*** World War II : Operation Barbarossa NAZI Germany allies

Operation Barbarossa: NAZI Allies

NAZI allies
Figure 1.--Mussolini without consulting The Italian General Staff thinking Germany had won the War entered World War II (June 1940). The Italian Army soon found that not was Brirain not defeated, but it had to Fight the Soviet Red Army and the U.S. Army as well. TheItalian Army suffered sizeable reverves in both the Balans and North Africa. A poorly equipped Greek Army not only stopped the Italians, but drove them back into Albania. A small British Army drove a huge Italian Army and drive it back into Libya. They had to be resuced by the Germans. Despite these reverses, Mussolini committed a substantial force to Hitler's war in the East against the Red Army. the planning of which he was not consuled. The Italian 8th Army fought with the Germans in the Ukraine. They escaped the Red Army's initial Stalingrad offensive (November 1942), but were engulfed by subsequent actions. Very few of the Italians committed in the East and not killed in the fighting ever made it back to Italy after the War.

The NAZIs on the Eastern Front did have allies. NAZI propaganda sought to depict the invasion of the Soviet Union as a modern European crusade against Bolshevism. Unsaid of course was that the invasion was not only against the Bolsheviks, but an imperialistic war to seize German Lebensraum and pilage resources as well as a genocidal campaign to murder millons of Slavs. Hitler did have allies or his campaign, in fact he had a lot of them. At the heightofthe War in the east, about one-third of the German manpower were non-Germans. The most important contingents were the Axis allies (Italy, Hungary, and Romania). There were also smaller Axis contingents (Croatia ad Slovakia). The Romanians to curry Hitler's favor and regain land seized by the Soviets (1940) provided the largest contingent. Many of these forces proved unreliable in combat, in part because the Germans did not properly equip them. The most effective were the Finns. The Spanish volunter Blue Division also proved effective but was only one division. There were other allies. The Germans recruited men from the occupied countries. Most were members of local Fascist parties or youths who were recruited from Fascist youth groups. At the time of Barbarossa the NAZI victory looked assured. As the war progressed that victory proved increasingly unlikely and volunteers more difficult to recruit. The Germans also recruited anti-Bolchevick Soviets, but here were limited because of their genocidal policies. There were also recruits from the Baltic countries which had been occupied by the Soviets and treated with great brutality.

German Propaganda

NAZI propaganda sought to depict the invasion of the Soviet Union as a modern European crusade against Bolshevism. Unsaid of course was that the invasion was not only against the Bolsheviks, but an imperialistic war to seize German Lebensraum and pilage resources as well as a genocidal campaign to murder millons of Slavs. The anti-Bolshevick appeal did have some resonance among European Fascists.

The Axis

Germany, Italy, and Japan signed the Tripartite Pact September 27, 1940. The agreement allied Germany and Italy (which were at war with Britain) and Japan (which was at war with China). Germany and Italy has since 1939-40 been at war with Britain. Japan since 1937 had been at war with China. The alliance did not require the partners to join these wars, but it did require them to come to each other's aid if attacked by any country. The alliance became known as the Berlin-Rome-Tokyo Axis alliance, or commonly the Axis. The three Axis partners recognized German hegemony over most of Europe; Italian hegemony in the Mediterranean, and Japanese hegemony in East Asia. After the Axis agreement was signed, several German allies joined the Axis, notably Vichy France and Fascist Spain refused to do so. Japan had no Asian allies, except for the puppet state of Manchukuo. Unlike the Allies, there was no real attempt by the Axis to coordinate strategy and planning.

