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Waffen-SS
Icon-waffen-ss-pic
Active 1933–1945
Country Flag of Germany 1933 Nazi Germany
Allegiance Adolf Hitler
Branch Flag Schutzstaffel Schutzstaffel
Type Panzer
Panzergrenadier
Cavalry
Infantry
Mountain Infantry
Police
Size 38 Divisions and many minor units at its peak
Garrison/HQ Third Reich
Motto Meine Ehre heißt Treue
("My Honor is called Loyalty"), and engraved on all HJ Knives, (presented to every man in the Waffen SS on graduation day) were the words " Blut und Ehre " (Blood and Honour)
Engagements World War II
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Josef Dietrich
Paul Hausser
Felix Steiner
Theodor Eicke

The Waffen-SS (German for "Armed SS", literally "Weapons SS") was the combat arm of the Schutzstaffel ("Protective Squadron") or SS, an organ of the Nazi Party. The Waffen-SS saw action throughout World War II and grew from three regiments to a force of over 38 divisions, which served alongside the regular army, but was never formally part of the Wehrmacht. It was Adolf Hitler's will that the Waffen-SS never be integrated into the Army: they were to remain the armed wing of the Party and were to become an elite police force once the war was over.[1] For this reason, although operational control of the Waffen-SS units on the front line was given to the Army's High Command, in all other respects they remained under the auspices of Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler's SS organization, and behind the lines these units were an instrument of political policy enforcement, including the implementation of the Nazi's "Final Solution" to the "Jewish problem".

Although at first membership in the Waffen-SS was open to "Aryans" only in accord with the racial policies of the Nazi state, in 1940 Hitler authorized the formation of Waffen-SS units composed largely or solely of foreign volunteers and conscripts, and by the end of the war ethnic non-Germans made up approximately 60% of the Waffen-SS.[2]

After the war, in the Nuremberg Trials, the Waffen-SS was condemned as a criminal organisation due to its essential connection to the Party and its involvement in war crimes and the Holocaust. As a result, Waffen-SS veterans were denied many of the rights afforded to other German combat veterans who had served in the Heer (army), Luftwaffe (air force) or Kriegsmarine (navy). The exception made was for Waffen-SS conscripts sworn in after 1943, who were exempted due to their involuntary servitude. In the 1950s and 1960s Waffen-SS veteran groups successfully fought numerous legal battles in the newly-founded West Germany to overturn the Nuremberg ruling and win pension rights for their members.

Origins (1929 - 1939)Edit

Bundesarchiv Bild 119-01-03, Berlin, Parade zum dritten Jahrestag LSSHA crop

Parade for the third anniversary of the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler on the barracks' grounds. Sepp Dietrich is at the lectern. May 1935

The origins of the Waffen-SS can be traced back to the selection of a group of 120 SS men in March 1933, by Josef "Sepp" Dietrich to form the Sonderkommando Berlin.[3] Within months of its formation it was renamed Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler.[3] By November 1933, the Leibstandarte was 800 men strong, and at a remembrance ceremony in Munich for the tenth anniversary of the failed Munich Putsch, the Regiment swore allegiance to Hitler

Pledging loyalty to him alone and Obedience unto death.[3]

The Leibstandarte demonstrated their loyalty in June 1934, during what became known as the Night of the Long Knives, the purge of the Sturmabteilung (SA). The SA had over two million members at the end of 1933. Led by one of Hitler's old comrades Ernst Röhm, the SA represented a threat to Hitler's attempts to win favour with the German army and also threatened to sour his relations with the conservative elements of the country, people whose support Hitler needed to solidify his position in the German government. Hitler decided to act against the SA, and the SS was put in charge of eliminating Röhm and the other high-ranking officers of the SA.

The Night of the Long Knives on 30 June 1934 saw the killing of 82 SA men, including almost its entire leadership, effectively ending the power of the SA. This attack was largely carried out by the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler.[3] In September 1934, Adolf Hitler authorised the formation of the military wing of the Nazi Party and approved the formation of the SS-Verfügungstruppe or SS-VT, which was to be a force of special service troop under Hitler's command.[3] The SS-VT had to depend on the German Army for its supply of weapons and military training and they had control of the recruiting system, through local draft boards which was responsible for assigning conscripts to the different branches of the Wehrmacht, to meet quotas set by the German High Command (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht or OKW in German). The SS was given the lowest priority for recruits.[4] Even with the difficulties of the quota system Heinrich Himmler formed two new SS regiments, the SS Germania and SS Deutschland, which together with the Leibstandarte and a communications unit made up the SS-VT.[4] At the same time Himmler established the SS-Junkerschule Bad Tölz and SS-Junkerschule Braunschweig for training the officers required to lead the new regiments.[4] Both schools used the regular army training methods and used former Army officers to train their potential officers to be combat effective.[4] The officer candidates had to meet stringent requirements before being allowed entry to the schools: all SS officer's had to be a minimum height of 5 foot 10 inches – 5 foot 11 inches for the Leibstandarte and they also had to have served some time in the ranks.[4][5]

In 1936 Himmler selected former Lieutenant General Paul Hausser to be Inspector of the SS-VT with the rank of Brigadefuhrer, and he set about transforming the SS-VT into a credible military force that was a match for the regular army.[6][7]

On 17 August 1938, Hitler declared that the SS-VT would have a role in domestic as well as foreign affairs, which transformed this growing armed force into the rival that the army had feared.[8] He also decreed that service in the SS-VT would qualify to fulfill military obligations, although service in the SS-Totenkopfverbände or SS-TV would not. Some units of the SS-TV would, in the case of war, be used a reserves for the SS-VT, which at the time did not have its own pool of reserves.[9] For all its training, the SS-VT had been unable to test itself in a combat situation. This changed in 1938, when two opportunities arose with the Anschluss of Austria in March and the occupation of the Sudentenland in October. A battalion of the Leibstandarte was chosen to accompany the Army troops in occupying Austria, and during the occupation of the Sudetenland the three regiments of the SS-VT participated. In both actions no resistance was met, with the Austrians and Czechs failing to fight back.[7][9]

World War IIEdit

1939Edit

PolandEdit

In August 1939 Hitler placed the SS-VT under the operational command of the OKW. At the outbreak of hostilities there were four SS armed regiments: Leibstandarte, Deutschland, Germania and the new regiment from Austria Der Führer – although the last was not yet combat-ready.[10]

Events during the Invasion of Poland raised doubts over the combat effectiveness of the SS-VT. Their willingness to fight was never in any doubt; at times they were almost too eager to fight. The OKW reported that the SS-VT had unnecessarily exposed themselves to risks and acted recklessly, incurring heavier losses than Army troops. They also stated that the SS-VT was poorly trained and its officers unsuitable for command. As an example, OKW cited that the Leibstandarte had to be rescued by an Army regiment after becoming surrounded at Pabianice by the Poles.[10] In its defence the SS-VT insisted that it had been hampered by its fighting piecemeal instead of as one formation, and was improperly equipped to carry out its required objectives.[10] Himmler insisted that that the SS-VT should be allowed to fight in its own formations under its own commanders, while the OKW tried to have the SS-VT disbanded altogether.[10] Hitler was unwilling to upset the Army, and Himmler chose a different path. He ordered that the SS-VT form its own divisions but that the divisions would be under Army command.[10]

