WIKING RUF Europäische Freiwilligen in der Waffen-SS

 
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Divisions of the Waffen-SS


1.SS-Panzer Division "Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler "

1.SS-Panzer-Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler (LSSAH or LAH) was formed 17 Mar 1933 as SS-Stabswache Berlin by Josef "Sepp" Dietrich, Hitler's bodyguard, on the order of Adolf Hitler who wanted a full-time armed force that was completely loyal to him. Dietrich handpicked 120 men (some of whom had served in the Stosstrupp Adolf Hitler that was formed in 1921) who were barracked at the Alexander Barracks in Berlin and later at Berlin-Lichterfelde.

It was soon redesignated SS-Sonderkommando Zossen and a new unit, SS-Sonderkommando Jüterbog, was raised. These units merged Sep 1933 as was designated SS-Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler (LAH). The members of LAH took an oath of loyalty to Hitler 9 Nov 1933 (the 10th anniversary of the failed Beer Hall Putsch). It was re-designated Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler (LSSAH) in 1934. It took part in the purge of Ernst Röhm and other enemies of Hitler (mainly leaders of the SA) during the Night of Long Knifes.

It was attached to Heeresgruppe Süd during the invasion of Poland and later took part in the invasion of France and the Low Countries were it was mainly held in reserve though it was used against the retreating British troops at Dunkirk. LSSAH was attached to XIV Armeekorps during the second and final phase of the invasion of France.

Following the armistice the LSSAH was to rest and be upgraded to a brigade while training amphibious warfare for the planned invasion of Britain (Unternehmen Seelöwe). This invasion was cancelled and LSSAH was transferred to Romania for the invasion of the Balkans. It fought its way through Yugoslavia and Greeve chasing the allied troops to Kalamata, from where they were evacuated by sea to Crete.

LSSAH took part in Unternehmen Barbarossa (the invasion of the Soviet Union) attached to Heeresgruppe Süd and saw action at Kiev and Rostov. It was transferred to France for refitting 1942 and was upgraded to a Panzergrenadier DIvision. It returned to the Eastern front 1943 and fought at Kharkov and Kursk. After the failure at Kursk, LSSAH was sent to Italy on anti-partisan duty but it soon was sent back to the Eastern front this time as a Panzer-Division. LSSAH was one of the divisions encircled near Kamenets-Podolsk and though it was saved by SS Panzer Division Frundsberg and SS Panzer Division Hohenstaufen it suffered heavy losses and was sent to France for rest and refitting.
It fought in Normandy following the allied invasion and saw action at Caen, Falaise and Aachen as it was pressed back towards Germany. It took part in the offensive in the Ardennes attached to I SS Panzerkorps. After the failure of that offensive LSSAH was once again sent to the Eastern front to take part in the offensive to break the siege of Budapest (Unternehmen Margarethe). Following that failed offensive it was transferred to Austria were it surrendered to the American troops at the end of the war.

  2.SS-Panzer Division "Das Reich "

Formed Oct 1939 from the Deutschland, Germania and Der Führer regiments. It took part in the campaign in the west 1940 and after spending some time guarding the border with Vichy France it was transferred to the Netherlands. It took part in the campaign in the Balkans where a small detachment led by SS-Hauptsturmführer Klingenberg managed to get the mayor of Belgrade to surrender the city without a fight.

Das Reich took part in the invasion of the USSR and fought on the frontlines until August when it was withdrawn from refitting. It was sent back to the front September and a few months later it took part in the failed offensive against Moscow. It was transferred to France March 1942, with the exception of a small Kampfgruppe, where it was upgraded to a panzergrenadier division. It was sent back to the Eastern front in January 1943 where it took part in the capture and recapture of Kharkov as well as fighting at Kursk (Operation Zitadelle).

Das Reich was transferred back to France, this time to be upgraded to a panzer division, and was sent to Normandy when the allies invaded. On the 10th June 1944, on their way to Normandy, approx. 180 soldiers of the 3./SS-Pz.Gren.Rgt.4 "Der Führer" led by the commander of the 1st Battalion SS Major Adolf Diekmann, without giving any explanation, killed 642 men, women and children at Oradour-sur-Glane in reprisal of a resistance attack. It took part in the heavy fighting in Normandy before retreating into Germany. It later took part in the fighting in the Ardennes, Hungary and Austria.

