1938: The NTS German Section Is Dissolved

If the ROVS’ collaboration with the Nazis quickly became confined to sending its members to serve as Wehrmacht translators, it is because the German section of the ROVS wished to keep its structure unaffected. Although it was renamed ORVS, virtually independent of the center, and under the constant surveillance of the Gestapo, as long as the parent organization remained the ROVS, a Russian organization, the Germans could not fully trust it and therefore did not really integrate it into the Reich’s all-German project.
This is something that the NTS, for its part, understood well. In August 1938, when it was clear that the war was coming, the NTS decided to dissolve the German section of their organization.²³ This strategic maneuver made two things possible. First, it allowed former NTS members to detach themselves individually from their organization. As they were no longer NTS members, their loyalty was no longer to Russia, but could potentially be to Germany. This made a huge difference for the Germans: former NTS members were thus perceived as individual assets who could be used in the Nazi apparatus, in contrast to ROVS members, who—however devoted they were to the Nazi cause—would always be, first and foremost, members of a dissident organization.

Second, this maneuver allowed the NTS to avoid tainting the name of their organization with members’ acts of collaboration. This allowed them to assert after 1945 that the NTS “had never collaborated”²⁴ and thus ensured a future for their organization. Vladimir Dimitrievich Poremskii (1909–1997), for example, imprisoned in 1945 by the British authorities, served only one year in prison for his conviction as a war criminal² before being released under the intervention of MI6² and appointed head of the US- and UK-sponsored Possev publishing house² and chairman of the NTS, in which role he served from 1955 to 1972.

Thus, unlike ROVS members, who were only ever used as foot soldiers, over time the members of the NTS acquired more and more responsibilities within the Nazi state apparatus. Their most important project was anti-Soviet propaganda, over which they enjoyed full control of the production and distribution chain.

1941: Creation of Vineta—Propaganda Production

On June 22, 1941, Nazi Germany invaded the USSR. For Hitler, this invasion could proceed in only one direction: colonization on the basis of force alone. But faced with the strength of the Russian army and weather conditions that slowed the troops’ advance, contradictory voices emerged within the Nazi command.

One of those voices was Claus von Stauffenberg (1907–1944), a German army officer who had just been appointed as the head of the administrative branch of the High Command of the German Army (OKH) in April 1941. His new position allowed him to influence Hitler's Ost policy, and he used it to pursue a change in politics in the occupied territories. As the administrative head of the OKH, Stauffenberg controlled the Propaganda Kompanien (PK):Wehrmacht soldiers sent to the battlefront to collect information on enemy propaganda. Stauffenberg's primary goal was to collect intelligence reports that would unequivocally prove the impossibility of executing a policy based solely on force. Thus, already in 1941, Stauffenberg expressed doubts about Hitler's competence in the East and worked behind the scenes on a policy that diverged from the Führer's orders. This early mutiny seems to presage Stauffenberg’s destiny: he would participate in Operation Walkyrie to dethrone Hitler, take part in his attempted assassination on July 20, 1944, and end up being executed for treason the next day.

But in 1941, the intelligence gathered in the occupied territories was not deployed with the goal simply of discrediting Hitler. Instead, Stauffenberg wanted to win over released prisoners of war and defectors to fight on the German side. In his view, rather than relying solely on brute force, Nazi Germany could defeat the USSR by using the Russian population against its own government. By collecting and analyzing enemy propaganda, effective counterarguments could be developed to discredit the Russian government and thus convince prisoners of war to turn against their own country. By then sending those double agents into the field, they could try to convert their former brothers-in-arms, much like a Trojan horse.

The first step was to create a secret agency to analyze the enemy propaganda brought back from the occupied territories: Vineta² (Vineta Propagandadienst Ostraum e. V.), created in early 1941 in Berlin. The Vineta agency collected, translated, and analyzed Russian propaganda materials brought back by the PKs, as well as Russian radio and press broadcasts. It then developed counterarguments and printed them on posters and flyers for distribution in the occupied territories or broadcast them via its two radio stations² directed to the USSR.

Vineta was headed by Eberhard Taubert (1907–1976), who had been since 1933 the head of the Antikomintern (Gesamtverband Deutscher antikommunistischer), whose role was to coordinate the Reich’s propaganda campaign against the Soviet Union. Taubert was also responsible for the “Institute for the Study of the Jewish Question” and had introduced the law that required Jews to wear the yellow star. Both the Antikomintern and Vineta were subordinated to Joseph Goebbels' Propagandaministerium, and in 1942 Taubert was appointed head of the Ministerium’s Eastern Department (Generalreferat Ostraum).

