Non-German Ethnic Groups in the Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS During the Second World War


Above photograph: Field Marshal Erwin Rommel inspects a column of Indian volunteers. This shot was probably taken during 1944 somewhere along the coast of France, as many Indian volunteers manned defences along the Third Reich’s Atlantic Wall.

under construction - 450 px.jpg


When most people think of the German Army during the Second World War, many probably imagine ranks of blonde-haired, blue-eyed German soldiers as depicted on recruitment posters at the time. However, in reality during the Second World War, the truth was quite different.

“One unique feature of the Waffen-SS was that it was a volunteer army, in which from 1942 European soldiers from many lands and peoples could be found: Albanians, Bosnians, Britons, Bulgarians, Cossacks, Croats, Danes, Dutch, Estonians, Finns, Flemings, French, Georgians, Greeks, Hungarians, Italians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Norwegians, Romanians, Russians, Serbs, Slovakians, Swedes, Swiss, Ukrainians, Walloons; as well Armenians, Byelorussians, Hindus, Kirghizes, Tartars Turkmen and Uzbeks served under their own flags in the Waffen-SS. Almost all of these peoples were represented in my unit.”

– Otto Skorzeny (the famed former elite Waffen-SS commando)  [1]

In the above quote, the long list Skorzeny gives us applies only to the Waffen-SS (not the regular German Army), and does not encompass every ethnicity which sided with the Germans.

The German Army actually consisted of volunteers from 29 different nations, and saw throughout its ranks not only Europeans from all over the map, but also other very diverse non-European ethnicities such as black Africans, North African Muslims, Syrians, Iraqis, Saudi Arabians, Trans-Jordanians, Palestinians, Lebanese, Central Asiatic Turkic peoples, Indians, Mongolians, Siberians, Chinese, Japanese[?], Koreans, Indonesians, and Thais. It represented the largest collection of ethnicities that have ever banded together in military history.


Moroccans, Algerians, Tunisians, Senussi, Tuaregs (a Berber ethnic group), Syrians, Egyptians, Iraqis, and various desert Arabs.

Antonio J. Munoz. The East Came West: Muslim, Hindu & Buddhist Volunteers in the German Armed Forces, 1941-1945. Axis Europa Books. 2001. p. 224.


In fact, more than 3 million foreigners would serve in the German armed forces throughout the Second World War, accounting for 18% of the entire manpower of the German Army. [TFA]

In this article, we shall list these diverse ethnicities, both European and non-European, which were a part of the German Army. This will extend not only to the regular German Army (the Wehrmacht), but also to the Waffen-SS (the armed branch of SS which fought in the field of battle alongside the Wehrmacht).

In addition to this, we shall also consider those nations which were allied to Germany, and whose armies fought alongside the Germans in the crusade against Bolshevism in the Soviet Union.

1. The menace of Bolshevism

The phenomenon explaining why so many men joined the German side can in part be explained by one simple word: Bolshevism (communism). Bolshevism had turned the entire Soviet Union into a giant prison camp, where terror reigned, and where perceived “class enemies” – as arbitrarily determined by Stalin and the Soviet politburo – were exterminated by the tens of millions.

During 1931-1932 alone, for example, approximately 10 million Ukrainians had been deliberately starved to death by Stalin’s brutal regime in an engineered mass famine – the Holodomor. Today, the Holodomor is officially recognized as a deliberate act of genocide against the Ukrainian people. [2], [3]

Indeed, throughout the 20th century at the hands of Stalin, Mao and other communist leaders from a multitude of nations throughout Asia and Africa, communism has proven itself to be the cruelest and most utterly murderous political ideology in humanity’s history, with a total body count reaching some 160 million people [4] – almost three times that suffered during the entirity of the Second World War. Chillingly, the vast bulk accounting for this ghastly statistic occurred not during war, but during times of peace, in the form of deliberate government-directed acts of genocide against its own people.

2. Non-German European volunteers of the Waffen-SS

by so many different peoples: Europeans, Central Asians, East Asian, Arabs, Indiansblacks, was largely the result of the rise of Bolshevism (communism) in the east. Bolshevism was a menacing spectre for Europe and especially Germany, due to her geographical position. sandwiched between

After the onset of the war, concern about communism grew even further as Stalin’s Red Army inched its way closer westwards, and this was one motivating factor prompting volunteers from numerous European countries to sign up and serve in the Waffen-SS. These personnel came from the following European nations: Portugal, Spain, Greece, Italy, France, Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Slovakia, Bohemia and Moravia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Bosnia, Croatia, Herzegovina, and Albania. [1], [5], [6]


1.5 million Austrians, 350,000 Seudetenlanders, and approximately 200,000 Poles [TFA]


There was also a small contingent of British POWs who signed up for the cause against communism. [7]

After Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union had begun in June 1941, even more European volunteers from the eastern lands would flock to the ranks of the Waffen-SS in order to fight against Stalin’s brutal regime and also for the independance of their own nations. These included men from Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Ukraine, Belarus, and even Russia.

