Panzer Abholkommando, Sennelager 1945
* 14.3.1917 in Platten, Südtirol
† 30.8.2008 in Bozen, Südtirol
E.K.1 and E.K.2
Verwundetenabzeichen in Silber
in Gold on 8th March1945 as Obersturmführer and Kp.Chef 8./SS-Pz.Rgt. 5
Ritterkreuz on 8th April 1944 as Obersturmführer and Kp.Chef 8./SS-Pz.Rgt. 5
and some 150 men were sent to Germany to pick up new tanks at the Paderborn
Travelling by train from Hungary to Hesselteich
near Gütersloh. By then a scouting party, commanded
by SS-Obersturmführer Ola Olin (Helsinki,
18.07.1917 - † Kassel, 11.01.1995) and 30 men, via several de-routations to Hannover failed to reach the collectpoint in the vicinity of Paderborn. However, they
encountered the lead elements of the US 5th Armoured
Division in Harsewinkel and soon the first
skirmishes took place. Retreating through Versmold
and Melle they reach Lübbecke
and taking 3 Holz-gas trucks and continued to
Minden, which is already partially in the hands of the British at that
They eventually continue their retreat to Bückeburg
and are told by the local people that there are several armored vehicles
nearby, unused in a Wehrmacht vehicle depot. Early in the morning they
collect 13 Schützenpanzerwagen (SdKfz.
250 or 251's), including 2 SdKfz. 250/9's with 2cm FlaK gun.
Reaching Hannover where 'Nico' reports to the city’s Kommandant,
Generalmajor Paul Löhning.
He is instructed to take up defensive positions northwest of Stöcken along Reichsstraße 6 so
that he can cover both the Weser-Elbe-Kanal Bridge
and the Reichsautobahn. This is where Generalmajor Löhning is
expecting the US 84 Infantry Division to attack in order to take Hannover
In the morning a worker at Hanomags factory
informs 'Nico' that there are several brand new tanks at the factory yard
of the M.N.H facility at Hannover-Laatzen. The
SS-Hauptsturmführer immediately assembles a few
tank crews from the men in his group and rushes to the factory to find 7 Jagdpanthers and even a Bergepanther!
The only problem is they are missing a few vital
parts as well as fuel.
He sends out a few trucks to acquire the necessary
parts as the optics, ammunition and fuel from a factory in Scheuen near Celle. The men returned that afternoon and
before the day’s end the Jagdpanther’s guns have
been properly calibrated and test-fired. The 'Kampfgruppe
Wiking' is ready for action...
Major-General Alexander Bolling, commander of the US 84th Infantry
dispositioned his troops (Infantry Regiments 333, 334 and 335, reinforced
by elements of a tank-destroyer battalion), ready for a direct assault on
Hannover. The 11th Cavalry Group (Colonel Fierson)
covers his left flank. Bolling is relying on a captured map, which shows
all of the defensive positions in and around Hannover including the
strengths of the units that have been employed. He is optimistic that he
has little to fear in the upcoming battle for the city. He is completely
unaware of the potent armored force that is now awaiting his advance.
With his powerful Kampfgruppe
assembled, Nicolussi-Leck not only takes up his
assigned positions but goes further and occupies Frielingen
and Ricklingen – he is now in a position to
withstand any attempts to take the Leine bridge
at Ricklingen and to defend against attacks from Bordenau area.
Colonel Fierson’s lead elements are already in
the crosshairs of the 3 Jagdpanthers at the edge
SS-Hauptsturmführer Karl Nicolussi-Leck (left) on the cupola of his PzKfw V Panther Ausf.A (Turmnummer 801), while at right standing SS-Hstf Friedrich Hannes, Chef 12.Kp/SS-PzGren -Rgt 9
"Germania". The man in the middle, is possibly SS-Ostuf Fritz Hanke (Nachrichten-Offizier
from SS-Pz-Rgt 5
of these Jagdpanthers are veterans who have been
hardened by years of combat on the Eastern Front, always outnumbered and
without adequate supplies. This was different now, sitting in their brand new
tanks and well supplied, they were now fighting on German soil. Every shot
was a hit, but despite the mounting losses, Col. Fierson
takes up the challenge. He calls in an artillery strike on the town itself
and moves up his men. The Wiking Panzer crews soon can’t make out anything in
the dust and debris and withdraw to Horst. Followd
by the American forces which occupies Ricklingen.
