Operation Keelhaul was a forced repatriation of former Soviet Armed Forces POWs of Germany to the Soviet Union, carried out in Northern Italy by British and American forces between 14 August 1946 and 9 May 1947.
The Soviet Armed Forces, also called the Armed Forces of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Armed Forces of the Soviet Union were the armed forces of the Russian SFSR (1917–1922), the Soviet Union (1922–1991) and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (1912–1991) from their beginnings in the aftermath of the Russian Civil War to its dissolution on 26 December 1991.
Germany, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in Central and Western Europe, lying between the Baltic and North Seas to the north, and the Alps, Lake Constance and the High Rhine to the south. It borders Denmark to the north, Poland and the Czech Republic to the east, Austria and Switzerland to the south, France to the southwest, and Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands to the west.
The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a socialist state in Eurasia that existed from 1922 to 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. The country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centres were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk. It spanned over 10,000 kilometres east to west across 11 time zones, and over 7,200 kilometres north to south. It had five climate zones: tundra, taiga, steppes, desert and mountains.
One of the conclusions of the Yalta Conference was that the western Allies would return all Soviet citizens who found themselves in their zones to the Soviet Union. This immediately affected the liberated Soviet prisoners of war,but also extended to all Soviet citizens, irrespective of their wishes. In exchange, the Soviet government agreed to hand over several thousand western Allied prisoners of war whom they had liberated from German prisoner of war camps.
The Yalta Conference, also known as the Crimea Conference and code-named the Argonaut Conference, held from 4 to 11 February 1945, was the World War II meeting of the heads of government of the United States, the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union for the purpose of discussing Germany and Europe's postwar reorganization. The three states were represented by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Premier Joseph Stalin, respectively. The conference convened near Yalta in Crimea, Soviet Union, within the Livadia, Yusupov, and Vorontsov Palaces.
The Allies of World War II, called the "United Nations" from the 1 January 1942 declaration, were the countries that together opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War (1939–1945). The Allies promoted the alliance as a means to control German, Japanese and Italian aggression.
The refugee columns fleeing the Soviet-occupied parts of Europe included anti-communists, civilians, and Nazi collaborators from eastern European countries. They added to the mass of 'displaced persons' from the Soviet Union already in Western Europe, the vast majority of whom were Soviet prisoners of war and forced laborers (Ost-Arbeiter).
Western Europe is the region comprising the western part of Europe. Though the term Western Europe is commonly used, there is no commonly agreed-upon definition of the countries that it encompasses.
Soviet subjects who had volunteered for the German Army Ostlegionen and/or Waffen SS units were forcibly repatriated. These included Russian Cossacks of the XVth SS Cossack Cavalry Corps with their relatives, who were transported from the Western occupation zones of Allied-occupied Austria to the Soviet occupation zones of Austria and Allied-occupied Germany. Among those handed over were White émigré-Russians who had never been Soviet citizens, but who had fought for Nazi Germany against the Soviets during the war, including General Andrei Shkuro and the Ataman of the Don Cossack host Pyotr Krasnov. This was done despite the official statement of the British Foreign Office policy after the Yalta Conference, that only Soviet citizens who had been such after 1 September 1939, were to be compelled to return to the Soviet Union or handed over to Soviet officials in other locations (see the Repatriation of Cossacks after World War II).
Ostlegionen, Ost-Bataillone, Osttruppen, and Osteinheiten were units in the Army of Nazi Germany, during World War II that were made up of personnel from countries comprising the Soviet Union. They represented a major subset within a broader number of the Wehrmacht foreign volunteers and conscripts.
The Allied occupation of Austria started on 27 April 1945 as a result of the Vienna Offensive and ended with the Austrian State Treaty on 27 July 1955.
Upon defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II, the victorious Allies asserted joint authority and sovereignty over 'Germany as a whole', defined as all territories of the former German Reich west of the Oder–Neisse line, having declared the destruction of Nazi Germany at the death of Adolf Hitler. The four powers divided 'Germany as a whole' into four occupation zones for administrative purposes, under the United States, United Kingdom, France and the Soviet Union respectively; creating what became collectively known as Allied-occupied Germany. This division was ratified at the Potsdam Conference. The four zones were as agreed in February 1945 by the United States, United Kingdom and Soviet Union meeting at the Yalta Conference; setting aside an earlier division into three zones proposed by the London Protocol.
