Experiences of Germans with recruitment for Foreign Legion

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EricS
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Experiences of Germans with recruitment for Foreign Legion

Post by EricS » Thu Feb 24, 2011 5:41 am

I'm currently writing a small paper about the way German soldiers were recruited for the French Foreign Legion after the war to fight in Indochina. I have found quite a lot of books and studies relating this subject, but am still searching for memoirs of German soldiers who went to Indochina. Because my main focus is the recruitement, memoirs of soldiers who were pressured or given the option to join, would also be helpful. So far I have found the book of Herbert Werner (Iron Coffins/Die eisernen Särge), who was in a POW-camp after the war and was offered better traitment and eventually freedom. He eventually signed up but escaped shortly afterwards.

Does anyone know any more memoirs of soldiers with a similar experience? The language doesn't matter, it can be Dutch, German, English or French.

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Re: Experiences of Germans with recruitment for Foreign Legion

Post by John Kilmartin » Thu Feb 24, 2011 9:19 am

Hi Eric,
I'm unable to give you the name of any memoirs but I thought you might want to know that the Germans had an entire regiment the 361st 'Afrika' Infantry Regiment that was raised in North Africa from Germans serving in the Foreign Legion that the Vichy government had repatriated. I don't know how many of these men would have ended up in the hands of the Free French after the regiment was destroyed in Tunisia, but I would think if you had been serving in the Legion previously you might not find it hard to go back after the war.
Cheers,
John K
' Strip war of the mantle of its glories and excitement, and it will disclose a gibbering ghost of pain , grief, dissappointment and despair'

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ReinhardH
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Re: Experiences of Germans with recruitment for Foreign Legion

Post by ReinhardH » Thu Feb 24, 2011 10:00 pm

An internet search for 'foreign legion' should yield quite a list of books about the FFL, some of which may be based on personal memoirs ;)

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Re: Experiences of Germans with recruitment for Foreign Legion

Post by EricS » Fri Feb 25, 2011 1:32 am

John Kilmartin wrote:Hi Eric,
I'm unable to give you the name of any memoirs but I thought you might want to know that the Germans had an entire regiment the 361st 'Afrika' Infantry Regiment that was raised in North Africa from Germans serving in the Foreign Legion that the Vichy government had repatriated. I don't know how many of these men would have ended up in the hands of the Free French after the regiment was destroyed in Tunisia, but I would think if you had been serving in the Legion previously you might not find it hard to go back after the war.
Cheers,
John K
I thank you for this tip, I will try to find out more about this regiment.

ReinhardH wrote:An internet search for 'foreign legion' should yield quite a list of books about the FFL, some of which may be based on personal memoirs ;)
The books I have seen so far aren't using many memoirs, mostly sources like archives and interviews. But there are some books I've ordered that will come in next week, so I hope those will be based on memoirs.
I appreciate the help.

Eric

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Re: Experiences of Germans with recruitment for Foreign Legion

Post by fridgeman » Sat Feb 26, 2011 8:51 am

Hello Eric, if you are able to read german have a look for the following books:

- Verkaufte Jahre, Hans E. Bauer

- Der "Kongo-Müller", Eine deutsche Söldnerkarriere

- Umbruch Österreicher, Leo Raslag

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Re: Experiences of Germans with recruitment for Foreign Legion

Post by John P. Moore » Sat Feb 26, 2011 10:58 am

I am not sure how many Feldgrau members have ever met a Waffen-SS vet who later served in the French Foreign Legion, but I am one. In the mid-1970s I was an assistant signal battalion S-3 (Operations Officer) in Kaiserslautern, Germany. Working with me was a liaison officer from the German Labor Service 3333 Cable Construction Company. One of our tasks was to go around the countryside throughout Germany to select sites for signal maneuvers and to obtain permission from the Germany property owners to set up encampments on their property. (Permission was easy to obtain because the property owners knew that many small trees would always be damaged and they could file a monetary claim with the US Army for the value of each tree at full growth) This liaison officer was 1st Lieutenant Kasimir Malkowski, who had reportedly been reduced in rank from major for excessive drinking and fighting. We took long day trips in our jeep and would always stop for lunch at a Gasthaus. This gave us plenty of time to talk. “Ski” as he was called, would regale me with war stories telling me of his time in the “Hitler Jugend” division from Normandy to the end of the war followed by French captivity. He told me how he was given the choice by the French of either being shot or joining the Foreign Legion. He ended up being captured at Dien Bien Phu. He spoke perfect English, German, French and probably Polish too. Years later while studying NARA microfilm of the SS-Nachrichten AuE Rgt. I found his name on a document transferring him from Nürnberg to the “HJ” division and his date of birth on the document matched what I had on him in an old signal brigade officer roster. The battalion operations NCO from a sister battalion also knew “Ski” from his time in Germany and both of us later lived in the Portland, Oregon area where he worked for the Department of Energy. He had expressed doubt that “Ski” had ever been in the SS along with some of his tall tales, until I showed him a copy of the transfer document to the “HJ” division. “Ski” was the first Waffen-SS vet that I ever met along with another vet from one of the Baltic countries who lived down the street from me in a village outside Kaiserslautern.