cavalry had won, but at a price…
The 11th Cavalry tries to continue their advance, first to the east, then
northeast and finally north. All their attempts to continue the advance are
stopped. Col. Fierson has lost 20 armored vehicles, but he also knows that
Bollinger cannot risk an attack on Hannover if the cavalry can’t secure the
flank and the bridges over the Leine.
a couple of companies north to Bordenau, where the
British have already captured the bridge. His men cross the Leine by Bordenau and advance
to Frielingen, but once again they draw the shorter
straw. The lead tanks taking fire from the remaining 4 Jagdpanther’s
(then firing at maximum combat range). Although it is not known how many
armored vehicles the 11th Cavalry loses in the battle, the only Jagdpanther which was destroyed was credited with six
hits before it met its fate. In addition a Schützenpanzerwagen
(SPW) was also lost and Col. Fierson calls off his
Major General Bollinger has redeployed his forces. The 335th Regiment is
still facing east, facing Hannover itself. The 334th has come up over Ricklingen to strike southeast and the 333rd is crossing
the Leine near Bordenau,
in order to outflank the unexpected resistance that has been encountered.
After bringing up the 334th Regiment, Bollinger again presses ahead and tries
to take the town of Horst. Three more Shermans are
lost and Bollinger orders heavy artillery strikes on Horst and Frielingen.
KGr. Wiking is forced to withdraw to Godshorn, Vinnhorst and later
the Weser-Elbe canal. The meager forces available to defend Hannover are no
match for a reinforced US infantry division and
knows this. He asks permission to clear the city, but is ordered to fight or
face court martial.
During the night Bollinger starts his attack on Hannover. First the artillery
pounds on known enemy gun emplacements and positions. His men begin
their attack before dawn supported by fog. The fog is thick enough to cover
his advancing soldiers and with minor exceptions they make almost completely
unopposed progress. The 333rd Regiment is at the far left, north of Hannover
heading south (having managed to find a crossing over the Weser-Elbe canal),
the 334th Regiment is in the center attacking from north-west and the 335th
is attacking east (frontally). Both the 333rd and 334th pass the KGr. Wiking, both unaware of its whereabouts.
Only after the lead elements had passed, nobody noticed a single Jagdpanther at the Autobahn underpass. The second
battalion passes the Jagdpanther and continue
towards the state forest, at last the following units surround the Jagdpanther and captures its five men crew. There were
apparently asleep, their guard being overwhelmed before it could sound the
alarm. The US 84th Infantry Division took Hannover almost without a fight.
As this morning progressed, Nico realized he could not make contact with any
of the German forces in and around the Hannover area and ordered his men to
retreat to Hannover.
Travelling at the head of the column he ran into the chief of the fire
department, who told him that the Americans were already in the city, but he
would try to lead them through. At the edge of the city civilians told him
that the Americans were already at the train station. After a few detours
“Nico” (riding in an open vehicle) reached a square (Kröpke)
and the Americans immediately ordered him and his companions to surrender. As
soon as the first Jagdpanther came around the
corner it opened fire with its machine gun and “Nico” was able to escape and
climbs on board Ostuf. Ola Olin’s Jagdpanther. The column continues at high speed,
encountering more groups of American tanks but clearing out before anyone
could get a good aim on them. After leaving the Hannover area, “Nico” was
determined to try to link-up with German forces further east, however, he
could not know that he would not succeed...
While elements of the US 84th Infantry Division continued their advance
eastward following the capture of Hannover, a German column was marching on
secondary roads towards them. If neither side changes direction, they are
destined to meet in and around the Langlingen area.
The German column was that of the SS-K.Gr.“Wiking”
led by Hauptsturmführer Nicolussi-Leck,
which had regrouped in Lehrte and was planning to
march North and then Northeast, towards Wittingen
and ultimately Wittenberge at the banks of the Elbe
In the town of Abbensen the Kampfgruppe
met for the first time some tanks of a Panzer-Lehr division, which has managed to escape the Ruhr-kessel. This unit
did not merge with the Kampfgruppe under Nicolussi-Leck. Therefore the Kampfgruppe
marched via Uetze to Langlingen
where they captured 2 American fuel trucks and captured approximately 50 men.
