Divisions of the Waffen-SS
1.SS-Panzer Division "Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler "
Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler (LSSAH or LAH) was formed 17 Mar 1933
Berlin by Josef "Sepp" Dietrich, Hitler's
bodyguard, on the order of
Adolf Hitler who wanted a full-time armed force that was completely
loyal to him. Dietrich handpicked 120 men (some of whom had served
in the Stosstrupp Adolf Hitler that was formed in 1921) who were
barracked at the Alexander Barracks in Berlin and later at
It was soon redesignated SS-Sonderkommando
Zossen and a new unit, SS-Sonderkommando Jüterbog, was raised. These
units merged Sep 1933 as was designated SS-Leibstandarte
Adolf Hitler (LAH). The members of LAH took an oath of loyalty to
Hitler 9 Nov 1933 (the 10th anniversary of the failed Beer Hall
Putsch). It was re-designated Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler
(LSSAH) in 1934.
It took part in the purge of Ernst Röhm and
other enemies of Hitler (mainly leaders of the SA) during the Night
of Long Knifes.
It was attached to
Heeresgruppe Süd during the invasion of Poland and later took
part in the invasion of France and the Low Countries were it was
mainly held in reserve though it was used against the retreating
British troops at Dunkirk. LSSAH was attached to
XIV Armeekorps during the second and final phase of the invasion
Following the armistice the LSSAH was to rest
and be upgraded to a brigade while training amphibious warfare for
the planned invasion of Britain (Unternehmen Seelöwe). This invasion
was cancelled and LSSAH was transferred to Romania for the invasion
of the Balkans. It fought its way through Yugoslavia and Greeve
chasing the allied troops to Kalamata, from where they were
evacuated by sea to Crete.
LSSAH took part in Unternehmen Barbarossa
(the invasion of the Soviet Union) attached to
Heeresgruppe Süd and saw action at Kiev and Rostov. It was
transferred to France for refitting 1942 and was upgraded to a
Panzergrenadier DIvision. It returned to the Eastern front 1943 and
fought at Kharkov and Kursk. After the failure at Kursk, LSSAH was
sent to Italy on anti-partisan duty but it soon was sent back to the
Eastern front this time as a Panzer-Division. LSSAH was one of the
divisions encircled near Kamenets-Podolsk and though it was saved by
SS Panzer Division Frundsberg and
SS Panzer Division Hohenstaufen it suffered heavy losses and was
sent to France for rest and refitting.
It fought in Normandy following the allied
invasion and saw action at Caen, Falaise and Aachen as it was
pressed back towards Germany. It took part in the offensive in the
Ardennes attached to
I SS Panzerkorps. After the failure of that offensive LSSAH was
once again sent to the Eastern front to take part in the offensive
to break the siege of Budapest (Unternehmen Margarethe). Following
that failed offensive it was transferred to Austria were it
surrendered to the American troops at the end of the war.
2.SS-Panzer Division "Das Reich "
Formed Oct 1939 from the Deutschland, Germania and Der Führer
regiments. It took part in the campaign in the west 1940 and after
spending some time guarding the border with Vichy France it was
transferred to the Netherlands. It took part in the campaign in the
Balkans where a small detachment led by SS-Hauptsturmführer
Klingenberg managed to get the mayor of Belgrade to surrender the
city without a fight.
Das Reich took part in the invasion of the
USSR and fought on the frontlines until August when it was withdrawn
from refitting. It was sent back to the front September and a few months
later it took part in the failed offensive against Moscow. It was
transferred to France March 1942, with the exception of a small
Kampfgruppe, where it was upgraded to a panzergrenadier division. It
was sent back to the Eastern front in January 1943 where it took part in
the capture and recapture of Kharkov as well as fighting at Kursk
Das Reich was transferred back to France,
this time to be upgraded to a panzer division, and was sent to
Normandy when the allies invaded. On the 10th June 1944, on their way to Normandy,
approx. 180 soldiers of the 3./SS-Pz.Gren.Rgt.4 "Der Führer" led
by the commander of the 1st Battalion SS Major Adolf Diekmann,
without giving any explanation, killed 642 men,
women and children at Oradour-sur-Glane in reprisal of a
resistance attack. It took part in the heavy fighting in Normandy
before retreating into Germany. It later took part in the fighting in
the Ardennes, Hungary and Austria.
