In March 1942, in the village of Osintorf (Belarus), the formation of the Russian National People’s Army (RNNA) began, which initially included prisoners of war from the ZZ-A, the 1st Cavalry Corps and the 4th Airborne Corps of the ZF. Mortally exhausted Red Army soldiers (after washing, resting and being fed – were enlisted in the ranks of the Nazi German Forces. By August 1942, the RNNA numbered about 8 thousand people. The Commander of the 19th A ZF, Lieutenant General M.F. Lukin, who was in captivity, was offered to Command this Army. But he resolutely refused to cooperate with the Germans. The army was taken over by the former Commander of the 41st SD Colonel Boyarsky. The RNNA units took part in hostilities against the 1st Caucasian Corps Commanded by P.A. Belov in May 1942.
Late in 1941, at Osintorf near Orsha, the Abwehr (the OKW intelligence organisation) had begun training several hundred captured Soviet soldiers and officers as diversionists. The Germans had tried out somewhat similar groups earlier in the campaigns, but those had been made up emigres, members of minorities, or Russian-speaking Germans, and most had not lived in Russia recently or had lived on the fringes of Soviet life. The Osintorf trainees, except for their commander, an émigré Colonel Konstantin Kromiadi, were all completely up-to-date, authentic products of the Soviet system, most particularly of the Soviet Army. In Soviet uniforms they would be expected to merge easily into Soviet formations, especially heterogeneous ones like that Commanded Belov. This tactic would be seen again in France during the 1944 Battle of Bulge – where the Nazi Germans deployed American-speaking German soldiers in US Army uniforms against the Allies as a means to produce chaos and confusion within the Allied frontlines. Although these men were serving soldiers in the Nazi German Army, the Allies took the decision that as they were ‘out of uniform’, they were therefore ‘spies’ operating behind enemies and not POWs. As such, around seventeen of these Germans captured by the Americans were shot as ‘spies’ by firing squad.
At the end of the war, however, Joseph Stalin (and the Communist Party) preferred a more ‘forgiving’ attitude toward all those ‘forced’ by circumstance to assist the Nazi Germans in anyway. Former Soviet POWs – for the most part – were welcomed home as heroes in the USSR!
Russian Language Reference:
English Language Reference:
Earl F Ziemke: Moscow to Stalingrad – Decision in the East, Military Heritage Press, (1988), Page 244