Ukrainians in the Waffen-SS & Wehrmacht

Discussions on the foreigners (volunteers as well as conscripts) fighting in the German Wehrmacht, those collaborating with the Axis and other period Far Right organizations. Hosted by George Lepre.
Melnyk
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Post by Melnyk » 22 May 2006 21:35

Hi

Since the SS-Hauptamt insisted that as well as physical training, some form of ideological indoctrination should be given, in addition to combat exercises and drill, the Ukrainian recruits at Heidelager also received two hours per week of political education known as weltanschauung ('World perception'). Without so much as a hint of irony, these sessions which were considered to be an integral part of all lessons inevitably focused on the invincibility of the Third Reich and various aspects of National Socialist ideology, subjects with which the Ukrainians had nothing in common and about which they could not have cared less. When asked about these lectures one former Ukrainian officer commented:
"Political education consisted of lectures by the company commander once a week [lasting about 2hrs]. The whole company sat down comfortably in the shade of the trees and he talked, usually about the situation at the front and how the Führer would take care of everything. Our interpreter translated very loosely. It was a farce, nobody cared what he said. Most dozed off."

From time to time the German were even less subtle. On arriving at the Officer school at KINSCHLAG (Prosecnice) following the check ups and other formalities, the 180 Ukrainian officer candidates received application forms to join the NAZI party. The refusal of the Ukrainians surprised the Germans.

I also have a photo (which I cannot currently locate) of a group of Ukrainian officers who were give a tour of a local city by an SS officer. the Ukrainains encountered a group of Ukrainain girls who had been taken for forced labour in Germany and stopped to talk to them at which point the German officer gathered them together and repremanded them for talking to Untermensch. It was apparently beneath the dignity of an SS officer to publically convserse with Slavic subhumans. The officer apparently had no idea that the group comprised of Galician Ukrainians until one of the Ukrainians replied that he had been speaking to his own sister.

Mike Melnyk

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Post by Melnyk » 24 May 2006 20:49

Hi

I found this translation sent to me by my good friend Klemen. It is part of the history of the TOMSIC bridage - a Yugoslav partisan unit. I will post some more photos soon.

Mike Melnyk

The intelligence service of the 4th Operative Zone reported February 26th, 1945 as the date of 14th Waffen SS Division Galizien's arrival from Slovakia to Maribor, Slovenia. The brigades of the 14th Division were engaged with this division throughout the whole of March, then the 14th Waffen SS Division Galizien was sent to the front as part of 2nd German Armoured Army, and in May it returned again back to Koroška (Kärnten).

On May 8th, 1945, the Tomšic brigade experienced one of the worse defeats in the brigade’s history. At about 15:00 they left their positions at Prevernik with the intention of crossing the road and the railway at three places near Sittersdorf. It didn’t succeed as it met a detachment of the 14th Waffen SS Division Galizie«, which was composed mainly of Ukrainians, who were commanded mostly by German SS officers. As the partisans expected the enemy to surrender because Germany had already capitulated, the brigade HQ expected the division would quickly surrender to them. The brigade didn’t approach the enemy in a ordinary combat group, and that was one of the main reasons that it later suffered such a painful defeat.
The HQ sent the 4th Battalion in which were both Russian platoons towards the Ukrainians. They thought that the Russians would easily persuade their fellow countrymen [to surrender. They mixed with them and told them: Ne nado boljše borit, konec vojni! Poloci orucje! (Drop your weapons!). The Ukrainians started to lay their rifles down. It seemed that the Ukrainians would surrender peacefully and that no bloodshed would be necessary. Then two SS officers arrived. The partisans ordered them to drop their weapons, but they refused to do this. In the interim, while one of them was negotiating with one of the partisan platoon commanders, Slovene by origin, the other one pointed a pistol at the first platoon commander. The platoon commander noticed this in time and quickly bent down, so that the bullet went over his shoulder. He immediately fired from his sub MG at both SS officers and those Ukrainians, who hadn’t yet dropped their weapons. Some of them laid dead. So it started.
The enemy had an observation post with a heavy MG in the church tower in Sittersdorf and a regiment’s battery of 120mm heavy mortars in position. They immediately shelled the positions of the 4th Battalion of the Tomšic brigade with everything they had. The partisans had only one heavy MG (Maxim type), which they entrusted to the Polish partisans, who unfortunately deserted, leaving the MG on the battlefield.
At Sittersdorf the Tomšic brigade suffered 14 dead, 10 wounded and 4 missing men. Most of those killed were from the medical platoon. The assistant of the brigade’s operative officer, a 2nd Lieutenant by rank, from Ptuj was also killed. Among the others who were killed was the assistant of the political commisar of the 4th Battalion Ivan Farcnik-Buc, from Prekope near Vransko. Because of its heavy losses the Tomšic brigade retreated. Its battalions stayed in positions in the forest near Hojnik’s farm all night.

