The last secret of WW2: Operation Keelhaul – Betrayal of the Cossacks in Lienz

From Surviving Lienz:

A little-known story of betrayal and treachery during Operation Keelhaul at the end of WWII will be revealed to Canadians by Professor Doctor Harald Stadler and author Anthony Schlega. They will be visiting several Canadian cities from May 4–16, 2009 to raise awareness of this shameful historical event, and funds for a memorial at the site of the massacre in Lienz, Austria.

Sunday, May 10 – 6pm Holy at Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Winnipeg, MB

Monday, May 11 – 6pm at Mohyla Institute in Saskatoon, SK

Friday, May 15 – 6pm at Ukrainian Orthodox Church of St. Elia in Edmonton

A little background:

The Lienz Cossacks were ‘white Russians’ who’d fought bitterly against communism and the rise of the Soviet Union following the Russian Revolution. During the Second World War, when Germany invaded the Soviet Union, the Lienz Cossacks sided with the Nazis in order to try the topple the communist regime and bring ‘freedom’ to their country.

The Lienz Cossacks who’d fought with the Germans were rounded up by the British. It was up to the United Kingdom to decide what to do with them.

Because of the brutality of the Cossack soldiers, who had murdered and raped their way along with the SS and the German army, the British wanted nothing to do with them and ‘repatriated’ these ‘Russians’ to the Soviet Union, where they ‘belonged.’
Trains and trucks were pulled up and Cossack soldiers were forced into them. As were their wives, families and children – many of whom were not even Russian, having been born in the years after the Lienz Cossacks had left Russia.

The Cossacks didn’t go willingly. British troops had to beat them into submission with billy clubs and rifle-butts. Eventually, almost 35,000 Cossacks were transported to their ‘mother country’ where the Soviets ‘welcomed’ them.

The vast majority of them were sent immediately to labor camps in Siberia, which were little better than the death camps the Nazis had built. Almost all of the Lienz Cossacks ‘repatriated’ back to Russia died in brutal suffering.

The ‘lucky’ ones didn’t even make it that far. Because many of the Cossacks weren’t born in Russia (their parents had left following the Russian Revolution) they were unable to be tried for treason as Soviet Citizens. Therefore the Red Army saved themselves the hassle of a military trial and executed them on the spot, with a bullet through the brains.

Read more about it at Militant Ginger – British Betrayal

Update: Nash Holos blogged about their first stop in Vancouver last week.

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16 thoughts on “The last secret of WW2: Operation Keelhaul – Betrayal of the Cossacks in Lienz

  1. Some of the comments are rather harsh against the Cossacks, and are trying to find justification to the brutal acts of the British in their “overkill”.
    One person says: “Because of the brutality of the Cossack soldiers, who had murdered and raped their way along with the SS and the German army”
    My question is here, does this person include the young children, pregnat mothers, the elderly, the teenage cadets, and the Priests in his assumption. Where these people rapists to? These Cossacks involved with the Tragedy on the Drau, had their families with them. So as to the ‘rape’ accusation, it was against the Cossack code to rape. So please give deatils of your assumption. It seems to me that this reader has fallen into the trap of believing “Russified” propoganda.
    Two wrongs do not make a right.
    There is also the question of the Cossack gold that was taken as bounty in Lienz by the British. Where did it go?

  2. Hi, good questions but the text in the blocks are quotes from the few websites I found that described the event in detail. While I cannot answer the question in any real capacity, I urge you to re-direct the to the Militant Ginger website I’ve linked to above, so the author can explain themselves.

  3. Since 1993 I've carefully studied the information available her over Lienz. (Dc Berg Operation “Wind from the East”, Italien and Serbian authors,Pravoslavnaja Rus' , Memorials esp. from the eyewitness. I saw the film of Robert Enrico and painted a picture myself in grafics “The interrupted Liturgia”. I am sure that this historical event of cossak martures and every possible truth telling would change things here. I am a Russian writer (2 articles were published in the USA). My mother Ludmila was a noble woman and in 1970 for thia reason of her origin she lost the job at the University in sverdlovsk and my family had to separate:father went to Moscow and found job at a school teaching English, mother and grandmother with me had to go to Tachkent where my mother was at once suggested ato a good job at TashPedag.University. She translated and voiced French films,worked with the French a lot. I do understand the sufferings of cossaks and Ukrainian martirs and refugees deeply in my heart. An Othodox nun-my spiritual mother монахиня Анастасия is Ukrainian from Cherkasy. She used to live in Chili (L.A.) where served at an orphanage. I so love mother Anastasia that started to learn Ukaranian! I also speak and write in French, Italian, Greek. Dear brothers and sisters, will you be so kind to contact me? In 1997 my article Новомученики Владимирщины signed Христианка, город Москва was printed in the USA. In 2002 my critical article appeared under my own name Umnova Larisa in Pravoslavny Put'.
    I am 45 y.o., mother of 3 sons. I am the author of sevsral books on history, Early Christian Orthodox saints of Britain and Gallia, novel “Roma-Lutentia”, several scripts. My very detailed research about Boris Zaitzev (found old people who well remembered him and all the events in his former estate) is in Russian Fund of Zarubejie. I continue to write over history:Achtyrskie gusary v zarubejje. Grand Duthess Olga Alexandrovna Kulikovskaja-Romanova and her late son Tichon Nokolaevich Kulikovsky.
    Dear colleaques, I would like to do all I can to tell the truth about the Lienz massacre, please tell if I could contact veterans of 15-th cossak corpus and German people former soldiers of ataman Helmut fon Pannvitz. In 1992 in Moscow I met and became friends and invited home Dc. Hampel-a German veteran. I started to learn Deuch. I also saw videofilm Liturgia in Lientz with Irina Smyslovskaya and modern Prince of Lichtenstain. It is a miracle how the memory of martirs glorifies them! Hope you know that Aldigton died 2 days before the case against duke Nikita Tolstoj started. Previously the British Crown court forced him to pay to Aldington. Nikita T. published the article where he justfully called Aldington a crime and a murdrer.
    I am also a teacher at an independent pedagogical centre in Moscow. Could we invite you here on a visit? We can place you in families and feed well. It is very important to tell the the historical truth now in Russia and I try to tell it to my pupils.
    On line, your true friend, Larisa Anatolievna Umnova Лариса Умнова

