A Tangled Skein

1944-45. Nazis arm Soviet POWs who are promising to topple Stalin and who then turn around and liberate Prague from the Nazis, only to be turned over to the Soviets after the war ends. Nothing is as simple as it seems.

Vlasov’s forgotten army

Communists buried legacy of Soviet General Andrei Andreyevich Vlasov and his battalion of POWs that helped free Prague from the Nazis

By Stephen Weeks, for The Prague Post

…Between that November [1944] and April of 1945, two divisions of “Vlasov’s Army,” more than 50,000 men, were formed, equipped and trained. Nine officers were Jews, concealed by Vlasov personally. Germany could not afford to equip and provide munitions for more men. This army had its own hospitals, training schools for officers, supply systems and air force. And on April 14, 1945, it was sent not to liberate Russia but to try to halt the Soviet advance across the Oder, only a few hours’ drive from Berlin.

Seeing how hopeless, as well as pointless, the situation was for his force, Vlasov turned his men back and decided to march across Bohemia to get to Pilsen — where he would deliver them as prisoners to the Americans, who were halted there. Stalin had already made it known that if any of Vlasov’s men fell into his hands they would receive long and painful deaths.

Read the whole thing.

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About Doug Merrill

Freelance journalist based in Tbilisi, following stints in Atlanta, Budapest, Munich, Warsaw and Washington. Worked for a German think tank, discovered it was incompatible with repaying US student loans. Spent two years in financial markets. Bicycled from Vilnius to Tallinn. Climbed highest mountains in two Alpine countries (the easy ones, though). American center-left, with strong yellow dog tendencies. Arrived in the Caucasus two weeks before its latest war.

6 thoughts on “A Tangled Skein

  1. Very interesting. Many thanks for the link, wouldn’t have happened upon it by myself!

    In the nothing is as simple as it seems category, how many of you heard of the Cap Arcona disaster?

    The Cap Arcona was the largest of three ships the Nazis loaded with the inmates of a smaller concentration camp near Hamburg, intent on sailing out into the Baltic Sea and sinking them. But just when the ships left the harbour on 3 May, a British bombing raid commenced – believing Nazi soldiers are on board fleeing to Scandinavia, the ships were bombed and strafed with gunfire, sunk, killing 7,500 to 9,000 people, which is the second worst naval disaster ever (after the sinking of the refugee-filled but military-pained Wilhelm Gusloff by a Russian submarine a few months earlier).

    While this incident is little known, even less known is the circumstance that connect it to the fire-bombing of Dresden: Churchill apparently thought that ‘Bomber Harris’ over-reached with that attack, and as a consequence, gave Fighter Command instead of Bomber Command the control over German skies. However, the latter had much worse aerial reconnaisance.

  2. Also, who can name the city where the worst retaliatory killing of civilians after an attack on troops took place during WWII? One worse than Lidice, Oradour-sur-Grane, and Ardeatine Caves combined? (This is true for the second worst, too.)

  3. …sorry, at the end of the first comment, I meant: “…but Fighter Command had much worse aerial reconnaisance.”

  4. To be fair, my father passed through Dresden as a POW. He said it looked no worse than any of the other the German bombed out cities.

  5. inventor, Dresden wasn’t just bombed out but had a firestorm, and its speciality isn’t even that, but being bombed as a purely civilian target (no significant industry, no military there, but hundreds of thousands of refugees).

  6. The Vlasov Army was part of one of the more shameful acts of the Anglo-American allies in WWII.

    Post-war, thousands of Soviets POWs were shipped back to the USSR, along with many emigres who had never been Soviet citizens. This was done because of fears that the USSR would hang onto Anglo-American POWs who were in German POW camps now in Soviet hands: this is a good summary of what happened.

    This exchange forms part of the plot in Anthony Burgess’ book Any Old Iron.

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