Germany's Field Marshal Heinz Guderian was quoted as saying: "We lost the war the day we failed to raise the Ukrainian flag over the cathedral in Kiev, that day was when the Ukrainians lost their hope and faith in the third Reich as the liberators I intended!"

Question: Did any rational authority agree with him that it was necessary to "liberate" non-Russian Soviet people for the Germans to prevail on the eastern front? (I'm not asking about people who thought that Germany could win no matter how they treated the Soviets.)


  1. An "authority" is a recognized historian after the fact, or a contemporaneous high level soldier, diplomat or politician who had the power to shape events.
  2. A German "authority" is considered "rational" only if he was better noted for his professionalism than his Naziism. Among military men, Guderian, Manstein and Rommel qualify; Goering, Jodl and (La)Keitel, who were noted for their Naziism, do not.

3."Prevail on the Eastern front" means that the final peacetime western Soviet border ended up being "rolled" back north and east of where it stood on June 21, 1941. A "liberation" of one of the Baltic countries, or Soviet Poland, or Finnish Karelia, or Romania's "Transdiniester region would qualify.

  1. "Liberate" means to "Balkanize" the non-Russian Soviet Union, giving non-Russian Soviets nominal independence, or at least substantial autonomy, while maintaining de facto German control.
  • 3
    For this, I assume Hitler is not considered rational?
    – CGCampbell
    Nov 21, 2015 at 0:34
  • 1
    Strange question. Of course most in the German command believed this, otherwise why would they attack. And in fact their attack was "near success".
    – Alex
    Nov 21, 2015 at 4:05
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    Moreover, VERY many Soviet Citizens believed this in 1941 and in 1942.
    – Alex
    Nov 21, 2015 at 4:09
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    According to Viktor Suvorov, the "Soviet" Russia was preparing to an offensive war in July 1941. The vast majority of its weapons and trained soldiers were concentrated on the border and destroyed or captured in the first months after German invasion. Suvorov then argues that the key factor of why the German offensives were halted was American and British deliveries to the Russia. So, does your question assume the period before or after Lend-Lease deliveries started (Oct 01, 1941)? Nov 21, 2015 at 10:17
  • 1
    Banners mean quite little. Whatever Guderian chose to believe, one may simply compare the support Germany had in Ukraine and in Belarus. Those who waited for Nazis were happy, those who not - need no banners to hate them.
    – Matt
    Dec 24, 2015 at 15:32

2 Answers 2


Authorities? We don't know.

Germany was at the time under a totalitarian regime. One of the main characteristics of such is that while there might be some authorities besides the master one, and they might have some unaligned thoughts, it is a major political error for them to reveal themselves before they are ready to win their case. And they can win only via true power - either a powerful organization (like an army, a big trade union, or a secret police) or a large mob ready to start riots.

Unlike in democracy, the totalitarian system has no ways defined that merely by saying something one could somehow influence the legislative process. But it surely can get you in trouble. So the powerless people desperately try to figure out how can they assure everyone that they completely agree with the official party line. And the few powerful people don't expose themselves foolishly too early in their game.

This is why all totalitarianisms seem so monolithic on the surface, until the change or clash between authorities comes in a blink of an eye.

Errors happen (we're human), and one such major political errors in Germany was this:

In the autumn of 1941, Field Marshal von Bock had sent to Hitler's Headquarters a detailed project for the organization of a Liberation Army of some 200,000 Russian volunteers, and for the formation of a local government in the province of Smolensk. It was returned in November 1941 with the notation that "such thoughts cannot be discussed with the Führer," and that "politics are not the prerogatives of Army Group Commanders." Of course, Field-Marshal Keitel, who wrote this notation, did not show the project to Hitler. (source)

I wouldn't expect this situation to repeat quite often.

Of course I assume that Baltics and (parts of) Finland are excluded from your question, as they could be hardly called "Soviet people" after just a year or so of occupation.

  • OK, a few members of the General Staff agreed with Guderian, but they didn't dare say so.
    – Tom Au
    Nov 22, 2015 at 2:33

Just to complete kubanczyk's answer, at the last years of the war larger russian formations were allowed in the german side. Many recruited from POVs.
There were even small White Cossack units from the civil war that reemerged from their villages after 20 years hidden. [not sure, a book. Solzhenitsyn?]

It is estimated that nearly one million former Soviet citizens took up arms against the Red Army in the Wehrmacht, Waffen SS, and various Axis sponsored units (this includes other national groups such as the Ukrainians, Belarusians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Estonians, Chechens, Kazakhs, Georgians, Armenians, and other non Russian groups). from wiki1

Just imagine if the Nazis, from the beginning, were 'less Nazis', or at least more pragmatic, and treated the Slavs better. If the Nazis were authoritarian but not racist, or if they did not had the Lebensraum concept. How many millions more of soviet soldiers they would get, besides suffering less partisans?

I guess that if you look for sources about the process of acceptance of these larger units in the wehrmacht, you will find more complete answers. Some of the smaller units might involve only decisions from local commanders, so part of the answer may be more pragmatic and less political.

  • "Just imagine if the Nazis, from the beginning, were 'less Nazis', or at least more pragmatic, and treated the Slavs better." That's the problem with those Nazis...they will only fight the war if they are Nazi's, and they will only win it if they aren't Nazis... Aug 21, 2019 at 13:16

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