Status of combatants of surrendered nations when captured?

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wm
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Re: Status of combatants of surrendered nations when captured?

Post by wm » 07 Feb 2021 12:13

The Germans were always willing to cooperate with East Europeans, with Slovaks, Ukrainians, Russians (the Russian Liberation Army) so that's not true, that the Germans saw eventually the light in 1945.

The Polish resistance didn't even exist in January.
It officially disbanded on 19 January 1945, their members being mass arrested and killed by the Soviets.

There was a case that a retreating to the West an anti-communist unit made a temporary truce with the disintegrating German Army for tactical reasons, but that was a low-level thing, not a general policy.

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Re: Status of combatants of surrendered nations when captured?

Post by Sid Guttridge » 07 Feb 2021 12:38

Hi wm.

You post, "The Germans were always willing to cooperate with East Europeans, with Slovaks, Ukrainians, Russians (the Russian Liberation Army) so that's not true, that the Germans saw eventually the light in 1945."

Not true. The Germans were always willing to use various East Europeans (except the Poles). However, the Germans intended to Germanize Slovakia after Bohemia-Moravia and kept Karmasin and his local Deutsche Partei ready for that day. The Ukraine was designated for lebensraum. German long-term plans for Russia are vaguer, beyond occupation up to the Urals.

If I remember correctly, the Germans were willing to use Eastern European nationalities to support their war effort long before they were prepared to give them national political recognition, which only occurred belatedly, in some cases only, in 1945.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Loïc
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Re: Status of combatants of surrendered nations when captured?

Post by Loïc » 07 Feb 2021 16:07

hello
concerning Sid's following post
One other thing I noticed when looking at the Battle of Menton. Apparently the Franco-Italian Armistice conditions didn't mention prisoners. Is this so? Reportedly as a result, the handful of French prisoners were not immediately returned to Vichy. Do you know what happened to them? I imagine some sort of accommodation was reached with Vichy at some stage.
that is why I wonder why it was counted as 627 "Degaullist French" in the previous table coming from the Regio Esercito at the 30th november 1942 and further dates
Image

while there were also 155 French POW's captured in june 1940 by the Italians and logically didn't belong to such category, or maybe they were counted separately by the Italian Army (so 627+155=782?)

Azeau, La guerre franco-italienne, juin 1940, Paris, Presses de la Cité, 1967
(gave) a description of the conditions of detention of the 150 French prisoners.
Their fate after September 8, 1943, the date of the Italian surrender and German occupation of north-central Italy, is not very well known or unknown. Presumably some may have escaped but the bulk of the prisoners ended up in prison camps in Germany.


not vey clear because a POW wrote that they remained "18 months" under Italian captivity and this seems to corespond to the French newpapers of january 1942 referring to the last 137 French POW's having been released for Christmas 1941 after an encounter between Admiral Darlan and Count Ciano

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Re: Status of combatants of surrendered nations when captured?

Post by DrG » 07 Feb 2021 18:49

wm wrote:
07 Feb 2021 12:13
The Polish resistance didn't even exist in January.
It officially disbanded on 19 January 1945, their members being mass arrested and killed by the Soviets.
There was a case that a retreating to the West an anti-communist unit made a temporary truce with the disintegrating German Army for tactical reasons, but that was a low-level thing, not a general policy.
Thanks, but perhaps my translation from Italian was not clear: the sentence that I've quoted didn't mean that the Germans and Polish resistance collaborated or signed a truce, instead it states that the Germans accepted to treat the Poles as legitimate combatants, but they were still enemies. Maybe this agreement was reached just a few days before the disbanding of the resistance itself by the Soviets.

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Re: Status of combatants of surrendered nations when captured?

Post by DrG » 07 Feb 2021 18:56

Loïc wrote:
07 Feb 2021 16:07
that is why I wonder why it was counted as 627 "Degaullist French" in the previous table coming from the Regio Esercito at the 30th november 1942 and further dates

while there were also 155 French POW's captured in june 1940 by the Italians and logically didn't belong to such category, or maybe they were counted separately by the Italian Army (so 627+155=782?)

Azeau, La guerre franco-italienne, juin 1940, Paris, Presses de la Cité, 1967
(gave) a description of the conditions of detention of the 150 French prisoners.
Their fate after September 8, 1943, the date of the Italian surrender and German occupation of north-central Italy, is not very well known or unknown. Presumably some may have escaped but the bulk of the prisoners ended up in prison camps in Germany.


not vey clear because a POW wrote that they remained "18 months" under Italian captivity and this seems to corespond to the French newpapers of january 1942 referring to the last 137 French POW's having been released for Christmas 1941 after an encounter between Admiral Darlan and Count Ciano
The original from which I remade the table in Excel (for ease of posting it here) called them explicitly "francesi degaullisti" (which I literally translated as "Degaullist French"), therefore they were not the POWs captured in June 1940, of whom, to be honest, I was fully unaware until today, since I don't remember I had ever read about them before. Given your account that they were liberated in late 1941, I guess that in 1942-43 none of them was still in Italian camps and therefore the description of their fate after 8 Sept. 1943 provided by Azeau was merely conjectural.

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Re: Status of combatants of surrendered nations when captured?

Post by DrG » 07 Feb 2021 19:21

Sid Guttridge wrote:
07 Feb 2021 12:11
The Russians are the most notable absentees from your lists. Do you have any details on them? I would imagine that they probably ran into the low tens of thousands.
One other thing I noticed when looking at the Battle of Menton. Apparently the Franco-Italian Armistice conditions didn't mention prisoners. Is this so?
Hi Sid, you are welcome.

