WIKING RUF Europäische Freiwilligen in der Waffen-SS
1940 | 1941 | 1942 | 1943 | 1944 | 1945 | The aftermath
Since 2004 I found more time to explore one of my interests of WW2. Especially the 5.SS-Pz.(Gren.)Division ‘Wiking’ and the Dutch volunteers serving within its ranks. I tried to make a form of war diary in order to give the visitor of Wiking Ruf.com an idea of the events that happened in those days. All of it I retrieved from books, internet and multiple WW2 forums. Please, enjoy!
did happen in 1940?
At the end of May, several weeks after the Dutch had surrendered, the Germans started to recruit for volunteers. Hitler had meanwhile given permission to form the SS-Standarte "Westland".
The SS-Ergänzungsstelle in Den Haag, under command of SS-Hstuf. Leib was given the orders. It was supervised by the SS-Hauptamt of Gottlob Berger.
As an result of this 2,448 men signed up and after medical checks between a third and half of them were designated as 'Dienstuntauglich' (unfit for service) for the Waffen-SS!
The first Dutch group which was drafted belonged to the 'Sport und Spiel-Bewegung', formed by men living in Germany and also members of the NSB of Mussert. Most of them served in the 'Brandenburger' who had played a role during the invasion of Holland in early May. Because of their political beliefs they were immediately sent to München-Freimann, to serve in the SS-Ersatzbatallion 'Deutschland'.
During their training lots of difficulties took place. Dutch volunteers being misguided by the propaganda, differences in believes and goals. Many of them were surprised that they were 'only' given an military course, based on the hard training of the SS-Verfügungstruppe (VT). The German officers and NCO's were used to this, due to their membership of the Jungvolk and later the Hitlerjugend.
As a result of this the Dutch were given a choice:
- Return to Holland,
- Sign for 6 months, 2 or 4 years or 'for the duration of the war' and serve in the 'Westland'-regiment.
Formation of a new SS-Division (mot.). largely depended on the 'friendly' countries like Norway, Denmark and The Netherlands.
It happens under supervision of SS-Gruf. Hans Jüttner, the Chef SS-Führungshauptamtes. The Btl.Kdr. I./Art.Rgt. VT - SS-Ostubaf. Herbert-Otto Gille received orders to prepare the activation of a new SS-Artillerie Regiment. The SS-VT division was at the time stationed in the vicinity of Amersfoort (The Netherlands), just after the end of operations of the French campaign for rest and refitting.
After cancelling plans for Operation 'Seelöwe', the invasion of England, large units from the SS-Verfügungsdivision are available.
Regiment Westland collect for 'Winterhilfswerk' (WHW) in München.
The 'Stellenbesetzung' of the SS-Artillerie Regiment 5 (SS-AR 5) is completed by SS-Ostubaf. Gille.
Activation and formation of the new SS-Division.
Main body is formed by the SS-VT regiment GERMANIA. The regiments GERMANIA (Germans) and WESTLAND (Germans mixed with Flemish and Dutch volunteers), stationed in München and NORDLAND (Germans mixed with Norwegian and Danish volunteers) which was stationed in Vienna and Klagenfurt. Commander was former commander of the SS-Infanterie Regiment (mot.) Deutschland, the SS-Brigadeführer Felix Steiner.
Division HQ and Artillery – in the vicinity of München (Munich);
Rest of the division - rest of Germany and Austria.
SS-Brigadeführer Felix Steiner named to be commander of the 5.SS-Inf.Div. (mot.) GERMANIA
Division HQ and Artillery in the vicinity München (Munich);
SS-Inf.Rgt. Germania; Rgt.Kdr. SS-Standartenführer Reichsritter von Overkamp in München (Munich);
SS-Inf.Rgt. Westland; Rgt.Kdr. SS-Standartenführer Hilmar Wäckerle in München (Munich);
SS-Inf.Rgt. Nordland; Rgt.Kdr. SS-Standartenführer Fritz von Scholz; in Vienna and Klagenfurt, Austria;
SS-Art.Rgt. 5; Rgt.Kdr. SS-Obersturmbannführer Herbert-Otto Gille in Dachau;
SS-Pionier Btl.5 in Dresden;
SS-Nachrichten Abt. 5 in Nürnberg;
SS-Aufklärungs Abt. 5 in München-Freimann;
SS-Nachschub Abt. 5 in Berlin-Lichterfelde.
5.SS-Inf.Div.(mot.) GERMANIA renamed into 5.SS-Inf.Div.(mot.) WIKING. (Tgb.Nr. 518 of 29.1.1941)
What did happen in 1941?
SS-Brigadeführer Steiner visits Inf.Rgt. Westland
The SS-Oath is adapted to the wishes of foreign volunteers, most of whom refused to receive the German citizenship. Dutch volunteers were again given the possibility to return to The Netherlands by Himmler.
The regiment 'Westland' takes their oath, finally.
Unterführer Lehrgang in Bad Tölz for the NCO's of the 'schweren Kompanien' - 4th, 8th and 12th. Other regimental units had field training exercises in the Ingolstad area.
Gottlob Berger was given permission to begin recruiting for the establishment
of a Finneish Volunteer Battalion. The recruiting was completed in two months
with a 600 man battalion subsequently being formed.
Division assembles around TruppenÜbungsplatz (TrÜbPlatz) Heuberg, near Sigmaringen, Germany and taken into active service.
An 8 weeks trainings course follows. Every infantry regiment has its 'own' Artillerie Abteilung, with which it cooperated. I./Abt. served with Germania, II./Abt. with Westland and III./Abt. with Nordland; the regiment's heavy weapons were often divided between the Abteilungen or complete in action on the several hot spots.
The Art.Rgt. 5 was formed by 3 Abteilungen and a 4th schweren Abteilung. On the 1st April, 1941 the SS-Division Wiking was considered combat ready and plece under Army control
Order of Battle I-III./Art.Abt. 5
1st, 2nd and 3rd Battery with 4 le.FH18 (10,5cm - max. range 9,150m),
4th heavy Abteilung had 3 Batteries with the schw.FH17 (15cm - max. range 13,325m)
At the beginning of 1942 an additional 4th Batterie with the schwere Kanone 18 (10,5cm - max. range 18,990m) was added to the 4th Abteilung.
Placed under command of Armygroup C, XXXX-Pz.Korps under General Freiherr Geyr von Schweppenburg. Deployed into assembly areas (AA) in the Breslau area, between the cities of Oels, Militsch and Wohlau. Later on taken under command of 1.Panzer Armee of Generaloberst Ewaldt von Kleist part of the XIV.Panzerkorps of General Gustav von Wietersheim.
SS-Freiwilligen Bataillon 'Nordost' activated with Btl.Kdr. SS-Hstuf. Hans Collani.
Crossing the German-Polish border near Groβ-Wartenburg and after a 3 days march ending up in the staging area (SA) near the Polish-Russian border, south-east of Lublin.
Now under command of the Panzergruppe 1.
March from the staging areas near Cholm to southern area of Zamosz, 3./Westland spearheaded the advance of the division.
Wiking arrives at Lemberg... Where it finds thousands of civilians murdered by and/or -troops in prisons and cellars...
Inf.Rgt. Westland encounters strong enemy forces – units of the 32nd Guards Division - around Zamosz for the first time in its young history.
No one will have ever thought that the division remains at the eastern front where it encounters numerous battles without a pause until Germany's unconditional surrender in May 1945...
SS-Standartenführer Hilmar Wäckerle , Rgt.Kdr. Inf.Rgt. 'Westland', was the regiment's first soldier who was killed. Hit in the head by a Russian sniper in the Lvov area.
He is succeeded by SS-Oberführer Artur Phleps on 3rd July.
SS-Freiw. Bataillion Nordost is transfered by train to Stralsund.
I./Westland crosses the river Slucz, followed by III./Westland and II./Westland follow. Kompanie Chef 5./Westland, SS-Hstuf. Alfred Miklos is killed in action near Husyatin (Gusyatin).
After fierce battles, Biala-Zerkow is captured. At the 16th July, II./Germania almost collapses during heavy Russian attacks, until Aufklarungs Abteilung 5 (AA 5) reïnforces them.
Heavy fighting continues till the dawn 17th July, when Russian troops advanced within 500 meter of the Divisional HQ! During the morning 'Westland' arrives and was immediately sent in the Taraschtscha area where is was joined by 'Nordland' later that afternoon.
Division HQ located at Skwira.
Inf.Rgt. Westland reaches its final objective, the Kotluga depression.
This regiment losses after the first 3 weeks of fighting:
KIA: 10 officers - 12 NCO's - 70 men,
WIA: 8 officers - 52 NCO's - 300 men.
During following actions Westland, now south of Talnoye/Swerdlikowo, Ukraine - in order to close the Uman pocket - witnesses one of the first recorded war crimes.
About 25 men of 1st platoon 1.Kompanie, with their platoon leader SS-Untersturmführer Franz Weisswasser were found dead and severely mutilated after their position was overrun by Russian forces.
Regiment Westland, together with paratroopers of the Luftwaffe 'Hermann Göring' regiment endured heavy fighting around Korsun and Schandorowka. During the early morning hours, Stubaf. Günter Ecke was killed in an ambush. All vehicles were marked with a big white 'K' next to the yellow sun wheel, the tactical sign of Wiking. Later diverted over Kirowograd to Dnjepropetrowsk.
A small bridgehead was made on the eastern bank of the Dnjepr by 'Nordland'. Fighting lasts till mid-September...
SS-Freiw. Battalion Nordost is transferred to Truppenübungsplatz Gross-Born in Hinterpommern.
Training on platoon, company and battalion level.
SS-Hstuf. Alfred Schade, Kompanie Chef 1./Westland was killed in the Dnjepropetrowsk area.
Kompanie Chef 15./Westland, SS-Hstuf. Kreutzer is KIA during the heavy and continuous battles in the Dnjepropetrowsk-Kamenka bridgehead. Break out of the pocket.
During the night, the rest of the division managed to cross the Dnjepr.
After a brief consolidation the division attacks and Inf.Rgt. Germania attacks Kamanka. Over 5,000 POW's were taken after heavy concentrated German artillery-fire landed in the ranks of 3 Russian divisions and scattered them.
III./Nordland renamed in Finnisches Freiwilligen Batallion der Waffen-SS.
Formation of Wiking's Sturmgeschütz (StuG) Batterie (Assault Gun) under command of SS-Ostuf. Hermann Lange.
The attack on Pawlograd by Nordland was halted and the regiment was relieved in place by the 198. Inf.Div.
Wiking advances to Konskije-Rasdony, meanwhile Nordland marched to Stara-Konstantinowka.
Russian forces were too late to escape the encirclement, after German troops close the pocket on the heights next to railway of Melitopol-Stalino.
The new Legion 'WALLONIEN', formed out of French speaking Belgians under command of SS-Stubaf. Lucien Lippert arrives in Russia.
Re-assigned from III. Panzerkorps to XIV. Armee Korps, advancing to the Melitopol-Stalino railway.
Periods of heavy rain hamper the all supply units. Over 65,000 POW's, 125 tanks and 500 artillery piece were captured by the Germans forces.
More bad weather, storms and rain with some snow causing roads turning into mud trails.
Russian officers and political officers have fled or have been shot by own troops. Russian POW's were send to the west, often without guards.
Near Ignatijewka, only 15 km(!) advanced in the last days. Wiking stopped due to a lack of fuel.
With no fuel, the division orders a Kampfgruppe (KG) together with some Pioniere, which has to take the town Krynka, 8 miles south-east of Uspenskaja. KG von Scholz together with the reinforced Nordland-regiment reaches Mokri-Jelantschik. The Wiking division has reached a column length of 125km!!!
Weather: fog, rain and mud...
Wiking has finally enough fuel to start an operation into Krynka.
Nordland throws back a Russian cavalry-division and reaches the Mius river, a small bridgehead has established near Golodajew.
Due to sub-zero temperatures, roads become drivable again. I./Nordland reaches the road Uspenskaja-Amrosiewka and takes the town.
Inf.Rgt. Westand crosses the Mius river and advances north-eastwards towards Perwomaisk-Oktjabrisk in order to reach the road to Astachowo.
For the first time I./Westland recieved massive artillery fire by the new Katucha or 'Stalin Organ'. Substantial losses were reported.
After heavy rain, temperatures dropped far below zero and it starts snowing. Roads are frozen, supply routes getting useable for transport. Further attacks on Bischlerowka and Uspenskaja. Target becomes Schachty, north-east of Rostow on the Don.
Russian counterattacks forces Inf.Rgt. Westland to give up the line Popwka-Darjewka-Nowoaksai during night and setting up a defensive position west of Bolsche-Klopinskaja on the Tusloff.
During the night XIV.Korps retreats to the west. Strong Russian forces plunges into the abandoned positions. Heavy rear guard fighting by Wiking.
SS-Stubaf. Kurt Albert, Btl.Kdr. Pionier Battalion 5 and several of his officers are killed in the Barabanow area.
Regiment Commander SS-Oberführer Arthur Phleps reports the losses suffered by the Westland regiment between July 1 and November 30, 1941:
KIA: 29 officers - 65 NCO's - 347 men,
WIA: 21 officers - 138 NCO's - 920 men,
MIA: 29 men.
Totalling 1,549 men - nearly 50% of its original strength within 5 months!
Positions on the Tusloff were unfavorable, so the Inf.Rgt. Westland withdrew during the night back to the Mius river. Regiments Gefechtsstand was established in Uspenskaja.
It was the hardest for the troops in the frontline, ground frozen to a depth of one meter with no winter clothing yet, so they improvised. Their dugouts were about 1 meter high in the days of December 1941 and January 1942. Temperatures dropped to minus 40° C.
A relative calm month, some X-mas trees and little alcohol were transported to the frontline. The withdraw didn't have a negative influence on the Wiking men. They had become self-aware and knew they had fighting an enemy which was 5 times as strong as their own forces. On many occasions the Russians had been deflected with very heavy losses...
What did happen in 1942?
I./Westland relieves II./Germania at Berestowo.
Two batallions of Westland were always in the Mius positions present, while the third was withdrawn into the Amwrosijewka area for some rest and re-fitting.
1./AR 5 under command of 1.Gebirgsdivision until 19.4.42.
The new Freiwilligen Legion 'WALLONIEN' under command of SS-Stubaf. Lucien Lippert, together with a Kampfgruppe under SS-Stubaf. August Dieckmann crashes into a Russian counter-attack near Grischino and halts the offensive.
At the beginning of February Wiking receives winter clothing for the first time. Temperatures drop to -40° C.
A new Finnish battalion, completely motorized, arrives in the Mius positions. It was taken into the ranks of the 'Nordland' regiment under SS-Oberführer Fritz von Scholz.
Activation of Panzer Abteilung “Reich” at WILDFLECKEN Training Area as the first Panzer Abteilung in the Waffen SS. It’s new commander is SS-Sturmbannführer Johannes Mühlenkamp.
The bulk of officers and NCOs consists of volunteers from Division “Reich”, with recruits from Ersatzbataillone Deutschland (in PRAGUE), Germania (in HAMBURG-LANGENHORN) and from another SS Ersatz unit in APELDOORN, The Netherlands.
At Wildflecken training-area, Germany; 3 staff-units from 3 new Panzer Abteilungen are assembled together with the three commanders. SS-Stubaf. Mühlenkamp - Pz.Abt.2 for division 'Reich', Stubaf. Albin von Reitzenstein - Pz.Abt. 5 'Wiking' and Stubaf. Georg Schönberger for the LAH. Although designated for 'Das Reich' it will change into 'Wiking'. Redesignated SS-Pz. Abt. 5 “Wiking” since Division “Reich” was being pulled out of the line in Russia and ordered back to France. Since the Abteilung was needed for upcoming 1942 summer offensive, the SS-Führungshauptamt decided to transfer it to Wiking instead. Rgt.Kdr. 'Westland', SS-Oberführer Arthur Phleps leaves the regiment to take over 7.SS-Gebirg Div. 'Prinz Eugen'. He is succeeded by at first SS-Ostubaf. Berthold Maack and later on by
SS-Ostubaf. Paul Geiβler.
Legion 'Wallonien' is withdrawn for R&R and recieved new personnel after harsh battles at the Mius.
Renamed in SS-Pz.Abt. 5 "Wiking" after Division 'Das Reich' leaves the eastern front for rest and refitting in France. As the new Abteilung is needed for the comming summeroffensive in 1942, the SS-Führungshauptamt decides to place it under command of 'Wiking'.
The first tanks for the Panzerabteilung and Sturmgeschütz (StuG)-Batterie arrive .
I./Pz.Abt. 5 receives its first Panzer III's. Unit was organized into 3 tank companies, with a Stabskompanie and lasted until 27th March, as follows:
1. Kompanie: Pz III; commander: SS-Ostuf. Günther Schnabel
2. Kompanie: Pz III; commander: SS-Ostuf. Theodor von Staden
3. Kompanie: Pz IV; commander: SS-Hstuf. Fritz Darges
Stabskompanie: SS-Ostuf. Gaipel
Aufklärungszug: SS-Ustuf. Josef 'Sepp' Martin (equipped with Pz II)
Kradschützenzug: SS-Ustuf. Willi Hein
Pionierzug: SS-Ustuf. Fritz Schraps
Nachrichtenzug: SS-Ustuf. Hans Köntopp
Abteilung has full complement of tanks, except 3. Kompanie did not receive full complement of Pz IVF2 with L/48 long gun until later. Each company consisted of 17 tanks, with 5 per platoon and 2 in company headquarters section.
The Panzerabteilung 'Reich' is transferred to Wiking for the upcoming summer offensives.
Stabs-Aufklärungszug - (Sd.Kfz.121) Panzer II
1.Kompanie - (Sd.Kfz.141) Panzer III Ausf. J - Equipped with the longer and more powerful 5 cm KwK 39 L/60 gun. 1,067 produced in late 1941 to mid 1942.
2.Kompanie - (Sd.Kfz.141) Panzer III Ausf. J
3.Kompanie - (Sd.Kfz.161) Panzer IV 7.5cm short barrel
SS-Pz. Abt. 5 “Wiking”, formally incorporated into Division Wiking, then fighting on the Eastern Front.
However, since it was not yet ready for combat, it continued its training in Germany.
Training complete, except for gunnery and Abteilung-level maneuvers. I./SS-Pz.Abt. 5 moved to STAUMÜHLENLAGER Training Area near PADERBORN.
First large scale training exercise with entire I./SS-Pz.Abt. 5.
Departure to Russia. At first the Stabskompanie and 1. and 2./SS-Pz.Abt. 5 depart, followed by the Panzer IV's (7.5cm KwK 42) of the 3./SS-Pz.Abt. 5 and a light platoon (Pz.Kfw.II).
The Abteilung arrives at Amwrosiewka, 70km norht-west of Taganrog. Main body gathers here, without 2./SS-Pz.Abt. 5, which moves to Wassiljewka.
SS-Pz.Abt. 5 closes at assembly area near the Mius River and links up with Division Wiking for the first time.
First commanders-meeting in the Divisions Gefechtsstand (Div.HQ) in Uspenskaja. Next days are for additional training together with the rest of the division.
Great loss for the 2./SS-Pz.Abt. 5 when its commanding officer, SS-Ostuf. Theodor von Staden dies during one of the exercises.
Division commander, SS-Gruf. Felix Steiner, inspects I./SS-Pz.Abt. 5
Wiking advances to Rostow, Inf.Rgt. Westland and III./Nordland had to give up all of their vehicles to Inf.Rgt. Germania and I./ and II./Nordland to form again several Kampfgruppen.
Inf.Rgt. Westland remains around Mokri-Jelantschik.
Russian lines were broken around Tanganrog, Wiking advances to Rostow.
Wiking formed 3 battle groups, under command of Weitzdorfer, Dieckmann and Stoffers. All three Kampfgruppen (KGr.) will follow the Wehrmacht's 13th Pz.Div. and placed under command of LVII. Pz.Korps, west of Sambek as part of the 17.Armee for the assault on Rostov.
Rostov, with 525.000 inhabitants (at that time) was an important city on the Don river. There crossed the river the only rail road leading toward the Caucasus with its large quantity of oil. Another rail road runs toward Stalingrad, 400 kilometers far to east.
