Experiences of Germans with recruitment for Foreign Legion

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bil
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Re: Experiences of Germans with recruitment for Foreign Legion

Post by bil » Thu Jun 23, 2011 2:45 pm

Long ago i had a book supposedly written by one of these fellows,'Eddie Hukov" I believe the authors name was.Can't remember the book title,but it is a lead! ---bil

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Re: Experiences of Germans with recruitment for Foreign Legion

Post by EricS » Thu Jul 07, 2011 12:08 am

I already finished my paper, but want to keep my eyes open for more leads on this story. Maybe it’s useful for a project in the future. Again, thanks for all reactions.

Bil, the book you’re referring to is called ‘The Survivor the Story of Eddy Hukov’ by John Ehle. It seems to be a biography and not a memoir, but probably interesting anyway.

And to tell a bit more about my conclusion; the first part of my paper focused on the situation in POW-camps and the second part on the deployment of Germans in Indochina. For the first part I had a lot of useful (primary) sources and I concluded that although it was not official policy to pressure prisoners into signing up for the Foreign Legion, the situation in the camps in combination with the not so promising future in Germany made signing up an attractive alternative. Of course sometimes Germans were forced into joining, but this probably was an incident or policy by lower authorities.

For the second part of my paper I used ‘Verkaufte Jahre’ by Hans E. Bauer (as suggested by Fridgeman) and some memoirs of mainly British legionnaires, of course supplemented with some secondary sources. I concluded that a large percentage of the deserters were of German origin, which could indicate that they didn’t sign up voluntarily, or at least that they were not motivated to fight. I also noticed that the legion’s units which consisted in a large part of Germans, were deployed on the more dangerous missions. This could indicate Germans were seen as cheap cannon fodder, but it could also have been because Germans were well trained and experienced. Another explanation could be that for the less dangerous tasks, legionaries from the French colonies of North Africa were better suitable because of their knowledge of the French language.

That means my end conclusion was that there are indications but no proof for the existence of a plan/policy in which German POW’s were forced into signing up and used as cheap cannon fodder. Not a very surprising conclusion, isn’t it?

Eric

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fridgeman
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Re: Experiences of Germans with recruitment for Foreign Legion

Post by fridgeman » Thu Jul 07, 2011 6:15 am

I would not agree a 100% and say quite alot were held under circumstances, that left them no other choice but to
join the foreign legion. France had to get this recruits, no matter how. The battles in indochina were fought
by colonial troops and foreign legion on a very high percentage, french nationals were only officers
and a very few parachutists.

For example members of SS division charlemagne (and other french/alsac and belgish former members of Wehrmacht/SS)
were given the chance to apply for foreign legion, or to be handed out to belgish troops to recieve a death penalty.

Italian and austrian POWs were recruited into foreign legion since 1944, mostly from africa. German POWs
from 1945 on. They all were used to fight, and preferred to fight rather than suffer from lack of food and medical
supplies. Also they did not know how long they will be POW, and the foreign legion seemed to be a way to get
somehow back home to germany.

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Re: Experiences of Germans with recruitment for Foreign Legion

Post by EricS » Thu Jul 07, 2011 8:02 am

Fridgeman, I get your criticism en maybe even agree with you. The conclusion in my paper had to be based on evidence I found in sources, because I read a lot of conflicting accounts I had to be careful and a bit political in my conclusion. The main difficulty was to give a value to for example what you say about the SS division Charlemagne; was it an incident or policy? And because in other cases Germans joined the Legion voluntarily and I didn't find anything indicating it was policy, I was only able to conclude that it was an incident.

I also think my conclusion was a bit careful, but in the limited time-frame and size of my investigation - not to mention that I only had books as source and no time or opportunity to search in archives - it was the only thing I could do. I really hope that some day, I will be able to investigate this thoroughly and find out what really happened. In the meantime I had to put his subject out of my head, because the last two months I was working on another paper, this time my bachelor-thesis about the effectiveness of the Kriegsmarine in the second half of the war.

Eric

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Re: Experiences of Germans with recruitment for Foreign Legion

Post by fridgeman » Thu Jul 07, 2011 9:21 am

I did not want to do a critic, just give another opinion. Of course its hard to track down nowadays, if it was politics
or just incidents which led to so many germans in the foreign legion. The french never had to open their files
of that time, and the documents aviable to us are mostly from a personal view of single people involved.