Nicolussi-Leck set them free that evening.
The Kampfgruppe strenght:
9 Schützenpanzerwagen (SdKfz.
250/251), 6 Jagdpanthers and 1 Bergepanzer
at this time. Contact with the enemy was not to be avoided; but move to
contact… Just outside of Lehrte there was a short
firefight with 4 Sherman tanks, 2 were knocked out by the Jagdpanther
of Untersturmführer Karl Jauss.
The Kampfgruppe made it to the forest East of Sandlingen on the morning of April 12 with all its
remaining armored vehicles and over 100 men, including a growing number of
stragglers. Immediate reconnaissance showed that the bridges across the Mühlengraben and the Aller near Langlingen
were destroyed. A heavily armed Schützenpanzerwagen
(equipped with a 20mm gun and commanded by an (now unknown) Obersturmführer), was dispatched to Wienhausen
to determine if the bridges there were intact, seize and hold them until the Kampfgruppe arrived.
The Schützenpanzerwagen’s crew was primarily made up of
Wehrmacht troops, included a few officers and NCOs, some 12 men. At noon the Obersturmführer reached Wienhausen
and discovered that the bridges were intact and already equipped with
explosive charges. The Schützenpanzerwagen (SPW)
took up position on the northern bank of the Aller River, under the bridge;
on the outskirts of Oppershausen. The bridge was
not big enough to completely conceal the vehicle, which was to have its
consequences. The crew took up their positions around the bridge at 14:00h.
same time the US 333rd Regiment arrived in Wienhausen,
travelling from Bockelskamp. The American column
was not visible from Oppershausen, but the noise
would not have gone unnoticed. The scout cars at the head of the column
slowly drove through the deserted streets of Wienhausen.
When they reached the crossing leading to Oppershausen,
they stopped and saw that the bridges were intact. But also noticed the rear
of the Schützenpanzerwagen protruding from under
the bridge. They immediately opened fire and the SPW was hit several times.
The SPW crew thought that their own tanks were shooting them at, they were
not expecting any American troops this far to the East.
Feldwebel Ehrbeck jumped on a bicycle and while
wildly waving a white cloth, rode towards Wienhausen.
By now Capt. Bradford’s 9th Company had gone into position at the outskirts
As soon as the Feldwebel coverd the distance
to the Americans to 150 meters, he realized his mistake and jumped off the
bicycle and tried to escape on foot. He was “shot down by a rifleman”. The
rest of the German SPW crew took up the firefight with Capt. Bradford’s
company from across the Aller River. As this engagement was unfolding, an US
artillery battalion arrived in Wienhausen and took
up firing positions in order to assist Capt. Bradford, if needed. Capt.
Bradford still hoped to take the bridge intact and ordered his heavy machine
guns to pin down the Obersturmführer and his men so
that he could get a few men close enough to disarm the charges and take the
But as the GIs approached, the Obersturmführer gave
the order to blow the bridge, despite his orders to hold it for the rest of
the SS-K.Gr.“Wiking”. Capt. Bradford then continued
his attack on Oppershausen and the SPW crew.
under the Obersturmführer fought off the American
attacks for nine hours. They were opposed not only by the 9th Company, but
also the 11th and the artillery battalion. Oppershausen
was virtually destroyed by phosfor and mortar
six of the Germans were killed in the fierce fighting. The fate of the
remaining five, including the Obersturmführer is
not known. Some may have perished in the burning houses, others may have
escaped or been taken captive.
In the meantime, 1st Battalion 333rd US Regiment passed through Wienhausen and heading for Offensen,
the Aller bridge at Schwachhausen and ultimately Nordburg. By now the bridges to the Northeast and
Southeast of the SS-K.Gr.“Wiking” were either
destroyed or in the hands of the Americans.
In the morning of April 13th, the SS-K.Gr.“Wiking”
found itself deep behind enemy lines. With the US 333rd Regiment to the north
and US 334th Regiment to the south, they were outnumbered on either side
20:1. Their plan was to hold out until the first wave of US troops had
cleared the area and then attempt to cross the Aller at one of its crossings.
