Waffen-SS
Overview
 
The Waffen-SS (ˈvafən.ɛs.ɛs, Armed SS) was a multi-ethnic and multi-national military
Military
A military is an organization authorized by its greater society to use lethal force, usually including use of weapons, in defending its country by combating actual or perceived threats. The military may have additional functions of use to its greater society, such as advancing a political agenda e.g...

 force of the Third Reich
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

. It constituted the armed wing of the Schutzstaffel
Schutzstaffel
The Schutzstaffel |Sig runes]]) was a major paramilitary organization under Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. Built upon the Nazi ideology, the SS under Heinrich Himmler's command was responsible for many of the crimes against humanity during World War II...

 ("Protective Squadron") or SS, an organ of the Nazi Party. The Waffen-SS saw action throughout World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 and grew from three regiments to over 38 divisions, and served alongside the Heer (regular army), but was never formally part of it. It was Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

's will that the Waffen-SS never be integrated into the army, as it was to remain the armed wing of the Party and to become an elite police force once the war was won.
Encyclopedia
The Waffen-SS (ˈvafən.ɛs.ɛs, Armed SS) was a multi-ethnic and multi-national military
Military
A military is an organization authorized by its greater society to use lethal force, usually including use of weapons, in defending its country by combating actual or perceived threats. The military may have additional functions of use to its greater society, such as advancing a political agenda e.g...

 force of the Third Reich
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

. It constituted the armed wing of the Schutzstaffel
Schutzstaffel
The Schutzstaffel |Sig runes]]) was a major paramilitary organization under Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. Built upon the Nazi ideology, the SS under Heinrich Himmler's command was responsible for many of the crimes against humanity during World War II...

 ("Protective Squadron") or SS, an organ of the Nazi Party. The Waffen-SS saw action throughout World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 and grew from three regiments to over 38 divisions, and served alongside the Heer (regular army), but was never formally part of it. It was Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

's will that the Waffen-SS never be integrated into the army, as it was to remain the armed wing of the Party and to become an elite police force once the war was won. During time of peace, it remained under the control of Reichsführer-SS
Reichsführer-SS
was a special SS rank that existed between the years of 1925 and 1945. Reichsführer-SS was a title from 1925 to 1933 and, after 1934, the highest rank of the German Schutzstaffel .-Definition:...

 Heinrich Himmler
Heinrich Himmler
Heinrich Luitpold Himmler was Reichsführer of the SS, a military commander, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. As Chief of the German Police and the Minister of the Interior from 1943, Himmler oversaw all internal and external police and security forces, including the Gestapo...

's SS, through the SS Führungshauptamt
SS Führungshauptamt
The SS-Führungshauptamt was the operational headquarters of the SS.It was responsible for the administration of Officer Schools , Medical services, logistics, and rates of pay...

 (SS operational command office). Upon mobilization, however, its tactical control was handed over to the High Command of the Armed Forces (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht
Oberkommando der Wehrmacht
The Oberkommando der Wehrmacht was part of the command structure of the armed forces of Nazi Germany during World War II.- Genesis :...

).

Initially membership was open to "Aryans" only in accordance with the racial policies of the Nazi state
Racial policy of Nazi Germany
The racial policy of Nazi Germany was a set of policies and laws implemented by Nazi Germany, asserting the superiority of the "Aryan race", and based on a specific racist doctrine which claimed scientific legitimacy...

, but in 1940 the rules were relaxed (although not ended completely) and Hitler authorized the formation of units composed largely or solely of foreign volunteers and conscripts
Waffen-SS foreign volunteers and conscripts
The Waffen-SS was the combat arm of the Schutzstaffel or SS, an organ of the German Nazi Party. The Waffen-SS saw action throughout World War II and grew from three regiments to a force of over 39 divisions, which served alongside the regular army, but was never formally part of the Wehrmacht...

; by the end of the war ethnic non-Germans made up approximately 60 per cent of the Waffen-SS.

After the war at the Nuremberg Trials
Nuremberg Trials
The Nuremberg Trials were a series of military tribunals, held by the victorious Allied forces of World War II, most notable for the prosecution of prominent members of the political, military, and economic leadership of the defeated Nazi Germany....

, the Waffen-SS was condemned as a criminal organization because of its essential connection to the Nazi Party and its involvement in war crimes. Waffen-SS veterans were denied many of the rights afforded to veteran
Veteran
A veteran is a person who has had long service or experience in a particular occupation or field; " A veteran of ..."...

s who had served in the Heer
German Army
The German Army is the land component of the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Germany. Following the disbanding of the Wehrmacht after World War II, it was re-established in 1955 as the Bundesheer, part of the newly formed West German Bundeswehr along with the Navy and the Air Force...

 (army), Luftwaffe
History of the Luftwaffe during World War II
The German Luftwaffe was one of the strongest, most doctrinally advanced, and most battle-experienced air forces in the world when World War II started in Europe in September 1939. Officially unveiled in 1935, in violation of the Treaty of Versailles, its purpose was to support Adolf Hitler's...

 (air force) or Kriegsmarine
Kriegsmarine
The Kriegsmarine was the name of the German Navy during the Nazi regime . It superseded the Kaiserliche Marine of World War I and the post-war Reichsmarine. The Kriegsmarine was one of three official branches of the Wehrmacht, the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany.The Kriegsmarine grew rapidly...

 (navy). The exception made was for Waffen-SS conscripts sworn in after 1943, who were exempted because of their involuntary servitude
Involuntary servitude
Involuntary servitude is a United States legal and constitutional term for a person laboring against that person's will to benefit another, under some form of coercion other than the worker's financial needs...

. In the 1950s and 1960s, Waffen-SS veteran groups successfully fought numerous legal battles in West Germany
West Germany
West Germany is the common English, but not official, name for the Federal Republic of Germany or FRG in the period between its creation in May 1949 to German reunification on 3 October 1990....

 to overturn the Nuremberg
Nuremberg
Nuremberg[p] is a city in the German state of Bavaria, in the administrative region of Middle Franconia. Situated on the Pegnitz river and the Rhine–Main–Danube Canal, it is located about north of Munich and is Franconia's largest city. The population is 505,664...

 ruling and win pension rights for their members.

Origins (1929–1939)

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
Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

. By November 1933 the formation 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
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

. The oath given: Pledging loyalty to him alone and Obedience unto death. The formation was given the title Leibstandarte (Bodyguard Regiment) Adolf Hitler (LAH). On 13 April 1934, by order of Himmler, the regiment became known as the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler (LSSAH).

The Leibstandarte demonstrated their loyalty in June 1934 during the Night of the Long Knives
Night of the Long Knives
The Night of the Long Knives , sometimes called "Operation Hummingbird " or in Germany the "Röhm-Putsch," was a purge that took place in Nazi Germany between June 30 and July 2, 1934, when the Nazi regime carried out a series of political murders...

, the purge of the Sturmabteilung
Sturmabteilung
The Sturmabteilung functioned as a paramilitary organization of the National Socialist German Workers' Party . It played a key role in Adolf Hitler's rise to power in the 1920s and 1930s...

 (SA). The SA had over two million members at the end of 1933. Led by one of Hitler's old comrades, Ernst Röhm
Ernst Röhm
Ernst Julius Röhm, was a German officer in the Bavarian Army and later an early Nazi leader. He was a co-founder of the Sturmabteilung , the Nazi Party militia, and later was its commander...

, the SA represented a threat to Hitler's relationship with the German Army and threatened to sour his relations with the conservatives of the country; people whose support Hitler needed to solidify his position in the German government. Hitler decided to act against the SA. The SS was put in charge of eliminating Röhm and the other high-ranking officers of the SA.

The Night of the Long Knives
Night of the Long Knives
The Night of the Long Knives , sometimes called "Operation Hummingbird " or in Germany the "Röhm-Putsch," was a purge that took place in Nazi Germany between June 30 and July 2, 1934, when the Nazi regime carried out a series of political murders...

 between 30 June and 2 July 1934 saw the killing of approximately 82 SA men, including almost its entire leadership, effectively ending the power of the SA. This action was largely carried out by the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler. In September 1934, Adolf Hitler authorized the formation of the military wing of the Nazi Party and approved the formation of the SS-Verfügungstruppe
SS-Verfügungstruppe
The SS-Verfügungstruppe was formed in 1934 as combat troops for the NSDAP. By 1940 these military SS units had become the nucleus of the Waffen-SS....

 or SS-VT, special service troop under Hitler's command. The SS-VT had to depend on the German Army
Heer
Heer is German for "army". Generally, its use as "army" is not restricted to any particular country, so "das britische Heer" would mean "the British army".However, more specifically it can refer to:*An army of Germany:...

 for its supply of weapons and military training and they had control of the recruiting system, through local draft boards responsible for assigning conscripts to the different branches of the Wehrmacht
Wehrmacht
The Wehrmacht – from , to defend and , the might/power) were the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer , the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe .-Origin and use of the term:...

, to meet quotas set by the German High Command
Oberkommando der Wehrmacht
The Oberkommando der Wehrmacht was part of the command structure of the armed forces of Nazi Germany during World War II.- Genesis :...

 (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht or OKW in German). The SS was given the lowest priority for recruits.

Even with the difficulties of the quota system Heinrich Himmler
Heinrich Himmler
Heinrich Luitpold Himmler was Reichsführer of the SS, a military commander, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. As Chief of the German Police and the Minister of the Interior from 1943, Himmler oversaw all internal and external police and security forces, including the Gestapo...

 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. At the same time Himmler established the SS-Junkerschule Bad Tölz
SS-Junkerschule Bad Tölz
SS-Junkerschule Bad Tölz was the officers' training school for the Waffen-SS. It was the SS equivalent of Britain's Sandhurst and the USA's West Point. The school was established in 1937, in the town of Bad Tölz which is about 30 miles south of Munich and the location was seemingly chosen because...

 and SS-Junkerschule Braunschweig
Braunschweig
Braunschweig , is a city of 247,400 people, located in the federal-state of Lower Saxony, Germany. It is located north of the Harz mountains at the farthest navigable point of the Oker river, which connects to the North Sea via the rivers Aller and Weser....

 for training the officers required to lead the new regiments. Both schools used the regular army training methods and used former Army officers to train their potential officers to be combat effective. The officer candidates had to meet stringent requirements before being allowed entry to the schools: all SS officers 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.

In 1936, Himmler selected former Lieutenant General Paul Hausser
Paul Hausser
Paul "Papa" Hausser was an officer in the German Army, achieving the high rank of lieutenant-general in the inter-war Reichswehr. After retirement from the regular Army he became the "father" of the Waffen-SS and one of its most eminent leaders...

 to be Inspector of the SS-VT with the rank of Brigadefuhrer
Brigadeführer
SS-Brigadeführer was an SS rank that was used in Nazi Germany between the years of 1932 and 1945. Brigadeführer was also an SA rank....

, and he set about transforming the SS-VT into a credible military force that was a match for the regular army.

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. He decreed that service in the SS-VT would qualify to fulfill military obligations, although service in the SS-Totenkopfverbände
SS-Totenkopfverbände
SS-Totenkopfverbände , meaning "Death's-Head Units", was the SS organization responsible for administering the Nazi concentration camps for the Third Reich....

 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 did not have its own reserves. 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
Anschluss
The Anschluss , also known as the ', was the occupation and annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany in 1938....

 of Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

 in March and the occupation of the Sudetenland
Sudetenland
Sudetenland is the German name used in English in the first half of the 20th century for the northern, southwest and western regions of Czechoslovakia inhabited mostly by ethnic Germans, specifically the border areas of Bohemia, Moravia, and those parts of Silesia being within Czechoslovakia.The...

 in October. A battalion of the Leibstandarte was chosen to accompany the Army troops in occupying Austria, and the three regiments of the SS-VT participated in the occupation of the Sudetenland. In both actions no resistance was met.

Invasion of Poland

Himmler's military formations at the outbreak of the war comprised several subgroups:
  • The Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler under Obergruppenführer Josef "Sepp" Dietrich
    Sepp Dietrich
    Josef "Sepp" Dietrich was a German SS General. He was one of Nazi Germany's most decorated soldiers and commanded formations up to Army level during World War II. Prior to 1929 he was Adolf Hitler's chauffeur and bodyguard but received rapid promotion after his participation in the murder of...

    .
  • The Inspectorate of Verfügungstruppe under Gruppenführer Paul Hausser
    Paul Hausser
    Paul "Papa" Hausser was an officer in the German Army, achieving the high rank of lieutenant-general in the inter-war Reichswehr. After retirement from the regular Army he became the "father" of the Waffen-SS and one of its most eminent leaders...

     which commanded the Deutschland, Germania and Der Führer regiments, the last recruited in Austria after the Anschluss
    Anschluss
    The Anschluss , also known as the ', was the occupation and annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany in 1938....

     and not yet combat-ready.
  • The Inspectorate of Concentration Camps under Gruppenführer Theodor Eicke
    Theodor Eicke
    Theodor Eicke was a SS Obergruppenführer , commander of the SS-Division Totenkopf of the Waffen-SS and one of the key figures in the establishment of concentration camps in Nazi Germany. His Nazi Party number was 114,901 and his SS number was 2,921...

     which fielded four infantry and one cavalry Death's-Head Standarten
    3rd SS Division Totenkopf
    The SS Division Totenkopf , also known as 3. SS-Panzergrenadier-Division Totenkopf and 3. SS-Panzer-Division Totenkopf, was one of the 38 divisions fielded by the Waffen-SS during World War II. Prior to achieving division status, the formation was known as Kampfgruppe Eicke...

    , comprising camp guards of the SS-Totenkopfverbände
    SS-Totenkopfverbände
    SS-Totenkopfverbände , meaning "Death's-Head Units", was the SS organization responsible for administering the Nazi concentration camps for the Third Reich....

    . These troops wore the SS-TV skull and crossbones rather than the SS-VT "SS" runes.
  • Combat-trained non-SS units of Obergruppenführer und General der Polizei Kurt Daluege
    Kurt Daluege
    Kurt Daluege was a German Nazi SS-Oberstgruppenführer and Generaloberst der Polizei as chief of the Ordnungspolizei and ruled the Protectorate Bohemia and Moravia as Deputy Protector after Reinhard Heydrich's assassination.-Early life and career:Kurt Daluege, a son of a Prussian state official,...

    's Ordnungspolizei
    Ordnungspolizei
    The Ordnungspolizei or Orpo were the uniformed regular police force in Nazi Germany between 1936 and 1945. It was increasingly absorbed into the Nazi police system. Owing to their green uniforms, they were also referred to as Grüne Polizei...

    , which reported to Himmler in his capacity as Chief of German Police. These troops used police ranks and insignia
    Ranks and insignia of the Ordnungspolizei
    The Ranks and insignia of the Ordnungspolizei developed in 1936 after the nationalization of Germany's regular police forces.- Ordnungspolizei Rank Titles :...

     rather than those of the SS.


These formations would become the basis of the Waffen-SS.

In August 1939, Hitler placed the Leibstandarte and the SS-VT under the operational control of the Army High Command (OKH). Himmler retained command of the Totenkopfstandarten, for employment behind the advancing combat units in what were euphemistically called "police and security duties".
Events during the Invasion of Poland
Invasion of Poland (1939)
The Invasion of Poland, also known as the September Campaign or 1939 Defensive War in Poland and the Poland Campaign in Germany, was an invasion of Poland by Germany, the Soviet Union, and a small Slovak contingent that marked the start of World War II in Europe...

