003): 63.
25. George Fischer, Soviet opposition to Stalin: a case study in World War II. Cambridge:
Harvard University Press (1952):
26. George Fischer, Soviet opposition to Stalin: a case study in World War II. Cambridge:
Harvard University Press (1952): 42 - 43.
27. George Fischer, Soviet opposition to Stalin: a case study in World War II. Cambridge:
Harvard University Press (1952): 43.
28. George Fischer, Soviet opposition to Stalin: a case study in World War II. Cambridge:
Harvard University Press (1952): 42.
29. George Fischer, Soviet opposition to Stalin: a case study in World War II. Cambridge:
Harvard University Press (1952): 43.
30. George Fischer, Soviet opposition to Stalin: a case study in World War II. Cambridge:
Harvard University Press (1952): 43.
31. George Fischer, Soviet opposition to Stalin: a case study in World War II. Cambridge:
Harvard University Press (1952): 43.
32. George Fischer, Soviet opposition to Stalin: a case study in World War II. Cambridge:
Harvard University Press (1952): 43.
33. Richard Landwehr, Fighting for Freedom: The Ukrainian Volunteer Division of the
Waffen-SS. Silver Spring, MD: Bibliophile Legion (1985): 20.
34. George Fischer, Soviet opposition to Stalin: a case study in World War II. Cambridge:
Harvard University Press (1952): 48.
35. George Fischer, Soviet opposition to Stalin: a case study in World War II. Cambridge:
Harvard University Press (1952): 48.
36. George Fischer, Soviet opposition to Stalin: a case study in World War II. Cambridge:
Harvard University Press (1952): 48.
Ryabtsun, 10
37. George Fischer, Soviet opposition to Stalin: a case study in World War II. Cambridge:
Harvard University Press (1952): 50.
38. George Fischer, Soviet opposition to Stalin: a case study in World War II. Cambridge:
Harvard University Press (1952): 51.
39. George Fischer, Soviet opposition to Stalin: a case study in World War II. Cambridge:
Harvard University Press (1952): 52.
40. George Fischer, Soviet opposition to Stalin: a case study in World War II. Cambridge:
Harvard University Press (1952): 52.
41. George Fischer, Soviet opposition to Stalin: a case study in World War II. Cambridge:
Harvard University Press (1952): 53.
42. George Fischer, Soviet opposition to Stalin: a case study in World War II. Cambridge:
Harvard University Press (1952): 54.
43. George Fischer, Soviet opposition to Stalin: a case study in World War II. Cambridge:
Harvard University Press (1952): 54.
44. George Fischer, Soviet opposition to Stalin: a case study in World War II. Cambridge:
Harvard University Press (1952): 56 - 57.
45. George Fischer, Soviet opposition to Stalin: a case study in World War II. Cambridge:
Harvard University Press (1952): 55.
46. George Fischer, Soviet opposition to Stalin: a case study in World War II. Cambridge:
Harvard University Press (1952): 57.
47. Catherine Andreyev, Vlasov and the Russian Liberation Movement: Soviet Reality and
É migré Theories. Cambridge: Cambridge UP (1987): 200.
48. George Fischer, Soviet opposition to Stalin: a case study in World War II. Cambridge:
Harvard University Press (1952): 53.