SOE and Repatriation

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SOE and Nazi collaborators after WW2
Transcript    Journal of Contemporary History online version of this article can be found at: DOI: 10.1177/002200940103600205 2001 36: 309 Journal of Contemporary History  Christopher J. Murphy SOE and Repatriation  Published by:  can be found at: Journal of Contemporary History  Additional services and information for Email Alerts: Subscriptions: Reprints: Permissions: by nino oktorino on October 13, 2010 jch.sagepub.comDownloaded from   Christopher J. Murphy  SOE and Repatriation The subject of the forced repatriation , by British forces, of anti-SovietCossacks and anti-Tito Yugoslavs at the end of the second world war con-tinues to throw up new revelations, the latest a consequence of the release of the Mitrokhin Archive, which substantiated for Nikolai Tolstoy — a namenow synonymous with the subject — a piece of evidence suggesting thatBritish officers were offered a bribe of gold by Smersh for the handover of certain White Russian generals. 1 While such controversy continues, it does sowith a particular focus on 1945, the act of repatriation and its consequences.Very little analysis is given to the period during 1944 when repatriation wasdiscussed by the British government. Typically, this period will warrant nomore than a brief mention, with the note that there was some disagreementamongst ministers regarding repatriation, highlighting the protest made byLord Selborne to the Foreign Secretary, held up as an example of humandecency. The recently-released papers of the Special Operations Executiveprompt a reappraisal of the events of 1944, particularly Selborne’s protestagainst the policy of repatriation and its interpretation as a humanitarian gesture. SOE was interested in subverting the Russians who were fighting forthe Germans in western Europe, and given Selborne’s position as Minister of Economic Warfare, with responsibility for SOE, the file material indicates thathis protest could be better viewed within a context which is far more morally-neutral.An incident on the Eastern Front in September 1943 ended Hitler’s toler-ance of the Soviet soldiers who were fighting alongside the Germans there. 2 They were transferred to western and southern Europe, where they came toSOE’s attention. The Russian (D/P) Section was alerted to the presence of Russians in the west by a newspaper report of 3 January 1944, which notedthat: Large numbers of Russian troops under the Quisling General Vlasov have moved intoSouthern France and have been distributed to various coastal positions. These men arerecruited mainly from Georgians, Turcomans, Tartars and men from the TransuralRepublics. . . . The men . . . come from prisoner-of-war camps, where they were given thechoice of joining the ‘Ostlegionen’, as the Germans now call them, or rotting with their comrades behind barbed wire. 3 1  Jamie Wilson and James Meek, ‘Historian Backs Defector’s War Bribery Claim’, TheGuardian , 15 September 1999. 2 Richard Overy, Russia’s War (London 1998), 130–1. 3 HS4/330, extract from the Evening Standard  , 3 January 1944.  Journal of Contemporary History  Copyright © 2001 SAGEPublications, London, Thousand Oaks, CAandNew Delhi, Vol 36(2), 309–323.[0022-0094(200104)36:2;309–323;016718]  by nino oktorino on October 13, 2010 jch.sagepub.comDownloaded from   An investigation was instigated, and the results reported to Colonel Seddon,D/P Section Head, by Major Manderstam, who noted that ‘a great deal of information’ had been found, which confirmed that the Germans had indeedformed a number of units ‘consisting of nationals of USSR’, under the command of German officers. There was considerable evidence of a Russianpresence in France. Further intelligence accumulated by Manderstam notedthat ‘troops of Russian srcin are being used for guerrilla warfare against theMaquis Groups in the Toulouse area’, corroborated by another report whichnoted that Russian troops were ‘stationed along the Mediterranean coast andin the Bordeaux and Toulouse area’. The threat these units posed to the Frenchresistance was clear: (e) They are being engaged in assisting the Gestapo in combatting the various ‘Free move-ments’ in the occupied areas. On various occasions the Germans have apparently availedthemselves of the knowledge of guerrilla warfare which some of the POWs possess. Manderstam concluded that the presence of these Russian troops ‘should warrant close consideration from the SOE point of view’, the main objectsbeing to: (1) Neutralise by subversive means any assistance which the Germans could derive from theuse of Russian troops when ‘the day comes’.