 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. 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
Pabianice
Pabianice is a town in central Poland with 69 648 inhabitants . Situated in the Łódź Voivodeship, it is the capital of Pabianice County...

 by the Poles. In its defense 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. Further, during the invasion the Leibstandarte (LSSAH) became notorious for torching villages; members of the LSSAH also murdered 50 Jews in the town of Błonie.

Himmler insisted 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. 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.

First Divisions

In October 1939, Deutschland, Germania and Der Führer were reorganized into the SS-Verfügungs Division, with the Leibstandarte remaining independent and increased in strength to a reinforced motorized regiment. Hitler authorized the creation of two new divisions: the SS Totenkopf Division formed from militarized Standarten of the SS-Totenkopfverbände
SS-Totenkopfverbände
SS-Totenkopfverbände , meaning "Death's-Head Units", was the SS organization responsible for administering the Nazi concentration camps for the Third Reich....

, and the Polizei Division formed from members of the national police force. Almost overnight the force that the OKW had tried to disband had increased from 18,000 to over 100,000 strong. Hitler next authorized the creation in March 1940 of four Motorized 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
Battle of France
In the Second World War, the Battle of France was the German invasion of France and the Low Countries, beginning on 10 May 1940, which ended the Phoney War. The battle consisted of two main operations. In the first, Fall Gelb , German armoured units pushed through the Ardennes, to cut off and...

 only the Leibstandarte battalion was up to strength.

France and the Netherlands

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
227th Infantry Division (Germany)
The 227th Infantry Division named "Rheinisch-Westfälische" was created on 26 August 1939 in Krefeld. The Division was deployed for the last time in February 1945 in the Tuchola Forest.-Commanding officers:...

. 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 Münster
Münster
Münster is an independent city in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. It is located in the northern part of the state and is considered to be the cultural centre of the Westphalia region. It is also capital of the local government region Münsterland...

, awaiting the order to invade the Netherlands
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

. The SS Totenkopf and Polizei Divisions were held in reserve.

On 10 May the Leibstandarte overcame Dutch border guards and spearheaded the German advance into the Netherlands
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

, and the Der Führer advanced towards Utrecht
Utrecht (city)
Utrecht city and municipality is the capital and most populous city of the Dutch province of Utrecht. It is located in the eastern corner of the Randstad conurbation, and is the fourth largest city of the Netherlands with a population of 312,634 on 1 Jan 2011.Utrecht's ancient city centre features...

. The following day the rest of the SS-VT Division crossed into the Netherlands and headed towards Rotterdam
Rotterdam
Rotterdam is the second-largest city in the Netherlands and one of the largest ports in the world. Starting as a dam on the Rotte river, Rotterdam has grown into a major international commercial centre...

, which they reached on 12 May. 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.

In France the SS Totenkopf was involved in the only Allied tank attack in the Battle of France
Battle of France
In the Second World War, the Battle of France was the German invasion of France and the Low Countries, beginning on 10 May 1940, which ended the Phoney War. The battle consisted of two main operations. In the first, Fall Gelb , German armoured units pushed through the Ardennes, to cut off and...

, 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
Battle of Arras (1940)
The Battle of Arras took place during the Battle of France, in the early stages of World War II. It was an Allied counterattack against the flank of the German army, that took place near the town of Arras, in north-eastern France. The German forces were pushing north toward the channel coast, in...

. 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
Matilda tank
The Infantry Tank Mark II known as the Matilda II was a British infantry tank of the Second World War. It was also identified from its General Staff Specification A12....

.

After the Dutch surrender, the Leibstandarte moved south to France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 on 24 May. Becoming part of the XIX Panzer Corps under the command of General Heinz Guderian
Heinz Guderian
Heinz Wilhelm Guderian was a German general during World War II. He was a pioneer in the development of armored warfare, and was the leading proponent of tanks and mechanization in the Wehrmacht . Germany's panzer forces were raised and organized under his direction as Chief of Mobile Forces...

, they took up a position 15 miles south west of Dunkirk along the line of the Aa Canal, with a bridgehead at Saint Venant. That night the OKW ordered the advance to halt, with the British Expeditionary Force
British Expeditionary Force (World War II)
The British Expeditionary Force was the British force in Europe from 1939–1940 during the Second World War. Commanded by General Lord Gort, the BEF constituted one-tenth of the defending Allied 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
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 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
Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross
The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross was a grade of the 1939 version of the 1813 created Iron Cross . The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross was the highest award of Germany to recognize extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership during World War II...

.

The same day the British attacked St 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. On 27 May the Deutschland reached the defensive line on the Leie River at Merville
Merville, Nord
-References:*...

. 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 15 feet of them, and the arrival of the Totenkopf Panzerjäger
Panzerjäger
Panzerjäger was a branch of service of the Wehrmacht during the Second World War which were the anti-tank arm-of-service who operated anti-tank artillery, and made exclusive use of the tank destroyers which were also named Panzerjäger...

 platoon saved the Deutschland from being destroyed. At the same time another unit from the Totenkopf, the 14 Company, was involved in the Le Paradis massacre
Le Paradis massacre
The Le Paradis massacre was a war crime committed by members of the 14th Company, SS Division Totenkopf, under the command of Hauptsturmführer Fritz Knöchlein...

, where 99 men of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Norfolk Regiment
Royal Norfolk Regiment
The Royal Norfolk Regiment, originally formed as the Norfolk Regiment, was an infantry regiment of the British Army. The Norfolk Regiment was created on 1 July 1881 as the county regiment of Norfolk...

 were machinegunned, and any survivors finished off with bayonet
Bayonet
A bayonet is a knife, dagger, sword, or spike-shaped weapon designed to fit in, on, over or underneath the muzzle of a rifle, musket or similar weapon, effectively turning the gun into a spear...

s.

By 28 May the Leibstandarte had taken Wormhout
Wormhout
Wormhout is a commune in the Nord department in northern France.The town's name is of Germanic origin.Neighbouring towns and villages :*Ledringhem to the south-west, separated by river Peene Becque*Esquelbecq-Heraldry:...

, only ten miles from Dunkirk. They were responsible for the Wormhoudt massacre
Wormhoudt massacre
The Wormhoudt massacre was the mass murder of 80 British and French POWs by the Waffen SS during the Battle of France in May 1940.-Fighting:...

, when the II Battalion killed 80 British prisoners of war.

By 30 May the British were cornered at Dunkirk, and the SS divisions continued the advance into France. The Leibstandarte reached Saint-Étienne
Saint-Étienne
Saint-Étienne is a city in eastern central France. It is located in the Massif Central, southwest of Lyon in the Rhône-Alpes region, along the trunk road that connects Toulouse with Lyon...

, 250 miles south of Paris, and had advanced further into France than any other unit. The next day the French surrendered.

Hitler expressed his pleasure with the performance of the Leibstandartes in the Netherlands and France, telling them that;
Henceforth it will be an honour for you, who bear my name, to lead every German attack.

1940 expansion

Himmler had gained approval for the Waffen-SS to form its own high command, the Kommandoamt der Waffen-SS within the SS-Führungshauptamt, which was created in August 1940. It received command of the SS-VT (the Leibstandarte and the Verfügungs-Division, renamed Reich) and the armed SS-TV regiments (the Totenkopf-Division together with several independent Totenkopf-Standarten).

In August 1940, Gottlob Berger
Gottlob Berger
Gottlob Berger was a German Nazi who held the rank of Obergruppenführer during World War II and was later convicted of war crimes.In 1939, he was Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler's main recruiting officer...

 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 1941 Danish and Norwegian volunteers had formed the SS Regiment Nordland, with Dutch
Dutch people
The Dutch people are an ethnic group native to the Netherlands. They share a common culture and speak the Dutch language. Dutch people and their descendants are found in migrant communities worldwide, notably in Suriname, Chile, Brazil, Canada, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, and the United...

 and Flemish
Flanders
Flanders is the community of the Flemings but also one of the institutions in Belgium, and a geographical region located in parts of present-day Belgium, France and the Netherlands. "Flanders" can also refer to the northern part of Belgium that contains Brussels, Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp...

 volunteers forming the SS Regiment Westland, the two regiments together with Germania (transferred from the Reich Division) forming the SS Division 'Wiking. Volunteers came forward in such numbers that the SS was forced to open a new training camp just for foreign volunteers at Sennheim in Alsace-Lorraine
Alsace-Lorraine
The Imperial Territory of Alsace-Lorraine was a territory created by the German Empire in 1871 after it annexed most of Alsace and the Moselle region of Lorraine following its victory in the Franco-Prussian War. The Alsatian part lay in the Rhine Valley on the west bank of the Rhine River and east...

.

1941

At the beginning of the new year the Polizei-Division was brought under FHA administration, although it would not be formally merged into the Waffen-SS until 1942. At the same time the Totenkopf-Standarten, aside from the three constituting the TK-Division, lost their Death's Head designation and insignia and were reclassified SS-Infanterie- (or Kavallerie-) Regimenter. The 11th Rgt. was transferred into the Reich Division to replace Germania; the remainder were grouped into three independent brigades and a battle group in Norway.

By the spring of 1941 the Waffen-SS consisted of the equivalent of six or seven divisions: the Reich, Totenkopf, Polizei and Wiking Divisions and Kampfgruppe (later Division) Nord, and the Leibstandarte, 1 SS Infantry
1 SS Infantry Brigade
The 1 SS Infantry Brigade was a unit of the German Waffen SS formed from former concentration camp guards for service in the Soviet Union behind the main front line during the Second World War. They conducted anti-partisan operations in the rear of the advancing German army and were involved in...

, 2 SS Infantry
2 SS Infantry Brigade
The 2 SS Infantry Brigade was formed on the 15 May 1941, under the command of Karl Fischer von Treuenfeld with the 4th and 5th SS Infantry Regiments and began its operational service in September in the rear area of Army Group North, under which command it would spend its entire existence...

 and SS Cavalry
SS Cavalry Brigade
The SS Cavalry Brigade was a unit of the Waffen SS formed in 1940, from cavalry regiments created for occupation duties in German-occupied Poland. Later, while serving in German-occupied areas of the Soviet Union, the brigade was involved in the genocide of the Jewish population and anti-partisan...

 Brigades.

Balkans

In March 1941, a major Italian
Italian Army
The Italian Army is the ground defence force of the Italian Armed Forces. It is all-volunteer force of active-duty personnel, numbering 108,355 in 2010. Its best-known combat vehicles are the Dardo infantry fighting vehicle, the Centauro tank destroyer and the Ariete tank, and among its aircraft...

 counterattack against Greek
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

 forces failed, and Germany was forced to come to the aid of its ally. Operation Marita began on 6 April 1941, with German troops invading Greece through Bulgaria
Bulgaria
Bulgaria , officially the Republic of Bulgaria , is a parliamentary democracy within a unitary constitutional republic in Southeast Europe. The country borders Romania to the north, Serbia and Macedonia to the west, Greece and Turkey to the south, as well as the Black Sea to the east...

 and Yugoslavia
Yugoslavia
Yugoslavia refers to three political entities that existed successively on the western part of the Balkans during most of the 20th century....

 in an effort to secure its southern flank.

Reich was ordered to leave France and head for Romania
Romania
Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

, and the Leibstandarte was ordered to Bulgaria
Bulgaria
Bulgaria , officially the Republic of Bulgaria , is a parliamentary democracy within a unitary constitutional republic in Southeast Europe. The country borders Romania to the north, Serbia and Macedonia to the west, Greece and Turkey to the south, as well as the Black Sea to the east...

. The Leibstandarte, attached to the XL Panzer Corps
XL Panzer Corps
XL Panzer Corps was a tank corps in the German Army during World War II.The XL Panzer Corps fought at Kharkov, the advance to the Don River, and to the Terek in the Caucasus. The corps later withdrew toward Rostov and later into Romania....

, advanced west then south from Bulgaria into the mountains, and by 9 April had reached Prilep
Prilep
Prilep is the fourth largest city in the Republic of Macedonia. It has a population of 66,246 citizens. Prilep is known as "the city under Marko's Towers" because of its proximity to the towers of Prince Marko.-Name:...

 in Yugoslavia, 30 miles from the Greek border. Further north the SS Reich, with the XLI Panzer Corps, crossed the Romanian border and advanced on Belgrade
Belgrade
Belgrade is the capital and largest city of Serbia. It is located at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers, where the Pannonian Plain meets the Balkans. According to official results of Census 2011, the city has a population of 1,639,121. It is one of the 15 largest cities in Europe...

, the Yugoslav
Kingdom of Yugoslavia
The Kingdom of Yugoslavia was a state stretching from the Western Balkans to Central Europe which existed during the often-tumultuous interwar era of 1918–1941...

 capital, arriving on 12 April to accept the city's surrender. The Yugoslavian Army surrendered a few days later.

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. 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."

The Leibstandarte continued the advance on 13 May. When the Reconnaissance Battalion under the command of Kurt Meyer
Kurt Meyer (Panzermeyer)
Kurt Meyer, nicknamed "Panzermeyer", served as an officer in the Waffen-SS during the Second World War. He saw action in many major battles, including the Invasion of France, Operation Barbarossa, and the Battle of Normandy.Meyer was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and...

 came under heavy fire from the Greek Army defending the Klisura Pass
Klisura
Klisura is a small town in the Karlovo municipality of the Plovdiv Province in central Bulgaria. It is situated in a valley surrounded by the Balkan Mountain range and Sredna Gora...

, they routed the defenders and captured 1,000 prisoners of war at the cost of six dead and nine wounded. The next day, Meyer captured Kastoria
Kastoria
Kastoria is a city in northern Greece in the periphery of West Macedonia. It is the capital of Kastoria peripheral unit. It is situated on a promontory on the western shore of Lake Orestiada, in a valley surrounded by limestone mountains...

 another 11,000 prisoners of war, and by 20 May the Leibstandarte had cut off the retreating Greek Army at Metsovon and accepted the surrender of the Greek Epirus-Macedonian Army. As a reward the Leibstandarte was nominally promoted to a full motorized division, although few additional elements had been added by the start of the Russian
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 campaign and the "Division" remained effectively a reinforced brigade.

Soviet Union

Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II that began on 22 June 1941. Over 4.5 million troops of the Axis powers invaded the USSR along a front., the largest invasion in the history of warfare...

, the German invasion of the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

, started on 22 June 1941, and all the Waffen-SS formations participated (including the SS Reich which was formally renamed 2 SS Das Reich by the Fall of 1941).

SS Division Nord in northern Finland
Finland
Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.Around 5.4 million people reside...

 took part in Operation Arctic Fox
Operation Arctic Fox
Operation Arctic Fox was the codename given to a campaign by German and Finnish forces during World War II against Soviet Northern Front defences at Salla, Finland in July 1941. The Operation was part of a larger Operation called Operation Silver Fox which aimed in capturing the vital port of...

 with the Finnish Army and at the battle at Salla
Salla
Salla is a municipality of Finland, located in Lapland. The municipality has a population of and covers an area of ofwhich is water. The population density is....

, where against strong Soviet forces they suffered 300 killed and 400 wounded in the first two days of the invasion. 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. 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, which had been drawn largely from Totenkopfstandarten of concentration camp guards.

The rest of the Waffen-SS divisions and brigades fared better. The SS Totenkopf and Polizei divisions were attached to Army Group North
Army Group North
Army Group North was a German strategic echelon formation commanding a grouping of Field Armies subordinated to the OKH during World War II. The army group coordinated the operations of attached separate army corps, reserve formations, rear services and logistics.- Formation :The Army Group North...