Besides, Rostov was a vital railroad hub; from the west, the line Dniepropetrovsk-Taganrog; from the north the line Voronezh-Vorosilograd, which in the Lichaja region turned east leading towards Stalingrad; from the south came in the lines from Novorossijsk, Armavir and Tuapse; to the southeast, in the Salsk region, came in the line from Stalingrad.
Having started the advance with its northern wing, the 17 German AOK jumped off with its southern wing on the 20 July in order to attack Rostov from the west and northwest and conquest the city in conjunction with the 1.Pz.Armee.
SS-Div Wiking is renamed into 'Gefechtsgruppe Steiner', which consisted out of the Kampfgruppen I./Germania (Dieckmann), II./Nordland (Stoffers) and I./Nordland (Weitzdörfer).
Wiking division could not advance as a whole due to the shortage of vehicles, only one motorized detachment could be organized as follows:
Sturmbannführer Dieckman (Kdr. I./SS-Rgt. Germania)
I./SS Pz Abt 5
III./SS-AR 5 (2 batteries of 105 mm and 1 battery of 155 mm)
10./SS AR 5 (105 mm cannon battery)
1 company of engineers
1 AA platoon (4/6 20 mm guns)
Wiking's main body waits for its vehicles in the Uspenskaja area.
Together with elements of 13.Pz.Div., WIKING crosses the river near Sambek.
At 8 am, SS-Div Wiking captures its first goal, hill 116.9.
K.Gr. “Dieckman” was ordered to advance along the north wing of the Mountain Army Corps, moving as far as possible toward the east in order to facilitate the movement of it.
The column moved on and having advanced 12 kilometers changed the direction heading northeast and passing through the locality of Vodianoie with the following disposition:
Advance guard: Kdr SS-Pz Abteilung 5 with one Pz company and half rifle company
Distance: two kilometers.
Main body: Stubaf Dieckman with the bulk of the troops. One tank platoon with one rifle squad (mounted) in each flank.
Distance: one kilometer.
Rearguard: one tank platoon with one rifle squad (mounted).
Roughly 10 kilometers after passing Vodianoie the vanguard exchanged fire with Russian positions located further to the east. The commander then ordered to pass around it. When the night fell the combat group took up an all-round position at the cross-road located 3 kilometers west of Stojakov. The position was organized in three rings, in the inner ring was placed the artillery, in the midst ring the tanks and the heavy weapons and in the outer ring was deployed the infantry. The perimeter included also a source of fresh water.
This morning I./Pz.Rgt.5 targets hill 101.8 and 96.3 and diverts along the road Krim-Ssultan-Ssaly and have contact with the 3rd defensive line before Rostow. Leniawan.
In the morning, the combat group proceeded its advance. The vanguard just had left the last houses of Stojakov when was fired on by the russian from some hills located to the south. The formation continued its advance up to one kilometer before the position, where the riflemen dismounted in order to attack on foot; but the sight of the tanks roaring forward caused the withdrawal of the Russian troops.
The vanguard proceeded then in deployed formation and shortly after that was fired upon again from enemy positions located two kilometers to the north of Sultan Saly. The infantry attack went over supported by the tanks, which moved ahead by bounds. But this time having reached a point 800 / 1000 meters before the positions, some Russian antitank cannons opened fire striking two tanks (one disabled by hit on one of its track and the other set on fire, nevertheless both crews were rescued). The tanks moved back up to 1.500 meters from the positions in order to avoid the antitank fire. The commander of the combat group, on the spot, stopped the main body in a valley, 4 kilometers to the north of the enemy position and ordered the artillery commander to be ready to support the attack. Dieckman (situated on the top of one tank’s turret could observe the trench’s lines running along the outskirts of the town and scarcely manned so decided attack at once. Taking advantage of the presence of one air liaison officer, Stubaf Dieckman requested air support, which was granted.
About 17:00 hours, 36 Stuka's appeared roaring and dropped its bombs over the enemy trenches and the neighborhood of Sultan Saly, simultaneously the artillery and the infantry heavy weapons shelled and fired on the Russian positions. Making use of the fire suport furnished by the Stuka's, the artillery and the heavy weapons, the tanks with mounted riflemen reached the trenches at great speed and then the infantry dismounted and cleared it. The mopping up operations lasted up to the 22:00 hours and when finished the combat group rested in an all-round position to the south of the town. Div.Kdr. Steiner meets with regimental commanders to order the attack of the following day. HQ set-up north of Sapadnyi. Kampfgruppe Dieckmann advances during the night.
The combat group rested between the 23:00 hours and the 03:00 hours and then proceeded. About 04:00 hours and having reached the vanguard the point 93 (3 kilometers to the south of Sultan Saly) the situation had developed as follows:
West of the line Krim-tschaltir, roughly 10.000 / 15.000 men were holding its defensive positions against the assault of the German infantry.
The combat group, in front of point 93 would be engaged by enemy troops in company strength (200 - 300 men). These troops were in position about 8 kilometers off the Rostov outskirts. An antitank ditch runs in front of it.
At the Trud factory (4 kilometers to the southeast of point 93) the Russian had organized one strong point.
There were movements of Russian troops toward the east, the German security troops there, could not get in contact with the 13 Pz.Division.
When the vanguard reached the point 93 was engaged in a firefight with the Russian troops. The riflemen dismounted and pushed forward; having advanced up to 800 meters of the enemy position, the lead elements checked the presence of one antitank ditch.
At sunrise, the Panzerabteilung with attack the Russian positions. Spearheaded by SS-Hstuf. Schnabels 1./SS-Pz.Abt.5, followed by 2./SS-Pz.Abt.5 (Flügel) and parts of 3./SS-Pz.Abt.5.
The Panzerabteilung secures their positions near Leniawan, 2 company's of I./Germania are halted near Krasnyj Krym.
The tank platoons seeked for a ford but without success. The infantry men supported by the fire of the tanks, 4 heavy machine guns and 2 mortars (81 mm) pressed on and conquisted the point 80, the Russian fled. Later the engineers blew up the walls of the antitank ditch allowing the armor to pass. About 07:00 hours the vanguard surpassed the point 80 and advanced up to leninawa, where was fired on by rifles, heavy weapons, antitank cannons and artillery. The Russian position was heavily defended and the ground up to the enemy line (800 meters) was coverless. When the commander arrived at point 80, he ordered that the artillery be placed in order to fire on the enemy.
III./SS-Art.Rgt.5 positions around Nishne-Gnilowskaja and supports operations with suppressive fires.
Air support requested was denied. Then taking advantage of one recce plane that was overflying that area, the German commander requested the pilot the following:
-Frontage of the position.
-Whether it was totally manned or not.
-passages through the antitank ditch.
About 11:00 AM the the pilot answered that:
-From Leninawa toward the northeast the position was manned.
-Roughly 2 kilometers toward south of the point 80, there is a bridge without security detachment, no troops can be seen nearby.
The commander in taking a daring resolution ordered a raid against the bridge; two rifle companies mounted over the tanks located in the same hollow. The artillery continued firing on the enemy, one of the batteries should follows the riders as soon as possible.
The vanguard continued the exchange of fire with the foe in order to cover the action and avoid any countermeasure.
SS-Stubaf Dieckman climbed up onto the tank battalion commander’s vehicle and pointing toward south ordered via radio: to reach the Tschaltir-Rostov road, from there to the east in order to seize the bridge located 5 kilometers west of Rostov.
The column advanced at great speed along the hollow, past the antitank ditch, reached the road and got through the bridge ( 9 kilometers from the starting point ) in less than 20 minutes. One engineers’ squad was left on the bridge dismounting the explosive charges. Having reached the objective, one rifle company reinforced with tanks attacked along the Russian position from southwest toward northeast cleaning it and allowing the vanguard, deployed near of Leninawa, to join with the bulk of the combat group.
The combat group then took up an all-round position where the road cross the rail road and patrols were detached to reconnoiter the surroundings.
About 14:00 the commander knew the following:
-The main Russian position (defeated shortly before) was cleaned of enemy troops.
-Toward the southeast, along the rail road and the edge of Rostov, the situation was unknown. Russian soldiers with heavy machine guns and infantry cannons had been detected.
-Toward the south, in the Sapadni area, own patrols met several Russian soldiers, who surrendered at once. In the same direction and along the edge of the city, an antitank ditch could be observed (5 meters deep and 6 to 8 meters width) also 40 to 60 riflemen with machine guns could be seen in the area, deployed in the houses.
The commander decided then engaged his troops in the Sapadni direction and organized the combat group as follows:
-Assault group: commanded by the Tank battalion commanding officer (Muhlenkamp), with one tank squadron, one rifle company and 2/3 of the engineers company (with explosive charges). Its mission was to attack in the Rostov’s direction, directly to the southeast of Sapadni. At one occasion SS-Hstuf. Schnabelt, Kompanie Chef 1./SS-Pz.Abt.5 is wounded.
-Support group: composed of the heavy weapon company of the 3rd battalion SS Rgt “Germania” and the artillery group (III / SS AR 5). Its task was to furnish fire support to the assault group. The heavy weapons (machine guns, infantry cannons, antitank guns and mortars) were placed on the eastern edge of Sapadni; the two 105 mm batteries occupied fire positions to the south of the locality, with the mission of furnish direct fire against the houses in the edge of Rostov, located 1.500 meters ahead. The heavy battery (155 mm) and the cannons of 105 mm occupied fire positions to the west of Sapadni in order to furnish indirect fire support on Rostov and, if necessary on the river Don’s bridges.
-Reserve group: composed by one rifle company, one engineers platoon and one tank platoon located west of Sapadni with two tasks, one to reinforced and exploit the attack in the Rostov direction and another, to protect the artillery positions against attacks from the north and the west.
-Security group: composed by one rifle squad and one tank platoon in order to protect the bridge conquest on the road Tschaltir-Rostov and to block the roads leading to Krim and Tschaltir.
When the order was given, the assault group pressed forward up to 100 meters before the antitank ditch where they were fired upon with rifles and machine guns from the houses; the machine guns were shooting especially from the windows. Since there was not antitank fire, the tanks approached up to 50 meters before the edge of the city and shot against the windows; protected by this fire, the riflemen past through the ditch and occupied the first houses. While the engineers were trying to build a passage through the antitank ditch, the reserve company was engaged and break into the city carrying on with they the artillery’s forward observers. This attack reached a hill (point 80) located 2 kilometers to the southwest of the railway station and roughly 1.500 meters before the river Don.
On the spot an all-round position was organized and simultaneously arrived there, the artillery group and the heavy batteries (155 mm howitzers and 105 mm cannons) commanding officers. From this position, toward the south, could be observed the great swampy area and the towns of Koisug and Bataisk.
Towards the east and on a big island formed by the river Don, two bridges where located (one road bridge and one rail road bridge). A big number of Russian troops trying to cross toward the south bank could be seen. To the southwest another men were building wooden rafts, surely there were the troops defeated at Krim-Tschaltir. The heavy batteries took the bridges under fire in order to break off the traffic, which they did. The light batteries were fired upon the Russian troops located toward the southwest.
Meanwhile the engineers allowed the tanks to pass through the antitank ditch and the tank battalion commanding officer with one tank squadron, one rifle company, some heavy weapons and two engineers platoons raced across the city towards the bridges in order to block and break off all the traffic through them. After nightfall this group got in contact with formations of the 13 Pz division, which had break into Rostov from the northeast. Between 16:00 and 18:00 hours, the following dispositive was adopted:
- An all-round position between the rail road bridge and the railway station under orders of the tank battalion commander. Links with the 13 Pz division’s troops (on the road bridge) should be maintained.
- An all-round position at a point located 2 kilometers to the south of point 80’s hill, in order to check the road along the south Don river bank.
- An all-round position at point 80’s hill with the artillery and the bulk of the combat group.
Defensive positions at Trud and Leniawan are occupied, 2 battalions of Nordland occupy Leniawan.
At 15.00 hrs the first tanks of the Pz.Abt. have reached the western outskirts of Rostow as I./Germania attacks the city suburbs. Around 15.15 a Russian column advances to the city. III./SS-Art.Rgt.5 fires upon them. SS-Stubaf. Mühlenkamp was given the Ritterkreuz on the 3rd Sep. 1942 for the part of his Panzer Abteilung during this attack. After four days of fighting, Rostow is occupied. Next target: the Krapotin Kuban-bridge!
The Pz.Abt. has 6 Pz.II, 12 Pz.III(k), 22 Pz.III(l), 4 Pz.IV(k) and 6 sSfl (PaK).
The enemy positions at Bataisk were shelled by at least 40 batteries (light and heavy ones), also aerial attacks were carried out with 36 Stukas.
19.00 hrs formations established in three groups:
1.Gruppe: I./SS-Pz.Abt.5, Pz.Jgr. Kompanie, I./Germania, SS-Flak Abt.5, Pi.Kompanie, leichte Art.Abt.
2.Gruppe: I./Nordland and mix of Art.Rgt.5
3.Gruppe: II./Nordland and 10./SS-Art.Rgt.5
I. and II./Nordland near the city of Rostow and the airfield. Advance is postponed...
04.00 hrs all units are ready, but not earlier then 15.30 hrs(!), tanks and heavy vehicles could go across the river and the last resistance at Rostov itself was wiped out.
The SS "Wiking" march to the Caucasus. While resting at Rostov, the division was reinforced and re-organized as follow:
Commander: Staf Gille (SS AR 5).
- SS Nordland Regiment (minus one battalion)
- I./SS Germania Regiment.
- I./SS-Pz Abt 5.
- 1 Engineer company.
- SS-AR 5 ( with 3 groups, two of them with 2 batteries of 105 mm and 1 battery of 155 mm; the third with 1 battery of howitzers 105 mm and 1 battery of cannons 105 mm).
- FlaK Abt 5 ( with two batteries of 88 mm and one with cannons of 20 mm and 37 mm).
- 1 company of AA 5
- SS-Pz Jager Abt 5.
- Support units (communications, maintenance and supply).
The Kampfgruppe was, as well, split in three groups as follow:
- 1 Infantry battalion.
- 1 Artillery group.
- Antitank ( half to one company).
- 1 AA Platoon.
The bulk of the tanks, antitank and AA guns should march with the Advance Guard; the engineers should march either with the Vanguard or the others groups as ruled the situation. Each group could be employed with independence if necessary.
The Reconnaissance company was, in turn, split in two half companies ( one armored car platoon and one motorized platoon each) and should be detached towards both flank to reconnoiter and maintain contact with the neighbor units, the 13 Pz Div to the east and the infantry divisions to the west.
The source is the book "from Caucasus to Leningrad". Tomo I. By Lt Col Marini. Circulo Militar. Buenos Aires.
Wiking is now self-supporting on its own. Luftwaffe groups are placed under direct command of Wiking, their CO is Oberstleutnant Steinert.
At dawn the hedgehog was surprised by the fire of heavy Russian weapon, the enemy rear guards approached up to 1 kilometer south of the advanced positions and the German soldiers were awoke suddenly with machine guns, mortars and cannons fire. After a few minutes the infantrymen answered the fire, the tanks crew were inside of his vehicles with the engines roaring and the commanders could regain the control. The hedgehog was dissolved and the infantry companies, together with the tanks and supported by the artillery, were charging against the enemy . The Russian rear guard withdrew step by step towards the main positions (the hill located 8 kilometers to the south) where the resistance stiffened up and the assault stalled.
Standartenfuhrer Gille alarmed the others march groups putting them in motion in order to combine efforts with the advance group; in that way, nine batteries supported the attack carried out by the SS Pz Abt. 5 and the I./Nordland which moved onwards in broad front trying to find either the enemy flanks or weak points on the defensive position.
Under this new thread, the Russian units withdrew around 08:30 hours establishing new defensive positions roughly 22 kilometers to the south at the north edge of Metchetinskaia, as was known later. The vanguard pushed southwards without changing its deployment, together with two tanks squadron which advanced forwards with mounted riflemen. Behind, 1 or 2 kilometers, followed a third tank squadron, the bulk of the infantry battalion and the artillery group.
At noon, before reaching the village of Rakitni, the vanguard was fired upon with light weapon and artillery so the morning scheme was adopted again. Immediately one infantry battalion was deployed which was followed by tanks, the artillery took up fire positions and the others battalions were in readiness for joining the assault. One hour later the enemy left the town, but seemingly a few hostile riflemen remained there and opened fire when the first German soldiers arrived.
Standartenfuhrer Gille ordered then that the advance guard surpassed the village and established a hedgehog 3 kilometers to the south close to Mechetinskaia. The others two groups should carry out mopping up operations in the town (Rakitni) and then should proceed towards Mechetinskaia where all-round positions should be established. On this day the Kampfgruppe advanced only 35 kilometers in straight line. The half Reconnaissance company detached to the east got in contact with units of the 1st Panzer Army which was crossing the river Manytsch in its southward movement.
The advance march group was relieved by another group and the Kampfgruppe proceeded its march at 05:00 hours. This time the nature and fuel shortage delayed the movements; to the west was advancing slowly the 198 ID and to the east the 1st Panzer Army with its yield diminished due to fuel shortage.
This day hostile cavalry cut short the supply line, so on Standarten Fuhrer Gille’s orders the rear group moved back to Jegorlikskaia, in order to reject the Russian toward west and re-open the way to Rostov. During 30 and 31 Jul the Kampfgruppe should stop due to lack of fuel. The vanguard south of Jegorlik, the second march group northwest of that town and the rear group warding the road to Rostov west of Jegorlikskaia.
On August 01, after refueling, the Kampfgruppe advanced forward again. The rear group was attacked suddenly with light weapons, the riflemen dismounted and deployed and after a short fire fight captured more than 100 Russian soldiers, losing one dead and 3 wounded, the Artillery Abteilung commanding officer among them.
At noon, Standartenfuhrer Gille was informed (by recce plane) that Bielaia Glina was occupied by the enemy, seemingly the same russian group that delayed him before so he decided annihilate them this time. The attack on Bielaia Glina (White Mud).
hours, Gille issued the following order:
The vanguard group, should attack Bielaia Glina from the north supported by one tank squadron, its own artillery abteilung plus the second group’s heavy battery, in order to engage the Russian forces avoiding its withdrawal. Also the enemy should be deceived about the main effort.
The second group with the bulk of the SS-Pz.Abt. 5 and two artillery batteries should carry out a flanking movement and hit the Russian from the flank and rear (south and southwest).
The rear group should reinforce the attack from the north.
The two half recon companies should reconnoiter both flanks of the defensive position at Bielaia Glina toward east - southeast and west - southwest in order to avoid any surprise.
The reconnaissance confirmed that the defense was confined in the town. When the attack coming from the north reached up to 1000 meters from the enemy positions. The second group started its movement. At this very moment arrived the third group so Standartenfuhrer Gille told the commanding officer that should advance immediately toward Bielaia Glina with the infantry battalion as if they were reinforced the frontal attack.
However the enemy could see the flanking movement due to the clouds of dust raised by the tanks moving at great speed and some units began to withdraw. Two tank platoons with some heavy weapons, were detached to protect the group’s rear and were deployed on the roads leading to Novopokrovskaia and Novopavlovskaia. The artillery batteries took up fire position at 1000 meters to the southwest of Bielaia Glina and fired some shells against the houses on the town’s edge, also some vehicles fleing to the south were destroyed. 100 meters before the town’s edge the riflemen dismounted and launched the assault entering the village almost without resistance. Around the half of the infantry (400 to 500 men) and all the artillery were captured. Among the vehicles there were great number of American trucks, some landser wanted to send one telegram of gratitude to Mr Roosevelt; Gille refused the idea because the notice could cut short the Uncle Sam’s trucks to the Wiking through his Russian ally.
The fight lasted almost three hours and around 17:00 hours Bielaia Glina was cleared of Russian troops. The inhabitants offered salt and bread to the commander and his officers, also a group of old Cossacks paid a visit to Standartenfuhrer Gille with uniforms and medals earned in the Tsar period. During the advance, SS-Stubaf. Karl Schlamelcher, Kdr. III./SS-Art.Rgt. 5 is severely wounded.
Frontal attack on Bjelaja Glina by I./Nordland. At this time, SS-Div Wiking has only 3 infantry elements; Inf.Rgt. Westland, a battalion of Germania and Nordland are left by the Mius river, waiting for their new vehicles. Around 17.00 hrs Bjelaja Glina is in German hands. 4.Zug from 3./Nordland recovers 3 US made Ford trucks! SS-Hstuf. Hans Bühler takes command over III./SS-Art.Rgt.5.