John

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Re: Experiences of Germans with recruitment for Foreign Legion

Post by EricS » Sat Feb 26, 2011 2:12 pm

@ Fridgeman: I've tried to find those three books, but none of them are available in The Netherlands; nowhere on sale or for loan at any library. In Germany there are still quite a lot of copy's around, so mayble I can buy one from there. Thanks for the suggestion.

@John: That's the kind of story I'm looking for, it confirms my thought and also the conclusion of some books that a forced-voluntary way of recruitment wasn't an exception.

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Re: Experiences of Germans with recruitment for Foreign Legion

Post by John P. Moore » Sat Feb 26, 2011 2:56 pm

I don't think that we can ever know how widespread was the practise of of forcing German POWs into the Legion. I only knew personally two other W-SS vets who were prisoners of the French and neither one mentioned that an attempt was made to force them into the Legion. One was a Haupsturmführer from the "Florian Geyer", who surrendered in the disguise of a Kriegsmarine officer. He was treated with brutality by the French, who never knew that he had been in the SS. The other man was a former Unterscharführer from the "Nordland". He told me that he was assigned as a laborer at a sewing factory and was the only male present. He said that he really enjoyed his time with the French women!

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Re: Experiences of Germans with recruitment for Foreign Legion

Post by John Kilmartin » Sat Feb 26, 2011 6:43 pm

Hi Eric,
I don't read German so I can't tell you if this is a good book or not but I hope it may be of some use. Deutsche in der Fremden legion 1870-1965 :mythen und realitaten / Eckard Michels . - Verlag Ferdinand Schoning, Paderborn 1999, 362 S.
Cheers,
John K
' Strip war of the mantle of its glories and excitement, and it will disclose a gibbering ghost of pain , grief, dissappointment and despair'

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Re: Experiences of Germans with recruitment for Foreign Legion

Post by EricS » Sun Feb 27, 2011 2:38 am

@ John Moore: I couldn't agree with you more. I think that bad treatment in POW-camps was widespread, but that this was not done with the purpose of getting Germans to join the Legion. The living conditions in all camps, both of the Axis and Allies, were not ideal and the situation did not improve after the war. I'm still in doubt whether I can follow the idea of James Bacque that this was a planned operation of the French and Americans to kill many Germans, or that the treatment in the camps had other reasons. But as I said in the opening post, the main focus of my paper is the way Germans were recruited, so I should probably see the living conditions in the camps as a given and not focus on the reasons behind it.

@ John K: That's one of the first books I found, I picked it up yesterday and it's looks quite useful. About 70 pages about WW2 and Indochina so it gives me a good base and source of reference.

To say a bit more about my paper: I'm a history student at Utrecht University and currently following a course on colonial armies. The paper is small, about 4000 words, but this is a unknown subject to the general public so I should be able to make a nice story of it. I always have been very interested in (the German side of) World War II and with this subject I can combine that with the colonial armies. I read a lot about WW2 and am building up my own book collection, but my knowledge is modest compared to a lot of other users here on Feldgrau. That's why I really appreciate the help and answers, it helps me a lot to get me a fresh insight and up to speed.

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Re: Experiences of Germans with recruitment for Foreign Legion

Post by ReinhardH » Sun Feb 27, 2011 5:37 am

This one appears to be still available..
http://www.amazon.de/Verkaufte-deutsche ... B0000BG5Z7

Maybe also try getting 'Devil's Guard' by Elsford

And likewise .. thanks for the Bacque reference .. I will follow up on it ;)

FWIW, not a single Wehrmacht vet I've known has ever been completely straightforward about his service time, or what happened immediately after the war. These guys are expertly evasive and vague about all of that stuff at best .. and do not EVEN think about asking them about their time as POWs, because you'll never get a straight answer about that either, lol.
My understanding about the FFL is that once you're in, your past is erased, and if you survive the service time, the FFL will take care of you for the rest of your life.

Good luck with your paper!

