Neutral volunteers against the USSR?

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.
Komi
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Neutral volunteers against the USSR?

Post by Komi » 07 Dec 2020 13:32

Aside from the Spanish Blue Division, did the Axis war against the Soviets attract volunteers from any other neutral countries like Sweden, Portugal, Ireland, Switzerland, so on? Given how the Axis hyped up their war with Russia as a European crusade against Communism, I wouldn't be surprised if it attracted anti-Communists from neutral countries other than Spain.

ML59
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Re: Neutral volunteers against the USSR?

Post by ML59 » 07 Dec 2020 14:36

Swedish volunteers joined in small number (about 200) the W-SS, some Swiss did the same on an individual basis. People from a lot of different countries joined individually the German Armed Forces, mostly being of German origin and mother language. But overall we're talking about almost symbolic numbers, in the general contest of a brutal and gigantic conflict: few thousands at most, all together, including the Norwegian, Danish, Dutch and Belgian contingents.

Komi
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Re: Neutral volunteers against the USSR?

Post by Komi » 07 Dec 2020 15:18

ML59 wrote:
07 Dec 2020 14:36
Swedish volunteers joined in small number (about 200) the W-SS, some Swiss did the same on an individual basis.
Did any do so in response to the war on the Eastern Front? Did Operation Barbarossa bring in a new batch of volunteers from these countries? Did they actually get to serve on the Eastern Front? That's the kind of thing I'm curious about.
ML59 wrote:
07 Dec 2020 14:36
But overall we're talking about almost symbolic numbers, in the general contest of a brutal and gigantic conflict: few thousands at most, all together,
A few thousand may seem unworthy of interest to some people, but it's the kind of thing that interests me, and I want to learn more about it even if there were only two dozen.
ML59 wrote:
07 Dec 2020 14:36
including the Norwegian, Danish, Dutch and Belgian contingents.
I'm aware of contingents from those countries serving on the Eastern Front, but they were occupied territories or puppet states, not neutrals, so in this case not what I'm asking about.

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Ironmachine
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Re: Neutral volunteers against the USSR?

Post by Ironmachine » 08 Dec 2020 08:10

A very small number of Portuguese volunteers (about 150 according to the most detailed surveys available) served with the Blue Division.

Komi
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Re: Neutral volunteers against the USSR?

Post by Komi » 08 Dec 2020 11:45

Ironmachine wrote:
08 Dec 2020 08:10
A very small number of Portuguese volunteers (about 150 according to the most detailed surveys available) served with the Blue Division.
Interesting, I didn't know the Blue Division accepted foreigners (I mean non-Spaniards). Were these Portuguese living in Spain at the time they volunteered, or did they travel specifically to join the unit? Were they grouped together in a sub-unit, or just dispersed among the Spaniards? Did any other foreign nationalities aside from Portuguese volunteer for the Blue Division?

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Re: Neutral volunteers against the USSR?

Post by Lasse » 08 Dec 2020 12:15

Komi wrote:
07 Dec 2020 15:18
ML59 wrote:
07 Dec 2020 14:36
Swedish volunteers joined in small number (about 200) the W-SS, some Swiss did the same on an individual basis.
Did any do so in response to the war on the Eastern Front? Did Operation Barbarossa bring in a new batch of volunteers from these countries? Did they actually get to serve on the Eastern Front? That's the kind of thing I'm curious about.
ML59 wrote:
07 Dec 2020 14:36
But overall we're talking about almost symbolic numbers, in the general contest of a brutal and gigantic conflict: few thousands at most, all together,
A few thousand may seem unworthy of interest to some people, but it's the kind of thing that interests me, and I want to learn more about it even if there were only two dozen.
The first Swedish volunteers joined the SS prior to Operation Barbarossa (some already during the 1930:s), a few during the spring of 1941 (following Quislings speach to the Norwegian youth in Januari 1941). The increase came following Operation Barbarossa, but then again; the number of Swedish volunteers was in total approx. 180 individuals throughout the war, so there were never any larger numbers. Quite a few served on the eastern front, mainly with Wiking (1941-43), Nordland (1943-1945), Nord (1943-45) and as war correspondents with SS-Standarte Kurt Eggers. A few in other units.