Also developed under the auspices of Goebbels’ ministry³ was Novoe Slovo, the leading Nazi newspaper in Russian (a Russian-language equivalent of the Völkischer Beobachter). At the head of Novoe Slovo was a major player, Vladimir Mikhailovich Despotuli (1885-1977). Despotuli was born in a family of Russified Greeks, had participated in the Volunteer Army during the Civil War, and had emigrated to Berlin in 1920. When Hitler came to power, he immediately joined the Nazi-controlled ROND, becoming one of its leaders. In April 1933, he met with NSDAP Foreign Office chief Alfred Rosenberg and his second-in-command, Georg Leibbrandt. Rosenberg expressed a wish to fund a newspaper for the Russian émigré community in Germany. With Rosenberg’s backing, Despotuli created Novoe Slovo (New Word), which was first published in July 1933.³¹ But Rosenberg had another goal in mind: this newspaper could serve not only as a pro-Nazi mouthpiece, but also as a means of recruitment of collaborators. Indeed, Rosenberg’s Ostministerium and Goebbels’ propaganda ministry were in desperate need of native Russian-speakers to translate and decipher Russian broadcasts. Once recruited through Novoe Slovo, Russian immigrants were vetted as possible collaborators and then offered jobs elsewhere, notably in the Antikomintern or the Vinetaagency after 1941.

It was through this bolt hole that the NTS managed to insert itself into the Nazi machinery. In May 1941, a month before the Nazis invaded the USSR, Despotuli went to Belgrade to meet with the NTS leadership. Presumably aware of the Führer's plans, he urged the NTS to move to Berlin under his protection and to collaborate with the Nazis. The NTS executive board agreed, and in June 1941, they negotiated the conditions of their arrival directly with the Reich Security Main Office (Reichssicherheitshauptamt, RSHA), which Alexandr Emiliewich Würgler (leader of the NTS Polish section) summed up as follows: “Since then, each of us and the entire organization was in step with the Gestapo.”³² In August 1941, after obtaining their visas through Biskupsky's Vertrauenstelle, the NTS leadership—including Victor Mikhailovich Baidalakov, Vladimir Dimitrievich Poremskii, Kirill Dmitrievich Vergun, Dmitrii Viktorovich Brunst, and Alexandr Stepanovich Kazantsev—moved to Berlin.³³ The editorial office of Novoe Slovo became the new NTS headquarters and its members were integrated into the newspaper's editorial board.³⁴ Within a short time, the NTS had almost taken over Novoe Slovo: according to NTS member Boris Vitalievich Prianishnikoff, “there were more Union [NTS] members on the editorial board [of Novoe Slovo] than non-members.”³

After that, NTS members kept moving upward in the Nazi propaganda production hierarchy. Many of them were also recruited to Vineta and the Antikomintern One NTS member, Alexandr Stepanovich Kazantsev (1908–1963), was even recruited to the high-flying 4th section of the Wehrmacht-Propaganda (Wehrmachtpropaganda-Abteilung, WPr).

1941 : Creation of Rosenberg’s Ostministerium—Propaganda Distribution

But the Nazi propaganda apparatus was not limited to Vineta and Novoe Slovo. The posters and flyers printed by Vineta needed to be distributed to Soviet prisoners of war and soldiers at the front. Hence, people were needed on the ground not only to physically distribute the posters, but also to explain them, to argue, to convince; it was necessary to send both the gospel and the priest that went with it. A propaganda distribution operation was needed, and this operation was to be built almost entirely by members of the NTS.

The first step was to gain access to the Kriegsgefangenkommissionen, the administrations of the POW camps,³ most of which were controlled either by the Wehrmacht, where Kazantsev was already inserted, or by the newly created Ostministerium, headed by Alfred Rosenberg. The goal of the Ostministerium was to put into practice the Master Plan East (Generalplan Ost), which provided for the colonization of Eastern Europe by depriving the Soviet people of their leaders and intelligentsia and then having the rest of the population deported. At each advance of the German army into Russian territory, all supervisory officers or those who were “too bolshevized”³ were summarily executed on the spot, in accordance with the Commissar Order (Kommissarbefehl). The others, deemed tolerable, were captured and placed in POW camps.

