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Operation Keelhaul: Britain’s Repatriation of Anti-Communist Russians and Ukrainians to Stalin for Certain Death

Dressed in uniforms issued by the German Army, members of the Russian Liberation Army sit under guard after their capture during the fighting in Normandy. Most of these men were returned to the Soviet Union after the war only to be executed. PHOTO:

Operation Keelhaul (1944-1947) involved sending back to the USSR several million Russians and Ukrainians and into the clutches of Stalin. Political asylum was refused. British authorities handed them over, knowing full well that they would be enslaved, tortured and murdered. This is yet one more disgraceful chapter in the career of Winston Churchill and his henchmen.

Right from the beginning, the British government determined that all captured Russians must be sent back, as “they belong to the Soviet authorities.” In now-released secret documents, it is revealed that on July 17, 1944, Churchill’s government agreed to hand Soviet citizens back to Stalin.

The policy of the United States was then adapted to fit this British initiative. Due to some resistance among British authorities, a second cabinet meeting was held in 1945 in which Operation Keelhaul was re-confirmed.

The final deal was cut at Yalta in February, 1945 and deemed secret.

In particular, servile Anthony Eden pushed for this outcome. Eden argued that failure to return Soviet nationals would impede the release of Allied POWs that came into Soviet hands. All this was ultimately in vain. In reality, Eden suffered throughout the war and post-war from a deluded vision of a Grand Alliance with Stalin’s monstrous regime. Eden was surrounded by Soviet agents.

It is yet another example of hidden history and hypocritical, selective human rights. At the end of this article is a very well-done and rarely seen 1975 BBC documentary on this subject.

Soviet citizens in the Wehrmacht who were captured in Normandy

One in 10 Axis soldiers captured in Normandy were Russians, who were primarily members of General Vaslov’s Russian Liberation Army. Several are shown in Wehrmacht uniforms in the photo at left.

Elsewhere, groups like the Cossacks became hardcore opponents of Soviet Bolshevism and had joined Axis-commanded formations. These volunteers constituted 15 to 20 percent of those to be repatriated.

Some Russians had been pressed into labor battalions, supporting the Axis war effort, including the building of the Atlantic Wall. Others were in prisoner of war (POW) camps.

POWs and other Russian labor conscripts were considered a security threat, as they had seen the world outside of Soviet control. Ultimately, this was broadened to include those who fled West before the advance of the Red Army.

There was no effort on the western side to deal with these people as individuals. They were all lumped together.

The Soviets universally considered them traitors.

Besides summary execution — often right upon arrival in Odessa’s harbor — the primary method of disposal was starvation in Siberian gulags, which peaked between 1948 and 1950. Many committed suicide before being keelhauled. Once the repatriation began, no one took much notice and the news was buried.

Operation Keelhaul
Operation Keelhaul

Betrayal and Murder of the Cossacks

The section starting at minute 00:58:00 in the video below is essential viewing for purposes of understanding true versus faux history.

Approximately 35,000 Cossacks, including women and children, surrendered to British troops in Austria. These people had been Axis allies during WWII and were fierce anti-Bolsheviks.

On May 28, 1945, through trickery, the British separated and transported 2,046 disarmed Cossack officers and generals to a nearby Red Army-held town and handed them over to the commanding general, who ordered them tried for treason. Most were taken to Moscow, where they were tried in a star chamber justice system and hung.

ART: Moorfield Story Institute

On June 1, 1945, the British placed 32,000 Cossacks (along with women and children) into trains and trucks and delivered them to the Red Army for repatriation to the USSR.

In another hand off, Gen. Alexander in a telegram noted “50,000 Cossacks, including 11,000 women, children and old men.”

At a location near Graz, British forces repatriated these Cossacks to SMERSH. Those not executed were sent to the gulags in far northern Russia and in Siberia, where many ultimately died.

Among the Cossacks who escaped repatriation, many hid in forests and mountainsides, and some were hidden by or assisted by local Austrians and the German populace.

3 Comments on Operation Keelhaul: Britain’s Repatriation of Anti-Communist Russians and Ukrainians to Stalin for Certain Death

  1. Also, my WP name is an ironic allusion to East Texas life, probably a place in Texas where cossacks could be found in the tall pines. A much simpler way of life compared to cosmopolitan urban life here in Houston.

  2. That dude in the Wehrmacht picture looks like he is from Siberia or of Kalmyk decent. A lot of the siberian/east russians were not liked by Stalin and the regime and they were moved around and sent to concentration camps a lot.

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