WIKING RUF Europäische Freiwilligen in der Waffen-SS

 
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The Wiking division

The 5th SS Panzer Division Wiking was one of the elite Panzer divisions of the thirty eight Waffen SS divisions. It was recruited from foreign volunteers, from Scandinavia, Finland, Estonia, The Netherlands, and Belgium under the command of German officers. During the course of World War II, the division progressed from a motorized infantry division to a Panzer division and served on the Eastern Front during World War II. It surrendered in May 1945 to the advancing American forces in Austria.

Formation and training
After the success of the Infanterie-Regiment (mot.) Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler and the SS-Division Totenkopf during the early war campaigns in Poland and the West, it was decided to expand the number of Waffen-SS divisions. Due to the influx of foreign volunteers, particularly from Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Norway, a decision was made to form a volunteer division of the Waffen-SS under the command of German officers.

This unit, originally organized as the Nordische Division (Nr.5), was to be made up of Nordic volunteers mixed with ethnic German Waffen-SS veterans. To this end, the SS Infantry Regiment Germania in the SS Verfügungstruppe Division was transferred in late 1940 and used as the cadre for a new division. In December 1940, the new SS motorized formation, was to be designated SS-Division (mot.) Germania. but during its formative period, the name was changed, to SS-Division (mot.) Wiking. in January 1941.


The division was formed around three motorized infantry regiments: Germania, formed mostly from ethnic Germans; Westland, consisting mainly of Dutch and Flemish volunteers; and Nordland, composed mostly of Danes, Swedes and Norwegians. Command of the newly formed division was given to Brigadeführer
Felix Steiner, the former commander of the Verfügungstruppe SS Regiment Deutschland.

After formation the division was sent to Heuberg in Germany for training and by April 1941, SS Division Wiking was deemed ready for combat. It was ordered east in June 1941, to take part with
Army Group South's advance into the Ukraine during Operation Barbarossa.

In June 1941 the
Finnish Volunteer Battalion of the Waffen-SS was formed from Finnish volunteers. After training this formation was attached to the SS Regiment Nordland in January 1942, further bolstering the divisions strength. About 430 Finns who were veterans of the Winter War served within the SS Division Wiking division since the beginning of Operation Barbarossa. In spring 1943, the Finnish battalion was replaced by an Estonian battalion.

Operation Barbarossa
The division was not ready for combat until 29 June 1941, seven days after the launch of the operation. During its first action, near Tarnopol in Galicia, Ukraine, the division acquitted itself well. In August, SS Division Wiking was ordered to establish a defensive perimeter around a bridgehead across the Dniepr river. Despite determined attacks by the Red Army, the division held the line. Against stiffening resistance, the division continued its advance towards Rostov-on-Don. It took part in the heavy fighting for Rostov before being ordered back to the Mius River line in November. During 1941, the Heer officers in charge of the deployment of the SS Division Wiking were skeptical of its fighting abilities and so were hesitant to commit it to any major actions. As the division proved itself again and again in combat, it began to earn the grudging respect of the Heer commanders.
After successfully holding the line over the winter of 1941–42, SS Division Wiking was ordered to retake Rostov-on-Don and advance into the Caucasus, securing the region's vital oilfields. This attack was known as
Operation Maus, and formed a part of Army Group South's offensive Fall Blau
, aimed at capturing Stalingrad and the Baku oilfields. Launched at the height of summer, the offensive was unexpectedly successful. Within six weeks, Rostov and the entire Don region had been recaptured, and SS Division Wiking was advancing deep into the Caucasus.


The Caucasus
By late September 1942, SS Division Wiking was in a position to launch an assault to capture the vital city of Grozny. Working in cooperation with General der Panzertruppen Traugott Herr's 13.Panzer-Division, a plan was arranged to capture the city. As they reached the Terek River, the Soviet defences solidified. Several obstacle belts had to be breached before the Georgian Road (along which American supplies were transported) could be reached. Realising the difficult situation, Felix Steiner divided his division into four columns, each with separate objectives, but all aimed at breaching the Soviet defences and opening a road to the Caspian Sea.

The SS Regiment Nordland was to attack along the Kurp River to Malgobek. The SS Panzer battalion Wiking, with elements of the SS Regiment Germania, was to breach the main line of defence and establish a bridgehead. The SS Regiment Westland was to capture the town of Sagopshin, and the division's engineer component, along with the rest of SS Regiment Germania was to advance along the Kurp.
The attack got underway on the night of 25/26 September 1942. SS Regiment Nordland's assault soon bogged down, as they realized that not only were they outnumbered by the Red Army, but the latter were also well entrenched in prepared positions. Within thirty minutes, almost half of the men of regiment had fallen. Despite this, they still captured the hill, and its commander
Fritz von Scholz was awarded the Knight's Cross for his actions during the battle. The division finally captured Malgobek on 6 October, however the objective of seizing the capital and opening a road to the Caspian was not achieved. The closest point to Grozny, Hill 701, was captured by the Finnish volunteers (III (finn.) Battalion SS Regiment Nordland. During this operation, SS Division Wiking lost over 1,500 men. Several combat units were reduced to only dozens of men, and as a veteran later wrote, "Casualties weren't counted any more, just men left alive."