First DivisionsEdit

In October 1939, the Deutschland, Germania and Der Führer were reorganized into the SS-Verfügungs Division, with the Leibstandarte remaining independent but increased in strength to a reinforced motorised regiment.[7][10] In addition, Hitler authorised the creation of two new Divisions: the SS Totenkopf Division formed from surplus members of the SS-TV and the SS Polizei Division formed for members of the National police force.[10][11] Almost overnight the force that the OKW had tried to disband had increased from 18,000 to over 100,000 strong.[11] Hitler next authorised the creation in March 1940 of four Motorised Artillery battalions, one for each division and the Leibstandarte. The OKW was supposed to supply these new battalions with the weapons it required, but was reluctant to hand over guns from its own arsenal. The weapons arrived only slowly, and by the time of the Battle of France only the Leibstandarte battalion was up to strength.[12]

1940Edit

1940 expansionEdit

In August 1940, Gottlob Berger approached Himmler with a plan to recruit volunteers in the conquered territories from the ethnic German and Germanic populations. Hitler at first had his doubts about recruiting foreigners but was persuaded by Himmler and Berger. He gave approval for a new division to be formed from foreign nationals with German officers, and by June 1944 Danish and Norwegian volunteers had formed the SS Regiment Norland, with Dutch and Belgian volunteers forming the SS Regiment Westland, the two regiment in the SS Division 'Wiking.[13] In fact, volunteers came forward in such numbers that the SS was forced to open a new training camp just for foreign volunteers located at Sennheim in Alsace-Lorraine.[13]

Himmler had also gained approval for the Waffen-SS to form its own high command, the SS Fuhrungshauptamt, and switched command of the SS-TV Regiments and police units to the Waffen-SS, which then formed the 1 SS Infantry Brigade and the 2 SS Infantry Brigade.[14]

France and the Low CountriesEdit

The three SS divisions and the Leibstandarte spent the winter of 1939 and the spring of 1940 training and preparing for the coming war in the west. In May, they moved to the front, and the Leibstandarte became part of the Army's 227th Infantry Division. The Der Führer Regiment was detached from the SS-VT Division and moved near the Dutch border, with the remainder of the division behind the line in Munster, awaiting the order to invade the Netherlands. The SS Totenkopf and SS Polizei Divisions were held in reserve.[15]

On 10 May, the Leibstandarte overcame Dutch border guards and spearheaded the German advance into Holland, and the Der Führer advanced towards Utrecht. The following day the rest of the SS-VT Division crossed into Holland and headed towards Rotterdam, which they reached on the 12 May.[15] After the surrender of Rotterdam, the Leibstandarte set out to reach the Hague, which they did on 15 May, capturing 3,500 Dutch prisoners of war.[15]

In France the SS Totenkopf was involved in the only Allied tank attack in the Battle of France, when on 21 May units of the 1st Army Tank Brigade, supported by the 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division, took part in the Battle of Arras. The SS Totenkopf was overrun, finding their standard anti tank gun, the 3.7 cm PaK 36, was no match for the British Matilda tank.[16]

After the Dutch surrender, the Leibstandarte moved south to France on 24 May. Becoming part of the XIX Panzer Corps under the command of General Heinz Guderian, they took up a position fifteen miles south west of Dunkirk along the line of the Aa canal, with a bridgehead established at Saint Venant.[17] That night the OKW issued order that the advance was to halt, with the British Expeditionary Force trapped. The Leibstandarte paused for the night, but the following day in defiance of Hitler's orders, continued the advance. Dietrich ordered his III Battalion to cross the canal and take the height beyond, where British artillery observers were putting the regiment at risk. They assaulted the heights and drove the observers off. Instead of being censured for his act of defiance, Dietrich was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross.[18]

The same day the British attacked Saint Venant, forcing the SS-VT Division to retreat, the first time any SS unit had been forced to withdraw and give up ground it had captured.[17] On 27 May the Deutschland reached the defensive line on the Leie River at Merville. They forced a bridgehead across the river and waited for the SS Totenkopf Division to arrive and provide support and cover their flank. What arrived first was a unit of British tanks, which penetrated their positions. The SS-VT managed to hold on against the British tank force, which got to within fifteen feet of them, and the arrival of the Totenkopf Panzerjager platoon saved the Deutschland from being destroyed.[19] At the same time another unit from the Totenkopf, the 14 Company, was involved in the Le Paradis massacre, where 99 men of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Norfolk Regiment were machinegunned, and any survivors finished off with bayonets.[7][20]

By 28 May the Leibstandarte had taken Wormhout only ten miles from Dunkirk.[17] They were also responsible for the Wormhoudt massacre when the II Battalion killed 80 British prisoners of war.[21]

By 30 May the British were cornered at Dunkirk, and the SS Division continued the advance into France. The Leibstandarte reached Saint-Étienne 250 miles south of Paris, and had advanced further into France then any other unit.[18] The next day, the French surrendered.[22]

Hitler expressed his pleasure with the performance of the Leibstandartes in Holland and France, telling them that;

Henceforth it will be an honour for you, who bear my name, to lead every German attack.[18]

1941Edit

Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-158-0094-35, Balkan, PKW der Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler

Leibstandarte advances in the Balkans.

By the spring of 1941 the Waffen-SS consisted of the equivalent of six divisions: Das Reich, Totenkopf, Polizei, Wiking and SS Division Nord and the Leibstandarte, 1 SS Infantry, 2 SS Infantry and the SS Cavalry Brigades.[23][24]

BalkansEdit

In March 1941, a major Italian counterattack against Greek forces failed, and Germany was forced to come to the aid of its ally. Operation Marita began on April 6, 1941, with German troops invading Greece through Bulgaria in an effort to secure its southern flank.[25]

Das Reich was ordered to leave France and head for Romania, and the Leibstandarte was ordered to Bulgaria. The Leibstandarte, attached to the XL Panzer Corps, advanced west then south from Bulgaria into the mountains, and by 9 April had reached Prilep thirty miles from the Greek border.[26] Further north the SS Das Reich, with the XLI Panzer Corps, crossed the Rumanian border and advanced on Belgrade, the Yugoslav capital, arriving on 12 April to accept the city's surrender.[26] The Yugoslavian Army surrendered a few days later.[26]

The Leibstandarte had now crossed into Greece, and on 10 April engaged the 6th Australian Division in the Battle of the Klidi Pass. For 48 hours they fought for control of the heights, often engaging in hand to hand combat, eventually gaining control with the capture of Height 997, which opened the pass, allowing the German Army to advance into the Greek interior.[27] This victory finally gained praise from the OKW: in the order of the day they were commended for their "Unshakable offensive spirit" and told that "The present victory signifies for the Leibstandarte a new and imperishable page of honour in its history."[27]

The Leibstandarte continued the advance on 13 May. When the Reconnaissance Battalion under the command of Kurt Meyer came under heavy fire from the Greek Army defending the Klisura pass, they routed the defender and captured 1,000 prisoners of war at the cost of 6 dead and 9 wounded.[27] The next day, Meyer captured Kastoria and another 11,000 prisoners of war, and by 20 May the Leibstandarte had managed to cut off the retreating Greek Army at Metsovon and accepted the surrender of the Greek Epirus-Macedonian Army.[27]

Soviet UnionEdit

Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union, started on 22 June 1941, and all the Waffen-SS formations would participate.