Before surrendering to the US Army, elements of Das Reich helped large numbers of civilians in Prague escape the Red Army.

 

3.SS-Panzer Division "Totenkopf "

Formed Oct 1939 from concentration camp guards with the addition of officers from the SS-Verfügungstruppe (SS-VT) and men from SS-Heimwehr Danzig.

It was initially held in reserve during the campaign in the west, but was soon sent to the front in Belgium. They suffered heavy losses compared to other units but managed to keep up the advance. At Le Paradis, 4./SS-Inf.Rgt. 2, commanded by SS-Obersturmführer Fritz Knöchlein, machine-gunned British POW's. It later fought in France seeing its only real action against colonial troops at Tarare.

It took part in the invasion of the USSR attached to Heeresgruppe Nord and advanced through the Baltic states and towards Leningrad. It remained in the Leningrad area until the Soviet counteroffensive pushed the Germans back and it was encircled at Demyansk January to March 1942 when it broke out.
It remained on the front until it was transferred to France in October 1944 where it refreshed and refitted. It was sent back to the Eastern front where it fought at Kursk and Kharkov. It was sent to Hungary December 1944 where it took part in the failed attempt to relieve Budapest (Operation Konrad I, II and III and later on Frühlingserwachen).

It surrendered to US forces in Austria, but was promptly turned over to the Soviets and few members survived.

 

4.SS-Panzergrenadier Division "Polizei"

Formed Oct 1940 from members of the Ordnungspolizei (regular police) that was conscripted into the unit. It was used for occupation duties in Poland before seeing some action in the invasion of France were it took part as a reserve unit. It fought on the northern sector of the Eastern front after the German invasion of the USSR.

It was transferred to the Balkans in 1943 were it was used for anti-partisan duties before being sent to Pomorania in early 1945. Elements of the unit fought in Berlin and the rest surrendered to the US Army.

 

5.SS-Panzer Division "Wiking"

Formed Dec 1940 around the Germania regiment from the SS-Division Verfügungstruppe (later renamed Das Reich).

It took part in the invasion of the USSR attached to Heeresgruppe Süd and during the advance took part in several encirclements of Soviet troops before reaching Rostov in November 1941. During the winter it was pressed back by the Soviet advances to in the spring it once again went on the offensive, this time towards the Caucasus. It was however soon forced to retreat to avoid being cut off. After the Kursk operations and following its failure, it retreated and was became trapped in the Cherkassy or Korsun pocket February 1944. It managed to break out of that pocket but lost all it's tanks and suffered heavy losses in the process.

It withdrew to Cholm to be reformed, its Panzerregiment training in France and the two grenadier regiments without heavy weapons and tanks  that remained at the front. Deployed quickly in the Kowel area and broke its encirclement and doing so, relieving thousands of men and Wiking's CO, SS-Obergruppenführer Herbert-Otto Gille. In July 1944 it fought at the Vistula. It was sent to Hungary after Christmas 1944 where it took part in the failed attempt to relieve Budapest. It withdrew through Hungary and Czechoslovakia before surrendering to US forces in Austria.

Wiking has not been accused of any warcrimes, but the infamous Joseph Mengele served in the Pionier Battalion (where he also was awarded the Iron Cross) during his time in the Waffen-SS during the early stages of Barbarossa.



 

6.SS-Gebirgs Division "Nord"

When Norway capitulated in June 1940, there were still some armed Norwegian forces intact: two Infantry Battalions and one Motorised Artillery Battery who guarded the Norwegian/Soviet-Russian and Finnish border in East-Finnmark. These were led by Colonel Wilhelm Faye.

As Hitler did not want to deploy ordinary Heer units to replace the Norwegians, the choice was
SS-Totenkopf-Standarte 9 led by SS-Obersturmbannführer Ernst Deutsch. However, the first unit to arrive in Kirkenes, was called "SS Batallion Reitz", named after their commander Obersturmbannführer Wilhelm Reitz.

During the spring 1941, two new Standarten (Regiments) arrived: the 6th and 7th. After a short time, the 6th SS, with large elements from the 9th SS, moved into positions at Salla in Northern-Finland. General von Falkenhorst did, however, not trust their fighting ability very much, because even If the formations were well equipped, the men were poorly trained. The two latter regiments crossed the Finnish/Norwegian border, and were ready at Salla the 22nd June, 1941.

