Someone from the French did not like Soviet Russia. There were especially many of them, and I don’t see anything surprising in that: fundamental ideological contradictions, an irreconcilable “class struggle” and, in the end, a matter of taste. Much has been written about this era too, but the fact that thousands of French volunteers fought on the side of the Nazis in the USSR during the Second World War came as a complete surprise to me. And rather unpleasant.
And my Russian colleague, like me, who had studied French and worked with him for many years, did not want to believe it at all, in spite of irrefutable historical material. Here we did not expect this from the French! As children, they reveled in “The Three Musketeers,” “The Count of Monte Cristo,” and “Captain Sorvi-Head,” and then listened to, read and watched films about pilots from the Normandy-Neman regiment, the Resistance Movement, the fearless poppies and the glorious General de Gaulle. And then some ...
It is clear: in any country, even a very cute and advanced country, there is a percentage of freaks capable of any vileness. We, for example, were Vlasov. But still sorry for the French. And the over-active, but extremely delicate Soviet propaganda diligently kept silent about this fact. And not only this one. Such is it, big politics.
The fact that in the late thirties the French did not want to fight the Germans, despite the capture of the last parts of Europe and even the declared war, - all right! That their beloved France surrendered to them after six weeks of formal defense was their business! That many of them worked hard on the conquerors is also understandable, although this is not only their business. But that, on top of that, they flooded with the company of the fascists in Russia, which did nothing wrong with them, this is too much, monsieur.
DOCUMENTS ARE WITNESS
Historical documents show that in the 1941 year, together with the Germans, the so-called Legion of French Volunteers was advancing on Moscow. The commander of this unit, Colonel Labonn, swore an oath to Hitler on the sword of a German general.
Later, the short-sighted Labonn was sentenced to life imprisonment, but then, on 1941, he, full of ambitious hopes, was diminishing along with his legion from the East Station of Paris to a distant, unknown Russia. Their train was written with unambiguous slogans: “Heil Hitler!” And “Long live France!”.
Pleasant-looking young people, with cheerful faces, clusters protruded from the windows of the carriages just above the inscribed words “Long Live the French Legion!”, Not knowing that few of them will have to live in the very near future. Judging by their age, if some of them had to fight, then only in Africa or Indochina against unorganized and poorly armed Aboriginal people. And, fooled by fascist propaganda, they expected to meet something similar in ours.
The second, from the time of Napoleon, the French attempt to conquer Russia brilliantly illustrated Hegel's words: "History repeats itself twice: the first time as a tragedy, the second as a farce." In 1812, there was no doubt a tragedy for both sides. The French venture of 1941 of the year became a tragic farce, more affecting the aggressor than defending.
To begin with the fact that this time only 2,5 of thousands of French arrived in Russia, and not hundreds of thousands, as under Bonaparte. Then the French brought the Germans with them - now the opposite. Now the French warriors had a second-rate Wehrmacht form, and only a rag tricolor on the sleeve and the same blue-white-red banner of the unit indicated their national identity. Well, the language, of course.
In the ugly overcoats and huge mittens, with scarves tied to the head, in order not to freeze the ears and the latest brains, they looked more like deserters or vagrants than conquerors. Interestingly, the French legion, or rather the regiment, was the only foreign unit in the Wehrmacht that was advancing on Moscow in the 1941 year. Undoubtedly, a sign of special trust!
ON FOOT TO MOSCOW
However, the Germans treated the French without much respect: they brought it to Smolensk, unloaded it from the train and sent it on foot to Moscow, deciding that it was too much honor to carry them. Trampled under Napoleon - trampled under Hitler. Only four hundred kilometers away! And let them say thank you, that they go not with fights, but across the occupied territory.
The head of the collaborationist government of France, Marshal Petain, who also did not love Russia, sent inspired words to the “legionaries” about military honor, fame and valor. But that was not up to high matters. The outfit donated by the Germans turned out to be too light and of poor quality for the harsh Russian autumn, and as a result of the 400 heat-loving French - the sixth part of the “legion” - never reached the front line. I wonder how much they would have fought?
In general, the story was repeated. This was also noted by the German generals. Those of them who survived until the end of the Second World War wrote in their memoirs that, as they attacked Moscow, they regularly looked at Napoleon’s diaries and found out with dismay that during the 1812 campaign of the year, the same misfortunes and problems lodged the French as 1941 Germans in XNUMX. And even then, in their graying heads, a melancholy thought sat down that this Russian campaign would most likely end in failure.
But the Fuhrer drove them forward, and they went. And they dragged the troops of their European vassals.
Finally, the French “legion” united with the Germans advancing on Moscow. By that time, the radiant smiles with which they were leaving Paris had already disappeared from the faces of the volunteers. The brave merry men lost them on the road, looking at the places of recent battles, at the ground exploded by the explosions and at the ruined armored vehicles. Now they were tormented by a heavy feeling that the greatest troubles would begin for them right now.
