Nous

Malgré-nous

The term Malgré-nous (literally “despite ourselves” or “in spite of our will”) refers to men of the Alsace-Lorraine region who were forcibly conscripted into the German regular army (Wehrmacht) or in the military branch of the SS (Waffen SS), during the Second World War. This force of Alsatians was officially created on August 25, 1942, on orders from Robert Heinrich Wagner, the regional governor of Alsace (annexed to the German Reich in June 1940).

The Malgré-nous engaged in repression against French citizens, and were involved in massacres such as the one that occurred at Oradour-sur-Glane (Williams, Michael Oradour-sur-Glane 10th June 1944. Retrieved on 2008-03-21..) They also fought on the Eastern Front, with some 130,000 Alsatians and 30,000 Mosellans fighting there, many of them ending up as prisoners of the Soviets. Many ended the war retained in the Tambov camp, the last of which were released in 1955. 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, although they seldom had other options than to fight alongside the Germans.

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