Before surrendering to the US Army, elements
of Das Reich helped large numbers of civilians in Prague escape the
3.SS-Panzer Division "Totenkopf "
Formed Oct 1939 from concentration camp guards with the addition of
officers from the
SS-Verfügungstruppe (SS-VT) and men from
It was initially held in reserve during the
campaign in the west, but was soon sent to the front in Belgium.
They suffered heavy losses compared to other units but managed to
keep up the advance. At Le Paradis, 4./SS-Inf.Rgt. 2,
commanded by SS-Obersturmführer
Fritz Knöchlein, machine-gunned British POW's. It later fought in France seeing its only real action against
colonial troops at Tarare.
It took part in the invasion of the USSR
Heeresgruppe Nord and advanced through the Baltic states and
towards Leningrad. It remained in the Leningrad area until the
Soviet counteroffensive pushed the Germans back and it was
encircled at Demyansk January to March 1942 when it broke out.
remained on the front until it was transferred to France in October 1944
where it refreshed and refitted. It was sent back to the Eastern front where it
fought at Kursk and Kharkov. It was sent to Hungary December 1944 where
it took part in the failed attempt to relieve Budapest (Operation
Konrad I, II and III and later on Frühlingserwachen).
It surrendered to US forces in Austria, but
was promptly turned over to the Soviets and few members survived.
Formed Oct 1940 from members of the Ordnungspolizei (regular
police) that was conscripted into the unit. It was used for
occupation duties in Poland before seeing some action in the
invasion of France were it took part as a reserve unit. It fought
on the northern sector of the Eastern front after the German
invasion of the USSR.
It was transferred to the Balkans in 1943
were it was used for anti-partisan duties before being sent to
Pomorania in early 1945. Elements of the unit fought in Berlin and the
rest surrendered to the US Army.
5.SS-Panzer Division "Wiking"
Formed Dec 1940 around the Germania regiment from the
SS-Division Verfügungstruppe (later renamed Das Reich).
It took part in the invasion of the USSR
Heeresgruppe Süd and during the advance took part in several
encirclements of Soviet troops before reaching Rostov in November 1941.
During the winter it was pressed back by the Soviet advances to in
the spring it once again went on the offensive, this time towards
the Caucasus. It was however soon forced to retreat to avoid being
cut off. After the Kursk operations and following its failure, it
retreated and was became trapped in the Cherkassy or Korsun pocket
February 1944. It managed to
break out of that pocket but lost all it's tanks and suffered heavy
losses in the process.
It withdrew to Cholm to be reformed, its
Panzerregiment training in France and the two grenadier regiments
without heavy weapons and tanks that remained at the front. Deployed quickly in the Kowel area and broke its encirclement and
relieving thousands of men and Wiking's CO, SS-Obergruppenführer
In July 1944 it fought at the Vistula.
sent to Hungary after Christmas 1944 where it took part in the failed attempt to
relieve Budapest. It withdrew through Hungary and Czechoslovakia
before surrendering to US forces in Austria.
Wiking has not been accused of any warcrimes,
but the infamous Joseph Mengele served in the Pionier
Battalion (where he also was awarded the Iron Cross) during his time
in the Waffen-SS during the early stages of Barbarossa.
6.SS-Gebirgs Division "Nord"
When Norway capitulated in June 1940, there
were still some armed Norwegian forces intact: two Infantry
Battalions and one Motorised Artillery Battery who guarded the
Norwegian/Soviet-Russian and Finnish border in East-Finnmark.
These were led by Colonel Wilhelm Faye.
As Hitler did not want to deploy ordinary
Heer units to replace the Norwegians, the choice was
SS-Totenkopf-Standarte 9 led by SS-Obersturmbannführer
Ernst Deutsch. However, the first unit to arrive in Kirkenes,
was called "SS Batallion Reitz", named after their commander
Obersturmbannführer Wilhelm Reitz.
During the spring 1941, two new Standarten
(Regiments) arrived: the 6th and 7th. After a short time, the 6th
SS, with large elements from the 9th SS, moved into positions at
Salla in Northern-Finland. General von Falkenhorst did,
however, not trust their fighting ability very much, because even
If the formations were well equipped, the men were poorly trained.
The two latter regiments crossed the Finnish/Norwegian border, and
were ready at Salla the 22nd June, 1941.
