Waffen-SS foreign volunteers and conscripts

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The Waffen-SS consisted of 38 divisions of which 19 were mixed (German or Volksdeutsche and others) or composed exclusively of other nationalities under German command. These divisions were racially White and were recruited from European countries. About 25 different European nationalities were members of the Waffen-SS: Albanians, Armenians, Belgians, Bulgarians, Bosnians, Croatians, Czechoslovaks, Danish, Estonians, Finnish, French, Greek, Hungarians, Netherlands, English, Estonians, Italians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Norwegians, Romanians, Russians, Spanish (Blue Division), Swedish and Ukrainians. Six out of ten members of the Waffen-SS were composed of foreigners.

The Waffen-SS (German for "Armed SS", literally "Weapons SS") was the combat arm of the Schutzstaffel ("Security Escort Formation" or "Protective Squadron") or SS, an organ of the German National Socialist German Workers' Party.

History

The Waffen-SS saw action throughout World War II and grew from three regiments to a force of 38 divisions (plus two ad hoc divisions = 40) , which served alongside the regular army, but was never formally part of the Wehrmacht. Although operational control of the Waffen-SS units on the front line was given to the Army's High Command (German: Oberkommando der Wehrmacht), in all other respects they remained under the auspices of Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler's SS, and behind the lines these units were an instrument of political policy enforcement. It was Adolf Hitler's will that the Waffen-SS never be integrated into the Army, theoretically upholding an autarkic status.

In 1940, Hitler gave permission for the first non-German Waffen-SS formation and by the end of the war, twenty five of the thirty eight Waffen-SS division were formed from foreign volunteers or conscripts, or around 60 % of Waffen-SS members were non-German.

Poster

List by nation and unit

Léon Degrelle from Belgium, SS-Standartenführer und Kommandant der SS-Division Wallonien
SS-Obergruppenführer und General der Waffen-SS Artur Martin Phleps: Austro-Hungarian, Romanian and German army officer of (among others) the 13th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Handschar (1st Croatian)
SS-Unterscharführer Remy Schrijnen with Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, Iron Cross I and II, Infantry Assault Badge and Wound Badge in Gold, the "Last Knight of Flanders".
British SS-Volunteer during World War II
Finnish nurse from the 3rd SS Division Totenkopf, Soviet Russia, 1942
Lucien Kemarat, "Legion de Volontaires Francaises" and Waffen-SS (Charlemagne) soldier from the Kingdom of Thailand
SS-Obersturmbannführer Dr. Franz Riedweg from Switzerland - intellectual protege of Heinrich Himmler. From the SS-Hauptamt to the 3rd SS Division Totenkopf (as a military hospital doctor).[1]
Frontkjempermerket is a Norwegian award instituted by Vidkun Quisling in 1943 as a reward for volunteer Norwegian frontkjempere during World War II
The cool "Panzervernichter": Untersturmführer (2nd Lieutenant) Johan Petter Balstad, highly decorated[2] Norwegian volunteer of (7./SS-Pz.Gr.Rgt 23 “Norge”) SS-Panzergrenadier-Regiment 23 Norge (11th SS Volunteer Panzergrenadier Division Nordland).
Volunteer from Finland Mikko Korpijaakko, 9. Kompanie/SS-Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment 10 „Westland“/5. SS-Panzer-Division „Wiking“
Voldemars Veiss from Latvia, one of the many foreign volunteers who earned the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross

An estimated 325,000 to 500,000[3] non-ethnic German volunteers and conscripts served in the Waffen-SS:

German commanders of Central Asian, Caucasian and Cossack units

Helmuth von Pannwitz (1898–1947)

These German commanders also received honorary military or leading titles between their units at charge; for example Helmuth von Pannwitz received the title of "Ataman" from his Cossack units.

See also

"Our honor is loyalty", Norwegian Germanic SS decorated promotion poster from Harald Damsleth, 1941 to 1945 the motif was also used for thousandfold postcards (Postkort).
Members of the Nasjonal Samling and Hird as Waffen-SS foreign volunteers

World War II in general

Literature

  • Kenneth W. Estes. A European Anabasis — Western European Volunteers in the German Army and SS, 1940–1945
  • Lars Larsson: HITLER'S SWEDES: A History of the Swedish Volunteers in the Waffen-SS, 2013, ISBN 978-1909384118
  • Christopher Bishop: SS Hitler's Foreign Divisions: Foreign Volunteers in the Waffen SS 1940-1945, 2005, ISBN 978-1904687375
  • Jonathan Trigg: Hitler's Jihadis: Muslim Volunteers of the Waffen-SS (Hitler's Legions), 2012, ISBN 978-0752465869
  • Robert Forbes: For Europe: The French Volunteers of the Waffen-SS, 2010, ISBN 978-0811735810
  • Thorolf Hillblad: Twilight of the Gods: A Swedish Waffen-SS Volunteer's Experiences with the 11th SS-Panzergrenadier Division 'Nordland', Eastern Front 1944-45, Helion (2004)
  • Hendrick C. Verton: In the Fire of the Eastern Front: The Experiences of a Dutch Waffen-SS Volunteer, 1941-45, 2010, ISBN 978-0811735896