Taken together, these volunteers numbered approximately 500,000 men. [8], [9]

3. Non-German volunteers of the Wehrmacht

The Wehrmacht (as distinct from the Waffen-SS) also received a considerable number of non-German volunteers.

3. European nations allied to Germany and Polish Volksdeutsche conscripts

In addition to the above-mentioned volunteers who joined the ranks of the Waffen-SS, the following European nations were already allied to Germany: Italy, Romania, Hungary, and Finland, whose armies would also fight alongside the Germans in the crusade against Bolshevism. Collectively, this force was enormous, consisting of over 1.5 million troops. [10], [11], [12], [13????], [14]

Men from Poland were conscripted to fight in the ranks of the  Wehrmacht, most of whom were technichally designated Volksdeutsche (ethnic Germans). [15]. Although their numbers are uncertain, it is not unreasonable to assume that some several hundred thousand were recruited (one source cites 500,000). [16], [17]

4. German Jews in the Wehrmacht

Although German Jews were of course considered German, it is worth making a special point to mention the involvement of German Jews during the war. This amounted to over 150,000 German men of Jewish descent (even quarter- and half-Jews) serving in the German armed forces, a fact which the Jewish- and leftist-dominated mainstream media of today most definitely wants to keep hidden away from public awareness. Although some German Jews had joined the ranks by hiding their identity, most were accepted by army standards.

Included among these men were two field marshals, 15 generals, one admiral, several naval captains, as well as numerous officers of significant rank, including colonels and majors. [19], [20], [21]. The highest profile Jewish figure serving was undoubtedly Field Marshal Erhard Milch, Air Inspector General of the Luftwaffe, who, with Hitler’s permission, was later reclassified as an honorary Aryan. [9] Another interesting figure of Jewish descent was Emil Maurice, an early member of the National Socialist Party, a founding member of the SS, a personal friend of Hitler and fellow prisoner in Landsberg, and for a time Hitler’s personal chauffeur. Hitler in fact rescinded Himmler’s attempt to expel Maurice and his brothers from the SS, and personally designated Maurice an honorary Aryan. [22], [23]

A display of Jewish soldiers who fought in the German Army, Air Force and Navy is included in the photo gallery.

3. Non-European volunteers

Although we can see that the total number of (non-German) European volunteers and conscripts who sided with the Germans was massive, eventually reaching over 2 million troops, the contingent of non-European volunteers was also considerable. These volunteers not only came from numerous Central Asiatic regions of the Soviet Union, but also from African nations under British and French colonial rule, in addition to Asian nations in the far east.

These groups were arranged in either regular Wehrmacht formations, or in Waffen-SS units according to their respective ethnicities, and are listed below. Although an in-depth listing of the actual divisions is not included, the list still provides an adequate overview of the ethnic groups involved.

The Ostlegionen (Eastern Legions):

Note: Although the Ostlegionen also comprised of Ukrainian units in addition to the Russian Liberation Army

  • Armenian Legion – 33,000 men [D]
  • Georgian Legion – 30,000 men [E]
  • Azerbaijani Legion – 40,000 men [F]
  • Turkestan Legion (Central Asian Muslim volunteers such as Turkomans, Uzbeks, Kazakhs, Kyrgyzs, Karakalpaks, and Tajiks) – 16,000 men [G]
  • Caucasian Muslim Legion (Azeris, Dagestanis, Chechens, Ingushes, and Lezgins) – number unknown
  • Volga-Tatar Legion (Muslim Volga Tatars/Bulgars, Bashkirs, Chuvashes, Mari, Udmurt and Mordva) – number unknown

By 1943, the total number of Ostlegionen volunteers alone numbered some 427,000 men. [Z]

Far Eastern volunteers:

  • Chinese – number unknown
  • Japanese – number unknown
  • Koreans – number unknown
  • Mongolians – number unknown
  • Thais – number unknown
  • Indonesians – number unknown

African and Middle Eastern volunteers:

Freies Arabien Legion (Free Arab Legion): 20,000

  • North African Muslims – number unknown
  • Middle Eastern Muslims – number unknown
  • Black Africans – number unknown

Deutsch-Arabische Truppe Kommando:

  • Moroccans – number unknown
  • Algerians – number unknown
  • Tunisians – number unknown


“Plus the many Arab volunteers of the Waffen SS ‘Free Arabia’ legion (‘Freies Arabien’), whose members countries of origin ranged from Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Trans-Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Iraq, plus quite a few obscure others (like Senussi and Tuaregs and various desert Arab tribes and peoples).”


