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All divisions in the Waffen-SS were ordered in a single series as formed, regardless of type. Those tagged with nationalities were at least nominally recruited from those nationalities. Many of the higher-numbered units were small battlegroups (Kampfgruppen), i.e., divisions in name only.
As a general rule, an “SS Division” is made up of Germans, or other Germanic peoples, while a “Division of the SS” is made up of non-Germanic volunteers.
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The SS-Verfügungstruppe (SS-VT) (English: SS Dispositional Troops) was formed in 1934 as combat troops for the NSDAP. By 1940 these military SS units had become the nucleus of the Waffen-SS.
On 17 August 1938 Adolf Hitler decreed that the SS-VT was neither a part of the police nor the German Wehrmacht, but military-trained men at the disposal of the Führer in war or peace. The men were to be trained in accordance with the rules of the SS and manned by volunteers who had completed their service in the Reichsarbeitsdienst (or RAD, Reich Labour Service).
1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler
The 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler (LSSAH) was Adolf Hitler’s personal bodyguard. Initially the size of a regiment (brigade), the LSSAH eventually grew into an elite division-sized unit. The term Leibstandarte was derived partly from Leibgarde – a somewhat archaic German translation of “Garde du Corps” or personal bodyguard of a military leader (“Leib” = lit. “body, torso”) – and Standarte: the Schutzstaffel (SS) or Sturmabteilung (SA) term for a regiment-sized unit.
The LSSAH independently participated in combat during the invasion of Poland, and was amalgamated into the Waffen-SS together with the SS-Verfügungstruppe (SS-VT) and the combat units of the SS-Totenkopfverbände (SS-TV) prior to Operation Barbarossa in 1941. By the end of World War II it had been increased in size from a regiment to a Panzer division.
The Leibstandarte division’s symbol was a skeleton key, in honour of its first commander, Josef “Sepp” Dietrich (Dietrich is German for skeleton key or lock pick); it was retained and modified to later serve as the symbol for I SS Panzer Corps. The elite division, a component of the Waffen-SS, was found guilty of war crimes in the Nuremberg Trials. Members of the LSSAH participated in numerous atrocities. They murdered at least an estimated 5,000 prisoners of war in the period 1940–1945, mostly on the Eastern Front.
2nd SS Panzer Division – Das Reich
The 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich was an elite division during World War II. It is considered[by whom?] to be one of the better fighting formations amongst the thirty-eight divisions fielded by the Waffen-SS.
It served during the invasion of France and took part in several major battles on the Eastern Front (particularly in the Battle of Prokhorovka against the 5th Guards Tank Army at the titanic Battle of Kursk). It was then transferred to the West and took part in the fighting in Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge, ending the war with desperate fighting in Hungary and Austria.
The symbol for the Das Reich division was the wolf’s hook, or Wolfsangel. As a whole, the Waffen-SS was found guilty of war crimes in the Nuremberg tribunal, with Das Reich itself being notorious for the Oradour-sur-Glane massacre.
3rd SS Panzer Division Totenkopf
The 3rd SS Panzer Division Totenkopf (skull), also known as the 3rd SS Panzergrenadier Division Totenkopf and 3rd SS Division Totenkopf during its existence, was one of 38 divisions of the Waffen-SS, the armed wing of the German Nazi Party that served alongside but was never formally part of the Wehrmacht during World War II. Prior to achieving division status, the formation was known as Kampfgruppe (battlegroup) “Eicke”. The division is infamous due to its insignia and the fact that most of the initial enlisted soldiers were SS-Totenkopfverbände (SS concentration camp guards), and as such it is sometimes referred to as the “Death’s Head Division”. Members of the division participated in several war crimes.
The Totenkopf division was one of the “Germanic” divisions of the Waffen-SS. These included 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler, 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich, and 5th SS Panzer Division Wiking.
5th SS Panzer Division – Wiking
The 5th SS Panzer Division Wiking was one of the elite Panzer divisions of the thirty eight Waffen SS divisions. It was recruited from foreign volunteers in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, the Netherlands and Belgium under the command of German officers. During the course of World War II, the division progressed from a motorised infantry formation to a Panzer division and served on the Eastern Front during World War II. It surrendered in May 1945 to the advancing American forces in Austria.
6th SS Mountain Division Nord
The 6th SS Mountain Division Nord was a German unit of the Waffen-SS during World War II, formed in February 1941 as SS Kampfgruppe Nord (SS Battle Group North).