SS Division Nord in northern Finland took part in Operation Arctic Fox with the Finnish Army, and the battle at Salla, where against strong Soviet forces they suffered 300 killed and 400 wounded in the first two days of the invasion.[28][29] The battle at Salla was a disaster, the thick forests and heavy smoke from forest fires disoriented the troops and the division's units completely fell apart.[29][30] By the end of 1941, Nord had suffered severe casualties. Over the winter of 1941–42 it received replacements from the general pool of Waffen-SS recruits, who were supposedly younger and better trained than the SS-men of the original formation.[29]

The rest of the Waffen-SS divisions and brigades fared better. The SS Totenkopf and SS Polizei divisions were attached to Army Group North, with the mission to advance through the Baltic states and onto Leningrad.[7][31] The SS Division Das Reich was with Army Group Centre and headed towards Moscow.[7][31] The SS Division Wiking and the Leibstandarte were with Army Group South, heading for the Ukraine and the city of Kiev.[7][31]

Bundesarchiv Bild 101III-Adendorff-002-18A, Russland, SS-Kavallerie-Brigade

Men and Horses of the SS Cavalry Brigade September 1941

The war in the Soviet Union proceeded well at first, but the cost to the Waffen-SS was extreme: the Leibstandarte by late October was at half strength due to enemy action as well as dysentery that was swept through the ranks.[32] Das Reich had lost 60 percent of its strength and was still to take part in the Battle of Moscow, and was decimated in the following Soviet offensive. The Der Führer Regiment was reduced to 35 men out of the 2,000 that had started the campaign in June.[32] Altogether, the Waffen-SS had suffered 43,000 casualties.[32].

While the Leibstandarte and the SS divisions were fighting in the front line, behind the lines it was a different story. The 1 SS Infantry and 2 SS Infantry Brigades, which had been formed from surplus concentration camp guards of the SS-TV, and the SS Cavalry Brigade moved into the Soviet Union behind the advancing armies. At first they fought Soviet partisans and cut off units of the Red Army in the rear of Army Group South, capturing 7,000 prisoners of war,[33], but from mid-August 1941 until late 1942 they were assigned to the Reich Security Head Office, headed by Reinhard Heydrich.[30][34] The brigades were now used in for rear area security and policing, and, most importantly, they were not under Army or Waffen-SS command. In the autumn of 1941, they left the anti-partisan role to other units and actively took part in the Holocaust. While assisting the Einsatzgruppen, they participated in the liquidation of the Jewish population of the Soviet Union, forming firing parties when required. The three brigades were responsible for the murder of tens of thousands by the end of 1941.[34]

Because it was more mobile and better able to carry out large-scale operations, the SS Cavalry Brigade played a pivotal role in the transition from "selective mass murder" to the wholesale extermination of the Jewish population.[35] On 27 July, the Brigade was ordered into action, and by 1 August the SS Cavalry Regiment was responsible for the death of 800 people; five days later, on 6 August, this total had reached 3,000 "Jews and Partisans".[36] Also on 1 August, after a meeting between Heinrich Himmler, Erich von Bach-Zelewski and Hinrich Lohse, the brigade's received the following order:

Explicit order by RFSS: All Jews must be shot. Drive the female Jews into the swamps.[37]

Gustav Lombard, on receiving the order, advised his Battalion that "In future not one male Jew is to remain alive, not one family in the villages."[37] Throughout the next weeks, members of the SS Cavalry Regiment 1, under Lombard's command, murdered an estimated 11,000 Jews and more than 400 dispersed soldiers of the Red Army.[38]

1942Edit

1942 expansionEdit

In 1942 the Waffen-SS was further expanded and a new division was entered on the rolls in March. The 7th SS Volunteer Mountain Division Prinz Eugen was recruited from Volksdeutsche (ethnic Germans) volunteers from Croatia, Serbia, Hungary and Romania and used on anti partisan operations in the Balkans.[23][30][39] Another new division was formed at the same time, when the SS Cavalry Brigade was used as the cadre in the formation of the 8th SS Cavalry Division Florian Geyer.[23][30]

Demjansk Einkesselung

Offensive of the Red Army south of Lake Ilmen, 7 January – 21 February 1942

Panzergrenadier divisionsEdit

The front line divisions of the Waffen-SS that had suffered through the Russian winter of 1941-1942 and the Soviet counter-offensive were withdrawn to France to recover and be reformed as panzergrenadier divisions.[40] Thanks to the efforts of Heinrich Himmler and Obergruppenführer Paul Hausser, the new commander of the SS Panzer Corps, the three SS Panzergrenadier divisions Leibstandarte, Das Reich and Totenkopf were to be formed with a full regiment of tanks rather than only a battalion. This meant that the SS Panzergrenadier divisions were full-strength Panzer divisions in all but name. They each also received nine Tiger tanks, which were formed into the heavy panzer companies.[40]

Demyansk PocketEdit

The Soviet offensive of January 1942 had trapped a number of German divisions in what became known as the Demyansk Pocket between February and April 1942; the 3 SS Totenkopf was one of the divisions encircled by the Red Army. The Red Army would not liberate Demyansk until 1 March 1943 with the retreat of the German troops. "For his excellence in command and the particularly fierce fighting of the Totenkopf", Obergruppenführer Theodor Eicke was awarded the Oak Leaves to the Knight's Cross on 20 May, 1942.[41]

1943Edit

1943 expansionEdit

The Waffen-SS expanded further in 1943: in February the 9th SS Panzer Division Hohenstaufen and its sister division the 10th SS Panzer Division Frundsberg were formed in France.[23] They were followed in July by the 11th SS Volunteer Panzergrenadier Division Nordland created from Norwegian and Danish volunteers.[23] September saw the 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend start forming using volunteers from the Hitler Youth.[23] Himmler and Berger were also successful in their appeal to Hitler to form a Bosnian Muslim division, and the 13th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Handschar (1st Croatian), the first non-Germanic division was formed, to fight Titos Yugoslav Partisans.[23] This was followed by the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS Galicia (1st Ukrainian) formed from volunteers from Galicia in the western Ukraine.[23] The 15th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Latvian) was also created in 1943, using compulsory military service in the Ostland.[23] The final new 1943 division was the 16th SS Panzergrenadier Division Reichsführer-SS, which was created using the Sturmbrigade Reichsführer SS as a cadre.[23] By the end of the year, the Waffen-SS had increased in size from eight divisions and some brigades to a force of 16 divisions.[23]

KharkovEdit

On the Eastern Front, the German Army suffered a devastating defeat when the 6th Army was defeated during the Battle of Stalingrad. Hitler ordered the SS Panzer Corps back to the Eastern Front for the counter-attack, with the object the city of Kharkov.[42] The SS Panzer Corps was in full retreat, having been attacked by the Soviet 6th Army, when on 19 February they received the order to attack. [42] In another example of a SS Commander disobeying Hitler's order to "stand fast and fight to the death", Hausser had withdrawn in front of the Red Army, but he now turned and attacked. Without support from the Luftwaffe or neighbouring German formations they broke through the Soviet line and advanced onto Kharkov.[43] Despite orders to encircle Kharkov from the north, the SS Panzer Corps instead decided to directly attack Kharkov in the Third Battle of Kharkov on 11 March.[44] This led to four days of house-to-house fighting before Kharkov was finally recaptured by the 1 SS Leibstandarte on 15 March. Two days later, the Germans also recaptured Belgorod, creating the salient which in July 1943 would lead to the Battle of Kursk. The German offensive cost the Red Army an estimated 70,000 casualties but the house-to-house fighting in Kharkov was also particularly bloody for the SS Panzer Corps, which had lost approximately 44% of its strength by the time operations ended in late March.[45]

Warsaw Ghetto uprisingEdit

The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was the Jewish insurgency that arose within the Warsaw Ghetto from 19 April to 16 May, an effort to prevent the transportation of the remaining population of the ghetto to the Treblinka extermination camp. The only units involved from the Waffen-SS were 821 Waffen-SS Panzergrenadiers from five reserve and training battalions and one cavalry reserve and training battalion.[46][47]

KurskEdit

Bundesarchiv Bild 101III-Zschaeckel-207-12, Schlacht um Kursk, Panzer VI (Tiger I)

Das Reich Tiger tank Company, during the Battle of Kursk.