As the attack on Soviet came, the divisions, now usually called "Brigade", were thrown into the battle at Markajärvi-Salla. They suffered great losses, and were an expected disappointment to the German commanders: Falkenhorst and Buschenhagen. The SS forces lost 700 men the first two days in combat with strong Russian forces. (300 KIA and 400 WIA).

The Brigade got a new unit attached, SS-Gebirgsartillerie-Regiment 6, and was now redesigned as a Division. During the autumn 1941, the Division was handed over to the battle-hardened Finnish General Siilasvuo (this was the only time that an SS Division was commanded by a foreign Officer), and took positions at Louchi/Kiestinki. Gen. Siilasvuo was no bad choice for an Army Corps commander: he had served in the Finnish famous volunteer "Jägerbatallion 27" during WW 1, on the German side.

A unit by Finnish volunteers was never formed in this case, but a Norwegian one soon came true: the "
Freiwilligen-Skikompanie "Norwegen", later Frwg-Skibatallion "Norwegen". (Norwegian: "Skijegerbataljonen").

It was formed in February 1941 in Norway as "SS-Kampfgruppe Nord" by "Stab des Befehlshaber der Waffen-SS in Norwegen". From September 1941 the unit was officially designated "SS-Division Nord". In January it was converted to a "SS-Gebirgs-Division", and new units began forming in Germany for the division.
The rebuilt Division was called into action against the Soviet spring offensive in 1942 and this time managed to hold its lines. Throughout the rest of 1942 and through 1943 it remained on the Kestenga front, which was quiet compared to other areas of the Eastern Front. In September 1942, the unit was renamed the SS Gebirgs-Division "Nord" (SS Mountain Division "North") and in October 1943 became the 6th SS Gebirgs-Division "Nord".

After crossing the Skagerrak in a naval convoy, the division briefly refitted in Denmark. The Division's losses were replaced for the greater part of young Volksdeutsche (ethnic Germans) who had received only a brief training and had not volunteered but been drafted to the Waffen SS in the normal conscription procedure. Their fighting value was therefore correspondingly lower than had been the case with the former personnel and naturally lowered the combat abilities of the entire division.

On 16 January, the SS Gebirgs Regiment 11 surrounded six companies of the American 157th Infantry Regiment. The Americans were forced to surrender three days later, losing 482 men. The Nord advanced for four more days before being stopped by American counterattacks.

The division remained on the Western front after the Nordwind offensive, fighting the Americans around Trier and Koblenz on de Moselle River in March. By Easter 1945 it numbered about 2,000 men, including stragglers from other units. It still had six howitzers and an assault gun. The division refused to give up, and moved east to re-establish contact with other German units. However, as it moved, it drew the attention of the US Army by cutting American lines of communications. In early 1945 over the course of several days the US 71st division fought a series of engagements with the division Nord. As a result, the division was destroyed, its personnel scattered or captured.


 

7.SS-Freiwilligen-Gebirgs Division "Prinz Eugen"

Formed Mar 1942 from Volksdeutsche (ethnic Germans) from Croatia, Serbia, Hungary and Romania, initially all where volunteers but later conscription was used. All units of the Einsatz Staffeln (ES), a SS related organization in Croatia made up of Volksdeutsche, where absorbed by the division Apr 1943.

It was used for anti-partisan duties until late 1944 when it began fighting the Red Army as well. It was one of the units fighting to keep 350,000 retreating German soldiers to be encircled Sep 1944 and suffered heavy losses, but the operation was successful. It ended the war in Slovenia and surrendered to the Yugoslav forces.

 

8.SS-Kavallerie Division "Florian Geyer"

Formed 1942 when SS-Kavallerie-Brigade was upgraded.
It saw actions against partisans in the east (Briansk and Vjasma among other places) as well as in the Balkans before being transferred to Budapest were it was destroyed when the city fell to the Red Army.

 

9.SS-Panzer Division "Hohenstaufen"

Mainly formed from conscripts, many of them from the ranks of the Reichs Arbeits Dienst (RAD).

