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European non-Germans in the German armed forces during World War II

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Title: European non-Germans in the German armed forces during World War II  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: British Free Corps, 25th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS Hunyadi (1st Hungarian), Trawniki, Trawniki concentration camp, SS organizations
Collection: Collaborators with Nazi Germany, Foreign Volunteer Units of Nazi Germany
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

European non-Germans in the German armed forces during World War II

Danish Free Corp members make an oath in 1941

Europäische Freiwillige is a German term meaning "European Volunteers", derived from the German "Freiwillige" (volunteer),[1] and is used to describe volunteers from an occupied country who join the army of the occupier.


  • Background 1
  • Countries which had European Freiwillige in the German forces 2
  • Branches of the Wehrmacht 3
    • SS during World War II 3.1
    • Renaming 3.2
    • Disreputable conduct 3.3
  • Postwar activities of veterans 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7
    • Scholarly 7.1
    • Reflecting the veterans' own narrative 7.2
  • External links 8


The term was mainly used to describe non-German Europeans (neither Reichsdeutsche nor Volksdeutsche) who volunteered to fight for the Third Reich during World War II. Though largely recruited from occupied countries, they also came from co-belligerent, neutral, and even active enemy nations. They fought in the Waffen-SS as well as in the Wehrmacht.

One Azerbaijani POW who volunteered to fight against the Soviets told his German captors that he was anti-Nazi, anti-Bolshevik, and only wanted an opportunity to free his homeland.[2][not representative?] On the Eastern Front the volunteers and conscripts in the Ostlegionen came to comprise a fighting force equivalent to 30 German divisions by the end of 1943.

Large numbers of Freiwillige also came from areas outside Europe, mainly motivated by a desire to fight for the freedom of their nations against Soviet or British domination. The non-German troops thus comprised a wide range of ethnicities, for example from the mainly Turkic peoples in the Ostlegionen to the Muslim Slavs in 13th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Handschar and the Indians of the Indische Legion (the Indian National Army fought against the British on the Japanese side).

Countries which had European Freiwillige in the German forces

Branches of the Wehrmacht

Volunteers from Western and Northern Europe served in the various different branches of the Wehrmacht, i.e., the Kriegsmarine (navy), the Luftwaffe (air force), and the Heer (land forces). Several Heer units composed primarily of "non-Germanic" volunteers (e.g., French, Walloons, Spaniards) were eventually subordinated to the Waffen-SS in the later phases of the war.

At various times, the Wehrmacht also recruited or conscripted foreigners as:

SS during World War II

There were a number of divisions of the SS which were made up of non Germans including:


Some of these merely consisted of many different nationalities over the course of the war, such as 5.SS-Panzer-Division Wiking, whereas others dropped the "Freiwilligen" and were adopted by the SS, such as 14.Galizische whose name changed three times during World War II:

14.Galizische SS-Freiwilligen-Division
14.Galizische SS-Frewilligen-Infanterie-Division
14.Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS (galizische Nr.1)
14.Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS (ukrainishe Nr.1)

Disreputable conduct

Many of the units were accused of war crimes, as well as a number of units who also participated in the Holocaust and in atrocities committed against Soviet civilians during so-called anti-partisan operations. For information on these formations see:

Postwar activities of veterans

Following the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945, the former Waffen-SS veterans were prosecuted in their home countries.[3] Treated as pariahs by the fellow countrymen, they often sought support from the former German comrades through membership in organisations such as HIAG.

The German and non-German Waffen-SS veterans began publishing periodicals in the 1950s to promote their own narrative of events. HIAG's magazine Wiking-Ruf first appeared in 1951. This later became the monthly magazine Der Freiwillige (OCLC 4378250) published by Munin Verlag, a company with ties to HIAG. Recently, Patrick Agte has taken over the name "Munin Verlag" and publication of Der Freiwillige.[4]

A separate newsletter Unser Wiking-Ruf, devoted solely to SS-Division Wiking, began appearing in the 1990s.[5]

Another apologist periodical devoted to the German and non-German units of the Waffen-SS is the American-published quarterly, Siegrunen (ISSN 0733-0367).

See also


  1. ^ Bishop, Chris (2005). SS: Hitler's Foreign Divisions: Foreign Volunteers in the Waffen SS 1941-45. Spellmount, p. 11. ISBN 1862272891
  2. ^ Dallin, Alexander (1981) German Rule in Russia, 1941-1945: A Study of Occupation Policies, p. 540
  3. ^ E.g. Norway. Cf. Legal purge in Norway after World War II.
  4. ^ :: View topic - Munin Verlag
  5. ^ Thema anzeigen - Zeitschriften zu unserem Thema - Panzer-Archiv

Further reading


  • Estes, Kenneth W. (2003). A European Anabasis: Western European Volunteers in the German Army and SS, 1940–1945. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.  
  • Neulen, Hans Werner (1985). An deutscher Seite: Internationale Freiwillige von Wehrmacht und Waffen-SS (in German). Munich: Universitas.  

Reflecting the veterans' own narrative

  • , and other higher military honours.) Knight's Cross (Contains biographies of Europäische Freiwillige who were awarded the  
  • Ertel, Heinz; Schulze-Kossens, Richard (2000) [1986]. Europäische Freiwillige im Bild (in German) (3rd ed.). Osnabrück: Nation Europa.  
  • Strassner, Peter (1988). European Volunteers: The 5. SS-Panzer-Division "Wiking". translated by David Johnston (2nd ed.). Winnipeg, Man.: J.J. Fedorowicz.  
  • Tieke, Wilhelm (2001). Tragedy of the Faithful: A History of the III. (germanisches) SS-Panzer-Korps. translated by Fred Steinhardt. Winnipeg, Man.: J.J. Fedorowicz.  
  • Tieke, Wilhelm (ed.) (c. 2000). Einsatz für Europa: Europäische Freiwillige im zweiten Weltkrieg auf deutscher Seite (in German). N.p.: Kameradenwerk Korps Steiner e.V. 

External links

  • Foreign Volunteers in the German Wehrmacht in WWII
  • Foreign volunteers and collaboration
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