Axis Allies

The NAZIs on the Eastern Front did have allies, although largely reluctant ones. The War in the East was from the beginnin Hitler's war. The Axis allies were only brought in after Hitler had decided on the course of action. Thus Hitler had forces to bolster the Whermacht in its campaihn against the much larger Red Army. The most important were its Axis allies, especially Italy, Hungary, and Romania. They were also able to recruit individuals from occupied countries. These allies proved generally unreliable in combat, in part because the Germans did not properly equip them, but they did not have the same commitment to battle as the Germans had. The Romanians were the most committed bcause of Romanian territory the Soviets seized (1940). The morale problem was especlly the case of the Italians who had little interest in fighting even in the sunny Meditetteranean, let alone the vast Russian Steppe far from home. Even if they had been more motivated, Germany's Axis allies were not equipped for modern warfare. Germany did not have the industrial capacitgy to fully equip German units, let alone those of his allies. Nor did Hitler want his allies to be to well equipped as he would lose control of the. The Finns were quite different. They were effective fighters and were figting to recover the substantial territory seized by the Soviets in the Winter War (1940-41). They were, however, not Fascists. And did not actively pursue the War much beyond their recovered terrirories. The Spanish proved to be effective fighters, but Franco was only willing to commit a single division. The one Axis ally, Japan, that could have made a real difference chose to bring America into the War which only undermined Germany's strategic posituon. Essentially Hitler decided on the strategy and his European Axis allies were expected to contribute men and support to the NAZI war effort with raw material, industrial products, and labor in exchange for minimal shipments of military equipment. Often the shipments consisted of obsolete equipment.


Although Hitler and Mussolini were teoretically partners in the War, Hitler never planned any of his campaigns with Mussolini. Mussolinmi was very much a junior partner in the War. Mussolini returned the favor with his invasion of Greece (1940). After Hitler launched Barbarossa, Mussolini did contribute a substantial number of Italian troops to the campaign. Mussolini rushed the Corpo di Spedizione Italiano in Russia (CSIR-Italian Expeditionary Corps in Russia) to participate in Barbarossa (July 1941). This was a unit consisting of 62,000 troops. They were deployed with Army Group South in the Ukraine. The Russian winter proved to a great shock to the Italians who were accustomed to a mild Mediterranean climate. The Italian Army substantially expanded its commitment to a full army group--the Armata Italiana in Russia (ARMIR--Italian Army in Russia). It was commonly referred to as the Italian 8th Army. It totaled pver 200,000 men (July 1942). The 8th Army was committed to the German Stalingrad offensive as part of German Army Group B (Heeresgruppen B) commanded by General Maximilian von Weichs. It was deployed south of Stalingrad to help protect the German flank as the German 6th Army drove into Stalingrad itself (August 1942). The Soviet counter offensive Operation Uranus drove through the realitive weak German allies (Hungarian and Romanian forces) deployed north and south of the city (November 19). The Italians deployed along the lower Don were not immediately affected. A new Soviet offensive Operation Saturn smashed into the Italian positions. The Italians suffered terrible losses. The debacle was in part because they were not equipped with modern armor, mostly the light tanks they used in North Africa. About 20,000 Italians were killefd and 64,000 captured. About 45,000 men the Soviets ha]d surrounded managed to dight theur way out. The despirited Italians who were also suffering losses in North Africa withdrew the remanents of the shattered 8th Army back to Italy. They arrived home with little fanfare. Mussolini was ot anxious to publicize another debacle. Most of the Italian POWs captured by the Soviets perished in camps because of the apauling conditions.


Hungary as a contiuent part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire had fought with Germany in World War I. Hungary was willing to join the Axis. And it benfitted with the award of Transylvania which was transferred from Romania (1940). The Hungarians were, however, much less willing to commit troops to Barbarossa and the campaign in the East. Hungary's war aims were thus largely satisfied even before Hungary entered the War. Thus Hitler found Hungary an unentusiastic ally. Hitler after the failure of Barbarossa (December 1941) had to compel the Hungarians to make an important contribution to the 1942 campaign. The Hungarian forces were demployed in Ukraine and along with the Romanians were deployed to protect the German 6th Army's flanks at Stalingrad. The Soviet counter offensive, Operation Uranus, smashed both the Huingarians and Romanians (November 1942). After the German defeat at Kursk (1943), the Hungarian Government under Admiral Horthy began to try to get out of the War. Hitler refused to allow this. He eventually had to seize control of the Hungarian Army to keep them in the war (1944).