In the first week of November 1942, the division was transferred from the Terek bend to the Urukh-Alagir sector to participate in the renewed attack eastwards, which was attempted in the direction of Ordzhonikidze rather than via Grozny. It ended up arriving just in time to extricate the 13th Panzer Division from encirclement at Gisel, after which it took up defensive positions behind the Fiagdon river. The encirclement of the 6.Armee at Stalingrad meant that the Caucasus was relegated to a secondary theater, and when the attempt to relieve Stalingrad failed in the face of further Soviet advances, the entire Caucasian position itself began to come under threat. SS Division Wiking was one of the first formations to be withdrawn to bolster the retreating 4th Panzer Army, entraining from 24th December for transport to Remontnaya, arriving there on 31 December. The division fell back through Zimovniki, Proletarskaya (holding open the bridge over the Manych), Zelina and Yegorlykskaya towards Bataisk and Rostov, finally escaping through the Rostov
gap on 4th February.

Battles for Kharkov
In late November 1942 the division was redesignated the 5th SS Panzergrenadier Division Wiking.. By now the division had gained a reputation as an elite formation. In early 1943, the division was ordered to fall back to the Ukraine south of Kharkov, recently abandoned by
Paul Hausser's II.SS-Panzerkorps, and now the scene of fierce fighting for its recapture. Erich von Manstein, the new commander of Army Group South, threw 5 SS Wiking and the 11th Panzer-Division into action against the Soviet Mobile Group Popov, which was threatening to break through to the vital rail line. 5 SS Wiking had great difficulty dealing with the armour heavy Soviet formation. The Panzergrenadier regiments of 5 SS Wiking were exhausted and under strength from the fighting in the Caucasus, and the Panzer Battalion lacked sufficient armor to counter the Soviet force. Despite this, the division held off the Soviet assault, protecting the vital rail line and helping bring about the destruction of Mobile Group Popov. After the recapture of Kharkov, 5 SS Wiking was pulled out of combat to be refitted as a Panzergrenadier division.
Thanks to Heinrich Himmler's and
Paul Hausser's efforts, it had been decided that all Waffen SS Panzergrenadier divisions were to have a regiment of Panzers, rather than only a battalion. This meant that the SS Panzergrenadier formations were full sized Panzer divisions in all but name. With the upgrade to Panzergrenadier status, the division received SdKfz 251 halftracks for one battalion of infantry and an additional panzer Battalion began forming on 28 February 1943. It would be over a year before the new battalion would receive its baptism of fire at Kovel.

During mid 1943, 5 SS Wiking underwent a major transformation. Steiner, now an SS-Gruppenführer, was transferred to command of the
III (Germanic) SS Panzer Corps, currently forming in Croatia. His replacement was Herbert Otto Gille, who was to prove himself Steiner's equal. The remnants of the veteran SS Regiment Nordland, along with its commander Fritz von Scholz, were removed from the division and used as the nucleus of the new 11th SS Volunteer Panzergrenadier Division Nordland. Also, the Finnish Volunteer Battalion of the Waffen-SS was disbanded, as the agreed two years' service of the Finnish volunteers had expired. In an attempt to offset the loss of the Finns and the Nordland regiment, the newly formed Estonian volunteer formation Estonian Volunteer Panzergrenadier Bataillon Narwa was attached to the division


Kursk - battle on the Mius
While the division was refitting, it was involved in minor skirmishes with partisans. The reorganization was completed by late June, and the division was moved to Izyum where it, along with the 23.Panzer-Division was to form the reserve force for Manstein's Army Group during the approaching
Operation Citadel. While the operation was in effect, several Soviet formations attacked towards Orel and Kharkov simultaneously. The 5 SS Wiking was engaged against the forces near Kharkov, with the Estonians acquitting themselves well, destroying around 100 Soviet tanks over several days. When Citadel was canceled, the division was still involved in halting Soviet attacks.
Further to the south, on the Mius-Front, a major Soviet offensive,
Operation Rumyantsev, threatened to break the German lines. 5th SS Wiking was joined by the 3rd SS Panzergrenadier Division Totenkopf and 2nd SS Panzergrenadier Division Das Reich and sent to the Mius-Bogodukhov sector to halt the Soviet attacks. In subsequent fighting, the SS divisions defeated two Soviet tank armies (totaling over 1,000 tanks) and destroyed over 800 tanks. At no time did the SS divisions have any more than 50 panzers in working order. In October, the division was again pulled back out of the line, this time to be restructured as a panzer division, the 5th SS Panzer Division Wiking.