The Division was the only Waffen-SS unit to fight in the Arctic Circle when it was stationed in Finland and northern Russia between June and November 1941. It fought in Karelia until the Finnish armistice in September 1944 when it marched on foot 1,600 km through Finland and Norway. It arrived in Denmark in December and then transferred to western Germany. It fought in the Nordwind offensive in January 1945, where it suffered heavy losses. In early April 1945 the division was destroyed after several days of combat against the US 71st Infantry Division near Budingen, Germany.
Their logo features the Hagal (Armanen rune).
7th SS Volunteer Mountain Division Prinz Eugen
The 7th SS Volunteer Mountain Division Prinz Eugen was a German mountain infantry division of the Waffen-SS, the armed wing of the German Nazi Party that served alongside but was never formally part of the Wehrmacht during World War II. Formed in 1941 from Volksdeutsche (ethnic German) volunteers and conscripts from the Banat, Independent State of Croatia (NDH), Hungary and Romania, it fought a counter-insurgency campaign against communist-led Yugoslav Partisan resistance forces in the Territory of the Military Commander in Serbia, NDH and Montenegro. It was given the title Prinz Eugen after Prince Eugene of Savoy, an outstanding military leader of the Habsburg Empire who liberated the Banat and Belgrade from the Ottoman Empire in the Austro-Turkish War of 1716–1718. It was initially named the SS-Freiwilligen-Division Prinz Eugen (SS-Volunteer Division Prinz Eugen).
8th SS Cavalry Division Florian Geyer
The 8th SS Cavalry Division Florian Geyer was a Waffen-SS cavalry Division during World War II. It was formed in 1942 from a cadre of the SS Cavalry Brigade which was involved in anti partisan operations behind the front line and was responsible for the extermination of tens of thousands of the civilian population.
About 40% of the division were Volksdeutsche from Siebenbürgen (Transylvania) and Banat (Serbia). The Training and Replacement Battalion of the 8th SS Cavalry Division was involved in suppressing the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
In March 1944, it was named after Florian Geyer (1490–1525), the Franconian nobleman who led the Black Company during the German Peasants’ War.
The Division was destroyed during the fighting in Budapest in early 1945.
9th SS Panzer Division Hohenstaufen
The 9th SS Panzer Division “Hohenstaufen”, also known as SS-Panzergrenadier-Division 9 Hohenstaufen, was a German Waffen-SS Armoured division which saw action on both the Eastern and Western Fronts during World War II. The division was activated on the 31 December 1942. Many of the men of the division were young German conscripts, with a cadre of experienced nco’s and staff from the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler. Their first action was in March 1944 in Poland; they were then moved to Normandy in June that year. After the retreat from France, they were moved to Arnhem in September 1944, to rest and refit and became involved in the Allied parachute landings. Their next action was the German advance in the Ardennes in the winter of 1944–1945. After defeat in the Ardennes, the division was moved to Hungary, where it took part in the fighting to the west of Budapest in February and March. Falling back into Austria, the division surrendered to the advancing United States Army on 5 May 1945, at Steyr.
10th SS Panzer Division Frundsberg
The 10th SS Panzer Division Frundsberg or 10.SS-Panzer-Division Frundsberg was a German Waffen SS panzer division. The division was formed at the beginning of 1943 as a reserve for the expected Allied invasion of France. However, their first campaign was in the Ukraine in April 1944. Highly motivated after combat success in the Ukraine, the unit was then transported back to the west, where it fought the Allies in France and at Arnhem. The division was later transported to Pomerania, then fought south east of Berlin in the Lausitz area until the end of the war. Unlike several of the earlier SS panzer divisions, the “Frundsberg” division did not engage in atrocities against either civilians or combatants. Based on its fighting record, it was an elite division that also had a reputation for fighting a “clean war.” Postwar, the division had a very active veteran’s association.
11th SS Volunteer Panzergrenadier Division Nordland
The 11th SS Volunteer Panzergrenadier Division Nordland, also known as Kampfverband Waräger, Germanische-Freiwilligen-Division, SS-Panzergrenadier-Division 11 (Germanische) or 11. SS-Freiwilligen-Panzergrenadier-Division Nordland, was a Waffen SS, Panzergrenadier division recruited from foreign volunteers. It saw action in Croatia and on the Eastern Front during World War II.