Romania was a key ally for NAZI Germany on the Eastern Front. Romania after Munich (September 1938)and the NAZI-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact found itself in an impossible situation, sandwiched between two totalitarian behomouths with expanionist designs. Stalin struck first, seizing large areas of northern an eastern Romania which had been part of the Tsarist Empire. Than as Hungary and Romania prepared for war, Hitler intervened. The Vienna Award further eviserated the country. Hitler awarded Transylvania to Hungary and a smaller region to Bulgaria. The country became a bone of contention between the Soviets and NAZIs and doscussed by Molotov and Hitler and their Berlin meeting. Hitler was not about to allow the Soviets further incursions in Romania and the Balkans. Romania was key to the German war economy. Ploesti was the principal source of oil for the German war effort. Romania had fought with the Allies during World War I. Now Romania was left dependant on Germany for its survival. And once Hitler forced Romania into the Axis and German forces entered the country, the Germans no longer had to pay for the oil and other resources. The Romanians to curry Hitler's favor provided the largest non-German contingent for Barbarossa and formed an important part of Army Group South in the Ukraine. Their goal was the provinces seized by the Soviet. The Romanians were also intent on recovering Transylvania which Hitler had awarded to Hungary (1940). The front was huge and Army Group South faced a massive, well equipped Red Army. The Romanians were also used for actions behind the front line and the investment of cities like Odessa which the advancing Panzers passed around. They were commited terrible actions against Jews. The performance of the Romanian Army has generally been presented as poor. This is largely becuse most early accounts of Barbarossa which appeared in the West were books by German generals who were anxious to glorify their victories and blame failure variously on the weather, Hitler, and their allies. A good example was Field Marshall Manstein's account of the 1942 Crimean campaign in which he castigates the Romanian troops he commanded, calling them drones who were not capable of clear thought and were terrified of the Russians. [Manstein] More balanced modern works suggest that the Romanian performance was better than credited by the Germans. They actually played an important role in the Crimean campaign (1942). Rarely do German sources explain that the Romanians were not trained, equipped, or armed as well as German units or received the same Luftwaffe support as the Germans. The NAZI failure to arm their allies is in part a reflection of Germany's limited industrial capacity as well as their concern about having a well equipped ally that might prove difficult to control. When the German 6th Army plunged into Stalingrad, the Romanian and other Allied forces (Hungarians and Italians) were deployed on the flanks of the Germans. The first step of the Red Army's Operation Uranus to cut off the Germans was to smash through the Romanian and other allied armies (November 1942). Other Romanian units were lost in the Crimea largely as a result of Hitler's refusal to evacuate the Peninsula while there was still time (1943). As a result, when the Soviets moved into Romania, the Romanian Army was in no condition to resist (1944).


Slovakia seceeded from Czechoslovakia when the NAZIs invaded (March 1939). Slovakia became a slavishly-loyal NAZI puppet state. Slovakia was not a major part of the invading NAZI force. This was not because the Slovakian Goverment was unwilling, but reflects the small size of the country and the new Slovak Army. The Slovaks thus did not have a substantial or well equipped army when the NAZIs invaded the Soviet Union. Some Slovaks did participate in Operation Barbarossa The Germans launched Barbarossa (une 21, 1941). Slovakia ordered its Army to invade the Soviet Union 4 days later (June 25). The original Slovakia formation was the Slovakian Expeditionary Army Group (SEAG) commanded by the Slovak Minister of Defense, Ferdinand Catlos was composed of 45,000 men. The SEAG as the Wehrmact drove into the Soviet Union had trouble keeping up, primarily because it was not as well equiped as the Germans and lacked the vehicles need for mobility. The Germans themselves were not fully mobility and thus unwilling to divert equipmrnt deliveries from their own troops to their allies. The Slovaks decided to reorganize and all the mototized units of the Slovak Army Group were combined into a single formation named the Slovak Mobile Command (SMC) or the Brigade Pilfousek, commanded by Rudolf Pilfousek. He had formerly commanded 2nd Slovak Division. The SMC paeticipated in several major campaigns of Barbarossa. It was pulled out of the lines and regrouped (August 1941). Two new units were formed: 1st Slovak (Mobile) Infantry Division and the 2nd Slovak (Security) Infantry Division. The 1st Slovak (Mobile) Infantry Division was also referred to as the Slovak Fast Division. The Slovak 1st Division after the great battle of Kiev were moved south. Thus they were not near Moscow when the Red Army Offensive smashed a size part of the attacking force. The Slovak 1st Division was emoloyed in the German summr offensive into the Ujraine (1942). They were with the prong that drove beyond Rostov into the Caucauses and thus not immediately affected by the Red Army Stalingrad offensive. They along with the German units were forced to with draw from the Caucauses to avoid entapment. The Division has to be airlifted, abandoning their equipment. The Division escaped, but later was caught in a Red Army offensive action near Melitopol. The Soviets broke through the Germans lines and smashed the Slovaks. The Division was neverthe same. The survivors were rehrouped and redeployed in an effort to save the Crima (1944). It proved unreliable and the Germans eventually disarmed them and used it as a construction batalion. The 2nd Slovak Infantry Division was used ad a security unit and for abti-partisan operations. After Stalingrad units wre transferred to the 1sy Division, but the @nd Division became increasingly unreliable and the Germans disarmed it (November 1943) and converted it into a construction brigade redeployed to Italy. The other Slovak unit deployed to Russia was rge 12th Engineeer Battalion which helped to maintain rail lines behinf Army Group South. It was combined with the 1st Division after it was reorganized as a construction brigade. We do not yet have details as to Slovak losses during the War One source estimates that about 10,000 Slovak soldiers were killed in the War.