Translated from book:
Franci Strle: Veliki finale na Koroškem, Ljubljana 1976

Melnyk
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SS Hustf. Karl BRISTOT kdr 14 Fusl.Btl

Post by Melnyk » 07 Aug 2006 21:31

Hello

I have just been reading Michael LOGUSZ's book entitled Galicia DSivision The waffen-SS 14th Grenadier Div 1943-1945. On page 119 he has the following to say about the former kdr of 14 Fusl. Btl. Karl BRISTOT:

"[...]Hustf. Karl BRISTOT, an Austrian assumed command. A true professional and a first rate leader, Bristot in order to establish a closer bond with his soldiers, even replaced the slanted SS runes on his collar patch for the Galician collar patch."

I was also reading some letters sent to me by a former Ukrainian member of the Fusl Batl. He reminded me of something:

While in American internment SS-Standartenführer Beyersdorff (kdr 14 Art. Rgt. and (now) SS-Sturmbannführer Karl Bristot attempted to assert their authority over the mixed group of 76 officers (30 of whom were Ukrainian) and 1112 nco's and men, who had given themselves up to the Americans near Wagrain in the vicinity of Radstädt. Even at this stage they wanted a Ukrainian nco to be executed for not fulfilling one of Bristot's orders - that is he had walked off the road when he had been ordered to run. Waffen-Hauptsturmführer Ferkuniak who represented the Ukrainians refused to cooperate and stated that he could not guarantee the lives of those who would carry out such a decision. Beyersdorff responded to this statement by threatening "Remember that the Ukrainians are here between two (interned) German divisions, Wiking and Hohenstaufen who could cause you such a blood bath that the world has not yet seen should anything happen to any Germans". Not to be outdone, Beyersdorff went ahead and convened a 'Kriegsgericht' (emergency court empowered to sentence any soldier guilty of a breach of discipline and to carry out executions) and would have carried out the punishment had not Ferkuniak invalidated the court as the sole representative of General Shandruk.

It is also worth noting that by sheer coincidence, 80% of the German command structure of the 14 Galician Division was able to surrender to the Americans rather than the British. It seems that the German officers had access to motor vehicles during the retreat, and having fought side by side with the Ukrainians through thick and thin for 2 years, they decided that now it was time to surrender, the best thing to do would be abandon the Ukrainians and make their own way as qucikly as possible to what looked like the safest option.

Mike Melnyk

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German Staff of 14 Galician Div

Post by Melnyk » 09 Aug 2006 22:35

Hi

now lets look at some more evidence concerning the German command staff from the Galician div.

In his book Logusz refers to the Kdr 14 Art Rgt Ss-Stndtfhr. Friedrich BEYERSDORFF "he was the epitome of a professional artillery man".
His Ukrainian interpreter told me: "Beyersdorff did everything by the book and was incapable of doing anything on his own initative". It is also interesting to note that when the Division was in the process of capitulation. most of the surviving senior German staff officers including Beyersdorff, who had access to motorised transportation had made their get away in good time taking with them their personal effects and their own food reserves for ten to twelve days. Their former Ukrainian charges on the other hand were left to fend for themselves and were in most cases cut off from their supply units having only their own personal iron ration to sustain them. During the first two months in American captivity the Germans were able to reply on their food stores that they had so expeditiously brought with them and so when the Americans made no effort to provide their prisoners with food, (so that one Ukrainian commented "We practically starved for the first few months", the impact on the Germans was obviously somewhat lessened.

Some of the Ukrainian soldiers took a quantity of eggs and cans of meat from a railroad car of the American escort. Although the theft was uncovered by Ukrainian officers, the rations returned and the culprits handed over to the Feldgendarmerie, Beyersdorff used this as an excuse to portray the Ukrainians as bandits, robbers and mutineers before the American authorities and to publicly disassociate the remaining German contingent from the Ukrainians. On this issue, a Ukrainian officer who himself had previously served with the Artillery Regiment recalled;
"[....] Beyersdorff said that he tried very hard to educate them [the Ukrainians] to be real soldiers but to no avail because under them a dominant group are thieves and bandits. Therefore he could not endanger his Germans who would have to part with the Ukrainians....

Mike Melnyk

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A German master stroke by the master race!