In this chapter, we will focus on two of these camps, Ziethenhorst and Wustrau über Neuruppin, both part of Stalag IIID/Z, located 60km north-west of Berlin, and both under the authority of the Ostministerium. These two camps, located less than 10 km from each other, functioned together: the camp in Ziethenhorst received those POWs who had expressed a desire to collaborate with the Nazis³ and the camp in Wustrau then trained them as propagandists before they were sent to the front in the occupied territories on the Nazi payroll. The two camps soon came under the control of the NTS, whose members were omnipresent in their administration.

Upon entering a POW camp, prisoners were interrogated and given the opportunity to express their willingness to serve the German Reich. If they did, they were transferred from their initial camp to the Ziethenhorst camp, where they underwent a second interrogation to be selected as potential collaborators. This selection committee in Ziethenhorst was composed of NTS members Dmitrii Viktorovich Brunst, Roman Nikolaevich Redlich, Yurii Andreevich Tregubov, and Boris Alexeevich Yevreinov.⁴⁴¹ To be considered for selection, POWs were expected to express anti-Soviet ideas and be in favor of a war between Germany and the Soviet Union. Once vetted by the NTS selection committee, the prisoners were transferred again, this time to the so-called “free camp” in Wustrau.⁴¹

Wustrau was the central authority among all the camps⁴² managed by the Ostministerium. The day-to-day management of the camp was carried out by NTS members Vladimir Dimitrievich Poremskii (1909–1997) and Dmitrii Viktorovich Brunst (1909-1970),⁴³ who had been recruited by Georg Leibbrand (1899-1982),⁴⁴ director of the political department of the Ostministerium and liaison between Rosenberg and the NTS. The entire camp was divided into groups according to ethnicity; in the Russian group, lectures were conducted by NTS members Victor Mikhailovich Baidalakov,⁴ Fyodor Ivanovich Trukhin, Alexandr Nikolaevich Zaitsev (aka Artemov or Artyomov), Nikolai Grigorievich Shtifanov (aka Ivanov), Nikolai Tenzerov (aka Puzanov), Roman Nikolaevich Redlich, Vladimir Dimitrievich Poremskii, Boris Alexeevich Yevreinov, and Dmitrii Viktorovich Brunst, the latter being the leader of the Russian group.⁴ Hence, the Wustrau camp gradually became a school for NTS executives, controlled from top to bottom by NTS members.⁴ Upon completion of this training, the former POWs were sent to the occupied territories to reinforce the German ranks as chiefs of police, deputy mayors or propagandists with army units,⁴ for instance in Gatchina, where a group of NTS members formed by Boris Fedorovich Glazunov (1895–1963) and Nikolai Nikolaevich Rutchenko (1916–2013) actively collaborated with the Sicherheitsdienst (SD), the intelligence agency of the Nazi SS.

Rosenberg, Schikedanz, and Their Lifelong Devotion to the Nazi Cause

But this level of NTS impregnation of the Nazi propaganda distribution apparatus would not have been possible without one key character, who had the perfect background to tie all these threads together: White Russian⁴ and long-time NSDAP member Alfred Rosenberg (1893–1946).

To understand Rosenberg’s meteoric rise in the Nazi apparatus, one has to hear his story through the eyes of his faithful second-in-command, Arno Schikedanz (1892-1945). Indeed, the fates of Rosenberg and Schikedanz were linked from their earliest years. At age 18, they met at the Rubonia fraternity at the University of Riga. In 1915, with the start of the First World War, the university was transferred to Moscow, where, two years later, the two friends witnessed the October Revolution. In 1918, Schikedanz joined the Baltic Freikorps (volunteers in the German army), where he met another Baltic German, Max Erwin von Scheubner-Richter (1884-1923). They fought against the Soviets in Latvia alongside the White Russians of the West Volunteer Army, led by the aforementioned Biskupsky, who would in 1936 become the head of the Russische Vertrauenstelle.

After the German army withdrew from Latvia, von Scheubner-Richter moved to Munich, Bavaria, where he created in November 1920 the Wirtschaftliche Aufbau-Vereinigung,⁵⁰ an organization designed to facilitate collaboration between German nationalists and White Russians. Schikedanz was appointed deputy director of Aufbau, and he invited his childhood friend Rosenberg to join the organization, while Biskupskii was appointed head of its Russian section. The aim of Aufbau was to restore the pre-revolutionary (i.e., monarchical) order in Europe and to prevent the communist wave from sweeping across the European continent. In practice, this meant creating an alliance composed of nationalist Germans, Hungarians, and Russians, along the lines of the Holy Alliance of the 19th century.¹ Aufbau first collaborated with White Russian general Wrangel from May to October 1920, helping the defeated Volunteer Army settle in the Crimean peninsula.² Aufbau also lent a helping hand to Horthy's counter-revolutionary government in Hungary by collaborating with the Association of Awakening Hungarians (Ébredő Magyarok Egyesülete), a far-right group dedicated to the preservation of the purity of the Hungarian race and a pillar of Horthy’s government.³