The next test for the Waffen-SS was the Battle of Prokhorovka, which was part of the Battle of Kursk. The SS Panzer Corps had been renamed the II SS Panzer Corps and was part of the 4 Panzer-Army, which was chosen to spearheaded the attack through the Soviet defences. The attack penetrated to a depth of 35 kilometres (22 mi) and was then stopped by the Soviet 1st Tank Army.

During the fighting over the next few days, the II SS Panzer Corps thought they were close to driving a wedge between the 1st Tank Army and Soviet 69th Army, and had even broken through the third line of Soviet defences at Prokhorovka. Wrongly believing they had made a breakthrough, they were prepared to exploit the opportunity the next day.[48][49] The Soviet reserves had been sent south, to defend against a German attack by the III Panzer Corps and with the loss of their reserves, any hope that may have had of dealing a major defeat to the SS Panzer Corps ended. But the German advances now also failed – despite appalling losses, the Soviet Tank Armies had held the line and prevented the II SS Panzer Corps from making the expected breakthrough.[50]

ItalyEdit

After the Allied invasion of Italy in September 1943, Hitler ordered the II SS Panzer Corps to move to Italy, but in the end only the Leibstandarte was pulled out of Russia and sent to Italy, where the only other Waffen-SS unit was the 16 SS Panzergrenadier Division Reichsführer-SS.[51]

After the Italian surrender and the Italian collapse of 8 September 1943, the Leibstandarte was ordered to begin disarming nearby Italian units.[52] They also had the task of guarding several vital road and rail junctions in the north of Italy and was involved in several skirmishes with partisans.[52] This went smoothly, with the exception of a brief skirmish with Italian troops stationed in Parma on 9 September. By 19 September, all Italian forces in the Po River plain had been disarmed, but the OKW was concerned by reports that elements of the Italian Fourth Army were regrouping in Piedmont, near the French border. Sturmbannführer Joachim Peiper's mechanised III Battalion, SS Panzergrenadier Regiment 2, was sent to disarm these units.[52] Upon arriving in the province of Cuneo, Peiper was met by an Italian officer who warned that his forces would attack unless Peiper's unit vacated the province immediately. Peiper refused, which goaded the Italians into attacking. The veterans of Peiper's battalion defeated the Italians in a fierce battle, and then proceeded to disarm the remaining Italian forces in the area.

While the Leibstandarte was operating in the north the 16 SS Reichsführer-SS had sent a Kampfgruppe to contain the Anzio landings in January 1944.[53]

1944Edit

1944 expansionEdit

The Waffen-SS expanded again during 1944. January saw the formation of the 19th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (2nd Latvian) which was formed from by using the two SS Infantry Brigades as cadre together with Latvian volunteers.[23] The 20th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Estonian) was formed in February 1944, around a cadre from the 3 Estonian SS Volunteer Brigade.[23] The 21st Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Skanderbeg (1st Albanian) was formed in March 1944, from Albanian and Kosovan volunteers for anti partisan duties in Albania and Kosovo.[54] A second Waffen-SS cavalry division followed in April 1944, the 22nd SS Volunteer Cavalry Division Maria Theresia: the bulk of the soldiers were Hungarian Army volksdeutsche conscripts, transferred to the Waffen-SS following an agreement between Germany and Hungary.[23] The 23rd SS Volunteer Panzer Grenadier Division Nederland followed, formed from the 4th SS Volunteer Panzergrenadier Brigade Nederland – but it was never more than a large brigade in size.[23] The 24th Waffen Gebirgs Division der SS was another division that was never more then brigade size, the unit consisted mainly of ethnic German volunteers from Italy but also of volunteers from Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia and the Ukraine. They were primarily involved in fighting partisans in the Kras region of the Alps on the frontiers of Slovenia, Italy, and Austria, the mountainous terrain requiring specialized mountain troops and equipment.[55] Two Hungarian divisions followed: the 25th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS Hunyadi (1st Hungarian) and the 26th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (2nd Hungarian). These were formed under the authority of the Hungarian defense minister, at the request of Heinrich Himmler. One regiment from the Hungarian Army was ordered to join, but they mostly consisted of Hungarian and Rumanian volunteers.[23][56] The 27th SS Volunteer Division Langemarck was formed next in October 1944, from Flemish volunteers added to the 6th SS Volunteer Sturmbrigade Langemarck, but again it was nothing more then a large brigade.[23] The 5th SS Volunteer Sturmbrigade Wallonien was also upgraded to the 28th SS Volunteer Grenadier Division Wallonien and like the 27th SS was never more then a large brigade. [23] Plans to convert the Kaminnski Brigade into the 29th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS RONA (1st Russian) were dropped after the execution of their commander Bronislav Kaminski;[23] instead the Waffen Grenadier Brigade of SS (Italian no. 1) became the 29th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Italian).[23] The 30th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (2nd Russian) was formed from the Schutzmannschaft-Brigade Siegling.[23] The final new division of 1944, was the 31st SS Volunteer Grenadier Division which was formed from conscripted Volksdeutsche, mainly from the Batschka region of Hungary.[23]

Korsun-Cherkassy PocketEdit

The Korsun-Cherkassy Pocket was formed in January 1944, when units of the 8th Army withdrew to the Panther-Wotan Line, a defensive position along the Dnieper River in the Ukraine. Two Army Corps were left holding a salient into the Soviet lines extending some 100 kilometres (62 mi). The Red Army deployed the 1st and 2nd Ukrainian Fronts to form two armoured rings around the pocket: an inner ring and an external ring to prevent relief formations from reaching the trapped units. Trapped in the pocket were a total of six German divisions, including the 5 SS Wiking, with the attached 5th SS Volunteer Sturmbrigade Wallonien, and the Estonian SS Battalion Narwa.[57] The Germans broke out in coordination with a relief attempt by other German forces from the outside, including the 1 SS Leibstandarte. Roughly two out of three encircled men succeeded in escaping the pocket, the remainder being killed, captured or reported missing.[58]

Raid on DrvarEdit

The Raid on Drvar, codenamed Operation Rösselsprung, was an attack by the Waffen-SS and Luftwaffe on the command structure of the Yugoslav Partisans. Their objective was the elimination of the Bolshevik-controlled Supreme Headquarters, and the capture of Marshal Josip Broz Tito. The offensive took place in April and May, 1944. The Waffen-SS units involved were the 500th SS Parachute Battalion and the 7 SS Prinz Eugen.[59]