Post by Melnyk » 25 Jan 2007 20:58

The former Ukrainian Ordonnanz Offizier of Kdr of WGR30 Forstreuter, has just reminded me of an a rather amusing episode which demonstrates what calibre of German officer was sent to the Galician Div.

When the galician Div was reformed in Autumn 1944, as a further safeguard to protect of his own position and avoid any unpleasant surprises, the Div Kdr Freitag instigated further mechanisms such as the nomination of a Ukrainian individual in each company who was required to produce regular monthly reports, the subject of which was what were the main topics of conversation amongst the troops. On completion, these were passed on to battalion and then regimental headquarters where they were collated before finally being presented to sub-section Ic (a) (counter-intelligence) of the Division's staff. Headed by SS-Hauptsturmführer Wiens, it was responsible for the collection and analysis of this data. Partly because there was little time available to complete these reports, the contents were either fabricated or deliberately misrepresentative, typically mentioning either a belief in Germanys' invincibility and the new 'V' weapons which would guarantee ultimate victory or alternatively trivialities such as food, cigarettes and Marketenderwaren (commodities such as alcoholic beverages, soap, tooth paste, shaving supplies etc supplied regularly to the soldiers). Thus Freitag who was by now universally hated by the Ukrainians re-assured himself that all was well with the division, whilst the actual topics of discussion were not infrequently how to best dispose of many of the hated German officers.

There was however one exception. Waffen-Obersturmführer Bohdan Pidhayny, the officer for special assignments with WGR 30, was a leading member of the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists who had infiltrated the division at every level and certainly had a major influence on its Ukrainian personnel. He wrote truthfully that when the Division was sent to the front, the Ukrainians wouldn't fight for the 'New Order in Europe' which had no meaning for them. When presented with his report, incensed by the content the regimental commander SS-Obersturmbannführer Forstreuter summoned Pidhayny who enjoyed a high profile within the Division and was very popular amongst his country men. Afraid of the consequences if he was to overtly punish him - Forstreuter, according to the testimony of his Ukrainian Ordonnanz Offizier who witnessed the event, threatened him verbally saying "You're a lost man". But Forstreuter knew too well what a powerful influence Pidhayny was and if he were to have publically punished him, the Ukrainians would have exacted their revenge and that he would be the "lost man". Forstreuter had to settle for transferring him to the comand of a line company, but according to a Ukrainian source who was attached to Forstreuter's staff, from that moment on he lived in fear and that he was always looking over his shoulder until the very end of the war.....

I will try and find photos of both men and post them here

Mike Melnyk

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FORSTREUTER

Post by Melnyk » 28 Jan 2007 18:55

Hello

As promised, herewith picture of the Kdr WGR 30, Hans Boto FORSTREUTER.

From what I can gather, he was probably quite a brave man, but he did not trust the Ukrainians.

Mike Melnyk
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Radolfzell

Post by Melnyk » 28 Jan 2007 19:18

Hello

The nco courses for infantry were held at Radolfzell, and lasted four months. This picture shows Ukrainian nco candidates undergoing their training with their instructor (his name escapes me at the moment). The quality and content of some of the photos of the Ukrainians at Radolfzell, is outstanding and they are amongst the best I have ever seen. They will never be published.

Mike Melnyk
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W.Untstuf. J OWAD

Post by Melnyk » 28 Jan 2007 19:51

Hi

This picture was taken during the retreat of the Galician Div - which had by now been renamed 1st Division of the Ukrainian National Army, from the front at Gleichberg, It shows members of the 1./1./1 (formerly 1./1./WGR 29) retreating 8th May 1945.

I have all the pictures taken in this sequence which was the last film taken by a Kriesgsbericter attached to the division. The sequence shows the same unit (formerly WGR 29) in its positions at the front and in and around Scloss Gleichenberg which the unit re-took and occupied during a counterattack in April 1945. The sequence begins aroung 24th April and the last picture was taken 10 May.

Whilst almost everyone in the photos looks pretty rough and ready (as you would expect from a unit which had just undergone combat and was holding defensive positions in the front line), there is one notable exception. In the centre, looking like he is out for Sunday stroll, wearing his camo poncho and binocs round his kneck is Waffen-Untersturmfuhrer Jaroslav OWAD. He was a graduate from POSEN TRESKAU and was posted to the Galician Div as a platoon commander in the last weeks of the war.

I have another picture of him taken a few days earlier (that is May 1945). It shows other men in his unit inclduing one officer who is well known to me, and who like many others has afixed the trident cap badge to his cap in place of the traditional SS Deaths Head. After the unit became the 1st Division of the Ukrainian National Army, everyone I have ever met, removed all German insignia from their uniforms (except the rank insignia) and replaced it with Ukrainian insignia whenever possible.