The actual "Operation Keelhaul" was the last forced repatriation and involved the selection and subsequent transfer of approximately one thousand "Russians" from the camps of Bagnoli, Aversa, Pisa, and Riccione.Applying the "McNarney-Clark Directive", subjects who had served in the German Army were selected for shipment, starting on 14 August 1946. The transfer was codenamed "East Wind" and took place at St. Valentin in Austria on 8 and 9 May 1947. This operation marked the end of forced repatriations by the Soviet Union after World War II, and ran parallel to Operation Fling that helped Soviet defectors to escape from the Soviet Union.
Bagnoli is a western seaside quarter of Naples, Italy, well beyond the confines of the original city. It is beyond Cape Posillipo and, thus, looking on the coast of the Bay of Pozzuoli. After
Aversa is a city and comune in the Province of Caserta in Campania, southern Italy, about 5 kilometres north of Naples. It is the centre of an agricultural district, the Agro Aversano, producing wine and cheese. Aversa is also the main seat of the faculties of Architecture and Engineering of the Seconda università degli studi di Napoli. With a population of 52,974 (2017), it is the second city of the province after Caserta.
Pisa is a city and comune in Tuscany, central Italy, straddling the Arno just before it empties into the Ligurian Sea. It is the capital city of the Province of Pisa. Although Pisa is known worldwide for its leaning tower, the city of over 91,104 residents contains more than 20 other historic churches, several medieval palaces, and various bridges across the Arno. Much of the city's architecture was financed from its history as one of the Italian maritime republics.
On the other side of the exchange, the Soviet leadership found out that despite the demands set forth by Stalin, British intelligence was retaining a number of anti-Communist prisoners with the intention of reviving "anti-Soviet operations" under orders from Churchill.
Author Nikolai Tolstoy described the scene of Americans returning to the internment camp after delivering a shipment of people to the Soviet authorities: "The Americans returned to Plattling visibly shamefaced. Before their departure from the rendezvous in the forest, many had seen rows of bodies already hanging from the branches of nearby trees."
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn called this operation "the last secret of World War II."He contributed to a legal defence fund set up to help Tolstoy, who was charged with libel in a 1989 case brought by Lord Aldington over war crimes allegations made by Tolstoy related to this operation. Tolstoy lost the case in the British courts; he avoided paying damages by declaring bankruptcy.
A prisoner of war (POW) is a person, whether a combatant or a non-combatant, who is held captive by a belligerent power during or immediately after an armed conflict. The earliest recorded usage of the phrase "prisoner of war" dates back to 1660.
Nazism and the acts of the Nazi German state profoundly affected many countries, communities, and people before, during and after World War II. The regime's attempt to exterminate several groups viewed as subhuman by Nazi ideology was eventually stopped by the combined efforts of the wartime Allies headed by Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States.
The Russian Liberation Army was a collaborationist formation, primarily composed of Russians, that fought under German command during World War II. The army was led by Andrey Vlasov, a Red Army general who had defected, and members of the army are often referred to as Vlasovtsy (Власовцы). In 1944, it became known as the Armed Forces of the Committee for the Liberation of the Peoples of Russia.
The concept of Western betrayal refers to the view that the United Kingdom and France failed to meet their legal, diplomatic, military and moral obligations with respect to the Czechoslovak and Polish nations during the prelude to and aftermath of World War II. It also sometimes refers to the treatment of other Central and Eastern European nations at the time.
The term Hiwi is a German abbreviation of the word Hilfswilliger, meaning "voluntary assistant", or more literally, "willing helper". During World War II, the term Hiwis gained broad popularity in reference to auxiliary forces recruited from the indigenous populations in the areas of Eastern Europe first occupied and annexed by the Soviet Union and then occupied by Nazi Germany. Hitler reluctantly agreed to allow recruitment of Soviet citizens in the Rear Areas during Operation Barbarossa. In a short period of time, many of them were moved to combat units.
Count Nikolai Dmitrievich Tolstoy-Miloslavsky is an English-Russian author who writes under the name Nikolai Tolstoy. A member of the Tolstoy family, he is a former parliamentary candidate of the UK Independence Party.