, with the mission to advance through the Baltic states
Baltic states
The term Baltic states refers to the Baltic territories which gained independence from the Russian Empire in the wake of World War I: primarily the contiguous trio of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania ; Finland also fell within the scope of the term after initially gaining independence in the 1920s.The...

 and onto Leningrad
Leningrad
Leningrad is the former name of Saint Petersburg, Russia.Leningrad may also refer to:- Places :* Leningrad Oblast, a federal subject of Russia, around Saint Petersburg* Leningrad, Tajikistan, capital of Muminobod district in Khatlon Province...

. The SS Division Das Reich was with Army Group Centre
Army Group Centre
Army Group Centre was the name of two distinct German strategic army groups that fought on the Eastern Front in World War II. The first Army Group Centre was created on 22 June 1941, as one of three German Army formations assigned to the invasion of the Soviet Union...

 and headed towards Moscow
Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

. The SS Division Wiking and the Leibstandarte were with Army Group South
Army Group South
Army Group South was the name of a number of German Army Groups during World War II.- Poland campaign :Germany used two army groups to invade Poland in 1939: Army Group North and Army Group South...

, heading for the Ukraine
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

 and the city of Kiev
Kiev
Kiev or Kyiv is the capital and the largest city of Ukraine, located in the north central part of the country on the Dnieper River. The population as of the 2001 census was 2,611,300. However, higher numbers have been cited in the press....

.

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 and dysentery
Dysentery
Dysentery is an inflammatory disorder of the intestine, especially of the colon, that results in severe diarrhea containing mucus and/or blood in the faeces with fever and abdominal pain. If left untreated, dysentery can be fatal.There are differences between dysentery and normal bloody diarrhoea...

 that swept through the ranks. Das Reich had lost 60% of its strength and was still to take part in the Battle of Moscow
Battle of Moscow
The Battle of Moscow is the name given by Soviet historians to two periods of strategically significant fighting on a sector of the Eastern Front during World War II. It took place between October 1941 and January 1942. The Soviet defensive effort frustrated Hitler's attack on Moscow, capital of...

, 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. Altogether, the Waffen-SS had suffered 43,000 casualties.

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
Soviet partisans
The Soviet partisans were members of a resistance movement which fought a guerrilla war against the Axis occupation of the Soviet Union during World War II....

 and cut off units of the Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

 in the rear of Army Group South
Army Group South
Army Group South was the name of a number of German Army Groups during World War II.- Poland campaign :Germany used two army groups to invade Poland in 1939: Army Group North and Army Group South...

, capturing 7,000 prisoners of war, but from mid-August 1941 until late 1942 they were assigned to the Reich Main Security Office
RSHA
The RSHA, or Reichssicherheitshauptamt was an organization subordinate to Heinrich Himmler in his dual capacities as Chef der Deutschen Polizei and Reichsführer-SS...

 headed by Reinhard Heydrich
Reinhard Heydrich
Reinhard Tristan Eugen Heydrich , also known as The Hangman, was a high-ranking German Nazi official.He was SS-Obergruppenführer and General der Polizei, chief of the Reich Main Security Office and Stellvertretender Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia...

. The brigades were now used 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
Einsatzgruppen
Einsatzgruppen were SS paramilitary death squads that were responsible for mass killings, typically by shooting, of Jews in particular, but also significant numbers of other population groups and political categories...

, 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.

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. 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". On 1 August, after a meeting between Heinrich Himmler
Heinrich Himmler
Heinrich Luitpold Himmler was Reichsführer of the SS, a military commander, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. As Chief of the German Police and the Minister of the Interior from 1943, Himmler oversaw all internal and external police and security forces, including the Gestapo...

, Erich von Bach-Zelewski and Hinrich Lohse
Hinrich Lohse
Hinrich Lohse was a Nazi German politician, best known for his World War II rule of the Baltic states.-Early life:...

, the brigades received the following order:
Explicit order by RFSS: All Jews must be shot. Drive the female Jews into the swamps.


Gustav Lombard
Gustav Lombard
Gustav Lombard was an SS Brigadeführer who served in World War II. During World War II, Lombard commanded the 8. SS-Division Florian Geyer, 23. SS-Mountain Division Kama and the 31. SS-Volunteer Grenadier Division...

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

1942 expansion

In 1942, the Waffen-SS was further expanded and a new division was entered on the rolls in March. By the second half of 1942 an increasing number of foreigners, many of whom were not volunteers, began entering the ranks. The 7th SS Volunteer Mountain Division Prinz Eugen was recruited from Volksdeutsche
Volksdeutsche
Volksdeutsche - "German in terms of people/folk" -, defined ethnically, is a historical term from the 20th century. The words volk and volkische conveyed in Nazi thinking the meanings of "folk" and "race" while adding the sense of superior civilization and blood...

 (ethnic Germans) drafted under threat of punishment by the local German leadership from Croatia
Croatia
Croatia , officially the Republic of Croatia , is a unitary democratic parliamentary republic in Europe at the crossroads of the Mitteleuropa, the Balkans, and the Mediterranean. Its capital and largest city is Zagreb. The country is divided into 20 counties and the city of Zagreb. Croatia covers ...

, Serbia
Serbia
Serbia , officially the Republic of Serbia , is a landlocked country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe, covering the southern part of the Carpathian basin and the central part of the Balkans...

, Hungary
Hungary
Hungary , officially the Republic of Hungary , is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The...

 and Romania
Romania
Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

 and used on anti-partisan operations in the Balkans. Himmler approved the introduction of formal compulsory service for the Volksdeutsche in German occupied Serbia. 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.

Panzergrenadier divisions

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
Panzergrenadier
is a German term for motorised or mechanized infantry, as introduced during World War II. It is used in the armies of Austria, Chile, Germany and Switzerland.-Forerunners:...

 divisions. Thanks to the efforts of Himmler and Obergruppenführer
Obergruppenführer
Obergruppenführer was a Nazi Party paramilitary rank that was first created in 1932 as a rank of the SA and until 1942 it was the highest SS rank inferior only to Reichsführer-SS...

 Paul Hausser
Paul Hausser
Paul "Papa" Hausser was an officer in the German Army, achieving the high rank of lieutenant-general in the inter-war Reichswehr. After retirement from the regular Army he became the "father" of the Waffen-SS and one of its most eminent leaders...

, the new commander of the SS Panzer Corps
I SS Panzer Corps
The I SS Panzer Corps Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler or I SS Panzer Corps was a German Waffen-SS panzer corps which saw action on both the Western and Eastern Fronts during World War II.-Formation and training:...

, 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 received nine Tiger tanks, which were formed into the heavy panzer companies.

Demyansk Pocket

The Soviet offensive of January 1942 had trapped a number of German divisions in the Demyansk Pocket
Demyansk Pocket
The Demyansk Pocket was the name given for the encirclement of German troops by the Red Army around Demyansk , south of Leningrad, during World War II on the Eastern Front. The pocket existed mainly from 8 February-21 April 1942. A much smaller pocket was simultaneously surrounded in Kholm, about ...

 between February and April 1942; the 3 SS Totenkopf was one of the divisions encircled by the Red Army. The Red Army liberated Demyansk
Demyansk
Demyansk is an urban locality and the administrative center of Demyansky District of Novgorod Oblast, Russia, located along the Yavon River. Population:...

 on 1 March 1943 with the retreat of the German troops. "For his excellence in command and the particularly fierce fighting of the Totenkopf", Obergruppenführer
Obergruppenführer
Obergruppenführer was a Nazi Party paramilitary rank that was first created in 1932 as a rank of the SA and until 1942 it was the highest SS rank inferior only to Reichsführer-SS...

 Theodor Eicke
Theodor Eicke
Theodor Eicke was a SS Obergruppenführer , commander of the SS-Division Totenkopf of the Waffen-SS and one of the key figures in the establishment of concentration camps in Nazi Germany. His Nazi Party number was 114,901 and his SS number was 2,921...

 was awarded the Oak Leaves to the Knight's Cross
Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross
The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross was a grade of the 1939 version of the 1813 created Iron Cross . The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross was the highest award of Germany to recognize extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership during World War II...

 on 20 May 1942.

1943 expansion

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. They were followed in July by the 11th SS Volunteer Panzergrenadier Division Nordland created from Norwegian and Danish volunteers. September saw the 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend start forming using volunteers from the Hitler Youth
Hitler Youth
The Hitler Youth was a paramilitary organization of the Nazi Party. It existed from 1922 to 1945. The HJ was the second oldest paramilitary Nazi group, founded one year after its adult counterpart, the Sturmabteilung...

. Himmler and Berger were successful in their appeal to Hitler to form a Bosnian
Bosniaks
The Bosniaks or Bosniacs are a South Slavic ethnic group, living mainly in Bosnia and Herzegovina, with a smaller minority also present in other lands of the Balkan Peninsula especially in Serbia, Montenegro and Croatia...

 Muslim
Muslim
A Muslim, also spelled Moslem, is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. "Muslim" is the Arabic term for "submitter" .Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable...

 division, and the 13th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Handschar (1st Croatian)
13th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Handschar (1st Croatian)
The 13th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Handschar was one of the thirty-eight divisions fielded as part of the Waffen-SS during World War II. Its recruits were composed of Muslim Bosniaks. The Handschar division was a mountain infantry formation, the equivalent of the German "Gebirgsjäger" ...

, the first non-Germanic division, was formed, to fight Josip Broz Tito
Josip Broz Tito
Marshal Josip Broz Tito – 4 May 1980) was a Yugoslav revolutionary and statesman. While his presidency has been criticized as authoritarian, Tito was a popular public figure both in Yugoslavia and abroad, viewed as a unifying symbol for the nations of the Yugoslav federation...

's Yugoslav Partisans. This was followed by the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS Galicia (1st Ukrainian) formed from volunteers from Galicia in the western Ukraine
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

. The 15th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Latvian)
15th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Latvian)
The 15th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS was formed in the Waffen SS's drive for manpower in the wake of Operation Barbarossa; Nazi Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941...

 was created in 1943, using compulsory military service in the Ostland
Reichskommissariat Ostland
Reichskommissariat Ostland, literally "Reich Commissariat Eastland", was the civilian occupation regime established by Nazi Germany in the Baltic states and much of Belarus during World War II. It was also known as Reichskommissariat Baltenland initially...

. The final new 1943 division was the 16th SS Panzergrenadier Division Reichsführer-SS, which was created using the Sturmbrigade Reichsführer SS
Sturmbrigade Reichsführer SS
The Sturmbrigade Reichsführer-SS was a German military unit of World War II. It was formed in February 1943 when Adolf Hitler ordered the Begleit-Bataillon Reichsführer-SS , which had proved itself in battle, be upgraded to the status of an assault brigade or Sturmbrigade thus Sturmbrigade...

 as a cadre. By the end of the year, the Waffen-SS had increased in size from eight divisions and some brigades to 16 divisions.

Kharkov

On the Eastern Front, the Germans suffered a devastating defeat when the 6th Army was defeated during the Battle of Stalingrad
Battle of Stalingrad
The Battle of Stalingrad was a major battle of World War II in which Nazi Germany and its allies fought the Soviet Union for control of the city of Stalingrad in southwestern Russia. The battle took place between 23 August 1942 and 2 February 1943...

. Hitler ordered the SS Panzer Corps back to the Eastern Front for the counter-attack, with the object the city of Kharkov. The SS Panzer Corps was in full retreat, having been attacked by the Soviet 6th Army
6th Army (Soviet Union)
The 6th Army was a field army of the Soviet Red Army formed four times during World War II and active with the Russian Ground Forces up until 1998...

, when on 19 February they received the order to attack. In an example of an SS Commander disobeying Hitler's order to "stand fast and fight to the death", Hausser had withdrawn in front of the Red Army. During Manstein's counteroffensive, the SS Panzer Corps, without support from the Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe is a generic German term for an air force. It is also the official name for two of the four historic German air forces, the Wehrmacht air arm founded in 1935 and disbanded in 1946; and the current Bundeswehr air arm founded in 1956....

 or neighbouring German formations, broke through the Soviet line and advanced on Kharkov. Despite orders to encircle Kharkov from the north, the SS Panzer Corps directly attacked Kharkov in the Third Battle of Kharkov
Third Battle of Kharkov
The Third Battle of Kharkov was a series of offensive operations on the Eastern Front of World War II, undertaken by the German Army Group South against the Red Army, around the city of Kharkov , between 19 February and 15 March 1943...

 on 11 March. This led to four days of house-to-house fighting before Kharkov was recaptured by the 1 SS Leibstandarte on 15 March. Two days later the Germans recaptured Belgorod
Belgorod
-Twin towns/sister cities:Belgorod is twinned with: Wakefield, England, United Kingdom Herne, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany Palembang, South Sumatra, Indonesia Opole, Poland Vyshhorod, Ukraine Kharkiv, Ukraine-External links:...

, creating the salient
Salients, re-entrants and pockets
A salient is a battlefield feature that projects into enemy territory. The salient is surrounded by the enemy on three sides, making the troops occupying the salient vulnerable. The enemy's line facing a salient is referred to as a re-entrant...

 that in July 1943 led to the Battle of Kursk
Battle of Kursk
The Battle of Kursk took place when German and Soviet forces confronted each other on the Eastern Front during World War II in the vicinity of the city of Kursk, in the Soviet Union in July and August 1943. It remains both the largest series of armored clashes, including the Battle of Prokhorovka,...

. The German offensive cost the Red Army an estimated 70,000 casualties
Casualty (person)
A casualty is a person who is the victim of an accident, injury, or trauma. The word casualties is most often used by the news media to describe deaths and injuries resulting from wars or disasters...

 but the house-to-house fighting in Kharkov was particularly bloody for the SS Panzer Corps, which had lost approximately 44% of its strength by the time operations ended in late March.

Warsaw Ghetto uprising

The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was the Jewish resistance that arose within the Warsaw Ghetto in German occupied Poland during World War II, and which opposed Nazi Germany's effort to transport the remaining ghetto population to Treblinka extermination camp....

 was the Jewish
History of the Jews in Poland
The history of the Jews in Poland dates back over a millennium. For centuries, Poland was home to the largest and most significant Jewish community in the world. Poland was the centre of Jewish culture thanks to a long period of statutory religious tolerance and social autonomy. This ended with the...

 insurgency
Insurgency
An insurgency is an armed rebellion against a constituted authority when those taking part in the rebellion are not recognized as belligerents...

 that arose within the Warsaw Ghetto
Warsaw Ghetto
The Warsaw Ghetto was the largest of all Jewish Ghettos in Nazi-occupied Europe during World War II. It was established in the Polish capital between October and November 15, 1940, in the territory of General Government of the German-occupied Poland, with over 400,000 Jews from the vicinity...

 from 19 April to 16 May, an effort to prevent the transportation of the remaining population of the ghetto to the Treblinka extermination camp
Treblinka extermination camp
Treblinka was a Nazi extermination camp in occupied Poland during World War II near the village of Treblinka in the modern-day Masovian Voivodeship of Poland. The camp, which was constructed as part of Operation Reinhard, operated between and ,. During this time, approximately 850,000 men, women...

