Thursday, 21 October 2010

Did Allied Leaflets Make Defenders of Hauger Fight on?

In reading up on 9 Para's engagement on the 7th of June at Hauger, against German Army volunteers/conscripts from Soviet Republics, I found the following text which gives an overall assessment of who those people were and why they enrolled in the German Army and thus were in Normandy, 1944, shooting at British paratroopers:

In my opinion there is one reason which explains everything: the general hatred of the Soviet system, a hatred greater than inborn patriotism and loyalty to one's own government. Those who have not seen the limitless degradation of man in what was the Soviet hell cannot understand that a moment may come when a man out of sheer desperation will take up arms against the hateful system even at the side of an enemy. The responsibility for his mutiny falls on the system and not him. Here the notions of loyalty and treason lose their meaning. If, in the eyes of many people, Germans who fought against Hitler were not traitors, why should the Russians who fought against the Soviet system be traitors?

How little public opinion in the West understood the real state of affairs is perhaps best shown by the text of the leaflets, addressed to Soviet soldiers in German uniform, which were dropped by the Allied Air Forces in France in the summer of 1944. These leaflets called for the cessation of fighting and promised as a reward - speedy repatriation of prisoners to the USSR! The effect was of course, such that some of the Eastern troops fought desperately to the last man. Thus, for example, an Armenian battalion perished completely in bitter fighting. Soldiers of the Eastern formations were the unhappiest soldiers of the Second World War. Deprived of their fatherland, scorned by their protectors, regarded generally as traitors, although in their consciences they were not traitors, they fought often for an alien and hateful cause; the only reward which they eventually received for their pains was toil and death, mostly in a foreign land, or "repatriation" to the hell from which they had tried to escape. 

The part I particularly found of interest was that Allied leaflets dropped on Normandy before D-Day, targeting the 'Ostruppen' in these regiments, hugely backfired. In all but promising to repatriate them to the USSR, the Allied forces had ensured that these men (who were known in part for surrendering or running away at engagements with an enemy) would fight to the bitter end.

If Private D. R. Hurley were indeed shot at Hauger, then the leaflet drops by the allies may have helped to create the circumstances. At the very least they may have resulted in the deaths of a few more Paras from his battalion.

Russian Volunteers in the German Wehrmacht in WWII by Lt. Gen Wladyslaw Anders and Antonio Munoz

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