On the one hand, the countries involved have usually played down the number of volunteers they provided, while on the other, German propaganda often overstated the participation of foreigners, especially in the Waffen-SS. They fought alongside other volunteers and conscripts from Estonia and Latvia in battles that are rarely mentioned in English-language literature, yet were often of decisive importance and vast scale. Following on from his previous work on the Germanic Waffen-SS, respected Waffen-SS historian Marc Rikmenspoel now gives the subject his full attention in the first of two lavish volumes of photographs. The unprecedented coverage begins in this volume with the founding of the Germania Regiment in , and continues with the forming of the famous Wiking Division in late Wiking is followed across Ukraine in , and to the Caucasus the next year. The Dutch and Flemish Legions are shown in the hellish fighting along the Volkhov River, and the coverage extends to the Norwegian Legion that took part in the siege of Leningrad, and the Danish volunteers that were flown into the notorious Demyansk pocket.
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There was only one word for the military situation: desperate. The SS soldiers would be put to their greatest test in the days and weeks ahead.
On the night of 28 January , the remnants of III. As the SS troops left, the lines behind them were shortened and tightened up for the remaining defenders. The detachment was reorganized around Landeck to the south of Danzig, but all efforts to obtain new tanks had been in vain. SS Panzer Corps in Pomerania.
On 31 January , the other units of the Corps began loading onto transport ships in the harbor of Libau. The transportation officers tried to speed things up as much as possible and in the process caused some added difficulties. The sea voyage to the German port of Stettin was not un-eventful; there were run-ins with enemy submarines and refugees and escapees from sunken vessels were continually being picked up.
He has been accused by many historians of hastening the collapse of the Pomeranian Front by a few weeks, but it is doubtful whether the best military minds in Germany could have done any better! The various replacement units of III. SS Panzer Corps had been gathered at the Hammerstein troop training grounds in Pomerania to await the arrival of their parent formations. In the course of January all of the above elements were thrown into action against the northern flank of the 1st White Russian Front around Arnswalde and Pyritz.
SS Panzer Corps was to move into the area north of Arnswalde. East of Arnswalde was the Paratroop Regiment 25 and the nd Infantry Division, while still farther to the east the X. Behind the Russian lines were many cutoff pockets of German resistance. Between the Weichsel and Oder Rivers were all kinds of fragments and splinters from partially destroyed German divisions that were hastily formed into battle-groups, but they were unable to withstand the intense pressure being applied by the communists.
This was the armored component of III. SS Panzer Corps that had long been authorized but only recently assembled; it had missed all the action on the Narva and Kurland Fronts. It was joined on 5 February by SS. To the east the communists managed to seize the towns of Petznick, Schlagenthin, Pammin and Stolzenfelde.
Because of this new threat, KGr. In positions to the south of Reetz was another part of this unit. Oehms headquartered in Zadelow , II. Wangemann held in reserve near Stargard. The total strength of this force was 2, men and the overall commander was Ostubaf. The German battle-lines soon began to stabilize along the Inha River. In the process the commander, Stubaf. Schulz-Streek was wounded. He was sent to a Stargard hospital but was back at the front in two days with his arm in a cast.
In the meantime, the first parts of the III. But the enemy drive to the north was continuing. On 8 February, elements of III.
It was joined by the regimental staff of SS Rgt. It was however ordered to take charge of various detached elements to form a new battle-group. What resulted was a force consisting of II. Lohmann and his staff. The regrouping of the III. SS Corps troops continued. Led by Ostubaf. Scheibe, it had been in action independently in Pomerania since December , when its rebuilding process in Austria reached its completion.
To the south of Stargard another crisis developed. The fighting reached its crescendo at Repplin, where I. After being solidly rebuffed here, the Reds withdrew a short distance to rebuild their strength. It looked ominous; another such effort might succeed in breaking through to Stargard. At daybreak on 9 February , Ostubaf. Leon Degrelle personally led the assault drive of his Belgian volunteer division.