. The only units involved from the Waffen-SS were 821 Waffen-SS Panzergrenadier
Panzergrenadier
is a German term for motorised or mechanized infantry, as introduced during World War II. It is used in the armies of Austria, Chile, Germany and Switzerland.-Forerunners:...

s from five reserve
Military reserve
A military reserve, tactical reserve, or strategic reserve is a group of military personnel or units which are initially not committed to a battle by their commander so that they are available to address unforeseen situations or exploit suddenly developing...

 and training
Military education and training
Military education and training is a process which intends to establish and improve the capabilities of military personnel in their respective roles....

 battalion
Battalion
A battalion is a military unit of around 300–1,200 soldiers usually consisting of between two and seven companies and typically commanded by either a Lieutenant Colonel or a Colonel...

s and one cavalry
Cavalry
Cavalry or horsemen were soldiers or warriors who fought mounted on horseback. Cavalry were historically the third oldest and the most mobile of the combat arms...

 reserve and training battalion.

Kursk

The next test for the Waffen-SS was the Battle of Prokhorovka
Battle of Prokhorovka
The Battle of Prokhorovka was fought on the Eastern Front during the Second World War as part of the Battle of Kursk in the Soviet Union . Principally, the German Wehrmachts Fourth Panzer Army clashed with the Soviet Red Army's 5th Guards Tank Army...

, which was part of the Battle of Kursk
Battle of Kursk
The Battle of Kursk took place when German and Soviet forces confronted each other on the Eastern Front during World War II in the vicinity of the city of Kursk, in the Soviet Union in July and August 1943. It remains both the largest series of armored clashes, including the Battle of Prokhorovka,...

. The SS Panzer Corps had been renamed the II SS Panzer Corps
II SS Panzer Corps
The II SS Panzer Corps was a Nazi German Waffen-SS armoured corps which saw action on both the Eastern and Western Fronts during World War II.- Formation - Kharkov :...

 and was part of the 4 Panzer-Army, which was chosen to spearhead the attack through the Soviet defenses. The attack penetrated to a depth of 35 kilometres (21.7 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 defenses at Prokhorovka
Prokhorovka
Prokhorovka is an urban locality and the administrative center of Prokhorovsky District of Belgorod Oblast, Russia, located along the Psyol River southwest of the city of Kursk. Population:...

. Wrongly believing they had made a breakthrough, they were prepared to exploit the opportunity the next day. 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 they may have had of dealing a major defeat to the SS Panzer Corps ended. But the German advances now failed – despite appalling losses, the Soviet tank armies held the line and prevented the II SS Panzer Corps from making the expected breakthrough.

Italy

After the Allied invasion of Italy
Allied invasion of Italy
The Allied invasion of Italy was the Allied landing on mainland Italy on September 3, 1943, by General Harold Alexander's 15th Army Group during the Second World War. The operation followed the successful invasion of Sicily during the Italian Campaign...

 in September 1943, Hitler ordered the II SS Panzer Corps to move to Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, 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.

After the Italian surrender and the Italian collapse of 8 September 1943, the Leibstandarte was ordered to begin disarming nearby Italian units. It also had the task of guarding vital road and rail junctions in the north of Italy and was involved in several skirmishes with partisan
Partisan (military)
A partisan is a member of an irregular military force formed to oppose control of an area by a foreign power or by an army of occupation by some kind of insurgent activity...

s. This went smoothly, with the exception of a brief skirmish with Italian troops stationed in Parma
Parma
Parma is a city in the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna famous for its ham, its cheese, its architecture and the fine countryside around it. This is the home of the University of Parma, one of the oldest universities in the world....

 on 9 September. By 19 September all Italian forces in the Po River plain
Po Valley
The Po Valley, Po Plain, Plain of the Po, or Padan Plain is a major geographical feature of Italy. It extends approximately in an east-west direction, with an area of 46,000 km² including its Venetic extension not actually related to the Po River basin; it runs from the Western Alps to the...

 had been disarmed, but the OKW was concerned by reports that elements of the Italian Fourth Army were regrouping in Piedmont
Piedmont
Piedmont is one of the 20 regions of Italy. It has an area of 25,402 square kilometres and a population of about 4.4 million. The capital of Piedmont is Turin. The main local language is Piedmontese. Occitan is also spoken by a minority in the Occitan Valleys situated in the Provinces of...

, near the French border. Sturmbannführer
Sturmbannführer
Sturmbannführer was a paramilitary rank of the Nazi Party equivalent to major, used both in the Sturmabteilung and the Schutzstaffel...

 Joachim Peiper
Joachim Peiper
Joachim Peiper , more often known as Jochen Peiper, was a field officer in the Waffen-SS during World War II, convicted of war crimes in Belgium and accused of war crimes in Italy. He was Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler's personal adjutant . In 1945, he was an SS-Standartenführer, the Waffen-SS's...

's mechanised III Battalion, SS Panzergrenadier Regiment 2, was sent to disarm these units. On arriving in the province of Cuneo
Cuneo
Cuneo is a city and comune in Piedmont, Northern Italy, the capital of the province of Cuneo, the third largest of Italy’s provinces by area...

, 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 disarmed the remaining Italian forces in the area.

While the Leibstandarte was operating in the north, the 16 SS Reichsführer-SS sent a Kampfgruppe
Kampfgruppe
In military history and military slang, the German term Kampfgruppe can refer to a combat formation of any kind, but most usually to that employed by the German Wehrmacht and its allies during World War II and, to a lesser extent, in World War I...

 to contain the Anzio landings
Operation Shingle
Operation Shingle , during the Italian Campaign of World War II, was an Allied amphibious landing against Axis forces in the area of Anzio and Nettuno, Italy. The operation was commanded by Major General John P. Lucas and was intended to outflank German forces of the Winter Line and enable an...

 in January 1944. In March, the bulk of the 1st Italienische Freiwilligen Sturmbrigade (or Brigata d'Assalto, Volontari in Italian) was sent to the Anzio beachhead where they fought alongside their German allies, receiving favourable reports and taking heavy losses. In recognition of their performance, Himmler declared the unit to be fully integrated into the Waffen-SS.

1944 expansion

The Waffen-SS expanded again during 1944. January saw the formation of the 19th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (2nd Latvian)
19th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (2nd Latvian)
The 19th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS was an Infantry Division of the Waffen SS during World War II. It was the second Latvian division formed in January 1944, after its sister unit, the 15th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS...

, formed from the two SS Infantry Brigades as cadre with Latvian conscripts. The 20th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Estonian) was formed via general conscription in February 1944, around a cadre from the 3 Estonian SS Volunteer Brigade
3 Estonian SS Volunteer Brigade
The 3rd Estonian SS Volunteer Brigade was a formation of the German Waffen SS during World War II. It was formed in May 1943, when the Estonian SS Legion , which was still undergoing formation in Dębica, , was upgraded...

. The 21st Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Skanderbeg (1st Albanian)
21st Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Skanderbeg (1st Albanian)
The 21st Division of the SS Skanderbeg was a Mountain division of the SS set up by Heinrich Himmler in March 1944, officially under the title of the 21. Waffen-Gebirgs Division der SS Skanderbeg...

 was formed in March 1944 from Albanian and Kosovan volunteers, for anti-partisan duties in Albania
Albania
Albania , officially known as the Republic of Albania , is a country in Southeastern Europe, in the Balkans region. It is bordered by Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo to the northeast, the Republic of Macedonia to the east and Greece to the south and southeast. It has a coast on the Adriatic Sea...

 and Kosovo
Kosovo
Kosovo is a region in southeastern Europe. Part of the Ottoman Empire for more than five centuries, later the Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija within Serbia...

. 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
Military of Hungary
The Hungarian Defence Force is the national military of Hungary. It currently has two branches, the Hungarian Ground Force and the Hungarian Air Force....

 volksdeutsche
Volksdeutsche
Volksdeutsche - "German in terms of people/folk" -, defined ethnically, is a historical term from the 20th century. The words volk and volkische conveyed in Nazi thinking the meanings of "folk" and "race" while adding the sense of superior civilization and blood...

 conscripts, transferred to the Waffen-SS following an agreement between Germany and Hungary. 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. The 24th Waffen Gebirgs Division der SS
24th Waffen Gebirgs Division der SS
The 24th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS was the temporary designation of a military unit of Nazi Germany during World War II. The unit was previously known as the Karstwehr Battalion...

 was another division that was never more than brigade size, consisting mainly of ethnic German volunteers from Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 and volunteers from Slovenia
Slovenia
Slovenia , officially the Republic of Slovenia , is a country in Central and Southeastern Europe touching the Alps and bordering the Mediterranean. Slovenia borders Italy to the west, Croatia to the south and east, Hungary to the northeast, and Austria to the north, and also has a small portion of...

, Croatia
Croatia
Croatia , officially the Republic of Croatia , is a unitary democratic parliamentary republic in Europe at the crossroads of the Mitteleuropa, the Balkans, and the Mediterranean. Its capital and largest city is Zagreb. The country is divided into 20 counties and the city of Zagreb. Croatia covers ...

, Serbia
Serbia
Serbia , officially the Republic of Serbia , is a landlocked country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe, covering the southern part of the Carpathian basin and the central part of the Balkans...

 and Ukraine
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

. They were primarily involved in fighting partisans in the Kras
Kras
Karst ; also known as the Karst Plateau, is a limestone borderline plateau region extending in southwestern Slovenia and northeastern Italy. It lies between the Vipava Valley, the low hills surrounding the valley, the westernmost part of the Brkini Hills, northern Istria, and the Gulf of Trieste...

 region of the Alps
Alps
The Alps is one of the great mountain range systems of Europe, stretching from Austria and Slovenia in the east through Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Germany to France in the west....

 on the frontiers of Slovenia
Slovenia
Slovenia , officially the Republic of Slovenia , is a country in Central and Southeastern Europe touching the Alps and bordering the Mediterranean. Slovenia borders Italy to the west, Croatia to the south and east, Hungary to the northeast, and Austria to the north, and also has a small portion of...

, Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, and Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

, the mountainous terrain requiring specialized mountain troops and equipment. Two Hungarian divisions followed: the 25th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS Hunyadi (1st Hungarian)
25th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS Hunyadi (1st Hungarian)
The 25th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS Hunyadi was a Hungarian unit of the Waffen-SS. It was established on November 2, 1944 in Hungary....

 and the 26th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (2nd Hungarian)
26th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (2nd Hungarian)
The 26th Waffen-Grenadier Division der SS was one of the thirty-eight divisions fielded by the Waffen-SS during World War II. It had a proper name as well as a number, Hungaria. It was formed very late in the war, recruited primarily from Hungarians, and thus bore the secondary designation...

. These were formed under the authority of the Hungarian defense minister, at the request of Himmler. One regiment from the Hungarian Army was ordered to join, but they mostly consisted of Hungarian and Rumanian volunteers. The 27th SS Volunteer Division Langemarck was formed next in October 1944, from Flemish
Flanders
Flanders is the community of the Flemings but also one of the institutions in Belgium, and a geographical region located in parts of present-day Belgium, France and the Netherlands. "Flanders" can also refer to the northern part of Belgium that contains Brussels, Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp...

 volunteers added to the 6th SS Volunteer Sturmbrigade Langemarck, but again it was nothing more than a large brigade. 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 than a large brigade. 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; instead the Waffen Grenadier Brigade of SS (Italian no. 1) became the 29th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Italian)
29th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Italian)
The 29th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS or Legione SS Italiana was created on 10 February 1945 as the second SS-Division numbered 29. The first on the 29th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS , was disbanded. The new unit created in November 1943, was based on the Waffen-Grenadier-Brigade...

. The 30th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (2nd Russian)
30th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (2nd Russian)
The 30th SS Grenadier Division was a German Waffen SS infantry division formed largely from Belarussian, Russian and Ukrainian personnel of the Schutzmannschaft-Brigade Siegling in August 1944 at Warsaw, Poland. The division was moved by rail to southeastern France by mid-August 1944 to combat the...

 was formed from the Schutzmannschaft-Brigade Siegling. The final new division of 1944, was the 31st SS Volunteer Grenadier Division
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...

 which was formed from conscripted Volksdeutsche
Volksdeutsche
Volksdeutsche - "German in terms of people/folk" -, defined ethnically, is a historical term from the 20th century. The words volk and volkische conveyed in Nazi thinking the meanings of "folk" and "race" while adding the sense of superior civilization and blood...

, mainly from the Batschka region of Hungary.

Korsun-Cherkassy Pocket

The Korsun-Cherkassy Pocket
Korsun-Cherkassy Pocket
The Korsun–Shevchenkovsky Offensive led to the Battle of the Korsun-Cherkassy Pocket which took place from 24 January to 16 February 1944. The offensive was part of the Dnieper–Carpathian Offensive...

 was formed in January 1944, when units of the 8th Army
German Eighth Army
The 8th Army was a World War I and World War II field army.-World War I:At the outbreak of World War I, the 8. Armee was stationed in East Prussia to defend against the expected Russian attack, Plan XIX. After the scrappy Battle of Gumbinnen, 8. Armee commander Generaloberst Maximilian von...

 withdrew to the Panther-Wotan Line
Panther-Wotan line
The Panther-Wotan Line was a defensive line partially built by the German Wehrmacht in 1943 on the Eastern Front. The first part of the name refers to the short northern section between Lake Peipus and the Baltic Sea at Narva.-Purpose :...

, a defensive position along the Dnieper River
Dnieper River
The Dnieper River is one of the major rivers of Europe that flows from Russia, through Belarus and Ukraine, to the Black Sea.The total length is and has a drainage basin of .The river is noted for its dams and hydroelectric stations...

 in the Ukraine
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

. Two Army Corps were left holding a salient
Salients, re-entrants and pockets
A salient is a battlefield feature that projects into enemy territory. The salient is surrounded by the enemy on three sides, making the troops occupying the salient vulnerable. The enemy's line facing a salient is referred to as a re-entrant...

 into the Soviet lines extending some 100 kilometres (62.1 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
5th SS Volunteer Sturmbrigade Wallonien
The 28th SS Volunteer Grenadier Division Wallonien was formed from the 5th SS Volunteer Sturmbrigade Wallonien which was a Belgian Waffen SS volunteer brigade comprising volunteers of Walloon background...

, and the Estonia
Estonia
Estonia , officially the Republic of Estonia , is a state in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea, to the south by Latvia , and to the east by Lake Peipsi and the Russian Federation . Across the Baltic Sea lies...

n SS Battalion Narwa. 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.

Raid on Drvar

The Raid on Drvar, codenamed Operation Rösselsprung, was an attack by the Waffen-SS and Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe is a generic German term for an air force. It is also the official name for two of the four historic German air forces, the Wehrmacht air arm founded in 1935 and disbanded in 1946; and the current Bundeswehr air arm founded in 1956....

 on the command structure of the Yugoslav partisans. Their objective was the elimination of the partisan-controlled Supreme Headquarters and the capture of Marshal Josip Broz Tito
Josip Broz Tito
Marshal Josip Broz Tito – 4 May 1980) was a Yugoslav revolutionary and statesman. While his presidency has been criticized as authoritarian, Tito was a popular public figure both in Yugoslavia and abroad, viewed as a unifying symbol for the nations of the Yugoslav federation...

. The offensive took place in April and May, 1944. The Waffen-SS units involved were the 500th SS Parachute Battalion
500th SS Parachute Battalion
The 500th SS-Parachute Battalion was the parachute unit of the Waffen-SS.The idea to form a paratrooper unit within the Waffen-SS allegedly came directly from Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler.-Creation:...

 and the 7 SS Prinz Eugen.

The assault started when a small group parachuted into Drvar
Drvar
Drvar is a town and municipality in western Bosnia and Herzegovina, located on the road between Bosansko Grahovo and Bosanski Petrovac, also near Glamoč. It is administratively part of Canton 10 of the Federation....

 to secure landing grounds for the following glider
Glider aircraft
Glider aircraft are heavier-than-air craft that are supported in flight by the dynamic reaction of the air against their lifting surfaces, and whose free flight does not depend on an engine. Mostly these types of aircraft are intended for routine operation without engines, though engine failure can...

 force. The 500th SS Parachute Battalion fought their way to Tito's cave headquarters 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.