Indisches Freiwilligen Legion (otherwise known as the Tiger Legion): These were Indian volunteers, numbering some 2,500 men.

Photo gallery

Milch + Maurice.png

Above left: Half-Jew Field Marshal Erhard Milch, Air Inspector General of the Luftwaffe. Right: Long-time friend of Hitler and one of the key founding members of the SS, Emil Maurice, who was of Jewish descent.


Above left: Wehrmacht Private Werner Goldberg, a half-Jew whose image was used in recruitment posters for the Wehrmacht. His image appeared in the newspaper Berliner Tageblatt, where he was touted as “The Ideal German Soldier”. [WG], [15 – JAS] Middle: Half-Jew Frigate Captain Paul Ascher, who was a high-ranking officer aboard the German battleship Bismarck, and who lost his life in May 1941 upon the sinking of the vessel. [PA], [15 – JAS] Right: Quarter-Jew Vice-Admiral Bernhard Rogge, who served abord the SMS Atlantis, and was later promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral and Inspector of Training Affairs, before being assigned the role of Commander of Fleet Training Formations in 1944. [BR], [15 – JAS]

German jews-3.png

Above left: Half-Jew General Helmut Wilberg, who served as a Luftwaffe General. [HW], [15 – JAS]. Middle: Half–Jew General Johannes Zuckertort. [15 – JAS] Right: Half-Jew Colonel Walter H. Hoellander, who received the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross, one of the highest medals awarded for bravery in the field. [WH], [15 – JAS]


Above: A listing of German-Jews (the first of 5 pages, with surnames A-E) serving in the German Army who held significant rank. As can be clearly seen, a mixture of generals, majors, and colonels (oberst) are represented. The far right-hand column, Blutsanteile (“blood percentage”), indicates the proportion of Jewish heritage. [Rigg – HJS]

Asian volunteers.png

Above: Members of the Turkestan Legion, originating from the Central Asiatic regions of the Soviet Union. The Turkistan Legion’s sleeve shield is clearly visible on the officer’s right sleeve (see coloured illustrations of sleeve shields at the end of this section). Although the term “Turkistan” has never been used to describe any actual distinct nation, it describes a geographical region across which live loosely-related ethnic groups of Turkic peoples. These people are from the following neighbouring countries: Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, the southern parts of Kazakhstan, in addition to a small tier of south-central Siberia. [Wik – Turk]

Asian volunteers-2.png

Above: Top left Chiang Wei-kuo, an important figure of the Chinese Nationalist Party (the opponents of Chinese communism), who was sent for a military education to the Kriegsschule in Munich, and who obtained the rank of lieutenant in addition to the prestigious Gebirgsjäger Edelweiss sleeve insignia (awarded to the elite Wehrmacht Mountain Troop formation). [CWK] Top centre – A Mongolian Wehrmacht volunteer in Normandy, France, 1944, armed with a panzerfaust. Top right – A Thai Wehrmacht volunteer in southern France, 1944. Bottom – Indonesian Waffen-SS volunteers stationed in Holland, 1944.

Arab volunteers.png

Above left and right: Soldiers of the Freies Arabien Legion, with the legion’s sleeve shield being clearly visible on the soldier in the photograph at right. Bottom left: Members of the Deutsch-Arabische Truppe Kommando.

Black Africans.png

Above photographs: The above photographs all display black African volunteers of the Freies Arabien Legion serving with the Wehrmacht. Top left – An African volunteer posing with German troops in Greece, 1943. [P1] Bottom centre – African volunteers attached to a Luftwaffe unit. Bottom right – African volunteer attached to the Africa Korps in Tunisia.

Indian volunteers.png

Above: Indian volunteers of the Freies Indien Legion (otherwise known as the Indisches Freiwilligen Legion, or simply the Tiger Legion). The unit’s sleeve shield is visible on the sleeve of the soldier at right. From August 1944 onwards this formation was attached to the Waffen-SS.

Sleeve shields.png

Above (left to right): Sleeve shields of the Turkistan Legion, Freies Arabien Legion, and the Freies Indien Legion, as seen on the sleeves of the men in the above photographs.


[TFA] J. Lee Ready. The Forgotten Axis: Germany’s Partners and Foreign Volunteers in World War II. McFarland & Company, Inc. 1987.