Non-Axis Countries

Germany had two non-Axis countries that joined Barbarossa, Finand and Spain. The Finns were of considerable importance. Finland was a democratic nation with non ideological comptability with Hitler and the NAZIs. They were, however, invaded by the Sobiet Union (November 1939). The Winter War had pitted tiny Finland with the Soviet colosus. They lost substantial territory and had every reason to expect that Stalin would eventually annex the rest of the county as he did the Baltics. Finlamnd did not classify themselves as a German ally, but as a co-beligerant. Franco's Spain was more ideologically compatable with the NAZIs and Franci hated the Communists. He did not, however, want to fight a war in the East and he recognized Spain's vulnerability to the British.


The NAZI's launched Operation Barbarossa (June 22, 1941). Finland joined the Germans only 3 days later (June 26). Actually the Finns claim that the Soviets initiated hostilities with air attacks on Finnish cities. Prime minister Rangell then declared in a sppech to Parliament that Finland was at war with Soviet Union. I'm not sure if any historian has fully accessed the motives of the Finnish Government. Surely the desire to recover the lost territory was the primary factor. There may have been other factors such as the view at the time that the Stalin and the Skviet Union was a mortal threat to Finnland. Finland joined the Germans as a co-beligerent but not an ally or member of the Axis. The Finns refer to this as the Coninuation War. The Finnish Army innitiated an offensive om the cease-fire line (June 30). The Finns refused, however, to go significantly beyond the lost territory, much to Hitler's despleasure. This was a major reason that the NAZIs failed to capture Lenningrad.


Spain never joined the Axis. It did provide considerable support to the German war effort, but refused to declare war on Britain, despite German pressure which escalated to thinly veiled threats. To placate the Germans, Franco offered a volunteer division. The Wehrmact at first had little respect for the Spanish and incredibly made them walk 1,000 km to the front, apparently to toughen them up. The Spanish Blue Division, however, proved effective and earned the Wehrmacht's respect in fighting around Leningrad. There was, however, only one division in a campaign where hundreds of divisions were deployed by both sides.

Annexed Areas

The Germans annexed areas of the neighboring states they invaded. This included both Germans and non-Germans. Some of these areas were populated by ethnic Germans, especially Austria, the Czech Sudetenland, and Poland. Poland was complicated. The Poles in the areas of western Germay annexed to the Reich were not drafted and many were deported to the General Government. Poles could, however, apply for Aryan status which convey many privilges such as higher food rations and exemption from deportation. This involved subjecting oneself and family to NAZI racial examination. German ancestors as well as appearance affected the status granted. But if one was found to be suitable, it also exposed the young men to conscription. Annexation also exposed non-Germans to conscription. The countries involved included southern Denmark, the Memel area of Lithuania, Slovenia, Alsace-Loraine in France, Luxembourg, and a small area of eastern Belgium.

