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Hitler's Spanish Legions

Discussion in 'WWII Books & Publications' started by PzJgr, May 31, 2019.

  1. PzJgr

    PzJgr Drill Instructor

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    A quarter of the way into the book about the formation and operations of the 250th Infantry (The Spanish "Blue") Division. A very good read. Amazing the organization and effort the Germans put into integrating the foreign legions. I always thought they just armed them and put them out to the front.

    More interesting is how the Spaniards treated the POWs. They treated them humanely and would often put them to work in supporting roles of which according them, the POWs did so gladly. If true, how different the war would have been for the Germans I think. A good read.

    The book

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: May 31, 2019
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  2. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    I had read that by late 1941 a 100,000 plus 'HiWi's' were serving in the Wehrmacht in the east, and that treatment varied depending on the local commander.
     
  3. bushmaster

    bushmaster Active Member

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    I enjoyed the book a great deal. I knew Spain sent troops to Russia but I was unaware of the numbers involved and their effectiveness.
     
  4. PzJgr

    PzJgr Drill Instructor

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    Same here. I knew they performed well. Just kinda cool to get the more personal indepth experiences
     
  5. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish WW2|ORG Editor

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    Never really thought of the Blues as Hiwis.
    Might be that technically correct umbrella term, but denotes a rather 'lesser' level of engagement to me. Pressed men described as volunteers in some way.
    Blues seen as rather more respected fellow fighters than the somewhat derogatory 'Hiwi'.

    Didn't you have a relative amongst them, Ike? Stugs?
     
  6. bushmaster

    bushmaster Active Member

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    From what I've read, once they made their bones, The Spaniards were well thought of.
     
  7. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    I wasn't trying to say they were HiWi's, but rather commenting on their treatment of local populations being better than the norm for German forces as a whole. I have heard similar comments from other nationalities allied to Germany in the East and indeed some German (though not many) who treated locals correctly. I wasn't as clear as intended.

    On reflection the Blue Division seems to occupy a middle ground between 'HiWi's' and a allied nation. Spain did not declare war on the USSR and the Spaniards served as 'volunteers', not unlike Cossack's and Ukrainian's.

    Franco was playing three dimensional chess by showing 'loyalty' to Hitler without committing Spain to a ruinous war and getting rid of his most rabid supporters who where a threat to his control of Spain.
     
  8. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    Hilfswillige or HiWi were former Soviet PW or civilian volunteers. They were assigned as service personnel, typically as part of the Tross (unit trains) of various units in order to free up "German" troops for frontline service. They were normally unarmed.

    Osttruppen (Eastern Troops) were Freiwilligen (Volunteers) and were former Soviet PW or civilian volunteers organized as complete military units, mostly of battalion-size. Most were formed as infantry units, but there were also some cavalry, artillery, and engineer units. Most were identified by nationality or region, those comprised of ethnic Russians were Russiches and were identified specifically as “Ost-Batallione”, “Ost-Abtielung”, “Ost-Batterie”, and so forth. Units of “Turkic” and other non-Slavic origin, such as Cossack's, Ukrainians, Azerbaijanis, Georgians, Armenians, Tatars, and North Caucasians, were ethically more acceptable to the Nazi ideology and so were identified as such.

    The 250. Infanterie-Division was comprised of Spanish Freiwilligen (and, reportedly, a fair number Spanish anti-fascists not executed as well as some fascists not completely happy with Franco as generalissimo, who by "volunteering" were conveniently exiled from Spain). The division was organized in July 1941, committed to the Ostfront in September with 9. Armee near Grodno in September, and withdrawn and disbanded on 20 October 1943 after the Allies put pressure on Franco. Individual Spainards did remain behind, most organized in a battalion-size "Spanischen Legion".

    Other Freiwilligen included various "Nordic" (Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian), Dutch, French, Walloon, and Flemish SS units, again mostly battalion-size, as well as British, Indian, and myriads of others...basically if you were an ethnic minority that felt put upon and were acceptable "racially" to the Germans, they would organize you in a unit.
     
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  9. ColHessler

    ColHessler Member

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    I enjoyed this book also.
     
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  10. PzJgr

    PzJgr Drill Instructor

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    So far very very interesting and enlightening. I expect just an overview of the Blue Division's participation in the East. This is a very detailed account of everything that entailed in getting the division over to the East. I am amazed at how intricate the German organization was in not just for this division but all of the foreign divisions that participated. It really makes sense but just amazed at how detailed the book is and I am only 35% into it. Highly recommended
     
  11. PzJgr

    PzJgr Drill Instructor

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    So finally finished the book. I am surprised that one division garnered so much attention from Hitler but then again, it had to do more with Spain as a whole than just the one division. Very enlightening and highly recommend reading it. I see more as to how/why my grandfather volunteered.
     

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