The assault started when a small group parachuted into Dvar to secure landing grounds for the following glider force. The 500th SS Parachute Battalion fought their way to Tito's cave hedadquarters and exchanged heavy gunfire resulting in numerous casualties on both sides. By the time German forces had penetrated into the cave, Tito had already escaped. At the end of the battle only 200 men of the 500th SS Parachute Battalion remained unwounded.[59][60]

Baltic statesEdit

In the Baltic states the Battle of Narva started in February, and can be divided into two phases: the Battle for Narva Bridgehead from February to July and the Battle of Tannenberg Line from July to September. A number of volunteer Waffen-SS units from Norway, Denmark, Holland, Belgium fought in Narva, in what has been called by several authors the Battle of the European SS.[nb 1] The units were all part of the III SS (Germanic) Panzer Corps in Army Group North, which consisted of the 11th SS Panzergrenadier Division Nordland, the 4th SS Volunteer Panzergrenadier Brigade Nederland, the 5th SS Volunteer Sturmbrigade Wallonien, the 6th SS Volunteer Sturmbrigade Langemarck and the 20th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Estonian), under the command of Obergruppenführer Felix Steiner.[62] Also in Army Group North was the VI SS Corps, which consisted of the 15th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Latvian) an the 19th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (2nd Latvian).[63]

NormandyEdit

Operation Spring

The starting lines of Operation Spring, Wafen SS units identified are the 1 SS, 9 SS, 10 SS, 12 SS Divisions and the 101 and 102 SS Heavy Panzer Battalions

Operation Overlord, the Allied "D-Day" landings in Normandy, took place on 6 June 1944. In preparation for the expected landings the I SS Panzer Corps Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler was moved to Septeuill to the west of Paris in April 1944. The Corps had the 1 SS Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler, 12 SS Hitlerjugend, the 17 SS Götz von Berlichingen and the Army's Panzer Lehr divisions assigned to it.[64] The corps was to form a part of General Leo Geyr von Schweppenburg's Panzer Group West, the Western theatre's armoured reserve.[64] The Corps was restructured on 4 July 1944 and only the 1 SS Leibstandarte and the 12 SS Hitlerjugend remained at strength. [65]

After the landings, the first Waffen-SS unit in action was the 12 SS Hitlerjugend who arrived at the invasion front on 7 June, in the Caen area. The same day, they were involved in the Ardenne Abbey massacre.[66] The next unit to arrive was the 17 SS Götz von Berlichingen on 11 June, which came into contact with the 101st Airborne Division.[67] The 1 SS Leibstandarte together with the SS Heavy Panzer Battalion 101 arrived at the end of the month. The first action they were involved in was the defence of Carpiquet village and aerodrome in what was known as Operation Windsor.[68]

The only other Waffen-SS unit in France at this time was the 2 SS Das Reich, who were stationed in the southern French town of Montauban north of Toulouse.[69] They were ordered north to the landing beaches and on 9 June were involved in the Tulle murders, where 99 men were murdered.[70] The next day they reached Oradour-sur-Glane and massacred 642 French civilians.[71]

The II SS Panzer Corps consisting of the 9 SS Hohenstaufen and 10 SS Frundsberg divisions and the SS Heavy Panzer Battalion 102 started to arrive from the Eastern Front from 26 June, just in time to counter Operation Epsom.[72]

Falaise Pocket German Counterattack

German counterattacks against Canadian-Polish positions on 20 August 1944.

Without any further reinforcements in men or material the Waffen-SS divisions were hard put to stop the Allied advance. 1 SS Leibstandarte and 2 SS Das Reich took part in the failed Operation Lüttich in early August.[73] The end came in mid August when the German Army was encircled and trapped in the Falaise pocket, including the 1 SS Leibstandarte, 10 SS Frundsberg and 12 SS Hitlerjugend and the 17 SS Götz von Berlichingen, while the 2 SS Das Reich and the 9 SS Hohenstaufen were ordered to attack Hill 262 from the outside in order to keep the gap open.[74] By 22 August, the Falaise pocket had been closed, and all German forces west of the Allied lines were dead or in captivity.[75] In the fighting around Hill 262 alone, casualties totalled 2,000 killed and 5,000 taken prisoner.[76] The 12 SS Hitlerjugend had lost 94% of its armour, nearly all of its artillery, and 70% of its vehicles.[77] The division had close to 20,000 men and 150 tanks before the campaign started, and was now reduced to 300 men and 10 tanks.[77]

With the German Army in full retreat, two further Waffen-SS formations entered the battle in France, the SS Panzergrenadier Brigade 49 and the SS Panzergrenadier Brigade 51. Both had been formed in June 1944, from staff and students at the SS-Junkerschules.[78][79] They had been stationed in Denmark to allow the garrison there to move into France, but were themselves brought forward at the beginning of August, to the area south and east of Paris. [80] Both Brigades were tasked to hold crossings over the Seine River allowing the Army to retreat.[80] Eventually they were forced back and then withdrew, the surviving troops being incorporated into the 17 SS Götz von Berlichingen[81]

GreeceEdit

While the bulk of the Waffen-SS was now on the Eastern Front or in Normandy, the 4th SS Polizei Panzergrenadier Division was stationed in Greece on internal security duties and anti-partisan operations. On 10 June they became involved in the Distomo massacre, when over a period of two hours they went door to door and massacred Greek civilians, reportedly in revenge for a partisan attack. In total, 218 men, women and children were killed. According to survivors, the SS forces "bayoneted babies in their cribs, stabbed pregnant women, and beheaded the village priest."[82]

ItalyEdit

On the Italian Front the 16 SS Reichsführer-SS, was conducting anti-partisan operations and is more remembered for the atrocities it committed than its fighting ability: it was involved in the Sant'Anna di Stazzema massacre in August 1944,[83] and the Marzabotto massacre between September and October 1944,[84]

FinlandEdit

In Finland, the 6 SS Nord had held its lines during the Soviet summer offensive until it was ordered to withdraw from Finland upon the conclusion of a separate armistice between the Finns and the Soviets in September 1944. They then formed the rear guard for the three German corps withdrawing from Finland in Operation Birch, and from September to November 1944 marched 1,600 kilometres to Mo i Rana, Norway, where it entrained for the southern end of the country, crossing the Skagerrak to Denmark.[85]

Arnhem and Market-GardenEdit

In early September 1944, the II SS Panzer Corps (9 SS Hohenstaufen and 10 SS Frundberg) were pulled out of the line and sent to the Arnhem area in the Netherlands.[86] Upon arrival they began the task of refitting, and the majority of the remaining armoured vehicles were loaded onto trains in preparation for transport to repair depots in Germany. On Sunday, 17 September 1944, the Allies launched Operation Market-Garden, and the British 1st Airborne Division was dropped in Oosterbeek, to the west of Arnhem. Realizing the threat, Wilhelm Bittrich, the new commander of II SS Panzer Corps, ordered Hohenstaufen and Frundsberg to ready themselves for combat. Also in the area was the Training and Reserve Battalion, 16th SS Division Reichsführer-SS.[87] The Allied airborne operation was a failure, and the city of Arnhem was not liberated until 14 April 1945.[88]

Warsaw UprisingEdit

At the other end of Europe, the Waffen-SS was dealing with the Warsaw Uprising. Between August and October 1944, the Dirlewanger Brigade and the Waffen-Sturm-Brigade RONA as well as a number of smaller units were sent to Warsaw to put down the uprising. During the battle, the Dirlewanger behaved atrociously, raping, looting and killing citizens of Warsaw regardless of whether they belonged to the Polish resistance or not; Oskar Dirlewanger himself encouraged their excesses. The unit's behaviour was reportedly so bestial and indiscriminate that Himmler was forced to detail an attached battalion of SS military police for the sole purpose of ensuring the Dirlewanger convicts did not turn their aggressions against their own leaders or nearby German units.[89] At the same time they were encouraged by Himmler to terrorize freely, take no prisoners, and generally indulge their perverse tendencies. Favoured tactics of the Dirlewanger men during the siege reportedly included the ubiquitous gang rape of female Poles, both women and children, playing "bayonet catch" with live babies, and torturing captives to death by hacking off their arms, dousing them with gasoline, and setting them alight to run armless and flaming down the street.[90][91] The Dirlewanger brigade committed almost non-stop atrocities during this period, in particular the four-day Wola massacre.