The 3rd Battalion 334th Regiment had spent the night in Langlingen,
where the bridge over the Aller was destroyed. At dawn they started driving
along the train tracks in a westerly direction in search of a suitable
crossing. After 3km they reached the destroyed bridge across the Mühlengraben. They immediately sent their engineers to
repair the bridge and also sent out patrols to establish a perimeter. The
patrols quickly ran into the SS-Kampfgruppe “Wiking”
in the forest and after a short exchange of fire, the entire battalion set
out to clear the forested area. Nicolussi-Leck
avoided being drawn into a fight where his tanks could not make a difference.
Besides they were outnumbered 5:1 and there were several other US battalions nearby.
Nicolussi-Leck and his men broke out of the forest,
heading Northwest across the railway tracks and towards the wooded area on
the outskirts of Wienhausen. They reached it
shortly before 11:00h.
Meanwhile the US artillery battalion was moving out of Wienhausen
to take up new firing positions further East. Their path crossed that of the SS-K.Gr.“Wiking”. Nicolussi-Leck
had his Jagdpanthers open fire at 1,000 meters,
destroying 5 trucks. The artillery battalion immediately turned around and
took up positions in Wienhausen again. The SS-K.Gr.“Wiking” passed Wienhausen
to the south and headed straight for Bockelskamp.
From there they engaged a US supply column and destroyed another 4 vehicles.
An US jeep coming from Altencelle recieved fire and hit an obstacle besides the road. Its
crew (Lt. Robbins and his driver) were taken prisoner. Nonetheless the
end seemed in sight.
The 3rd Battalion 333rd Regiment and the 3rd Battalion 334th Regiment closed
the ring around the SS-K.Gr.“Wiking” from the south
and to the north Wiking was hold by the Aller River.
While the artillery battalion kept a steady barrage of shells raining down on
the SS-K.Gr.“Wiking”, Nicolussi-Leck
and his men searched the town for anyone who could point them to a ford in
the river. A young woman, called Anna Scheller,
told them she knew of a crossing place not far up the river and the Kampfgruppe headed out.
book by Unterstumführer Karl Jauss,
the name of Anna Scheller apears
earlier. Just before the breakout from the Langlinger
Holz. Perhaps a fact that Nicolussi-Leck
knew about the crossing possibility.
Anna Scheller was a member of the BDM (Bund deutscher Mädchen) and was in
uniform at that time. Her girlfriends stated after the war, that it wasn't a political
The Jagdpanthers had no problems crossing the
river; the last two even towed a Schützenpanzerwagen
behind them. Then the allied artillery fire set in again and it was pretty accurate,
so the remaining tanks and SPW's made a dash for it, but all ended up getting
hopelessly mired in the riverbed. Less luck for the infantry in theri SPW's, at least one soldier was killed and further
10 wounded. All the time Lt. Robbins and his driver were part of this inferno
and even helped attend the numerous wounded Germans. The SS-K.Gr.“Wiking” regrouped and spent the night in the wooded
area East of Ostersloher Holz.
After the river crossing Robbins and Nicolussi-Leck
had a conversation, while Robbins was offered a cigarette. Robbins stated
after the war: "they wore their Knights Cross around their neck...
They impressed me as excellent soldiers..." At one question Robbins couldn't answer, as Nicolussi-Leck wanted to know why the Americans and
Germans weren't fighting the Russians together...
14th April, Nicolussi-Leck orderes
his remaining troops to continue their march East and still has hopes
reaching their own lines. Following the loss of so much of their equipment he
ordered his men to avoid further engagements with the enemy. He does not know
that the US 84th Infantry Division, whose area of operations he was in, had
already reached the Elbe River. The SS-K.Gr.“Wiking”
cautiously moved from one wooded area to the next, making frequent stops to
observe their surroundings for any signs of enemy troops. They passed Oppershausen to the north, something that was only made
possible by the fact the 3rd Battalion 333rd Regiment had not yet realized that the SS-K.Gr.“Wiking”
had already left Bockelskamp. Nicolussi-Leck
and his men were headed towards a swampy area but the Schützenpanzerwagen
that was finding way for the Kampfgruppe, managed
to find the only available crossing within many kilometers, allowing them to
continue their march towards the Elbe.
