One of the strangest units in the German Army during WWII was the Free Arabian Legion. Find out how it was raised, who joined it and where it served.
In the beginning of April 1941, Iraqi politician Rashid Ali al-Gaylani along with several more Iraqi officers, part of the nationalist group the Golden Square, overthrew the pro-British regime in the Kingdom of Iraq. The new pro-German government sought German and Italian support for an Iraqi revolt against the British forces in the country. Contact was established with the Axis powers with the help of the “Nazi” supporter Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Amin al-Husseini who had lived in Iraq since he fled imprisonment from Mandatory Palestine shortly before the war.
In May, 1941 the Anglo-Iraqi War begun with British forces entering Iraq. Adolf Hitler had agreed to send Luftwaffe squadrons to support Iraq as well as Sonderstab F, a special mission headed by Hellmuth Felmy which was to support the revolt and raise a German-led Arab brigade.
By late May the same year the Iraqi forces had been beaten by the British and al-Husseini and al-Gaylani fled to Iran and then Germany. After the failure a number of Arab sympathisers were shipped out of the Middle East through French Syria and ended up in Cape Sounion, Greece.
Soldier of the Free Arabian Legion on guard duty
Hellmuth Felmy had by June been given command of Army Group Southern Greece and was to continue the raising of the German-Arab units through Sonderstab F, which had now been expanded and “should be the central field office for all issues of the Arab world, which affect the Wehrmacht”. Therefore, the two units Sonderverband 287 and Sonderverband 288 were created.
Sonderverband 288 consisted mostly of Germans but with a cadre of Arab translators and a mobile printing company that could produce Arabic-language leaflets as well as a squad for the operation of oil production facilities. By January, 1942 the whole unit was transferred to Libya to defend against the British forces in the North Africa Campaign, the unit was planned to eventually be used in an invasion of the Middle East through Egypt, but this never came to be. After several months of fighting the unit was renamed Panzer Grenadier Regiment Africa and eventually captured by American forces following the capitulation of all Axis forces in North Africa, May 1943.
Although Sonderverband 288 only contained a small group of Arab soldiers, the “true” Free Arabian Legion where the Arabic units came from was Sonderverband 287. Note however, that the name Free Arabian Legion was not the name of any specific unit, but an all-encompassing name of all Arabic units in the German Army. The unit was formed on 4 August 1942, with much help from Amin al-Husseini and Rashid Ali al-Gaylani and consisted of mostly of Iraqi and Syrian Muslims, bolstered by former prisoner of war and other volunteers.
The 3rd battalion of Sonderverband 287 was taken from the unit and sent as the Deutsche-Arabische Lehr-Abteilung to the Caucasus in September 1942. It was part of the Axis offensive into the region and the German plan to raise an Iraqi government-in-exile there. They were then to use the region as a force station and base for a way of conquering Iraq. The plan never came to be and the unit never saw action following heavy German setbacks in late 1942. The unit was sent to the battle in Tunisia through Italy in January 1943. Here the Deutsche-Arabische Lehr-Abteilung was placed on the southern flank of the Axis army and was used to recruit more local Arabs who formed a second battalion of auxiliaries who were used for guard duty and as construction troops. The whole unit was captured along with the rest of the Axis forces in Africa, May 1943.
The remaining soldiers the 3rd battalion, i.e. the Deutsche-Arabische Lehr-Abteilung, who had not been sent to North Africa, were used, together with French residing Muslims from North Africa, to form into the German-Arab Batallion 845 in the summer of 1943. They served in the Peloponnese region of Greece as part of the 41st Fortress Division from November the same year. It participated in the Greek partisan war, specifically against ELAS. In October 1944 it was withdrawn from Greece into Yugoslavia and was in early 1945 strengthened by the addition of Arabs from a battalion of Arab volunteers that was disbanded before it was fully formed. It ended the war near Zagreb as part of the 104th Jäger Division.
