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15th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Latvian)

 

15th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Latvian)

15th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Latvian)

Insignia of 15th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Latvian)
Active 1943 - 1945
Country Nazi Germany Nazi Germany
Branch Waffen-SS
Size Division
Part of VI SS Army Corps (Latvian)
Insignia
Identification
symbol
Identification
symbol
Latvian legionnaires Armshield

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

History

After a successful recruitment drive in the Reichskommissariat Ostland, the occupied Baltic states, to form anti-partisan brigades; Heinrich Himmler formed Baltic legions by late August 1942. These included the Lettische SS-Freiwilligen-Legion, the nucleus of the later 15th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS.

However, the small size of these Legions were inadequate for widespread use and were soon merged into divisions. The Lettische SS-Freiwilligen-Legion was renamed the SS-Freiwilligen-Division, with the numerical designation added soon after. To bolster the numbers, Himmler enforced compulsory military service within the Baltic States during 1943 for those born between 1915-24. In 1944, the conscription dates were widened to 1904-26. These Latvian conscripts would form the renamed 15th Waffen-Grenadier-Division just in time for the Soviet 1944 offensives. The 15th SS, together with the 19th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (2nd Latvian) formed the Latvian Legion. The 15th SS was swept up in the chaos of the collapse of the Eastern Front and lost much of its spirit after the Soviet re-occupation of their homelands. It was soon trapped and decimated in their hopeless defence of Pomerania.

The division fought on the Pomeranian Wall defences. In postwar Poland soldiers of the division had been accused in killing 32 Polish soldiers (bound with barbed wire and burned alive) of the 4th Company, 3rd Infantry Regiment of the Polish First Army's 1st Infantry Division on 2 February 1945, at Podgaje, Poland.[1][2][3] However the killing of Polish war prisoners (rather shooting than burning alive) is possibly done by the another units of SS Volunteer Panzer Grenadier Division General Seyffard or Kampfgruppe Scgheibe, SS-Ostubaf.[4]

The division fought well in the last months of the war and a surviving Füsilier battalion took part in the defence of Berlin in mid-1945. Other remnants, under Waffen-Standartenführer Vilis Janums, surrendered to the advancing Americans at Güterglück near the Elbe River.

Commanders

  • SS-Brigadeführer und Generalmajor Peter Hansen (February 25, 1943 - May 1, 1943)
  • SS-Gruppenführer und Generalmajor Carl Graf von Pückler-Burghauss (May 1, 1943 - February 17, 1944)
  • SS-Oberführer Nikolaus Heilmann (February 17, 1944 - July 21, 1944)
  • SS-Oberführer Herbert von Obwurzer (July 21, 1944 - January 26, 1945)
  • SS-Oberführer Adolf Ax (January 26, 1945 - February 15, 1945)
  • SS-Oberführer, later Brigadeführer und Generalmajor Karl Burk (February 15, - May 2, 1945) [5]

Order of battle

  • Waffen Grenadier Regiment of SS 32
  • Waffen Grenadier Regiment of SS 33
  • Waffen Grenadier Regiment of SS 34
  • Waffen Artillery Regiment of SS 15
  • Waffen Füsilier Battalion of SS 15
  • Waffen Flak Battalion of SS 15
  • Waffen Signals Battalion of SS 15
  • Waffen Pionier Battalion of SS 15
  • Waffen Panzerjäger Battalion of SS 15
  • SS Medical Battalion 15
  • SS Nachschub Troop 15
  • SS Feldpost Department 15
  • SS Veterinary Company 15
  • SS Wirtschafts Battalion 15
  • SS Bau Regiment 1 of 15. SS-Division
  • SS Bau Regiment 2 of 15. SS-Division
  • SS Feldersatz Battalion 15
  • SS Waffen Feldgendarmerie Troop 15
  • SS War Reporter Troop 15 [6]

References

  • Stein, G (1966) The Waffen SS: Hitler's Elite Guard at War 1939-1945. Cornel Uni. Press, London.

See also

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