If you wish to know more about the Swedish volunteers, I recommend my book Hitlers Swedes: https://www.amazon.com/Hitlers-Swedes-H ... B0759GHJ85

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Re: Neutral volunteers against the USSR?

Post by ML59 » 08 Dec 2020 12:31

Portugal provided a contingent of volunteers to fight on the side of the Nationalist coalition forces during the Spanish Civil War. The Portuguese volunteers, called Viriatos, whose number is between 8.000 and 12.000, joined the nationalist forces officially on an individual base but, de facto, they were supported by the Portuguese fascist government of Doctor Salazar. Some members of this contingent maintained a relationship with Spanish far-right members of the Bando Nacional and when Hitler called for Spain joining the anti-bolshevik crusade, a few of them asked to join the Blu Division and were accepted by the Spanish authorities but, in this case, there was no official backing from Portuguese authorities. At least 159 Portuguese citizens enlisted in the Blu division.

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Re: Neutral volunteers against the USSR?

Post by ML59 » 08 Dec 2020 12:48

According to the official figures more than 2.000 Swiss citizens enlisted in the German Wehrmacht, some joined directly the W-SS, mostly being sent to the 6. SS Gebirgs Division. Many Swiss volunteers had a double (German-Swiss) citizenship and the most came from the German-speaking cantons of Bern and Zurich. However, being Swiss formally a neutral state, Swiss citizens were not allowed by the law to join any warring party, so their partecipation to the war on the German side was to be sanctioned. Switzerland came down hard on the volunteers. In 1943 the government decreed that all Swiss citizens who had cooperated with the Third Reich should be deprived of their nationality. This had been applied to 29 cases by the end of 1945. On their return the volunteers had to face military justice, with sentences depending on the person's private and military reputation as well as his motives for joining a foreign army. However, ex-prisoners of war were generally subject to different treatment and often did not have to go to trial. (source: Swissinfo.ch)

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Re: Neutral volunteers against the USSR?

Post by Komi » 08 Dec 2020 16:20

Lasse wrote:
08 Dec 2020 12:15
ML59 wrote:
08 Dec 2020 12:31
ML59 wrote:
08 Dec 2020 12:48
Thank you guys for all that information, especially the inclusion of Switzerland's attitude to their own citizens enlisting and the book recommendation.

Ljotrulf
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Re: Neutral volunteers against the USSR?

Post by Ljotrulf » 08 Dec 2020 19:17

Only two volunteers from Ireland served in the Waffen-SS (verified) James Brady and Frank Stringer.

Komi
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Re: Neutral volunteers against the USSR?

Post by Komi » 08 Dec 2020 19:25

Ljotrulf wrote:
08 Dec 2020 19:17
Only two volunteers from Ireland served in the Waffen-SS (verified) James Brady and Frank Stringer.
When/how did they join? And did either serve on the Eastern Front?

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Ironmachine
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Re: Neutral volunteers against the USSR?

Post by Ironmachine » 09 Dec 2020 08:32

Komi wrote:Interesting, I didn't know the Blue Division accepted foreigners (I mean non-Spaniards).
AFAIK, no official document ever stated that Spanish nationality was needed to enlist in the Blue Division, probably because the number of foreigners living in Spain in that period was so small that no authoritiy ever thought about it. Compounding the problem was the fact that recruiting was far from centralized, if only because it was carried simultaneously by the Army and Falange (the State party). Within the Army, it seems that any foreigner already serving in the Army (in the Spanish Legion) was accepted (unless there were disciplinary problems or something similar). As for Falange, it's possible that the matter was decided by local authorities. Then, you may find some tales that someone was rejected for being a foreigner, while at the same time other foreigners were accepted.
Komi wrote:Were these Portuguese living in Spain at the time they volunteered, or did they travel specifically to join the unit?
There are examples of both cases.
Komi wrote:Were they grouped together in a sub-unit, or just dispersed among the Spaniards?
They were dispersed among the subunits of the division.
Komi wrote:Did any other foreign nationalities aside from Portuguese volunteer for the Blue Division?
The short answer is yes. The long answer... it's difficult. The matter is well summarised in an article titled "Extranjeros en la División Azul" by José Luis de Mesa
The big problem when trying to answer that question is that data is scarce and not always reliable. Compounding the problem is that fact that many times we know the origin of the volunteer, but it is not possible to know if they already had the Spanish nationality. It seems there were about 200-300 volunteers of foreing origins, but it's difficult to know how many of them already have the Spanish nationality when they joined the Blue Division. The most numerous group of foreigners in the Blue Division were the Portuguese, and it seems that most of them did not have Spanish nationality. There were about 20-30 Russians that left their country after the Communist victory, but most of them already have the Spanish nationality before joining the Division. There were also a few Germans and Austrians, but they were long-serving members of the Spanish Legion, and they had Spanish nationality. Then they were a few volunteers from other European countries (Italians, Belgians, French, Estonians) which probably did not have Spanish nationality, and volunteers born in American countries (Cuba, Argentina,...) but whose real nationality at the moment of enlisting we don't know.