As the attack on Soviet came, the
divisions, now usually called "Brigade", were thrown into the
battle at Markajärvi-Salla. They suffered great losses, and were
an expected disappointment to the German commanders: Falkenhorst
and Buschenhagen. The SS forces lost 700 men the first two days in
combat with strong Russian forces. (300 KIA and 400 WIA).
The Brigade got a new unit attached,
SS-Gebirgsartillerie-Regiment 6, and was now redesigned as a
Division. During the autumn 1941, the Division was handed over to
the battle-hardened Finnish General Siilasvuo (this was the
only time that an SS Division was commanded by a foreign Officer),
and took positions at Louchi/Kiestinki. Gen. Siilasvuo was no bad
choice for an Army Corps commander: he had served in the Finnish
famous volunteer "Jägerbatallion 27" during WW 1, on the German
A unit by Finnish volunteers was never
formed in this case, but a Norwegian one soon came true: the "Freiwilligen-Skikompanie
"Norwegen", later Frwg-Skibatallion "Norwegen". (Norwegian:
It was formed in February 1941 in Norway as
"SS-Kampfgruppe Nord" by "Stab des Befehlshaber der
Waffen-SS in Norwegen". From September 1941 the unit was
officially designated "SS-Division Nord". In January it was
converted to a "SS-Gebirgs-Division",
and new units began forming in Germany
for the division.
The rebuilt Division was called into
action against the Soviet spring
offensive in 1942 and this time managed
to hold its lines. Throughout the rest
of 1942 and through 1943 it remained on
the Kestenga front, which was quiet
compared to other areas of the Eastern
Front. In September 1942, the unit was
renamed the SS Gebirgs-Division
"Nord" (SS Mountain Division
"North") and in October 1943 became the
6th SS Gebirgs-Division "Nord".
After crossing the Skagerrak in a naval
convoy, the division briefly refitted in
Denmark. The Division's losses were
replaced for the greater part of young
Volksdeutsche (ethnic Germans)
who had received only a brief training
and had not volunteered but been drafted
to the Waffen SS in the normal
conscription procedure. Their fighting
value was therefore correspondingly
lower than had been the case with the
former personnel and naturally lowered
the combat abilities of the entire
January, the SS Gebirgs Regiment 11
surrounded six companies of the American
157th Infantry Regiment. The Americans
were forced to surrender three days
later, losing 482 men. The Nord
advanced for four more days before being
stopped by American counterattacks.
The division remained on the Western
front after the Nordwind offensive,
fighting the Americans around Trier and
Koblenz on de Moselle River in March. By
Easter 1945 it numbered about 2,000 men,
including stragglers from other units.
It still had six howitzers and an
assault gun. The division refused to
give up, and moved east to re-establish
contact with other German units.
However, as it moved, it drew the
attention of the US Army by cutting
American lines of communications. In
early 1945 over the course of several
days the US 71st division fought a
series of engagements with the division
Nord. As a result, the division was
destroyed, its personnel scattered or
Formed Mar 1942 from Volksdeutsche (ethnic
Germans) from Croatia, Serbia, Hungary and Romania, initially all
where volunteers but later conscription was used. All units of the
Einsatz Staffeln (ES), a SS related
Croatia made up of Volksdeutsche, where absorbed by the division
It was used for anti-partisan duties until
late 1944 when it began fighting the Red Army as well. It was one
of the units fighting to keep 350,000 retreating German soldiers
to be encircled Sep 1944 and suffered heavy losses, but the
operation was successful. It ended the war in Slovenia and
surrendered to the Yugoslav forces.
8.SS-Kavallerie Division "Florian Geyer"
Formed 1942 when
SS-Kavallerie-Brigade was upgraded.
It saw actions against partisans in the
east (Briansk and Vjasma among other places) as well as in the
Balkans before being transferred to Budapest were it was destroyed
when the city fell to the Red Army.
9.SS-Panzer Division "Hohenstaufen"
Mainly formed from conscripts, many of them
from the ranks of the Reichs Arbeits Dienst (RAD).
It first saw action at Tanopol, Apr 1944
where it took part in rescuing German troops from the
Kamenets-Podolsk pocket. It was sent to Normandy to fight the
allied landings. It retreated into Belgium before being sent to
rest near Arnhem where they soon had to fight the allied
paratroopers who landed there.