Korsun Pocket (Cherkassy)
To bolster the strength of the division, the Walloon volunteer unit
5th SS-Sturmbrigade Wallonien was attached to the division, under command of Leon Degrelle. They were the subject of ridicule from many Wiking veterans until they proved their worth in the fighting for a forest near Teklino, at the head of a salient into the Soviet lines. A second panzer Battalion was also ordered to begin formation in Germany. While the 5 SS Wiking was engaged near Teklino, several Red Army tank formations had advanced along the side of the salient and succeeded in encircling the German forces of XLII and XI Army Corps near Korsun
.

During the battle of the
Korsun-Cherkassy Pocket, 5 SS Wiking defended against Soviet attacks on the eastern side of the pocket. While General of Artillery Wilhelm Stemmermann, the overall commander of the pocket, moved his forces to the west in readiness for an attempt to breakout, 5 SS Wiking, along with the 5th SS Sturmbrigade were ordered to act as the rearguard. After repulsing all Soviet attempts to break through near the town of Novaya-Buda, the 5 SS Wiking rearguard split up and began withdrawing one platoon at a time, under cover of darkness. Advancing through Hell's Gate, the 5 SS Wiking came under heavy fire. The division suffered heavy losses in men and materials during the carnage of the Korsun Pocket. Gille the Divisional commander, had proven his loyalty to his men, fighting alongside them and remaining in action until all survivors had escaped. He was one of the last to cross the Gniloy Tikich river to safety. After the end of this battle, the 5th SS Sturmbrigade Wallonien brigade was withdrawn from the division.

Kovel, Poland
After a brief period of rest and refit, the 5 SS Wiking was sent to assist in the defense of Kovel, which was under threat from a strong Soviet force. Gille led his men towards the town and began setting up a defensive perimeter, which was soon encircled by the Red Army. The II.Battalion, SS Panzer Regiment 5 Wiking, newly equipped with Panther tanks, along with the III.Battalion, SS Panzergrenadier Regiment Germania, newly equipped and up to strength, arrived at the front from
Germany and began to form a relief unit. The unit was under the command of Obersturmführer Karl Nicolussi Leck, commander of 8.Company, II.Battalion, SS Panzer Regiment 5 Wiking. Nicolussi Leck immediately launched an attack with five tanks. Soon after beginning the attack, he received a radio message from the besieged commander to halt his attack and withdraw. Nicolussi Leck ordered his radio operator to ignore the call, and continue with the attack. Risking court martial, Nicolussi-Leck proceeded to fight his way though the Red Army encirclement, destroying several tanks in the process. His Panther tank was the first vehicle to break the encirclement, for his actions he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross.
After the relief force had established a corridor to the trapped forces, the withdrawal began. Unlike the previous encirclement at Korsun, they managed to escape with most of their equipment intact.

Warsaw battles
In late August 1944, the division was ordered back to Modlin on the Vistula River line 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 3rd Tank Corps. The advent of the Warsaw Uprising brought the Soviet offensive to a halt, and relative peace fell on the front line as in Warsaw Higher SS and Police Leader Erich von dem Bach Zelewski destroyed Warsaw with its civilians and Home Army. The division remained in the Modlin area for the rest of the year, grouped with the 3 SS Division Totenkopf as
IV SS Panzer Corps. Gille was promoted to command of the new SS Panzer Corps, and after a brief period with Oberführer Dr. Eduard Deisenhofer in command, Standartenführer Johannes Mühlenkamp, commander of the SS Panzer Regiment 5 Wiking, took command. Heavy defensive battles around Modlin followed for the rest of the year, and in October, Mühlenkamp was replaced by Oberführer Karl Ullrich. Ullrich would lead the division for the rest of the war.
In late December 1944, the German forces, including 9th SS Mountain Corps, defending Budapest were encircled and the IV.SS-Panzer Corps was ordered south to join Hermann Balck's 6th Army (Army Group Balck), which was mustering for a relief effort, codenamed
Operation Konrad.