But Aufbau’s help went mainly to Hitler and his newly founded NSDAP. Rosenberg, who had been a member of Hitler’s party since its establishment (membership number 625⁴), introduced Hitler to von Scheubner-Richter. The latter then joined the NSDAP, as did Schikedanz. For his part, NSDAP's secretary general, Max Amann (1891-1957), joined Aufbau, becoming Hitler’s liaison with the group.⁵⁵

In August 1922, Russian pretenders to the throne Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich (1876–1938) and his wife, Victoria Melita of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (1876–1936), moved to Coburg, Bavaria.⁵⁶ Biskupskii, as the head of Aufbau’s Russian section, managed to negotiate for the NSDAP to support them financially through Aufbau.⁵⁷ Kirill even managed to obtain additional financing from Henry Ford (1863-1947), an American industrialist and known financier of the extreme right, via Boris Lvovich Brasol (1885-1963), Kirill’s representative in the United States.⁵⁸

A year later, the members of Aufbau were convinced that Hitler was ready to take power, and they cheerfully participated in the Beerhall Putsch. They marched together in the streets of Munich on November 9, 1923, Hitler and von Scheubner-Richter in the front row, Rosenberg and Schikedanz right behind them. The rest is history: von Scheubner-Richter was shot and died; Hitler was imprisoned. While Hitler was serving his prison sentence, he entrusted Rosenberg with the leadership of the now-banned NSDAP. In 1925, Hitler was released from jail, whereupon he reformed the NSDAP and published Mein Kampf, which he had written in prison, rehashing the ideas of international Jewry’s pursuit of world domination to which Rosenberg had introduced him. Meanwhile, Rosenberg and Schikedanz started working together on the Völkischer Beobachter, the official journal of the NSDAP. The NSDAP entered the Reichstag parliament in 1930, and Hitler was elected chancellor three years later.

In the newly founded Hitler government, Rosenberg was elected head of the Foreign Policy Office of the NSDAP (Außenpolitische Amt der NSDAP, APA), and he immediately appointed his friend Schikedanz as his chief of staff. Rosenberg’s extensive writings on the “Jewish-Bolshevik world conspiracy” soon made him an expert on the Soviet Union. In March 1941, Rosenberg founded the Eastern Office of the NSDAP (Amt Osten) to oversee the invasion of the USSR, which happened two months later. Once Nazi Germany captured its first Soviet territories, Amt Osten was transformed into the Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories (Reichsministerium für die besetzten Ostgebiete, RMfdbO) — also called Ostministerium —in July 1941.⁵⁹ There again, Rosenberg could rely on his trusted Schikedanz as his chief of staff to help organize the genocide of Jewish people and, secondarily, help the NTS to organize the distribution of Vineta’s propaganda through the POW camps.
Newspaper Novoe Slovo
Chapter Content
NTS Jurisdiction over Nazi Anti-Soviet Propaganda
Possev Journal
Claus von Stauffenberg
Explore the networks, citations, and documents using the buttons on the right
Alexandr Emiliewich Würgler
Alfred Ernst Rosenberg
Vladimir Dimitrievich Poremskii (1909–1997)
Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe, 1942
From: Christopher Simpson, Blowback, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1988
«The Great Crusade : Legion of French Volunteers Against Bolchevism». Propaganda poster for the French legion of the Wehrmacht (early 1942)
From : David Stahel, Joining Hitler’s crusade, Cambridge University Press, 2018

