- Russian Liberation Army
Infobox Military Unit
unit_name= Russian Liberation Army
( _ru. Русская Освободительная Армия),
( _de. Russische Befreiungsarmee)
caption=A ROA poster depicting a Russian and German soldier side-by-side, promising to march to "victory and peace", before returning to their homes to live "free and happy ever after".
World War II
Andrei Andreevich Vlasov
Russian Liberation Army (Russian: "Russkaya Osvoboditel'naya Armiya", Русская Освободительная Армия, abbreviated in Cyrillic as РОА, in Latin as ROA, also known as the "Vlasov army") was a group of predominantly Russian forces allied with
Nazi Germanyduring World War II.
The ROA was organized by former
Red Army general Andrey Vlasov, who tried to unite all Russians in opposing the regime of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. Amidst the volunteers were Sovietprisoners of war, and Russian " White émigrés" (some of whom were veterans of the anticommunist White Army during the Russian Civil War). On 14 November 1944it was officially renamed the Armed Forces of the Committee for the Liberation of the Peoples of Russia ("VS-KONR").
Russian volunteers who enlisted into the German Army ("
Wehrmacht Heer") wore the patch of the Russian Liberation Army, an army which did not yet exist but was presented as a reality by Nazi propaganda. These volunteers (called " Hiwi", an acronym for "Hilfswilliger" meaning "willing to help") were not under any Russian command or control; they were exclusively under German command carrying out various noncombat duties. Soon, several German commanders began forming small armed units out of them, primarily used in combating activities of the Soviet partisans. Adolf Hitlerpermitted the idea of the Russian Liberation Army to circulate in propaganda literature so long as no real formations of the sort were permitted. As a result, some Red Army soldiers surrendered or defected in hopes of joining an army that did not yet exist. Many Soviet prisoners of war ( POWs) volunteered to serve under the German command just in order to get out from Nazi POW camps, notorious for starving the Soviet prisoners to death.
Meanwhile the newly captured Soviet general Andrei Andreevich Vlasov, along with his German and Russian allies, was desperately lobbying the German
high command, hoping that a green light would be given for the formation of a real armed force that would be exclusively under Russian control.
Hitler's staff repeatedly rejected these appeals with hostility, refusing to even consider them. Still, Vlasov and his allies reasoned that Hitler would eventually come to realize the futility of a war against the USSR with the hostility of the Russian people and respond to Vlasov's demands.
When Hitler was informed about the large number of Russian and other former Soviet citizen volunteers in the Wehrmacht (a figure estimated at nearly 1 million) he panicked. Upon hearing a false report that these units were unreliable and defecting to the partisans, Hitler ordered their immediate transfer to the Western Front. Realizing the catastrophic effect that this would have on the Eastern Front, many German commanders took various elusive measures to keep their Russian volunteers from being transferred. Nevertheless, many Russian volunteers were transferred and forced to serve on Western Front positions.
A number of such soldiers were on guard in
Normandyon D-Day, and without the equipment or the motivation to fight the allies, most promptly surrendered. There were instances of bitter fighting to the very end, triggered by mishandled propaganda from the Alliesthat promised quick repatriationof soldiers back to the Soviet Unionif they gave up.
A total of 71 "Eastern"
battalionsserved on the Eastern Front, while 42 battalions served in Belgium, Finland, France, and Italy.
Formation of ROA and the fight against Red Army
The ROA did not officially exist until the fall of 1944, after
Heinrich Himmlerpersuaded a very reluctant Hitler to permit the formation of 10 Russian Liberation Army divisions ( Soviet historiographyoften mistakenly labeled all Russians who fought on the side of Germany as "Vlasovtsy", followers of Vlasov).
14 Novemberin Prague, Vlasov read aloud the Prague Manifestobefore the newly created Committee for the Liberation of the Peoples of Russia. This document stated the purposes of the battle against Stalin, and spelled out 14 democratic points which the army was fighting for. German insistence that the document carry anti-Semitic rhetoric was successfully parried by Vlasov's committee; however, they were obliged to include a statement criticising the Western Allies, labelling them "plutocracies" that were "allies of Stalin in his conquest of Europe".