It was then transferred to Germany
and later fought in the Ardennes and Hungary before ending the war
10.SS-Panzer Division "Frundsberg"
Mainly formed from conscripts, many them
from the RAD.
It first saw action at Tanopol, Apr 1944
where it took part in rescuing German troops from the
Kamenets-Podolsk pocket. It was sent to Normandy to fight the
allied landings. It retreated into Belgium before being sent to
rest near Arnhem and Apeldoorn area, where they soon had to fight the allied
paratroopers who landed there. It was then sent to the Eastern
front where it fought the Red Army in Aachen and Pomerania.
11.SS-Freiw.-Panzergrenadier Division "Nordland"
By 1943, the foreign formations of the
had an established
record in combat. The 5th SS Panzer
Division Wiking, a volunteer formation,
had been in action since 1940.
The Wiking, however, was composed of
enlisted men who were predominantly
volunteers from Nordic countries,
commanded by German officers. In
February 1943, Hitler ordered the
creation of an SS Division which would
be officered by foreign volunteers. The
, a Scandinavian volunteer
regiment, was pulled out of the line to
be used as a cadre for the new division.
The division was originally to receive
the name Waräger
the name was rejected by Hitler himself.
It was decided that the division was to
continue using the already-existing
regiment's name, Nordland
Nordland's two Panzergrenadier regiments
were also given honour titles, with
reference to the location where the
majority of the regiment's recruits were
from, SS-Panzergrenadier Regiment 23
SS-Panzergrenadier Regiment 24 Danmark
After its formation in Germany, the
division was attached to the III
(Germanic) SS Panzer
the command of Obergruppenführer
Felix Steiner and was moved to Croatia
for training and to complete its
formation. Soon after its arrival, the
attached to the division and it began
combat operations against Josip Broz
In late November, the Danmark
regiment was involved in heavy fighting
with a force of 5,000 partisans near
Glina. During this period, the
Panzer Battalion, SS
Panzer Battalion 11
, was given the
in honour of the fourth
Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights
(b.1179-d.1239).In January 1944, orders
were received to move the division to
the Oranienbaum front near Leningrad,
under the command of
Army Group North.
Nordland, along with
the rest of III. (Germanic) SS Panzer
Corps arrived at the front near
Leningrad and was almost immediately put
into action against the Red Army attacks
to break the German encirclement of the
city. After they escaped from being
surrounded, the Nordland effected
a fighting withdrawal over 60 kilometres
to Oranienbaum. On 14 January 1944, the
Soviet Krasnoye Selo–Ropsha Offensive
succeeded in collapsing the German
front, and the Nordland fought
its way back again to the city of Narva
in extreme northeastern Estonia, where a
new line of defence was being organized.
In early February, Soviet forces began
their attacks towards the city and the
Battle of Narva began.
From late October to December 1944, the
Nordland fought fierce defensive
battles in the pocket; by early December
the divisional strength was down to
9,000 men. In January 1945, the division
was ordered to the Baltic port of Libau,
where it was shipped out of the pocket
to Pomerania. The division disembarked
at Stettin, with the Panzer Battalion
Hermann von Salza being sent on to
Gotenhafen for refitting. In late
January, Nordland was assigned to
Steiner's 11th SS Panzer Army, which was
now forming in anticipation of the
defence of Berlin.
By 21 February the conclusion was
arrived-at that no more useful gains
could be made against an increasingly
powerful enemy without incurring undue
casualties, so Steiner ordered a general
withdrawal back to the north bank of the
Ihna. Between the 23rd and 28th, III
(Germanic) SS Panzer Corps made a
slow withdrawal to the area around
Stargard and Stettin on the northern
The Soviet offensive of 1 March,
pushed Nordland, along with the rest of
the depleted III (Germanic) SS Panzer
Corps, before them. In a desperate
fighting withdrawal, the Nordland and
the rest of III (Germanic) SS Panzer
Corps inflicted heavy casualties on the
Soviet forces; but by 4 March, the
division was falling back to Altdamm,
the last defensive position east of the
Oder itself. During the next two weeks,
Nordland grimly held onto the town,
inflicting and suffering heavy
casualties. On 19 March, the battered
defenders fell back behind the Oder, the
Danmark and Norge regiments had fought
virtually to the last man. The division
was ordered back to the area west of
Schwedt-Bad Freinwalde for a refit.
