Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard
The letter of the SS Brigadeführer Wächter to the Reichsführer-SS and the commander of the German police, the Reich Minister of Internal Affairs H. Himmler about the use in military operations of the voluntary SS “Galicia” division.
Lemberg, on May 3rd, 1944.
Governor of Galicia Dr. Wä/RaI
To the Reichsführer-SS and commander of the German police,
to the Reich Minister of Internal Affairs Heinrich Himmler
Berlin SW 11.
8 Prince Albrecht Street
A few days ago, on April 28th, 1944, there was the anniversary of the appeal to the Galician-Ukrainian population to create a Galician voluntary SS division.
Concerning this, I present a short current report on the situation of affairs in Galicia. But first of all, on this historical for Galicia day, I thank you, the Reichsführer, obediently for the decision made by you then:
Judging by the experience of the last restless months, the division became a barrier to the youth of Galicia as a whole against slipping towards nationalist hostility concerning the Reich and a starting point for the youth feeling itself to be European and accepting the idea of the Reich.
About the situation in Galicia:
The general course of war had an impact on Galicia. Retreat of the front line in the East, and finally, the invasion of Soviets into the country and the numerous unpleasant, evident to the population side-effects connected with the defeated German convoy escaping to the west strongly undermined trust towards the Reich. It is necessary to add to this the growing banditry, the quelling of which is difficult by means of our small executive bodies.
Thus, after continuous raising of all indicators up to the summer of 1943, in the last months a sharp recession is observed in Galicia. Nevertheless, on the basis of the experience received during the invasion of Soviet troops into the country it is possible to note the following:
The population in its main mass absolutely unshakably shows itself to be alien to Bolshevism, it in its common line continues to be orientated towards Europe, towards the west, and not towards Moscow. These circumstances promise positive prospects of further development.
Such a position of the broad masses of the rural population is especially shown in relation to the German soldiers. Peasants receive them in the most friendly way and give support in every possible way. This is the general opinion of the military units located in Galicia. The General Field Marshal Model, as well as the obergruppenfuhrer SS Hausser again confirmed this to me a few days ago.
The supplies of production taking place for governing bodies became less friendly earlier. However it is caused to a lesser extent by the basic discontent of the population, and to a greater extent by the direct violent capture of products by troops.
Also a role is played in this by the damaging of harvest equipment during retreat and the fear of punishment from the Bolsheviks who can return. We have to consider that after the success of our deliveries – sharply increasing from year to year – now we picked everything clean. But it is better that it was done by the German soldiers, and not Bolsheviks.
Rampant banditry significantly burdens the general situation also. Along with the usual Soviet banditry caused by the present situation on the fronts, gangs of Ukrainian nationalists became an essential factor too.
These gangs are mostly involved in the destruction of Poles, by burning Polish yards and constructions, and also real estate. Up to now they in essence still abstained from infringing directly on German interests. On the contrary, they conduct an active fight against Soviet bandit groups and Soviet emissaries.
The desirable, from my point of view, policy of exarticulating positive elements by means of corresponding propaganda processing along with rigid actions concerning groups of disobedient persons, unfortunately, can’t be appropriately put into practice owing to the weakness of our executive bodies. I hope, in the future we will be able to use this method.
Especially in connection with the growth of the nationalist bandit movement, it is necessary to specify here the cardinal problem not only for Galicia, but also for all Eastern areas of a shortage of national watchwords, slogans.
The ideas that were constantly expressed by me of the need for such justifications and dependence on this or that way of development of forethought for justification in this war, of course, concern only a part of the population, and not the mass of youth, which is in a condition of fermentation.
That’s why in Galicia concerning this affairs are very bad; that I have no opportunity to orientate myself on the united people, because I have only a part of them at my disposal; the Ukrainians of Galicia, who constantly point to the improper treatment of the people by the German leadership in other regions.
And nevertheless a positive development of events in the war, as I hope, will offer relief in this fundamental Galician problem.
About the Galician movement of volunteers of the SS:
Concerning this topic that is so familiar for me, the aforementioned question about the national watchwords has crucial importance. It is clear that young volunteers will express themselves with more desire for a clear and positive political program than for something uncertain or only expected. Many difficulties in the division and regiments are connected to this.
Through the pushing forward of clear national watchwords it would be possible to achieve a people’s uprising here in the event of a Soviet invasion. And nevertheless, I am adjusted optimistically, even if it forces constant political tactical moves and endless interference of a “diplomatic nature”.
The appeal made at the time by you, the Reichsführer, to the division – “Adolf Hitler and his German people don’t manage to achieve anything through persistence, but they manage to deserve everything through a test of decency and fidelity” – despite everything will lead to success.