The Germans units were roughly 75 / 100 kilometers away to the north of the river trying to speed the advance towards the south.
At 2nd August a Kampfgruppe occupies Nowo Pokrowskoje, 15km south of Bjelaja Glina.
The Kampfgruppe reinforced with the SS Germania Regiment’s Staff, the II./Germania and the bulk of the Engineers, Flak, Antitank and Communications battalions remained at Bielaia Glina due to fuel shortage. The night before one supply column (five trucks) was suddenly attacked in the middle of the dark by soviet raiders south of Jegorlik; when the first vehicle stopped in front of one road obstruction, the crews were fired upon and killed with rifles and submachine guns, then the trucks were stormed and destroyed.
The divisional Commander analyzed two course of action, one sudden attack against Kropotkin including one coup de main in order to seize the rail and road bridges located there. The second, to ford the river somewhere between Kropotkin and Grigoripolnsskaia.
After a detailed study of some aerial photos, the staff could ascertain that in the Grigoripolnsskaia sector the river basin widened and wooded land covered both river banks. Also the bank’s slopes had only a few meters of height. Therefore this sector was chosen for fording the river.
At 3rd August, Wiking with I./SS-Pz.Abt.5 and I./ and II./SS-Art.Rgt.5 turn south and meets several disbanded an fleeing Russian units.
The Division commander arrived and took over the command again; The SS Wiking was re-organized in two Kampfgruppen, one around the Germania and the other around the Nordland. After replenishing (night of 02 / 03 Aug), the Wiking could proceed at dawn. The advance guard, established around the Germania (reinforced), reached Grigoripolnsskaia at 13:00 hours sending out recce patrols to the south and east.
Meanwhile, the Nordland (reinforced) march group reached Dimitrijewskaia at 12:30 hours and halted there in order to take some rest up to 16:00 hours, but around 14:30 hours was attacked by roughly 20 russian planes which straffed and bombed the town knocking only a few vehicles and destroying two Fiessler-Storch planes landed nearby.
Late that very afternoon, the Germania (reinforced) after reaching the western edge of the town (Grigoripolnsskaia) launched one sudden attack trying to ford the river, but the surprise had been lost and the assault was rejected.
That night the divisional commander had on hand three courses of action:
- To resume the attack at Grigoripolnsskaia, strengthening it with the Nordland.
- To ford the river at Worowska.
- To launch the coup the main against the Kropotkin’s bridges.
The last solution was the chosen one. The divisional commander ordered that the SS Germania (reinforced) should held the ground gained deceiving the enemy meanwhile the SS Nordland (reinforced) should attack Kropotkin at dawn, conquest it and then seize both bridges as soon as possible to avoid its destruction.
Point: one Recce Platoon.
Vanguard: one tank squadron with one rifle company mounted on it.
Bulk (5 / 6 kilometers behind): SS Pz Abt. (less one squadron), Command staff, I./Nordland (less one company), antitank company, anti aircraft Platoon, artillery group (Abt).
Rear guard (5 kilometers behind): II./Nordland, one anti aircraft Platoon, trains.
Temisbekskaia was surpassed without incidents but at Kavkasskaia the vanguard was engaged by two hostile rifle companies which started its withdrawal towards Kropotkin; the surprise had been lost. After surveying the russian positions, the ground and the built up areas from the southwest corner of Kavkasskaia Standartenfuhrer Fritz Scholz, taking in account the coverless terrain up to the eastern edge of Kropotkin, assessed the situation and issued the following order:
II./Nordland was to attack, supported by 2./Pz Abt., the southeast edge of Kropotkin from Kavkasskaia.
I./Nordland was to attack, supported by 1./Pz Abt., along the rail road leading to Kropotkin, in order to knock the town from the north or northeast.
The artillery abteilung, placed on the west edge of Kavkasskaia, was to furnish fire support mainly to II./ SS Nordland and eventually to I./SS Nordland. The Recce Platoon was to secure the northern flank of the I./Nordland.
The anti-aircraft Platoons were to protect the force against hostile planes from the west of Kavkasskaia and eventually cover the northern flank of the II./Nordland.
The anti-tank company was split and attached to both battalions (I. and II./Nordland).
The 3./Pz Abt. 5 was to act as reserve at Kavkasskaia.
The attack was lauched around 08:30 hours and the II./Nordland pressed forward reaching at 10:00 hours up to roughly 500 meters of Kropotkin. Meanwhile the I./Nordland attacking astride the rail road reached some ground located one kilometer due north of Kropotkin. At this very moment, the Recce Platoon informed that one hostile column, around 1000 men, was marching towards the town (Kropotkin) from the northwest.
This was a serious threat on the I./Nordland’s back, therefore Staf. von Scholz ordered that the tank commander with the reserve (3./SS Pz Abt 5) should attack going round the right wing of the II./ SS Nordland (taking with them all the riflemen that could climb onto the tanks) and penetrated up to the train station then immediately towards the rail bridge. Then the regimental commander took his liaison vehicle, drove cross country up to the 2./SS Pz Abt and took the squadron’s command. When all the riflemen nearby were onto the tanks he raced towards the bridge at great speed and at 11:00 hours reached the train station; around 11:15 the 2./SS Pz Abt arrived at the north embankment when an awful blast sounded and the bridge was blown, immediately another explosion followed to the west and the road bridge also was destroyed. With both bridges destroyed the struggle diminished. The I./ SS Nordland pressed the enemy column towards the west and the II./Nordland carried out mopping out operations in the town.
The artillery looking for targets could observe 30 trains trying to escape to the south; the three batteries took part in a contest trying to burn the trains down. After half an hour around 300 wagons loaded with guns, ammunition, fuel and equipment were burning. The tanks targeted some trains loaded with fuel located close to the river south of the embankment. The Kampfgruppe Nordland took up an all-round position east of Kropotkin that night. At dawn the Kampfgruppe marched towards Grigoripolnsskaia in order to join with the bulk of the division.
The river crossing at Grigoripolnsskaia. This very day, the Germania could establish a tiny bridgehead (400 meters x 400 meters) at Grigoripolnsskaia in the difficult lowlands located on the river bank.
When the SS Wiking’s Commander knew about the failed operation at Kropotkin, ordered to enlarge the bridgehead gained at Grigoripolnsskaia and reinforced the assault troops located there with the SS AR 5 (6 batteries of howitzers 105 mm, 2 batteries of howitzers 155 mm and 1 battery of cannons 105 mm) and Corps’s artillery (3 batteries of cannons 105 mm, 3 batteries of howitzers 210 mm and 1 group of rockets launcher with 2 batteries x 8 guns x 6 tubes of 150 mm each and 1 battery x 8 guns x 5 tubes of 280 mm each)
With this support the I./Germania could press forward slowly during the afternoon and night and by Aug 06 at dawn enlarged the bridgehead along the river (1 kilometer x 1,5 kilometers) denying the enemy observed fire over the river bank. After that one Corps’s Engineer battalion started to build up one bridge (24 tons) of about 75 meters over pontoons ; its access were reinforced with planks, logs and stones.
Meanwhile the I./Germania was fighting in the bridgehead and the Engineer battalion was building the pontoon bridge, the balance of the division dug in and then remained in its well concealed positions and fox holes. However, suddenly they were fired upon by Russian guns of 120 mm. It was a surprise since no hostile recce plane was overflying them and the enemy could not observe the crossing point, moreover one artillery group that changed its position twice was shelled every time it was deployed.
Then the Officers surveyed the field carefully in order to detect the enemy OP location. After several patrols were sent, it was finally found in the tower of one old church that become a barn under soviet rule. The russian Forward Observers had destroyed the stairs and had blocked the door with logs and stone. Surrender was out of question so the patrol tossed one hand grenade in the tower, when the spot was reached two braves Russian Officers were found dead so the patrol saluted those valiant's that carried out his tasks to the end.
The 2./Pi.Btl. 5 have managed to built a 24-tons bridge across the Kuban river.
During the night of 6/7 Aug 1942, the II./Germania got across the river and reached the bridgehead established by the I./Germania. On 07 Aug at 04:00 hours one Stuka group appeared and dropped its bombs upon the target and hostile positions in front of the II./Germania; simultaneously the artillery and rockets launchers laid a violent barrage on the Russian defensive position and after that at 04:10 hours, the II./Germania attacked towards south and west and compelled the enemy to withdraw after a short fight. Some of the 120 mm guns previously mentioned were captured by this troop.
At 04:30 hours the balance of the SS Wiking crossed in the following order: as vanguard the SS Pz Abt. 5 with the 5./Nordland mounted on the tanks; then the A.A. 5; followed by Nordland with the AR 5 and at last the Germania. At first their goal is the Armawir-Krapotkin railway. The division advanced towards Kropotkin.
Kampfgruppen 'Nordland' and 'Germania', supported with the 2./ and 3./Pz.Abt. 5 reached crossingpoints Temirgojewskaja and Petropawlowskaja with their Laba bridges!
Weather is sunny with 42 degrees in the shades!
I./Nordland attacks Temirgojewskaja, its Laba bridge the prize for SS- Bluhm's 3./Nordland. After heavy causalities a small bridgehead is open. Petropawlowskaja is under attack from Gefechts Gruppe Germania, the SS-Pz.Abt. builts a small bridgehead near Tenginskaja. Nordland attaches its infantry...
Advance by Gefechts Gruppe Nordland and I./SS-Pz.Abt.5 towards Bjeloretschenskaja, large junction of roads, railway lines and the oil pipeline to Tuapse at the Black Sea. Panzers in front, followed by 3./Nordland and the rest of I./Nordland. Around 13.00 hrs the Pz.Abt. reaches the Bjelaba river, south of Welikoje.
Wiking's main body advancing from Petropawlowskaja through the Laba delta towards Petropawlowskaja, meanwhile the I./SS-Pz.Abt. turns to the south of Welikoje.
Welikoje is occupied by the Aufkl.Abt.5, which secures the northern flank. During the night, parts of the Pz.Abt. and I./Nordland assemble in the Giaginskaja area.
The Aufkl.Abt.5 is not at full strength, together with Inf.Rgt. Westland and a battalion of Nordland and Germania are waiting for resupply and refitting.
Divisional Commander in order to assure the operation success had ordered that
the SS “Germania” launched an attack at the village of Tenginskaia, located 25
kilometers to the west, and crossed the Laba at this point.
The regiment’s assault suffered the same fate of that of the SS “Nordland”, a bridgehead was established but the bridge itself was blasted. However, the river’s wide was only 50 meters there so the divisional Engineers Battalion could work covered by the bridgehead troops and after nearly 30 hours built up a new one with pontoons finishing on the night of 09/10 Aug. On Aug 09, a Sunday; both regiments held its positions driving back several counter attacks against the bridgeheads. As the villages inhabitants were Cossacks the German soldiers received a warm welcome, also those people gave them milk and eggs as presents. Part of the provisions received were conveyed to the frontline troops and in the afternoon was served a lunch for the officers not needed at the front. After 15 days the troops could take a bath by groups in the stream that ran on the western edge of the village. However the day ended in a bad way for one battery allowed its gunners to take a bath and they swan towards the south bank where one hostile machine gun spotted them and opened fire, killing 6 and wounded 8 men in the water.
As was told before this night, the bridge over the Laba river at Tenginskaia was finished and the SS “Nordland” withdrew its troops from the bridgehead at Temirgojewskaia and moved on Aug 10 at dawn towards the crossing point. This very day the SS Wiking moved southwards around 35 kilometers reaching the area located north of the village of Beloretchenskaia in the middle of a valley in the foothill of the Caucasus Range.
Due to the 13 Pz Div actions great number of enemy troops were pushed towards Bieloretchenskaia, so all day long, 11 Aug 1942, the Germania reinforced, tried to seize it coming from the north but without success. Meanwhile the Nordland had taken an all-round position 5 kilometers due north of the town; at midnight one soviet truck’s column entered the hedgehog and reached up to 300 meters of the artillery positions, the howitzers opened fire in the dark almost at point blank sweeping out vehicles and men.
Gruppenführer Steiner ordered that the Nordland should go round the town by the west and ford the Bielaia river blocking the valley from the southwest. The movement should be start that very night, so on Aug 12, at 19:00 hours the Regiment began its cross country march. After a while the vehicles were unable to advance across that terrain in the dark, therefore the II./ SS Nordland proceeded its march on foot. The artillery group took fire positions to support the crossing and the I./Nordland covered the column’s rear and flank (artillery, vehicles and supply trains).
The Bielaia river was a Kuban’s tributary, that ran from the ridges located south of Maikop and at that time had scarcely 50 meters wide and 1 meter of depth and roughly 5 kilometers to the northwest of the village it received the Pschecha river as affluent.
The II./Nordland forded the river successfully and one bridgehead was established by 00:30 hours, on 13 Aug; at 01:30 one enemy counter attack was rejected. At 04:00 hours as the sun rose, hostile cavalry was discovered (roughly 500 riders) approaching from the east, (probably from Zerkownyj area). The column was engaged with machine guns and anti tank cannons and nearly wiped out, the remnants fled towards the southeast into the wooded foothill.
Meanwhile, one Sturmbannführer standing near one of the batteries, when turning to give an order could see an infantry column of enemy soldiers marching past as far as 600 meters. The fight in the Bielaia river area attracted the russian attention so they could not detect the german positions located on the first bank. The I./Nordland was alarmed and the guns turned back, then the column was shelled and fired, shortly after that the remnants fled leaving one Lt Col, four captains and 400 men as POWs.
At 06:00 hours the German column (I./Nordland, artillery and vehicles) proceeded to the bridgehead and then advanced towards the southwest.
Wiking takes Kubanskaja and advances with I./Germania to Apscherowskaja, meanwhile II./Germania deflects to Twerskaja where it crushes heavy resistance. At night they are near Twerskaja, Inf.Rgt. Nordland relieves II./Germania, which follows I./Germania to Apscherowskaja.
Finally Inf.Rgt. Westland and III./Nordland join the division. Westland consists of 2 batallions with 5 company's each. Only III./Germania is not present at this moment.
With two attack axes, one in the Pschecha valley, the other in the Pschisch valley concentrating on Chadyschenskaja and Apscherowskaja, Wiking reached the Maikop’s oil fields located between 35 and 60 kilometers far away from that city.
"07.00 at Komsemolzkaja, heavy artillery and mortar fire. Kp.Chefs Hstuf. Schnabelt (11.Kompanie) and Ostuf. Hilker (10.Kompanie)killed in action...
16.20 Battalion advances to Twerskaja and secures the town with I./Nordland. 46 POW's..."
Inf.Rgt. Nordland advances as western K.Gr. towards Kabardinskaja, point in front of Muk.
I./Germania reaches the area north of Apscherowskaja. II./Germania secures the ridgeline between both K.Gr Wiking. SS-Div Wiking stands on both roads from Maikop to Tuapse.
Now Wiking has to wait for the XXXXIV.Jgr.Korps, which both divisions - 101. and 97.Jg.Div. - are 2 day marches behind.
Parts of II./Nordland are engaging enemy forces around Guriskaja.
Renaming III./Nordland in Finnischen Freiwilligen Bataillon.
Defensive positions with in the Asfaltowaja area Inf.Rgt. Nordland, south of Apscherowskaja Inf.Rgt. Germania and around Ssamurskaja-Dachowskaja Inf.Rgt. Westland.
SS-Div Wiking relieved and assigned to the LII.Armeekorps.
SS-Div Wiking assigned to 1.Pz.Armee.
III./Nordland relieved by Bau Btl.503 and a Kosakken squadron.
I. and II./Nordland relieved in place.
SS-Pz.Gren.Div Wiking motorized march Maikop, Labinskaja, Armawir, Min Wody in the Pawlodolkskij area at the northern bank of the Terek river.
Nordland is placed under command of the 111.Inf.Div near Mosdok (Caucasus)
III./Nordland relieves Gren.Rgt.666 (370.Inf.Div) northeast of Nish. Kurp
II./ and III./SS-Art.Rgt.5 in firing positions, east of Nish. Kurp with the Pz.Abt. in its assembly area..
Last commanders huddle; I./Nordland follows the southern ridgeline towards Malgobek, to the left III./Nordland higher up the ridgeline in order to eliminate enemy fire on I./Nordland. Same orders for II./Nordland which takes the northern ridgeline into Kesskem.
In the evening all units are in their designated areas for their final preparations for the upcoming attack...
As it appears later, Russian forces intended to strike in the morning with 4 battalions. The German positioning of Nordland was unnoticed, German hour of attack was planned at 05.00 hrs, the Russian at 05.30 hrs...
After a short artillery barrage, Nordland advances at 05.00 hrs in the direction of Ssagopschin. Later we will find out that I./Nordland operates in the hotspot, while it runs into the four Russian battalions, which should attack Nish. Kurp. Hstuf. Friedrich Bluhm, Kp.Chef 3./Nordland is killed instantly... and with him within minutes 2 platoon leaders in 3./Nordland!
Within 30 minutes, 3./Nordland has a loss ratio of 40%
Same with 1./Nordland where Kp.Chef Ostuf. Tunner is killed in action immediately. III./Nordland is supported by all its heavy weapons, but at 08.30 hrs the battalion has 9 KIA and 30 WIA.
I./Nordland is stuck with heavy losses, III./Nordland is stuck too. Only II./Nordland, taking the northern route still advances.
Ostuf. Körner of the regiment takes over 3./Nordland, but is wounded on his way to the unit. Ustuf.. Spörle takes over 1./Nordland and finally 3./Nordland is commanded by Ostuf. Thöny, the acting battalion adjutant, which launches a new attack. Finally I./Nordland starts again, which encourages III./Nordland for its next attempt. At 11.30 hrs, 11./Nordland is reinforced by leichtes IG, PaK, sMG and mortars. Around 17.00 hrs III./Nordland lies 20 meters (!) before its objective, unable to carry on. At 17.45 hrs, Btl.Kdr. III./Nordland - Stubaf. Hans Collani - orders its retreat. III./Nordland lost 25 KIA and 54 WIA, most of them from 11./Nordland. II./Nordland makes better progress at the southern route.
Since 07.00 hrs, II./Westland follows I./SS-Pz.Abt.5. Reinforced by 3./SS-Pz.Jgr.Abt.5 and escorted by 3./SS-Pi.Btl.5 the move up to the east of Nish. Kurp.
While Hstuf. Schnabelt (1./SS-Pz.Abt.5) has his birthday, his company has point... At 10.00 hrs, Ustuf. Kollotzschy's tank was hit and blocks the road. After 4 hrs the engineers have found a new route, 2./SS-Pz.Abt.5 recieved artillery fire during this period.
At 16.00 hrs, 1./SS-Pz.Abt.5 with 5 tanks, are half way to Ssagopschin. Ustuf. Max Perthes was killed, Ostuf. Wörmer wounded.
Panzer Abteilungs strength on this day:
5 PzKfw. II
11 PzKfw. III 'Kurz'
23 PzKfw. III 'Lang'
3 PzKfw. IV 'Kurz'
6 PzKfw. IV 'Lang'
A total of 48 tanks... By the evening of 27th September, some 20 Panzers were lost.
Pz.Gren.Rgt.10 Westland arrives at Min Wody. Wiking receives artillery and mortar fire during the whole day from the Ssagopschin/Malgobek area.
K.Gr. Westland, reinforced with the Panzer Abteilung was to launch a break-through through the Knip-valley to Ssagopschin. SS-Stubaf. Harry Polewacz takes over Inf.Rgt. Westland.
SS-Pz.Gren.Div Wiking keeps its position in a large cornfield for most of the day. New attack plans are made, 1./SS-Pz.Abt.5 with main body Inf.Rgt. Westland frontal attack on Ssagopschin; 2./SS-Pz.Abt.5 road Ssagopschin-Nish.Atschaluki, in blocking position and on-call attack on Ssagopschin from behind.
Movement at dawn, Pz.Abt.5 in front, leading a company (Hstuf. Harry Willer) of Westland. On the left II./Westland, on the right I./Westland. When the fog disperses, the attack lies under heavy fire. Stubaf. Mühlenkamp - SS-Pz.Abt.5 - finds his entire unit in the middle of Russian positions between Malgobek I and Ssachopschin. More then 80 T-34's and Mk.III tanks advancing towards Wiking's 40 tanks. A fierce tank battle starts in which Ustuf. Köntopp (Nachrichten Offizier SS-Pz.Abt.5) is killed, Mühlenkamp rode in 3 different tanks that day and was shot three times!