Budapest relief efforts
As a part of
Operation Konrad I, the 5 SS Division Wiking was committed to action on 1 January 1945, fighting alongside the 3 SS Division Totenkopf. Near Tata, the advance columns of 5 SS Division Wiking attacked the Fourth Guards Tank Army. A heavy battle ensued, with the 5 SS Division Wiking and the 3 SS Division Totenkopf destroying many of the Red Armies tanks. In three days their panzer spearheads had driven 45 kilometers over rugged terrain, over half the distance from the start point to Budapest. The Soviets maneuvered forces to block the advance, and they barely managed to halt the advance at Bicske, only 28 kilometres from Budapest.
Gille pulled the 5 SS Division Wiking out of the line and moved it to the south of Esztergom, near the Danube bend. The second relief attempt, to be known as
Operation Konrad II
, got under way on 7 January. In atrocious conditions, the 5 SS Division Wiking advanced southwards towards Budapest. By 12 January, the SS Panzergrenadier Regiment Westland had reached Pilisszentkereszt, 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. Despite its success, they had overextended and were vulnerable to attack, unable to exploit its breakthrough and eventually ordered to pull back and regroup. Hitler was furious at the lack of progress, and called the operation 'utterly pointless'.
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 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. By the end of January the 5 SS Division Wiking and 3 SS Division Totenkopf had suffered almost 8,000 casualties, including over 200 officers.
At the beginning of February, the besieged forces capitulated, and the 5 SS Division Wiking was ordered west to Lake Balaton where Obergruppenführer
Sepp Dietrich's 6th SS Panzer Army
was preparing for another offensive.

Final battles
After the failure of Konrad III, the 5 SS Division Wiking began defensive operations, falling back into Czechoslovakia. West of Budapest in more defensive operations, moving into the area of Czechoslovakia. Gille's corps was too depleted to take part in Operation Frühlingserwachen
near Lake Balaton, and instead remained as a support to the 6th SS Panzer Army during the beginning of the Operation.
5 SS Division Wiking performed a holding operation on the left flank of the offensive, in the area between the Velenczesee-Stuhlweissenburg (nowadays known as Székesfehérvár). As Frühlingserwachen progressed, the division was heavily engaged preventing Soviet efforts to outflank the advancing German forces.


As the offensive stalled, the Soviets launched a major offensive, the Vienna Operation, on 15 March. Attacking the border between the 3 SS Division Totenkopf, stationed to the north of 5 SS Division Wiking, and the Hungarian 2nd Armoured Division, contact was soon lost between these formations. Acting quickly, Balck recommended moving the I.SS Panzer Corps north to plug the gap and prevent the encirclement of the IV.SS Panzer Corps. Despite this quick thinking, a Führer Order authorising this move was slow in coming, and when the divisions finally began moving, it was too late. On 22 March, the Soviet encirclement of the 3 SS Division Totenkopf and 5 SS Division Wiking was almost complete. Desperate, Balck threw the veteran
9th SS Panzer Division Hohenstaufen into the area to hold open the small corridor. In the battle to hold open the Berhida Corridor, the Hohenstaufen bled itself white, but Gille's corps managed to escape.

On 24 March, another Soviet attack threw the exhausted IV.SS Panzer Corps back towards Vienna, all contact was lost with the neighboring I.SS Panzer Corps and any semblance of an organised line of defence was gone. The 5 SS Division Wiking executed a fighting withdrawal into Czechoslovakia. By early May, they were within reach of the American forces, to whom the division officially surrendered near Fürstenfeld, Austria on 9 May.



Attrocities committed by Wiking

July 9, 1941: Wiking troops massacre Jews at L'viv:
"...A similar gauntlet, but more lethal, was organized four days later by officers of the Waffen-SS Viking division following the shooting death of the commander of one of the division's regiments. [note: SS-Staf. Hilmar Wackerle of the Westland regt.] Günther Otto, a twenty-one year-old butcher assigned to the train that carried fresh meat for the troops, described the experience in a Nurenburg trial deposition after the war:

'...The members of the meat train and the bakery company systematically rounded up all Jews who could be found based on their facial characteristic and their speech, as most of them spoke Yiddish. Obersturmführer Braunnagel of the bakery company and Untersturmführer Kochalty were in charge of rounding them up. Then a path was formed by two rows of soldiers. Most of the soldiers were from the meat train and the bakery company, but some of them were from the 1st Mountain Hunter Division. The Jews were then forced to run down the path and while doing so the people on both sides beat them with their rifle butts and bayonets. At the end of the path stood a number of SS and Wehrmacht officers with machine pistols, with which they shot the Jews dead as soon as they had entered into the bomb crater [being used as a mass grave]. [Superior officers of the regiment] were part of this group that conducted the shootings. About fifty to sixty Jews were killed in this manner."*

(* "Masters of Death: The SS Einsatzgruppen and the Invention of the Holocaust" p. 63. )

Note: According to Rupert Butler's SS-Wiking: The History of the 5th SS Panzer Division the massacre above was described in detail in an Aug 1947 war crimes trial. The 5th SS supply column commander, Heinz Karl Fanslau (who formerly served as Paul Hausser's adjutant at Bad Tölz) ordered the Jews to be shot in reprisal for Wackerle's death and promised his troops that in this instance killing civilians would not be a punishable offense.


Here's few accounts of Finnish soldiers in Wiking about atrocities:


From diary of Veikko Hallavo.
"1.7.41 We were North from Tarnapol...We did capture a Russian column, prisoners numbering over 100, are all shot. The Germans are very brutal. We did saw column and yes we did shoot it, very easy catch, but all had to be shot..."

