The way in which the Germans 'policed' the vast territories they conquered in the early months of Operation Barbarossa was very complex and often confused, much as the Nazi administration at home. The need was for troops to maintain law and order, to combat any lingering resistance from the partisans and to put into effect the various state exploitation and extermination schemes. One element of the forces that were to achieve this was the raising (in July 1941) of locals into auxiliary police units, known as Schutzmannschaft or simply 'Schuma', and initially this was not difficult. Many in the occupied territories were delighted to have been liberated from Russian tyranny, and openly welcomed the Germans as liberators. In time however it became apparent they had simply replaced Russian oppression with German, and ultimately many went over to the partisans, but until then the Schuma were an important part of the occupation and the fight against the partisans. Many such men wanted independence for their homeland, and would be persecuted as collaborators or criminals once the Russians were back in charge, but some committed appalling atrocities on their own people, whether under orders or not, so this group is certainly amongst the most controversial of subjects so far modelled in this hobby.
Originally there was very little uniform for such new units, and many first served in their civilian clothes with just an armband as identification. Others, especially in the Baltic states, had only recently been conquered by Russia and took to wearing their old national uniforms stripped of any Soviet insignia, while some wore a mix of civilian and German supplied items, combined with elements gained from almost any available local source. In 1942 the need for a standard uniform was enough to provoke the authorities to collect and issue old black Allgemeine-SS uniforms stripped of their insignia, but clearly such a uniform was less than ideal when in action in the field, so uniforms closely matching those of the army and regular police came to be issued. As a result uniforms were often mixed and varied even within a unit, and over the years that these units existed there is a very wide range of clothing that would be appropriate for such men. Strelets have recognised that with a set that reflects such a diversity very well, with all manner of civilian and military clothing on show; the one unifying factor being that all are wearing an armband on the left arm. Some of the figures would be more or less likely at certain periods, but everything here is appropriate to at least some part of this organisation at some time.
The weapons issued to such men were just as varied, and included those already in the hands of forces prior to the invasion or captured from the Red Army, as well as a mix of German weapons (mostly obsolete models). Almost all the men in this set carry a rifle which thanks to the standard of Strelets sculpting could serve for many models, which is fine. A couple seem to carry clubs, and one man holds a revolver and could work as a German officer, many of whom were assigned to units deemed less reliable.
Although these are not combat troops in the conventional sense they did of course find themselves in fire-fights with partisans, so many of these poses are what we see all the time on this site and that is OK. The two carrying what we assume to be clubs are likely to be shepherding unarmed civilians, and the man using the butt of his rifle is probably doing the same. Two of the poses are particularly interesting as they are firing down, which brings to mind images of victims on their knees as they are killed, or even standing in a trench that will serve as their own grave. We thought all the poses were appropriate if sometimes rather flat.
The rifles are very clunky and in some cases enormous, as is some of the other detail, and these do not compare favourably with the best sets being made today, so this is a pretty standard Strelets set, which as we have said before is more of a problem with more modern subjects like this. We were surprised however to find some areas of flash and places where the two halves of the mould do not seem to have been a good match, although in many places the join is nice and smooth. The anatomy is reasonable on most but the man advancing with the bayonet is a real mess and looks horrible.
We did wonder whether those in uniform would have worn the armbands, but perhaps these are old uniforms that require the armband as clarification of the role of the wearer. Much can be done with the uniforms simply by changing the way they are painted, so generally we had no problem with the accuracy of these figures. The poses are fine in concept if not always in execution, and the sculpting is what we would expect from this manufacturer, but with a badly done running man and a surprising amount of flash. Those who look for utility in their figures will find plenty here to interest, but those that look for beauty will find very little.
Note The final figure is of a soldier from the Streltsi of 17th century Russia. Though he is unrelated to the subject of this set, he is one of a series of 'bonus' figures which when combined will create a set of this unit for the Great Northern War. See Streltsi Bonus Figures feature for details.