It first saw action at Tanopol, Apr 1944 where it took part in rescuing German troops from the Kamenets-Podolsk pocket. It was sent to Normandy to fight the allied landings. It retreated into Belgium before being sent to rest near Arnhem where they soon had to fight the allied paratroopers who landed there.
It was then transferred to Germany and later fought in the Ardennes and Hungary before ending the war in Austria.

 

10.SS-Panzer Division "Frundsberg"

Mainly formed from conscripts, many them from the RAD.

It first saw action at Tanopol, Apr 1944 where it took part in rescuing German troops from the Kamenets-Podolsk pocket. It was sent to Normandy to fight the allied landings. It retreated into Belgium before being sent to rest near Arnhem and Apeldoorn area, where they soon had to fight the allied paratroopers who landed there. It was then sent to the Eastern front where it fought the Red Army in Aachen and Pomerania.


 

11.SS-Freiw.-Panzergrenadier Division "Nordland"

By 1943, the foreign formations of the Waffen SS had an established record in combat. The 5th SS Panzer Division Wiking, a volunteer formation, had been in action since 1940.

The Wiking, however, was composed of enlisted men who were predominantly volunteers from Nordic countries, commanded by German officers. In February 1943, Hitler ordered the creation of an SS Division which would be officered by foreign volunteers. The Wiking's SS-Panzergrenadier-Regiment Nordland, a Scandinavian volunteer regiment, was pulled out of the line to be used as a cadre for the new division. The division was originally to receive the name Waräger (Varangians) but the name was rejected by Hitler himself. It was decided that the division was to continue using the already-existing regiment's name, Nordland. The Nordland's two Panzergrenadier regiments were also given honour titles, with reference to the location where the majority of the regiment's recruits were from, SS-Panzergrenadier Regiment 23 Norge (Norwegians) and SS-Panzergrenadier Regiment 24 Danmark (Danes).

After its formation in Germany, the division was attached to the III (Germanic) SS Panzer Corps under the command of Obergruppenführer Felix Steiner and was moved to Croatia for training and to complete its formation. Soon after its arrival, the SS Volunteer Legion Netherlands was attached to the division and it began combat operations against Josip Broz Tito's partisans.

In late November, the Danmark regiment was involved in heavy fighting with a force of 5,000 partisans near Glina. During this period, the Nordland's Panzer Battalion, SS Panzer Battalion 11, was given the honour title Hermann von Salza in honour of the fourth Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights (b.1179-d.1239).In January 1944, orders were received to move the division to the Oranienbaum front near Leningrad, under the command of Generalfeldmarschall Walter Model's Army Group North.

Nordland, along with the rest of III. (Germanic) SS Panzer Corps arrived at the front near Leningrad and was almost immediately put into action against the Red Army attacks to break the German encirclement of the city. After they escaped from being surrounded, the Nordland effected a fighting withdrawal over 60 kilometres to Oranienbaum. On 14 January 1944, the Soviet Krasnoye Selo–Ropsha Offensive succeeded in collapsing the German front, and the Nordland fought its way back again to the city of Narva in extreme northeastern Estonia, where a new line of defence was being organized. In early February, Soviet forces began their attacks towards the city and the Battle of Narva began.

From late October to December 1944, the Nordland fought fierce defensive battles in the pocket; by early December the divisional strength was down to 9,000 men. In January 1945, the division was ordered to the Baltic port of Libau, where it was shipped out of the pocket to Pomerania. The division disembarked at Stettin, with the Panzer Battalion Hermann von Salza being sent on to Gotenhafen for refitting. In late January, Nordland was assigned to Steiner's 11th SS Panzer Army, which was now forming in anticipation of the defence of Berlin.

By 21 February the conclusion was arrived-at that no more useful gains could be made against an increasingly powerful enemy without incurring undue casualties, so Steiner ordered a general withdrawal back to the north bank of the Ihna. Between the 23rd and 28th, III (Germanic) SS Panzer Corps made a slow withdrawal to the area around Stargard and Stettin on the northern Oder River.

The Soviet offensive of 1 March, pushed Nordland, along with the rest of the depleted III (Germanic) SS Panzer Corps, before them. In a desperate fighting withdrawal, the Nordland and the rest of III (Germanic) SS Panzer Corps inflicted heavy casualties on the Soviet forces; but by 4 March, the division was falling back to Altdamm, the last defensive position east of the Oder itself. During the next two weeks, Nordland grimly held onto the town, inflicting and suffering heavy casualties. On 19 March, the battered defenders fell back behind the Oder, the Danmark and Norge regiments had fought virtually to the last man. The division was ordered back to the area west of Schwedt-Bad Freinwalde for a refit.

