11. SS Panzergrenadier Division Nordland

Unit History

11th SS Volunteer Panzergrenadier Division Nordland

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11th SS Panzergrenadier Division Nordland

Divisional insignia of 11.SS-Freiwilligen-Panzergrenadier-Division Nordland.
Active July 1943 — May 1945
Country Nazi Germany
Branch Waffen-SS
Type Panzergrenadier
Engagements Operation Bagration
Battle of Berlin
Franz Augsberger
Fritz von Scholz

The 11th SS Volunteer Panzergrenadier Division Nordland, also known as Kampfverband Waräger, Germanische-Freiwilligen-Division, SS-Panzergrenadier-Division 11 (Germanische) or 11. SS-Freiwilligen-Panzergrenadier-Division Nordland, was a German Waffen SS, Panzergrenadier division recruited from foreign volunteers. It saw action in Croatia and on the Eastern Front during World War II.

Concept and formation

By 1943, the foreign formations of the Waffen SS had an established record in combat. The 5th SS Panzer Division Wiking, a volunteer division, had been in action since 1940. The 5 SS Wiking, however, was composed of enlisted men who were predominantly Nordic volunteers, commanded by German officers. In February 1943, Hitler ordered the creation of an SS Division which would be officered by foreign volunteers. The Wiking's SS-Panzergrenadier-Regiment Nordland, a Scandinavian volunteer regiment, was pulled out of the line to be used as a cadre for the new division. The division was originally to receive the name Waräger (Varangians) but the name was rejected by Hitler himself. It was decided that the division was to continue using the already-existing regiment’s name, Nordland. The Nordland's two Panzergrenadier regiments were also given honour titles, with reference to the location where the majority of the regiment's recruits were from, SS-Panzergrenadier Regiment 23 Norge (Norwegians) and SS-Panzergrenadier Regiment 24 Danmark (Danes).
Despite most volunteers hailing from Scandinavia, the Nordland carried the widest range of nationalities found in any single division. By the end of the war, Danish, Hungarian, Dutch, Norwegian, Estonian, Finnish, French, Romanian, Spanish, Swedish, Swiss and British volunteers had either served in the division or been attached to it.
After its formation in Germany, the division was attached to the III (Germanic) SS Panzer Corps under the command of Obergruppenführer, Felix Steiner and was moved to Croatia for training and to complete its formation. Soon after its arrival, the SS Volunteer Legion Netherlands was attached to the division and it began combat operations against Josip Tito's partisans. In late November, the Danmark regiment was involved in heavy fighting with a force of 5,000 partisans near Glina. During this period, the Nordland's Panzer Battalion, SS Panzer Battalion 11, was given the honour title Hermann von Salza in honour of the fourth Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights (b.1179-d.1239).
In January 1944, orders were received to move the division to the Oranienbaum front near Leningrad, under the command of Generalfeldmarschall Walter Model's Army Group North.

Leningrad to Narva

Nordland, along with the rest of III. (Germanic) SS Panzer Corps arrived at the front near Leningrad and was almost immediately put into action against the Red Army attacks to break the German encirclement of the city. After they escaped from being surrounded, the Nordland effected a fighting withdrawal over 60 kilometres to Oranienbaum. On 14 January, a Soviet assault succeeded in collapsing the German front, and the Nordland again fought its way back to the city of Narva in Estonia, where a new line of defence was being organized. In early February, the Soviets began their attacks towards the city and the Battle of Narva began. The battle has come to be known as the Battle of the European SS because the majority of the defenders were European volunteers. Joining the Nordland were the formations from all over Europe. The Dutchman of the 4th SS Volunteer Panzergrenadier Brigade Nederland, the Walloons of the 5th SS Volunteer Sturmbrigade Wallonien, the Flemings of the 6th SS Volunteer Sturmbrigade Langemarck, the Estonians of the 20th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Estonian), as well as regular German formations. Altogether, the defenders of the Narva River line amounted to 50,000 men. Against them, the Soviets threw 200,000 men of the Leningrad Front.