Pyotr Nikolayevich Krasnov, sometimes referred to in English as Peter Krasnov, was a Don Cossack historian and officer, promoted to Lieutenant General of the Russian army when the revolution broke out in 1917, one of the leaders of the counter-revolutionary White movement afterwards and a Nazi collaborator who mobilized Cossack forces to fight against the Soviet Union during World War II.
Brigadier Toby Austin Richard William Low, 1st Baron Aldington,, known as Austin Richard William Low until he added 'Toby' as a forename by deed poll on 10 July 1957, was a British Conservative Party politician and businessman.
Helmuth von Pannwitz was a German general who was a cavalry officer during the First and the Second World Wars. Later he became Lieutenant General of the Wehrmacht and of the Waffen-SS, SS-Obergruppenführer, and Supreme Ataman of the XV SS Cossack Cavalry Corps. In 1947 he was tried for war crimes under Ukase 43 by the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court of the Soviet Union, sentenced to death on 16 January 1947 and executed in Lefortovo Prison the same day. He was rehabilitated by a military prosecutor in Moscow in April 1996. In June 2001, however, the reversal of the conviction of Pannwitz was overturned and his conviction was reinstated.
The Repatriation of Cossacks happened when Cossacks and ethnic Russians and Ukrainians who were against the Soviet Union were handed over by the British forces to the USSR after the Second World War.
Russian Liberation Movement was a movement within the Soviet Union that sought to create an anti-communist armed force during World War II that would topple the regime of Joseph Stalin. This movement included both Russians and peoples of other nationalities living within the Soviet Union, in which case it is referred to as the Liberation Movement of the Peoples of Russia.
The 1st Russian National Army was a pro-Axis collaborationist army under Boris Smyslovsky during World War II. Initially part of Nazi German Wehrmacht, Smyslovsky's forces were elevated to the 1st Russian National Army on 10 March 1945. On 4 April 1945 it received a status of the independent allied army. Liechtenstein was the only state which denied Soviet demands for the extradition of Russians who fought in the side of the Axis powers.
The 162nd Turkistan Division was a military division that was formed by the German Army during the Second World War. It drew its men from prisoners of war or refugees who came from the Caucasus and from Turkic lands further east.
Victims of Yalta or The Secret Betrayal is a 1977 book by Nikolai Tolstoy that chronicles the fate of Soviet citizens who had been under German control during World War II and at its end fallen into the hands of the Western Allies. According to the secret Moscow agreement from 1944 that was confirmed at the 1945 Yalta conference, all citizens of the Soviet Union were to be repatriated without choice—a death sentence for many by execution or extermination through labour.
Julius Epstein (1901–1975) was a journalist and scholar, an Austrian Jewish émigré who fled Europe in 1938, worked during World War II in the Office of War Information, and then a prominent American anti-communist researcher and critic of the Soviet Union. He was a Research Associate at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace for decades and authored a study of Operation Keelhaul that was the first account of the forcible repatriation by the Allies of World War II of several million persons to the Soviet Union and countries in its sphere of influence.
The Minister and the Massacres is a 1986 book written by Nikolai Tolstoy that described the 1945 Bleiburg repatriations as well as the Cossack repatriations. The book's criticism of the British repatriation of collaborationist troops to Josip Broz Tito's Yugoslav government was in turn the target of strong criticism. It continued on the topic Tolstoy started with Victims of Yalta (1977) and Stalin's Secret War (1981), and led to a 1989 lawsuit in which Tolstoy was found guilty of libel.
Some Soviet prisoners of war who survived German captivity during World War II were accused by the Soviet authorities of collaboration with the Nazis or branded as traitors under Order No. 270, which prohibited any soldier from surrendering.
Twelve Responses to Tragedy, or the Yalta Memorial, is a memorial located in the Yalta Memorial Garden on Cromwell Road in South Kensington in west London. The memorial commemorates people displaced as a result of the Yalta Conference at the conclusion of the Second World War. Created by the British sculptor Angela Conner, the work consists of twelve bronze busts atop a stone base. The memorial was dedicated in 1986 to replace a previous memorial from 1982 that had been repeatedly damaged by vandalism.