I would not think there was a clear order to force people into foreign legion, as the official picture of the legion
was a "volunteer" army. Same as the SS by the way, and into SS service many were (un-officialy of course) forced too.
So you gave the recruiters targets to reach, a number of recruits per month. And you gave them plenty of rope/many rights in the POW camps.
In the end there was more a climate the recruiters lived in that led to high numbers of recruitments under german and french POWs, rather than real orders to force and treath the POWs. Still, in the end it was the politics that led to such a climate.

Im with you that every man was handled different, for example a frenchman who volunteered for
the german service sure was touched harder than a soldier who were forced into service (like many alsac/lothringen men).
And of course not every german soldier in the legion after war was a former POW, many young people, often educated in
the sense of Third Reich and adoring all military and adventurous things, just volunteered for foreign legion to flee from
a destroyed germany after war.

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Re: Experiences of Germans with recruitment for Foreign Legion

Post by Landserstudent » Sat Dec 17, 2011 10:06 pm

Folks-

An interesting topic.

I recall a conversation I had with an American US Navy vet who re-upped with the Navy in late 1940s through the early 1950s. He went to aviation, flying recon/spying missions in the Med/Balkan area. A base area they frequently used was in Agadir, Morocco. My friend commented on the German presence in Foreign Legion units who were in Agadir for R & R.


My Navy friend said they had a great time with the German legionaires.

Good luck with your research.

Landserstudent

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Re: Experiences of Germans with recruitment for Foreign Legion

Post by Landserstudent » Sat Dec 17, 2011 10:18 pm

Ja-

Fridgeman makes a good point about the youth of immediate postwar germany wanting to get out, some for military adventure. Take a look at the Guenter Grass book, "Peeling the Onion", his excellent memoir of his early years: He was, to the relative surprise of many in and out of the literary community, a late-war recruit to the Waffen SS. Grass talks about one of his circle of friends they all called "Kongo" who ended up going merc.

Landserstudent

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Re: Experiences of Germans with recruitment for Foreign Legion

Post by haen2 » Sun Dec 18, 2011 1:26 pm

When interred in the Harskamp, after our surrender, it became a fast "secret" rumor, that if you escaped and could make your way to either Belgium (Brussels) or France (Paris) , you had TWO options.
1. Join the Legion Etrangere , or
2. Join the United states army. The latter was never confirmed to me, but the first was, as my old comrade Willi S. had done just that, and spoke of many more, he had met.
AFTER my release, and losing my citizeship and rights, I was told by my "political" supervisor (parole officer :wink: ) that it would be easy for me to become an American; just enlist in the U.S.Army sign up for three years, and: Voila !
I wanted to be a civilian again, and did not do it, not knowing yet that after the review of my case, and being restored to full citizenship and rights, I would immediately be drafted into the Koninklijke Landmacht.
Oh those "good" :( old times.
HN
joined forum early spring of 2002 as Haen- posts: legio :-)

Enjoy yourself, it's later than you think !

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Re: Experiences of Germans with recruitment for Foreign Legion

Post by kurt-gerhard » Sun Mar 11, 2012 7:40 am

Hallo,
my brother (born in 1929) has to flee from our home village in eastern-prussia in january 1945. When he and our mother arrived in western germany he was still wearing the HJ uniform. For that reason (he was armed too) he was taken as a prisioner by french troops. He was forced to work in a cole-mine before he was asked to join the legion instead of working in that mine. he signed the contract and was send to algeria. he fought in indochina and "left" the legion before he came back to germany in 1953.

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Re: Experiences of Germans with recruitment for Foreign Legion

Post by Seppi » Tue Nov 27, 2012 2:42 pm

My late father was a French Foreign Legionnaire and a Swiss national. When France surrendered he was interned by France and handed to the Germans. On initial refusal to join the Wehrmacht he was place in a concentration camp. Eventually he agreed to join what became Afrika Regiment 361. He was captured at the first battle of Alamein and spent the rest of the war in Canada before being transferred to England. He became a naturalised British subject and remained in England until his death.

Seppi

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