The Original attack was launched on 13 February, with the Soviets attacking right across the line, as well as launching an amphibious assault from the Baltic near Mereküla. The Nordland annihilated the Soviet landing force. Over the next five months, the Waffen SS held against the Soviet attacks, the Nordland seeing very heavy fighting. In March, the Soviets managed to destroy the Narva Bridge in the Battle for Narva Bridgehead, cutting off the troops on the far side of the river. The men of Nordland's Pioneer Battalion quickly rebuilt the bridge while under heavy fire. The launch of Operation Bagration in June 1944, resulted in Army Group North becoming trapped in the Kurland Pocket. After months of heavy fighting, the Hermannsberg bridge over the Narva was blown and the defenders were moved 25 kilometers west to the Tannenberg Line.

Tannenberg Line - Courland Pocket

The Tannenberg Line anchored on three strategic hills. Running west to east, these were known as Hill 69.9, Grenadier Hill and Orphanage Hill. From Orphanage Hill, the rear side of the town of Narva could be protected. From 27 July, Nordland fought alongside the Sturmbrigade Langemarck and Kampfgruppe Strachwitz from the Grossdeutschland Division to keep control of Orphanage Hill. Despite the death of the Nordland's commander, Gruppenführer Fritz von Scholz, who was killed in the fighting, and the subsequent deaths of the commanders of the Norge and Danmark Regiments, the division grimly held onto Orphanage hill, destroying 113 tanks on 29 July.
On 4 August, men from Penal Company 103, a punishment company, were reinstated and absorbed into the Danmark Regiment. The III (Germanic) SS Panzer Corps bled itself white defending the Tannenberg Line, until on 16 September, it was pulled back into Latvia to defend the capital, Riga. Riga fell on 12 October, and by the end of the month all Waffen SS units had been withdrawn into what was known as the Courland Pocket.
From late October to December 1944, the Nordland fought fierce defensive battles in the pocket, and by early December the divisional strength was down to 9,000 men. In January 1945, the division was ordered to the Baltic port of Libau, where it was shipped out of the pocket to Pomerania. The division disembarked at Stettin, with the Panzer Battalion Hermann von Salza being sent on to Gothafen for refitting. In late January, Nordland was assigned to Steiner's 11th SS Panzer Army, which was now forming in anticipation of the defence of Berlin.

East Prussia and Pomerania

In early February, the refitted Panzer Battalion returned to the division, and a trickle of reinforcements began arriving. Among these units was the platoon-sized British Free Corps, a British Waffen-SS formation. [1] On 16 February, the division was ordered on the offensive as a part of Operation Sonnenwende, the operation to destroy a Soviet salient and to relieve the troops besieged in the town of Arnswalde. 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 counter attack. Initially, Nordland's attack achieved a total tactical surprise and the division soon advanced to the banks of Lake Ihna in all sectors. However, as the Soviets 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 counter attacks halted the divisions advance, and Steiner called off the attack, pulling the III (Germanic) SS Panzer Corps back to the Stargard and Stettin on the northern Oder River.
By the 21 February the conclusion was made that no more useful gains could be made against an increasingly powerful enemy without undue casualties so Steiner ordered a general withdrawal back to the north bank of the Ihna. Between the 23 and 28 February, III (Germanic) SS Panzer Corps made a slow withdrawal to the area around Stargard and Stettin on the northern Oder River.
The Soviet offensive of 1 March, pushed Nordland along with the rest of the depleted III (Germanic) SS Panzer Corps before them. In a desperate fighting withdrawal, the Nordland and the rest of III (Germanic) SS Panzer Corps inflicted heavy casualties on the Soviets, but by 4 March, the division was falling back to Altdamm, the last defensive position east of the Oder itself. During the next two weeks, Nordland grimly held to the town, inflicting and suffering high casualties. On the 19 March, the battered defenders fell back behind the Oder, the Danmark and Norge regiments had fought virtually to extinction. The division was ordered back to the area west of Schwedt-Bad Freinwalde for a refit.
During this time, the 33rd Waffen-Grenadier Division of the SS Charlemagne, a 300 man unit of French SS volunteers and the Spanish Volunteer Company of the SS No.101, a company of Spanish SS men were attached to the division. The division's strength was replenished with the addition of several vehicles and some personnel from the Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine.