New attack by I./Nordland and II./Westland towards Kesskem starts at 14.30 hrs. II./Westland has many casualties, Btl.Kdr. Stubaf. Steinert is wounded and replaced by Hstuf. Bäuerle. Around 17.00 hrs the Russian defenses have been defeated.
New attacks on the targets from yesterday, with no results at all. Oberführer von Scholz and Gille complain with division about insufficient means for the attack. Division Kdr. Gruf. Felix Steiner agrees and goes to the Korps; without result. III./Nordland replaces II./Westland and a new attack is planned for 1st October.
After heavy and fierce resistance SS-Div Wiking and parts of Gren.Rgt. 70 (Oberst Tronnier) took the strongholds of Ssachopschin/Malgobek. Inf.Rgt. Germania lost on that final day 33 dead and almost 200 wounded!
Division mentioned in Wehrmacht Bulletin of the Day for helping to take important Soviet oil production city of MALGOBEK.
At 02.30 hrs III./Nordland is relieved from their positions around Kesskem by I./Nordland. At 13.00 hrs is III./Nordland ready for a new push to east Malgobek.
As a result of continues work of the Pz.Werkstatt und Ustuf. Erich Weisse, the 1./SS-Pz.Abt.5 can use 10 tanks.
Severe defensive battles, the initiative lays with the Russians! Grenadier Kompanien strenght in average about 30-40 men. Finally III./Germania (Hstuf. Franz Hack) arrives in the West Caucasus.
Hill 701 falls in the hands of III./Nordland. For four consecutive days Russian forces trying to recapture hill 701 without results.
Wiking leaves the Ssagopschin/Malgobek area and takes positions around the Werch. Kurp area.
Inf.Rgt. Westland under command of Stubaf. Polewacz, his I./Nordland gets Stubaf. Lohmann. Oberführer Fritz von Scholz leaves the division and takes command over the Latvian Brigade. New Rgt.Kdr. Nordland becomes Ostubaf. Joerchel and finally, Hstuf. May leads II./Germania.
Renamed to 5.SS-Panzer Grenadier Div. WIKING.
From 1.11.1941 till 2.6.1943 a Finnish battalion of volunteers was attached to the division. It served in the WESTLAND regiment as III./NARWA.
First snow is falling as start of the second winter in Russia...
II./Nordland travels as first unit from the Malgobek area of operations to the 23.Pz.Div where it relieves elements of the well-known 13.Pz.Div.
At 11th November I./ and II./Germania arrive and at 20.00 hrs they are replacing units of the 13.Pz.Div defending around Nish. Ssaniba.
At 15.00 hrs, at the start of darkness a breakthrough towards the surrounded 13.Pz.Div, lead by 7./Nordland and I./Pz.Rgt.4. Mostly wounded and finally the Division Staff escapes the pocket.
At 11 November the 13.Pz.Div breaks out of its pocket and fights it way back to the west. An Luftwaffe Flak.Abt. with 8.8cm is positioned by Stubaf. Mühlenkamp just before Russian tanks appear. These 88's destroy the Russian tanks, 13.Pz.Div retreats via positions of I./ and II./Germania, II./Nordland, Pz.Abt. and parts of Pz.Jgr.Abt. back to the German lines.
The new Haupt Kampf Linie (HKL) runs from bridgehead Dsuarikau-Rasswet-Fiagdon river-east of Ardon and connects with LII.Armeekorps at Elchotowo.
Russian forces penetrated German lines in the vicinity of Rassnet. After a day of artillery duels and scrimmages, the gap is closed.
SS-Pz.Gren.Div Wiking under command of III.Pz.Korps
II./Westland, SS-Pz.Abt.5 and StuG.Brig. 203 reinforce the 13.Pz.Div near Kodgoron and Ardon.
In 14 days of bitter fighting, Russian forces attacked 4 times in Regimental strength, 58 times in Battalion strength, rest with a minimum of two company's!
III./Nordland transfers to Chasnidon/Toldsgun.
in order to relieve the 6th Army trapped in the Stalingrad pocket.
Re-supply and refitting of Wiking
First non-german officer graduates arrive at Wiking, after succesfully completing one of the 'Führer Lehrgange' at the Junkerschule Bad Tölz.
The 'Ossetische Strasse' was given up, I./Nordland leaves the III.PzKorps at first and diverts to their new destination: Stalingrad....
At their arrival in Remontaja, south of Stalingrad, it was already clear that a new relief-attack on the city was too late.
During the day of 24th December Wiking hold the 'Cesar' line, followed together with the 13.Pz.Div in the 'Vierow' line, Wiking forms an protective screen for the withdrawl.
Russian tankcolumn attacked by the Pz.Abt., in a few minutes 14 T-34's are destroyed.
Wiking - without III./Nordland - travels by rail to the 4.Pz.Armee
First units arrive with General Kirchners LVII.Pz.Korps. I./Nordland attacks from Remontnaja to the souteast in order to help 23.Pz.Div.
What did happen in 1943?
More units, also Pz.Abt.5 arrive at Kuberle. At noon the entire Abt. is complete and arrives after a night march, on the 2nd January Simowniki in the morning.
- I./Nordland fights in the Remontnaja area;
- Inf.Rgt. Westland fights in the Simowniki area.
During one of the many counter attacks, 2./SS-Pz.Abt.5 finds 5 new Pz.III 7,5cm Lang with internal heater system, once belonging to the 23.Pz.Div. On order of the new Division Kdr. Oberführer Gille, the 5 Pz.III's are returned to the 23.Pz.Div.
On the 7th January, 2./SS-Pz.Abt.5 counter attacks in the area of operations of the 17.Pz.Div. On the next day LVII.Pz.Korps has found a defensive line, 17.Pz.Div in the north, Wiking in the middle and 23.Pz.Div in the south. Russian forces advance to the town of Olowka, which is held by Inf.Rgt. Westland. North of it around Kammennaja Balka, are parts of Nordland.
Pz.Gren.Div Wiking positioned in the line Kundrjutscheskij-Sundowa.
Heavy fighting around Kundrjutscheskij by Staf. Jürgen Wagner's Inf.Rgt. Germania.
Wiking's left wing is pushed back, Russian forces reach Shurawleff before they are pushed back.
During the bitter fighting around Orlowka, both Stubaf. Harry Polewacz (Rgt.Kdr. Westland) and Stubaf. Frhr. von Hadeln (Btl.Kdr. I./Westland) are killed in action!
Wiking in the center of battle; Rgt. Nordland in the north, with 17.Pz.Div., II./Nordland in Grakow and I./Nordland in Krasn Snamja. III./Nordland still on route from the Caucasus, at this moment around Proletarskaja. In the middle Rgt. Westland and one of its battalions near Donskoj and one in Renitschanskij. In the south, Rgt. Germania in the Romanow area.
Many snowstorms and freezing temperatures below zero.
In the wake of the 14th, Russian forces find and expand a gap between Wiking and the 23.Pz.Div in the direction of Proletarskaja. Krasnoje Snaja is part taken by the Russians, Wiking prepares for the counter attack...
14.35 hrs: III./Nordland recieves orders to strenghten I./Nordland
15.05 hrs: 11./Nordland marches towards I./Nordland. Krasnoje Snaja is 2/3 taken by 8 tanks and 400 men.
16.15 hrs: 11./Nordland with I./Nordland attack and forces the Russians to give up Krasnoje Snaja. They leave around 200 men behind. 11./Nordland loses 2 KIA and 13 WIA.
For example: Ustuf. Ertel's 9./Nordland, reports that his current company strength is down to 35 men...
Pz.Gren.Div Wiking in Proletarskaja bridgehead.
Succesfull counter attacks on Sowchose I, southwest of Proletarskaja, by SS-Pz.Abt.5 and parts of SS-Pi.Btl.5. On the 17th and 18th January large Russian forces overrun Stubaf. Max Schäfer's SS-Pi.Btl.5, at the last moment elements of Wiking's Pz.Abt. prevent the total collapse in and around Stalinsky.
In the Proletarskaja bridgehead, Westand and Germania fight off numerous attacks. The situation by Nordland stays relatively calm around Manytsch...
At 18th January Russian attacks and penetrate the lines of the weakened 17.Pz.Div, by using the frozen Manytsch for its infantry. 17.Pz.Div alarms Wiking, which has Germania and Westland bound in their positions. Only III./Nordland can support counter measures at this moment.
From KtB III./Nordland:
I./Nordland relieves III./Nordland, which marches at 21.30 hrs to Schablijewka. Here 9./Nordland secures village.
06.05 hrs, battalions reaches southwest Jekaterinowka and contacts Pz.Gren.Rgt.40. Enemy strenght about 1,000 men with heavy weapons.
07.40 hrs, left 10./Nordland with 2 tanks and one StuG and 11./Nordland with 2 tanks, one StuG and the VB 12./SS-Art.Rgt.5 ready.
09.00 hrs, attack starts in northern direction.
10.00 hrs, Kp.Chef 10./Nordland Hstuf. Porsch KIA, replaced by Ostuf. Pohjanletho.
10.15 hrs, enemy movement from Kolchose, 2 km to the east.
10.30 hrs, about 600 men counter attack on 10./Nordland, which is neutralized.
11.35 hrs, remaining forces of the Pi.Zuges reinforce 10./Nordland.
12.15 hrs, another enemy attack, consist of around 400 men from the northeastern part of the village.
12.45 hrs, attack neutralized.
13.00 hrs, several attacks follow without results. Russian lost about 300 men and 160 POW's, included a battalion commander. Own losses 1 Führer, 3 Unterführer and 5 men KIA, 24 WIA's.
07.55 hrs, reinforced with 2 tanks 10./Nordland attacks northern part of village. Russian losses 100 men and 73 POW's”.
Again the Finnish volunteers have shown their dedication without a high loss count. Till May 1943, 255 Finnish volunteers are killed in action within Wiking.
Proletarskaja bridgehead is abandoned. Rgt. Westland moves to Ssalsk, Rgt. Germania near the Manytschdam and Manytschstroj. I./ and II./Nordland in Jekaterinowka and Schablijkewka, where III./Nordland remains.
Numerous attack around Ssalsk. Inf.Rgt. Westland is pushed back, Russian forces occupy the airfield. A combined attack with tanks and grenadieren pushes back the Russians.
During the early hours Wiking gets in its new positions, I./Nordland in Gigant, III./Nordland in Zelina, II./Nordland around Petschakowskij, II./Westland in Adronow, I./Westland in Zelina. The Germania regiment falls further back in order to prepare a new defensive line near Nesselyj.
I./Nordland take positions on both side of the main road in Gigant. After a few hours the first scrimmages are ongoing. Till 15.00 hrs the fight rages on, I./Nordland deflects all attacks, but a large force has cut-off I./Nordland's retreat route. Wiking orders the start of Nordland's retreat at sunset. Between 19.45 and 21.30 hrs I./Nordland passes III./Nordland in Werch Chutor and from here they take the main road to Zelina. I./Nordland has only lost 1 PaK. At 22.15 hrs III./Nordland leaves it positions and follows I./Nordland.
After a night march in the bitter cold temperatures, I./ and III./Nordland climb off their vehicles in Zelina. New positions are taken in, all most a routine. Giving up at night, new positions at dawn.
First attacks starting at 12.30 hrs, while its 2nd and 3rd wave are already preparing within sight. All waves are deflected...
19.45 hrs, Zelina is given up, march to Jegorlykskaja where it arrives at 22.30 hrs.
The reconnaissance company under Ostuf. Falke finds a large armoured column with the direction towards Jegorlykskaja. Wiking's defense around the town consists of I./Westland - present during the last 2 days - II./Westland in the south, II./Nordland in the north including the main road. Two company's from SS-Pi.Btl.5 arrive, the last one (Wanhöfer) in blocking positions. I./ and III./Nordland are on their way from Zelina.
02.00 hrs, Russian tanks firing upon village.
02.45 hrs, 6 T-34's in Jegorlykskaja, more advancing towards the village.
Mühlenkamp's Panzer are closing in during the night, at dawn they open fire on their targets. 13 T-34's are destroyed, few are lucky to escape. The six remaining T-34's are still in Jegorlyskskaja which are hit later. Russian forces leave the area, the Pioniere blow up all T-34's which are not completely destroyed yet. Jegorlyskskaja stays in German hands, but pressure mounts around Komuna and Tischtschenko with Rgt. Germania. III./Nordland receives orders and marches to Metschetinskaja, I./Nordland follows in the evening. During the night, Jegorlykskaja is cleared; II./Nordland and Rgt. Westland are on their way to Oktjabrskoje, I./Westland in Mitrotanow and II./Nordland near Milajarowo/Grechow.
Komuna cleared by Rgt. Germania. Russian forces attacking Metschetinskaja with I./ and III./Nordland. At 27th January at 11.00 hrs, a German armoured attack give Wiking's units some space...
The front stabilizes, villages are occupied several times by Russians and Germans. Wiking must hold this line till the 111.Inf.Div arrives from Terek!
Weather holds with snow and temperatures low as minus 42 degrees!
LVII.Pz.Korps hold stable defensive line; Wiking's (from north to south) disposition: Nordland - Sernograd, Germania - Meschetkatales and Westland - Rossoschinskij.
Wiking marches into the new line Gawriloff-Nowo Bataisk. At 04.30 hrs Russian attack III./Nordland in Gawrilow, breaktrough at 11./Nordland. At dawn, counter attack by Ostuf. Deck with 20 Finns which destroys 3 Russian PaK's. At 08.00 hrs a new Russian attack with 300 men, supported by 7 T-34's. At 08.30 hrs the SS-Pz.Abt.5's quick reaction force is present, 3 T-34's destroyed and the others retreat, now follow by an attack of III./Nordland. The morning positions are back in German hands as at 13.30 hrs new orders arrive to clear Gawrilow...
Pz.Gren.Rgt.10 Westland advances as part of the division to Stalino. Following the next order, set out on a march with the objective Konstantinowka.
Urgent orders to divert towards Krasno-Ameiskoje. Objective: Containment of Panzer Group Popoff !
The night of the 11th of February started nervously in the Headquarters of the German 40th PzKorps. The Chief of Staff, Colonel Wagener, was woken up at 0.45 o’clock to receive a telephone message, where the terrified Commandant of the town Grishino told, that only a few kilometers to the North, in a village of Dopropolje, three or four Russian tanks and 15 trucks full of infantry were observed. Thus they were driving loose in the countryside 70 to 80 km behind the German front lines! A patrol of 333rd Infantry division’s Anti-tank Battalion informed at 1.30 o’clock, that they had seen a couple of hour’s earlier 45 enemy tanks, carrying infantry on their decks on a route south of Sergejewka.
It was high time for the 40th PzKorps to start dynamic counter-actions, first unit being on the road already at 4.50.
With the 1st Pz Army’s approval, the task was appointed to the 5th SS-Pz.Gren.Division “Wiking”, which had not yet have been engaged its forces into battles in this direction. The order to the division reached its commander Gruppenführer Felix Steiner in the HQ of the 3rd PzKorps at dawn, 3.10 o’clock, where he happened to be reporting on his arrival to the area. The telegram stated:
“A strong armored enemy on the road of Kramatorskaya – Sergejewka – Grishino attacking southwest. Their spearhead observed in Aleksandrowka at 1.00 o’clock. The SS-PzGrenDiv. “Wiking” must start moving right away heading to Krasnoarmaiskoye using shortest routes. Not to wait troops to regroup before starting off. Reaching Krasnoarmaiskoye rapidly has an utmost importance.”
Steiner, who had recently returned to command his division after being acting Commander of Wermacht’s 3rd PzKorps being the first SS-officer commanding PzK during the war, immediately started dynamic actions. At the west side of Stalino the commander, who had flown there, met his troops force-marching towards the ordered direction. Their target, Krasnoarmaiskoje, former Postyshewo, is a middle-sized town and a railroad crossroads some 70 km west of Stalino. Through it goes an important two-way railroad from Donets to Dnjepropetrowsk, or Dnipropetrovs’k. Along the road men met dispersed Italian units, which were running southwards. Steiner didn’t try to stop these demoralized troops, but let his columns drive past them continuing the advance.
At noon, on the 11th of February a contact to the enemy was reached by the road from Selidowka to Krasnoarmaiskoje, just some kilometers south of the latter, industrial city. The spearheading units belonging to the “Nordland” – its Finnish battalion in front – spread out straight from their vehicles to the battle.
Overall plan was, that “Nordland” attacks Krasnoarmaiskoje from south and southeast, that is from the direction of the main highway; the “Germania” surrounding by west – first taking over Grishino – and the third regiment, “Westland” surrounding by east.
The 333rd Infantry Division withdrawing from north, division’s own Aufklärungs-Abteilung 5 and the 7th PzDiv, which would later come to help, would cut withdrawal routes of the enemy to the north, and prevent supporting units coming from that direction. During heavy fighting that took place over a week this came mostly in effect, although the strength of the “Wiking” alone wasn’t quite enough for everything that was hoped for in the beginning.
The Finnish Battalion spearheading the SS-”Wiking”
The Finnish Battalion, officially III.(finn.)/Nordland, received marching orders in Gorlowka on 11.2.1943 at six o’clock in the morning. The start to a new, even surprising direction was rapid, because the men were prepared for it; information about the reasons for this reversal just felt unbelievable. Because it was all-important, that meeting Russian armored troops, that had broken loose, seasoned troops would be deployed, not some scrapped up supply units from the rear, all that was possible was made to open the route to the force-march of the Wiking. Feldgendarmerie halted all other traffic in Stalino in the streets through which the Wiking drove.
The Kriegstagebuch, (KTB or the War diary) of III.(finn.)/Nordland mentions:
“At 8.15 first elements of the battalion arrived Stalino. Traffic jams are avoided by efficient traffic control.”
The battalion arrived Galinzinowka at 10.50. Because the Finns were spearheading in this direction, battle preparations were taken place here. Both PaK and Infanterie-Geschütze (IG), subordinated to the 11.Kompanie, being in the lead. Using this formation the battalion drove on northwest some 15 km to a small town called Selidowka. Yet nothing had happened although refugees and the retreating Italians beckoned terrified to the direction the battalion drove. They passed the town. At 12.25 o’clock main elements of III.(finn.)/Nordland were two kilometers to the south of Datshansky. Reconnaissance was continued along the road that had already turned straight up north.
Obersturmführer Tauno “Poku” Pohjanlehto wrote to his friend’s diary:
“Spearheading the Chef (Commander) of the 11th Coy Eugen Deck and the new Führer of the 10th, “Poku” Pohjanlehto, drove with a sidecar motor bike driven by Risto Pöntinen rapidly ahead of others. In Datshansky they notice that the civilians have hidden to their potato-holes, or cellars. The whole village seems empty. That’s why we slow down and observe the surroundings carefully. Past us drives a car with a German officer and two NCOs to the direction of the railway station of Gubin. We, the scouts try to warn them and regain speed. Suddenly there is a big Mail-truck sideways on the road, along which the PKW, or sedan stops. Several Russians appear from behind the truck. Using their machine pistols, they soot the Germans, who have stood off their car. Pöntinen brakes ruff his motorbike, and tries to turn it around near the vehicles. Both officers flew out of the bike. Pohjanlehto gets a hold on his Parabellum and hits a couple of the Russians with it. A round of Russian MP hits Pöntinen anyhow, and he fells down dead alongside his motorbike. Pohjanlehto and Deck save themselves running and rushing, bullets hitting ground around them, miraculously back to their companies in Datshansky.”
the Waffen-SS a Kompanie Chef was officially nominated, a Kompanie Führer was
an acting one) -
After having this enemy contact, the III./Nordland left its vehicles and Gefechtstand to Datshansky, and regrouped around it. To the east and northeast 11.Kompanie, the 10.Kompanie to the north and along both sides of the road (backwards to the German front) the 9.Kompanie. After a while the II./Nordland took positions west of the village. Reconnaissance to Lissowka in the east and Nowyj Trud in the west proved these places to be free of enemy. Three or four enemy tanks were however observed up north some 4 km away – that is in Gubin – along the road to Krasnoarmaiskoje.
