11.SS Freiwilliegen-Panzergrenadier Division
SS-Sturrmbannführer Christian von Schalburg (left) shakes hands with SS-Unterscharführer Sorem Kam of the 11.SS Freiwilligen-Panzergrenadier Division "Nordland"
Established in February 1943, this was an attempt by the Germans to set up an international SS Division manned and commanded by foriegn volunteers. Although the elite "Wiking" Division had a considerable number of foriegn troops in its ranks, the senior NCO's and officiers were preodominantly German. In "Nordland", the Germans hoped to utilise a far greater proportion of foriegn volunteer senior ranks. Considerable use was made of the remnants of the disbanded Germanic legions in staffing the division, and it certainly carried the widest range of nationalities to be found in any single Waffen-SS division. By the end of the war. Danes, Dutch, Norwegians, Estonians, Finns, French, Swedish, Swiss and even British volunteers had either served in the division or been attached to it. By the autumn of 1943 the division was training in Croatia, and in January 1944 was judged to be ready for combat. It was attached to Army Group North on the Eastern Front in an unsucessful attempt to prevent the Red Army from breaking the siege of Leningrad. It also took part in the Battle of Narva (February to August 1944, in Estonia), where it suffered heavy casualties (so many volunteer units saw action at Narva that it became known as the 'Battle of the European SS'). In September 1944, over a period of just four days, the division undertook a forced march from Narva to Riga, where its arrival prevented the encirclement of the German 18th Army by Soviet forces. As the Red Army's advance continued, "Nordland" slowly withdrew into the Courland Pocket, fighting doggedly all the way, from where it was evacuated to Germany in early 1945. It saw heavy fighting around Danzig, Stettin and Stargard, before becoming part of the force defending Berlin. The division was finally destroyed in the battle for the city in April/May 1945.
A knocked-out "Nordland"
SPW 250 in Berlin, May 1945:
"Nordland" was a full-strength, well-equipped unit which included a powerful armoured element: SS-Panzer Abteilung 11 "Herman von Salza". Overall, it aquitted itself well in action and was one of the better non-German SS divisions. This is reflected in the total of 30 Knight's Crosses awarded to its members, ranking it fifth in the table of Waffen-SS units in terms of Knight's Cross awards. The division was initially commanded by SS-Obergruppenführer Fritz von Scholz, holder of the Swords and Oakleaves, who was killed in action on 28 July 1944 near Narva. Command then passed to SS-Brigadeführer Joachim Ziegler, who fell in Berlin on 2 May 1945. Soldiers of the division wore a special collar patch showing a so-called called curved swatiska (Sonderrad). The members of SS-Panzer Grenadier Regiment 23 wore the title "Norge", members of the SS-Panzer Grenadier Regiment 24 the title "Danmark", and members of SS- Panzer Abteilung 11 the title "Herman von Salza". All other members of the division wore the title "Nordland". Generally speaking, soldiers of the division also wore their own particular national arm shield.
Cuff-titles of the SS-Grenadier
Regiment 23 (above) and SS-Panzer Abteilung 11