Baltic states

In the Baltic states the Battle of Narva
Battle of Narva (1944)
The Battle of Narva was a military campaign between the German Army Detachment "Narwa" and the Soviet Leningrad Front fought for possession of the strategically important Narva Isthmus on 2 February – 10 August 1944 during World War II....

 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
Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

, Denmark
Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

, the Netherlands
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

, Belgium
Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

 fought in Narva, in what has been called by several authors the Battle of the European SS. The units were all part of the III SS (Germanic) Panzer Corps in Army Group North
Army Group North
Army Group North was a German strategic echelon formation commanding a grouping of Field Armies subordinated to the OKH during World War II. The army group coordinated the operations of attached separate army corps, reserve formations, rear services and logistics.- Formation :The 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 conscript 20th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Estonian), under the command of Obergruppenführer
Obergruppenführer
Obergruppenführer was a Nazi Party paramilitary rank that was first created in 1932 as a rank of the SA and until 1942 it was the highest SS rank inferior only to Reichsführer-SS...

 Felix Steiner
Felix Steiner
Felix Martin Julius Steiner was a German Reichswehr and Waffen-SS officer who served in both World War I and World War II. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords...

. Also in Army Group North was the VI SS Corps, which consisted of the 15th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Latvian)
15th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Latvian)
The 15th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS was formed in the Waffen SS's drive for manpower in the wake of Operation Barbarossa; Nazi Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941...

 and the 19th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (2nd Latvian)
19th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (2nd Latvian)
The 19th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS was an Infantry Division of the Waffen SS during World War II. It was the second Latvian division formed in January 1944, after its sister unit, the 15th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS...

.

Normandy

Operation Overlord
Operation Overlord
Operation Overlord was the code name for the Battle of Normandy, the operation that launched the invasion of German-occupied western Europe during World War II by Allied forces. The operation commenced on 6 June 1944 with the Normandy landings...

, the Allied "D-Day" landings in Normandy
Normandy
Normandy is a geographical region corresponding to the former Duchy of Normandy. It is in France.The continental territory covers 30,627 km² and forms the preponderant part of Normandy and roughly 5% of the territory of France. It is divided for administrative purposes into two régions:...

, took place on 6 June 1944. In preparation for the expected landings the I SS Panzer Corps Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler
I SS Panzer Corps
The I SS Panzer Corps Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler or I SS Panzer Corps was a German Waffen-SS panzer corps which saw action on both the Western and Eastern Fronts during World War II.-Formation and training:...

 was moved to Septeuil
Septeuil
Septeuil is a commune in the Yvelines department in the Île-de-France in north-central France.-See also:*Communes of the Yvelines department . it's an historic commune with an old church from the XIIe century-References:*...

 to the west of Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

 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-Division divisions assigned to it. The corps was to form a part of General Leo Geyr von Schweppenburg
Leo Geyr von Schweppenburg
Leo Dietrich Franz Freiherr Geyr von Schweppenburg was a German cavalry officer in World War I and a general during World War II. He was particularly noted for his expertise in armoured warfare and his command of Panzer Group West during the Invasion of Normandy.- Biography :Geyr was born in...

's Panzer Group West, the Western theatre's armoured reserve. The Corps was restructured on 4 July 1944 and only the 1 SS Leibstandarte and the 12 SS Hitlerjugend remained at strength.

After the landings, the first Waffen-SS unit in action was the 12 SS Hitlerjugend, which arrived at the invasion front on 7 June, in the Caen
Caen
Caen is a commune in northwestern France. It is the prefecture of the Calvados department and the capital of the Basse-Normandie region. It is located inland from the English Channel....

 area. The same day they were involved in the Ardenne Abbey massacre
Ardenne Abbey
Ardenne Abbey, "l'Abbaye d'Ardenne," or Abbaye Ardenne is the site of a Premonstratensian monastery in Saint-Germain-la-Blanche-Herbe, near Caen, France, containing a chapel built in 1121 and other medieval buildings....

. The next unit to arrive was the 17 SS Götz von Berlichingen on 11 June, which came into contact with the 101st Airborne Division
101st Airborne Division (United States)
The 101st Airborne Division—the "Screaming Eagles"—is a U.S. Army modular light infantry division trained for air assault operations. During World War II, it was renowned for its role in Operation Overlord, the D-Day landings on 6 June 1944, in Normandy, France, Operation Market Garden, the...

. The SS Heavy Panzer Battalion 101 arrived next to protect the left wing if I SS Panzer Korps. The 1 SS Leibstandarte arrived towards the end of the month with lead elements becoming embroiled in the British offensive Operation Epsom
Operation Epsom
Operation Epsom, also known as the First Battle of the Odon, was a Second World War British offensive that took place between 26 and 30 June 1944, during the Battle of Normandy...

.

The only other Waffen-SS unit in France at this time was the 2 SS Das Reich, in Montauban
Montauban
Montauban is a commune in the Tarn-et-Garonne department in the Midi-Pyrénées region in southern France. It is the capital of the department and lies north of Toulouse....

, north of Toulouse
Toulouse
Toulouse is a city in the Haute-Garonne department in southwestern FranceIt lies on the banks of the River Garonne, 590 km away from Paris and half-way between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea...

. They were ordered north to the landing beaches and on 9 June were involved in the Tulle murders
Tulle murders
The Tulle Murders refer to the actions committed by the 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich in June 1944, at the end of World War II. After a successful FTP offensive on 7 and 8 June 1944, the arrival of Das Reich forces forced the guerillas to evacuate the city...

, where 99 men were murdered. The next day they reached Oradour-sur-Glane
Oradour-sur-Glane
Oradour-sur-Glane is a commune in the Haute-Vienne department in the Limousin region in west-central France.The original village was destroyed on 10 June 1944, when 642 of its inhabitants, including women and children, were massacred by a German Waffen-SS company...

 and massacred 642 French civilians.

The II SS Panzer Corps
II SS Panzer Corps
The II SS Panzer Corps was a Nazi German Waffen-SS armoured corps which saw action on both the Eastern and Western Fronts during World War II.- Formation - Kharkov :...

 consisting of the 9th SS Hohenstaufen and 10th SS Frundsberg divisions and the SS Heavy Panzer Battalion 102 was transfered from the Eastern Front to spearhead an offensive to destroy the Allied beachhead. However the British launched Operation Epsom and the two divisions were fed peiecemeal into the battle, and launched several counterattacks over the following days.

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
Operation Lüttich
Operation Lüttich was a codename given to a German counterattack during the Battle of Normandy, which took place around the American positions near Mortain from 7 August to 13 August 1944...

 in early August. The end came in mid August when the German Army was encircled and trapped in the Falaise pocket
Falaise pocket
The battle of the Falaise Pocket, fought during the Second World War from 12 to 21 August 1944, was the decisive engagement of the Battle of Normandy...

, 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
Hill 262
Hill 262, or the Mont Ormel ridge , is an area of high ground above the village of Coudehard in Normandy that was the location of a bloody engagement in the final stages of the Normandy Campaign during the Second World War. By late summer 1944, the bulk of two German armies had become surrounded by...

 from the outside in order to keep the gap open. By 22 August the Falaise pocket had been closed, and all German forces west of the Allied lines were dead or in captivity. In the fighting around Hill 262 alone, casualties totalled 2,000 killed and 5,000 taken prisoner. The 12 SS Hitlerjugend had lost 94% of its armour, nearly all of its artillery, and 70% of its vehicles. 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.

With the German Army in full retreat, two further Waffen-SS formations entered the battle in France, the SS Panzergrenadier Brigade 49
SS Panzergrenadier Brigade 49
SS Panzergrenadier Brigade 49 was a formation of the Waffen SS during World War II. It was created in June 1944, from units stationed at the NCO's and replacement units...

 and the SS Panzergrenadier Brigade 51
SS Panzergrenadier Brigade 51
SS Panzergrenadier Brigade 51 was a formation of the Waffen SS during World War II. It was created in June 1944, from units stationed at the NCO'S and replacement units...

. Both had been formed in June 1944, from staff and students at the SS-Junkerschules. They had been stationed in Denmark
Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. 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. Both Brigades were tasked to hold crossings over the Seine River allowing the Army to retreat. Eventually they were forced back and then withdrew, the surviving troops being incorporated into the 17 SS Götz von Berlichingen

Greece

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
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

 on internal security
Internal security
Internal security, or IS, is the act of keeping peace within the borders of a sovereign state or other self-governing territories. generally by upholding the national law and defending against internal security threats...

 duties and anti-partisan operations. On 10 June they became involved in the Distomo massacre
Distomo massacre
The Distomo massacre was a Nazi war crime perpetrated by members of the Waffen-SS in the village of Distomo, Greece, during the Axis occupation of Greece during World War II.-History:...

, when over a period of two hours they went door to door and massacred Greek civilians, reportedly in revenge for a partisan
Greek Resistance
The Greek Resistance is the blanket term for a number of armed and unarmed groups from across the political spectrum that resisted the Axis Occupation of Greece in the period 1941–1944, during World War II.-Origins:...

 attack. In total, 218 men, women and children were killed. According to survivors, the SS forces "bayonet
Bayonet
A bayonet is a knife, dagger, sword, or spike-shaped weapon designed to fit in, on, over or underneath the muzzle of a rifle, musket or similar weapon, effectively turning the gun into a spear...

ed babies in their cribs, stabbed pregnant women, and beheaded
Decapitation
Decapitation is the separation of the head from the body. Beheading typically refers to the act of intentional decapitation, e.g., as a means of murder or execution; it may be accomplished, for example, with an axe, sword, knife, wire, or by other more sophisticated means such as a guillotine...

 the village priest."

Italy

On the Italian Front the 16 SS Reichsführer-SS, was conducting anti-partisan operations and is remembered more for the atrocities it committed than its fighting ability: it was involved in the Sant'Anna di Stazzema massacre
Sant'Anna di Stazzema massacre
The Sant'Anna di Stazzema massacre was a Nazi German atrocity in the village of Sant'Anna di Stazzema, Italy, in the course of an operation against the Italian resistance movement in 1944, during the Italian Campaign of World War II.-Facts:...

 in August 1944, and the Marzabotto massacre
Marzabotto massacre
The Marzabotto massacre was a World War II mass murder of at least 770 civilians by Germans, which took place in the territory around the small village of Marzabotto, in the mountainous area south of Bologna...

 between September and October 1944,

Finland

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 an 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
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 ....

, and from September to November 1944 marched 1,600 kilometres to Mo i Rana
Mo i Rana
Mo i Rana is a town in the municipality of Rana, Nordland, Norway, located just south of the Arctic Circle and in the region Helgeland. The town is called "Mo i Rana" to distinquish it from other places named Mo - most notably the town of Mosjøen, also in Helgeland - though locally the town is...

, Norway, where it entrained for the southern end of the country, crossing the Skagerrak
Skagerrak
The Skagerrak is a strait running between Norway and the southwest coast of Sweden and the Jutland peninsula of Denmark, connecting the North Sea and the Kattegat sea area, which leads to the Baltic Sea.-Name:...

 to Denmark
Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

.

Arnhem and Operation Market Garden

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
Arnhem
Arnhem is a city and municipality, situated in the eastern part of the Netherlands. It is the capital of the province of Gelderland and located near the river Nederrijn as well as near the St. Jansbeek, which was the source of the city's development. Arnhem has 146,095 residents as one of the...

 area in the Netherlands
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

. 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
Operation Market Garden
Operation Market Garden was an unsuccessful Allied military operation, fought in the Netherlands and Germany in the Second World War. It was the largest airborne operation up to that time....

, and the British 1st Airborne Division was dropped in Oosterbeek
Oosterbeek
Oosterbeek is a village in the Dutch province of Gelderland. It is located in the municipality of Renkum, about 5 km west of Arnhem.The oldest part of the village of Oosterbeek is the Benedendorp , on the northern bank of the river Rhine...

, to the west of Arnhem. Realizing the threat, Wilhelm Bittrich
Wilhelm Bittrich
Wilhelm Bittrich was an SS-Obergruppenführer and Waffen-SS General during World War II.-Overview:...

, 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. The Allied airborne operation was a failure, and the city of Arnhem was not liberated
Liberation of Arnhem
Operation Anger , was a military operation to seize the city of Arnhem in April 1945, during the closing stages of the Second World War. It is occasionally referred to as the Second Battle of Arnhem or the Liberation of Arnhem...

 until 14 April 1945.

Warsaw Uprising

At the other end of Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

, the Waffen-SS was dealing with the Warsaw Uprising
Warsaw Uprising
The Warsaw Uprising was a major World War II operation by the Polish resistance Home Army , to liberate Warsaw from Nazi Germany. The rebellion was timed to coincide with the Soviet Union's Red Army approaching the eastern suburbs of the city and the retreat of German forces...

. Between August and October 1944, the Dirlewanger Brigade (recruited from criminals and the mentally ill throughout Germany) and the Waffen-Sturm-Brigade RONA were sent to Warsaw
Warsaw
Warsaw is the capital and largest city of Poland. It is located on the Vistula River, roughly from the Baltic Sea and from the Carpathian Mountains. Its population in 2010 was estimated at 1,716,855 residents with a greater metropolitan area of 2,631,902 residents, making Warsaw the 10th most...

 with the explicit goal of putting 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; the unit commander SS-Oberführer Oskar Dirlewanger
Oskar Dirlewanger
Oskar Paul Dirlewanger was a World War II officer of the SS who commanded the SS-Sturmbrigade Dirlewanger, a penal battalion composed of German criminals...

 himself encouraged their excesses. The unit's behavior was reportedly so bestial and indiscriminate that Himmler was forced to send a battalion of SS military police for the sole purpose of ensuring the Dirlewanger convicts did not turn their aggressions against the leadership of the brigade, or other nearby German units. 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
Gasoline
Gasoline , or petrol , is a toxic, translucent, petroleum-derived liquid that is primarily used as a fuel in internal combustion engines. It consists mostly of organic compounds obtained by the fractional distillation of petroleum, enhanced with a variety of additives. Some gasolines also contain...

, and setting them alight to run armless and flaming down the street. The Dirlewanger brigade committed almost non-stop atrocities during this period, in particular the four-day Wola massacre
Wola massacre
The Wola massacre was the scene of the largest single massacre in the history of Poland. According to different sources, some 40,000 to 100,000 Polish civilians and POWs were killed by the German forces during their suppression of the Warsaw Uprising...

.

The other unit Waffen-Sturm-Brigade RONA (made up of ethnic German volunteers from the occupied regions of the Soviet Union) was tasked with clearing the Ochota
Ochota
Ochota is a district of Warsaw, Poland, located in the central part of the Polish capital city's urban agglomeration.The biggest housing estates of Ochota are:* Kolonia Lubeckiego* Kolonia Staszica* Filtry* Rakowiec* Szosa Krakowska* Szczęśliwice...

 district in Warsaw that was defended by members of the Polish Underground Home Army
Armia Krajowa
The Armia Krajowa , or Home Army, was the dominant Polish resistance movement in World War II German-occupied Poland. It was formed in February 1942 from the Związek Walki Zbrojnej . Over the next two years, it absorbed most other Polish underground forces...

