Cossacks, conduct and betrayal of and Lienz POW camp

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Cossacks, conduct and betrayal of and Lienz POW camp

Post by earthling » 08 Dec 2019 01:30

Hello there, I am researching the surrender of both the Hungarian forces along with the Cossacks at Lienz DP camp. I understand the Cossacks had come up from Yugoslavia where they had been working with the Nazis against Tito's partisans. Can anyone tell me what their conduct was like here? The reputation is very bad, but I am trying to fact check this. I also would like to know if generally in other theatres of war if they were responsible for atrocities, or if this is an invention.

Their forced repatriation from Lienz also interests me, where can I get the best account of the so-called betrayal by the British and of their forced repatriation.

Thanking you in advance for any information you may be able to help me with


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Re: Cossacks, conduct and betrayal of and Lienz POW camp

Post by NataliaIakovleva » 18 Oct 2023 09:42

Hi Adam,

As far as I am concerned, there were two different groups of cossacks fighting on the Axis side in WW2.

The first one was mostly formed of Russian Empire emigre. Namely, the forces of Russian Empire army who lost civil war in Russia after bolshevik revolution in 1917 and who left the country in 1920 and residented in Europe eversince. These forces are also known as Vrangel army and a decent percentage of them was cossacks. Many of them lived in Yugoslavia (KSHS) in 1920-1930s. Late 1930s, russian emigre became a target for Tito partisans who, being communists, considered them as class emenies. In response to this threat russian emigre formed corps to protect themselves called Russisches Schutzkorps (ROK). After occupation of Yugoslavia by Germany, ROK joined Hitler's side. However, they were mostly active in Yugoslavia, fighting Tito partisanas and guarding industrial facilities.It's worth mentioning that most of them were at tge age of 40-50 when the war started. They surrendered to the Brithish forces in Austrian Kellersberg and were not repatriated to Soviet Russia, as they have never been subjects of USSR and thus were not supposed to be handed to this country.

Lienz cossacks were represented by forces of Kosakenlager and XV. SS-Kosaken-Kavallerie-Korps. Cossacks of these devisions were mostly those who did not leave Russia after revolution, but went over to the german side after the germans occupied the western and the southern regions of USSR in 1941. When the german army was pushed back from the territory of USSR, these cossacks and their families moved together with the germans. They actively fought in WW2 on the axis side and had a pretty poor reputation of cruel and barbarian soldiers. They surrendered to the British army in Lienz and were handed over to the Soviet Union in 1945. This was in line with Yalta agreements, as they were residents of USSR before the war.

However, it should be noted that in practice there was a huge mess during the repatriation process. The British did not have time and desire to sort out which cossacks were soviet subjects and which cossacks were non-soviet. The decision to hand over or not was generally made by groups of people, not personally. Some of emigre cosscaks moved from ROK to other devisions of german army (such as XV. SS-Kosaken-Kavallerie-Korps) and found themselves in Lienz by tge end of the war. They were not supposed to be handed to the USSR, but they were.

However, from cossacks' standpoint, there is not much difference between soviet and non-soviet cossacks. Both of them belonged to the same nation and lived in the same region of Russian Empire. Cossaks as a class was intentionally destroyed by the bolsheviks. Almost 50% of cossack regions population disappeared because of civil was and punitive action of soviet government. Some of them could escape Russia in 1920, but not all of them could. Those who stayed suffered a lot and never were the supporters of bolshevik government. That is why, when the germans came in 1941 they were happy to join them and fight again the soviets. And of course, it was a tragedy for them to lise their second war with the soviets, to be sent back to the soviet russia and to be repressed there again...

This generation of cossacks have seen little but the war and cruelty in their lives (Russo-Japan war, WW1, Civil war, Stalin repressions, WW2...) and I believe them it had a huge impact on their approaches too.

Kind regards,
Last edited by NataliaIakovleva on 18 Oct 2023 16:40, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Cossacks, conduct and betrayal of and Lienz POW camp

Post by Steve » 18 Oct 2023 14:19

This probably comes too late Adam but if you are still looking for information about the Cossack repatriation at the end of the war then Victims of Yalta by Nikolai Tolstoy 1977 should provide it. In the book Tolstoy accused Brigadier Adlington later Lord Adlington of war crimes and then lost the case brought against him for libel. Apart from that because he was able to talk to eye witnesses it seems an accurate account.

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