The matter of Soviet POWs is a mistery also for Italian historians, mostly because it is absolutely sure that several (hundreds) Soviet men took part to Italian resistance after the armistice of 8 Sept. 1943, but why they were in Italy in first place remains an open question, as far as I know. The explanations could be these, in my opinion, but I am skeptical anyway:
- Despite the fact that POWs captured in USSR by the ARMIR (Italian 8th Army, created in July 1942) were held in POW camps located in Russia itself and were not transferred to Italy, maybe some of them mixed with Italian troops returning to Italy in Feb.-Apr. 1943. Given the very high percentage of POWs who volunteered for service with the Italian Army this should not be impossible, but there is the problem that no source mention this "hidden" arrival of Russians nor how and where they lived during the Spring-Summer of 1943.
- Maybe Soviets in Italian resistance were auxiliaries of Germans who had deserted. Also this explanation is not very good, because they often were among the fist partizans, shortly after the armistice, at a time when the Germans did not employ such auxiliaries in Italy.
- Maybe the number of Soviet POWs transported to Italy was much higher than known. I know of only 3 Soviet POWs held in Italian territory, so also this explanation seems incorrect and surely not supported by sources.

Anyway, the ARMIR had ten POW camps in Russia, for a total of about 5,000 POWs held in custody in late 1942. The previous CSIR (Italian Expeditionary Corps in Russia), instead, handed its POWs to the Germans. Only in late Winter 1941-42 the CSIR was allowed by the German command to keep a few hundred of POWs for work (usually road manteinance). A report of March 1942 states that, up to that date, the CSIR had captured 14,267 Soviet POWs, of which 12,472 handed over to the Germans and an unspecified number to the Rumanians. I have found these information in Sargeri, Cappellano, "L'epopea dell'ARMIR. Gli italiani sul fronte orientale", Rivista Militare, n. 2, 2006.

About the Franco-Italian Armistice of 24 June 1940, I can only confirm that no mention is made about the treatment of French POWs.

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Re: Status of combatants of surrendered nations when captured?

Post by Sid Guttridge » 07 Feb 2021 19:52

Hi Loic,

Thanks. I think you have solved the mystery of the fate of the French POWs taken by Italy in June 1940.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: Status of combatants of surrendered nations when captured?

Post by Sid Guttridge » 07 Feb 2021 20:24

Hi Dr. G,

The Russians do seem a bit of a mystery.

Given that the 162 (Turkoman) Division only arrived in Italy in March 1944, it seems unlikely that the British Embassy to the Vatican could have been aware of 429 "Russians" in hiding by 4 June.

However, the rather indiscriminate book Hitler's Turkestani Soldiers by Paolo A. Dossena does recount some large desertions later, including an entire company of Turkomens in late 1944 or early 1945. One partisan group alone also had 50 Georgians.

I have also had a look on the internet at Commonwealth, as opposed to metropolitan British, POWs in Italy.

One Australian source estimated about 2,000 Australians were held there.

South African sources estimate about 10,000 of their POWs were held in Italy, largely as a result of 2nd Tobruk. (This battle seems to have accounted for nearly half British and Dominion POWs in Italy).

The New Zealand POWs seem to have totalled something between the two. The battles at Sidi Rezegh and Belhamed cost 2nd New Zealand Division 2,042 POWs. Another 1,819 were lost as POWs between 20 June and 31 August 1942, largely at El Mreir and Ruweisat Ridge. 131 were captured in October-November 1942 and 47 in Tunisia. Assuming that most POWs taken in North Africa ended up being held by the Italians, this would total around 4,000. (This is assuming that all the approximately 4,000 New Zealanders taken in Greece and Crete had ended up in German hands).

There were apparently 1,310 Americans by 9 September 1943.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: Status of combatants of surrendered nations when captured?

Post by DrG » 15 Feb 2021 02:35

Returning to the status of Free French, after further reading I have come to the conclusion that the Axis had no other choice than to grant them the status of legal combatants, despite the French armistices of June 1940, because, contrary to the hypotheses underlying those armistices, they were under the command of a de facto sovereign power, thanks to the allignement of French Equatorial Africa to De Gaulle (plus, of course, further French territories in the following years). In fact, even if the effective control (i.e. a control not temporary or undefined in its extention, but with working public offices, State organization, etc.) is on a colonial and not metropolitan territory, from the point of view of international law it is enough to guarantee the condition of effettivity to the power governing it.

Moreover, the International Law Institute, which of course has not the power or the right of setting binding laws or rules, but provides doctrine about international law which can be useful in absence of a positive agreement between powers (such as a convention or treaty), stated in 1900 the conditions for the recognition of an insurgent army as a legitimate belligerent. Among them, there is the presence of a regular and effective governing power on a determined part of national territory. These conditions were clearly met by Free French (even though somebody could argue about the meaning of "national", but, given that these rules had been written taking into account primarily the experience of the wars of independence of the American colonies, from the USA to South America, it is clear that this adjective does not refer to the metropolitan territory alone).

Another matter regards the right of a power to transfer the POWs that it had captured to another power. I have discovered that in August 1943 the British government complained about an alleged (then proved to be unfunded) transfer of British POWs from Italy (the detaining power) to Germany. Italy, then, complained for the transfer of Italian POWs to the French by the British and Americans and in its complaint it made reference to generic "international rules and customs". Anyway, the fact that, in reverse positions, both Italy and UK protested for the transfer of POWs seems to indicate that this action was forbidden at least on a customary base, if not by a specific treaty.

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