  4. My mothers family were refugees with the cossacks when the massacre occured.We travelled to Lienz in June 1945 and I would like to go there in 2010.Can you send me details of the commemoration to be held there.Thank you

  5. My mothers family were refugees with the cossacks when the massacre occured.We travelled to Lienz in June 1945 and I would like to go there in 2010.Can you send me details of the commemoration to be held there.Thank you

  6. Is there solid proof that they “raped” and were expecially brutal? That sounds like Communist propaganda to me — to “justify” the murders.

  7. Hello,
    I read your comments. I agree it is very important for the world to know how the Cossacks were betrayed by the British and the west. I would like to know more about this shameful historical event.
    You say you write about Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna Kulikovskaja-Romanova and her late son Tichon Nikolaevich Kulikovsky. What did / do you write about them? The Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna Kulikovskaja-Romanova and her late son Tichon Nokolaevich Kulikovsky lived not far away from where I live in near Toronto Canada. I am Slav. I hope to hear from you.

  8. __Voistinu Voskrese!!!

    Dorogoj vo Hriste brat!
    Spasi Hkristos za otvet!
    Ja pochitaju i preklon’jus’ pered svetloj pam’ytju velikoj kn’agini
    bagrynorodnoj Olgi Alexandrovny!

    Dear in Christe brother!
    Christe is risen!
    Indeed has He risen!
    I am only trying to learn Serb and can say only:
    Boh pomoje, brat!
    Boh ti pomohao!
    Thank you and let Christe save you for your answer: I praise the memory
    of the Gr. Dutchess Olga Alexandrovna! She was a Patriot of my Land, a
    outstanding Lady, a great not only talented artist and also a
    righetous person! I am very interested in all details. I also praise her
    family and pray -Now is -Svetlaja Sedmitza – and in Christe all faithful are
    alive! I praise and worship also Tichon Nikolajevich and Gurij
    Nikolajevich! They are alive to me!
    My mother Ludmila belonged to the noble stock -in 1960-s -Her own mother-my
    grandmother died from exghostion and tuberculosis in labour of my dear
    mother in Ekaterinburg in 1964 she was a teacher of French-French
    phonetics. In 1966 she lost the job by no reason explained;she studied at
    Higher courses in StPetersburg at that time leningrad (shame on modern
    Russian administration to oficially conservate and restore the region names
    such as sverdlovskaja oblast’, leningradskaja oblast’ and other odious
    placenames in Moscow the metro station and streets named after pinhus vainer
    -!!! )
    Dear brother -to learn more-please visit my livelournal!
    I am a volunteer teacher working with Russian children at a pedagogical
    centre in Moscow and we tried to invite someone who could lecture to
    teachers and children over the Lientz tragedy since in schoolbooks of
    history in Russia one can find no truth! I wrote to a famous Dr of
    Austrian origin asking him to come as we all teachers and the young long
    this but he wrote he needed financing and the sum is not real for us! Fuel
    is short if you guess.
    I wrote a novel based at Lientz and cossack new history. It was posted in my
    lj- just tell I’d look in the archiv if this cn interest you.
    www. http/: livejournal m_ldelamballe

    Your sister in Christe Larissa.

    Hristos Voskrese!

  9. Dear friend, can you be so kind to send my letter to the gmail administration. My box is blocked and I can not do reserach work!
    Dear administration of gmail postal service!
    I appeal to you to witness my case: In April I opened a postbox at your service:

    which is now blocked dew to the unknown client offending, antilaw reasons! To prove this illegal blocking which does harm to me and my family I give you the address of my free site at the


    registered in the lj system.

    In 1998 I was awardered a reward and personal letter of gratitude from the British Ambassador Sir A. Wood for my implement in the cultural exchange with my colleagues from the British Library. Please be so kind to restore your postal service to me!

    Laura Valova, interpretor, writer, explorer of the miniatures of the Lindisfaerne Gospel.

  10. Do you have irefutable Proof for “warcrimes” committed by Cossacks? Or just the SS divisions very few of them were attached to during combat. If you didn’t even know that majority of Cossacks were led by the more honorable German Army then you wouldn’t make such foolish comments. The Cossacks are sometimes called traitors by the very people they protected for centuries. But the truth is that everyone was a coward. They’d rather be oppressed by the soviets for decades instead of try to fight them off. Even if it meant allying yourself with the enemy. The Cossacks were the true patriots who were loyal to Russia…not Stalin.

  11. If it is alright for it to be decided that thousands of Cossacks be executed when only a minority of them committed war crimes, then some people may consider the British race be executed as there was a British SS Division who I’m sure committed just as many war crimes as these Cossacks have been accused of.

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