Malgré-nous

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Monument to the Malgré-Nous in Obernai (Bas-Rhin).

The term Malgré-nous (French: “against our will”) refers to men of the Alsace-Moselle region who were conscripted into the German Wehrmacht or in the Waffen-SS, during the Second World War.

Based on orders from Robert Heinrich Wagner, the regional governor of Alsace, of August 25, 1942, some 100,000 Alsatians and 30,000 Mosellans were drafted into the German armed forces. Most of those answering the call served in the army and were sent to the Eastern Front. A smaller number served in the Waffen-SS. Many of these men, especially those who did not answer the call immediately, were pressured to "volunteer" for service with the SS, often by direct threats on their families.

Many Malgré-nous deserted the Wehrmacht in order to join the French Resistance or escape to Switzerland, thereby running the risk of having their families sent to work or concentration camps by the Germans. This threat obliged the majority of them to remain in the German army. After the war, they were often accused of being traitors or collaborationists. In July 1944, 1500 malgré-nous were released from Soviet captivity and sent to Algiers, where they joined the Free French Forces.

Thirteen malgré-nous were involved in the massacre of Oradour-sur-Glane[1] together with one genuine volunteer from Alsace. In a trial in Bordeaux in 1953 they were sentenced to prison terms between 5–11 years, while the volunteer was sentenced to death. The trial caused major civil unrest in Alsace, as most of the malgré-nous had been forced to serve in the Waffen-SS, resulting in a general amnesty by the French National Assembly on 19 February 1953.

Of the 130,000 malgré-nous, some 32,000 were killed in action and 10,500 are still missing in action (and presumed dead). Between 5,000 and 10,000 prisoners-of-war died in captivity, most of them at the Soviet camp at Tambov. The last POWs were released in 1955. Forty thousand of the malgré-nous were invalids after the war.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Williams, Michael. "Oradour-sur-Glane 10th June 1944". Retrieved 2008-03-21. 

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