During this time, the 33rd
Waffen-Grenadier Division of the SS
Charlemagne, a 300-man unit of French SS
volunteers and the Spanish Volunteer
Company of the SS No.101, a company of
Spanish SS men were attached to the
division. The division's strength was
replenished with the addition of several
vehicles and some personnel from the
Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine.
On 16 April, Nordland was ordered
back into the line east of Berlin.
Despite recent replenishment, the
division was still grossly understrength
and, with the exception of the French
and Spanish, many of the new recruits
had little, if any combat experience.
On 25 April, Brigadeführer Gustav
Krukenberg was appointed the commander
of (Berlin) Defence Sector C which
included the Nordland Division, whose
previous commander, Joachim Ziegler, was
relieved of his command the same day.
The arrival of the French SS men
bolstered the Nordland Division whose
"Norge" and "Danmark" Panzergrenadier
regiments had been decimated in the
fighting. They each roughly equalled a
Fierce fighting continued all around,
especially in the Weidendammer Bridge
area. What was left of the Nordland
Division under Krukenberg fought hard in
that area but Soviet artillery and
anti-tank guns were too strong. The
Nordland's last Tiger was knocked out
attempting to cross the Weidendammer
Others such as the 3rd (Swedish) Company
of the Reconnaissance battalion fought a
desperate and ultimately useless battle
to escape the surrounding Soviets.
Several very small groups managed to
reach the Americans at the Elbe's west
bank, but most (including Mohnke's group
and men from Krukenberg's group), could
not break through the Soviet ring.
Krukenberg made it to Dahlem, where he
hid out in an apartment for a week but
then had to surrender.
On 2 May hostilities officially ended
by order of Helmuth Weidling, Kommandant
of the Defence Area Berlin and General
of Artillery. All remaining pockets of
resistance were mopped up by the Red
Army and the 80,000 or so Prisoners of
War were marched east. Many SS men,
loyal to their oath to Hitler, had
already either fought to the death or
taken their own lives. Of the few
survivors who reached the Western
Allies' lines, most were handed over to
their respective countries and tried as
traitors, some serving prison time and a
few even receiving the death penalty.
12.SS-Panzer Division "Hitlerjugend"
The origins of the 12. SS-Panzer-Division
Hitlerjugend can be traced back to late 1942 and early 1943. In
all probability, the idea to create a "Hitlerjugend" division was
first tabled by SS-Gruppenführer Gottlob Berger for Hitler's
consideration sometime in January of 1943. His vision called for the
drafting of all HJ members who were born in 1926 and assign them to
a "Hitlerjugend" combat formation. Hitler liked the proposal and
ordered Berger to commence organizing the division.
order was issued on the 10th of February, 1943. Berger, probably
thinking that because the "HJ division" was "his" idea, nominated
himself to be the first divisional commander of "Hitlerjugend". Much
to everyone's amusement, Himmler politely declined Berger's
candidacy a week later. Himmler gave that duty to SS-Oberführer Franz Witt instead; a former HJ member.
In April of 1943, Hitler signed off on a
number of additional decrees relating to the formation of the
"Hitlerjugend" Panzer Grenadier Division; though it need be noted
that Joseph Goebbels has serious reservations about the whole
undertaking. One of Hitler's provisions called for the German
Reichsarbeitsdienst (RAD) to release a number of HJ members for
immediate transfer to the new embryonic HJ Panzer Grenadier
Division. A number of pre-requisites however had to be met before a
final transfer to the HJ division was officially approved:
* a minimum height of 170cm/5ft.7in. was
required for HJ Division infantrymen;
* a minimum height of 168cm/5ft.6in. was
required for HJ Division armored, FLAK and
* and all recruits
would undergo an initial six week, pre-basic WEL training camp.
On May 1st, 1943, the first group of 8,000 HJ
volunteers reported to the WEL camps. Note: that of the 8,000
HJ boys, 6,000 were sent to the WEL camps and 2,000 were directed to
attend advanced or special military training camps. Because the
planning officials were not able to adhere to their desired six week
training classes (and probably because they were under great
pressures to expedite the training and subsequent combat
availability of the new HJ division), they shortened the training
time by two weeks. On July 1st, 1943, the graduating class of 8.000
HJ trainees were released for service in the HJ division. That same
day, a second group of 8,000 HJ boys was ready to enter the above
training regiment. By the 1st of September 1943, 16,000 trained HJ
recruits were listed on the rosters of the newly formed
Per an order dated June 24th, 1943, it was
initially decided that the SS "Hitlerjugend" division would be
formed as the 12th SS Panzer Grenadier Division "Hitlerjugend".