First attacks to the village of Novo-Pavlowka
After the overall situation had became clear, and the regiment had been positioned, the III.(finn.)/Nordland received orders at 16.05 o’clock to occupy a small village of Novo-Pavlowka along the main road ahead. The Finns reach Gubin easily. Enemy’s securing forces withdrew to Novo-Pavlowka. The Finns followed and the 9th and 10th Coy threw Russians out of there in half an hour. They occupied the village and put out own safeguards. A short winter day was already darkened. “A night attack” Paavo Vuolento wrote. He was killed two days later in this same village...
Oberscharführer Sven Elmgren wrote:
„11.2.43... About 30 km from Stalino we crashed into the Russians, who had positions in a small village. We, the 9th Coy, regrouped for an immediate attack, but only during the night [...in dark, at about 17.30...] we occupied the village, which was occupied only lightly by the Russians. They withdrew ahead of us without making greater resistance. We had however an exiting job in the dark searching the houses to avoid hits into our backs by possible hidden Russkies. It was quite a difficult task, because in many houses there were still civilians staying.
We had an hour rest, before a Russian armored reconnaissance vehicle suddenly closed by (according to the KTB at 18.45), we kept our nerves, and not until it reached our positions I gave the order to fire. A hutch was open, and therefore one man of the crew was killed, while two others succeeded to run away. We got the vehicle as booty.”
The 9th Coy used its trophy for a few days. Then it gave the vehicle to the regiment, because it burned off too much fuel and oil.
The enemy, however, didn’t start to withdraw, as General Henrici, after the enemy contact was reached, for a moment had hoped for. On the contrary it made these armor-supported counter-attacks against Nordland. Late night its commander decided to release the tired troops to rest in nearest villages. At 2.30, the 9th and 10th Coy got a permission to retreat to Datshansky. The order didn’t, however go through in time, so it arrived to for example the 9th Coy not until the morning hours. Thus sleeping in Datshansky was minimal. Meanwhile enemy had again occupied Novo-Pavlowka and the companies had to move back there at 8.30 o’clock. Troops felt the marching fore and back meaningless.
So, Novo-Pavlowka had to be attacked for the second time. The 9th Coy was situated to the east side of the road, the 11th to the west. The 9th Company penetrated first to the village through its eastern side. Russians had, however, tanks in the village, so the other companies couldn’t advance much because of them.
Oberscharführer Sven Elmgren writes in his diary:
In the afternoon there becomes life in the area. We don’t have any kind of anti-tank weapons, and now (according to the KTB, at 15.45 o’clock) yet four additional tanks roll to the village, mounting infantry. They drive almost over us shooting from all directions using their cannons and firing long MG-bursts. The infantry does the same using their MPs. We run, sneak, crawl on all fours, roll over, creep, and jump from house to house and from a cover to another. All the time Russian automatic weapons’ bursts rattle on our heels and ears, because they try to outflank us from every angle. Once I have a few seconds earlier found cover behind a house, and look around to see, where the next threat comes, and how my fellows have survived from the dazzling dance. I see our MG-gunner with another man on their way from a house to another. Instantly, a Russian tank appears and blocks their way. The men have luck; next to them there is a huge straw-stack. They disappear into it in a flash, but plough their way through it in a few seconds with their weapons and all. That’s how they reach a blind spot in consideration of the tank, and make it to a cover behind the other house. Hid and run tag continues… After an hour, which none of us would like to live again, three of the tanks drive away, presumably to refill their ammunition? The fourth stays put for another hour before it follows the others. When the three tanks have driven away, our 10th and 11th Companies finally arrive for help, and we can respire. They have had a tough battle against the Russian infantry that had clung to the opposite end of the village. Finally they threw the enemy out of the village, however…”
The fourth tank had obviously driven to a mudhole sticking in it. It is already dark, when 10th Company’s SS-Unterscharführer Zinnöcker and SS-Sturmmann Silfverberg, leader of the Kompanietrupp and orderly, found, while mopping up the area, an immobile T 34-tank. Half-moon is lightening otherwise dark nightly sky. They sneak in the pale moonlight to the tank. Turret hatch is open; the inside light is slightly visible. Zinnöcker and Silfverberg jump like cats onto the tank and throw hand grenades inside. Hollow blasts can be heard, when the ammo-storage of the tank explodes. A sharp flame shows that the tank is destroyed. The crew had probably deserted the tank beforehand.
In spite of the fact that the second occupation of Novo-Pavlowka had caused four killed and 14 wounded, Nordland ordered to give it up again without fighting, and let the battalion to have a nights rest in Datshansky. This time the order came in time at 18.30 o’clock, and by 2100 hours it was fulfilled. Safeguards were set so that the 11th Coy was responsible of the right side of the road, the 10th the right side, and the 9th set guard to the village itself. – Standartenführer von Scholz’s decision to give up the village for the second time was obviously based on saving troops. The men had fought a couple of days practically without sleep being out in the open most of the time and even laying in the snow for hours. “Oh, how good sleep and rest feels, because we are totally starved and dead-tired”, Elmgren mentions. Holding on to the terrain, especially while mobile warfare was still on – for example at 17.40 six enemy tanks and three truck loads of infantry had driven to the south westwards of the battalion – didn’t have great importance considering the overall situation.
5. SS-”Wiking” tightens the grip
Although pressure against Nordland was tough, the hardest battles of the day were fought in Grishino, which the Germania occupied. That was bad news for the Russians, because it cut their supply route from Kramatorskaya.
To re-open the railroad connection through Krasnoarmaiskoje, Wiking received also temporary ‘alarm units’ (Alarmeinheiten), which the Commander of the 61st PzJäger Battalion had managed to scrap up, and some troops from the 333rd ID arriving from north forced marching.
Some hours earlier STAVKA, the Russian Supreme Command had given orders to its “South-Western Front” to prevent withdrawal of German forces to Dnjepropetrowsk and Saporoskoje and push them to Crimea instead, where they would starve and give up fighting. Thus General-Colonel Vatutin rushes the Panzer Group Popov on to fulfill this order. STAVKA’s new orders also indicate an instruction to pass stiff resistance, and to occupy as much terrain as possible. So the Russian tanks roll past Novo-Pavlowka southwards to Preobrasenskoye, where the II./Nordland is securing.
But STAVKA and Vatutin make a mistake: instead of retreating the Germans regroup to execute von Manstein’s brilliant scheme in striking from behind and gain yet again a victory, where they crush the far advanced Russian units, which were already drunken from their fore coming victory. But also for the Germans the goal is still ahead. German units keep on struggling and wearing themselves to reach the stand by positions that von Manstein has ordered. This also leads to situations, where units already in contact with the enemy have to mange crises, which occurs, when everything is put on a single card...
One ace card of the 40th PzK and the Wiking division is the Finnish battalion, which is positioned spearheading towards Krasnoarmaiskoje. Also other elements of the Wiking are beginning to arrive, and are taking battle formations. SS-Pionier Bataillon 5, commanded by SS-Sturmbannführer Schäfer is transferred behind the Nordland’s defense lines at both sides of Datshansky to Sverow in a purpose to outflank Krasnoarmaiskoje from southeast.
The Aufklärungs Abteilung 5, advances even further in the surrounding effort via Novo Troiskoye to a place called Sergejewka, 15 km northeast of Krasnoarmaiskoje.
The Westland makes a sharp turn from Selidowka northwards arriving the next night via Lissowka to Rownyj situated four kilometers east of Krasnoarmaiskoje.
The Germania, which was the last fighting unit of the division to arrive Selidowka, marches at dawn of the 12th February via Novo Troiskoye – Sergejewka to Grishino to be a part of outflanking Krasno-Armaiskoje from east.
This way the 4th PzKorps of Popov was trapped, but not completely, because the surrounding lines of Wiking are extremely thin compared to the length of the front lines.
In this situation, only artillery can help. It will become a decisive pointer in what finally perceives the Panzer Group Popov to be too inadequate. SS-Oberführer Herbert-Otto Gille, an old artillery man, divides Wiking’s artillery to the decisive battle: both Germania and Westland each receive one artillery battalion, while the main elements of the Artillerie Regiment 5 and the Flak-Abteilung 5 take firing positions behind the Nordland. Regiment’s own heavy infantry guns are also united to these troops, and their fire is conducted by the artillery. The howitzers, guns and the cannon battery of the Wiking blazed Krasno-Armaiskoje one at a time and according to their positions from different directions. Gille proved to be a real master. With strength constantly varying, the German artillery fires salvoes to Krasnoarmaiskoje and little by little softens the Russians up.
On the 13th of February the Panzer Group Popov again tries to advance southwest according to their task. Westwards of Popov, General Kharitonov’s 6th Army moves ahead also southwards approaching the river Dnepr. With support of General Vatutin, Stalin rushes the smallish units of Popov constantly.
Among other targets, the Russian artillery blazes Datshansky and the positions of the Finnish battalion northwards of it. German artillery shoots salvoes, changes focuses often making an impression of much greater strength than in reality.
Although pressure against Nordland at 12th February had been tough, the hardest battles of the day were fought in Grishino, which the Germania had occupied. That cut their (Russian) supply route from Kramatorskaya. Also during the next day, the hardest battles of Wiking seem to have taken place in and around Grishino, where Germania destroyed at least 11 tanks. A kind of ‘stabilized war’ was continuing in the sector of Nordland, including also its Finnish battalion. Its total losses of the day, 3 killed and 4 wounded shows, however, that fighting continued.
According to Tieke, the fire strikes of the artillery, FlaK and heavy infantry guns of the Wiking had given a wrong impression of German strength, and led to false conclusions in the HQ of the Panzer Group Popov in Krasno-Armaiskoje.
a message to the HQ of the “South-Western Front”:
“Five SS-Divisions are attacking me. I can hardly keep up. Urgent help needed. Long live Stalin! Popov.”
In reality the only attacker is the Wiking division. Its regiments and battalions are extremely undermanned. Number of the fighting troops within the companies is down to approximately 40 men. The units are badly worn out after continuous fighting first in Caucasus and then here, in the Kalmuck steppes. Division’s replacements had been quite inadequate.
On 14th of February at 10 o’clock the III.(finn.)/Nordland received orders to attack Novo-Pavlowka for the third time in four days. One hour later it left its stand by positions at the east side of the road. The 10th Coy advanced on the right, 11th on the left; the 9th Coy stayed as a regimental reserve. A 75mm motorized anti-tank gun (Selbstfahrtlafette) supported the attacks from the road. According to Jokipii along with the companies were the 9th and 8th batteries of the Werferbatterie (mortars) – Tieke writes that only the artillery fire controllers followed the companies. At 13.00 hours the 75mm got a direct hit and was out of the game.
Three T34s also made life difficult for the advancing infantry. Accurate artillery salvos made the tanks to retreat, though. At 15.00 hours the village was once again occupied, and the attacking companies advanced even one kilometer past it taking positions on both sides of a railroad crossroads, including height 180. “Positions out in the steppe”, as Elmgren writes. This time they wouldn’t give up the village again, but put up at it. “Nice houses”, Alf Silfverberg from the 5th tells. Probable enemy tank attacking routes were mined, because they had caused lots of troubles before. Kp.Chef 3./Nordland, Ostuf. Brönner was heavily wounded.
During the next days, the division takes Rovny, Grischino and Gubin. Later they arrived in Alexandrowka and than Suschoj-Torek.
As the achievement of the day the German 40th PzKorps considered the mopping up the area of the Gubin railway station by Nordland, after heavy fighting, though, and invading Pokrovskiy west of it. Germania advanced from Grishino to northeastern outskirts of Krasno-Armaiskoje, but couldn’t penetrate into the city because of the heavy resistance. Grishino that was left only safeguarded was temporarily lost instead.
Fighting went on like this in a relatively limited area, but the main task, halting the Russian spearhead near Krasno-Armaiskoje, and hold them still, succeeded. During the day enforcements were observed arriving for the Russians, and by orders from the 40th PzKorps on 14.2. regrouped units so that enemy could be met in the Grishino area.
Attack to Krasno-Armaiskoje was halted for now. This was immediately noted also in the Finnish sector.
Thus, the III.(finn.)/Nordland, guarding south of Krasno-Armaiskoje patrols were sent out in order to make contact to the I./ in Northeast and to the II./ in Southwest, the latter being at the station of Gubin. Both patrols returned without meeting enemies. In the morning the battalion got back the 9th Coy that had been in regimental reserve.
The company took safeguarding positions in Novo-Aleksandrowka right behind Gubin forming the far most right flank of the battalion. Next two days were quiet; the enemy remained passive, also.
After the Russians managed, in spite of all the precautions to bring reinforcements – both infantry and artillery – from north via Molodetshky to Krasnoarmaiskoje, The 40th PzKorps insisted on the very same day, using straight language, stronger troops to clean up the whole area at rear of the PzKorps prior any other tasks:
“The Army Corps sees unbelievable the fact, that strong 7th PzDiv is tied up with denials to move, for a duty at Slavjansk, and so a good division is stuck defending a tactically unimportant pile of stones, while elsewhere SS-division Wiking is not strong enough to solve the situation near Krasno-Armaiskoje.”
These strong words, which showed that Army Corps’ command – Henrici and Wagener – were in favor of modern mobile warfare against enemy troops and didn’t appreciate territorial victories, had an effect. Late night the 1st PzArmee finally gave an order to the 7th PzDiv to give up Slavjansk and hurry southwest to Krasno-Armaiskoje.
The task of Wiking was changed accordingly:
“SS-Panzer Grenadier Division Wiking prevents enemy forces break-through via Grishino southwards until arrival of our own new forces. Grishino must be held in any circumstances, other strongholds only if it is necessary.”
Further north the 11th PzDiv – General Balck – cuts Popov’s supply lines with its attack through Oktjabskoye to Dopropolje – Krasno-Armaiskoje railroad and further on to the main road.
The Red Army attacks for several days at places like Barvenkow, Ziglerowka, Bowny, Bagdanowka, Soschoj-Torek and Kamytschewitscha. Wiking reaches the south bank of the Donez river, southwest of Isjum.
Rgt. Westland captures the northern edge of Bogdnowka. II./Westland was overrun by a counter-attack and diverted eastwards. During this battle SS-Stubaf. Erwin Reichel, the regimental commander was killed, he recieves the Ritterkreuz posthumous for his actions. He is replaced by Ostubaf. August Dieckmann.
Commander II./Westland, SS-Hstuf. Walter Schmidt receives for his actions the Ritterkreuz on 4th August 1943.
SS-Stubaf. Hans Köller replaces Rudolf Mühlenkamp as Kdr. I/SS-Pz.Abt.5. Mühlenkamp is ordered to return to Germany to begin forming new Panzer Regiment 5 for the Wiking Division.
Regiment Stabes SS-Pz.Rgt.5 and the new II./SS-Pz.Abt.5 begins forming at the ALTNEUHAUS training area in Germany. SS-Pz.Rgt. 5 renamed as the I. Abteilung SS-Pz.Rgt. 5.
Many experienced officers and NCOs transferred out of I.Abteilung, in order to form cadre for new regiment.
Pz.Gren.Rgt. Nordland was withdrawn off the division in order to establish the cadre of the new 11.SS-Panzergrenadier Freiwilligen Division NORDLAND.
I./SS-Pz.Rgt. 5 engaged in serveral actions near Isyum along the Mius and Donez defensive lines along with rest of division.
All of I./SS-Pz.Rgt.5 remaining tanks are grouped into 1./SS-Pz.Abt.5
Vehicles on hand: 7 Pz.III, 4 Pz.IV F1, and 2 Pz.IV F2. Entire division is part of German defensive effort along the Central Don Front, which lasts until 12 July 1943.
I./SS-Pz.Abt.5 is withdrawn to the Losowaja-Michaelowka area, for the first time after almost two years of action.
Here's some time for rest and re-fitting, both personnel and equipment. During the next 6 weeks, the I./SS-Pz.Abt.5 receives new vehicles, including Pz.IV Ausf.G for 3.Kompanie. 1. and 2. are still equipped with Pz.III. Personnel changes with the division; SS-Ostubaf. August Dieckmann took over the Pz.Gren.Rgt.10 Westland, SS-Brigf. Herbert Gille takes command over the division and SS-Gruf. Steiner was appointed and confirmed as Corps commander of III.(Germanisches)Pz.Korps.
Recuperation and rebuilding period ends for I./SS-Pz.Abt.5. Now put in reserve as “Quick Reaction Force” for Wiking Division, which is transferred to north-west of Slawiansk; Pz.Gren.Rgt.10 Westland as army reserve in Slawiansk.
46.Inf.Div. was thrown back from Isjum. I./Westland followed K.Gr. Dorr into Ssrednij.
Russian counter-attacks were unsuccessfully, but two weeks later they succeeded in creating a gap 10km deep and 12km wide.
I. Abteilung Panzer strength as follows:
Pz III: 35 authorized, 24 combat-ready
Pz IV: 14 authorized, 17 combat-ready (over strength)
Total: 49 authorized, 41 combat-ready
(II./SS-Pz.Rgt.5 as of yet has no tanks assigned, still in forming process at in Croatia, where it and Rgt.Stabes were transferred to, coming from ALTNEUHAUS to continue its training process)
I./SS-Pz.Rgt.5 receives its first StuG III to from 4.Kompanie (7 vehicles). Also referred to incorrectly as StuG.Abt.5 Wiking.
5.SS-Pz.Gren.Div. Wiking participates in defensive battles near ISYUM and in the vicinity of KHARKOV, while assigned to the XXXX. and LVII. Panzer-Korps
Pz.Gren.Rgt.10 Westland moved as part of the division into the area north-west of Kharkov.
Russian attacks trying to cut off the city, Rgt. Westland repositions its eastern flank to the edge of the woods south of Olschany. During those weeks the great defensive battle in front of the Dnjepr begins...
I.SS-Pz.Abt.5 strength as follows:
Pz III: 35 authorized, 8 combat-ready
Pz IV: 14 authorized, 8 combat-ready
StuG III: 7 authorized, 5 combat-ready
Total: 56 authorized, 21 combat-ready
(II./SS-Pz.Abt.5 as of yet has no tanks assigned, still in forming process)
Division engaged in defensive battles east of KIEV during retreat to the Dnieper River
Division engaged in defensive battles on the Dnieper River (Fuchsschwanz Insell/Foxtail Island). The Westland regiment crosses the wide river in the Cherkassy area where it had already fought in August 1941. Back then every man believed here would be our winter positions...
Rgt. Westland attacks for 4 day the Russian bridge-head over the Dnjepr, north of Kanew.
I./SS-Pz.Abt.5 Panzer strength as follows:
Pz III: 35 authorized, 8 combat-ready
Pz IV: 14 authorized, 5 combat-ready
StuG III: 7 authorized, 2 combat-ready
Total: 56 authorized, 15 combat-ready
Another attack at the bridgehead 'Fuchsschwanzinsel', Russian forces were thrown back to the east bank of the river.
Among the many deaths of this once proud regiment was the Rgt.Kdr. SS-Ostubaf. August , Chef 3./Westland SS-Ustuf. Greiner, Chef 5./Westland SS-Ustuf. Arndt.
Others like Chef 6./Westland SS-Ustuf. Fritz Hahl and SS-Hstuf. Horstmann - Chef 7./Westland - were seriously wounded.
II./SS-Pz.Rgt.5 reaches Karlovacz (a.k.a. Karlstadt) where it tasks was mainly to protect the city and area from partisans.
Division engaged in harsh and bitter defensive battles on the Dnieper near Cherkassy.
First two Panther Ausf.D delivered to II./SS-Pz.Abt.5 in Erlangen, Germany.
A recon-party leaves for France. Under command of Hstuf. Ewald Klappdor, Ostuf. Paschke and Ustuf. Steiner.
The first of the new 'Panthers' were send to Falaise. During December 1943, Rgt.Stabes SS-Pz.Rgt. 5 and II./SS-Pz.Abt.5 transferred from Croatia to ERLANGEN in Germany in order to prepare the handover of their tanks.
Wiking engaged in defensive battles west of Cherkassy along Dnieper river.
II./SS-Pz.Rgt.5 issued 33 Panthers in Erlangen, tanks shipped to MAILLY-LE-CAMP training area in France to join up with regimental HQ for combined training.
Additional 3 Panthers issued.
Transfer of II./SS-Pz.Rgt.5 to Germany begins.