From diary of Keijo Kääriäinen.
"22.8.41...Usually we don't anymore shoot all prisoners but in the beginning, apart of Ukrainians who we had orders to release immediately, others were deaths own. Once our company did drive 300 Russians to river and all were machine-gunned there.... To the Finns is this kind of butchery made repulsive impression. I  have  tried to avoid the killing of prisoners and have succeed in that..."


Lahti-Seppälä who was volunteer in Wiking and did write a very critical and controversial book in 1945, mentioned that frequently Russians with hands in the air or waving a white flag were shot. He also claims that sometimes between 5 and 6.7.41, a SS-Unterscharführer and his section from 1./Westland, did shoot over 100 prisoners, when he was transferring them to rear. He claimed that they tried to escape, but in reality he was given too little time to transfer them the 6 km back. The SS-Untersturmführer who was responsible, was pleased of his actions.

Another well know incident was early July 1941, when Westland commander Hilmar Wäckerle was shot by sniper. A nearby village was burned and some civilians were shot (there are several conflicting accounts of that).

Keijo Kääriäinen from 2./Nordland also remembers, that on 4.7.41 a village was burned and civilians were shot because of a sniper.

On the  Tarnopol incident Olavi Liesinen (16./Nordland) says that they were ordered to bring all 15-60 males to town square for a identification check. People did arrive in orderly fashion and Liesinen and his comrades went back to their trucks and waited to be driven  away. They suddenly heard machineguns fire in the square and thought that Russians had attacked and went to the square. They found 500-600 civilians being fired upon by 5 German machinegunners. Liesinen was shocked, but Germans explained that this was a retaliation for sabotage.

Also men of the Wiking were murdered in July near Husiatyn and on 2.8.41 Westland wounded were killed in Sverlikov.
Keine Blummenkrieg indeed."

The account is from Sakari Lappi-Seppälä's book Haudat Dnjeprin Varrella. SS-Miehen Päiväkirjan Lehtiä. It was published by Kirjapaino Aa osakeyhtiö in Helsinki 1945. Lappi-Seppälä was member of 1./Westland and this is his account of shootings of 36 Jews as reprisals of death of Hilmar Wäckerle.

"During this day for the 1st time we Finns became to know Germans brutality. Along the road from frontlines came small group of men, some 20 in total. Just before they came closer, the Germans  noticed that they were Jews. It was natural that they would be arrested because last evening had one Jew shot our Regimental commander, while he was driving with his car during inspection tour.
The shot had came from trees and hit SS-Standartenfuhrer Wäckerle directly in the head. The guilty one had been arrested and hanged.
In same time an order was issued that all village people should be shot as revenge, houses to be burned and cattle slaughtered. The village in question disappeared from the earth's surface within same day by SS-men.

The arrested Jews were lined in 3 rows, where they waited their comrades who were arriving in drops along the road. Eventually there were total 36 men. First all had to gave all their money  and papers to Germans who inspected even most intimates photographs with laughter. Jews claimed to be workers and they were, but Germans who had saw old photographs taken before Hitler's  reign with Jews in tuxedo's, claimed that they were lying and were punched to face.
All money taken from Jews was thrown in big pile along the road. I estimated that some 100,000 Zloty's in paper money. People of the village were ordered to other side of road and they were given an signal and then they rushed like madmen to money. They grasped money to their arms like in rage and old men who managed get only few handfulls were crying and shaking for such a gift.

Along the road was a horse carcass and it threw disgusting odor around. Its stomach was stretched near bursting point and its rectum was inches outside by gas. Germans ordered the Jews to dig a grave for the horse. They were given only 2-3 shovels and others had to dig with their bare hands. With thick sticks waving in air, the Germans hurried men who didn't work fast enough.
When the grave was ready, the Jews had to carry the carcass to it and fill it with dirt. The work was however stopped by order of supervising NCO and Jews were ordered again to lines of 3. They were ordered to undress all their clothes save the underpants. The clothes were piled to big piles of jackets, trousers, shirts, socks and shoes to own piles. After this the villagers were allowed to share the
loot, to try on fitting clothes. When the clothes were divided (which happened very fast with Poles even argueing of clothes), the Germans fetched from trucks more crowbars and shovels and handed them to Jews. With  in the lead one SS-Hauptscharfuhrer ,the Jews were given military drill. They hold crowbars and shovels as rifles, made dashes and pretended to shoot each others with them. Machinegunners guarded them so that Jews couldn't attack the Germans.

This drill didn't go as Germans had planned and it lacked the speed. So the drill was altered again. Jews were allowed to get large stones and then they were lined up and forced to hold stone or crowbar upon their heads and do up and downs by jumping. The ones who did got tired or fell down were driven up by bayonet to continue trill.