However, an order dated October 30th, 1943, amended that by calling
for the HJ Panzer Grenadier Division to be re-organized into a full
SS Panzer Division.
1943 was a very critical year for Germany and
for the German war effort. This was when Germany had experienced a
number of colossal military (manpower) disasters, which could no
longer be ignored. In January of 1943, the German 6th Army
surrendered at Stalingrad and Germany lost a large number of men in
that campaign. That same month, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt
and Britain's Winston Churchill, at the Casablanca conference,
declared that the Allies would only accept Germany's (and Italy's
and Japan's) unconditional surrender. This had a very galvanizing
affect on Germany and the NSDAP - they now believed that they had to
win the war no matter what! In May of 1943, the last units of the
vaunted Afrika Korps left Africa for good. In July of 1943, the
German Army lost its bid for victory at the battle of Kursk and the
human losses there were large as well. Italy was ready to surrender.
The Allied forces had invaded Sicily and were getting ready to march
up the boot of Italy. As a result of these events, new divisions
were needed on all of Germany's fronts. Existing and surviving
divisions needed replacements - where was the required manpower to
Shortly after Josef Göbbels gave his "Totaler
Krieg" speech in Berlin in February of 1943 (as a counter to
President Rooselvelt's Casablanca "unconditional surrender"
declaration), Germany initiated a new recruitment effort for its
military. This recruitment effort was directed against a pool of
soldiers, which had so far been left relatively intact - the
Hitlerjugend. This was a large source of combat-able individuals who
were physically very fit and who were very dedicated to the cause of
Nationalist Socialism. They would be obedient to the end. They would
blindly give their lives for their beloved Führer, Adolf Hitler.
All of these factors, from the initial
concept to create a HJ division to Germany's belated recognition of
the fact that it would need additional troops in large numbers,
contributed to the expeditious organization and training of the HJ
division. On paper, Germany would now be able to factor in one more
combat division into its front-line equations by the fall of 1943.
Thus, as rapidly as permissible under the existing wartime
conditions, the new HJ Panzer Grenadier troopers were assembled at
an SS training facility located in Beverloo, Belgium.
That said; it is one thing to place young and
inexperienced 17- or 18-year old teenagers into a tank or give them
a Grenadiers uniform and then send them towards the enemy at the
front lines. It is quite another thing to provide them with the
adequate combat and technical skills necessary for them to complete
their assigned missions if they are to have any chance of success.
To ensure for the greatest chance of combat
success, that is, to attain an adequate mix of seasoned military
veterans to young HJ recruits, a number of SS veterans, mostly from
the eastern front, were attached to the new HJ SS Panzer Grenadier
Division. A very large percentage of these experienced individuals
came from the 1st SS Panzer Division, the "Leibstandarte Adolf
Hitler" (LSSAH). This is why many HJ SS Panzer Grenadier members
often carried "LSSAH cuff titles" on their uniforms in the early
period. A smaller percentage of Wehrmacht officers, who also had
previously been HJ leaders, were transferred to the new HJ SS Panzer
Grenadier Division as well. Many of the lower level control and
command positions within the HJ SS Panzer Grenadier Division were
given to HJ members who had received exceptionally high marks in
leadership and military training skills during their days in the HJ
before and right after the start of the war.
The first divisional commander was SS
Oberführer Fritz Witt, who, when he received this command, was quite
young to command a division at only 34 years of age. It is
interesting to note that during their "shake down" training period
in Beverloo, Belgium, many of the regularly expected training rules
and regulations were tossed aside for the new SS troopers. The
battle hardened eastern front SS and Wehrmacht veterans taught the
new Hitlerjugend SS-Panzer Grenadiers all they could with the allotted time
using realistic combat scenarios amalgamated with many live-fire
training exercises. Formality and drill practices were replaced by
practical combat lessons. As a result, morale was at very high
levels in the entire division throughout their time in Belgium.