What did happen in 1944?
I./SS-Pz.Abt.5, strength as follows:
Pz.III: 35 authorized, 13 combat-ready
Pz.IV: 14 authorized, 8 combat-ready
StuG III: 7 authorized, 4 combat-ready
Total: 56 authorized, 25 combat-ready
Also 33 Pz.Kfw.V 'Panther' tanks in Erlangen, Germany.
II./Pz.Rgt. 5 is led by Stubaf. Scheibe;
5.Kompanie Hstuf. Ewald Klapdor
6.Kompanie Ostuf. Dedelow
7.Kompanie Hstuf. Keppels
8.Kompanie Ostuf. Karl Nicolussi-Leck
Ia : Ostuf. Förster
IVa : Ostuf. Paschke
Rgt.Kdr. Ostubaf. Mühlenkamp
IIa : Hstuf. Zimmermann
IVa : Hstuf. Hagen
TFK : Hstuf. Sobota
Hstuf. Ewald Klapdor becomes Kdr. II./SS-Pz.Rgt.5
Two Russian armoured pincers sliced into the thinly held flanks of the army and met up on 28 January to close the noose around 56,000 men of the German XI and XLII Corps, forming what has since become
either the Korsun or Cherkassy Pocket. The only German armoured unit in the
pocket was the Wiking Division.
The corps commander, General Wilhelm Stemmermann, commanding general of the XI.Armeekorps receives orders to hold the pocket at all costs.
Division is renamed to 5.SS-Pz.Div. WIKING.
Headquarters SS-Pz.Rgt.5 and II./SS-Pz.Abt.5 conduct gunnery practice and company size maneuvers at Mailly-le-Camp training area.
The encircled XI.Armeekorps was given freedom of operations.
The front was moved to Schanderowka. In an area measuring just 7x8km, some 54,000 men were crowded together and waiting for relief forces from the south or west.
Field Marshall Erich von Manstein gives permission to a break out. Regiment Westland formed up for the break out. Spearheading the break out attempt was I./Germania under command of SS-Stubaf. Hans Dorr. After bitter and fierce fighting the troops had to cross the Gniloi-Tilkitsch, a small stream. No crossing points were available so they had to swim, with temperatures minus 10 degrees. Finally they reached the objective: LISSJANKA. The attempt had been succesfull although the division had lost all its armored vehicles (SPW), vehicles, artillery and tanks.
SS-Stubaf. Köller killed in action.
II./SS-Pz.Rgt.5 transferred to the Cholm area in a rush. Its Rgt.Kdr. and Abt.Kdr arrive at 24th March 16.00 hrs.
During its journey, the FlaK unit managed to shoot down an 4-engined bomber! Transfering of the remnants of division, including survivors of I./SS-Pz.Rgt. 5 to LUBLIN (Poland) where the division is to be brought back up to its former strength. 5.SS-Pz.Div. Wiking is mentioned in Wehrmacht bulletin one day after successful breakout from the Cherkassy pocket for exemplary heroism, daring spirit of attack and self-sacrificing comradeship.
Withdrawn to Dsengolowka, some 35 km southwest of Lissjanka.
Additional 42 Panthers issued to II./SS-Pz.Abt.5.
Rail transport to Lublin-Liegnitz started, on route they were diverted to Cholm, a mere 70km back to the east were they take quarters in local barracks.
Arrival in Lublin at 01.00 hrs. Next days were spent de-licing all the troops.
All leaves are cancelled, except for the wounded.
The II./SS-Pz.Rgt.5 is equipped with 79 tanks. Every platoon 5 tanks, a Kompanie has 17 tanks at that moment.
Hstuf. Ewald Klapdor is relieved by Ostubaf. Otto Paetsch as Kdr. II./SS-Pz.Abt.5.
II./SS-Pz.Rgt.5 was sent to follow armoured elements of Pz.Gren.Rgt.9 Germania into the direction of Kowel, Poland.
MG's and ammunition followed on open wagons. Kowel was by then encircled with 4,000 men trapped. Wiking's orders were to relief the city, so SS-Gruf. Herbert-Otto Gille, together with Hstuf. Westphal (the division´s O1), fly into the encircled city and takes over command.
The encirclement area was only about 2x3 km wide by now. First relief attempt was halted. Around the Kowel region the following units were deployed:
· Stab SS Pz.Div. WIKING
· StuG Batterie (7 StuG's)
South-west of Kowel:
· PzGrenRgt 9 GERMANIA
· PzGrenRgt 10 WESTLAND
· PzArtRgt 5
· Flak Abt 5
· PzAufkl Abt 5
The I./SS-Pz.Abt.5 togehter with III.(gep)/PzGrenRgt 9 Germania are transferred to the Cholm area where they arrive in the night of the 19th March. Here they receive new supplies, SPW's and winterclothing.
SS-Ostuf. Jessen recieves 17 StuG's which are standing at the Cholm replacement-station. The same day the StuG's are handed over to a unknown Wehrmacht StuG-Abteilung.
The Abteilung is under command of SS-Stubaf. Kümmel, who reports: "22 killed, 81 wounded men hospitalized, 65 light wounded with the troops, 63 missing, 49 ill and 2 killed by accidents".
The I./SS-Pz.Abt.5 is reorganized into 4 Kompanien again;
1.Kompanie Ostuf. Brand
2.Kompanie Ostuf. Hein
3.Kompanie Ostuf. Schumacher
4.Kompanie Ostuf. Jessen
The Ausbildungs- und Ersatzkompanie was under command of Ostuf. Mittelbacher, who became Abteilungs Adjutant during the following actions.
Reconnaissance party from the II./SS-Pz.Rgt. 5 meets in Cholm. Cholm will be the assembly area of the newly formed SS-Pz.Rgt. 5.
At dawn the attack started, forces manage to reach Maciejow where they cut off the railway to Kowel.
At 14.00 hrs, Ostuf. Brand receives 22 Pz.Kfw. IV's.
Rgt.Stabes SS-Pz.Rgt. 5 and II./SS-Pz.Rgt.5 transfer to Cholm in Poland to complete its training program and link up with the remains of the division, which had been almost destroyed in the Cherkassy pocket and was to be “refreshed” and rebuilt in Colm.
22 StuG IV are shipped from an ordnance depot in Germany to the 5.SS-Pz.Div. Originally they had been intended for the 4.SS-Pol.Pz.Gren.Div. in Greece, but on short notice they were allocated to the "Wiking" division.
remained the only shipment of assault guns the division received until the end of
the war. About 4 months later, on 10.7.1944, the Gen.Insp.d.Pz.Tr. sent 20 StuG
III G's, which were initially intended for "Wiking", but on short
notice these assault guns were allocated to another unit.
First time regiment was assembled, with the rebuilded I./SS-PzRgt.5 and the new II./SS-Pz.Rgt.5 meet in Cholm, Poland.
II./SS-PzRgt 5 is transferred by train, stopping at Vienna, Preßburg to end in Cholm.
Kompanie Chefs are:
5.Kompanie Ostuf. Jessen
6.Kompanie Hstuf. Reicher
7.Kompanie Ostuf. Schneider
8.Kompanie Ostuf. Nicolussi-Leck
By arrival, Mühlenkamp gives orders to Ustuf. Manfred Renz, Zugführer Pz.Aufkl.Zug of II./SS-PzRgt 5.
The situation demands immediate reconnaissance.
SS-Pz.Rgt.5 receives 42 additional Pz V Panther; total number of Panther in regiment HQ and II. Abt. now 78!
The spearhead of the attack reaches Kowel, but Russian counter-attacks break through and the gap is closed again. It's snowing and the nearby terrain is made of swamp, so not suitable for the heavy Panthers tanks.
II./SS-Pz.Abt.5 arrives west of Kowel and begin their contribution to the relief operations.
The one and only Panther company initially available for the relief attempt was the 8./SS-Pz.Rgt.5 under SS-Ostuf. Nicolussi-Leck. It had arrived at Maciejow railroad station at 5.30 hrs on 27.3.1944.
Under command of Oberst Naber (Kdr Inf.Rgt 434), the attack along the railway Cholm-Kowel was planned. The III.(gep)/Germania supported by 10 StuG's of StuGBrigade 190 under command of Stubaf. Franz Hack joins the Kampfgruppe.
Around 12 o'clock, 8.Kompanie with 16 Panthers attacked the village of Koszary, the first objective was the railway junction at Czerkassy. The company had 17 Panthers, but one of them had developed serious mechanical problems late on the 28th and was not available.
Russian defensive lines are cracked at maximum speed, until the attack has to be stopped when 5 Panthers got stuck in the swamp besides the railway. The command of these tanks was given to Uschaf. Kasper. The others advanced. Three other Panthers were disabled, two of them with damaged tracks the last with engine problems. Ustuf. Steiner was killed.
At 16.30 hrs, Nicolussi-Leck reported by radio that his company had reached the area 600 m west of Czerkasy. 8 of his tanks were still combat ready, 3 had been knocked out by enemy fire, 5 got stuck in the mud.
With the remaining 9 Panthers Nicolussi-Leck went to attack again, when orders came to halt the advance. He disobeyed this order and went on*. 2 km east of Cherkassy the Panther of Oschaf. Faas was destroyed by a mine field. Engineers had to clear it first, so at 06.00 hrs he could continue his attack.
At 07.30 hrs Nicolussi-Leck and his tanks broke the encirclement and after destroying several Russian positions.
For this action Ostuf. Nicolussi-Leck was awarded the Ritterkreuz.
*As reason for his action he later stated:
1. While receiving the order, his tanks were engaged with Russian forces;
2. In his opinion, he had a better 'situational-awareness' than his commanding officers;
3. Heavy snow fall covered his left flank, so its advance was a calculated risk;
4. He was not placed under operational command of Hauptmann Bolm, who gave this order by radio.
5. He had 2 options: failing, would mean the encircled troops had no chances anymore to breakout and he would be court-martialed or if he would succeed it probably would bring him a citation or even the Knights Cross...
stranded Panthers, guarded by 10 men and 16 Jägers were relieved by
III.(gep)/Germania and its SPW's.
It was not until 11.00 hrs, before 7./SS-Pz.Rgt.5 unloaded at Maciejow rail station. Arrival of first elements of the Stabs Kp., 5./ and 6./ took until 2.4.1944.
Cherkassy was finally given up.
I./SS-Pz.Abt.5 tank strength as follows:
Pz III: 7 authorized, 0 assigned.
Pz IV: 73 authorized, 21 combat-ready (of 22 on hand)
StuG IV: 31 authorized, 19 combat-ready (of 21 on hand)
Total: 111 authorized, 40 combat-ready
II./SS-Pz.Abt.5 tank strength as follows:
Pz V: 75 authorized, 58 combat-ready
Regimental Total: 186 authorized, 98 combat-ready
With the support of the Obersturmführer Otto Schneider's 7.Kompanie the attack started and was unsuccesfull again.
By now however the units of LVI.Panzerkorps had been ordered to assist in the relief attempts and the following day another attack, this time supported by 6.Kompanie with units of the army's 5.Panzer-Division was launched towards a Soviet strongpoint at Kruhel, about 6 kilometres north-west of Kovel. Amid conflicting reports from the units involved (4) the attack was called off at about 5.30pm.
Wehrmacht Bulletin of the day mentions fighting in KOVEL area and highlights achievement of Nicolussi-Leck during the relief operation.
The relief attack of Kowel started at 00.15 hrs. At 03.30 hrs, the first objectives were taken at Nowo-Koszary and the north-west of Czerkassy. Although 50 anti-tankguns were destroyed, Stubaf. Hans Dorr had to report that the attack has halted. After 4 hours and 45 minutes(!) they had gained only 500 meters.
The 5. and 7./Germania supported the ongoing attack, while the 6./Germania was held back as a reserve near Kruhel. Finally the siege was broken and 5., 6. and 7./Germania together with the reunited 8./Kompanie held the corridor so over 2,000 wounded men could be taken out of Kowel. Continuing Russian attacks from the north-east kept a high pressure on the thin lines, so the complete II./SS-PzRgt 5 was send to this sector. During one of the German attacks, heights 189.5 and 188 were occypied. Almost 15 Russian tanks were destroyed by the superior Panthers.
The Pz.Rgt. of Wiking were relieved by Wehrmacht units and transferred by to Lublin.
The corridor was secured by I./Germania together with 6./SS-Pz.Rgt.5.
Division is mentioned again in Wehrmacht Bulletin of the Day for its conduct during Kovel fighting and mentions bravery and leadership of Gille, the division commander.
Division continues reestablishment in Kovel area. SS-Pz.Rgt.5 (minus I./Panzer Abteilung) serves as reserve for LVI.Pz.Korps.
Bulk of division becomes army reserve in LUBLIN area, then transfers to SS Training Area at HEIDELAGER (DEBICA), then to assembly area of Sokal, east of Cholm.
I./SS-Pz.Abt.5 arrives in DEBINCA on 4th June 1944.8 Panthers issued to II./SS-Pz.Abt.5 in Erlangen on 17th April. These were the last(!) Panthers Wiking received till the end of the war.
On Adolf Hitler's birthday, Gruf. Herbert-Otto Gille received as 12th soldier and first one of the Waffen-SS the Brillianten zum Ritterkreuz mit Eichenlaub und Schwerten.
Ostuf. Nicolussi-Leck and Schneider were given the Ritterkreuz together with Hauptmann Bolm, the Kp.Chef of the Wehrmacht's Jäger Kompanie.
Total write-offs in tanks during the battle of Kowel and its aftermath mounted to 8 Panthers. Including a shipment of 8 replacement Panthers on the 17th April, SS-Pz.Rgt.5 was back at a total strength of of 79 Panthers, 27 Pz. IV and 22 StuG IV.
A new operation, codenamed 'Ilse' was planned.
The Werkstatt Kompanie was able to clear 50 Panthers, including the RO2, Mühlenkamp's own Befehlspanzer.
The 8th, 6th and 5th Kompanie assembled near the windmill, south-west of Kowel. Together with units of the Pionier Btl. and Grenadieren of the Wehrmacht. The attack reached its objectives and on 28th April the tanks were ordered back to Kowel.
Finally rest and refitting took place, the regiment was transferred to the Maciejow area and placed under command of LVI.Panzerkorps.
Division refitting at Heidelager Training Ground.
Units of the Wiking take part in alleged anti-partisan action "Maigewitter" against ca. 1,400 Soviet partisans in the Parczew-Krasnik area.
Refitting on the Truppenübungsplatz 'Heidelager' Debica, Poland. Division strength: 17,368
I./SS-Pz.Abt.5 tank strength as follows:
Pz III: 2 authorized, 0 assigned.
Pz IV: 73 authorized, 27 combat-ready
StuG IV: 7 authorized, 20 combat-ready (issued in lieu of Pz. IV)
Total: 82 authorized, 47 combat-ready
II./SS-Pz.Abt.5 tank strength as follows:
Pz V: 75 authorized, 77 combat-ready
Regimental Total: 157 authorized, 124 combat-ready.
Russian attack starts and soon crossing the Bug river.
Quick reconnaissance of a party stated that the terrain was suitable for tanks in this region. Immediate actions began.
On 30 June 1944, the formation absorbed the VII SS Panzer Corps and was reformed as a headquarters for the 3.SS-Panzer-Division Totenkopf and 5.SS-Panzer-Division Wiking.
The Corps was placed under the control of former Wiking commander SS-Obergruppenführer Herbert Otto Gille.
The Panzerkorps was formed in August, 1943 in Poitiers, France. The formation was originally to be a skeleton formation to supervise those SS divisions that were being reformed as SS Panzer divisions.
1,000 men from the SS-Ausbildungs und Ersatz Abteilung 14 placed under command of the division.
Transfer of Narwa battalion to 20th SS-Division completed. Division still refitting at Heidelager. Meanwhile, the Soviets march on...
The Russian attacks were directed into the Maciejow area. Mühlenkamp had his regimental staff, II./SS-PzAbt 5 and III./Germania at his disposal. Together with 3 Inf.Divisions and a Panzerdivision of the Wehrmacht he had to stop the attack. Even before orders could be issued, a Russian attack with 17 tanks took place which was hastily stopped.
Russian forces break through German defensive lines with the direction of Krasnoduby. 7./SS-Pz.Abt.5 and II./Germania were directed into the attack near the Smydin bridgehead.
The three other Panther Kompanien waited in positions around the village of Maciejow. A platoon was sent out while Mühlenkamp's HQ was positioned in Biliczy.
Although heavy attacks occurred, the Panthers stayed in their hidden positions. A bate was needed, a platoon had to trick the Russian forces and take them in front of the awaiting Panthers. Ostuf. Ulf-Ola Olin (Zugführer 7.Kompanie from Finland) volunteered for this dangerous task. Shortly he got into contact with 12 Russian tanks. He drove into the open terrain and doing so, lured the Russian unit into the trap. More than 100 (!) tanks followed Olin in front of the waiting Panthers. All 50 (!) Panthers opened fire simultaneously and at the end of that day, 103 Russian tanks were counted destroyed.
German losses where unusual light, although some Panthers were hit, there was no one completely destroyed. Others were quickly repaired by the Werkstatt Kompanie under command of Ostuf. Erich Weise. A total of 295 Russian tanks were destroyed by Wiking together with other Wehrmacht units. For destroying 26 T-34 tanks, SS-Untersturmführer Alfred Großrock received the Ritterkreuz and all members of his Panther crew were awarded the E.K.1.
Ostubaf. Mühlenkamp is promoted to Standartenführer at that same day. After the battle the SS-PzRgt 5 is transfered to Bialystock.
About 66% of the division arrives in the Hanynowka area.
I./ and II./SS-PzRgt 5 with III./Germania moved to the battle area. Near Najnowka the Kampfgruppe is engaging large russian forces. For the first time the complete SS-PzRgt 5 is deployed at complete.
O.o.B. I./SS-PzRgt 5:
3.Komp - Ostuf. Kurt Schumacher with 17 PzKfw IV's,
4.Komp - Hstuf. Zimmermann with 15 StuG's
I./SS-PzRgt 5 attacks near Kaminieclitwski Russian forces (3 InfDivs, 1 Cavalry Corps and 1 Motorized Corps). During these battles, 4 Panzers are disabled, among them the Befehlspanzer of Ostuf. Schumacher, Ustuf. Rüger, Oschaf. Ruf and Uschaf. Elend. Panther 324 (Ostuf. Hohenester) was salvaged.
At 11.00 hrs, II./SS-PzRgt 5 and III./Germania attack and reaches Peliczce. Simultaneously, Kampfgruppe 'Hänle' (7.Inf.Div) advances to Kamenec.
Combined attack by the 4./SS-PzRgt 5 with support of I./Germania, Stabs Kompanie SS-PzRgt 5 and the Pz.Pi.Kompanie.
The spearhead of the russian IV.Garde Kavallerie Korps was cut off.
4.StuGKomp (Hstuf. Zimmermann) with I./Westland attacks height 156, destroying 30 artillery guns around Szyszowo. Although heavy counter-attacks followed, it stayed in German hands.
Finally the SS-Pz.Art.Rgt. 5 enters Bialystock.
Wiking is the only large capable unit standing between the Russians and the Reich...
292.InfDiv is placed under command of Wiking.
At last the complete division is assembled in the area of operations.
Soviets capture Brest-Litovsk.
Soviets troops are twelve miles from Warsaw
Division participates in counterattacks against Soviet forces in vicinity of STANISLAV and RADZYMIN.Division participates in counterattacks against Soviet forces in vicinity of STANISLAV and RADZYMIN.I./SS-Pz.Abt.5 tank strength as follows:
Pz III: 2 authorized, 0 assigned.
Pz IV: 73 authorized, 12 combat-ready
StuG IV: 0 authorized, 11 combat-ready
Total: 75 authorized, 23 combat-ready
II./SS-Pz.Abt.5 tank strength as follows::
Pz V: 75 authorized, 42 combat-ready
Regimental Total: 150 authorized, 65 combat-ready
Division mentioned in Wehrmacht Bulletin of the Day for its superb conduct during successful counterattack north of WARSAW.
Fritz Darges assumes command of SS-Pz.Rgt. 5 from Johannes Mühlenkamp.
Division participates in 1st defensive battle for WARSAW east of RADZYMIN.