Von Stauffenberg (left) in Vinitsa
From: Wilfried Strick-Strickfeldt, Against Stalin and Hitler, MacMillan, 1970
The White Russians as the Operational Force
behind the Nazis’ Policy in the East
Tilda Publishing
Vineta Operation
Appendix 1
NKVD document on Oleg Klimov
Appendix 2
Poland’s support for Georgian independence and anti-Soviet activities
Interwar Poland and the Intermarium Idea
Appendix 3
Appendix 4
Tilda Publishing
Georgian Collaborationism
Appendix 4
Tilda Publishing
Excerpts of Ruchenko memoirs
Appendix 5
Tilda Publishing
A report from the Kiev NKVD surveillance on Herman Strekker
Appendix 6
[23] Nicolas Ross, De Koutiepov à Miller : le combat des russes blancs 1930-1940 (Paris: Editions des Syrtes, 2017), 361.
[24] Olga Kienko, “NTS reabilitiruet svoikh agentov,” Kommersant, June 24, 1993, https://www.kommersant.ru/doc/51610
[25] Poremski personally helped organize the identification, roundup, and execution of millions of Jewish and Slavic civilians. See: Christopher Simpson, Blowback: America’s Recruitment of Nazis and Its Effects on the Cold War (New York: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1988), 221.
[26] Boris Volodarsky, “From Russia with a Poison Gun,” chapter 7 in Assassins: The KGB's Poison Factory 10 Years On (Barnsley: Frontline Books, 2019).
[27] Simpson, Blowback, 224-225 (footnote)
[28] Also sometimes called “Jumneta.”
[29] Radio stations called “Concordia V” and “Concordia Y.” See: David Stahel, ed., Joining Hitler's Crusade: European Nations and the Invasion of Soviet Union, 1941 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018) 383-385.
[30] Novoe Slovo was under the supervision of Goebbels’ propaganda ministry from 1933 to 1936, then under the supervision of Rosenberg’s Ostministerium from 1937 to 1944.
[31] Russian National Library, “Polnaia informatsiia po zapisi,” accessed May 19, 2022, https://nlr.ru/res/inv/ukazat55/record_full.php?record_ID=141466.
[32] Ivan Vladimirovich Gribkov, Dmitry Aleksandrovich Zhukov, and Ivan Ivanovich Kovtun, Osoby shtab “Rossiia” (Moscow: Veche, 2011), 98.
[33] Boris Prianishnikoff, “News from the NTSNP Centre,” Glava XVIII. Vesti iz centra NTSNP, in Novopokolentsy (Silver Spring, MD: Multilingual Typesetting, 1986), 152-156.
[34] Walter Laqueur, Histoire des droites en Russie. Des centuries noires aux nouveaux extremistes (Paris: Editions Michalon, 1993), 104.
[35] Boris Prianishnikoff, “Turning Point in the War,” Glava II. Perelom na vojne, in Novopokolentsy (Silver Spring, MD: Multilingual Typesetting, 1986), 161-164.
[36] Notably Zakutny, Redlich, and Brunst. See: Federal Archival Agency of Russia, The Russian State Archive of Social and Political History, The Vlasov Case: History of a Betrayal, Volume 2, 1945-1946 (Stuttgart: Ibidem-Verlag, 2020), 155-156.
[37] Simpson, Blowback, 221.
[38] Otto Von Reinhard, Wehrmacht, Gestapo und sowjetische Kriegsgefangene im deutschen Reichsgebiet 1941-42 (Munich: R. Oldenbourg Verlag, 1998), 54.
[39] Federal Archival Agency of Russia, The Vlasov Case (vol. 2), 168.
[40] Ibid., 168.
[41] Ibid., 170.
[42] The Ostministerium handled the POW camps in Wustrau, Waal, Zietenhorst, and Vudzets. See: Federal Archival Agency of Russia, The Vlasov Case (vol. 2), 101-102.
[43] Ibid., 241.
[44] Ibid., 384.
[45] Ibid., 104-105.
[46] Ibid., 170-171.
[47] Michel Slavinsky, Ombres sur le Kremlin (Paris: Editions de la table ronde, 1973), 109-110.
[48] Simpson, Blowback, 221.
[49] The term “White Russian” is used here in a broader sense, going beyond the narrow definition of “ethnic” Russians to include Baltic Germans who consider themselves first and foremost citizens of the former Russian Empire.
[50] Michael Kellogg, The Russian Roots of Nazism: White Émigrés and the Making of National Socialism, 1917-1945 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 122.
[51] Ibid., 180.
[52] Ibid., 115-125.
[53] Ibid., 180, 196, 204-5.
[54] Peter D. Stachura, The Shaping of the Nazi State (London: Routledge, 1978), 81.
[55] Kellogg, The Russian Roots of Nazism, 110.
[56] Ibid., 157.
[57] Ibid., 158.
[58] Ibid., 203.
[59] Nazarii Gutsul, “Der Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg und seine Tätigkeit in der Ukraine (1941-1944)” (PhD diss., Justus-Liebig-Universität, 2013), 88, http://docplayer.org/4166404-Der-einsatzstab-reichsleiter-rosenberg-und-seine-taetigkeit-in-der-ukraine-1941-1944-inaugural-dissertation-zur-erlangung-des-doktorgrades.html.

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