The other unit Waffen-Sturm-Brigade RONA volunteers were first given the task of clearing the sector of Ochota district defended by only 300 poorly-armed Poles. Their attack was planned for the morning of 5 August, but when the time came, the Kaminski's men could not be found; after some searching, they were found looting abandoned houses in the rear. At the same time, thousands of Polish civilians were killed by the RONA SS men during the events known as Ochota massacre; many victims were also raped.[nb 2][nb 3] In the middle of the month, they were moved south to the Wola sector, but it fared no better in combat here than in Ochota; in one incident a sub-unit had stopped their advance to loot a captured building on the front line and was consequently cut off and wiped-out by the Poles. The brigade's commander Bronislav Kaminski was then called to Łódź to attend a leadership conference. He never reached it; officially, Polish partisans were blamed for an alleged ambush in which Kaminski was killed. According to various sources he was either tried first by an SS court or simply executed by the Gestapo out of hand. The behaviour of the RONA during the battle was an embarrassment even to the SS, and the alleged rape and murder of two German Strength Through Joy (Kdf) girls may have played a part in his execution.[94]

Vistula River lineEdit

In late August 1944, 5 SS Wiking 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, they proceeded to annihilated the Soviet 3rd Tank Corps. The advent of the Warsaw Uprising brought the Soviet offensive to a halt, and relative peace fell on the front line. The division remained in the Modlin area for the rest of the year, grouped with the 3 SS Totenkopf in the IV SS Panzer Corps. Heavy defensive battles around Modlin followed for the rest of the year. Together they helped force the Red Army out of Warsaw and back across the Vistula River where the Front stabilized until January, 1945.[95]

Ardennes OffensiveEdit

Kampfgruppe Knittel's troops on the road to Stavelot

Peiper's troops on the road to Malmedy.

The Ardennes Offensive, or "Battle of the Bulge", between 16 December 1944 and 25 January 1945 was a major German offensive through the forested Ardennes Mountains region of Belgium. The Waffen-SS units included the Sixth SS Panzer Army, under Sepp Dietrich. Newly created on 26 October 1944, it incorporated the I SS Panzer Corps (1 SS Leibstandarte the 12 SS Hitlerjugend and the SS Heavy Panzer Battalion 101). It also had the II SS Panzer Corps (2 SS Das Reich and the 9 SS Hohenstaufen). Another unit involved was Otto Skorzenys SS Panzer Brigade 150.[96]

The purpose of the attack was to split the British and American line in half, capture Antwerp, Belgium, and encircle and destroy four Allied armies, forcing the Western Allies to negotiate a peace treaty on terms favorable to the Axis Powers.[97]

The attack was not only a failure, it is remembered for the Malmedy massacre in which about 90 unarmed American prisoners of war were murdered on the 17 December 1944 by men of the Kampfgruppe Peiper, part of the 1 SS Leibstandarte. [98]

Siege of Budapest Edit

In late December 1944, the Axis forces, including IX Waffen Alpine Corps of the SS (Croatian), defending Budapest, were encircled in what became known as the Siege of Budapest. The IV SS Panzer Corps (3 SS Totenkopf and 5 SS Wiking) was ordered south to join Hermann Balck's 6 Armee (Army Group Balck), which was mustering for a relief effort, codenamed Operation Konrad.

As a part of Operation Konrad I, the IV.SS Corps was committed to action on 1 January 1945, near Táta, the advance columns of Wiking slammed into the Soviet 4th Guards Army. A heavy battle ensued, with the 5 SS Wiking and 3 SSTotenkopf destroying many of the Soviet tanks. In three days their panzer spearheads had driven 45 kilometres, over half the distance from the start point to Budapest. The Soviets manoeuvred forces to block the advance, and they barely managed to halt them at Bicske, only 28 kilometres (17 mi) from Budapest. Two further attacks, Operations Konrad II and III, also failed.[99]

The Hungarian Third Army had been besieged in Budapest along with the IX Waffen Alpine Corps of the SS (Croatian) (8 SS Florian Geyer and 22 SS Maria Theresa). The siege lasted from 29 December 1944 and was ended when the city surrendered unconditionally on 13 February 1945. Some idea of the intensity of the fighting can be had by the fact that only 170 men of the 22 SS Maria Theresa made it back to the German lines.[100]

1945Edit

1945 expansionEdit

The Waffen-SS continued to expand in 1945. January saw the 32nd SS Volunteer Grenadier Division 30 January formed from the remnants of other units and staff from the SS-Junkerschules.[23] In February the Waffen Grenadier Brigade or SS Charlemagne (1st French) was reformed as the 33rd Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS Charlemagne (1st French),[23] and the SS Volunteer Grenadier-Brigade Landstorm Nederland was upgraded to the 34th SS Volunteer Grenadier Division Landstorm Nederland.[23] The second SS Police division followed when the 35th SS and Police Grenadier Division was formed from SS Police units that had been transferred to the Waffen-SS.[23] The Dirlewanger Brigade was reformed as the 36th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS, however there was now a real shortage of Waffen-SS volunteers and conscripts, so units from the Army were attached to bring it up to strength.[23] The third SS Cavalry division 37th SS Volunteer Cavalry Division Lützow was formed from the remnants of the 8 SS Florian Geyer and 22 SS Maria Theresia, which had both been virtually destroyed.[23] The last Waffen-SS division was the 38th SS Division Nibelungen which was also formed from students and staff from the SS-Junkerschule, but only consisted of around 6,000 men, the strength of a normal brigade.[23]

The XV SS Cossack Cavalry Corps which contained the 1 SS Cossack Division was transferred to the Waffen-SS on 1 February 1945. Despite the refusal of their commander General von Pannwitz to enter the SS, the corps was placed under SS administration and all Cossacks then became formally part of the Waffen-SS.[101]

Operation NordwindEdit

Operation Nordwind was the last major German offensive on the Western Front. It began on 1 January 1945 in Alsace and Lorraine in north-eastern France, and it ended on 25 January. The initial attack was conducted by three Corps of the German 1st Army. By 15 January, at least seventeen German divisions (including units in the Colmar Pocket) were engaged, including the XIII SS Army Corps (17 SS Götz von Berlichingen and 38 SS Nibelungen) and the 6 SS Nord and 10 SS Frundsberg.[102]

Operation SolsticeEdit

Operation Solstice or the 'Stargard tank battle' in February 1945, was one of the last armoured offensive operations on the Eastern Front. It was a limited counter-attack by the three corps of the Eleventh SS Panzer Army, which was being assembled in Pomerania, against the spearheads of the 1st Belorussian Front. Originally planned as a major offensive, it was eventually executed as a more limited attack. It was repulsed by the Red Army, but helped to convince the Soviet High Command to postpone the planned attack on Berlin.[103]

Initially the attack achieved a total surprise, reaching the banks of the Ina River and, on 17 January, Arnswalde. Strong Soviet counter attacks halted the advance, and the operation was called off. The III (Germanic) SS Panzer Corps, was pulled back to the Stargard and Stettin on the northern Oder River.