Division mentioned in Wehrmacht Bulletin of the Day for its successful defensive fighting on the VISTULA and northeast of WARSAW. During 18.–22. Aug, IV.SS-Pz. Korps destroyed 98 Soviet tanks.
3./SS-Pz.Abt.5 (with 6 Pz IV and 2 StuG IV) virtually wiped out in heavy fighting when forced to blow up its last remaining vehicles on the eastern bank of the Bug River while fighting in the Slenzany Bridgehead. I. /SS-Pz.Abt.5 loses 8 Pz IV and 4 StuG IV in a single day of fighting. Its commander, SS-Hstuf. Saumenicht, is mortally wounded. Command of I./SS-Pz.Abt.5 goes to SS-Ostuf. Kurt Schumacher.
Division participates in 2nd defensive battle for WARSAW near ZERGCE.
In late August 1944, the division was ordered back to Modlin on the Vistula River near Warsaw where it was to join the newly formed Army Group Vistula. Fighting alongside the Luftwaffe's Fallschirm-Panzer Division 1 Hermann Göring, the division annihilated the Red Army's 3rd Tank Corps.
The advent of the Warsaw Uprising brought the Soviet offensive to a halt, and relative peace fell on the frontline as in Warsaw Höherer SS- und Polizeiführer Erich von dem Bach Zelewski destroyed Warsaw with its civilians and partisans. The division remained in the Modlin area for the rest of the year, grouped with the Totenkopf as IV.SS-Panzerkorps. Gille was promoted to command of the new SS-Panzerkorps, and after a brief period with SS-Oberführer Dr. Eduard Deisenhofer in command, SS-Standartenführer Rudolf Mühlenkamp, commander of the Wiking's panzer regiment, took command. Heavy defensive battles around Modlin followed for the rest of the year and in October, Mühlenkamp was replaced by SS-Oberführer Karl Ullrich to become 'Inspekteur der Panzertruppen der Waffen-SS'.
Karl Ullrich would lead the division for the rest of the war, until its surrender in 1945.
I./SS-Pz.Abt.5 (1. – 4. Kompanie) tank strength as follows:
Pz III: 2 authorized, 0 assigned.
Pz IV: 73 authorized, 4 combat-ready
StuG IV: 0 authorized, 4 combat-ready
Total: 75 authorized, 8 combat-ready
II./SS-Pz.Abt.5 (5. – 8. Kompanie) tank strength as follows:
Pz V: 75 authorized, 19 combat-ready
Regimental Total: 150 authorized, 27 combat-ready
Division mentioned in Wehrmacht Bulletin of the Day for its conduct during successful defensive fighting northeast of WARSAW, where units of IV.SS-Pz. Korps (Totenkopf and Wiking) distinguished themselves “through unshakeable steadfastness and courageous counterblows.”
3./SS-Pz.Abt.5, which lost all of its tanks at the end of August, is reestablished.
SS-Pz.Rgt. 5 celebrates the destruction of its 500th Soviet tank since the regiment’s baptism of fire on 29 March 1944.
The SS-Pi.Kompanie of SS-Pz.Rgt.5 with one platoon is being assigned to both I./SS-Pz.Abt.5 and II./SS-Pz.Abt.5.The SS-Pi.Kompanie of SS-Pz.Rgt.5 with one platoon is being assigned to both I./SS-Pz.Abt.5 and II./SS-Pz.Abt.5.
1. and 2.Kompanie (Pz IV) training and re-equipping period ends and are transported to rejoin rest of I./SS-Pz.Abt.5, which occurs on 28 Sep. 2./SS-Pz.Abt.5 now has 17 Pz IV ready for action.
2./SS-Pz.Abt.5 loses 5 brand-new Pz IV in heavy fighting in town of NIEPORET when it encounters a concealed Soviet PaK-front.2./SS-Pz.Abt.5 loses 5 brand-new Pz IV in heavy fighting in town of NIEPORET when it encounters a concealed Soviet PaK-front.
Division participates in 3rd defensive battle for WARSAW near NIEPORENT and SEROCKK.
Although visiting his former regiment as Inspecktor Junkerschüle Tolz, Ostuf. Gerhard Lotze took command of the 5th coy - which he led 2 years earlier - during a Russian surprise attack. During the night and following morning he led several offensive actions, in which he personaly destroyed 2 tanks, and was killed in action. For these actions of bravery he recieved the Ritterkreuz and was promoted to Hauptsturmführer.
Division engaged in heavy defensive fighting east of MODLIN, Poland.
I./SS-Pz.Abt.5 tank strength as follows:
Pz III: 2 authorized, 0 assigned..
Pz IV: 73 authorized, 7 combat-readyPz IV: 73 authorized, 7 combat-ready
StuG IV: 0 authorized, 3 combat-ready
Total: 75 authorized, 10 combat-ready
II./SS-Pz.Abt.5 tank strength as follows:
Pz V: 75 authorized, 15 combat-ready
Regimental Total: 150 authorized, 25 combat-ready
Due to shortage of tanks due to heavy (and irreplaceable losses), the regiment is divided into a combat-ready element consisting of the 2., 4., 5., and 6. Kompanien and a training (Lehr) element consisting of the 1., 3., 7., and 8. Kompanien.
training element is placed under the command of SS-Ostuf. Nicolussi-Leck and is
sent to LODZ.Kompanien. The training element is placed under the command of
SS-Ostuf. Nicolussi-Leck and is sent to LODZ.
Both first battalions of Norge and Danmark regiments (from 11.SS-PzGren.Div 'Nordland') transferred to 5th SS-Division..
To get new tanks and to train new crews. Eventually, the Lehr element is eventually transferred in February 1945 to SENNELAGER in Germany when new tanks fail to materialize. The fighting element remains in action and supports a now – static front outside of WARSAW.
Division receives orders to entrain for movement to Hungary to participate in relief of BUDAPEST with rest of IV.SS-Pz.Korps, including 3.SS-Pz.Div. Totenkopf.Division receives orders to entrain for movement to Hungary to participate in relief of BUDAPEST with rest of IV.SS-Pz.Korps, including 3.SS-Pz.Div. Totenkopf.
Kampfgruppe (KG) Dorr, consisting out SS-Pz.Gren.Rgt. 9 Germania, A.A. 5 and SS-Pz.Gren.Btl..23 Norge depart from the Modlin area and headed for Budapest. Totenkopf for instance was well known with the eastern front, between 22th June 1941 and 31st December 1944 it lost a total of 53,794 men! Wiking suffered 11,098 losses.23 Norge depart from the Modlin area and headed for Budapest. Totenkopf for instance was well known with the eastern front, between 22th June 1941 and 31st December 1944 it lost a total of 53,794 men! Wiking suffered 11,098 losses.
In late December 1944, the Axis forces, including IX.SS-Gebirgskorps, defending Budapest were encircled and the IV.SS-Panzerkorps was ordered south to join General Hermann Balck's 6.Armee (Army Group Balck), which was mustering for a relief effort. The efforts were to be codenamed Operation Konrad.
What did happen in 1945?
As a part of Operation Konrad I, the 5.SS-Pz.Div. Wiking was committed to action on evening of 1 January 1945, fighting alongside the Totenkopf. Near Táta, the advance columns of Wiking slammed into the Soviet 4th Guards Tank Army. In three days Wiking and Totenkopf's panzer spearheads had driven 45 kilometers over rugged terrain, over half the distance from the jump-off point to Budapest.
Division spearheads first relief attack of BUDAPEST, involved in heavy fighting in BICSKE and PILIS mountains. SS-Ostubaf. Fritz Darges' Pz.Rgt. 5 broke through the lines, immediately followed by Dorr's Germania regiment. The industrial areas of Felsögalla and Alsógalla Wiking had back-up on the southern flank by the 'Gruppe Pape'. Totenkopf and the 96. I.D. did the same in their area, although both SS-Pz.Divisions weren't even on full strength while parts were still dribbling in by train.
I./SS-Pz.Abt.5 tank strength as follows:
Pz III: 4 authorized, 0 assigned.
Pz IV: 73 authorized, 10 combat-ready
StuG IV: 0 authorized, 4 combat-ready
Total: 77 authorized, 14 combat-ready
II./SS-Pz.Abt.5 tank strength as follows:
Pz V: 75 authorized, 22 combat-ready
Regimental Total: 152 authorized, 36 combat-ready...
Slowly the attack halted and on 5th January it stopped at the road junctions of Zsámbek and Bickse. Secondary attack by the 711. I.D. rushed in from The Netherlands with replacements from the Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe still in their blue uniforms were successful enough for a simultaneous attack by Pz.Rgt. 5 and Fritz Vogt's Norge batallion which amounted a second success. The 711. I.D. was comanded by Jesef Reichert and it was more or less by coincidence that it managed to conquer the city of Esztergom.
By destroying a Russian convoy of twelve trucks, six pieces of artillery and a number horse-drawn vehicles Darges has finally earned recognition and thus his Ritterkreuz. In those days, the value of the Ritterkreuz had been greatly inflated.
Within IV.SS-Pz.Corps losses had risen to 525 killed with another 2,605 wounded and 400 men missing.
The second relief attempt, to be known as Operation Konrad II, got underway. The 711. I.D. continued marching on alone to Pillissentlélek. There they had to wait for the Westland regiment.
In atrocious conditions, the Wiking advanced southwards towards Budapest. At 20.10 hours on the 11th Hitler ordered to stop the attack and start the attack to the south (i.e. 'Paula' which was renamed Konrad III). Several hours later, at 23.40, Gille reported that Pillisszentkereszt had been seized by Pz.Gren.Rgt.10 Westland, barely 20 kilometers from Buda. That morning the Panzergrenadiers spotted the church spires and turrets of the distinctive Budapest skyline poking through the morning fog. Radio contact was made with the soldiers of 'Florian Geyer' and 'Maria Theresia'.
At 00.35 hours, Gille contacted the Reichsführer-SS but, as usual the had gone to bed early. SS-Ostubaf. Werner Grothmann, only 29 years old did not dare to disturb Himmler.
This was how Konrad II ended.
Konrad III planned for the cleansing of the entire western bank of the Danube and thus holding on the Budapest. The main objective was to get the IV.SS-Pz.Corps to advance towards Budapest from the north of lake Balaton. After this mission had been successfully completed - i.e. after Hungary had been cleansed from the region to the north of lake Balaton to the Danube - operation 'Süd' would then be initiated, in effect a variation on 'Frühlingserwachen'.
In the just-captured village of Sarosd, a lone Soviet anti-tank gun and its crew had been overlooked by the assaulting troops and had kept their heads down. Sensing an opportunity, the gun commander saw SS officers gathering in the barn near the square and ordered his gunner to hit it… The Germania regiment losses its Kommandeur, SS-Ostubaf Hans Dorr, when the Russian grenade hits its position.
already wounded fifteen (15) times before, was wounded again, but this time the
wounds proved to be fatal. He died in an hospital in April 1945. During that
incident 7 others were killed and all other present were wounded.
A third attempt, Operation Konrad III, launched in cooperation with the veteran III.Panzerkorps took place 100 kilometers to the south. This attack resulted in a 15 mile gap being torn in the Soviet lines and the destruction of the 135th Rifle Corps. Only the quick redeployment of more troops by the Russians prevented a German breakthrough. The stuffing was knocked out of the Germania by the losses and the offensive ground to a shuddering halt as the Soviets threw ever-more reinforcements into a counter-attack.
Within days, not only had the Germans been stopped but the Wiking itself had been surrounded.
The former Norge and Danmark Battalions were heavily involved in the fighting, particularly around the town of Pettend.
Fritz Vogt, now a battalion commander, personally destroyed six Soviet tanks with hand-held panzerfäuste during the fighting that claimed the lives of several Scandinavian volunteers, including the ex-DNL veteran Fritjof Røssnaes (his elder brother Knut was also in the division) and the surgeon Dr Tor Storm, allegedly burned alive with his wounded charges after trying to surrender.
The two battalions did manage to break out from Pettend and rejoin the rest of the division, but the price was astronomically high. The Danmark was effectively annihilated and was never resurrected, while the Norge could muster just 36 officers and men by mid-February.
The Westland’s commander, SS-Obersturmbannführer Franz Hack spoke of the ferocity of the combat:
“The Soviets attacked us frontally during the day, supported by artillery and Stalin’s Organs [German nickname for the multi-barrelled Katyusha rocket launchers]. The battle raged in and around the little town of Seregelyes, and somehow we captured a complete Stalin Organ with tractor and ammunition. Our artillerymen and infantry gunners, under SS-Hauptsturmführer Peter Wollseifer, turned the multiple launcher around and soon the Soviets were getting a taste of their own medicine”.
Division moves into VESZPREM area and takes part in second relief attack of BUDAPEST and advances towards the Danube.
Waffen-SS units (including Wiking) mentioned in Wehrmacht Bulletin of the Day for breaking through the strongly-built Soviet positions east of the Platensee and advancing as far as the Danube.
Between the 18th and 21st January the Red Army had lost 193 tanks, 229 pieces of artillery, 257 PaK and 1,175 POW's!
A massive counter-attack at the village of Pettaend finally put paid to any illusions that mounting attack on Budapest might
fruitful. An estimated 200 tanks of the Russian 23rd Tank Corps rolled towards
the thin German lines. The attack was fended of by some combined units, four
Königstigers (sPz.Abt.509) a couple of StuG's (Sturmartillerie Brigade 303),
units of the 1.Pz.Div. and the 'Norge' battalion.
The IV.SS-Pz.Corps suffered almost 300 men a day. Wiking was left with 14 tanks, Totenkopf with nine! The losses (dead, wounded and missing) had risen 4,350 for Totenkopf and 3,079 for Wiking. Both had lost 51 officers in the Konrad battlefields and 157 officers were wounded. By the end of January 1945, the entire Army Group South had lost a total of 35,000 men.
Through great secrecy, the majority of the elite Waffen-SS divisions were assembled in Hungary. IV.SS-Pz.Corps (Totenkopf and Wiking), remnants of IX.SS-Gebirgs Corps (Florian Geyer and Maria Theresia), I.SS-Pz.Corps (Leibstandarte AH and Hitlerjugend) under SS-Gruf. Herman Priess and II.SS-Pz.Corps (Das Reich and Hohenstaufen) under SS-Ogruf. Wilhelm Bittrich. In addition, there was also, where the 2.Pz.Army was stationed, the 13.Waffen Gebirgsdivision der SS 'Handschar' and the 16.SS-Pz.Gren.Division 'Reichsführer SS'.
I./SS-Pz.Abt.5 tank strength as follows:
Pz III: 4 authorized, 0 assigned.
Pz IV: 73 authorized, 3 combat-ready
StuG IV: 0 authorized, 0 combat-ready
Total: 77 authorized, 3 combat-ready
II./SS-Pz.Abt.5 tank strength as follows:
Pz V: 75 authorized, 6 combat-ready
Regimental Total: 152 authorized, 9 combat-ready
Just four days after the fall of Budapest, operation 'Südwind' starts, I.SS-Pz.Corps attacking the Gran bridgehead.
Army Group South conquers the cities Bart and Beny which signified the end of the Russian bridgehead. Although German reports claimed that Russian losses were as much as 20,000 men, German losses were also substantial. Leibstandarte statistics mention both divisions in the I.SS-Pz.Corps lost around 1,200 soldiers. The Leibstandarte had gone into batlle with thirty Pz.IV, thirty-five Pz.V Panther and twelve Jagdpanthers in the I./SS-Pz.Rgt.1. After the battle the numbers had been substantially reduced and the division was left with twelve Pz.IV, eleven Pz.V and four Jagdpanthers.
Hitlerjugend had also got a beating, deployed on the right-hand side during the fight. It lost one of its leading officers, SS-Ostubaf. Bernhard Krause who was commandant of the SS-Pz.Gren.Rgt.26 and was killed at Muszla. He was succeeded by SS-Stubaf. Kostenbader.
Both divisions were reliefed as soon as possible, in order to prepare for the 'Frühlingserwachen' offensive. On 25 February, the first units were removed...
After the failure of Operation Konrad III, the corps was moved west to the area around Lake Balaton, where it was responsible for defending the left flank of Operation Frühlingserwachen (Spring Awakening), near Stuhlweissenberg.
I./SS-Pz.Abt.5 tank strength as follows:
- Pz III: 4 authorized, 0 assigned.
- Pz IV: 73 authorized, 3 combat-ready
- StuG IV: 0 authorized, 2 combat-ready
Total: 77 authorized, 5 combat-ready
II/SS-Pz.Abt.5 tank strength as follows:
- Pz V: 75 authorized, 9 combat-ready
Regimental Total: 152 authorized, 19 combat-ready
IV.SS-Pz.Korps consists out of remnants of:
- 3.SS-Panzer-Division Totenkopf
- 5.SS-Panzer-Division Wiking
- Werfer-Abteilung 104 / 504
- Schwere SS-Artillerie-Abteilung 504
- SS-Korps-Nachrichten-Abteilung 104
- SS-Sanitäts-Abteilung 104
- Feld-Ausbildungs-Battalion IV.SS-Panzer-Korps
- Kraftfahrzeug-Kompanie 504
- Bekleidung-Instandsetzungs-Zug 504
- SS-Feldpostamt 104
'Frühlingserwachen' started at 4 a.m. and about everything that could go wrong, went wrong...
After 10 days of fighting Army Group South had lost 14,818 soldiers, 2,451 of whom were killed. Forty-eight tanks had been destroyed and about 1,000 men were missing. According to German sources, the Russian lost 5,100 soldiers killed, 1,300 were taken prisoner, 210 tanks and 407 pieces of artillery had been lost.
Final Battle for the Reichsschutzstellung.
On the 18th March, the northern arc of the Red Army unfurled itsself along the Veszprém - Pápa - Tét - Menföcsanak line. 96. and 711. I.D. came under threat and were driven closer to the Danube. Meanwhile Totenkopf held its own in the Mór region, while Wiking remained in Székesfehérvár. Finally, when other German units were moving back to the Reichsschutzstellung and/or Vienna, the order for Wiking came to break-out with all its equipment and head towards Urhida.
Division conducts fighting retreat to the Reichschutzstellung near HEILIGENKREUZ. On the 22th March it was possible to withdrawl Gille's IV.SS-Pz.Corps and Karl Ullrich's Wiking division back as far as Papkeszi where Silvester Stadler, commandant of 9.SS-Pz.Div. Hohenstaufen and Hermann Breith, commandant of the III.Pz.Corps congratulated them on their escape.
On the 23rd March, Varpalota fell in Russian hands, followed by Veszprém on the 24th March.
For Wiking Papkeszi was just a mid point in this massive exodus. Barely a week later at 30th March at 14.30, Wiking reached the Reichsschutzstellung or Raabstellung which formed the boundary between the German Reich (now Austria) with Hungary.
Division takes part in defensive battles in the Reichschutzstellung and south of Fürstenfeld. At Jennersdorf on Wiking's right flank, the Russian broke through the front lines.
Bulk of SS-Pz.Rgt.5 now fighting as infantry and continues to fight on foot; the Lehr element (app. 150 men) in Germany under Nicolussi-Leck, designated as leader of
, involved in combat with American forces between VERSMOLD and HANNOVER using 7 Jagdpanthers and SPW's which they picked up in a depot.
I./SS-Pz.Abt.5 tank strength as follows:
Pz III: 4 authorized, 0 assigned.
Pz IV: 73 authorized, 0 combat-ready
StuG IV: 0 authorized, 0 combat-ready
Total: 77 authorized, 0 combat-ready
II./SS-Pz.Abt.5 tank strength as follows:
Pz V: 75 authorized, 2 combat-ready
Regimental Total: 152 authorized, 2 combat-ready and 9 more being repaired (without those of K.Gr. Nicolussi-Leck)
Wiking losses one of its controversial officers, Fritz Vogt who was badly wounded during an air raid on 2nd April. Wiking's commandant Karl Ullrich pinned his Ritterkreuz with Oakleaves on the dying Vogt before removing them again.
On the morning of 8th April, a worker at Hanomag factory in Hannover, informs Nicolussi-Leck that there are several brand new tanks in the factory yard of the M.N.H assembly facility at Hannover-Laatzen.
Waffen-SS units (including the Wiking) mentioned in the Wehrmacht Bulletin of the Day for halting the Soviet advance at the German-Hungarian frontier in the vicinity of GRAZ in a day long defensive battle, which succeeded in closing the gaps in the front.