During this time, the 33rd Waffen-Grenadier Division of the SS Charlemagne, a 300-man unit of French SS volunteers and the Spanish Volunteer Company of the SS No.101, a company of Spanish SS men were attached to the division. The division's strength was replenished with the addition of several vehicles and some personnel from the Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine.

On 16 April, Nordland was ordered back into the line east of Berlin. Despite recent replenishment, the division was still grossly understrength and, with the exception of the French and Spanish, many of the new recruits had little, if any combat experience.
On 25 April, Brigadeführer Gustav Krukenberg was appointed the commander of (Berlin) Defence Sector C which included the Nordland Division, whose previous commander, Joachim Ziegler, was relieved of his command the same day. The arrival of the French SS men bolstered the Nordland Division whose "Norge" and "Danmark" Panzergrenadier regiments had been decimated in the fighting. They each roughly equalled a battalion.

Fierce fighting continued all around, especially in the Weidendammer Bridge area. What was left of the Nordland Division under Krukenberg fought hard in that area but Soviet artillery and anti-tank guns were too strong. The Nordland's last Tiger was knocked out attempting to cross the Weidendammer Bridge.
Others such as the 3rd (Swedish) Company of the Reconnaissance battalion fought a desperate and ultimately useless battle to escape the surrounding Soviets. Several very small groups managed to reach the Americans at the Elbe's west bank, but most (including Mohnke's group and men from Krukenberg's group), could not break through the Soviet ring. Krukenberg made it to Dahlem, where he hid out in an apartment for a week but then had to surrender.

On 2 May hostilities officially ended by order of Helmuth Weidling, Kommandant of the Defence Area Berlin and General of Artillery. All remaining pockets of resistance were mopped up by the Red Army and the 80,000 or so Prisoners of War were marched east. Many SS men, loyal to their oath to Hitler, had already either fought to the death or taken their own lives. Of the few survivors who reached the Western Allies' lines, most were handed over to their respective countries and tried as traitors, some serving prison time and a few even receiving the death penalty.

 

12.SS-Panzer Division "Hitlerjugend"

The origins of the 12. SS-Panzer-Division Hitlerjugend can be traced back to late 1942 and early 1943. In all probability, the idea to create a "Hitlerjugend" division was first tabled by SS-Gruppenführer Gottlob Berger for Hitler's consideration sometime in January of 1943. His vision called for the drafting of all HJ members who were born in 1926 and assign them to a "Hitlerjugend" combat formation. Hitler liked the proposal and ordered Berger to commence organizing the division.
The official order was issued on the 10th of February, 1943. Berger, probably thinking that because the "HJ division" was "his" idea, nominated himself to be the first divisional commander of "Hitlerjugend". Much to everyone's amusement, Himmler politely declined Berger's candidacy a week later. Himmler gave that duty to SS-Oberführer Franz Witt instead; a former HJ member.

In April of 1943, Hitler signed off on a number of additional decrees relating to the formation of the "Hitlerjugend" Panzer Grenadier Division; though it need be noted that Joseph Goebbels has serious reservations about the whole undertaking. One of Hitler's provisions called for the German Reichsarbeitsdienst (RAD) to release a number of HJ members for immediate transfer to the new embryonic HJ Panzer Grenadier Division. A number of pre-requisites however had to be met before a final transfer to the HJ division was officially approved:

* a minimum height of 170cm/5ft.7in. was required for HJ Division infantrymen;
* a minimum height of 168cm/5ft.6in. was required for HJ Division armored, FLAK and others;
* and all recruits would undergo an initial six week, pre-basic WEL training camp.

 

On May 1st, 1943, the first group of 8,000 HJ volunteers reported to the WEL camps. Note: that of the 8,000 HJ boys, 6,000 were sent to the WEL camps and 2,000 were directed to attend advanced or special military training camps. Because the planning officials were not able to adhere to their desired six week training classes (and probably because they were under great pressures to expedite the training and subsequent combat availability of the new HJ division), they shortened the training time by two weeks. On July 1st, 1943, the graduating class of 8.000 HJ trainees were released for service in the HJ division. That same day, a second group of 8,000 HJ boys was ready to enter the above training regiment. By the 1st of September 1943, 16,000 trained HJ recruits were listed on the rosters of the newly formed "Hitlerjugend" division.