(2) Prevent the Germans from using the Russians as police force for maintaining order in theoccupied territory and against the various resistance movements.(3) Avail ourselves of the Russian troops after our bridgeheads are established in Europe, toprevent demolition of objectives strategically important to the Allied High Command.(4) Suborn, if at all possible, the Russians to turn against the Germans at an appropriate anddecisive moment. To achieve these goals, Manderstam believed the issue of repatriation wouldbe a useful weapon: A promise of ‘pardon’, if secured from NKVD, to the POWs on their repatriation to USSR,might in some cases (not necessarily in all) facilitate the successful achieving of our objectives. 4 Seddon forwarded Manderstam’s paper to Colonel Taylor, who forwarded itto Commander Milne and Colonel Keswick for their comments. Initialthoughts were mixed. Seddon, although conceding that ‘this might well con-stitute a SOE target’, was largely sceptical of inviting NKVD involvement,believing that the situation ‘would only be used by them as another means of infiltrating their own men into Western Europe’. 5 Taylor was ‘not particularlyimpressed’, but believed the idea was worth further consideration. 6 Milnenoted that ‘a proposal should be made to the Russians to make full use of their 310Journal of Contemporary History Vol 36 No 2 4 HS4/330, W.20 to D/P, 31.01.44. 5 HS4/330, D/P to A/D, 01.02.44. 6 HS4/330, AD to AD/E, AD/H, 09.02.44.  by nino oktorino on October 13, 2010 jch.sagepub.comDownloaded from   Russian nationals in Europe’, but had little hope of action: ‘I imagine they willreply in their usual style by saying that they have no organisation in Europe’. 7 Keswick doubted whether any advantage could be gained from the action suggested. 8 Meanwhile, Russian repression of French resistance continued. The SOEhistory of resistance in France notes how: From December 1943 to March 1944, several Maquis units . . . installed themselves on thePlateau de MILLEVACHES, in CORREZE. They soon attracted the attention of the GermanPolice.During March, these CORREZE Maquis were attacked and scattered by a Georgian punitiveexpedition from the SS Division garrisoned at MONTAUBAN. 9 On 24 March, Seddon re-emphasized the fact that the Russians presented athreat to the war effort, and that SOE’s object: . . . must be to turn the situation to our own account by neutralising these potentially hostilefactors, either by attracting them to our side or by removing their claws . . . we must take thematter of these Russians seriously as they are contributing to the relief of ReichswehrGermans . . . it would be wrong to ignore them. 10 A telegram was sent to the SOE Moscow Mission (code-named SAM) on 12April, asking for a tentative approach to be made to the NKVD, to ascertain if they had any plans to deal with the Russians in western Europe themselvesand, if so, to offer SOE’s assistance. 11 The NKVD made no immediateresponse.Manderstam continued to consider ways in which SOE could turn the situa-tion to its advantage. On 9 May, he presented an outline of his ‘murderousscheme’. This proposed that SOE should exploit the fear present amongst theRussians fighting for the Germans of the reprisals that awaited them in theSoviet Union by offering them protection from repatriation — at a price: The suggested method of procedure would be to distribute . . . some form of certificates ordiscs which should state that the bearer of the certificate, if he will surrender to or be takenby the allied or Soviet troops, will get sympathetic consideration, if he is in possession of some proof that he has killed a German belonging to the armed forces or a member of theNazi Party. 12 The plan was considered by Milne to be outside ‘the bounds of practical poli-tics’. 13 Manderstam’s second scheme received a more favourable reception.This proposed compromising the Russians who were working for the Germans Murphy: SOE and Repatriation 311 7 HS4/330, AD/E to A/D (Copy to AD/H), 15.02.44. 8 HS4/330, AD/H to A/D (Copy to AD/E), 11.02.44. 9 HS7/129, France: Participation of French Forces of Interior in Liberation of France,1944–1945. 10 HS4/330, D/P to AD, 24.03.44. 11 HS4/330, Telegram to SAM, 12.04.44. 12 HS4/330, DP/W.20 to A/D, 09.05.44. 13 HS4/330, AD/E to A/D, 05.44.  by nino oktorino on October 13, 2010 jch.sagepub.comDownloaded from 
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