. Their attack was planned for the morning of August 5th, but when the time came, the RONA unit could not be found; after some searching by the SS military police, members of the unit were found looting abandoned houses in the rear of the German column. Later, thousands of Polish civilians were killed by the RONA SS men during the events known as Ochota massacre
Ochota massacre
Ochota Massacre - a wave of mass murders, robbery, looting, arson, and rape, which swept across the Warsaw district Ochota during August 4–25, 1944. The gravest crimes were committed in Ochota hospitals, in the Radium Institute, Kolonia Staszica and the concentration camp called "Zieleniak"...

; many victims were also raped. In following weeks, the RONA unit was moved south to the Wola
Wola
Wola is a district in western Warsaw, Poland, formerly the village of Wielka Wola, incorporated into Warsaw in 1916. An industrial area with traditions reaching back to the early 19th century, it is slowly changing into an office and residential district...

 district, but it fared no better in combat there than it did in Ochota; in one incident a sub-unit of the RONA brigade advanced to loot a captured building on the front line
Front line
A front line is the farthest-most forward position of an armed force's personnel and equipment - generally in respect of maritime or land forces. Forward Line of Own Troops , or Forward Edge of Battle Area are technical terms used by all branches of the armed services...

, but was subsequently was cut off from the rest of the SS formation and wiped out by the Poles. Following the fiasco, SS-Brigadeführer Bronislav Vladislavovich Kaminski the unit's commander was called to Łódź to attend a SS leadership conference. He never reached it; official Nazi sources blamed the Polish partisans for an alleged ambush that killed the RONA commander. But, according to various other sources he was arrested and tried by the SS, or simply shot on the spot by the Gestapo
Gestapo
The Gestapo was the official secret police of Nazi Germany. Beginning on 20 April 1934, it was under the administration of the SS leader Heinrich Himmler in his position as Chief of German Police...

. 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 the eventual execution of the brigade's commander.

Vistula River line

In late August 1944, 5 SS Wiking was ordered back to Modlin on the Vistula River line near Warsaw
Warsaw
Warsaw is the capital and largest city of Poland. It is located on the Vistula River, roughly from the Baltic Sea and from the Carpathian Mountains. Its population in 2010 was estimated at 1,716,855 residents with a greater metropolitan area of 2,631,902 residents, making Warsaw the 10th most...

, where it was to join the newly formed Army Group Vistula
Army Group Vistula
Army Group Vistula was an Army Group of the Wehrmacht, formed on January 24, 1945. It was put together from elements of Army Group A , Army Group Centre , and a variety of new or ad-hoc formations...

. Fighting alongside the Luftwaffe's
Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe is a generic German term for an air force. It is also the official name for two of the four historic German air forces, the Wehrmacht air arm founded in 1935 and disbanded in 1946; and the current Bundeswehr air arm founded in 1956....

 Fallschirm-Panzer Division 1 Hermann Göring
Fallschirm-Panzer Division 1 Hermann Göring
The Fallschirm-Panzer-Division 1. Hermann Göring was an élite German Luftwaffe armoured division. The HG saw action in North Africa, Sicily, Italy and on the Eastern front...

, they proceeded to annihilate the Soviet 3rd Tank Corps. The advent of the Warsaw Uprising
Warsaw Uprising
The Warsaw Uprising was a major World War II operation by the Polish resistance Home Army , to liberate Warsaw from Nazi Germany. The rebellion was timed to coincide with the Soviet Union's Red Army approaching the eastern suburbs of the city and the retreat of German forces...

 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
IV SS Panzer Corps
The IV.SS-Panzerkorps was a German Waffen-SS armoured corps which saw action on the Eastern Front and in the Balkans during World War II.The Panzerkorps was formed in August, 1943 in Poitiers, France...

. 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.

Ardennes Offensive

The Ardennes Offensive
Battle of the Bulge
The Battle of the Bulge was a major German offensive , launched toward the end of World War II through the densely forested Ardennes mountain region of Wallonia in Belgium, hence its French name , and France and...

 or "Battle of the Bulge" between 16 December 1944 and 25 January 1945 was a major German offensive through the forested Ardennes Mountains region
Ardennes
The Ardennes is a region of extensive forests, rolling hills and ridges formed within the Givetian Ardennes mountain range, primarily in Belgium and Luxembourg, but stretching into France , and geologically into the Eifel...

 of Belgium
Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

. The Waffen-SS units included the Sixth SS Panzer Army, under Sepp Dietrich
Sepp Dietrich
Josef "Sepp" Dietrich was a German SS General. He was one of Nazi Germany's most decorated soldiers and commanded formations up to Army level during World War II. Prior to 1929 he was Adolf Hitler's chauffeur and bodyguard but received rapid promotion after his participation in the murder of...

. Created on 26 October 1944, it incorporated the I SS Panzer Corps
I SS Panzer Corps
The I SS Panzer Corps Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler or I SS Panzer Corps was a German Waffen-SS panzer corps which saw action on both the Western and Eastern Fronts during World War II.-Formation and training:...

 (1 SS Leibstandarte, the 12 SS Hitlerjugend and the SS Heavy Panzer Battalion 101). It also had the II SS Panzer Corps
II SS Panzer Corps
The II SS Panzer Corps was a Nazi German Waffen-SS armoured corps which saw action on both the Eastern and Western Fronts during World War II.- Formation - Kharkov :...

 (2 SS Das Reich and the 9 SS Hohenstaufen). Another unit involved was Otto Skorzeny
Otto Skorzeny
Otto Skorzeny was an SS-Obersturmbannführer in the German Waffen-SS during World War II. After fighting on the Eastern Front, he was chosen as the field commander to carry out the rescue mission that freed the deposed Italian dictator Benito Mussolini from captivity...

's SS Panzer Brigade 150.

The purpose of the attack was to split the British and American line in half, capture Antwerp, Belgium
Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

, and encircle and destroy
Encirclement
Encirclement is a military term for the situation when a force or target is isolated and surrounded by enemy forces. The German term for this is Kesselschlacht ; a comparable English term might be "in the bag"....

 four Allied armies, forcing the Western Allies
Western Allies
The Western Allies were a political and geographic grouping among the Allied Powers of the Second World War. It generally includes the United Kingdom and British Commonwealth, the United States, France and various other European and Latin American countries, but excludes China, the Soviet Union,...

 to negotiate a peace treaty
Peace treaty
A peace treaty is an agreement between two or more hostile parties, usually countries or governments, that formally ends a state of war between the parties...

 on terms favorable to the Axis Powers.

The attack was ultimately a failure. It is infamous for the Malmedy massacre
Malmedy massacre
The Malmedy massacre was a war crime in which 84 American prisoners of war were murdered by their German captors during World War II. The massacre was committed on December 17, 1944, by members of Kampfgruppe Peiper , a German combat unit, during the Battle of the Bulge.The massacre, as well as...

 in which approximately 90 unarmed American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 prisoners of war were murdered on 17 December 1944 by the Kampfgruppe
Kampfgruppe
In military history and military slang, the German term Kampfgruppe can refer to a combat formation of any kind, but most usually to that employed by the German Wehrmacht and its allies during World War II and, to a lesser extent, in World War I...

 Peiper
Joachim Peiper
Joachim Peiper , more often known as Jochen Peiper, was a field officer in the Waffen-SS during World War II, convicted of war crimes in Belgium and accused of war crimes in Italy. He was Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler's personal adjutant . In 1945, he was an SS-Standartenführer, the Waffen-SS's...

, part of the 1 SS Leibstandarte.

Siege of Budapest

In late December 1944, the Axis forces, including IX Waffen Mountain Corps of the SS (Croatian), defending Budapest
Budapest
Budapest is the capital of Hungary. As the largest city of Hungary, it is the country's principal political, cultural, commercial, industrial, and transportation centre. In 2011, Budapest had 1,733,685 inhabitants, down from its 1989 peak of 2,113,645 due to suburbanization. The Budapest Commuter...

, were encircled in the Siege of Budapest. The IV SS Panzer Corps (3 SS Totenkopf and 5 SS Wiking) was ordered south to join Hermann Balck's
Hermann Balck
Hermann Balck was a career German army officer who served in both World War I and World War II, rising to the rank of General der Panzertruppe. He was a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds...

 6th Army (Army Group Balck), which was mustering for a relief effort, code named Operation Konrad
Operation Konrad
Operation Konrad was the German-Hungarian effort to relieve the encircled garrison of Budapest during the Battle of Budapest in January 1945. The operation was divided into three parts:...

.

As a part of Operation Konrad I, the IV SS Corps was committed to action on 1 January 1945, near Tata
Tata, Hungary
Tata is a town in north-western Hungary, Komárom-Esztergom county, northwest from county seat Tatabánya.-Location:Tata is located in the valley between the Gerecse and Vértes Mountains, some from the Budapest, the capital. By the virtue of its location, the city is a railway and road junction...

, the advance columns of Wiking slamming into the Soviet 4th Guards Army
4th Guards Army (Soviet Union)
The Fourth Guards Army was an elite army headquarters of the Soviet Union during World War II and the postwar era.Formed on the basis of the 24th Army on April 16, 1943, the Fourth Guards Army fought in decisive actions such as the Battle of Kursk, the Iassy-Kishinev Offensive, the struggle for...

. 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 maneuvered forces to block the advance, and they barely managed to halt them at Bicske
Bicske
Bicske is a town in Fejér county, Hungary.-History:According to a document dating from 1306, Botond’s sons János and Péter were granted the permission to levy toll in the locality of Bicske as well. Bicske was written Bykche, Biccke, Bykcze, Biczke, Bitske ...

, only 28 kilometres (17.4 mi) from Budapest. Two further attacks, Operations Konrad II and III, also failed.

The Hungarian Third Army
Hungarian Third Army
The Hungarian Third Army was a Hungarian field army which saw action during World War II.-Commanders:* Lieutenant General Elemér Gorondy-Novák from 1 March 1940 to 1 November 1941* Lieutenant General Zoltán Decleva from 1 November 1941 to 1 December 1942...

 had been besieged in Budapest along with the IX Waffen Mountain Corps of the SS (Croatian) (8 SS Florian Geyer and 22 SS Maria Theresia). The siege lasted from 29 December 1944 until 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 Theresia made it back to the German lines.

1945 expansion

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. 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)
33rd Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS Charlemagne (1st French)
The 33. Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS Charlemagne and Charlemagne Regiment are collective names used for units of French volunteers in the Wehrmacht and later Waffen-SS during World War II...

, and the SS Volunteer Grenadier-Brigade Landstorm Nederland was upgraded to the 34th SS Volunteer Grenadier Division Landstorm Nederland. The second SS Police division followed when the 35th SS and Police Grenadier Division
35th SS and Police Grenadier Division
The 35th SS and Police Grenadier Division was one of the thirty-eight divisions fielded by the Waffen-SS during World War II. It owes its unusual name to the fact that it was created from SS-Police units transferred to the Waffen-SS. It was not formed until the spring of 1945, and its actual...

 was formed from SS Police units that had been transferred to the Waffen-SS. 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. 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. The last Waffen-SS division was the 38th SS Division Nibelungen which was also formed from students and staff from the SS-Junkerschule, but consisted of only around 6,000 men, the strength of a normal brigade.

The XV SS Cossack Cavalry Corps, which contained the 1 SS Cossack Division
1st Cossack Division
The 1st Cossack 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...

, was transferred to the Waffen-SS on 1 February 1945. Despite the refusal of its commander, General von Pannwitz, to enter the SS, the corps was placed under SS administration and all Cossacks became formally part of the Waffen-SS.

Operation Nordwind

Operation Nordwind
Operation Nordwind
Operation North Wind was the last major German offensive of World War II on the Western Front. It began on 1 January 1945 in Alsace and Lorraine in northeastern France, and it ended on 25 January.-Objectives:...

 was the last major German offensive on the Western Front. It began on 1 January 1945 in Alsace
Alsace
Alsace is the fifth-smallest of the 27 regions of France in land area , and the smallest in metropolitan France. It is also the seventh-most densely populated region in France and third most densely populated region in metropolitan France, with ca. 220 inhabitants per km²...

 and Lorraine
Lorraine (province)
The Duchy of Upper Lorraine was an historical duchy roughly corresponding with the present-day northeastern Lorraine region of France, including parts of modern Luxembourg and Germany. The main cities were Metz, Verdun, and the historic capital Nancy....

 in north-eastern France, and it ended on 25 January. The initial attack was conducted by three Corps of the 1st Army. By 15 January at least 17 German divisions (including units in the Colmar Pocket
Colmar Pocket
The Colmar Pocket ; in Alsace, France, was the site of an operation during the Second World War, between 20 January and 9 February 1945, where the French First Army and the U.S...

) were engaged, including the XIII SS Army Corps
XIII SS Army Corps
XIII SS Army Corps was formed August 1944 at Breslau. It was moved to France and the Western Front, where it remained until the end of the war, by which time it had retreated to the Alps...

 (17 SS Götz von Berlichingen and 38 SS Nibelungen) and the 6 SS Nord and 10 SS Frundsberg. Also, the Luftwaffe mounted a large offensive over the skies of France. Some 240 fighters were lost and just as many pilots. It was the 'last gasp' attempt for the Luftwaffe to take back air supremacy from the western allies.

Operation Solstice

Operation Solstice
Operation Solstice
Operation Solstice , also known as Unternehmen Husarenritt or the "Stargard tank battle", was one of the last German armoured offensive operations on the Eastern Front in World War II....

, or the "Stargard Tank Battle", in February 1945 was one of the last armoured
Armoured warfare
Armoured warfare or tank warfare is the use of armoured fighting vehicles in modern warfare. It is a major component of modern methods of war....

 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
Pomerania
Pomerania is a historical region on the south shore of the Baltic Sea. Divided between Germany and Poland, it stretches roughly from the Recknitz River near Stralsund in the West, via the Oder River delta near Szczecin, to the mouth of the Vistula River near Gdańsk in the East...

, against the spearheads of the 1st Belorussian Front. Originally planned as a major offensive, it was executed as a more limited attack. It was repulsed by the Red Army, but helped to convince the Soviet High Command
Stavka
Stavka was the term used to refer to a command element of the armed forces from the time of the Kievan Rus′, more formally during the history of Imperial Russia as administrative staff and General Headquarters during late 19th Century Imperial Russian armed forces and those of the Soviet Union...

 to postpone the planned attack on Berlin
Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

.

Initially the attack achieved a total surprise, reaching the banks of the Ina River
Ina River
The Ina is a river in northwestern Poland, a right tributary of the Oder River.The origins of the river are in Insko Lake , and it flows through a succession of smaller lakes. A confluence of Ina River is localized in Police, Poland town...

 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
Stargard Szczecinski
Stargard Szczeciński is a city in northwestern Poland, with a population of 71,017 . Situated on the Ina River it is the capital of Stargard County and since 1999 has been in the West Pomeranian Voivodeship; prior to that it was in the Szczecin Voivodeship...

 and Stettin on the northern Oder River.

East Pomeranian Offensive

The East Pomeranian Offensive
East Pomeranian Offensive
The East Pomeranian Strategic Offensive operation was an offensive by the Red Army in its fight against the German Wehrmacht on the Eastern Front...

 lasted from 24 February to 4 April, in Pomerania
Pomerania
Pomerania is a historical region on the south shore of the Baltic Sea. Divided between Germany and Poland, it stretches roughly from the Recknitz River near Stralsund in the West, via the Oder River delta near Szczecin, to the mouth of the Vistula River near Gdańsk in the East...

 and West Prussia
West Prussia
West Prussia was a province of the Kingdom of Prussia from 1773–1824 and 1878–1919/20 which was created out of the earlier Polish province of Royal 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
III (Germanic) SS Panzer Corps
The III SS Panzer Corps was a German Waffen-SS armoured corps which saw action on the Eastern Front during World War II. The The III (Germanic) SS Panzer Corps (III. (germanische) SS-Panzerkorps) was a German Waffen-SS armoured corps which saw action on the Eastern Front during World War II. The...