Per an order dated June 24th, 1943, it was initially decided that the SS "Hitlerjugend" division would be formed as the 12th SS Panzer Grenadier Division "Hitlerjugend". However, an order dated October 30th, 1943, amended that by calling for the HJ Panzer Grenadier Division to be re-organized into a full SS Panzer Division.

1943 was a very critical year for Germany and for the German war effort. This was when Germany had experienced a number of colossal military (manpower) disasters, which could no longer be ignored. In January of 1943, the German 6th Army surrendered at Stalingrad and Germany lost a large number of men in that campaign. That same month, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt and Britain's Winston Churchill, at the Casablanca conference, declared that the Allies would only accept Germany's (and Italy's and Japan's) unconditional surrender. This had a very galvanizing affect on Germany and the NSDAP - they now believed that they had to win the war no matter what! In May of 1943, the last units of the vaunted Afrika Korps left Africa for good. In July of 1943, the German Army lost its bid for victory at the battle of Kursk and the human losses there were large as well. Italy was ready to surrender. The Allied forces had invaded Sicily and were getting ready to march up the boot of Italy. As a result of these events, new divisions were needed on all of Germany's fronts. Existing and surviving divisions needed replacements - where was the required manpower to come from?

Shortly after Josef Göbbels gave his "Totaler Krieg" speech in Berlin in February of 1943 (as a counter to President Rooselvelt's Casablanca "unconditional surrender" declaration), Germany initiated a new recruitment effort for its military. This recruitment effort was directed against a pool of soldiers, which had so far been left relatively intact - the Hitlerjugend. This was a large source of combat-able individuals who were physically very fit and who were very dedicated to the cause of Nationalist Socialism. They would be obedient to the end. They would blindly give their lives for their beloved Führer, Adolf Hitler.

All of these factors, from the initial concept to create a HJ division to Germany's belated recognition of the fact that it would need additional troops in large numbers, contributed to the expeditious organization and training of the HJ division. On paper, Germany would now be able to factor in one more combat division into its front-line equations by the fall of 1943. Thus, as rapidly as permissible under the existing wartime conditions, the new HJ Panzer Grenadier troopers were assembled at an SS training facility located in Beverloo, Belgium.

That said; it is one thing to place young and inexperienced 17- or 18-year old teenagers into a tank or give them a Grenadiers uniform and then send them towards the enemy at the front lines. It is quite another thing to provide them with the adequate combat and technical skills necessary for them to complete their assigned missions if they are to have any chance of success.

To ensure for the greatest chance of combat success, that is, to attain an adequate mix of seasoned military veterans to young HJ recruits, a number of SS veterans, mostly from the eastern front, were attached to the new HJ SS Panzer Grenadier Division. A very large percentage of these experienced individuals came from the 1st SS Panzer Division, the "Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler" (LSSAH). This is why many HJ SS Panzer Grenadier members often carried "LSSAH cuff titles" on their uniforms in the early period. A smaller percentage of Wehrmacht officers, who also had previously been HJ leaders, were transferred to the new HJ SS Panzer Grenadier Division as well. Many of the lower level control and command positions within the HJ SS Panzer Grenadier Division were given to HJ members who had received exceptionally high marks in leadership and military training skills during their days in the HJ before and right after the start of the war.

The first divisional commander was SS Oberführer Fritz Witt, who, when he received this command, was quite young to command a division at only 34 years of age. It is interesting to note that during their "shake down" training period in Beverloo, Belgium, many of the regularly expected training rules and regulations were tossed aside for the new SS troopers. The battle hardened eastern front SS and Wehrmacht veterans taught the new Hitlerjugend SS-Panzer Grenadiers all they could with the allotted time using realistic combat scenarios amalgamated with many live-fire training exercises. Formality and drill practices were replaced by practical combat lessons. As a result, morale was at very high levels in the entire division throughout their time in Belgium.

After their training period had been completed, during the spring of 1943, they were deemed ready for release to the western front. Shortly before June 6th, 1944, the HJ SS Panzer Grenadier Division was moved from its training camp in Beverloo to the town of Hasselt, also in Belgium. This is where the HJ SS Panzer Division was held as a reserve unit to help check the anticipated Allied invasion.