By February 1945, only one division, the 1st Infantry (600th German Infantry) was fully formed, under the command of General
Sergei Bunyachenko. Formed at Münsingen, it fought briefly on the Oder Front before switching sides and helping the Czechsliberate Prague.
A second division, the 2d Infantry (650th German Infantry), was incomplete when it left
Lager Heubergbut was put into action under the command of General Grigorii Meandrov. This division was joined in large numbers by eastern workers which caused it to nearly double in size as it headed on its march south. A third, the 3rd Infantry (700th German Infantry), only began formation.
Several other Russian units, such as the
Russian Corps, XVth SS Cossack Cavalry Corpsof General Helmuth von Pannwitz, the Cossack Campof Ataman Domanov, and other primarily White émigréformations had agreed to become a part of Vlasov's army. However, their membership remained " de jure" as the turn of events did not permit Vlasov to use these men in any operation (even reliable communications was often impossible).
The first and only active combat the Russian Liberation Army undertook against the Red Army was by the
Oderon 11 April, 1945, done largely at the insistence of Himmler as a test of the army's reliability. After three days, the outnumbered first division had to retreat. No defections to the Soviet side were reported; however, up to 300 Red Army soldiers had surrendered during battle.
Vlasov then ordered the first division to march south to concentrate all Russian anticommunist forces loyal to him. As the army, he reasoned, they could all surrender to the Allies on "favorable" (no
repatriation) terms. Vlasov sent several secret delegations to begin negotiating a surrender to the Allies, hoping they would sympathise with the goals of ROA and potentially use it in a future war with the USSR.
Fight against the Germans and capture by the Soviets
During the march south, the first division of the ROA came to the help of the Czech
insurgentsto support the Prague uprisingwhich started on May 5, 1945, against the German occupation. Vlasov was initially reluctant, but ultimately did not resist General Bunyachenko's decision to fight against the Germans.
The first division engaged in battle with
Waffen-SSunits that had been sent to level the city. The ROA units armed with heavy weaponry fended off the relentless SS assault, and together with the Czech insurgents succeeded in preserving most of Prague from destruction. Due to the predominance of Communistsin the new Czech Rada, the first division had to leave the city the very next day and tried to surrender to US Third Armyof General Patton. The Allies, however, had little interest in aiding or sheltering the ROA, fearing such aid would severely harm relations with the USSR. Soon after the failed attempt to surrender to the Americans, Vlasov and many of his men were caught by the Soviets.
Some soldiers were initially taken into allied custody then forcefully extradited to the Soviets by the Allies. However, some allied officers who were sympathetic to the ROA soldiers permitted them to escape in small groups into the American controlled zones. It should be noted also that the principality of
Liechtensteinignored the USSR demands to extradite men and officers of First Russian National Armywho entered Liechtenstein asking for political asylumand eventually permitted those men to emigrate to Argentina.
The Soviet government labeled all ROA soldiers ("Vlasovtsy") as
traitors. The ROA soldiers who were repatriated were either sentenced to death or sent to Gulagwith a minimum sentence of ten years. Vlasov and several other leaders of the ROA were tried and hanged in Moscowon August 1, 1946.
Ostlegionen(Mainly Caucasion units)
Russian Liberation Movement
Russian All National Popular State Movement
XVth SS Cossack Cavalry Corps
First Russian National Army
Collaboration during World War II
Russian Monument (Liechtenstein)
* [http://www.sptimes.ru/index.php?action_id=2&story_id=5830 It's Too Early To Forgive Vlasov] , "
The St. Petersburg Times", November 6, 2001
* [http://www.praguepost.com/P03/2004/Art/1111/news8.php Vlasov's forgotten army] , "
The Prague Post", November 11, 2004;Other
* [http://www.roa2.narod.ru/index-e.htm Russian Liberation Army information page by veteran Alexander Dubov]
* [http://www.mochola.org/russiaabroad/vlasan01.htm Russian Volunteers in the German Wehrmacht in WWII by Lt. Gen Wladyslaw Anders and Antonio Munoz]
* [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7USp4MYJBjw Russian Liberation Army, rare footage] (video)
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