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Berlin

11. SS-Freiwilligen-Panzergrenadierdivision ‘Nordland’ in Germany

11. SS-Freiwilligen-Panzergrenadierdivision ‘Nordland’ was from in March 1943 from Danish, Norwegian and Volksdeutsche Romanians (ethnic Germans from Romania) volunteers with a smattering of Swedes, Finns and Estonians. After training in Croatia, they fought on the Leningrad Front, in Estonia and Latvia before retreating to the Kurland Pocket in East Prussia in late 1944.

More on their fighting in Army Group North…

Kurland Pocket

From late October to December 1944, the Nordland Division fought fierce defensive battles in the Kurland Pocket. Though the division had been assembled at Priekulė for a breakout to the south, the Red Army had become aware of the German intentions. On 16 October 1944, the battles for Kurland Pocket began when Soviet troops met the division’s attack with full force. Nevertheless, the division was able to hold their positions. During a second attempt to break the German forces in Kurland, the division was able to maintain its lines. 

On 23 January 1945, a fourth Red Army attack to clear the Kurland Pocket, focused on Priekulė, was launched. Multiple Red Army assaults succeeded in breaking into the German positions. However, together with 14. Panzerdivision, Nordland was able to retake their positions after counterattacking. By early December the divisional strength was down to 9,000 men.

Pomerania

At the end of January 1945, the division was finally pulled from the front and loaded onto ships in the Baltic port of Liepaja (Libau), where it was shipped out of the pocket to Pomerania. 

The division disembarked at Szczecin (Stettin), with the Panzer Battalion Hermann von Salza being sent on to Gotenhafen for refitting. In late January, Nordland Division was assigned to Steiner's 11th SS-Panzer Army, which was now forming in anticipation of the defence of Berlin. 

In early February 1945, the refitted Panzer Battalion returned to the division, and a trickle of reinforcements began arriving. On 15 February 1945 Nordland was then moved to the staging area for Operation Solstice (Sonnenwende), the Pomeranian Offensive. The offensive had been conceived by Generaloberst Heinz Guderian as a massed assault all along the front but had then been reduced by Hitler to the level of a local counterattack.

From the area of Reetz, the division attacked towards the encircled city of Arnswalde. Initially, Nordland's attack achieved a total tactical surprise and the division soon advanced to the banks of Lake Ihna in all sectors. 

End of the Soviet Vistula/Oder Operation

However, as the Soviet forces realized what was happening, resistance grew stiffer and the advance began to slow.  On 17 February, the division reached Arnswalde and relieved the exhausted garrison. Over the next few days the town was secured and the surviving civilians were evacuated. Soon however, strong Soviet counterattacks halted the division's advance, and Steiner called off the attack, pulling III. SS-Panzerkorps back. Between 23 and 28 February, III. SS-Panzerkorps made a slow withdrawal to the area around Stargard and Stettin (Szczecin) on the northern Oder River.

On 1 March 1945 the Soviets launched an offensive against the German forces in Pomerania. Within hours, the German front collapsed. In a desperate fighting withdrawal, the Nordland Division and the rest of III. SS-Panzerkorps inflicted heavy casualties on the Soviet forces; but by 4 March, the division was falling back towards Altdamm, the last defensive position east of the Oder itself. By the night of 7/8 March, division had withdrawn to the area around Altdamm. During the next two weeks, Nordland grimly held onto the town, inflicting and suffering heavy casualties. On 19 March, the battered defenders fell back behind the Oder, the Danmark and Norge regiments had fought virtually to the last man. The division was ordered back to the area west of Schwedt-Bad Freinwalde for a refit. 

Nordland StuGs The division was to be reclassified as a Panzer Division. However, due to the war situation, this never eventuated and Nordland continued to fight as a Panzergrenadier Division. To bring it up to strength, the division received replacements from the Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine, Waffen-SS and even a few volunteers from the ‘British Free Corps’. These included a 300-man battalion of 33. Waffen-Grenadierdivision der SS ‘Charlemagne’ (French SS volunteers), and the Spanish SS Volunteer Company as well as the addition of several vehicles. On 27 March 1945, the division moved, with the rest of III. SS-Panzerkorps to the area north of Angermünde.

Berlin

On 16 April, Nordland was ordered back into the line east of Berlin. Despite recent replenishment, the division was still grossly understrength and, with the exception of the French and Spanish, many of the new recruits had little, if any combat experience. However, the heavy tanks of 503. Schwere SS-Panzer-Abteilung were attached to them for the defence of the Oder River. By the time they had withdrawn into Berlin 503. Schwere SS-Panzer-Abteilung had 12 Königstiger (Panzer VI ausf B) heavy tanks operating.