[1][1] Skorzeny, Otto, David Johnson transl. (1995). My Commando Operations: The Memoirs of Hitler’s Most Daring Commando. Schiffer Publishing. p. 37.

[2][3] Ukrainian Genocide Famine Foundation – USA, Inc.

[3][3b] Holodomor Education:

[4][2] Historian On the Warpath – Communist Body Count

[5][4] Waffen-SS foreign volunteers and conscripts [Wikipedia]

[6][4z] Wikipedia – 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Galician) [Wikipedia]

[7][4c] Weale, Adrian (2014). Renegades – British Members of the British Free Corps and their Aliases. (Kindle Locations 3757-3758). Random House. Kindle Edition.

[4b] Stein, George H (1984). The Waffen SS: Hitler’s Elite Guard at War, 1939–1945. Cornell University Press. p. 138.

[5] Second Army (Hungary) [Wikipedia]

[6] Axworthy, Mark; Scafes, Cornel; Craciunoiu, Cristian (editors) (1995). Third Axis, Fourth Ally: Romanian Armed Forces In the European War 1941-1945. London: Arms & Armour Press.

[7] Flames of War: Third Axis, Fourth Ally (book review of: Third Axis, Fourth Ally: Romanian Armed Forces In the European War 1941-1945)

[8] Romania in World War II [Wikipedia]

[9] Continuation War [Wikipedia]

[10] Poles in the Wehrmacht [Wikipedia]

[11] Wcieleni do Wehrmachtu – rozmowa z prof. Ryszardem Kaczmarkiem
[Conscripted into the Wehrmacht – interview with prof. Ryszard Kaczmarek – article in Polish]

[12] Axis History: Poles conscripted into the Wehrmacht

[Rigg – HJS] Rigg, Bryan Mark. Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers: The Untold Story of Nazi Racial Laws and Men of Jewish Descent in the German Military. University Press, Kansas, 2002. Introduction, p. 1.

[14] Ibid., see Figure 1 in appendix section

[14b] Ibid., Chapter 7.

[15 – JAS] Jewish-American Society for Historic Preservation: Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers

[16] University Press of Kansas (book review) – Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers: The Untold Story of Nazi Racial Laws and Men of Jewish Descent in the German Military

[17] Emil Maurice [Wikipedia]

[18] Honorary Aryan [Wikipedia]

[Z] Ostlegionen [Wikipedia]

[D] Auron, Y. The Banality of Denial: Israel and the Armenian Genocide. Transaction Publishers. 2009. p. 262.

[E] Georgian Legion (1941-45) [Wikipedia]

[F] Aserbaidschanische Legion [Wikipedia]

[G] Turkestan legion [Wikipedia]

References – photographs

[15 – JAS] Jewish-American Society for Historic Preservation: Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers

[WG] Werner Goldberg [Wikipedia]:

[PA] KBismarck – Paul Ascher:

[BR] Bernhard Rogge [Wikipedia]:

[HW] Helmuth Wilberg [Wikipedia]:

[WH] Walter Hollaender [Wikipedia]:

[Wik – Turk] Turkestan [Wikipedia]:

[CWK] Chiang Wei-kuo [Wikipedia]:

[P1] Bundesarchiv_Bild_101I-177-1465-16,_Griechenland,_Soldaten_der_”Legion_Freies_Arabien”.jpg

[P2] Wikipedia – Free Arabian Legion:

[Yet to sort out:]

Nazi Foreign Legions:

[A] McNab, Chris (2009). The SS: 1923–1945. Amber Books Ltd. p. 95.

Metapedia: Foreign volunteers in the German Army (WWII)

Jewish Life in Germany: How Some Mischlinge Survived the Holocaust

.   .   .   .   .   .   .

During the war, 70,000 Turkestanis volunteers served within the German forces: 40,000 soldiers and 30.000 military workers. In 1943, the Turkestanis had 15 battalions and one year later grew-up to 26 battalions. Those battalions mainly were integrated as independent battalions within German divisions.

Crimean Tartar was not only gladly collaborating with the Germans, but was also supplying the Wehrmacht with 20,000 soldiers.

Waffen-SS im Einsatz – Hitler’s Soviet Muslim Legions

.   .   .   .   .   .   .

[Worth looking at:]

Axis History: Deutsche-Arabische Bataillon Nr 845

Photographs – Foreign Wehrmacht volunteers

YouTube videos with documentary footage:

Black Africans in the German Army “Freies Arabien Legion” in WWII:

Non-European Volunteers in the Nazi German Army – World War II:

Multi-racial National Socialist soldiers – starts at 2:30 min:


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