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Re: Neutral volunteers against the USSR?

Post by Komi » 09 Dec 2020 09:54

Ironmachine wrote:
09 Dec 2020 08:32
That's fascinating, thank you for expanding on that. The Blue Division looks like something I should investigate a bit more, at least to familiarise myself with the basics about this unit. I don't suppose you could recommend any reading material to get me started? I'm sure most of the good ones are in Spanish...
Ironmachine wrote:
09 Dec 2020 08:32
There were about 20-30 Russians that left their country after the Communist victory, but most of them already have the Spanish nationality before joining the Division. There were also a few Germans and Austrians, but they were long-serving members of the Spanish Legion, and they had Spanish nationality. Then they were a few volunteers from other European countries (Italians, Belgians, French, Estonians) which probably did not have Spanish nationality, and volunteers born in American countries (Cuba, Argentina,...) but whose real nationality at the moment of enlisting we don't know.
Interesting. White Russians I'm not too surprised to hear of, since I know there were some who joined the LVF from Vichy France, but as you say they mostly already had the nationality of the host country. French and Italians I guess isn't too surprising either, given the proximity to Spain. Belgians and Estonians are an odd one though, could you elaborate at all on where you saw mention of them? Latin-Americans were also something I wondered about, given that they already spoke Spanish. Would you have anything to say about where you saw them mentioned? This is all interesting stuff for me. I'll have to look up that article you mentioned...

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Ironmachine
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Re: Neutral volunteers against the USSR?

Post by Ironmachine » 09 Dec 2020 12:19

Komi wrote:I don't suppose you could recommend any reading material to get me started? I'm sure most of the good ones are in Spanish...
Well, for obvious reasons most of my sources about the Blue Division are in Spanish and I'm not up-to-date on what is available in English on that subject, but I think a good beginning could be Hitler's Spanish Legion: The Blue Division in Russia, by Gerald R. Kleinfeld and and Lewis A. Tambs. I have the Spanish edition and it is quite good and comprehensive. There are also a number of Osprey booklets that can work as an introduction to the subject.
Komi wrote:Belgians and Estonians are an odd one though, could you elaborate at all on where you saw mention of them? Latin-Americans were also something I wondered about, given that they already spoke Spanish. Would you have anything to say about where you saw them mentioned? This is all interesting stuff for me. I'll have to look up that article you mentioned..
The main source is the article I mentioned, plus information I have seen through the years in books and forums. Be aware that for many of those nationalities it was just one or two volunteers, do not expect anything more.

Komi
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Re: Neutral volunteers against the USSR?

Post by Komi » 09 Dec 2020 13:07

Ironmachine wrote:
09 Dec 2020 12:19
a good beginning could be Hitler's Spanish Legion: The Blue Division in Russia, by Gerald R. Kleinfeld and and Lewis A. Tambs. I have the Spanish edition and it is quite good and comprehensive. There are also a number of Osprey booklets that can work as an introduction to the subject.
I'll have a look-see.
Ironmachine wrote:
09 Dec 2020 12:19
The main source is the article I mentioned, plus information I have seen through the years in books and forums. Be aware that for many of those nationalities it was just one or two volunteers, do not expect anything more.
I'll see if I can get that article translated. Of course, but even one or two volunteers is of interest to me if there's any info on it.

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