On the morning of June 6th, 1944, the Allied powers landed on the coast of Normandy. The western front now officially existed. As can be imagined, great confusions existed in both the Allied and German military commands. At 1430 hours, June 6th, 1944, the HJ SS Panzer Grenadier Division was ordered to proceed to Caen. This was in close proximity to the British and Canadian landing sites of "Juno" and "Sword". But as soon as the HJ SS Panzer Grenadier Division arrived in the area, they came under heavy and relentless Allied air attacks. As a result, the HJ SS Panzer Grenadier Division did not make it to its assigned attack positions until 2200 hours that night.

Although fanatical in their determination and tenacity to fight to the death, it did not take long for the division to suffer horrendous casualties. In their first engagement with the Canadiens, the HJ Division destroyed 28 Canadien tanks while losing only 6 soldiers for their efforts. They fought with a very high degree of determination. However, the odds were against them in the long run. In slightly over one month of combat, the HJ SS Panzer Grenadier Division had lost over 60 per cent of its forces due to combat actions. 20 per cent were killed and the rest of the 40 per cent were either wounded or MIA. The divisional commander, Fritz Witt, was killed when British naval fire hit his regional command center. The new divisional commander became Kurt "Panzermeyer" Meyer. At that time, he became the youngest divisional commander in the entire German army - he was only 33 year of age.

After the British and Canadian forces had liberated Caen, the HJ SS Panzer Grenadier Division was one of the 24 German combat divisions, which became encircled in the Falaise pocket. At this time, the HJ SS Panzer Grenadier Division was ordered to hold the German lines on the northern edge of the pocket so that the trapped divisions could escape as best they could. The HJ SS Panzer Grenadier Division escaped being encircled as did about 20,000 other Germans - but over 50.000 other German forces were trapped in the Falaise pocket and surrendered to the Allies.

Although the Normandy campaign survivors of the HJ SS Panzer Grenadier Division fought with just as much determination and dedication as they did a month earlier, in the long run, they were fighting a losing battle. By September of 1944, only 1.500-3.500+ HJ troopers survived in the division. They had lost over 9,000 of their comrades in Normandy and in the Falaise Gap. After the Falaise campaign, the HJ SS Panzer Grenadier Division had also lost nearly all of its armor, much of their equipment and heavy weapons.

In December of 1944, the now re-organized HJ SS Panzer Division participated in the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardenne forest. After that, the HJ SS Panzer Division was sent to Hungary where it was supposed to assist in recapturing Budapest.

On May 8th, approximately 10,000 survivors of the 12th SS Panzer Division surrendered to the American 65th Infantry Division, 7th Army, near Enns in Austria. One surviving tank belonging to the division also surrendered to the Americans that day.



  13.SS-Waffen-Gebirgs Division der SS "Handschar"


 

14.Waffen-Grenadier Division der SS "Galicia"

Formed April 1943 from volunteers from western Ukraine (known as Galicia when it was controlled by Austria-Hungary). Training of the troops began in Debica before the division was moved to Silesia April 1944 for further training.

It was sent to the front at Brody in Ukraine June 1944 were the imadequately armed division was almost destroyed (only 3,000 reached the German lines) after being encircled. It was soon rebuilt and was used to combat the Slovakian uprising 1944 before it was sent to Yugoslavia to fight the partisans.

 

15.Waffen-Grenadier Division der SS

Formed 1943 when the newly formed Lettische SS-Freiwilligen Legion was upgraded to a division.

It was sent to the front November 1943 where it fought the Red Army's winter offensive.
It was sent to West Prussia to recover from the losses suffered the Soviet offensive in the autumn of 1944. It returned to the front January 1945 and continued fighting the Red Army until the end of the war when it managed to surrender to the western allies.

 

16.SS-Panzergrenadier Division "Reichsführer-SS"

Formed November 1943 when Sturmbrigade Reichsführer-SS was upgraded to a division when Volksdeutsche were added to the units.

Parts of it fought the allied landings at Anzio while the rest took part in the occupation of Hungary. It fought in Italy as a single unit from May 1944 before being transferred to Hungary. It ended the war in Austria.

