2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich
|2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich|
|Motto(s)||Meine Ehre heißt Treue
(“My Honour is Loyalty”)
Paul Hausser (here as SS-Gruppenfuehrer und Generalleutnant der Waffen-SS)
|Born||7 October 1880
Brandenburg an der Havel, Province of Brandenburg, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire
|Died||21 December 1972 (aged 92)
Ludwigsburg, Baden-Württemberg,West Germany
|Buried at||Munich Waldfriedhof|
|Allegiance|| German Empire (to 1918)
Weimar Republic (to 1933)
|Service/branch||Imperial German Army
|Years of service||1892–1932
SS-Oberst-Gruppenführerund Generaloberst der Waffen-SS
|Commands held||2nd SS Division Das Reich
II SS Panzer Corps
|Awards||Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross|
Paul Hausser (7 October 1880 – 21 December 1972) was an officer in the German Army, achieving the rank ofGeneralleutnant (major general) in the inter-war Reichswehr. After retirement, he joined the SS of Nazi Germany and was instrumental in forming the Waffen-SS. During World War II, he rose to the level of army group commander. He led Waffen-SS troops in the Third Battle of Kharkov, the Battle of Kursk and the Normandy Campaign.
After the war Hausser became a founding member and the first spokesperson of HIAG, a lobby group and a revisionistorganisation, founded by former high-ranking Waffen-SS personnel in West Germany in 1951. It campaigned for the legal, economic and historical rehabilitation of the Waffen-SS.
Hausser wrote two books, published by right-wing imprints, arguing the purely military role of the Waffen-SS and advancing the notion that its troops were “soldiers like any other”, according to the title of the second book. Under Hausser’s leadership, HIAG reshaped the image of the Waffen-SS as a pan-European force that fought honorably and had no part in war crimes or Nazi atrocities. These ideas have since been discredited by historians.
In August 1939 Adolf Hitler placed the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler (LSSAH) and the SS-Verfügungstruppe (SS-VT) under the operational command of the OKH, (Supreme High Command of the German Army). Events during the Invasion of Poland raised doubts over the combat effectiveness of the SS-VT. Himmler insisted that the SS-VT should be allowed to fight in its own formations under its own commanders, while the OKW tried to have the SS-VT disbanded altogether. Hitler was unwilling to upset either the army or Himmler, and chose a third path. He ordered that the SS-VT form its own divisions but that the divisions would be under army command.
Exclusive footage featuring Das Reich Division during Operation Zitadelle at Kursk in July 1943.
In October 1939 the SS-Verfügungstruppe (SS-VT) regiments, Deutschland, Germania and Der Führer, were organized into the SS-Verfügungs-Division with Paul Hausser as commander.Thereafter, the SS-VT and the LSSAH took part in combat training while under army commands in preparation for Operation Fall Gelb against the Low Countries and France in 1940.
Das Reich received new Tiger tanks in the spring of 1943, just in time for Operation Zitadelle. Here, crew members are cleaning the gun of their Tiger. These Tiger tanks arrived still painted in overall Panzer Grey, but it will be changed by the time of the battle. (https://www.tumblr.com/search/2nd%20ss%20panzer%20division%20das%20reich)
In May 1940, the Der Führer Regiment was detached from the SS-VT Division and relocated near the Dutch border, with the remainder of the division behind the line in Münster, awaiting the order to invade the Netherlands. Der Führer Regiment and LSSAH participated in the ground invasion of the Netherlands which began on 10 May. On the following day the rest of the SS-VT Division crossed into the Netherlands, participating in the drive for the Dutch central front and Rotterdam, which they reached on 12 May. After that city had been captured, the SS-VT Division, along with other German formations, were sent to “mop up” the remaining French-Dutch force holding out in the area of Zeeland and the islands of Walcheren and South Beveland.
SS Hauptscharfuehrer Emil Seibold and crew his tank, 3 SS Pz.Abt 2 SS Pz. Rgt, 2 SS Pz.Div. “Das Reich” , the Kursk sailent, summer of 1943. From July to August 1943
Credit : https://www.tumblr.com/search/2nd%20ss%20panzer%20division%20das%20reich
After the fighting in the Netherlands ended, the SS-VT Division was ordered to make for France. On 24 May the LSSAH, along with the SS-VT Division were positioned to hold the perimeter around Dunkirk and reduce the size of the pocket containing the encircled British Expeditionary Force and French forces. A patrol from the SS-VT Division crossed the canal at Saint-Venant, but was destroyed by British armor. A larger force from the SS-VT Division then crossed the canal and formed a bridgehead at Saint-Venant; 30 miles from Dunkirk.
Men from the 2nd SS Das Reich near Kursk.
On the following day, British forces attacked Saint-Venant, forcing the SS-VT Division to retreat and relinquish ground. On 26 May the German advance resumed. On 27 May the Deutschland regiment of the SS-VT Division reached the allied defensive line on the Leie River at Merville. They forced a bridgehead across the river and waited for the SS Totenkopf Division to arrive to cover their flank. What arrived first was a unit of British tanks, which penetrated their position. The SS-VT managed to hold on against the British tank force, which got to within 15 feet of commander Felix Steiner’s position.
SS-Gruppenführer Walter Krüger, the commander of the Das Reich Division, has just given Knight’s Crosses and other awards to officers from his division for the superb conduct during successful counterattack at Kharkov, April 1943. Click on to see their names.
