Foreign volunteers in the German Army (WWII)
- One of the most amazing aspects of WWII and one of the least well-known is the incredibly large number of foreign volunteers that joined the German Armed Forces between 1939 and 1945. During WWII, nearly 2,000,000 foreigners served within the German fighting forces, many as willing volunteers, others through varying degrees of conscription. The reasons these volunteers joined the German Wehrmacht were varied, but a simple look at the numbers begins to tell the story – in the East alone nearly 1,000,000 men volunteered for service with Germany. This number is a direct result of the situation millions faced under the brutal rule of the Soviet Empire. Many foreign volunteers and conscripts were anonymously integrated into all areas of the military, while a great number of others formed distinct units consisting either partly or entirely of volunteers of specific ethnic, cultural or political backgrounds. These units were employed in all varieties of combat tasks from carrying wounded and supplies to fighting partisans, to serving on the front line. Some of these units would prove to be tenacious and elite formations – the match of any regular German units – while others would prove worthless in serious combat. Some units even mutinied and resisted the Germans after having been fully trained and armed! In the end, many volunteers were openly slaughtered by the partisans, and in some cases by the Allies themselves, while most others were handed over to their respective former homelands. In most cases, as with those sent to the former Soviet Union, these volunteers would never be seen again.
However, the Wehrmacht had volunteers from other non-European races such as African, Indian (which included Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, Christians and even Buddists), Arab, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Turkmen, etc. There were also Jewish troops who voluntarily served the German army. Some have served in the Judenrat or Jewish Police, who helped the German commanders to control the ghettos in the beginning, later they were guards at concentration camps such as Sonderkommando.
The volunteers came from:
- Great Britain
In March 1938 a Chinese officer named Chiang Wei-Kuo participated in the annexation of Austria with Germany. Chiang Wei-Kuo was the son of China’s nationalist leader Chiang Kai Shek. He was group commandant Panzer leader and managed his Panzers to control the occupied population. Several other Chinese persons were trained for service in the Wehrmacht, Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine.
The after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor the United States entered the global conflict. Many people in Asia believed the real enemy in the fight was the communism and the Soviet Union. For this reason many Asians from different countries went to Europe to join the military of the Third Reich. Several Asians already living in Europe were introduced to join the German Army. Asian volunteers were organized into their own battalions. The creation of OstBattalion-43 (Battalion 43) was incorporated to Wehrmacht and sent to the front in Russia.
Battalion 43 of the Wehrmacht consisted exclusively of East Asians from China, Japan, Korea and Mongolia. Also a minor part consisted of troops from Thailand and Indonesia. At the Russian front Battalion 43 suffered the same hardships as the German soldiers: cold, hunger, and Red Army. Battalion 43 fought from the Russian steppes to the fertile plains of Ukraine. These troops showed no fear of death and were quite feared by the Red Army. Japanese and Korean soldiers were the most fanatical within the battalion because of the bushido code of their religion. Mongols were more motivated because they suffered in their home country pressure of the USSR. The Chinese who were fearsome in battle fighting for a free China of Chiang Kai Shek and Mao Zedong's communism which were supported by Russia.
In early 1944 Battalion 43 withdrew from the eastern front and was sent to France and joined the Rommel's Army in Normandy. The mission of these was set next to the Coast Guard Channel to stop an Allied landing in the future, life in France Battalion was peaceful and quiet for several long months.
On June 6, 1944 the Allies invaded Normandy by land, sea and air. Battalion 43 was at that time scattered along the coast where the Americans had landed. At the end of D-Day Battalion 43 had been completely crushed with most troops being killed and taken prisoner. On D-Day Battalion 43 ceased to exist. The few Asians who managed to escape were not allowed again unify as a Battalion.
The Saudi Freies Arabien was a legion of volunteers, mostly Muslims, from the Middle East, North Africa and parts of Southern Europe. These troops were recruited in 1943 and fought for the Wehrmacht in Balkans and the North African desert
By April 19, 1943 more than 20,000 Muslim volunteers were serving the German Reich. The Arab population was mostly Muslim but several Arabs were of Greek Orthodox faith. The Grand Mufti Muhammad Hajj Amin al-Husayni Legion helped with the recruitment of Muslim volunteers.
Deutsch-Arabische Kommando Truppe
The Deutsch-Arabische Truppe Kommando (Kodat) was established in Tunisia in early January 1943 as a unit of shock troops of the Arab Wehrmacht, Commanded by Lt. Col. Meyer-Ricks. At first, it consisted of three battalions of volunteers from the nations of the Maghreb: Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. They used the French continental uniform khaki 1935 model unmarked except for a bracelet on his right arm, white with the inscription in black "Im Dienst der Deutschen Wehrmacht" ("Serving the German army), brown leather equipment French origin and German helmets.
Sub-officers and officers used the German regulation uniform coat on the right arm belonging to the "Orientkorps" used by the 287 and Sonderverband Sonderverband 288.