Jaroslav OWAD appears to have been an exception. Not only did he not wear the Galician lion device on his collar, he seems to have preferred instead to have worn the SS lighting runes and all other German insgnia, even though his unit (and most of his comrades) were at that time looking to put as much distance as possible between themselves and the Germans.

Mr Owad threatened to take me to court for using some of 'his' photographs (this one included) and sue me from breach of his copyright. I think he got the surprise of his life when I sent him a letter containing copies of Halisbury's Copyright Statutes which clearly indciate that the copyright rests with the owner of the original negative of any photo and in the absence of a negative, the oldest print. I had the original negatives.

I do not however own the best photo of him showing his SS insignia, and this apperas to be from his private archive. All I can find is a third generation photocopy - but even this clearly shows the insignia. If I can find it, I will post it

Mike Melnyk
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Askold
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Post by Askold » 29 Jan 2007 10:46

Would be very interesting to see Owad wearing SS runes. His photo from Posen-Treskau school clearly shows him wearing the Galician lion tab. By the way Mike - did you get my email?

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Post by Askold » 29 Jan 2007 10:49

P.S. he quality and content of some of the photos of the Ukrainians at Radolfzell, is outstanding and they are amongst the best I have ever seen. They will never be published.

- Can you tell me how come such interesting photos will never be published?

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photos

Post by Melnyk » 29 Jan 2007 19:58

Hi Askold

yes I got your mail. did you get my reply?

Here is the photocopy as promised. The quality is terrible but OWAD is in the centre wearing the binoculars and the runes are clearly visible.

I can name everyone in the picture and know the location etc, and I can assure you every other Ukrainian is wearing the lion device except OWAD.

There are many thousands of photos of the Galician Division. This week I learned of another collection of over 1,000 pictures- most will be professionally taken. I doubt most of these will ever be published.

In their archives, the Brotherhood have many of the original pictures taken during Himmler's visit. Other people have copies of some of the prints too such as Chris Ailsby, the Bundesarchiv, and myself, but those owned by the Brotherhood probably represent the most complete collection (hundreds of photos were taken during his visit). Amongst those the Brotherhood own are some high quality, professional shots and in my opinion, the pictures are good enough to grace any publication - but you will never see them. Why not? The Brotherhood gave me the best possible explanation. "No matter how good those photos are, the Ukrainian veterans do not wish to be associated with Himmler in any way". Understandable viewpoint. Hence, for similar reasons, these pictures and others (ie Radolfzell) will never be published unless anyone else gets copies - although I did publish 10 or so from Himmler's visit of the 40 or so I have from that occassion.

Now does anyone have a copy of When All Our Brothers Are Silent? If so please do me a favour. I had the book but gave my copy away long ago. If memory serves me well there is one picture of a group of 2 or three soldiers sitting down and at least one is clapping rather wildly. All the soldiers are smiling and wearing cammo smocks and I think the caption (incorrectly) reads "soldiers of the Leibstandarte fratenise with the local population or something similar. No insignia ia visible on the uniforms. If anyone has that photo, please scan and post it here

many thanks

Mike Melnyk
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Melnyk
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photo

Post by Melnyk » 29 Jan 2007 20:57

Hello

perhaps this scan is a bit clearer

Mike Melnyk
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Askold
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Post by Askold » 30 Jan 2007 19:09

Mike, I never got you reply! Can you try contacting me one more time (or PM me) - I got some interesting news with regards the photos. I might be visiting the brotherhood photoarchive...Would love to hear your opinion on that metal tab too.

P.S. Where is the photo of Owad taken from? Its interesting as to why he would switch from Lion (which he had in beginnig) to SS runes. Could it be the lack of officer version of the lion tab?

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reply

Post by Melnyk » 31 Jan 2007 18:10

Greetings Askold

here is my origonal reply

Hello Askold

many thanks for the message.

I do not believe that the collar patch is good. Many years ago I obtained the
entire archive of a great collector (and former officer of the division
Mr L), which contained every known variation of the collar patch.
Aside from his personal possessions, he obtained the vast majority of his collection in Rimini where he traded them for food. The only other collector who had a big (but not as big) collection (which he continued after he had emigrated to the USA ) was JAROSLAV OWAD (who happended to be his best mate). Both men kept ALL their personal uniform issue, which is how I come to have (but did not want) the SS arm eagle, the deaths head cap badge, an SS ring, and both the blank and SS lighting rune collar patches (the latter are all from the archive I was given).

