Friday, December 28, 2012

Russian-Germans Defending Brest 22-29 June 1941

One of the first heroic defenses against Nazi aggression by the Soviet Red Army took place at Brest Fortress on 22-29 June 1941. The fortress held out much longer than anybody expected due to the determination of the soldiers garrisoned there. Among them were a significant number of Russian-Germans in the 125th Rifle Regiment under Major Aleksandr Duhlkeit. Besides Duhlkeit the ethnic Germans that fought against the Nazis at Brest included Nikolai Kung, Heinrich Klinger, Edward Mueller, Edward Damm, Vladimir Weber, Georg Schmidt, Aleksandr Herzog, Aleksandr Hermann, Heinrich Reling, Viacheslav Meyer, Aleksandr Wagenleitner,  and Erich Krohl (Bugai, pp. 191-192).  The Soviet government posthumously awarded Meyer the Order of the Fatherland 2nd Degree for his role in the battle of Brest (German and Shul'ga, p. 28). It is probable that a large number of battles against the Nazis would have shown similar resolve by Russian-Germans in the ranks of the Red Army had the Stalin regime not removed them from military service and sent them to forced labor camps in the Urals and other distant regions.


N.F. Bugai, Oni srazhalis' za rodinu: Predstaviteli repressirovannykh narodov SSSR na frontakh Velikoi Otchestvennoi voiny (Moscow: Novyi Khrongraf, 2005).

Arkadii German and Igor Shul'ga, "'Ne byvat' fashistskoi svin'e v nashem sovetskom ogorode' : Sovetskie nemtsy na fronte i v tylu vraga," Rodina, May 2010, pp. 28-31.


Cossack said...

Just a short comment Otto. I would agree with you that had Russian Germans remained in their origin colonies we might have seen a greater participation among them in the defense of the homeland, but I would also say that had the descendants been familiar to the cause of their conditions, which left them persecuted in their faith and ethnicity, and had all events remained as they were at the time of the revolution under Lenin and Trotsky we probably wouldn't have to much to talk about here. For the most part those members who lived in the Ukraine and Caucasus's at this time retreated along with the German Armies withdrawal, knowing full well what their destiny would be. I say this in knowing that they knew what gossip was circulated throughout the Saratov Oblast during the revolution and who was eventually credited with the destruction of the former Imperial Dynasty. Simply what emerges is that these alleged 5th columnists had no choice in how they participated in defense of the Soviet Union because they most likely were unaware that a new counter-revolution was taking place in the advance of the German Army and that only a slight few embraced Bolshevism. We cannot compound those numbers beyond a realistic few. Those that resisted are long forgotten and perhaps forever unknown. This evidence is prolific when looking. I am certain Stalin knew this invasion was coming and how this event would have climaxed when being informed what had circulated among the colonies overseen by the NKVD. This then points to his agreement made in Malta for the return of all soviet citizens at the wars end. It also just occurred to me that my aunt was potentially to become a victim of this deportation return in 1944-45 when she had to prove to immigration here in the US that her father , my great grandfather was naturalized in 1914, otherwise she would have been returned. In the 20's it was no secret among the refugees who was responsible for their persecution. That is why I do not speculate on what might have happened had they remained put in the colonies. Looking into these names listed may not demonstrate something that is to favorable to their character in comparison to those who perished for their counter-revolutionary positions, however survival may be one excuse as to why they participated even for that short period in June. We can look at all those who were liquidated in 37-38 from military service and conclude that something was amiss here. It is difficult for me to glorify any defense of the Soviet Union when I know many names of the multitudes targeted for counter-revolution participation. More clarification needs to be provided before I can subject myself to a positive recognition for an honorable recognition. Perhaps they were the bullet bait my uncle use to describe, which would make this more palatable. Take care

J. Otto Pohl said...

There would have been a lot more Russian-German military resistance to Nazi aggression if the Stalin regime had not removed them from the Red Army. The expulsions from the army began in July 1941, but only really get underway after Stalin issued a general order on 8 September 1941 to remove all ethnic Germans from the military. Over 33,000 Russian-German soldiers, mostly Volga Germans were removed from the ranks and sent to perform forced labor. There is no evidence that the Russian-Germans were any less loyal to the USSR than any other nationality in 1941.

I did not mention it in the original post. But, Wagenleitner's wife and children had earlier been killed by the Nazis. So he had personal reasons to fight against them. I suspect that a number of others did as well. Again in 1941, the Russian-Germans were largely loyal Soviet citizens. It was the deportations of fall 1941 that turned many or most of them against the regime.