And they were not mistaken. It is amazing how pathetic little soul, what wretched brains you need to have in order to fight on your own will on the side of the monster who captured and humiliated your beautiful, freedom-loving homeland? To fight for those who shortly before this, in World War I, shed so much French blood!
Nevertheless, these were found. With these human garbage, the Germans gladly shut up the gaps in dangerous areas of the front, and when they found themselves on the sacred Borodino field, for the first time, the French were granted an “honorable” right for an adult to fight with the Red Army. That is, threw them into a full fight.
The participant of this sacrifice, the Chief of Staff of the Wehrmacht 4 Army Günther Blumentrit, wrote in his memoirs how Field Marshal von Kluge, commander of the same army, tried to cheer up sad foreigners before the battle, telling how in 1812 their ancestors won a “great victory” here over Russian troops.
How this “victory” ended, he did not recall, and the next day the French again, like 129 years ago, moved along the Borodino field to the positions of our troops ...
Historians still argue over who won the first battle of Borodino, Napoleon or Kutuzov, but this time there were no such questions. After the re-Borodin, the remnants of the French Legion, stupefied, maimed and contused, were sent outside of Russia, never to fight the Red Army again.
In addition to the disgraceful defeat of the “legion”, their masters, the Germans, gave their assessment of the actions of the French volunteers near Moscow: “... Their level of combat training is low. The sergeant staff ... does not show activity, since the senior staff does not show effectiveness. The officers are not capable of much and were clearly recruited according to a purely political principle. ” And in the end - a disappointing outcome: "The Legion is not capable of action."
However, later one of the French “conquerors” who had survived then was awarded an honorary award from the hands of Hitler himself. True, it happened in the 1945 year, in a Berlin bunker, on the eve of the German capitulation. With a high reward, the lucky one didn’t manage to walk, but it was possible to sit for a considerable number of years.
After visiting the Moscow region, the surviving "legionnaires" found themselves in Poland, where they came to their senses for a long time, were treated and re-staffed. Then they were sent to Ukraine and to Belarus to fight the partisans. For their zeal for their commander, Edgar Puo, he received two iron crosses from the Germans. But this did not help the “gallant” French legion, because in November 1944, it finally ceased to exist.
However, there were other French units that fought on the German side in World War II. The so-called Perrot Group of 80 volunteers fought with their fellow partisans in the north of France.
The German division of special purpose "Brandenburg" included a company of the French, located at the foot of the Pyrenees and also fought with poppies. Posing as a detachment of the patriotic resistance movement, this company cracked down on partisans and underground fighters, intercepted their transports with weapons and participated in the battle for Vercors, a mountain range in the Alps, where anti-fascist guerrillas were destroyed around 900.
Thousands of Frenchmen served on the Kriegsmarine - naval navy The Third Reich, where they also wore German uniforms, without additional patches. Why these empty formalities with tricolors?
But the 33-I Grenadier SS division "Charlemagne" ("Charlemagne") turned out to be the most "famous" division of the French volunteers. In February, the 1945 of the Germans threw it under the rink of the 1 of the Belarusian Front, and the remaining scraps were sent to defend Berlin. There, at the Reich Chancellery, the Soviet troops finished them off completely, together with the same Scandinavian volunteers from the SS division Nordland.
Then only a few dozen Frenchmen survived. Most of them were executed by their fellow countrymen from Fighting France, the rest received a long prison sentence. Quite a logical ending. This is what it means to not have your own head and fall under the influence of improper propaganda.
POWER IS IN THE TRUTH
In difficult, critical moments, people with weak mind and spirit cling to someone who looks the strongest, not realizing that strength is in truth, and it is not always immediately visible. A little later, someone might suddenly appear more abruptly, and the one they pinned their hopes on will disappear. And then they will have tight.
It is not known how many French volunteers fought against the USSR, but there were more than 23 thousand in their Soviet captivity. An impressive number.
They also fought against the Anglo-American troops, including in North Africa, for which London and Washington were already going to rank France in Hitler’s camp and occupy it with all the ensuing consequences.
Only a decisive position and the post-war prestige of Stalin allowed France to become one of the victorious countries in World War II, with which Field Marshal Keitel, who came to the signing of the German surrender, was very surprised: “How did they beat us ?!”
Charles de Gaulle was well aware of what would have happened with his country if not for the USSR, and he was perfectly aware of what Churchill would have billed France if not for the intercession of the Soviet leader. Therefore, it is not surprising that during his visit to Moscow, already after the “personality cult”, de Gaulle asked Khrushchev to take him to Stalin’s grave and stood around her for more than an hour.