On 16 April 1945 the Soviets began their offensive to take Berlin. 11. SS-Freiwilligen-Panzergrenadierdivision ‘Nordland’ was ordered to the area south of Frankfurt on the Oder. Due to lack of vehicles and fuel the division ended up in the area of Strausberg, near Berlin. It was reassigned to LVI. Panzerkorps. 

Soviet Berlin Offensive

Two days later, the division deployed into defensive positions to face the Soviet advance. Subsequently, the weary division was pushed back through Mahlsdorf, then back to Berlin. By this time the division had shrunk to a strength of 1,500 men.

On 24 April, the main Soviet assault was towards the Treptow Park area, which the rest of the Pioneer battalion and the few remaining tanks of Panzer battalion Hermann von Salza were defending. Obersturmbannführer Kausch led the few tanks and armoured vehicles in a counterattack and succeeded in temporarily halting the enemy advance at the cost of some of his last vehicles. However, by midday, the Soviet 5th Shock Army was able to advance again. A later counter-attack by three assault guns was stopped by a Soviet soldier named Shulzhenok with three captured German Panzerfausts.

Berlin
Nordland divisional symbol

On 25 April, Brigadeführer Gustav Krukenberg was appointed the commander of (Berlin) Defence Sector C which included the Nordland Division, whose previous commander, Joachim Ziegler, was relieved of his command the same day. The arrival of the French SS men bolstered the Nordland Division who’s ‘Norge’ and ‘Danmark’ Panzergrenadier regiments had been savagely reduced in the fighting. They each equalled roughly a battalion in strength.

By 26 April, with Neukölln in Berlin heavily penetrated by Soviet combat groups, Krukenberg prepared fallback positions for Sector C defenders around Hermannplatz. He moved his headquarters into the opera house. As the Nordland Division fell back towards Hermannplatz the French SS and 100 Hitler Youth attached to their group destroyed 14 Soviet tanks with panzerfausts. A machine-gun position by the Halensee bridge managed to hold up the Soviet advance in that area for 48 hours. The Nordland's remaining armour, eight Tiger II tanks (503. Schwere SS-Panzer Abteilung) and several assault guns, were ordered to take up positions in the Tiergarten, because although the two divisions of Weidling's LVI Panzer Corps could slow the Soviet advance down, they could not stop it.

On 27 April, after a spirited but futile defence, the remnants of Nordland were pushed back into the central government district in Defence sector Z. The defenders of the government district were pushed back into the Reichstag and Reich Chancellery. For the next few days, the few survivors of the division 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. The break out from the Reich Chancellery area started at 2300 hours on 1 May. There were ten main groups that attempted to head northwest towards Mecklenburg.

Fierce fighting continued all around Berlin, especially in the Weidendammer Bridge area, where what was left of the Nordland Division under Krukenberg fought hard.  503. Schwere SS-Panzer-Abteilung's last Tiger was knocked out attempting to cross the Weidendammer Bridge. Several very small groups managed to reach the Americans at the Elbe's west bank, but most (including the men from Krukenberg's group), could not break through the Soviet ring. Krukenberg made it to Dahlem, where he hid out in an apartment for a week but then had to surrender.

On 2 May hostilities officially ended. Remaining pockets of resistance were mopped up by the Red Army and 80,000 or so Prisoners of War were marched east. Many SS men, loyal to their oath to Hitler, had already either fought to the death or taken their own lives. Of the few survivors who reached the Western Allies' lines, most were handed over to their respective countries and tried as traitors, some serving prison time and a few even receiving the death penalty. 

Divisional Commanders

1 May 1943 Fritz Stolz Edler von Barancze

27 July 1944 Joachim Ziegler

26 April 1945 Dr. jur. Gustav Krukenberg 

Order of Battle

SS-Panzergrenadier-Regiment 23 "Norge"

SS-Panzergrenadier-Regiment 24 "Danmark"

SS-Panzer-Aufklärungs-Abteilung 11

SS-Panzer-Abteilung 11 "Hermann von Salza"

SS-Panzerjäger-Abteilung 11

SS-Artillerie-Regiment 11

SS-Flak-Abteilung 11

SS-Pionier-Bataillon 11

11. SS-Freiwilligen-Panzergrenadierdivision ‘Nordland’ Berlin Digital Briefings 

New digital-exclusive briefings for Berlin are now available in Forces Of War, the Flames Of War online company builder, and the Flames Of War Digital iPad app:

Forces Of War Flames Of War Digital


Last Updated On Wednesday, August 19, 2015 by Wayne at Battlefront