OWAD had everything including the officer issue dagger, and some unique photos of him at the front in Austria, but he never had the same amount of insignia.

A few years ago I set a full set of original insignia to one of the museums (I think it was Mr Fedyk in L'viv). This included armshields, collar patches (including trident patch) cap cord from the officers cap, etc etc.

I kept one full set of insignia including examples of every variation of the collar patch and armshield (with one exception - this being one of the armshields which I also sent to a museum and which I never had in duplicate). This kind of material should in my view be in museums.

I have never seen this example before and would take some convincing.

Interested to know what the other "Ukrainian papers" were though.

The corrected and amended re-print of my book should be available in March according to the publisher. The dealine for corrections and additions was last September.

Bye for now
Mike

Ps: re photo archive: the National Archives in Ottawa now has a copy of part of the Brotherhoods archive. I guess it is hundreds of pictures.

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Lack of officers collar tabs?

Post by Melnyk » 31 Jan 2007 18:25

P.S. Where is the photo of Owad taken from?


Hello Askold,

it's a long story. I have almost the entire sequence. I will post some more. It shows part of WRG 29 (1/rgt UNA) which occupied the positions inlcuding the Schloss Gleichenberg in the last week of April / first week in May 1945.

"It's interesting as to why he would switch from Lion (which he had in beginning) to SS runes."

Yes it is. As you know Ukrainians were officially prohibited from wearing the lighting runes. During training and well into 1944, hundreds of them wore this insignia. AFTER Brody, some still wore them.
After the Div became 1st Div of Ukr. Nat. Army in late April 1945, and certainly in the last few days of the war when capitulation was imminent, many took the opportunity to get rid of SS insignia. OWAD clearly felt no compulsion to do so. Furthermore, I have photos of him wearing the lion collar patch (taken during this training). His course at POSEN ended very late and he was one of the last officers to graduate and return to Galician Div. He was posted to a front unit. The old timers called them 'Pistolettes', which was a kind of a snipe at them as they often arrived in nice new uniforms, but of course mostly lacked the otherwise mandatory combat experience of Waffen-SS officer candidates.

For that reason casualties amongst these officers was high and some were found to be very lacking (which is rather unfortunate when your life is on the line).

There were ceratinly poor Ukr Platoon commanders. Here is an example.

"Following an order received by our regiment (31st) my assault platoon was chosen to launch a surprise attack at night on a section of the enemy trenches and capture one or more Soviet prisoners. Our plan was to attack at a segment of the front opposite the sector held by a company commanded by another Ukrainian Waffen-Untersturmführer, who had submitted some beautiful sketches of the location of enemy trenches in front of his company. There was no time to acquaint myself with the terrain and enemy position, however I was reassured by everyone that the information contained in his sketches which had been compiled as the result of scouting missions (Spähtrupp Unternehmen) conducted by his company, was correct. I was also promised that our artillery would concentrate its fire on the chosen location prior to the attack to soften up the enemy positions. This was to commence following a signal given by radio, or at an appointed time. We prepared for our mission, checking our weapons and covering our faces with soot. After midnight we left our lines. Following a route that I had memorised from the maps and sketches we advanced in attack formation. The night was quiet except for occasional single rifles shots. We passed some of our dead and Soviet dead lying in the woods. The terrain was covered with sparse trees and hedges. We moved forward taking special care not to stand on any dry branches until we reached our staging positions for our attack. So as not to alert the enemy to our presence, I forbade the radio operator to use his set. At the agreed time we heard the artillery shells exploding a short way infront of us. After five minutes the artillery stopped shelling and we moved forward. When we arrived at the target area we found no sign of enemy positions, only a few holes made by our artillery which had alerted the enemy. We continued to advance for some considerable distance from our staging area and still found no enemy trenches. We entered some denser woods and began to climb a slight incline when suddenly we heard the alarm and the enemy started to fire tracer bullets and flares which lit up the battle field as through it were daylight. At the same time we began to receive heavy machine gun fire. We dropped to the ground and started to run back the way we had come. Rolling down the incline under enemy fire I joined my troops at the bottom of the hill. After a hasty check I established that no one had been killed but two injured, although they could both walk by themselves. We managed to return hastily to our lines without any further incident. The Waffen-Untersturmführer was waiting for me and I gave him a piece of my mind. As a company commander he had not gone on these scouting missions himself but sent his subordinates, who not wanting to expose themselves to excessive danger had not ventured too far and reported something that looked plausible. He in turn had dressed up their reports in beautiful form and sent them to the regimental command".

Mike Melnyk

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