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|Legion of French Volunteers Against Bolshevism|
Infantry Regiment 638
French soldiers in Russia, November 1941
Eastern Front |
The Legion of French Volunteers Against Bolshevism (French: Légion des volontaires français contre le bolchévisme, or simply Légion des volontaires français, LVF) was a collaborationist militia of Vichy France founded on 8 July 1941. It gathered various collaborationist parties, including Marcel Bucard's Mouvement Franciste, Marcel Déat's National Popular Rally, Jacques Doriot's French Popular Party, Eugène Deloncle's Social Revolutionary Movement, Pierre Clémenti's French National-Collectivist Party and Pierre Costantini's French League. It had no formal link with the Vichy regime, even though it was recognized as an "association of public usefulness" by Pierre Laval's government in February 1943. Philippe Pétain, head of state of Vichy France, personally disapproved of Frenchmen wearing German uniforms and never went beyond individual and informal words of support to some specific officers.
The Legion of French Volunteers was mainly made up of right-wing Frenchmen and French prisoners of war; the latter who preferred fighting to forced labor in Nazi Germany. Many Russians who fled the Bolshevik Revolution (1917–1922) and who were enrolled in the Légion étrangère (Foreign Legion) joined the LVF. Created in 1941, the LVF received 13,400 applicants, but many were weeded out and 5,800 were placed on the rolls.
The LVF while in France wore a French army style khaki uniform, while outside France they wore the standard German Army uniform with an LVF shield on the right upper arm with the colors of the French flag with the word France or LVF. Both German and French decorations were worn.
By October 1941, there were two battalions of 2,271 men which had 181 officers and an additional staff of 35 German officers. They fought the Soviet Union Red Army as part of the foreign contingent of the German Army. They were sent into combat near Moscow in November 1941 as part of the 7th Infantry Division. The LVF lost half their numbers in action or through frostbite. In 1942 the men were assigned to anti-partisan duties in the Byelorussian SSR (Belarus). At the same time, another unit was formed in France, La Légion Tricolore (Tricolor Regiment) but this unit was absorbed into the LVF six months later.
During the spring of 1942, the LVF was reorganized with only the 1st and 3rd battalions. The LVF's French commander, Colonel Roger Labonne, was relieved in mid-1942, and the unit was attached to various German divisions until June 1943 when Colonel Edgar Puaud took command. The two independent battalions were again united in a single regiment and continued fighting partisans in Ukraine. In early 1944, the unit again took part in anti-partisan duties. In June 1944, the LVF was called into action when Army Group Centre's front collapsed under the Red Army's summer offensive. The LVF was attached to the 4th SS Police Regiment and fought in a delaying action.
A new recruiting drive in Vichy France attracted 3,000 applicants, mostly members of collaborationist militia and university students. The new formation was known as the 8th SS Volunteer Sturmbrigade France. On 1 September 1944, the Legion of French Volunteers was officially disbanded. A new unit, the Waffen-Grenadier-Brigade der SS "Charlemagne", was formed out of the remnants of the LVF and French Sturmbrigade, which was also disbanded. In February 1945, the Waffen-Grenadier-Brigade was officially upgraded to a division and became the 33rd Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS Charlemagne (1st French). At that time it had a strength of 7,340 men.
After the war in Europe ended in April 1945, the French civil authority handed out many death sentences and prison terms to collaborators. However, some Frenchmen who had fought for the Germans were given the option to redeem themselves by serving in the Foreign Legion in French Indochina.
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