The 1st and 2nd battalions of the Free Arabian Legion who had not been part of the Deutsche-Arabische Lehr-Abteilung were used to replace losses and rebuild Grenadier Regiment 92 together with a light battery and light pioneer company on 2 May 1943, which was then redesignated to Grenadier Regiment 92 (MOT) on 5 June 1944. The regiment moved to Yugoslavia to fight against Partisans and was part of Army Group F. The regiment suffered heavy losses in the fighting near Belgrade in October 1944 and the remains became part of the 2nd Panzer Army where it was rebuilt into Panzergrenadier Brigade 92 in January 1945. The whole army capitulated in disarray in Austria, May 1945.
A lot of people in the Alt-Right and Pan-European movement love to write about this so called “Pan-European army”.
The (((counter-jihad))) movement love to write about muslims and “nazis” being on the same side.
Both sides are wrong, Germany needed soldiers and recruited Arabs, Africans, Eastern Europeans, etc. just like France and UK. Not because they liked any of them.
From Wikipedia, so take it with a grain of salt.
Following the campaign in the West in 1940, Hitler authorized the enlistment of “people perceived to be of related stock”, as Himmler put it, to expand the ranks. A number of Danes, Dutch, Norwegians, Swedes and Finns volunteered to serve in the Waffen-SS under the command of German officers.
Non-Germanic units were not considered to be part of the SS directly, which still maintained its strict racial criteria; instead they were considered to be foreign nationals serving under the command of the SS.
Recruitment began in April 1940 with the creation of two regiments: Nordland (later SS Division Nordland) and Westland (later SS Division Wiking). As they grew in numbers, the volunteers were grouped into Legions (with the size of battalion or brigade); their members included the so-called Germanic non-Germans as well as ethnic German officers originating from the occupied territories. As the war progressed, foreign volunteers and conscripts made up one half of the Waffen-SS.
After Germany invaded the Soviet Union in Operation Barbarossa, recruits from France, Spain, Belgium (including Walloons), the territory of occupied Czechoslovakia, Hungary and the Balkans were signed on.
By February 1942, Waffen-SS recruitment in south-east Europe turned into compulsory conscription for all German minorities of military age.
From 1942 onwards, further units of non-Germanic recruits were formed. Legions were formed of men from Estonia, Latvia as well as men from Bosnia, Herzegovina, Croatia, Georgia, Ukraine, Russia and Cossacks.
However, by 1943 the Waffen-SS could not longer claim overall to be an “elite” fighting force.
Recruitment and conscription based on “numerical over qualitative expansion” took place, with many of the “foreign” units being good for only rear-guard duty.
In addition by 1944, the German military began conscripting Estonians and Latvians in an effort to replenish their losses. The foreigners who served in the Waffen-SS numbered “some 500,000”, including those who were pressured into service or conscripted.
A system of nomenclature developed to formally distinguish personnel based on their place of origin.
Germanic units would have the “SS” prefix, while non-Germanic units were designated with the “Waffen” prefix to their names.
The formations with non-German volunteers of Germanic background were officially named Freiwilligen (volunteer) (Scandinavians, Dutch, and Flemish), while the units of ethnic Germans born outside the Reich were known as Volksdeutsche and their members were from satellite countries. These were organized into independent legions and had the designation Waffen attached to their names for formal identification. In addition, the German SS Division Wiking included recruits from Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Estonia throughout its history. The number of SS recruits from Sweden and Switzerland was only several hundred men.
Despite manpower shortages, the Waffen-SS was still based on the racist ideology of National Socialist German Workers’ Party, thereby ethnic Poles were specifically barred from the formations due to them being looked upon as “subhumans”, despite other Slavic groups being allowed service such as Ukranians and Byelorussians in the 39. and 40. Waffen Grenadier regiments, also supposedly considered “subhuman”.
Many are LARPing about Waffen-SS as both a multi-ethnic and pan-European army.
That is the truth, with modification!
Read about WWII here