12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend
The 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend (“Hitler Youth”) was a German Waffen-SS armoured division during World War II. The Hitlerjugend was unique because the majority of its junior enlisted men were drawn from members of the Hitler Youth, while the senior NCOs and officers were generally veterans of the Eastern Front.
The division, with 20,540 personnel, first saw action on 7 June 1944 as part of the German defense of the Caen area during the Normandy campaign. The battle for Normandy took its toll on the division and it came out of the Falaise pocket with a divisional strength of 12,000 men.
Following the invasion battles, the division was sent to Germany for refitting. On 16 December 1944, the division was committed against the US Army in the Battle of the Bulge. After the failure of the Ardennes offensive the division was sent east to fight the Red Army near Budapest. The 12th SS eventually withdrew into Austria; on 8 May 1945, the surviving 10,000 men surrendered to the US Army at Enns. At 7:20 am, Captain McLean reported that two lieutenant colonels and a major approached troops of Major General Stanley Eric Reinhart, announcing that within two hours the end of their column would reach the city.
The reputation of the division has been affected by war crimes committed by members of the division during the early battles in Normandy.
13th SS Mountain Division – Handschar (1st Croatian)
The 13th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Handschar (1st Croatian) was a German mountain infantry division of the Waffen-SS, the armed wing of the German Nazi Party that served alongside but was never formally part of the Wehrmacht during World War II. From March to December 1944, it fought a counter-insurgency campaign against communist-led Yugoslav Partisan resistance forces in the Independent State of Croatia, a fascist puppet state of Nazi Germany that encompassed almost all of modern-day Croatia and all of modern-day Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as parts of Serbia. It was given the title Handschar after a local fighting knife or sword carried by Turkish policemen during the centuries that the region was part of the Ottoman Empire. It was the first non-Germanic Waffen-SS division, and its formation marked the expansion of the Waffen-SS into a multi-ethnic military force. Composed of Bosnian Muslims (ethnic Bosniaks) with some Catholic Croat soldiers and mostly German and Yugoslav Volksdeutsche (ethnic German) officers and non-commissioned officers, it took an oath of allegiance to both Adolf Hitler and the Croatian leader Ante Pavelić.
The division fought briefly in the Syrmia region north of the Sava river prior to crossing into northeastern Bosnia. After crossing the Sava, it established a designated “security zone” in north-eastern Bosnia between the Sava, Bosna, Drina and Spreča rivers. It also fought outside the security zone on several occasions, and earned a reputation for brutality and savagery, not only during combat operations, but also through atrocities committed against Serb and Jewish civilians. In late 1944, parts of the division were transferred briefly to the Zagreb area, after which the non-German members began to desert in large numbers. Over the winter of 1944–1945, it was sent to the Baranja region where it fought against the Red Army and Bulgarians throughout southern Hungary, falling back via a series of defensive lines until they were inside the Reich frontier. Most of the remaining Bosnian Muslims left at this point and attempted to return to Bosnia. The rest retreated further west, hoping to surrender to the Western Allies. Most of the remaining members became prisoners of the British Army. Subsequently, thirty-eight officers were extradited to Yugoslavian authorities to face criminal charges, and 10 were executed.
18th SS Volunteer Panzergrenadier Division Horst Wessel
The 18th SS Volunteer Panzer Grenadier Division Horst Wessel was formed in 1944 around a cadre from the 1 SS Infantry Brigade and included mainly Hungarian ethnic Germans or Volksdeutsche (Volksdeutsche is a historical term which arose in the early 20th century to apply to Germans living outside of the German Empire). 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. It was used for anti-partisan duties until it was sent to the Eastern front, with the exception of one regiment that fought the Slovak National Uprising in August 1944. It later fought as a single unit in Hungary and later in Czechoslovakia where it was destroyed.
The Division was named after the SA or (Sturmabteilung) hero Horst Wessel, a German Nazi known for being the author of lyrics to the song “Die Fahne hoch” (Horst Wessel Lied) and for being glorified by the Nazi regime as a martyr of the early years of the Nazi party.