This play continued for almost 3 hours. The Jews were dead tired. Few older ones were sobbing with grief and all showed despair in their faces. They knew what was coming...

Crowbars and stones were put aside and all were issued with shovel. After that Jews were ordered again in lines of three and they were forced to march to other side of the road beyond Soviet barbed wire to dig mass grave. With guards armed with spears and with machine-pistols with their back they dig just over 1 meter deep hole. After that they were lined along the hole and with order
to give their all rings and watches. The task of collecting of them was ordered to Keijo Aalto and to me. It was a tough task to both of us because we have never imagined anything like this. Let it be noted that Aalto's fiancé in Finland was Jewish! So Aalto grinned his teeth and swore that he would avenge this one to German Squad leader.

When we were gathering watches one incident worth of mentioning happened. I heard an shout behind me: "Hören Sie mal!".I turned and saw how a 30 years old Jew smiled and gestured me to come closer and said calm and polite in German :"Verzeihen Sie, Herr Offizier, ich vergas in dieser verfluchten Eile meine Uhr abzugeben", and after that he gave his watch to me.

We didn't expect that our Company commander would have ordered us Finns to execute these Jews. We were utterly dump folded when that happened. At this time, for first time, we declined strictly to follow order. We said frankly that whatever the reward would be, we will never shoot these Jews, because they haven't done any harm to us. SS-Hstuf. Schade, our Company commander, went to rage. He said that he had never thought that we were such a cowards. He was going to show how his men were worthy for be called as men. That picture that he had has for Finns had been completely changed, they were for good for nothing...

After Schade's order, Germans came to execute Jews. The 5 first Jews were ordered to lie down next to a grave with their faces towards shooters. The shooters stood front of that line, so those who were waiting for death had to stare at their executioners and comrades. Schade ordered the shooting distance for 25 meters and gave an order to shoot into their faces because Wäckerle was murdered in same fashion.

"Schiesskommando" raised the machine-pistols and after Platoonleader Lieb signaled, every gun fired a 5 round burst. Pieces of brains and skull bones flew from few first victims as they fell to grave. And another 5 took their places next to grave. These 5 climbed over naked bodies of their comrades and died in same way.

This play continued  for 8 more times with new group always coming over bodies of former. The was real mountain of naked bloody corpses in front of us and last victims had a hard time to climb on top of that. While the shooting was still in prosess, 2 Jews had an misfortune to come along the road. They were naturally caught, stripped naked in middle of the road and lined up with the rest of Jews. These 2 were driven straight over 2 1/2 meters high barbed wire with Spanish horses on top of it to their comrades. German guards gave extra speed with bayonets. With prayers these men came to us and spoke to Aalto and me as officers to spare their lifes. They promised us money, all that we would have wanted. We didn't have time to explain our situation to them when German bayonets pushed them bleeding to ground. With kicks they were driven to line to wait their last turn.

After the shooting stopped German executioners went to examine had all their victims really died. Few long machine-pistol bursts and rifle shots were shot thru pile of bodies. Officers also tried their pistols to it with laughter. I had hard time to hold Keijo Aalto that he wouldn't in his blind rage do any foolish act that would have cost his life.

After this play POW's were fetched and they were shivering with fear and thought to share that same destiny. However they were issued with shovels and told to fill up the grave. They did that with fast pace full of childish joy to be still alive. Whole execution squad, those chosed, were envied by other Germans. They were summoned to Company HQ and by Company commander's order cognac and cigarettes were given them from "Marketendereiwagen". Their names were also taken up and they were thanked for their job as avengers of their ancestories. The New Europe would need more men like them, men of real Germans as character."


Am 28. März 1945 wurden im burgenländischen Ort Deutsch Schützen rund 60 jüdische Zwangsarbeiter, die zu Schanzarbeiten eingesetzt worden waren, von zwei oder drei Angehörigen der SS-Division Wiking, unter ihnen SS-Oberscharführer 
Adolf Storms sowie fünf Angehörigen der Hitlerjugend ermordet.

Am 4. April 1945 versuchten 20 Häftlinge des Todesmarschs von Graz zu flüchten und wurden von Angehörigen der SS-Division Wiking aufgegriffen und sofort erschossen.

Zwischen dem 7. und 11. April 1945 wurden im Raum Prebensdorf 18 entflohene Häftlinge vom dortigen Volkssturm aufgegriffen und der SS-Division Wiking überstellt, die diese ermordete.

Dr. Josef Mengele
The notorious D
r. Josef Mengele, served with the SS Division Wiking during its early campaigns. According to all accounts, he performed the normal duties of a combat medic, even being awarded the Iron Cross for saving two wounded men from a tank.

After being wounded, Mengele was deemed unfit for combat and was absorbed into the SS Nazi concentration camp system, where he gained his infamy. Mengele was very proud of his Waffen SS service and his front-line decorations.