The K.Gr. Nicolussi-Leck made it to the forest east of Sandlingen on the morning of April 12 with all its armored vehicles and the remaining 100 men, including a growing number of stragglers.
On the morning of April 13 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.
Nicolussi-Leck made his final command decision on the morning of April 16. When by Hauptsturmführer 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 side, 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 supposed to be a Lt.Colonel, not just a SS Captain. The SS-K.Gr. “Wiking” covered a total distance of 250 kms before ceasing to exist!
Two Batteries of SS-Pz.Art.Rgt.5 giving support-fire to III./Westland under Hstuf. Schlupp near Gleisdorf.
The last Pz IV is blown up. 5.SS-Pz.Division Wiking forced to surrender along with rest of 6.SS-Pz.Armee. The division headquarters surrenders at RADSTADT, Austria.
Survivors of SS-Pz.Rgt.5 make their way in small groups or individually through American lines, where most of them are imprisoned in the POW Camp at RIEGSEE in Bavaria from June to September 1945...
The 5.SS-Panzer Division Wiking - first mixed unit with european volunteers - officially surrenders after almost 4 years of continuous presence at the battlefields at the eastern front, to American forces near Furstenfeld, Austria.
Last unit remnants of SS-Pz.Art.Rgt.5 surrender near Radstadt to American forces.
aftermath the War
HIAG (Hilfsgemeinschaft auf Gegenseitigkeit der Angehörigen der ehemaligen Waffen-SS)
Is an organization of Waffen-SS veterans that helps other Waffen-SS vets who were wounded or handicapped and are having trouble making ends meet in their golden years. Men who fought in the Waffen-SS do not receive any veterans' benefits.
As one HIAG member said:
"We are still gute Kameraden and one stays for the other; that's what TREUE means."
The HIAG was created 1951. It was organized, but this structure still into the 1950er years was waived decentralized. The goal of the "auxiliary community" was the legal equalization of the former members of the Waffen-SS with all the other armed forces soldiers and the rehabilitation of the soldiers of the Waffen-SS. The combination was basic member in the "federation of German soldiers" and exerted a large influence in the network of the soldier and tradition federations. The HIAG co-operated also closely with the Austrian "Kameradschaft IV".
After the civil rights of the former SS members were as far as possible secured into the 1960's, the HIAG shifted its emphasis on historical revisionist propaganda.
Starting from 1956, a monthly the magazine appeared "Wiking Ruf", later renamed into "Der Freiwillige". It reached a maximum edition of 12,000 copies, but in 1992 was it still 8,000. The publisher was Erich Kern. The magazine appears still today in the MuninVerlag.
In the mid 60's many interest representatives of the HIAG sat in all relevant parties. 1978 had the organization 118 local and regional federations. Temporarily it had 20-40,000 members. Only from the 1980's several Members of the Bundestag ceased their activity for the HIAG. In the consequence the organization lost increasingly in influence. The remaining regional federations it is however still merged into the structure of the soldier and tradition federations.
At the dissolution of the rear HIAG roof, the federation consisted of twelve regional organizations, twelve were attached divisional and numerous Kreiskameradschaften. To the last chairman in 1992 was Hubert Meyer, August Hoffman man and Johann Felde.
Some regional organizations and regional Kameradschaften as well as the in 1993 founded war graves foundation "Wenn alle Brüder schweigen" are continued to lead. This foundation which is seated in Stuttgart is led by the chairman August Hoffmann, the deputy chairman Heinz Bernese and the treasurer Werner Bitzer. Their task is after own stating primarily to look for "soldatengraeber abroad the in and - particularly our troop - to secure and to communicate the grave yards to military grave registration service".
The trust property amounted in 1995 about 350,000 DM or nowadays 150,000 euros.
What was the fate of those foreign nationals who had fought for Hitler? In Western Europe, the process of dealing with collaborators began as soon as the war ended. In Holland, special courts were established to enable the many thousands of collaborators, as well as those who had served in the German armed forces, to be tried, and the death penalty was reintroduced for the first time since its abolition in 1873. In all, 138 death sentences were pronounced, although only 36 were actually carried out. Anton Mussert was brought to trial at The Hague in November 1945 on a charge of high treason. On 12 December, he was unsurprisingly found guilty and sentenced to death.
Germans also received death sentences for crimes in Holland but only five, of
whom one was Rauter, were executed.The International Military Tribunal at
Nuremberg dealt with Reichs Commissioner Seyss-Inquart. The tribunal stated
that he had been "a knowing and voluntary participant in war crimes and
crimes against humanity which were committed in the occupation of the
Netherlands". He was hanged on 16 October 1946.
Between 120,000 and 150,000 persons were arrested in Holland in the immediate post-liberation period but, by October 1945, only 72,321 men and 23,723 women remained in prison. Thirty-five special courts consisting of five judges each were set up to deal with major cases of collaboration, while smaller tribunals comprising one judge and two laymen dealt with less serious offences. Some 60,000 persons were deprived of their Dutch citizenship for entering foreign military service, and also had their property seized by the state.
was applied to all those who had served in the German Army, Navy, Air Force,
the Waffen-SS, the Landstorm Nederland, German police or security formations,
the guard companies of the Todt Organization and the German Labour Service
(RAD). However, it did not include service with the Dutch Germanic SS or the
German state railways. On the whole, the Dutch treated their collaborators with
tolerance and humanity, though perhaps the very magnitude of the problem
prevented harsh judgements.
Following its liberation, Belgium set up special courts consisting of two civilian and three military judges to try collaborators. Some 100,000 persons were arrested but only 87,000 were subsequently brought to trial; of these, around 10,000 were acquitted. Sentences of death were passed on 4170 persons (3193 were for military collaboration), of which only 230 were actually carried out. About 16,000 persons received long prison sentences. Léon Degrelle, the Rexist leader and famed Walloon commander, was sentenced to death in absentia, having escaped to Spain.
Those members of the Flemish Legion still serving in the Waffen-SS retreated from the River Oder and surrendered to the Americans near Schwerin on 2 May 1945. From there they were sent to the former German concentration camp at Neuengamme, which was being used by the British as a holding centre for SS prisoners. In the autumn, the Flemings were handed over to the Belgian Army, which transported them by cattle truck to the Belgian Army camp at Beverloo. This first contingent consisted of 1900 men and four Flemish Red Cross nurses. On arrival at Beverloo station, the prisoners were allegedly kicked and beaten as they made the 4.8km (three-mile) journey to the camp. Once inside the camp, the prisoners were subjected to the same brutality, indignities and lack of medical attention inflicted on inmates of German concentration camps.
In Denmark, the prosecution of collaborators was smaller in scale and intensity. The main reasons were that relatively few Danes had served in the German armed forces, and the occupation had been mostly lenient (at least until 29 August 1943 when the Germans had officially dissolved the Danish Government and instituted martial law), thus lessening the desire for revenge. In total, 15,724 Danes were arrested on charges of collaboration after the war. Subsequently, 1229 were acquitted, while the remainder were handed prison sentences ranging from one year to life (62 individuals received the latter sentence). The death penalty, abolished in 1895, was reintroduced under a special law of 1 June 1945 for extreme cases of collaboration or crimes against humanity. The courts meted out a total of 112 death sentences, but only 46 were carried out. K.B. Martinsen, commander of Freikorps Danmark, was executed on 25 June 1949. Prison sentences in excess of four years were passed on 3641 persons, 9737 persons were temporarily deprived of their civil rights and another 2936 had their civil rights removed permanently.
The status of former members of the Freikorps became a delicate issue in post-war Denmark. At one stage during the war, the Danish war minister had consented to the enlistment of Danish military personnel into the Freikorps, but later changed his mind. After the war, volunteers were tried as collaborators, but claimed that they had been led to believe that the Freikorps had the backing of the Danish Government. The government replied that even if it had given its consent, the volunteers could not use this as a valid excuse since they should have realized that the government was acting under German pressure. The authorities then proceeded to cancel the volunteers' pension rights, and most volunteers were sentenced to one or two years' imprisonment (the Danish resistance blew up the Freikorps Danmark war memorial at Hovelte in May 1945).
In Norway, more than 90,000 persons were investigated by the police on suspicion of collaboration; of these, 18,000 were sent to prison and a further 28,000 fined (some also lost their civil rights). In the case of state employees, a fine also meant the loss of their jobs. About 3500 sentences of more than three years, and 600 of more than eight years, were meted out to collaborators. The death penalty, abolished in 1870, was reintroduced. Some 30 death sentences were passed although only 25 were carried out. For volunteers who had served in the German armed forces, sentences of imprisonment ranged from four to eight years dependent on rank and age. Officers were held to be more culpable than other ranks. Arthur Quist, for example, the commander of the Freiwilligen Legion Norwegen between 1942 and 1943, was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment. Female volunteers were not exempt from punishment, either.
Periodic amnesties lessened the severity of some initial punishments. A law of 9 July 1948, for example, allowed for the release of all those imprisoned for collaboration after the completion of half their original sentences. But there would be no leniency shown to the man whose name has since become a byword for collaboration: Vidkun Quisling. After voluntarily surrendering to the Norwegian Government, he was put on trial for treason. Found guilty, his seven-hour closing speech notwithstanding, he was sentenced to death and executed in October 1945.
In France, a country wracked with guilt over the Vichy regime, trials of collaborators lasted from September 1944 until the end of 1949. In court, 2071 persons were sentenced to death, which does not include those passed in absentia - another 4400. Of the 2071 capital sentences, only 768 were carried out (all death sentences passed on women or minors were automatically commuted by General de Gaulle). In the armed forces, 3035 officers were dishonourably discharged and a further 2635 involuntarily retired. About 5000 civil servants, including 18 magistrates, were relieved of their posts. A further 6000 were punished in lesser ways. Former members of the Légion des Volontaires Français and French Waffen-SS were offered active service in Indo-China as an alternative to imprisonment. Many decided to take this offer, and were killed fighting the Viet Minh.
Britain stood alone in not being occupied by the Germans, except for the Channel Islands. The latter, with their short lines of communication to the continent and their high density of population, were ideal for denunciation, collaboration and fraternization. In general, denouncers had two motives, both of which were fuelled by pragmatism rather than ideology. A tiny minority of islanders had been recruited by the German police force as informers and received lump sums for keeping the German authorities up to date on public opinion and all movements in the civilian population. The second motive was more personal and was usually directed against particular individuals against whom people bore a grudge. In fact, British citizens under German occupation did not behave dramatically differently to those under the Nazi jackboot on the continent.
At least three people from the islands ended up volunteering for the German forces: Eric Pleasants and John Leister both joined the British Freikorps; and Eddie Chapman became a double agent. But there were no large-scale trials for collaboration on the islands. On the other hand, cases were brought against Britons from the mainland who had fought for or collaborated with the Germans. The most notable was the trial of John Amery, who was charged with high treason. He pleaded guilty and was condemned to death, a sentence that brought many calls for clemency, particularly from the Duke of Bedford. They fell on deaf ears, though, and he was executed at Wandsworth Prison. William Joyce, "Lord Haw-Haw", was also charged with high treason, found guilty and likewise executed. Thomas Hellor Cooper, the most senior British national in the British Freikorps, was similarly charged with high treason, found guilty and condemned to death, though this was later commuted to life imprisonment.
Other members of the British Freikorps were charged with varying offences, those in the military being tried by courts martial and receiving varying terms of imprisonment of between two years to life. Civilians were tried under the Defence of the Realm Act, and received prison sentences of between two and three years in length.
The Indians who fought for both Germany and Japan were tried at the Red Fort trials in Delhi, the symbol of past Mogul rule and the very location where Chandra Bose had boasted that his triumphant army would parade in a free India. For its part, the Congress Party, the main movement for Indian independence, saw in the trials a heaven-sent opportunity to attack the British. The first three officers selected to stand trial were Shah Nawaz Khan, commander of the Subhas Brigade and then of the 2nd Division of the Indian National Army (INA); P. K. Sahgal; and G. S. Dhillon. All three were charged with waging war against the King-Emperor. They were a cross-section of India's community: a Muslim, Sikh and Hindu. However, India was in no mood to hear words focused on the imperial past. Demonstrations on behalf of the INA occurred all over the country, and under pressure from public opinion a compromise was reached whereby the accused were found guilty but their sentences of transportation for life were suspended. They were cashiered, though, since the Commander-in-Chief in India, Field Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck, emphasized that it was "in all circumstances a most serious crime for an officer or soldier to throw off his allegiance and wage war against the State". With this comment, the trials ended.
The consequences of Yalta
By the end of the war, there were huge numbers of Eastern peoples milling around in Central Europe awaiting their fate. They had fought for Germany, but would they be treated as prisoners of war (POWs) or traitors?
The ultimate fate of all those who served with the German war machine was first discussed at the Tehran Conference (28 November-1 December 1943). At that meeting, British Prime Minister Churchill was concerned that large numbers of British and Commonwealth troops were being held by the Germans in the Eastern territories, and he believed it was highly probable that they would be liberated by the advancing Soviet forces (with no second front in Western Europe, he thought the Red Army might even reach the Low Countries). These gains would leave the liberated POWs as pawns in the power struggle he predicted would occur after the final victory in Europe.
Stalin, too, wished to see the return of his own POWs held by the Germans, though for different reasons than Churchill. He wanted the quick return of the "traitors" (he viewed any Russian who surrendered to the enemy as such). Ever suspicious, he also believed that if they were outside his control they could be used as a potential army of invasion equipped by the Allies to topple his regime. A possible civil war was the last thing he required after the destruction of his purges and the losses suffered in the war. Thus it was agreed that all nationalities would be returned to their native lands. Churchill was happy but, unwittingly, the Western Allies had acquiesced in what was to become the death warrant for millions of Soviet and Baltic citizens.
The Yalta sellout
The status of POWs was formalized at the Yalta Conference (4-11 February 1945), the subsequent agreement stating: "All Soviet citizens liberated by forces operating under United States command will, without delay after their liberation, be separated from enemy prisoners of war and will be maintained separately from them in concentration camps until they have been handed over to the Soviet authorities." The agreement also provided for Soviet control of the camps and "the [Soviet] right to appoint the internal administration and set up the [camps's] internal discipline and management in accordance with the military laws of their country".
The policy of repatriation had actually been voiced many months before. On 16 September 1944, US Political Officer Alexander Kirk sent a cable to US Secretary of State Cordell Hull which noted that an agreement had been reached between the Soviets and the British for repatriation of Soviet citizens held as prisoners of war "irrespective of whether the individuals desire to return to Russia or not. Statements will not be taken from Soviet nationals in the future as to their willingness to return to their native country."
At the end of the war, the Soviets possessed large numbers of German POWs, who were placed in camps without differentiating the Waffen-SS from the other branches of the German forces. In the camps, the prisoners were expected to undertake any and all tasks allotted to them. They were employed in such hazardous pursuits as mine and bomb disposal without proper training. The principle was very simple: every able-bodied prisoner was to carry on living so long as he contributed to the rebuilding of the Soviet Union. He was kept alive to expunge his "crimes" by hard labour. By the tenth anniversary of the end of the war - 1955 - those who had survived had all been repatriated.
The Allies collude in murder
The Soviets also set up trials after the war, which investigated war crimes, crimes against humanity and "crimes against the Soviet system". Vast numbers of suspects were tried and subsequently executed. Those who had fallen into Allied hands were turned over to the Soviet authorities; their fate in most cases was horrific. Many were summarily executed within hours of leaving Allied hands. This was the case for thousands of Soviet prisoners handed over by the British in Austria. A sham parade was mustered that was overseen by General Keightley, commander of V Corps. Non-Soviet and non-Yugoslav citizens and Serbian royalists were supposedly exempt from the deportation order, but key military officials in the British chain of command surreptitiously included them also. As a result, many Russians waving French passports and British medals from World War I were all rounded up and delivered to Stalin. About 35,000 Yugoslavs were handed over to Titoists between 19 May and 4 June 1945, a substantial number being subsequently tortured, brutally treated and massacred.
The fate of the Cossacks -
Up to 58,000 Cossacks, including XV.SS Cossack Cavalry Corps, surrendered to British forces in southern Austria. They were repatriated by British soldiers using a substantial amount of violence and brutality in which several hundred were killed. As a German, von Pannwitz, their commander, was not obliged to exchange British for Russian captivity, but like a good officer he elected to share the fate of his men. He was hanged along with five senior Cossack leaders in Moscow in July 1947.
Stalin was determined that Vlassov would never live to head an anti-communist army under the patronage of the United States. In his case, he was not so much handed over by the Americans as snatched from them by a Russian armoured column. In July 1946, for "acting as agents of German intelligence and indulging in espionage and diversionary terrorist activity", Vlassov and 11 other leading figures in the POA-KONR movement were executed in Moscow.
Horror at Bleiburg
The fate of those anti-Tito forces and their families who managed to escape from Yugoslavia at the end of the war is particularly tragic. The huge column, numbering perhaps as many as 500,000 soldiers and civilians, including Slovenes, Serbs and even Chetniks, finally came to rest in a small valley near the Austrian village of Bleiburg. One of the first groups to arrive at British headquarters was a contingent of 130 members of the Croatian Government headed by President Nikola Mandic. All were informed that they would be transferred to Italy as soon as possible by British military police. All were then loaded into a train and returned to the partisans for execution. It was the intent of the British to turn over all Croatians, as well as Serbs and Slovenes, to the communists from whom they had fled.
When the Croatian military leaders realized that they had led hundreds of thousands into a trap, many committed suicide on the spot. The British extradited thousands of Croatians. Some were shot at the border, while others joined the infamous "death marches" which took them deeper into the new people's republic for execution. Realizing the importance of the clergy to the Croatian people, most church leaders were arrested. Although Archbishop Stepinac was sentenced to death, he was saved by a massive outcry of world public opinion and died under house arrest in 1960. Two bishops, 300 priests, 29 seminarians and 4 lay brothers were less fortunate and were executed. The number of Moslem religious leaders executed has never been determined, although the figure is thought to be in excess of 600.
Not all Eastern people fell into the hands of Stalin and his henchmen. Before the war, Galicia had been part of Poland. Hitler had handed it over to Stalin at the conclusion of the Polish campaign under the terms of the Russo-German Non-Aggression Treaty. Hitler was aware of how the area had become an Austrian "Crown Land" in 1772, being confirmed with slight frontier adjustments in 1814, thus becoming the largest province in the Austro- Hungarian Empire. After the war's end, the Soviets reaped vengeance on the population for their support of the Germans.
Some Ukrainians escaped Soviet vengeance, such as the men of the 14th SS Waffen-Grenadier Division Galicia under Pavlo Shandruk. He was a former staff officer of the Polish Army and before that a soldier in the Ukrainian Republic of 1919-21. He was the overall Ukrainian leader and head of the Ukrainian National Committee, a body seemingly dedicated to achieving Ukrainian independence but actually a sham to bolster the Ukrainians' morale and keep them fighting alongside the Germans to the bitter end. Shandruk had planned on taking control of the division in March 1945 and renaming it the "First Ukrainian Division of the Ukrainian National Army". Himmler agreed to hand the division over to Shandruk, and between 25-30 April 1945 the men took a new oath of allegiance to the Ukrainian nation.
The lucky few
The division surrendered to the British near Radstadt on 8 May 1945. When Shandruk successfully convinced his captors that he and his men were Poles rather than Russians, they were spared the unenviable fate that surely would have followed compulsory repatriation to the Soviet Union (after struggling to convince the Germans that they were Ukrainians rather than Galicians, the men of the 14th SS Division saved their lives by claiming to be Galicians after all). They negotiated with the British Army and retreated from the front across the mountains to a region agreed upon by the British. The Ukrainians were interned in the pleasant surroundings of Rimini, an Italian seaside resort on the Adriatic. The Soviets made many attempts to obtain the division, but with the Cold War intensifying this prospect was a non-starter. Finally, the Labour Government brought them all to Britain. One idea was that they would be a ready spearhead for any attack on the Soviet Union. To the relief of the men of the division, this idea came to nought; thereafter, many of them emigrated to the USA, Canada, South America and elsewhere.
These Ukrainians were lucky, but their country, like the Baltic states and the homelands of the other Eastern peoples, was under Soviet control. They and the other foreign nationals who had fought for Hitler had gambled, but they had lost.
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