The attack went forward with good success around both sides of Strebelow. The Russians counterattacked with tanks but to no avail. The Walloons had a tactical advantage by holding the high ground. Another Walloon company was sent towards Kruessow which the communists had just occupied. On 10 February it valiantly tried to retake Kruessow, but the enemy force was too strong and the Walloon SS attack finally had to be broken off.
The pressure on the trapped Arnswalde garrison continued to grow as the Soviets captured Hohenwalde, Schulzendorf and Kaehnsfelde, further tightening their ring around Arnswalde proper. Supplies were air dropped to the encircled soldiers. Voight sent back his refusal in no uncertain terms! His soldiers would fight to the death if need be.
For the next few days, the focal point of the fighting was around Reetz where the enemy spearheads were blocked off by troops from SS-KGr.
In cold rain the SS battalions moved into their attack positions. Due to the inclemency of the weather and the slowness in getting the assault force into position, the offensive operation did not begin until the morning of 16 February. The attack was to be coordinated on a line running from south of Stargard to Reetz and to Kailies, by Ogruf. In close support of these divisions were the SS KGr. Under a light morning mist the companies of the Danish II.
The combat engineers had to work through the night and into the morning of 16 February preparing a bridge strong enough to accommodate heavy armored vehicles. It was left to II. Good artillery support was provided by II. All over, women and children screamed to be rescued and blistering small arms fire crackled lethally through the air. Sorensen, as usual, personally led the foremost assault platoon and with great bravery, quickly captured the south part of the town.
Fendler was immediately wounded; he was replaced by Hstuf. Kruegel came up to the front. Kruegel conferred with Sorensen and ordered him to seize the woods and high ground around Reichenbach to which the enemy had retreated and then hold fast. At hours, the Danish SS troops pushed forward. The battalion and regimental command posts were hurriedly set up in Reichenbach. Only a few inhabitants of the town were still alive — many had been murdered by the Soviets. By the afternoon of 16 February, the German spearheads were advancing to the south in all sectors.
But there were set-backs. The failure of SS Rgt. But the Soviet defense suddenly grew stronger. Troops from 37th Panzer Corps were unable to advance beyond the southeast point of Lake Madu. Capelle, advanced out of the Linden Hills, but could not make much progress and took heavy casual-ties. At the end of 16 February, after much violent fighting in the III. SS Panzer Corps sector, many combat objectives still had not been reached.
The companies of SS KGr. After being repelled several times, the soldiers of SS Rgt. Intense, concentrated enemy fire was encountered and despite superhuman efforts by the Dutch SS men, the advance was firmly bogged down in the cemetery to the north of Reetz.
In sheer desperation one of the assault guns from SS AT Detachment 54 attacked madly from the west in an effort to scatter the enemy and clear a route to the city. The end results proved to be exactly the opposite.
The assault gun was destroyed just outside the Arnswalder Gate, and its remains effectively blocked the approach way for the SS grenadiers! It approached the city from the Altenwedell area but could not break the resistance of enemy defenders who clung to a row of fortified houses on the outskirts of Reetz.
The Russians counterattacked with tanks that were brought across the Inha River. This action was slowed by heavy and effective enemy anti-tank shelling. Still some progress was made. In the same battle area, SS-KGr. On 17 February, the undermanned and outgunned 37th Panzer Corps became hopelessly bogged down along the southern shore of Lake Madu. In the Linden Hills, Ustuf.
On all sides of the hills were T and Stalin tanks. SS Rgt. Actually the capture of Gut Marienfelde was transferred to I. Ternedde successfully retook Bonin in very difficult fighting. The Soviets were well dug-in and put up an especially bitter resistance.
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SS-Kampfgruppe Div. The massive Waffen-SS training grounds at Beneschau near Prague, which provided facilities for artillery, panzergrenadier and engineer schools, now had to begin the process of forming the training personnel and students into front line battle groups. He was now instructed to reform his training regiment into a combat ready battle group of roughly brigade strength with the addition of an engineer battalion and an artillery detachment. In the course of March.