 

17.SS-Panzergrenadier Division "Götz von Berlichingen"

The 17. SS-Panzergrenadier-Division Götz von Berlichingen was raised October 1943 from replacement units and conscripts.
It saw action against the US forces in Normandy from 10 June 1944 and suffered heavy losses.
After the D-Day Allied invasion, the Götz von Berlichingen was ordered to Normandy to take part in the efforts to reduce the Allied beachhead. On June 10 the Division made contact with 182 paratroopers of the 3rd Battalion, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, and B Company, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division at the village of Graignes. This small group of paratroopers had been dropped mistakenly by the US 9th Army Air Force Troop Carrier Command and had decided to try and hold their positions. The ensuing battle, and the criminal execution of wounded paratroopers and French civilians by the "Götz von Berlichingen", has since been known as the Battle of Graignes. On June 11 the reconnaissance battalion engaged in combat with the paratroopers of the US 101st Airborne Division near the town of Carentan.

For the rest of the month, the division was engaged in heavy fighting for the bocage country near Saint Lô and Coutances. During this period, the Götz von Berlichingen suffered heavy losses and by the beginning of July, its strength was reduced to 8,500 men. The division was in the line of advance for Operation Cobra, and suffered heavy losses attempting to halt the Allied offensive. It was then ordered to take part in the Mortain Offensive, codenamed Operation Lüttich. After the failure of this offensive, the division was split into four Kampfgruppen, 'Braune', 'Gunter', 'Fick' and 'Wahl'. These small units managed to escape encirclement in the Falaise Pocket, but suffered heavy losses and remained in almost constant combat against the advancing Americans until the end of the month, when the division was transferred to Metz for a much-needed rest and refit.

The surviving parts of the division refitted in the Saar during September and took of manpower from Heer and Waffen-SS stragglers. It fought around Metz in October and Novenber before once again retreating to the Saar, seeing action there in December. It fought in Lorraine 1945 during the Nordwind offensive and in March it retreated towards Nuremburg.

Small elements from the division are believed to have been involved in the so called "Battle for Castle Itter" on 5 May 1945, a grand name for a small operation to recapture the Austrian Itter Castle in North Tyrol that had been captured by the US forces the day before. Its claim to fame is that part of the 41 men strong force defending the castle were 7 US soldiers from the 23rd Tank Battalion of the US 12th Armored Division, 14 French VIPs who had been held at the castle and 20 Germans.

Back in Kufstein, Lee picked up his reinforcements -- two tanks from his own outfit and five more from the 36th Infantry Division's 142nd Battalion. With Lee and Szymcyk went Lieutenant Harry Basse, Santa Ana, Cal., maintenance officer and the tanks' crews. At the town of Worgl the force paused. Lee, leaving the others behind, took his own medium tank with five volunteers, said goodbye to his rear-guard, and rumbled on to the castle, the faithful major trailing in his car.
Then began the classic defense of the ancient "schloss", which had not known battle since the days of crossbow and boiling oil. The defenders numbered 41 -- there were 20 soldiers of the Wehrmacht (German regular army), 14 French men and women, and seven Americans.
At 4 o'clock on the morning of May 5, a small force of SS men launched an attack up the slope toward the castle. American rifles and German light machine guns teamed up to beat them back.

The survivors surrendered to US forces in Bavaria at the end of the war.


 

18.SS-Freiw.-Panzergrenadier Division "Horst Wessel"

Formed around a cadre from 1. SS-Infanterie-Brigade (mot) and included mainly Hungarian Volksdeutsche.

It was used for anti-partisan duties until it was sent to the Eastern front, with the exeption of one regiment that fought the Slovak uprising Aug 1944. It later fought as a single unit in Hungary and later in Czechoslovakia where it was destroyed.


 

19.Waffen-Grenadier Division der SS

Formed when 2. Lettische SS-Freiwilligen-Brigade was upgraded to a division. It fought the Red Army until it ended the war in the Kurland pocket.

 

20.Waffen-Grenadier Division der SS (Estnische Nr.1)

Formed from the 3. Estnische SS-Freiwilligen Brigade. It fought on the Eastern front, including the great battle at Narwa 1944 and was later evacuated from Estonia along with the rest of the German forces.

It continued fighting in Silesia and later Czechoslovakia until the end of the war when parts of the surrendered to the western allies.





       
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