The final battle

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. From the 17 April to the 20 April the division was involved in constant combat all along its front, and was pushed back into the city itself. By the 22 April, the Nordland had been pushed back to the Tiergarten in the centre of the city. During the next few days, the division ceased to exist as a cohesive unit. The remains of Norge and Danmark regiments, along with elements of the Pioneer battalion, found themselves defending the bridges across the Spree. After a spirited but futile defence, the remnants of Nordland were pushed back into the Government District.

Meanwhile, the main Soviet assault was towards the Treptow Park area, where 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 counter attack and succeeded in halting the enemy advance,[citation needed] at the cost of some of his last vehicles.

By the 26 April, the defenders of the government district had been pushed back into the Reichstag itself. For the next few days, the few survivors of the division held out against overwhelming odds. On 30 April, the divisional commander received news of Adolf Hitler's suicide and ordered those who could do so to break out to the west. Several small groups managed to reach the Americans at the Elbe's west bank, but many more did not, among them the 3rd (Swedish) Company of the Reconnaissance battalion who fought a desperate and ultimately useless battle to escape the surrounding Soviets, as described by Erik Wallin in the book 'Twilight of the Gods'. Despite the temptation of a westbound breakout, most SS soldiers in Berlin on the night of 1 May 1945, decided to break out to the north, on the orders of Wilhelm Mohnke, who promised to lead the breakout from the front. However, whilst his loyal troops from the Guard battalion, 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler, and Nordland, were assembling near the Wierdammer bridge, some with wives and children, he had already made a hasty escape with some of the Führer's closest staff, including Traudl Junge, Hitler's secretary. Lacking any leadership, the breakout down Freidrichstrasse turned into a disorganized mob, which was quickly dispatched by Soviet armoured attacks. The Nordland's last SdKfz 250 was knocked out by a Soviet soldier with a captured German Panzerfaust.

On 2 May hostilities officially ended, by order of Helmuth Weidling, Kommandant of the Defence Area Berlin, and General of Artillery. All remaining pockets of resistance were mopped up by the Red Army and the 80,000 or so Prisoners of War were marched east. Most SS men, loyal to their oath to Hitler, had already either fought to the death or taken their own lives, a popular option considering the rumours circulating.

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.


Order Of Battle

  • SS-Panzergrenadier Regiment 23 Norge
  • SS-Panzergrenadier Regiment 24 Danmark
  • SS-Panzer Battalion 11 Herman von Salza
  • SS-Panzer Artillery Regiment 11
  • SS-Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion 11
  • SS-Sturmgeschutz Battalion 11
  • SS-Panzerjäger Battalion 11
  • SS-Signals Battalion 11
  • SS-Pionier Battalion 11
  • SS-Nachrichtung Abteilung Truppen 11
  • SS-Supply troop 11
  • SS-Repair Battalion 11
  • SS-Wirtschafts Battalion 11
  • SS-War Reporter platoon 11
  • SS-Feldgendarmerie Troop 11
  • SS-Reserve Battalion 11
  • SS-Bewährungs-Comapny 11
  • SS-Medical Battalion 11
  • SS-Werfer Battalion 521
  • SS-Jäger Regiment 11


  • Jean Mabire - La Division Norland
  • Michaelis, Rolf - Die 11. SS-Freiwilligen-Panzer-Grenadier-Division "Nordland"
  • Tieke, Wilhelm - Tragedy of the Faithful: A History of III. (Germanisches) SS-Panzer-Korps
  • Hillblad, Thorolf - Twilight of the Gods: A Swedish Waffen-SS Volunteer's Experiences with the 11th SS-Panzergrenadier Division Nordland, Eastern Front 1944-45