European Fascists

There were other allies. The Germans recruited men from the occupied countries. Most were members of local Fascist parties or youths who were recruited from Fascist youth groups. At the time of Barbarossa the NAZI victory looked assured. Thus these European NAZIs were eager to join the fight. Hitler did not think much help would be needed. After the disaster before Moscow, the NAZIs began to recruit more aggressively. Joining the fight was one way for the European fascists to demostrate their loyalty to the NAZIs. Units were recruited throughout occupied Europe, including Belgium, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Norway, and other occupied countries. As they were colunteers, however, the number of men was relatively small given what was needed. As the war progressed that victory proved increasingly unlikely and volunteers more difficult to recruit. Ironically, Hitler rejected recruitment in the areas where the NAZIs could have obtained men in large numbers, Beylorussia, Russia, and the Ukraine. They would have provided recruits in the numbers needed to defeat the Red Army.

Anti-Communist Soviets

The Germans also recruited anti-Bolchevick Soviets. There were millions of Russians and Ukranians who would hav joined the Germans because of hatred toward the Communism and Soviet society. Hitler refused to tak advatage of this opportunity. Commander in the field recruited Soviet helpers, but in secrt. German recruitment was limited because of Hitler's genocidal policies and brutal occupation regime. Hitler stronly resisted the very idea of arming the Russians. As Slavs they were a people targeted under Generalplan Ost. Hitler was thus afraid that if he armned them, they would ultimately rise up against Germany. Substantial numbers were recruited, mostly from POWs in the field and later frpm concentratiion camps. Whermacht units in the field began began recruting Hilfswillige or Hiwi (helper) units. They were mostly used as labor and not armed combat units. It was done in secrevy, not from the allies, but from Hitler who was adamently against militarizing the Slavs. [Anders and Munoz] The largest formation was the Russian Liberation Army. They were never, however, used in any numbers in combat operations. Worker bataliaons were used, often without telling Hitler who was furious when he learned the extent to which Russians were being recruited. The same was true of the Ukranians, an ethnic group that would have joined the Germans in large numbers. But they were also targeted by Generalplan Ost. Another importabt group was the Ukranians. Because of Stalin's genocidal policies in the Ukraine, such as the Ukranian Famine, there was wide side anti-Soviet sentinent, essenially in the central and western Ukraine. Not all Ukranians lived in the Soviet Ukraine, there were large numbers of Ukranians living in eastern Poland, especially the southern areas like Galicia. And there were tensions with Poles and the Polish Government. The Soviets along with the NAZIs invaded Poland (Seotmber 1939). The Soviets occupied eastern Poland with its miked population inclusing Ukranians. There were also some Ukranians in Eestern Poland. The NAZIs at this stage courted the Ukranians, suggesting that a future indepebdent Ukranian state was possible. This eased the occupation of Poland s the Ukranianhs were so anti Polish. The Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (Ukrainian: Організація Українських Націоналістів--ONU) was organized in eastern Poland before the ar (1929). The OUN was a union between the Ukrainian Military Organization, smaller radical right-wing groups, and right-wing Ukrainian nationalists and intellectuals organized by Dmytro Dontsov, Yevhen Konovalets, Mykola Stsyborsky and other Ukranian leaders. As a result of the German-Soviet invasion of Poland, the OUN which from the beginning was an uneasy coalition split into two parts. The older, more moderate faction was led by Andriy Melnyk (OUN-M). The more radical fction with many of the younger members supported Stepan Bandera (OUN-B). The OUN-B had received some NAZI support and encoragement before Barbarossa. As the Whermacht drove into the Ukraine, the OUN-B declared an independent Ukrainian state in the area cleared of Soviet control (June 1941). Instead of supporting this action and helping OUN recruit an anti-Soviet Ukranian army, Hitler ordered the OUN leadership arrested and the idea of an independent Ukraine was edtinguished. The Whrmacht success in the opening weeks of Barbarissa convinced Hitler that succes was a hand and the complications associated with an Ukrnian ally wre not worth the benedits. After all the Uktnians were also Slavs and like the Ruians, a targeted oeople undef Generalplan Ost. This mean that the possibility os widespread Ukrainian support for Barbarossa was rejected. Brutal NAZI occupation policies convinced mot Okranians that they had no choie but rt fight the Germabs as part of the Red army. OUN-B established the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) (October 1942). They would fight both the NAZIs abd Soviets. Hitler was more amenable to the recruiting of Cossock and Muslim units. The Whermacht actually formed units and they proved fierce fighters. Their numbers, however, were too small to have any major impact.