After their training period had been
completed, during the spring of 1943, they were deemed ready for
release to the western front. Shortly before June 6th, 1944, the HJ
SS Panzer Grenadier Division was moved from its training camp in
Beverloo to the town of Hasselt, also in Belgium. This is where the
HJ SS Panzer Division was held as a reserve unit to help check the
anticipated Allied invasion.
On the morning of June 6th, 1944, the Allied
powers landed on the coast of Normandy. The western front now
officially existed. As can be imagined, great confusions existed in
both the Allied and German military commands. At 1430 hours, June
6th, 1944, the HJ SS Panzer Grenadier Division was ordered to
proceed to Caen. This was in close proximity to the British and
Canadian landing sites of "Juno" and "Sword". But as soon as the HJ
SS Panzer Grenadier Division arrived in the area, they came under
heavy and relentless Allied air attacks. As a result, the HJ SS
Panzer Grenadier Division did not make it to its assigned attack
positions until 2200 hours that night.
Although fanatical in their determination and
tenacity to fight to the death, it did not take long for the
division to suffer horrendous casualties. In their first engagement
with the Canadiens, the HJ Division destroyed 28 Canadien tanks
while losing only 6 soldiers for their efforts. They fought with a
very high degree of determination. However, the odds were against
them in the long run. In slightly over one month of combat, the HJ
SS Panzer Grenadier Division had lost over 60 per cent of its forces
due to combat actions. 20 per cent were killed and the rest of the
40 per cent were either wounded or MIA. The divisional commander,
Fritz Witt, was killed when British naval fire hit his regional
command center. The new divisional commander became Kurt
"Panzermeyer" Meyer. At that time, he became the youngest
divisional commander in the entire German army - he was only 33 year
After the British and Canadian forces had
liberated Caen, the HJ SS Panzer Grenadier Division was one of the
24 German combat divisions, which became encircled in the Falaise
pocket. At this time, the HJ SS Panzer Grenadier Division was
ordered to hold the German lines on the northern edge of the pocket
so that the trapped divisions could escape as best they could. The
HJ SS Panzer Grenadier Division escaped being encircled as did about
20,000 other Germans - but over 50.000 other German forces were
trapped in the Falaise pocket and surrendered to the Allies.
Although the Normandy campaign survivors of
the HJ SS Panzer Grenadier Division fought with just as much
determination and dedication as they did a month earlier, in the
long run, they were fighting a losing battle. By September of 1944,
only 1.500-3.500+ HJ troopers survived in the division. They had
lost over 9,000 of their comrades in Normandy and in the Falaise
Gap. After the Falaise campaign, the HJ SS Panzer Grenadier Division
had also lost nearly all of its armor, much of their equipment and
In December of 1944, the now re-organized HJ
SS Panzer Division participated in the Battle of the Bulge in the
Ardenne forest. After that, the HJ SS Panzer Division was sent to
Hungary where it was supposed to assist in recapturing Budapest.
On May 8th, approximately 10,000 survivors of
the 12th SS Panzer Division surrendered to the American 65th
Infantry Division, 7th Army, near Enns in Austria. One surviving
tank belonging to the division also surrendered to the Americans
Division der SS "Handschar"
14.Waffen-Grenadier Division der SS
Formed April 1943 from volunteers from
western Ukraine (known as Galicia when it was controlled by
Austria-Hungary). Training of the troops began in Debica before
the division was moved to Silesia April 1944 for further training.
It was sent to the front at Brody in
Ukraine June 1944 were the imadequately armed division was almost
destroyed (only 3,000 reached the German lines) after being
encircled. It was soon rebuilt and was used to combat the
Slovakian uprising 1944 before it was sent to Yugoslavia to fight
15.Waffen-Grenadier Division der
Formed 1943 when the newly formed
Lettische SS-Freiwilligen Legion was upgraded to a division.
It was sent to the front November 1943 where it
fought the Red Army's winter offensive.
It was sent to West Prussia to recover from
the losses suffered the Soviet offensive in the autumn of 1944. It
returned to the front January 1945 and continued fighting the Red Army
until the end of the war when it managed to surrender to the
Formed November 1943 when
Sturmbrigade Reichsführer-SS was upgraded to a division when
Volksdeutsche were added to the units.
Parts of it fought the allied landings at
Anzio while the rest took part in the occupation of Hungary. It
fought in Italy as a single unit from May 1944 before being
transferred to Hungary. It ended the war in Austria.