, and the X SS Corps, which did not command any SS units.

In March 1945, the X SS Corps was encircled by the 1st Guards Tank Army
Soviet 1st Guards Tank Army
The 1st Tank Army was a Soviet armoured formation that fought as part of the Red Army on the Eastern Front during World War II. The army was commanded throughout most of the war by Mikhail Katukov...

, 3rd Shock Army
3rd Shock Army (Soviet Union)
The 3rd Shock Army was a field army of the Red Army formed during the Second World War. The 'Shock' armies were created with the specific structure to engage and destroy significant enemy forces, and were reinforced with more armoured and artillery assets than other combined arms armies...

, and the Polish 1st Army
First Polish Army (1944-1945)
The Polish First Army was a Polish Army unit formed in the Soviet Union in 1944, from the previously existing Polish I Corps as part of the People's Army of Poland . The First Army fought westward, subordinated to the Soviet 1st Belorussian Front, during the offensive against Germany that led to...

 in the area of Dramburg. This pocket was destroyed by the Red Army on 7 March 1945. On 8 March 1945, the Soviets announced the capture of General Krappe and 8,000 men of the X SS Corps.

Operation Spring Awakening

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. The replacements were a mixed group of raw recruits and drafted Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe is a generic German term for an air force. It is also the official name for two of the four historic German air forces, the Wehrmacht air arm founded in 1935 and disbanded in 1946; and the current Bundeswehr air arm founded in 1956....

 and Kriegsmarine
Kriegsmarine
The Kriegsmarine was the name of the German Navy during the Nazi regime . It superseded the Kaiserliche Marine of World War I and the post-war Reichsmarine. The Kriegsmarine was one of three official branches of the Wehrmacht, the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany.The Kriegsmarine grew rapidly...

 personnel no longer needed by their own branch of service, as they had no aircraft or ships to serve in. 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 took part in the same offensive.

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. However once the Soviets realized that elite SS units were involved, they took the German offensive seriously, utilizing 16 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
Lake Balaton
Lake Balaton is a freshwater lake in the Transdanubian region of Hungary. It is the largest lake in Central Europe, and one of its foremost tourist destinations. As Hungary is landlocked , Lake Balaton is often affectionately called the "Hungarian Sea"...

. The Soviets had been building up their forces for their own offensive along the Danube
Danube
The Danube is a river in the Central Europe and the Europe's second longest river after the Volga. It is classified as an international waterway....

 valley, which meant the 6th SS Panzer Army's attack was confronted by an overwhelming Soviet force of more than 1000 tanks, which ground the German advance to a halt.

By 14 March the attack was 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 reinforcements to replace losses.

Armband Order

This failure is famous for the notorious "armband order" that 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." As a mark of disgrace, the Leibstandarte units involved in the battle were ordered to remove their treasured "Adolf Hitler" cuff title
Cuff title
A cuff title is a form of insignia placed on the sleeve, near the cuff of German military and paramilitary uniforms, most commonly seen in the Second World War but also seen postwar....

s. Dietrich was disgusted by Hitler's order and did not relay it to his troops.

Vienna Offensive

After Operation Spring Awakening, the 6th SS Panzer Army withdrew towards Vienna
Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

 and was involved in the Vienna Offensive
Vienna Offensive
The Vienna Offensive was launched by the Soviet 3rd Ukrainian Front in order to capture Vienna, Austria. The offensive lasted from 2–13 April 1945...

. 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
Wilhelm Bittrich
Wilhelm Bittrich was an SS-Obergruppenführer and Waffen-SS General during World War II.-Overview:...

, along with ad hoc forces made up of garrison and anti-aircraft units. Vienna fell on 13 April. Bittrich's II SS Panzer Corps had pulled out to the west that evening to avoid encirclement.

Berlin

The Army Group Vistula
Army Group Vistula
Army Group Vistula was an Army Group of the Wehrmacht, formed on January 24, 1945. It was put together from elements of Army Group A , Army Group Centre , and a variety of new or ad-hoc formations...

 was formed in 1945 to protect Berlin from the advancing Red Army. It fought in the Battle of the Seelow Heights
Battle of the Seelow Heights
The Battle of the Seelow Heights , was a part of the Seelow-Berlin Offensive Operation ; one of the last assaults on large entrenched defensive positions of World War II. It was fought over three days, from 16–19 April 1945...

 (16–19 April) and the Battle of Halbe
Battle of Halbe
The Battle of Halbe lasted from April 24 - May 1, 1945 was a battle in which the German Ninth Army, under the command of Colonel General Theodor Busse was destroyed as a fighting force by the Red Army during the Battle for Berlin....

 (21 April-1 May), both part of the Battle of Berlin
Battle of Berlin
The Battle of Berlin, designated the Berlin Strategic Offensive Operation by the Soviet Union, was the final major offensive of the European Theatre of World War II....

. The Waffen-SS was represented by the III (Germanic) SS Panzer Corps.

On 16 April, the remnants of the 11 SS Nordland
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 or 11. SS-Freiwilligen-Panzergrenadier-Division Nordland, was a Waffen SS, Panzergrenadier division recruited from foreign volunteers...

, 33 SS Charlemagne
33rd Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS Charlemagne (1st French)
The 33. Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS Charlemagne and Charlemagne Regiment are collective names used for units of French volunteers in the Wehrmacht and later Waffen-SS during World War II...

 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.

On 23 April, Brigadeführer Wilhelm Mohnke
Wilhelm Mohnke
SS-Brigadeführer Wilhelm Mohnke was one of the original 120 members of the SS-Staff Guard "Berlin" formed in March 1933. From those ranks, Mohnke rose to become one of Adolf Hitler's last remaining generals.Mohnke saw action with the 1st SS Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler in France, Poland...

 was appointed by Hitler the Battle Commander for the centre government district (Zitadelle sector) which included the Reich Chancellery
Reich Chancellery
The Reich Chancellery was the traditional name of the office of the Chancellor of Germany in the period of the German Reich from 1871 to 1945...

 and Führerbunker
Führerbunker
The Führerbunker was located beneath Hitler's New Reich Chancellery in Berlin, Germany. It was part of a subterranean bunker complex which was constructed in two major phases, one part in 1936 and the other in 1943...

. Mohnke's command post was under the Reich Chancellery in the bunkers therein. He formed Kampfgruppe Mohnke (Battle Group Mohnke) and it was divided into two weak regiments. It was made up of the LSSAH Flak Company, replacements from LSSAH Training and Reserve Battalion from Spreenhagan (under Standartenfuhrer Anhalt), 600 men from the Begleit-Bataillon Reichsführer-SS
Begleit-Bataillon Reichsführer-SS
Begleit-Bataillon Reichsführer-SS was formed in May 1941 from Himmler's personal escort. The Begleit-Bataillon fought on the eastern front during Operation Barbarossa...

, the Führer-Begleit-Company and the core group being the 800 men of the LSSAH Guard Battalion (that was assigned to guard the Führer).

On 25 April, Brigadeführer Gustav Krukenberg
Gustav Krukenberg
Dr Gustav Krukenberg was Brigadeführer of the Charlemagne Division of the Waffen-SS and further commander of its remains and the SS Division Nordland during the Battle of Berlin in April 1945....

 was appointed the commander of (Berlin) Defence Sector C which included the Nordland Division, whose previous commander Joachim Ziegler
Joachim Ziegler
Joachim Ziegler was a Brigadeführer and Major General in the Waffen SS during World War II and the commander of the 11th SS Volunteer Panzergrenadier Division Nordland, who was awarded the Knight's Cross with Oakleaves...

 was relieved of his command the same day. On 27 April, after a spirited but futile defence, the remnants of Nordland were pushed back into the centre government district (Zitadelle sector) in Defence sector Z. There Krukenberg's Nordland headquarters was a carriage in the Stadtmitte U-Bahn station. The men of Nordland were now under Mohnke's overall command. Since Mohnke's fighting force was located at the nerve centre of the German Third Reich it fell under the heaviest artillery bombardment of the war. The bombardment began as a birthday present to Hitler on 20 April 1945 and lasted to the end of hostilities on 8 May 1945. Under pressure from the most intense shelling, the SS troops put up stiff resistance as the Red Army raced to take the Reichstag
Reichstag (building)
The Reichstag building is a historical edifice in Berlin, Germany, constructed to house the Reichstag, parliament of the German Empire. It was opened in 1894 and housed the Reichstag until 1933, when it was severely damaged in a fire. During the Nazi era, the few meetings of members of the...

 and Reich Chancellery. This condemned the SS troops to bitter and bloody street fighting. By 26 April, the Nordland defenders in the centre government quarter were pushed back into the Reichstag and Reich Chancellery. There over the next few days, the survivors (mainly French SS troops from the former 33 SS Charlemagne) held out against overwhelming odds.

On 30 April, after receiving news of Hitler's suicide, orders were issued that those who could do so were to break out. Prior to the breakout Mohnke briefed all commanders that could be reached within the Zitadelle sector about the events as to Hitler's death and the planned breakout.
The break out started at 2300 hours on 1 May. There were ten main groups that attempted to head northwest towards Mecklenburg. Fierce fighting continued all around especially in the Weidendammer Bridge
Weidendammer Bridge
The Weidendammer Bridge is an long bridge where the Friedrichstrasse crosses the Spree river in the central Mitte district of Berlin, Germany...

 area. What was left of the 11 SS Nordland under Brigadeführer Gustav Krukenberg
Gustav Krukenberg
Dr Gustav Krukenberg was Brigadeführer of the Charlemagne Division of the Waffen-SS and further commander of its remains and the SS Division Nordland during the Battle of Berlin in April 1945....

 fought hard in that area but Soviet artillery and anti-tank guns dispatched the groups. Several very small groups managed to reach the Americans at the Elbe
Elbe
The Elbe is one of the major rivers of Central Europe. It rises in the Krkonoše Mountains of the northwestern Czech Republic before traversing much of Bohemia , then Germany and flowing into the North Sea at Cuxhaven, 110 km northwest of Hamburg...

's west bank, but most, including Mohnke's group, could not make it through the Soviet rings.

On 2 May hostilities officially ended by order of Helmuth Weidling
Helmuth Weidling
Helmuth Otto Ludwig Weidling was an officer in the German Army before and during World War II...

, Kommandant of the Defense Area Berlin. News of the surrender led some of the encircled Waffen-SS men to change their minds as to suicide. Author Thomas Fischer related the following example of the mindset of some of the men:

Commanders

  • Josef "Sepp" Dietrich
    Sepp Dietrich
    Josef "Sepp" Dietrich was a German SS General. He was one of Nazi Germany's most decorated soldiers and commanded formations up to Army level during World War II. Prior to 1929 he was Adolf Hitler's chauffeur and bodyguard but received rapid promotion after his participation in the murder of...

     was a former Army sergeant with a peasant
    Peasant
    A peasant is an agricultural worker who generally tend to be poor and homeless-Etymology:The word is derived from 15th century French païsant meaning one from the pays, or countryside, ultimately from the Latin pagus, or outlying administrative district.- Position in society :Peasants typically...

     background, who commanded the forerunner of the Waffen-SS, the Sonderkommando Berlin. He would command the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler from its inception to Regiment
    Regiment
    A regiment is a major tactical military unit, composed of variable numbers of batteries, squadrons or battalions, commanded by a colonel or lieutenant colonel...

    , Brigade
    Brigade
    A brigade is a major tactical military formation that is typically composed of two to five battalions, plus supporting elements depending on the era and nationality of a given army and could be perceived as an enlarged/reinforced regiment...

     and Division. He was then given command of the I SS Panzer Corps Leibstandarte
    I SS Panzer Corps
    The I SS Panzer Corps Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler or I SS Panzer Corps was a German Waffen-SS panzer corps which saw action on both the Western and Eastern Fronts during World War II.-Formation and training:...

     and by the end of the war was the commander of the 6th SS Panzer Army.
  • Paul Hausser
    Paul Hausser
    Paul "Papa" Hausser was an officer in the German Army, achieving the high rank of lieutenant-general in the inter-war Reichswehr. After retirement from the regular Army he became the "father" of the Waffen-SS and one of its most eminent leaders...

    , a former General in the regular army, was chosen by Himmler
    Heinrich Himmler
    Heinrich Luitpold Himmler was Reichsführer of the SS, a military commander, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. As Chief of the German Police and the Minister of the Interior from 1943, Himmler oversaw all internal and external police and security forces, including the Gestapo...

     to transform the SS-VT into a credible military organisation. He was the first divisional commander of the Waffen-SS when the SS-VT was formed into a Division for the Battle of France
    Battle of France
    In the Second World War, the Battle of France was the German invasion of France and the Low Countries, beginning on 10 May 1940, which ended the Phoney War. The battle consisted of two main operations. In the first, Fall Gelb , German armoured units pushed through the Ardennes, to cut off and...

    . He went onto command the II SS Panzer Corps
    II SS Panzer Corps
    The II SS Panzer Corps was a Nazi German Waffen-SS armoured corps which saw action on both the Eastern and Western Fronts during World War II.- Formation - Kharkov :...

     and the 7th Army.
  • Theodor Eicke
    Theodor Eicke
    Theodor Eicke was a SS Obergruppenführer , commander of the SS-Division Totenkopf of the Waffen-SS and one of the key figures in the establishment of concentration camps in Nazi Germany. His Nazi Party number was 114,901 and his SS number was 2,921...

    , a former army pay master and police informant. He was the first commander of the Dachau concentration camp. He formed the SS Totenkopf Division from members of the SS-Totenkopfverbände
    SS-Totenkopfverbände
    SS-Totenkopfverbände , meaning "Death's-Head Units", was the SS organization responsible for administering the Nazi concentration camps for the Third Reich....

     and was killed in action on 26 February 1943, on the Eastern Front
    Eastern Front (World War II)
    The Eastern Front of World War II was a theatre of World War II between the European Axis powers and co-belligerent Finland against the Soviet Union, Poland, and some other Allies which encompassed Northern, Southern and Eastern Europe from 22 June 1941 to 9 May 1945...

    .
  • Felix Steiner
    Felix Steiner
    Felix Martin Julius Steiner was a German Reichswehr and Waffen-SS officer who served in both World War I and World War II. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords...

    , another former army officer and veteran of World War I
    World War I
    World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

    . He was given command of the SS Regiment Deutschland. He has been given credit for the creation of small mobile Battle Group
    Battlegroup (army)
    A battlegroup , or task force in modern military theory, is the basic building block of an army's fighting force. A battlegroup is formed around an infantry battalion or armoured regiment, which is usually commanded by a Lieutenant Colonel...

    s and armed his men with Submachine gun
    Submachine gun
    A submachine gun is an automatic carbine, designed to fire pistol cartridges. It combines the automatic fire of a machine gun with the cartridge of a pistol. The submachine gun was invented during World War I , but the apex of its use was during World War II when millions of the weapon type were...

    s and Grenade
    Grenade
    A grenade is a small explosive device that is projected a safe distance away by its user. Soldiers called grenadiers specialize in the use of grenades. The term hand grenade refers any grenade designed to be hand thrown. Grenade Launchers are firearms designed to fire explosive projectile grenades...

    s instead of Rifles and issued Camouflage
    Camouflage
    Camouflage is a method of concealment that allows an otherwise visible animal, military vehicle, or other object to remain unnoticed, by blending with its environment. Examples include a leopard's spotted coat, the battledress of a modern soldier and a leaf-mimic butterfly...

     clothing. He would go on to command the SS Division Wiking and the III (Germanic) SS Panzer Corps
    III (Germanic) SS Panzer Corps
    The III SS Panzer Corps was a German Waffen-SS armoured corps which saw action on the Eastern Front during World War II. The The III (Germanic) SS Panzer Corps (III. (germanische) SS-Panzerkorps) was a German Waffen-SS armoured corps which saw action on the Eastern Front during World War II. The...