Upon reaching the wooded area of the Halzhorn, 3 km
south of Hohne, they could hear plenty of motorized
traffic to the South from Müden (the armoured elements of the 102nd US infantry Division) and
straight ahead to the East was the impassable bog of the Hahnenmoor
(Hahnen swamp). The only roads that went east would
surely lead the Kampfgruppe to another encounter
with the Americans, so Nicolussi-Leck decided to
continue through the forest and to attempt to sneak through the open area between
Hohne and Ummern to the
Major-General Bolling had moved his headquarters from Hannover to Hohne the day before and he was not alone in Hohne, the US 771st Tank Battalion was being held in
reserve here. Given that the town was secured to the north by the Wiehe river and to the south was largely bog and woods,
the 20 Shermans of the 771st Battalion secured the
area by guarding the only access points, which were primarily facing South,
from where no attack could be expected. And yet, suddenly the sounds of tank
tracks could be heard coming from the edge of the bog.
Nicolussi-Leck had sent his 2 remaining SPW’s along
with 3 Jagdpanthers to recon in force while the
other 3 Jagdpanthers covered their advance. The Shermans waited until their opponents were only 1,000
meters away before opening fire. Both SPW’s and one Jagdpanther
were immediately hit and caught fire. One Jagdpanther
managed to break through while the rest of the German tanks opened fire on
the Shermans. Even the burning Jagdpanther
of Untersturmführer Schüßler,
their fourth victim, continued to return fire for a short while. Using their
8.8cm guns and 8cm thick frontal armor to their fullest advantage, the
remaining 3 Jagdpanthers kept up a steady barrage
of shells on the 771st Battalion until they had all but suppressed the
determined American defenses.
An attempt by Untersturmführer Jauß
to recover the Jagdpanther of Untersturmführer
Schüßler failed and resulted in the loss of their Bergepanther as well. Now with a final victory in his
grasp, his tanks surrounded by the wounded infantrymen, Nicolussi-Leck
ordered a withdrawal into the bog of the Hahnenmoor.
The remaining Sherman tanks breathed a sigh of relief when they saw the Jagdpanthers headed to the South. One Jagdpanther
was lost a short distance into the bog due to a transmission failure.
But the men of the SS-K.Gr.“Wiking” had not yet
given up. After handing off their wounded to a local shepherd, they formed a
raiding party to collect much needed fuel for their remaining Jagdpanthers.
the following night they even captured 2 American trucks and a Jeep. Driving
a short distance into the bog they
let their prisoners go.
raiding party reached the rest of the Kampfgruppe
they checked the contents of the trucks. To their great disappointment, the
trucks were carrying flower and sugar, not the fuel they so desperately
needed. Nicolussi-Leck and the last men of his Kampfgruppe, now down to about 30 men strong, knew at
this moment that they would not make it back to their own lines...
Nicolussi-Leck made his final decision on the
morning of April 16th. He turned to the Finnish Obersturmführer
Ola Olin and said to him:
flower and need bread. I will look for a baker”. Olin
knew what Nicolussi-Leck meant and shook his hand
one last time. Nicolussi-Leck and his adjutant
walked back the way they had come and surrendered to the Americans in Hohne. Obersturmführer Olin,
now in command, ordered the 2 captured trucks driven on the nearby rail
tracks and ordered them to be set on fire.
The remaining 2 Jagdpanthers were driven into the
bog, where they would sink from their own weight, the remaining ammunition,
only 10 rounds were left, was buried elsewhere. Just 4 men carrying machine pistols and Panzerfausts occupying the only remaining
vehicle, the captured US Jeep.
plan was to try and reach the south of Germany. Their adventurous journey was
ultimately successful. The rest of the men made their way on foot. The Jagdpanther that had broken through the positions of the Shermans near Hohne 2 days
earlier, was finally knocked out between the towns of Süderwittingen
and Ohrdorf, 5 kilometers South of Wittingen. Four of its crew of 5 perished on that 16th
April, while the remaining crewmember, Georg Perchtold,
ultimately met his fate on the 20th April.
When Hauptsturmführer Karl Nicolussi-Leck
surrendered in Hohne and told his interrogators who
he was and that it was his Kampfgruppe that had
been a thorn in Major-General Bolling’s flank(s), they did not want to
believe him. They had expected to have been opposed by a tank regiment, or at
least by a battalion, their opponent being a Lt. Colonel, not a SS-Captain.
The SS-K.Gr.“Wiking” covered during this operation a
total distance of 250 km in 14 days of fighting before ceasing to exist.