The Balts like Finns and Romaniand were a people struggling against Stalinism. The three Baltic Republics were foribly annexed by Stalin (1940). The NKVD was unleased to arrest, execute, and murder individuals as well as classes of people considered suspect. Ten of thousands of people were executed or deported. Thus when the Germans launched Barbarossa, the Germans were seen as liberators. Hitler did not, however, allow the Balts to reconstitute governments, even puppet regumes like Croatia and Slovakia. Because of the NKVD reign of terror, many Balts were predisposed to aid the Germans against the Soviets. Unbenognst to the Balts, the SS was preparing a regign of terror much greater than that of the NKVD--Generaplant Ost. The Balts were among the people to be kiled, enslaved and deported in large numbers. Substantial numbers of Balts served the Germans in police units, camp guards , and Waffen-SS units.


The NAZI allies on the Eastern Front proved of only minimal assistance. They were either ineffective poorly equipped units (Hungary, Italy, and Romania) or of such small numbers (Finland, Slovkia, and Spain) that they did not provide the assistance needed. The one country which could have provided the decisive impact needed to defeat the Soviets was Japan. And the Japanese would have been an active participant -- in 1939. The Japanese hated Communism and coveted the resources of Siberia. They thought they had a reliable anti-Soviet ally with Hitler. The Strike North Faction was dominant in the Japanese mikitary. The NAZI-Soviet Non-Agression Pact, however, not only shicked the Western allie, but also the Japanese. Hitler negotited it without any warning to the Japanese Government. The shock led to the demise of the Strike North Faction and the rise of the Stike South Faction. It also created doubts among Japanese offiils a to the degree with which they could rely in Hitler and the NAZIs. Hitler did not think initially that he would need Japan. Thus Axis ally Japan was not included in the Barabarossa planning. Because Japanese Ambassador Baron Hiroshi Ōshima developed very close tiies with high NAZI officials and was given access to German military preparations. It is not clear he knew the exact date, but it is clear that he knew what Hitler was planned and details about the preprations. American Magic decrypts of his reports back to Tokyo, enable President Roosevlt to warn Stalin about the coming invaion. After Barbarossa bogged down in the mud an snow, he believed that his Axis ally which was strongly anti-Communist would join his campaign. They never did even after he joined their war with America. The Japanese carved out a vast empire in Southeast Asia and Oceania--the Southern Resource Zone (SRZ). The major impact was, however, to bring America into the War, the only country capable of fighting a two-front war and manufacvturing modern arns in huge quantgities. And the attack on Pearl Harbor not only brought America into the war, but instantly eliminated the very substantial isolationist anti-war movement that had resisted President Roosevelt's efforts to save Britain and rearm.


Hitler's foreign allies and co-beligerants were not just an interesting footnote to Brbarossa and the subsequent campaign in the East. They were a major part of the effort and would not have been possible without them, At the height of the fighting in the East, non-Germans cobstituted about one-third of the Grman military force. [Müller] And it could have been even larger had Hitler permitted it and changed German policy toward non-Germans. A different policy toward the Balts, Ukranians, and ant-Soviet Russians could have given Hitler the manpower he so desperately needed. But given the goals of Barbarossa, as stated in Generalplan Ost, this was something he refused to do. He sa the danger in armikng aeople he planned to destroy. Less easy to understand is wht he did not mislead these people. First use them to destroy the Red Army and then begin the operations sketeched out in Generalplan Ost. It is unclear why Hitler did not do this. Presumably he thought victory was within his grasp without arming these poltential llies. And he did not want to create a military force he could not control. Later they would be vilified by Hitler as part of his effort to tranfer responsibility for failure. And after the war they were condemned for treason in their home countries. Many falling into the hands of the NKVD after the War were killed outright or condemned to alower death in the Gulag.


Anders, Wladyslaw and Antonio Munoz. "Russian Volunteers in the German Wehrmacht in WWII," Feldgrau.com.

Müller , Rolf Dieter. The Unknown Eastern Front: The Wehrmacht and Hitler's Foreign Soldiers (2013), 287p.

Manstein, Eric von, Lost Victories (Novato, California: Presidio, 1982).


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Created: 6:00 PM 2/15/2005
Last updated: 12:17 AM 6/19/2015