    .
  • Kurt Meyer
    Kurt Meyer (Panzermeyer)
    Kurt Meyer, nicknamed "Panzermeyer", served as an officer in the Waffen-SS during the Second World War. He saw action in many major battles, including the Invasion of France, Operation Barbarossa, and the Battle of Normandy.Meyer was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and...

     started the war in command of the Leibstandarte anti-tank company, was promoted and given command of the Reconnaissance Battalion which he led in the Balkans and Russia. He was chosen to lead the SS Panzergrenadier Regiment 25, in the newly formed 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend, and at the age of 33 became a Divisional commander in the German forces when he took over command of the division (after the death of Fritz Witt
    Fritz Witt
    Fritz Witt was a German Waffen-SS officer who served with the 1.SS-Panzergrenadier-Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler before taking command of the 12.SS-Panzer-Division Hitlerjugend...

    ) in Normandy
    Normandy
    Normandy is a geographical region corresponding to the former Duchy of Normandy. It is in France.The continental territory covers 30,627 km² and forms the preponderant part of Normandy and roughly 5% of the territory of France. It is divided for administrative purposes into two régions:...

     in 1944.

Casualties

Total 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. 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.

War crimes

Generally the Waffen-SS was not directly involved in the Holocaust, as the separately organised Allgemeine SS
Allgemeine SS
The Allgemeine SS was the most numerous branch of the Schutzstaffel paramilitary forces of Nazi Germany. It was managed by the SS-Hauptamt...

 was responsible for the death camps, although many members of it and the SS-Totenkopfverbände subsequently became members of the Waffen-SS, forming the initial core of the Totenkopf Division
3rd SS Division Totenkopf
The SS Division Totenkopf , also known as 3. SS-Panzergrenadier-Division Totenkopf and 3. SS-Panzer-Division Totenkopf, was one of the 38 divisions fielded by the Waffen-SS during World War II. Prior to achieving division status, the formation was known as Kampfgruppe Eicke...

. Many Waffen-SS members and units were responsible for war crime
War crime
War crimes are serious violations of the laws applicable in armed conflict giving rise to individual criminal responsibility...

s against civilians and allied servicemen. For members who did not take part in them, they had to face the fact there was a "guilt by association" that attached. After the war the Schutzstaffel
Schutzstaffel
The Schutzstaffel |Sig runes]]) was a major paramilitary organization under Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. Built upon the Nazi ideology, the SS under Heinrich Himmler's command was responsible for many of the crimes against humanity during World War II...

 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 were singled out, and many others were involved in large-scale massacres or smaller-scale atrocities such as the Houtman affair or murders perpetrated by Heinrich Boere
Heinrich Boere
Heinrich Boere is a convicted German-Dutch war criminal and former member of the Waffen-SS.-Early life:Boere was born in Eschweiler, Germany, to a Dutch father and a German mother, but his parents moved to Maastricht when he was two years old. He volunteered for the Waffen-SS in September 1940,...

. The most infamous incidents include the following:
  • Wormhoudt massacre
    Wormhoudt massacre
    The Wormhoudt massacre was the mass murder of 80 British and French POWs by the Waffen SS during the Battle of France in May 1940.-Fighting:...

     by SS Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler, 1940, Belgium
  • Le Paradis massacre
    Le Paradis massacre
    The Le Paradis massacre was a war crime committed by members of the 14th Company, SS Division Totenkopf, under the command of Hauptsturmführer Fritz Knöchlein...

     by SS Division Totenkopf, 1940, France
  • Oradour-sur-Glane massacre
    Oradour-sur-Glane
    Oradour-sur-Glane is a commune in the Haute-Vienne department in the Limousin region in west-central France.The original village was destroyed on 10 June 1944, when 642 of its inhabitants, including women and children, were massacred by a German Waffen-SS company...

     by SS Division Das Reich, 1944, France
  • Ochota massacre
    Ochota massacre
    Ochota Massacre - a wave of mass murders, robbery, looting, arson, and rape, which swept across the Warsaw district Ochota during August 4–25, 1944. The gravest crimes were committed in Ochota hospitals, in the Radium Institute, Kolonia Staszica and the concentration camp called "Zieleniak"...

     by SS Kaminski Brigade, 1944, Poland
  • Wola massacre
    Wola massacre
    The Wola massacre was the scene of the largest single massacre in the history of Poland. According to different sources, some 40,000 to 100,000 Polish civilians and POWs were killed by the German forces during their suppression of the Warsaw Uprising...

     by SS-Sturmbrigade Dirlewanger
    SS-Sturmbrigade Dirlewanger
    The 36th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS, better known as the SS-Sturmbrigade "Dirlewanger" , was an infamous military unit of the Waffen-SS during World War II. Originally formed for anti-partisan duties against the Polish resistance, it eventually saw action against the Soviet Red Army near...

    , 1944 Poland
  • Huta Pieniacka massacre
    Huta Pieniacka massacre
    The Huta Pieniacka massacre was a punitive military operation against the inhabitants of the ethnically Polish village Huta Pieniacka, located in western Ukraine, which took place on February 28, 1944. Estimates of the number of victims range from 500 to 1,200.Polish and Ukrainian historians...

     by SS-Galizien division 1944, Poland
  • Tulle massacre
    Tulle murders
    The Tulle Murders refer to the actions committed by the 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich in June 1944, at the end of World War II. After a successful FTP offensive on 7 and 8 June 1944, the arrival of Das Reich forces forced the guerillas to evacuate the city...

     by SS Das Reich, 1944, France
  • Marzabotto massacre
    Marzabotto massacre
    The Marzabotto massacre was a World War II mass murder of at least 770 civilians by Germans, which took place in the territory around the small village of Marzabotto, in the mountainous area south of Bologna...

     by 16th SS Panzergrenadier Division Reichsführer-SS
    16th SS Panzergrenadier Division Reichsführer-SS
    The 16th SS Panzergrenadier Division Reichsführer-SS was a Panzergrenadier formation of the Waffen-SS during World War II.-History:Formed in November 1943 when Volksdeutsche recruits were added to the Sturmbrigade Reichsführer SS, which was used as the cadre in the formation of the new division...

    , 1944, Italy
  • Malmedy massacre
    Malmedy massacre
    The Malmedy massacre was a war crime in which 84 American prisoners of war were murdered by their German captors during World War II. The massacre was committed on December 17, 1944, by members of Kampfgruppe Peiper , a German combat unit, during the Battle of the Bulge.The massacre, as well as...

     by Kampfgruppe Peiper part of 1st SS Panzer Division, 1944, Belgium
  • Ardeatine massacre
    Ardeatine massacre
    The Fosse Ardeatine massacre was a mass execution carried out in Rome on 24 March 1944 by German occupation troops during the Second World War as a reprisal for a partisan attack conducted on the previous day in central Rome....

     by two SS Officers, 1944, Italy
  • Distomo massacre
    Distomo massacre
    The Distomo massacre was a Nazi war crime perpetrated by members of the Waffen-SS in the village of Distomo, Greece, during the Axis occupation of Greece during World War II.-History:...

     by 4th SS Polizei Division, 1944, Greece
  • Sant'Anna di Stazzema massacre
    Sant'Anna di Stazzema massacre
    The Sant'Anna di Stazzema massacre was a Nazi German atrocity in the village of Sant'Anna di Stazzema, Italy, in the course of an operation against the Italian resistance movement in 1944, during the Italian Campaign of World War II.-Facts:...

     by 16th SS Panzergrenadier Division Reichsführer-SS
    16th SS Panzergrenadier Division Reichsführer-SS
    The 16th SS Panzergrenadier Division Reichsführer-SS was a Panzergrenadier formation of the Waffen-SS during World War II.-History:Formed in November 1943 when Volksdeutsche recruits were added to the Sturmbrigade Reichsführer SS, which was used as the cadre in the formation of the new division...

    , 1944, Italy
  • Ardenne Abbey massacre
    Ardenne Abbey
    Ardenne Abbey, "l'Abbaye d'Ardenne," or Abbaye Ardenne is the site of a Premonstratensian monastery in Saint-Germain-la-Blanche-Herbe, near Caen, France, containing a chapel built in 1121 and other medieval buildings....

     12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend
    12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend
    The 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend 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...

    , 1944, France


The linking of the SS-VT with the SS-Totenkopfverbände
SS-Totenkopfverbände
SS-Totenkopfverbände , meaning "Death's-Head Units", was the SS organization responsible for administering the Nazi concentration camps for the Third Reich....

 (SS-TV) in 1938 posed important questions about Waffen-SS criminality, since the SS-TV were already responsible for imprisonment, torture and murder of Jews
Jews
The Jews , also known as the Jewish people, are a nation and ethnoreligious group originating in the Israelites or Hebrews of the Ancient Near East. The Jewish ethnicity, nationality, and religion are strongly interrelated, as Judaism is the traditional faith of the Jewish nation...

 (and other political opponents) through providing the personnel for manning of the Concentration Camps. Their leader, Theodor Eicke
Theodor Eicke
Theodor Eicke was a SS Obergruppenführer , commander of the SS-Division Totenkopf of the Waffen-SS and one of the key figures in the establishment of concentration camps in Nazi Germany. His Nazi Party number was 114,901 and his SS number was 2,921...

, who was the commandant of the Dachau concentration camp, inspector of the camps and murderer of Ernst Röhm
Ernst Röhm
Ernst Julius Röhm, was a German officer in the Bavarian Army and later an early Nazi leader. He was a co-founder of the Sturmabteilung , the Nazi Party militia, and later was its commander...

, later became the commander of the 3 SS Totenkopf Division. 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
Sicherheitsdienst
Sicherheitsdienst , full title Sicherheitsdienst des Reichsführers-SS, or SD, was the intelligence agency of the SS and the Nazi Party in Nazi Germany. The organization was the first Nazi Party intelligence organization to be established and was often considered a "sister organization" with the...

 (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.

Several formations within the Waffen-SS were found guilty of a war crime
War crime
War crimes are serious violations of the laws applicable in armed conflict giving rise to individual criminal responsibility...

, especially in the opening and closing phases of the war. 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. 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.

The end of the war saw a number of war crime trials, including the Malmedy massacre trial
Malmedy massacre trial
The Malmedy massacre trial was held in May–July 1946 in the Dachau concentration camp to try the German Waffen-SS soldiers accused of the Malmedy massacre of December 17, 1944. The highest-ranking defendant was the former SS general, Sepp Dietrich...

. The counts of indictment related to the massacre of more than 300 American prisoners "in the vicinity of Malmedy
Malmedy
Malmedy is a municipality of Belgium. It lies in the country's Walloon Region, Province of Liège. It belongs to the French Community of Belgium, within which it is French-speaking with facilities for German-speakers. On January 1, 2006 Malmedy had a total population of 11,829...

, Honsfeld, Büllingen
Büllingen
Büllingen is a largely German language-speaking municipality located in the Belgian province of Liège. On January 1, 2006 Büllingen had a total population of 5,385. The total area is 150.49 km² which gives a population density of 36 inhabitants per km²....

, Ligneuville, Stoumont
Stoumont
Stoumont is a municipality of Belgium. It lies in the country's Walloon Region and Province of Liege. On January 1, 2006 Stoumont had a total population of 3,006. The total area is 108.45 km² which gives a population density of 28 inhabitants per km²....

, La Gleize
La Gleize
La Gleize is a village and section of the Belgian Municipality of Stoumont, situated in the Walloon Region in the province of Liège.Common before the full merger of Commons in 1977, La Gleize is located on a rocky outcrop overlooking the valley of Amblève in the Ardennes region.-Hamlets:Moulin du...

, Cheneux, Petit Thier, Trois Ponts, Stavelot
Stavelot
Stavelot is a Walloon municipality located in the Belgian province of Liège. On January 1, 2006, Stavelot had a total population of 6,671. The total area is 85.07 km² which gives a population density of 78 inhabitants per km².-History:...

, Wanne and Lutrebois", between 16 December 1944 and 13 January 1945, and the massacre of 100 Belgian civilians mainly in the vicinity of Stavelot.

During the Nuremberg Trials
Nuremberg Trials
The Nuremberg Trials were a series of military tribunals, held by the victorious Allied forces of World War II, most notable for the prosecution of prominent members of the political, military, and economic leadership of the defeated Nazi Germany....

, the Waffen-SS was declared a criminal organisation, except conscripts from 1943 onward, who were exempted from that judgement as they had been forced to join.

HIAG

The HIAG
HIAG
Hilfsgemeinschaft auf Gegenseitigkeit der Angehörigen der ehemaligen Waffen-SS was an organization founded in 1951 by former members of the Waffen-SS....

 (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
Wehrmacht
The Wehrmacht – from , to defend and , the might/power) were the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer , the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe .-Origin and use of the term:...

, pensions had been denied to members of the Waffen-SS as a result of it having been declared a criminal organization at the Nuremberg trials.

See also

  • Uniforms and insignia of the Schutzstaffel
    Uniforms and insignia of the Schutzstaffel
    The uniforms and insignia of the Schutzstaffel were paramilitary ranks and uniforms used by the SS between 1925 and 1945 to differentiate that organization from the regular German armed forces, the German state, and the Nazi Party....

  • List of Waffen-SS units
  • List of Knight's Cross recipients of the Waffen-SS
  • List of SS personnel
  • Glossary of Nazi Germany
  • Waffen-SS foreign volunteers and conscripts
    Waffen-SS foreign volunteers and conscripts
    The Waffen-SS was the combat arm of the Schutzstaffel or SS, an organ of the German Nazi Party. The Waffen-SS saw action throughout World War II and grew from three regiments to a force of over 39 divisions, which served alongside the regular army, but was never formally part of the Wehrmacht...

  • Germanic-SS
    Germanic-SS
    The Germanic SS was the collective name given to SS groups which arose in Occupied Europe between 1939 and 1945.The units were modeled on the Allgemeine-SS in Nazi Germany...

  • SS-Standarte Kurt Eggers
    SS-Standarte Kurt Eggers
    SS-Kriegsberichter-Kompanie SS-Kriegsberichter-Abteilung SS-Standarte Kurt Eggers The SS-Standarte Kurt Eggers was a German Waffen SS war correspondent formation which reported on the actions of all Waffen SS combat formations, seeing action in all major theatres of war with the exception of North...

  • ODESSA
    ODESSA
    The ODESSA, from the German Organisation der ehemaligen SS-Angehörigen, meaning “Organization of Former SS Members,” is believed to have been an international Nazi network set up toward the end of World War II by a group of SS officers...

  • Allgemeine SS
    Allgemeine SS
    The Allgemeine SS was the most numerous branch of the Schutzstaffel paramilitary forces of Nazi Germany. It was managed by the SS-Hauptamt...

  • SS and Police Leader
    SS and Police Leader
    SS and Police Leader was a title for senior Nazi officials that commanded large units of the SS, of Gestapo and of the regular German police during and prior to World War II.Three levels of subordination were established for bearers of this title:...

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