East Pomeranian OffensiveEdit

The East Pomeranian Offensive lasted between 24 February to the 4 April, in Pomerania and West Prussia. The Waffen-SS units involved were the 11 SS Nordland, 20 SS Estonian, 23 SS Nederland, 27 SS Langemark, 28 SS Wallonien, all in the III (Germanic) SS Panzer Corps, and the X SS Corps which did not command any SS units.[104]

In March 1945, the X SS Corps was encircled by the 1st Guards Tank Army, 3rd Shock Army, and the Polish 1st Army in the area of Dramburg. This pocket was destroyed by the Red Army on 7 March 1945.[105][106] On 8 March 1945, the Soviets announced the capture of General Krappe and 8,000 men of the X SS Corps.[107]

Operation Spring AwakeningEdit

After the Ardennes offensive failed, the SS Divisions involved were pulled out and refitted in Germany in preparation for Operation Spring Awakening, with top priority for men and equipment.[108] The replacements were a mixed group of raw recruits and drafted Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine personnel which were no longer needed by their own branch of service as they had no aircraft or ships to serve in.[108] The 6th SS Panzer Army would again take the lead, with the I SS Panzer Corps (1 SS Leibstandarte and 12 SS Hitlerjugend) and the II SS Panzer Corps (2 SS Das Reich and the 10 SS Frundsberg). Also present but not part of the 6th SS Panzer Army was the IV SS Panzer Corps (3 SS Totenkopf and 5 SS Wiking). This was the first time that six SS Panzer Divisions would take part in the same offensive.[108]

As planned, the offensive got under way on 6 March 1945, spearheaded by the 6th SS Panzer Army. The attack managed to take the Soviets by surprise and impressive gains were made for an offensive launched at such a late date in the war.[108] However once the Soviets realized that elite SS units were involved, they took the German offensive seriously, utilizing ixteen Russian rifle divisions, two tank corps and two mechanized corps, with some 150 tanks, in direct support just behind the front line south west of Lake Balaton itself. Also the Soviets had been building up their forces for their own offensive along the Danube valley, which meant the 6th SS Panzer Army's attack would be confronted by an overwhelming Soviet force of more than 1000 tanks, which ground the German advance to a halt.[108]

By 14 March the attack was already in serious trouble. The advance of the 6th SS Panzer Army, while impressive, was well short of its targets. All the Waffen-SS divisions suffered grievously during Spring Awakening, and by the end most were below 50% strength without much prospect of any reinforcements to replace losses.[108]

Armband order Edit

This failure is famous for the notorious "armband order" which followed. The order was issued to Sepp Dietrich by Adolf Hitler, who claimed that the troops, and, more importantly, the 1 SS Leibstandarte, "did not fight as the situation demanded."[109] As a mark of disgrace, the Leibstandarte units involved in the battle were ordered to remove their treasured "Adolf Hitler" cuff titles. In the field, Dietrich was disgusted by Hitler's order and did not relay it to his troops.[108]

Vienna OffensiveEdit

After Operation Spring Awakening, the 6th SS Panzer Army withdrew towards Vienna and was involved in the Vienna Offensive. The only major force to face the attacking Red Army was the II SS Panzer Corps (2 SS Das Reich and 3 SS Totenkopf), under the commanded of Wilhelm Bittrich, along with ad hoc forces made up of garrison and anti-aircraft units.[110] Vienna finally fell when the last defenders in the city surrendered on 13 April. [111] Bittrich's II SS Panzer Corps had pulled out to the west that evening to avoid encirclement.[112]

BerlinEdit

File:Paradejack.jpg

The Army Group Vistula was formed in 1945 to protect Berlin from the advancing Red Army. It fought in the Battle of the Seelow Heights (16-19 April) and the Battle of Halbe (21 April - 1 May), both part of the Battle of Berlin. The Waffen-SS was represented by the III (Germanic) SS Panzer Corps.[108]

On 16 April, the remnants of the 11 SS Nordland, 33 SS Charlemagne and the Spanish Volunteer Company of SS 101, were all ordered to move to the front line east of Berlin. From 17 April to 20 April they were in constant combat all along the front and pushed back into the city. By 22 April, the 11 SS Nordland had been pushed back to the Tiergarten in the centre of the city, and during the next few days, ceased to exist as a cohesive unit. The remnants found themselves defending the bridges across the River Spree. After a spirited but futile defence, they were pushed back into the Government District. By 26 April, the defenders of the government district had been pushed back into the Reichstag itself. For the next few days, the few survivors held out against overwhelming odds.[108]

On 30 April, after receiving news of Hitler's suicide, orders were issued that those who could do so were to break out to the west. Several small groups managed to reach the Americans at the Elbe's west bank, but many more did not. Despite the temptation of a westbound breakout, most SS soldiers in Berlin on the night of 1 May 1945 decided to break out to the north, on the orders of Wilhelm Mohnke, who promised to lead the breakout from the front. However, whilst his loyal troops from the VII (Wach) Battalion, 1 SS Leibstandarte, and 11 SS Nordland, were assembling near the Wierdammer bridge, he attempted a breakout with staff from the Fuhrer bunker. Lacking any leadership, the breakout down Freidrichstrasse turned into a disorganised mob, which was quickly dispatched by Soviet armoured attacks.[108]

On 2 May hostilities officially ended by order of Helmuth Weidling, Kommandant of the Defence Area Berlin.

Commanders Edit

CasualtiesEdit

The true total of casualties amongst the Waffen-SS will probably never be known, but one estimate indicates that they suffered 180,000 dead, 400,000 wounded and 40,000 missing.[115] World War II casualties indicates that the Waffen-SS suffered 314,000 killed and missing, or 34.9%. By comparison the United States Army suffered 318,274 killed and missing, or 2.8%[116][117]

War crimes Edit

File:Proces w dachau.jpg

Generally, the Waffen-SS was not directly involved in the Holocaust, as the separately organised Allgemeine SS was responsible for the death camps – although many members of the latter organisation subsequently became members of the Waffen-SS, forming the initial core of the Totenkopf Division).[10][11] Many individual Waffen-SS members and units were responsible for war crimes, and after the war the Schutzstaffel organisation as a whole was held to be a criminal organization by the post-war German government, due to the undeniable evidence that it was responsible for serious war crimes. Formations such as the Dirlewanger and Kaminski Brigades are singled out, many others were involved – either in large-scale massacres or smaller-scale atrocities such as the Houtman affair.[118]