The intelligent youth – and it makes up an essential part of our division – with understanding relates to these watchwords and in this sense influences the rest of the division. Moreover, the junior commanders of Galicians learned what the Reich is, they stood in the same training ground together with other representatives of the European youth and ambitiously tried to adopt the memorable style of the troops of the SS.
In the fire of the frontline this best part will become tempered even more and then, I am convinced, will be the nucleus of the youth movement, which becomes stronger and bound to the Reich. These young men, who in most cases were even Bandera’s adherents earlier, already now, in one way or another, entered into a strong conflict with Bandera’s supporters acting in the forests of their native land.
The pride of frontline tests adds to this, and that’s why contempt for the cowards and arsonists hiding in the forests will only continue to grow. A favorable course of war will affect this too.
If various negative events connected with Galician regiments No. 4 and No. 579 will contradict my optimism, it won’t over-persuade.
I kept continuous contact with the command and troops of the Galician regiments of the SS and the divisions themselves, and I come to the following:
Their regiments were used in extremely difficult circumstances. I will explain: A lack of arms, which had to especially have an effect during all kinds of clashes with Soviet armored tank-troops.
The distribution of regiments across many tens of kilometers along the rear positions of bandit formations, when being split in weak, small strengthened points, they were left face-to-face with a nationalist influence, at a time when to counteract those was extremely complicated owing to this dissociation and impossibility of transport connections.
Their use (especially the 5th regiment) in the regions that are completely disorganized as a result of a radical internecine fight, there the influence of gangs of nationalists against the background of burning Ukrainian villages was especially notable.
Their use when the front line was retreating, which also was as frequent in the German armies (first of all, in the convoy), quite often had as a consequence the visible phenomena of degradation. The main corps, which, in fact, had no experience of frontline actions, had practically no soldier’s traditions.
At last, and this is essential, the absence (despite the fact that at the time I assumed there was) of contact between the command and ordinary ranks; contact that in the language of men, with the use of clear arguments, could again and again vividly influence them. The presence of a Galician-Ukrainian corps of junior commanders could work in this case very positively.
Despite these essential difficulties, the regiments battled well, especially there, where they were led by faultless commanders, where they were supported by heavy weapons, and where they were led in battles. This was repeatedly confirmed to me personally by officers of Wehrmacht who I talked to.
A considerable part of these difficulties is absent in the SS Galician division. It is led by soldiers. It is well prepared and equipped with heavy arms, and, first of all, it has a corps of junior commanders consisting of Galicians, who trained at schools of junior commanders of SS troops. They know what is what, they are ambitious to prove themselves in military units and to show themselves alongside them.
And here, like in any other non-German formation, there are losses because of desertion; and here a part of the soldiers fight not at full capacity. But another part, in my opinion, is good. Around this nucleus the army will take shape, with which it will be possible to achieve something significant in the military plan and especially in the political one.
I hope that some soldier’s good luck will be added to this, which is connected with the active events on the fronts and their own first successes.
In this regard I would like to address you, the Reichsführer, with a request by all means to use the SS Galician division against Soviets and whenever possible to send it home to Galicia.
Of course, there are many counterarguments. And nevertheless I remain with the opinion: who risks, wins! Their use in the Motherland would bring their best part to the surface to accomplish feats. This would show them that the German leadership trusts them, and would disprove the theses of many false propagandists who claim that we wouldn’t have enough courage for it.
In addition, the Ukrainian nationalist movement, with which the Bolsheviks conduct a strengthened fight, as with “German banditry”, now is between two fires, and the signs of degradation are already distinguishable. The introduction of the Galician division, which as I could be convinced during my short visit to Neuhammer, makes in a soldier’s way a faultless impression, perhaps it will help to strike one more decisive blow to this disorganization.
The General Field Marshal Model explained to me that he would very much like to use this division in a sheaf with the group of troops deployed on the territory of Galicia. Thus, at this time it would be possible to count on the politically correct use of them.
Also, in the same way the Field Marshal politically and tactically correctly used Hungarian troops, when these formations, unaccustomed to military operations, came to their first successes, and thanks to this their self-consciousness grew.
In summary I would like to repeat the already sounded request once again:
My last report to you, the Reichsführer, took place in March, 1943, i.e. more than a year ago. Then you agreed to the creation of the SS Galicia division, carrying out reprivatization in the interests of the population of Galicia, and restricting the policy of settlement.
Finally, world-wide and historical events also influenced the situation in Galicia, following this essentially new problems appeared here. Therefore I ask you, the Reichsführer, to make a report on it.
Obediently your Wächter (signature)
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