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Georgia Legion
History In early 1942, Legionary training camps were set up behind the front in the Ukraine, and in the General Government of Poland. At this time the fledgling Georgian Legion was sent to Kruszyna in the west Ukraine for basic military training. NCO's (termed Gruppenfuhrer in the Legions) were sent to a school at Legionowo, while Officers (Zugfuhrer and Kompaniefuhrer, identifying lieutenant and captain respectively) were trained separately in command procedures under a German staff designated Kommando der Ostlegionen in Polen. The Georgian volunteers were issued with standard Wehrmacht/Heer basic kit. Feldgrau tunics, trousers, jackboots/stiefel, m42 stahlhelm and Kar98k rifle. On their right arm, centered, was a red shield, with the upper left quadrant split black over white - GEORGIEN is woven in white on the crest. Later on in the war a standard Uniform was created for all Osttruppen - similar to the German issue but without the Hoheitsabzeichen and with stylized rank tabs and eppaulettes in red, trimmed by white. These uniforms were never produced in quantities that allowed them to be distributed widely.

In autumn of 1942 the first units of the Georgian Legion became operational. These were the 795.Ostbataillonen and the 796.Ostbataillonen. The next wave were the 823.Ostbataillonen and the 824.Ostbataillonen in the second half of 1943. In subsequent training of new units for the Legion, the German Army's 162 Infantry Division under General von Niedermayer, became the parent unit of the new Ostbataillonen, whose HQ was at Migorod in the Ukraine until May 1943. With the 162nd, the numbering system of the Legions units was changed taking on the battalion/regimental number of the German units they were posted to. Hence subsequent units of the Georgian Legion would appear as : I/1.Gebirgsjager, II/4.Gebirgsjager, I/9.Inf., II/198.Inf, etc.

As the war progressed, the 162 Infantry Division kept its cadre German training staff, and it's soldiers were drawn from the former depot batallions of the Ostlegionen. This mixed formation was nick-named the Turkoman Division, and in accordance with the policy for deploying Eastern units away from the USSR it was eventually sent, first to Slovenia and later to Italy, for anti-partisan duties. It spent the rest of the war in Italy, only brushing against Allied regular troops on two occasions. The name Turkoman is misleading - this Division was composed of many Azerbaidjanis, Georgians, and Armenians, as well as Turkistani's - a hodge-podge of Orthodox Christians and Muslims which the Germans were wont to call Turkische, as in an all encompassing label of Turks, much as the British of the Empire days might call any non-Englishman a Wog!

It should be clear that although the name Georgian Legion conjures an integrated military unit of many battalions and regiments - it never in fact operated as such. Like the other Ostlegionen, it's components were spread far and wide across Germany's military fronts, and the Germans never used these battalions for strictly front-line combat operations. They were more likely than not to be used to fill various manpower gaps in construction, security, and supply units. Thus no picture of a proud Combat Organization like the Legion Volunteer Francaise (French), the Legion Wallonie (Belgians), the Legion Norwegen (Norway), Freikorps Danmark (Denmark), or even the Spanish Blue Divison emerges when looking upon the Caucasian volunteer units. In a racially oriented army such as was the Wehrmacht, they could never have been more than 2nd class troops because of their basic ethnicity and the views in which the most Germans held them, although it is unquestionable that many volunteers did so for noble reasons and had ever intention to fight against the Soviet Union.

There were other units not necessarily associated with the Ostbataillonen that could nonetheless be loosely designated as part of the Georgian Legion. In addition to the Caucasian Moslem Legion, there was another Caucasian unit, but under different command. This was Sonderverband Bergmann, created by Admiral Canaris , chief of the Abwehr - German Military Intelligence, in December 1941, along somewhat similar lines to the existing Roland and Nightingale (Roland u. Nachtigall) Ukrainian battalions. (These were special operations battalions which were part of the famous Brandenberg unit.) Sonderverband Bergman was a special service unit commanded by Captain Theodor Oberlander, with it's headquarters at Mittenwald in Bavaria. It was recruited from Georgian, Armenian, Azerbaidjani, and other Caucasian prisoners-of-war but also included a nucleus of prewar anti-Soviet emigres' from that region. The unit was unique in that it took it's oath of allegiance not to Hitler (as Wehrmacht units usually did), but to the Army (OKH) itself. It's Georgian component was the most pro-German, possibly because at the end of the First World War, Germany had aided the short-lived Georgian Republic.

It had been the original intention of OKH/Abwehr that Sonderverband Bergmann would be employed only on special assignments such as dropping by parachute behind Red Army lines to carry out acts of sabotage, but the number of volunteers was such that it was possible to create from them two full strength Infantry battalions (known as Batl.Bergmann I u. II.) The two battalions were subsequently used in a regular infantry capacity in land fighting in the Caucasus. They suffered heavy losses, especially in actions along the Terek River. Oberlander, a former Professor of Eastern European studies at the University of Konigsberg, was an outspoken critic of Nazi occupation policies in Russia. This resulted in Reichskommisar Koch using his influence with Hitler to get him not only removed from his command but also dismissed from the army. The two battalions were not however, disbanded, but continued to serve with the German forces in the East.

Another reference to the Georgians in service of the Germans is that of the Kaukaisischer Waffenverband der SS - This was a late war composite of Ostlegionen units which for one reason or another found themselves under Waffen SS command. Formed in Feburary 1945, this group comprised of North Caucasians, Georgians, Armenians and some Azerbaidjanis. At Paluzza, near Tolmezza in Northern Italy, work had already started on the creation of a Caucasian Cavalry Division for the Waffen SS. It did not get very far. As with other projected expansions of Himmler, the plan was extinguished by the collapse of the Nazi Reich. In practice, the SS never succeeded in getting it's hands on more than a fraction of the Army's multitude of Eastern volunteers. Often what authority it did exercise was only nominal, as in the case of the Cossack Cavalry Corps - At wars end, an SS-FHA commanded formation, but for all intents and purposes a Wehrmacht/Heer cultivated and trained unit.

The Statistical dept. of the German Army quoted the following manpower figures for non-Russian Eastern volunteers in the German Armed forces as of Sept. 1944:

Armenians: 17,600
Azerbaidjanis: 17,795
Georgians: 20,800
N.Caucasians: 13,000
total: 69,195

Also, another 32,000 as replacements with regular German Army units, Luftwaffe, and Waffen-SS. A grand total of 101,195 men. Somewhere near 3 Army Groups. Needless to say, the OSTLEGIONEN are an important component in any estimate of the German Armed Forces in the Second World War.

An interesting aside concerning the Georgian Legion is that while on occupation duty on the island of Texel off the Dutch coast in Feburary 1945, the 822.Georgian Battalion was ordered back to the mainland to help stem the advancing allies. They refused to go. The mutineers killed most of the German cadre personnel. It cost the Germans a weeks hard fighting to put down the mutiny and retake the island.

Some info taken from "Foreign Legions of the Third Reich, volume 4"

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