The linking of the SS-VT with the SS-Totenkopfverbände (SS-TV) in 1938 posed important questions about Waffen-SS criminality,[9] since the latter were already responsible for the torture and murder of Jews and other political opponents. Their leader, Theodor Eicke, who was the commandant of Dachau, inspector of the camps and murderer of Ernst Röhm, later became the commander of the 3 SS Totenkopf Division.[6] With the invasion of Poland, the Totenkopfverbände troops were called on to carry out "police and security measures" in rear areas. What these measures involved is demonstrated by the record of SS Totenkopf Standarte Brandenburg. It arrived in Włocławek on 22 September 1939 and embarked on a four day "Jewish action" that included the burning of synagogues and the execution en masse of the leaders of the Jewish community. On 29 September the Standarte travelled to Bydgoszcz to conduct an "intelligentsia action". Approximately 800 Polish civilians and what the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) termed "potential resistance leaders" were killed. The Totenkopfverbände was to become one of the elite SS divisions, but from the start they were among the first executors of a policy of systematic extermination.[119]

Several formations within the Waffen-SS were found guilty of a war crime, especially in the opening and closing phases of the war.[120] In addition to documented atrocities, Waffen-SS units assisted in rounding up Eastern European Jews for deportation and utilised Scorched-earth tactics during anti-partisan operations.[121] Also, some Waffen-SS personnel convalesced at concentration camps, from which they were drawn, by serving guard duties. Other members of the Waffen-SS were more directly involved in genocide.[122]

The end of the war saw a number of war crime trials, including the Malmedy massacre trial. The counts of indictment related to the massacre of more than three hundred American prisoners "in the vicinity of Malmedy, Honsfeld, Büllingen, Ligneuville, Stoumont, La Gleize, Cheneux, Petit Thier, Trois Ponts, Stavelot, Wanne and Lutrebois", between 16 December, 1944 and 13 January, 1945, as well as the massacre of one hundred Belgian civilians mainly in the vicinity of Stavelot.[123]

During the International Military Tribunal (better known as the Nuremberg Trials), the Waffen-SS was declared a criminal organisation, except conscripts, who were exempted from that judgement as they had been forced to join.[124]

HIAGEdit

The HIAG (German: 'Hilfsgemeinschaft auf Gegenseitigkeit der Angehörigen der ehemaligen Waffen-SS, literally "Mutual Help Association of Former Waffen-SS Members"). Was an organization founded in 1951 by former members of the Waffen-SS, to provide assistance to veterans, and campaign for the rehabilitation of their legal status with respect to veterans' pensions. Unlike soldiers of the regular Wehrmacht, pensions had been denied to members of the Waffen-SS as a result of it having been declared a criminal organization at the Nurenburg trials. [125]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

Notes Edit

Explanatory notes
  1. Reitlinger, p. 84.
  2. Buechner, Col Howard. A. "Col. Howard A. Buechner's account of execution of Waffen-SS soldiers during the liberation of Dachau". http://www.scrapbookpages.com/DachauScrapbook/DachauLiberation/BuechnerAccount.html. Retrieved on 2009-06-04 2009. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 Flaherty, p. 144.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Flaherty, p. 145.
  5. The SS: Hitler's Instrument of Terror (Gordon Williamson)
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Flaherty, p. 146.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 Windrow, pp. 7-8.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Flaherty, p. 147.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Flaherty, p. 148.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 10.5 10.6 10.7 Flaherty, p. 149.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Flaherty, p. 150.
  12. Flaherty, p. 151.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Flaherty, p. 160.
  14. Flaherty, p. 161.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 Flaherty, p. 152.
  16. Harmon, p. 100.
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 Flaherty, p. 154.
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 Flaherty, p. 143.
  19. Flaherty, p. 155.
  20. Jackson, pp. 285-288.
  21. "Wormhoudt, May 1940, The Dunkirk story". http://www.ph012b2086.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/harry/wormhoudt.htm. Retrieved on 2009-07-03. 
  22. Flaherty, p. 156.
  23. 23.00 23.01 23.02 23.03 23.04 23.05 23.06 23.07 23.08 23.09 23.10 23.11 23.12 23.13 23.14 23.15 23.16 23.17 23.18 23.19 23.20 23.21 23.22 23.23 23.24 23.25 23.26 23.27 23.28 Wendal, Marcus. "Waffen SS Divisions". Axis History. http://www.axishistory.com/index.php?id=50. Retrieved on 2009-10-03. 
  24. Wendal, Marcus. "Waffen SS Brigades". Axis History. http://www.axishistory.com/index.php?id=302. Retrieved on 2009-07-03. 
  25. Blau (1953),Template:Cite encyclopedia
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 Flaherty, p. 163.
  27. 27.0 27.1 27.2 27.3 Flaherty, p. 165.
  28. Axis History. "6. SS-Gebirgs-Division Nord". http://www.axishistory.com/index.php?id=1974. Retrieved on 2009-02-21. 
  29. 29.0 29.1 29.2 "avalanche.press". http://www.avalanchepress.com/EvilMountaineers.php. Retrieved on 2009-02-21. 
  30. 30.0 30.1 30.2 30.3 Windrow, p. 9.
  31. 31.0 31.1 31.2 Flaherty, p. 166.
  32. 32.0 32.1 32.2 Flaherty, p. 168.
  33. Grar, Miha. "1 SS Infantry Brigade". http://www.axishistory.com/index.php?id=1935. Retrieved on 2009-02-16. 
  34. 34.0 34.1 Hennes, War of Extermination, p. 136.
  35. Browning, p. 279.
  36. Browning, p. 280.
  37. 37.0 37.1 Browning, p. 281.
  38. Cuppers, p. 279.
  39. Mitcham, p. 148.
  40. 40.0 40.1 Reynolds, p. 9.
  41. Fellgiebel (2000), p. 59.
  42. 42.0 42.1 Flaherty, p. 173.
  43. Flaherty, pp. 173-174.
  44. Margry (2001), p. 20.
  45. Reynolds, p. 10.
  46. Gruppenführer Jürgen Stroop (1943). "Stroop Report". http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/nowarsaw.html. Retrieved on 2009-03-29. 
  47. USHMM. "Jewish uprisings in Ghettos and Camps, 1941-1944". http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/article.php?lang=en&ModuleId=10005407. Retrieved on 2009-03-29. 
  48. Dunn 1997, p. 153.
  49. Glantz 1995, pp. 166-167.
  50. Bergstrom, p. 81.
  51. Clarke (1966), pp. 337–38.
  52. 52.0 52.1 52.2 Reynolds, p. 15.
  53. Marcus Wendel. "Waffen SS units (16th SS Panzergrenadier Division Reichsführer-SS)". Axis History Factbook. http://www.axishistory.com/index.php?id=1943. Retrieved on 2007-07-04. 
  54. Ailsby, p. 169.
  55. Williamson, Gordon and Stephan Andrew. p. 4.
  56. Williamson & Andrew, pp. 5-6.
  57. Zetterling & Frankson, p. 335.
  58. Nash, Hell’s Gate, p. 366.
  59. 59.0 59.1 "SS Fallschirmjager". http://www.ssfallschirmjager.com/. Retrieved on 2009-12-03. 
  60. Eyre, pp. 343-376.
  61. Christopher Ailsby, Hitler's Renegades: Foreign Nationals in the Service of the Third Reich, Brassey's 2004, ISBN 1574888382, p. 145. and Tim Ripley, The Waffen-SS at War: Hitler's Praetorians 1925-1945, Zenith Imprint 2004, ISBN 0760320683, p. 189.)
  62. Mitchum The Panzer Legions, pp. 261-262.
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Citations

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