As the true horrors of the concentration camp system came to light, his former comrades attempted to have his name removed from the division's roll of veterans.


J.B. van Heutsz jr.
Johan Bastiaan van Heutsz Jr. (October 1, 1882 - Planegg, April 25, 1945) was the son of J.B. van Heutsz, governor-general of the Dutch East Indies.

He enlisted with the Waffen-SS and at the age of sixty-one(!) as a doctor. Participated in the advance through southern Russia.Because he had experience as a doctor in the tropics, he was among others used in the cure of malaria, which threathened the soldiers in this area. In his book "Met Wiking door Rusland", he describes his experiences of the war there. Van Heutsz Jr. was promoted to SS-Obersturmbannführer in May 1944 and received the Iron Cross First Class (EK1).Despite his older age, he continued to work at the frontlines.

Van Heutsz Jr. died on April 25, 1945 in the southern German village of Planegg near Munich.
He is buried at the Waldfriedhof in Munich.

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Order of Battle

Nordische Division (Nr.5)
SS-Division (mot.) Germania (Nov 1940 - Jan 1941)
SS-Division Wiking (Jan 1941 - Nov 1942)
SS-Panzergrenadier-Division Wiking (Nov 1942 - Oct 1943)
5.SS-Panzer-Division Wiking (Oct 1943 - May 1945)

Commanders

Obergruppenführer Felix Steiner, 12.01.40 - 5.01.43
Obergruppenführer Herbert Gille, 5.01.43 - 8.06.44
Oberführer Edmund Deisenhofer, 8.06.44 - 20.7.44
Standartenführer Rudulf Mühlenkamp, 20.7.44 - 10.09.44
Oberführer Karl Ullrich, 10.09.44 - 5.05.45

Chief of Staff (Ia)

SS-Sturmbannführer Günther Ecke (? Mar 1941 - 7 Sep 1941)
SS-Haupsturmführer Erwin H. Reichel (? Sep 1941 - ? 1942)
SS-Sturmbannführer Manfred Schönfelder (? 1942 - 1 July 1944)
SS-Sturmbannführer Richard Pauly (1 Aug 1944 - ? Aug 1944)
Major Kleine (? Aug 1944 - ?)
Major Braun (? 1945 - ? 1945)
SS-Sturmbannführer Willi Klose (? 1945 - ? 1945)

Quartermaster (Ic)

SS-Hauptsturmführer Erwin H. Reichel (? Mar 1941 - ? Sep 1941)
SS-Hauptsturmführer Hans Sporn (? 1941 - ? 1941)
SS-Hauptsturmführer Kille (? 1941 - ? 1941)
SS-Hauptsturmführer Wilhelm Büthe (? 1941 - ? 1942)
SS-Sturmbannführer Manfred Schönfelder (? 1942 - ? 1942)
SS-Hauptsturmführer Wilhelm Büthe (? 1942 - ? 1943)
SS-Sturmbannführer Hans Scharff (? 1943 - ? 1944)
SS-Obersturmführer Manfred Schönfelder (1 July 1944 - ? July 1944)
SS-Obersturmführer Dr. Heinz Fischer (1 Aug 1944 - 1 Mar 1945)
SS-Sturmbannführer Franz Meyer (? Mar 1945 - ? May 1945)

Area of operations

Date

Corps

Army

Army Group

Area

3.41

Wehrkreis VII

-

-

Germany and Austria

4.41

XXIV

11. Armee

C

Germany and Austria

5.41

Wehrkreis V

2. Panzergruppe

-

Germany and Austria

6.41 - 8.41

XIV

1. Panzergruppe

Süd

Tarnopol, Kiev

9.41 - 10.41

III

1. Panzergruppe

Süd

Kiev, Rostov

11.41 - 5.42

XIV

1. Pz. Armee

Süd

Mius (Taganrog)

6.42

XIV

-

Süd

Mius (Taganrog)

7.42

LVII

-

Süd

South Russia

8.42

LVII

1. Pz. Armee

A

Caucasus

9.42

LVII

17. Armee

A

Caucasus

10.42 - 11.42

LII

1. Pz. Armee

A

Causcasus

12.42

III

1. Pz. Armee

A

Caucasus

1.43 - 2.43

LVII

4. Pz. Armee

Don

Manytsch

3.43 - 5.43

XXXX

1. Pz. Armee

Süd

Isyum, Charkov

6.43

XXIV

1. Pz. Armee

Süd

Isyum, Charkov

7.43

Reserve

1. Pz. Armee

Süd

Isyum, Charkov

8.43

XXXX and LVII

1. Pz. Armee

Süd

Isyum, Charkov

9.43 - 12.43

III

8. Armee

Süd

Dnjepr

1.44 - 3.44

XI

8. Armee

Süd

Tscherkassy

4.44

LVI

2. Armee

Mitte

Kovel, Poland

5.44 - 7.44

rebuilding

-

Mitte

Heidelager

8.44 - 12.44

IV. SS

9. Armee

Mitte

Modlin

1.45

Reserve

6. Armee

Süd

Hungary

2.45 - 4.45

IV. SS-Pz.

6. Armee

Süd

Hungary

5.45

IV. SS-Pz.

-

Ostmark

Graz


Manpower strength

June 1941 19.377
Dec 1942 15.928
Dec 1943 14.647
June 1944 17.368
Dec 1944 14.800

