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29th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Italian)

Legione SS Italiana
29th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Italian)

Insignia of the 29th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Italian)
Active 1943 - 1945
Country Italy Italian Social Republic
Allegiance  Nazi Germany
Branch Waffen-SS
Size Division
Nickname "Italia"
Engagements World War II

The 29th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Italian) 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 (1st Russian), was disbanded. The new unit created in November 1943, was based on the Waffen-Grenadier-Brigade der SS (italienische Nr. 1). The division is also called "Italia".

Background

The Kingdom of Italy on 8 September 1943 signed a truce with the Allies. In response, the German Army (Wehrmacht Heer) and the Waffen-SS disarmed Italian troops unless they were fighting for the German cause. The new Italian Social Republic was founded on 23 September 1943 under dictator Benito Mussolini and this allowed Italians to be recruited for Waffen-SS. On 2 October 1943, Heinrich Himmler and Gottlob Berger devised the Programm zur Aufstellung der italienischen Milizeinheiten durch die Waffen-SS[1] which was approved by Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini.

Training

In October 15,000 volunteers started training at Truppenübungsplatz Münsingen, but 9,000 of them were unsuitable and released for training in Police units, the Black Brigades or for labor.[2] The soldiers wore Sig rune (SS Runes) on red rather than black, and the left sleeve had a Reichsadler, not with a swastika, but with fasces.

On 23 November 1943, 13 Miliz-Battalions pledged their loyalty before being moved to SS-Ausbildungsstab Italien under SS-Brigadeführers Peter Hansen who led them in a "bloody war among brothers"[3] against partisans. The unit was commanded by SS-Obergruppenführer Karl Wolff and called Italienische SS-Freiwilligen-Legion, but soon renamed 1. Sturmbrigade Italienische Freiwilligen-Legion.

Soon the unit was called Legionari in Italy, also in official reports.

Combat

In April 1944 three battalions fought against Allied bridgeheads of Anzio and Nettuno with surprisingly good results, for which Heinrich Himmler on 3 May 1944 allowed them to wear SS-Runes on black rather than red and be fully integrated into the Waffen SS.[4]Members of the "Vendetta" under former Blackshirt Lieutenant-Colonel Delgi Oddi particularly distinguished themeselves in defeating a determined effort by the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division to overrun their positions and capturing a number of prisoners.[5]On 7 September 1944 renamed to Waffen-Grenadier-Brigade der SS (italienische Nr. 1)[6] under Generalkommando Lombardia of Heeresgruppe C. New recruits allowed the unit grow in December 1944 to 15,000 men. In Spring 1945 the Division under command by SS-Oberführer Ernst Tzschoppe as Kampfgruppe Binz fought against French units and Resistenza in Piemont.

On 30 April 1945 the last elements of the Division surrendered to US troops in Gorgonzola, Lombardy.

Post-war

As with other former members of Nazi combat formations veterans of the Italian SS division found employment in the CIA-orchestrated organizations of illegal and clandestine political warfare in an "anti-communist" role. Several former Italian SS men (like Pio Filippani Ronconi) were involved with the deviated branches of Italian Secret Services and Stay-behind formations used to spread insecurity and terror among the general populace in the 60s and 70s (Strategia della tensione), to dissuade Italians from bringing left political parties to power.

Units

  • Waffen-Grenadier-Regiment of the SS 81
    • I. Waffen-Grenadier Battalion
    • II. Waffen-Grenadier Battalion
    • III. Waffen-Grenadier Battalion
  • Waffen-Grenadier-Regiment of the SS 82 "Vendetta"
    • I. Waffen-Grenadier Battalion
    • II. Waffen-Grenadier Battalion
    • III. Waffen-Grenadier Battalion
  • Waffen-Artillery-Regiment of the SS 29
    • I. Artillery Battalion
    • II. Artillery Battalion
  • Füsilier-Battalion 29 "Debica"
  • SS-Pionier-Company 29
  • SS-Signal-Company 29
  • SS-Reserve Battalion 29
  • Officers Battalion

Commanders

See also

References

  • Stein, G (1966) The Waffen SS: Hitler's Elite Guard at War 1939-1945. Cornel Uni. Press, London.
  • Guerra, N (2012) I volontari italiani nelle Waffen-SS. Il pensiero politico, la formazione culturale e le motivazioni al volontariato. Una storia orale. Annales Universitatis Turkuensis, Turku. (http://www.academia.edu/2099177/I_volontari_italiani_nelle_Waffen-SS._Il_pensiero_politico_la_formazione_culturale_e_le_motivazioni_al_volontariato._Una_storia_orale).
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