20th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Estonian)
20th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Estonian) (German: 20.Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS (estnische Nr.1), Estonian: 20. eesti diviis) was a unit of the Waffen SS established on 25 May 1944 in German occupied Estonia during World War II. Formed in Spring 1944 after the general conscription-mobilization was announced in Estonia on 31 January 1944 by the German occupying authorities, the cadre of the 3rd Estonian SS Volunteer Brigade, renamed the 20th Estonian SS Volunteer Division on 23 January 1944, was returned to Estonia and reformed. Additionally 38,000 men were conscripted in Estonia and other Estonian units that had fought on various fronts in the German Army, and the Finnish Infantry Regiment 200 were rushed to Estonia.
Estonian officers and men in other units that fell under the conscription proclamation and had returned to Estonia had their rank prefix changed from “SS” to “Waffen” (Hauptscharführer would be referred to as a Waffen-Hauptscharführer rather than SS-Hauptscharführer). The wearing of SS runes on the collar was forbidden, and these formations began wearing national insignia instead.
The Division fought the Red Army on the Eastern Front and surrendered in May 1945.
31st SS Volunteer Grenadier Division
The 31st SS Volunteer Grenadier Division was formed from Germans, Hungarians and Volksdeutsche, mostly from the Bačka in September 1944. The division is sometimes given the title Batschka. By November 1944 it was in action on the Hungarian Front In January 1945 it was sent to Austria and reformed as a type 45 Division; only two Battalions in each Regiment and only three platoons in each Company.
It then joined the 17th Army in Silesia where it was surrounded by the Red Army and surrendered near Hradec Králové in May 1945.
34th SS Volunteer Grenadier Division Landstorm Nederland
The 34th SS Volunteer Grenadier Division Landstorm Nederland was a Division during World War II which wasn’t officially an SS unit, although it was subjected to Waffen-SS laws and jurisdiction of the SS-und Polizeigericht. The men wore the Feldgrau uniform of the Waffen-SS, but without the Sig-runes. The German officers and transferred eastern front veterans were allowed to keep wearing the runes.. It was formed by the converting of the SS Volunteer Grenadier-Brigade Landstorm Nederland into a division. It comprised volunteers of Dutch background and saw action on the Western Front, but its strength never reached more than a brigade.
Their insignia features the Wolfsangel rune.
36th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS
The 36th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS, also known as the SS-Sturmbrigade Dirlewanger (1944), or simply the Dirlewanger Brigade, was a military unit of the Waffen-SS during World War II, and was led by convicted child rapist Oskar Dirlewanger. Originally formed for anti-partisan duties against the Polish resistance; the unit eventually saw action in Slovakia, Hungary, and against the Soviet Red Army near the end of the war. During its operations it engaged in the rape, pillaging and mass murder of civilians.
The unit participated in some of World War II’s most notorious campaigns of terror in the east. During the organization’s time in Russia, Dirlewanger burned women and children alive and let the starved packs of dogs feed on them. He was known to hold large formations with the sole purpose of injecting Jews with strychnine. Dirlewanger’s unit took part in the occupation of Belarus, where it carved out a reputation within the Waffen-SS as an atrocious unit. Numerous Heer and SS commanders attempted to remove Dirlewanger from the SS and disband the unit, although he had patrons within the Nazi apparatus who intervened on his behalf. His unit was most notably credited with the destruction of Warsaw, and the massacre of the city’s population during the Warsaw Uprising; and participating in the brutal suppression of the Slovak National Uprising in 1944. Dirlewanger’s unit earned notoriety as the most criminal and heinous SS unit in Hitler’s war machine.
102nd SS Heavy Panzer Battalion
The 102nd SS Heavy-Panzer Battalion 102 (German: Schwere SS-Panzer-Abteilung 102) was a heavy-tank battalion of the Waffen SS during World War II.
It fought as part of the II SS Panzer Corps during the Battle of Normandy and was nearly destroyed. Renamed as 502nd SS Heavy-Panzer Battalion, (German: Schwere SS-Panzer-Abteilung 502) the unit was destroyed by the Russians in the Halbe Pocket in Spring 1945.
he 1st Cossack Cavalry Division (German: 1. Kosaken-Kavallerie-Division) was a Russian Cossack division of the German Army that served during World War II. It was created on the Eastern Front mostly out of Don Cossacks already serving in the Wehrmacht, those who escaped from the advancing Red Army and Soviet POWs. In 1945, the division was transferred to the Waffen SS, becoming the 1st SS Cossack Cavalry Division (1. SS-Kosaken-Kavallerie-Division). At the end of the war, the unit ceased to exist.