External links

References

  1. Marco Wyss: Un Suisse au service de la SS : Franz Riedweg, 1907-2005, ISBN 978-2940235599
  2. Iron Cross 1st and 2nd class, Wound Badge in silver, 3 tank destruction badges for single-handed tank kills in close combat.
  3. Many joined the SS with a false name, others asked to be germanized, still others destroyed all papers, therefore the true numbers of foreign volunteers could be substantially higher. In the last days of the war, the Waffen-SS burned division records and gave out workers' passports to volunteers who wanted them.
  4. The name comes from an Albanian national hero and military leader Gjergj Kastrioti Skanderbeg (born approximately 1405, died on January 17, 1468), who led the anti-Turkish freedom fight.
  5. Romuald Misiunas (Author), Rein Taagepera (Author), The Baltic States: Years of Dependence, 1940-1990, University of California Press (1993), ISBN 978-0520082281
  6. The battalion was praised by many Waffen-SS commanders, even Heinrich Himmler, for its combat performance. Himmler said "Where a Finnish SS-man stood, the enemy was always defeated." Neither the unit nor any of its members were ever accused of any "war crimes".
  7. Source: Tim Ripley, The Waffen-SS At War: Hitler's Praetorians 1925-1945, 2004, ISBN 978-0760320686
  8. This unit, the 8th SS Volunteer Sturmbrigade France was led by a former Foreign Legionnaire, Obersturmbannführer Paul-Marie Gamory-Dubourdeau. The 1st battalion of about 1000 men was attached to SS Division Horst Wessel and sent to Galicia to fight the Soviet advance. In fierce fighting the battalion suffered heavy casualties.
  9. 1 motorised infantry regiment (3 regiments from October 1944, but with French, Belgians and Spanish volunteers)
  10. In the later stages of World War II Lainé decided to separate from Bagadou Stourm and integrate with the SS in the face of the assassination of several leading figures of the Breton cultural movement. One of those assassinated was priest and Breton language defender Abbé Jean-Marie Perrot, murdered by the communist terrorists of the French Resistance. The militia had originally been named Bezen Kadoudal, after the anti-Jacobin Breton rebel Georges Cadoudal. The 1943 assassination of the priest prompted Lainé to change the organization's name in honor of Perrot during December of that year. It had already been envisaged by German strategists that in the event of Allied invasion the Breton nationalists would form a rearguard, and that further nationalist troops could be parachuted into Brittany.[1] However, the rapid American advance from Normandy into Brittany forced the group to retreat along with the German army. In Tübingen many members were provided with false papers by Leo Weisgerber.[2] Following the war many of the organization's members, including Lainé, Heusaff and the nationalist poet Fant Rozec fled to Ireland.
  11. At least 30,000 Georgians served in the German armed forces during World War II. The Georgians served in thirteen field battalions of up to 800 men, each made up of five companies. Georgians were also found in the Wehrmacht's North Caucasian Legion and in other Caucasian ethnic legions. The Georgian military formations were commanded by Shalva Maglakelidze, Michel-Fridon Zulukidze, Col. Solomon Nicholas Zaldastani and other officers formerly of the Democratic Republic of Georgia (1918–21).
  12. SS-Waffengruppe "Georgien" was formed on December 11, 1944 and commanded by Waffen-Standartenfuhrer der SS Michail Pridon Tsulukidze.
  13. Romuald Misiunas (Author), Rein Taagepera (Author), The Baltic States: Years of Dependence, 1940-1990, University of California Press (1993), ISBN 978-0520082281
  14. The Litauisches Polizei Regiment 1 was formed in July 1944 and was only used as a front-line unit. It ist not sure if it belonged to the Wehrmacht or the Waffen-SS. It ended the war in the Courland pocket (German: Kurland-Kessel)
  15. The Lithuanian units were often put under control of the SS-Reichssicherheitshauptamt (RSHA).
  16. 40 % of the members later went to the Waffen-SS in different divisions (mainly 5th, 15th, 19th, and 20th), the Lithuanians did not have their own Legion.
  17. Between 1940 and 1944/45, Luxembourg was under National Socialist control and considered part of National Socialist Germany, therefore the men were drafted into all German armed branches, no records were kept as "foreign fighters" because they were considered German.
  18. Source: Tim Ripley, The Waffen-SS At War: Hitler's Praetorians 1925-1945, 2004, ISBN 978-0760320686
  19. The history of Poles in the Wehrmacht, the unified armed forces of National Socialist Germany, began with the German "Poland campaign" in 1939. More than 225,000 citizens of the Polish Second Republic served in the Wehrmacht, and some in the Kriegsmarine and Waffen SS.
  20. Fought in the Royal Yugosalv Army uniforms, but were under the command of the Waffen-SS.
  21. Source: Heimdal "Dictionnaire historique de la Waffen SS", 1998.