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Re: Experiences of Germans with recruitment for Foreign Legion

Post by John P. Moore » Sun Feb 27, 2011 10:50 am

"Devils Guard" is a work of fiction and is not an acceptable reference for a university research paper. I don't agree with any of the comments made by ReinhardH which appear to be the product of fantasy and are not helpful to someone attempting to do serious research.

It is difficult to draw any general conclusions about the POW experiences of Waffen-SS vets. I have discussed this topic with over a hundred vets, none of whom were deceptive, and I could only conclude that there were as many different possible experiences as there were prisoners. A very large sample would need to be made in order to form any conclusions.

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Re: Experiences of Germans with recruitment for Foreign Legion

Post by John Kilmartin » Sun Feb 27, 2011 9:02 pm

I can only agree with Mr. Moore when it comes to analyzing the experience of POW. I only talked with a friend of mine's father and it was evident that though he was a frequent escaper that it was his personality to do this not any conviction in it as much as an expression of his loyalty to Nazism as his need to eleviate being bored. Prior to interviewing him I accepted all the generalities that were presented to me as history. The history of POW is just starting to become a field of research as far as I'm concerned. The course you are taking seems an interesting one does it have a particular time frame? I am always amazed with the parallels between the way the Troupes de la marine and local defence forces in Vietnam were organized ie Montagnard units. I don't think anyone who had not studied early Canadian history would see the parallels.
Cheers,
John K
' Strip war of the mantle of its glories and excitement, and it will disclose a gibbering ghost of pain , grief, dissappointment and despair'

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Re: Experiences of Germans with recruitment for Foreign Legion

Post by EricS » Wed Mar 02, 2011 3:42 pm

John Kilmartin wrote: The history of POW is just starting to become a field of research as far as I'm concerned. The course you are taking seems an interesting one does it have a particular time frame? I am always amazed with the parallels between the way the Troupes de la marine and local defence forces in Vietnam were organized ie Montagnard units. I don't think anyone who had not studied early Canadian history would see the parallels.
Cheers,
John K

Because of the limited time and size of my paper I have to restrain myself and focus mainly on the recruitment and a bit on operations in Indochina until about 1950. I'm thinking about placing the recruitment for the Foreign Legion in the context of the conditions in the POW/DEF-camps after the war. (DEF=disarmed enemy forces, a new status which was given to German soldiers by the Western Allies to give them the option of not threating the prisoners according to the Geneva Convention). I think it's remarkable that on the one hand the French treated the German soldiers badly, maybe (according to Bacque) murdered them or gave them dangerous jobs like clearing landmines, while on the other hand Germans were respected for their quality and skills and were given the option to join the Foreign Legion. This despite the fact that in 1946 the French public opinion was against recruiting Germans because they were the former enemy's and some of them were National-socialists, (waffen-)SS-soldiers or war criminals. I decided to focus on this apparent contradiction, to try to find out whether Germans were really recruited for their skills, or that they were just cheap cannon fodder. This means that the first part of my paper focuses on the situation in the camps and the second part focuses on the task Germans were given in especially Indochina, to see whether they were send into action as an fighting force or as cannon fodder.

I know it's impossible to find solid proof for this thesis, but (circumstantial) evidence is easy to produce and I can base this idea on more than enough sources. This gives me an original angle and I know teachers appreciate that. After all, I'm supposed to do something new and not repeat and summarize books.

Eric

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Re: Experiences of Germans with recruitment for Foreign Legion

Post by haen2 » Wed Mar 02, 2011 5:34 pm

One of my friends and comrades, was, like i was, in our 3rd detention camp, Fort Erfprins in Holland.
As an ex Waffen SS soldier, and transferee to the IJsselmeer flotille, he got to wear Kriegsmarine coast guard uniform.
In the camp, he was "because he was kriegsmarine" given some leeway, and was permitted to visit with his comrades of the K.M., who had a seperate area, and different treatment than the rest of us. They were all volunteers who had stayed instead of repatriating to Germany. On one of his "visits" he escaped.
Sometime in the early 1950's he suddenly showed up on my doorsteps in Amsterdam, speaking with a semi french accent. He told us (my wife and I) that after his escape he had gone to the French Consulate, and signed up for the Legion Etrangere. He served for four years , most of it in Indo China, but some of it in North Africa, and became a Sergeant in no time.
After four years he could get French nationality, and did.
After a great visit and telling his war stories, he left. That's the last i saw of him. But was told by another comrade, that he had re-enlisted in the Legion, in particular e "German outfit" (his words), because of the comraderie.
Just a memory
HN
joined forum early spring of 2002 as Haen- posts: legio :-)

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