Non-Germans in the Wiking-division, 22 June 1941
- 216 Danes
- 631 Dutch
- 421 Finns (
Finnisches Freiwilligen-Bataillon der Waffen-SS)
- 294 Norwegians
- 1 Swede
- 1 Swiss

This was out of a total of 19.377 men.

Non-Germans in the Wiking-division, 19 September 1941
- 251 Danes
- 821 Dutch
- 291 Norwegians
- 45 Flemish
- 8 Swedes

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Honor titles

The Vikings - in German Wikinger – were of course the dwellers of Scandinavia, who traveled around Europe’s shores from the 8th to the 11th century as pirates, merchants and founders of states.wiking-ruf

The term "Wiking" was also used by the Waffen-SS volunteer movement post-war, the magazine Wiking-Ruf was published by HIAG (Hilfsgemeinschaft auf Gegenseitigkeit der Angehörigen der ehemaligen Waffen-SS, Mutual Help Association of Former Waffen-SS Members) 1951-1958, the logo of the magazine can be seen above, note the Waffen-SS unit symbols displayed on the shields.

Two of the division’s regiments were also named:


SS-Pz. Gren. Regt. 9 „Germania“
“Germania” is Latin for the German word Germanien, the land north of the Danube and east of the Rhine up to the Vistula that was occupied by the Germanen, the ancient Germans. Germanien or, respectively Germania, was also used in the Middle Ages as Germany’s name. Furthermore, it is the name of the symbolic personification of Germanien in female form dating back to ancient Roman times, which became a symbol for the unified German Empire in 1871.

SS-Pz. Gren. Regt. 10 „Westland“
An honor title with a purely geographical meaning, the regiment’s name translates as “Western Land” and was chosen as this regiment was composed of Dutchmen and Flemings, while the division’s Scandinavians formed regiment “Nordland” (= “Northern Land”
).

Known war crimes

This division was for a long time regarded as one of the few larger affen-SS units not involved in war-crimes however research made public in recent years have shown this to be incorrect.

Soldiers from the division took part in the murder of hundreds of Jews in the castle at Zloczow (Zolochiv) during the first days of July 1941 together with Ukrainian militia. The massacre was put to an end by soldiers from 295. Infanterie-Division at the order of Oberstleutnant Helmuth Groscurth.

On 9 July 1941 soldiers from the division took part in the massacre of Jews in Lviv in revenge of the death of Hilmar Wäckerle, commander of SS-Infanterie-Regiment Westland.

IIn Zhitomir soldiers from the division took part in the rounding up and killing of commissars and officials July 1941.

Einsatzkommando 11 of
Einsatzgruppe D and a mobile gassing van was travelling together with the division in 1942 murdering people seen as undesirable.

Sonderkommando Jankuhn led by Dr Herbert Jankuhn of the SS-Ahnenerbe was attached to Wiking and the division supported them in their plunder of artifacts from the Black Sea area in 1942.

General er Gebirgstruppen Karl Eglseer, commander of 4. Gebirgs-Division, complained about indiscipline and widespread looting by soldiers from Wiking in April 1942 when the divisions served near each other in the River Mius area. The Slovakian Generals Gustav Malár and Jozef Turanec, commanders of Slovak Mobile Division that served next to Wiking during this period, also raised the same criticism.
TThe Finnish volunteers distributed among the units of the Wiking divisions instead of serving in the
Finnisches Freiwilligen-Bataillon der Waffen-SS wrote in letters home and in their diaries about how the Soviet POWs and civilians were treated badly or even killed by soldiers from the division during the early phase of the war on the Eastern Front.

Soldiers from the Wiking division were involved in the killing of Hungarian Jews in March/Aril 1945. On 17 November 2009 Adolf Storms was charged with the murder of 58 Hungarian Jewish forced laborers near Deutsch Schuetzen in Austria on 29 March 1945 but he died before he could be brought to trial.

Divisional commander SS-Brigadeführer Felix Steiner stated about the infamous Commissar Order (that Soviet political commissars captured should be shot immediately) that "
No rational unit commander could comply with such an Order" in a discussion with his superior General der Infanterie Gustav von Wietersheim on 4 July 1941 who shared his dislike of the order.

Sources:
Axis History Forum



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