  22. The most Swedes served directly in the Finnish Army, one of the Axis powers and therefore allies of Germany. The last major fighting Sweden took part in was during the Napoleonic Wars. When the Soviet Union invaded Finland in 1939 though, at least 10,000 men volunteered for service with the Finnish forces to fight against the Soviets. This number is especially significant because there were approximately 6.5 million people living in all of Sweden at the time. Sweden and Finland are both Northern European countries and had much in common, therefore, when the Soviets invaded, many Swedes felt compelled to join the Finnish Forces. Another at least 1,500 Swedes volunteered for service with Finland between 1941 and 1944.
  23. The many thousands of Swiss, who fought for Germany, mainly entlisted in the Wehrmacht instead of the Waffen-SS. Nonetheless, the Germanische SS Schweiz of the Germanic SS had about 2,000 members. .
  24. Robert A. Best ,in his book from 2010 The British Free Corps: The Story of the British Volunteers of the Waffen SS (ISBN 978-1904911906), lists the names of 165 known BFC members and their fates. He also quotes a source which indicates that by January 1945, some 1,100 Britons had applied to join the formation. Additionally, there was also an SS Irish Brigade, which was about 400 men strong. The British were succesful in hiding the true numbers of the BFC after WWII.
  25. In March of 1945, a BFC detachment was deployed with with the 11th Waffen-SS division "Nordland", which was composed largely of Scandinavian volunteers. Although most of the Corpsmen were dispersed throughout the division, a squad-sized unit was assigned to the 3rd company of the reconaissance battalion, which consisted primarily of Swedish SS men. The BFC contingent was commanded by SS-Scharfuehrer "Hodge" ("Scharfuehrer" is sergeant; "Hodge" is mostly likely a nom de guerre and not his real name.) "The Britons were sent to a company in the detachment that was situated in the small village of Schoenburg near the west bank of the Oder River. "On March 22, as the company was entrenching, it was partially overrun by an advance element of the Red Army which had blundered into its position by accident. Although taken by surprise, the SS troopers, including the BFC volunteers, quickly regained their wits and launched a vigorous counterattack, driving off the Soviets. One BFC fighter, a Cornishman named Kenneth Edward Berry, was captured during the brief but fierce battle, and was subsequently interned. Another Corspman who distinguished himself during the battle for Berlin was Eric Pleasants, of Norwich. Pleasants is easily the most colorful figure in a formation that was full of colorful figures. Before the War he had been a Blackshirt security officers in Sir Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists. Unwilling to fight against Germany when war broke out, he aligned himself with the Peace Pledge Union, and was assigned agricultural work on the Channel Islands as an alternative to military service. Pleasants was interned with the other adult males when the Germans occupied the islands in 1940. He was an early volunteer in the BFC. Pleasants was naturally strong and athletic, and he had an iron constitution. He had experience in boxing, wrestling and the Oriental martial arts. Unsurprisingly, he became the physical instructor for the BFC. As part of his duties, he represented the BFC in exhibition boxing matches with the other Germanic SS units, and in time became the middleweight boxing champion of the SS. During the climactic battle for Berlin, he managed to fight his way through the Soviet encirclement, killing two Communist soliders in hand-to-hand fighting in the process. He surrendered to the Americans, but after further adventures, he was interned by the Russians and spent seven years in a Siberian slave labor camp. Shortly before his death, he returned to England and died peacefully in Hethel, near his home town of Norwich, at age 87. – Richard W. Landwehr Jr.: Britisches Freikorps – British Volunteers of the Waffen-SS 1943-1945, 1992, p. 83, ISBN 978-1475059243 (Third Edition, March 2012)
  26. At least eight American volunteers are known to have been killed during their service in the Waffen-SS. They were Francesco Mattedi, a soldier in the Italian SS Division who killed in Nettunia, 30 April 1944; Charles MacDonald, KIA near Johvi/Estonia, 14 March 1944; Raymond George Rommelspacher, died in Normandy/France, 6 October 1944, Edwin/Erwin Peter, KIA in Latvia, 2 July 1941; Andreas Hauser, died in Welikij in Ukraine, 18 January 1945; Lucas Diel, died on 9 December 1944 in Hungary; and Andy Beneschan, KIA in Bosnia, 16 April 1945. There were also numerous German-Americans who served in the Wehrmacht and as Waffen-SS officers during World War II. Among others were SS-Hauptsturmführer Josef Awender, a medical doctor in the SS ‘Frundsberg’ Division who born in Philadelphia in 1913; SS-Untersturmführer Robert Beimes, a signal officer in the SS ‘Hitlerjugend’ Division, born in San Francisco in 1919. His father was a translator in the SD; SS-Hauptsturmführer Eldon Walli, born in New York City in 1913 in the SS-Kriegsberichter Abteilung (war reporters); and SS-Hauptsturmführer Paul Winckler-Theede, born in New York City in 1912 and served as a military judge in the SS ‘Das Reich’ Division.