"Götz von Berlichingen"
The 17. SS-Panzergrenadier-Division Götz
von Berlichingen was raised October 1943
from replacement units and conscripts.
It saw action against the US forces in
Normandy from 10 June 1944 and suffered
After the D-Day Allied invasion, the Götz
von Berlichingen was ordered to Normandy
to take part in the efforts to reduce the
Allied beachhead. On June 10 the Division
made contact with 182 paratroopers of the
3rd Battalion, 507th Parachute Infantry
Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, and B
Company, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment,
101st Airborne Division at the village of
Graignes. This small group of paratroopers
had been dropped mistakenly by the US 9th
Army Air Force Troop Carrier Command and had
decided to try and hold their positions. The
ensuing battle, and the criminal execution
of wounded paratroopers and French civilians
by the "Götz von Berlichingen", has since
been known as the Battle of Graignes. On
June 11 the reconnaissance battalion engaged
in combat with the paratroopers of the US
101st Airborne Division near the town of
For the rest of the month, the division was
engaged in heavy fighting for the bocage
country near Saint Lô and Coutances. During
this period, the Götz von Berlichingen
suffered heavy losses and by the beginning
of July, its strength was reduced to 8,500
men. The division was in the line of advance
for Operation Cobra, and suffered
heavy losses attempting to halt the Allied
offensive. It was then ordered to take part
in the Mortain Offensive, codenamed
Operation Lüttich. After the failure
of this offensive, the division was split
into four Kampfgruppen, 'Braune',
'Gunter', 'Fick' and 'Wahl'. These small
units managed to escape encirclement in the
Falaise Pocket, but suffered heavy losses
and remained in almost constant combat
against the advancing Americans until the
end of the month, when the division was
transferred to Metz for a much-needed rest
The surviving parts of the division refitted
in the Saar during September and took of
manpower from Heer and Waffen-SS stragglers.
It fought around Metz in October and
Novenber before once again retreating to the
Saar, seeing action there in December. It
fought in Lorraine 1945 during the Nordwind
offensive and in March it retreated towards
Small elements from the division are
believed to have been involved in the so
called "Battle for Castle Itter" on 5 May
1945, a grand name for a small operation to
recapture the Austrian Itter Castle in North
Tyrol that had been captured by the US
forces the day before. Its claim to fame is
that part of the 41 men strong force
defending the castle were 7 US soldiers from
the 23rd Tank Battalion of the US 12th
Armored Division, 14 French VIPs who had
been held at the castle and 20 Germans.
Back in Kufstein, Lee picked up his reinforcements --
two tanks from his own outfit and five more from the 36th
Infantry Division's 142nd Battalion. With Lee and Szymcyk
went Lieutenant Harry Basse, Santa Ana, Cal., maintenance
officer and the tanks' crews. At the town of Worgl the force
paused. Lee, leaving the others behind, took his own medium
tank with five volunteers, said goodbye to his rear-guard,
and rumbled on to the castle, the faithful major trailing in
Then began the classic defense of the ancient "schloss",
which had not known battle since the days of crossbow and
boiling oil. The defenders numbered 41 -- there were 20
soldiers of the Wehrmacht (German regular army), 14 French
men and women, and seven Americans.
At 4 o'clock on the morning of May 5, a small force of SS
men launched an attack up the slope toward the castle.
American rifles and German light machine guns teamed up to
beat them back.
The survivors surrendered to US forces in Bavaria at the end
of the war.
Formed around a cadre from
1. SS-Infanterie-Brigade (mot) and included mainly Hungarian
It was used for anti-partisan duties until
it was sent to the Eastern front, with the exeption of one
regiment that fought the Slovak uprising Aug 1944. It later fought
as a single unit in Hungary and later in Czechoslovakia where it
19.Waffen-Grenadier Division der SS
2. Lettische SS-Freiwilligen-Brigade was upgraded to a
division. It fought the Red Army until it ended the
war in the Kurland pocket.
20.Waffen-Grenadier Division der SS
Formed from the
3. Estnische SS-Freiwilligen Brigade. It fought on the Eastern
front, including the great battle at Narwa 1944 and was later
evacuated from Estonia along with the rest of the German forces.
It continued fighting in Silesia and later
Czechoslovakia until the end of the war when parts of the
surrendered to the western allies.