Credit : https://www.tumblr.com/search/2nd%20ss%20panzer%20division%20das%20reich
Only the arrival of the TotenkopfPanzerjäger platoon saved the Deutschland from being destroyed and their bridgehead lost. By 30 May, most of the remaining Allied forces had been pushed back into Dunkirk where they were evaluated by sea to England. The SS-VT Division next took part in the drive towards Paris.
After the close of the Battle of France, the SS-VT was officially renamed the Waffen-SS in a speech made by Adolf Hitler on 19 July 1940. In December 1940 the Germania Regiment would be removed from the Verfügungs-Division and used to form the cadre of a new division, SS-Division Germania. It was made up of mostly “Nordic” volunteers from the newly conquered territories, Danes, Norwegians, Dutch and Flemings. By the start of 1941 the Verfügungs-Division would be re-dubbed Reich (in 1942 Das Reich), and Germania was renamed Wiking.
2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich; Yugoslavia campaign, 1941
In April 1941, the Germany Army invaded Yugoslavia and Greece. The LSSAH and Das Reich were attached to separate army Panzer Corps. Fritz Klingenberg, a company commander in the Das Reich, led his men across Yugoslavia to the capital, Belgrade, where a small group in the vanguard accepted the surrender of the city on 13 April. A few days later Yugoslavia surrendered. SS police units immediately began taking hostages and carrying out reprisals, a practice that became common. In some cases, they were joined by the Wehrmacht.
A unique unpublished photograph from the private album of an SS officer: as the march north from Montauban began, (left to right) Major Helmut Kampfe, Major Ernst Krag, Colonel Albert Stuckler and General Heinz Lammerding. (Credit : https://www.tumblr.com/search/2nd%20ss%20panzer%20division%20das%20reich)
For the invasion of the Soviet Union (Operation Barbarossa), Das Reich fought with Army Group Center, taking part in the Battle of Yelnyanear Smolensk; it was then in the spearhead of Operation Typhoon aimed at the capture of the Soviet capital. By the time Das Reich took part in the Battle of Moscow, it had lost 60 percent of its combat strength. It was further reduced in the Soviet Winter Counter-Offensive: for example, the Der Führer Regiment was down to 35 men out of the 2,000 that had started the campaign in June. The division was “mauled”. By February 1942, it had lost 10,690 men. By mid-1942, the division now known as Das Reich was pulled out of the fighting line and sent to the west to refit as a Panzer-Grenadier Division.
Pictured here are the great trio of the Das Reich Division (from left to right): SS-Hauptsturmführer Helmuth Schreiber, SS-Standartenführer Heinz Harmel and SS-Sturmbannführer Günther Wisliceny. They were photographed in Stepanovka on the Mius Front in the beginning of August (https://www.tumblr.com/search/2nd%20ss%20panzer%20division%20das%20reich)
In 1943, Das Reich was transferred back from France to the Eastern Front. There it participated in the fighting around Kharkov.Thereafter, it was one of three SS divisions which made up the II SS Panzer Corps, which took part in the Battle of Kursk that summer.[Das Reich operated in the southern sector of the Kursk bulge. It was pulled out of the battle along with the other SS divisions when the offensive was discontinued, giving the strategic initiative to the Red Army.The Battle of Kursk was the first time that a German strategic offensive was halted before it could break through enemy defences and penetrate to its strategic depths. In October, Das Reich was redesignated, this time as SS Panzer Division “Das Reich” to reflect its complement of tanks.
A soldier from the Das Reich Division interrogates a wounded Soviet prisoner during Operation Zitadelle in July 1943. Information of immediate tactical value
Beginning on 6 June 1944, the Allied Normandy landings took place on the coast of France. At that time, SS-Das Reich was located in Southern France. The division was ordered north shortly after the Normandy landings occurred. On 4 August Hitler ordered a counter-offensive (Operation Lüttich) from Vire towards Avranches; the operation included Das Reich. However, the Allied forces were prepared for this offensive, and an air assault on the combined German units proved devastating. Paris was liberated on 25 August, and the last of the German forces withdrew over the Seine by the end of August, ending the Normandy campaign.
The division surrendered to the U.S. Army in May 1945. The 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich was given 69 Knight’s Crosses, 151 German Crosses in Gold and 29 Honor Roll Clasp recipients. It was also assigned three Swords and 10 Oak Leaves to the Knight’s Cross holders. Cumulatively, more high award-winners served in its ranks than any other division in the Waffen-SS. Its Panzer Regiment (2nd SS Panzer) collected 20 Knight’s Crosses and 17 German Crosses in Gold during 111 weeks of combat, claiming the destruction of 1,730 tanks and assault guns, for the loss of 500 panzers.
The division massacred 642 French civilians in the village of Oradour-sur-Glane on 10 June 1944 in the Limousin region. SS-Sturmbannführer Adolf Diekmann, commander of the I Battalion, 4th SS Panzergrenadier Regiment (Der Führer) that committed the massacre, claimed that it was a just retaliation due to partisan activity in nearby Tulle and the kidnapping of SturmbannführerHelmut Kämpfe, commander of the III Battalion, although the German authorities had already executed ninety-nine people in the Tulle massacre, following the killing of some forty German soldiers in Tulle by the Maquis resistance movement.
On 10 June, Diekmann’s battalion sealed off Oradour-sur-Glane, and ordered all the townspeople to assemble in the village square, ostensibly to have their identity papers examined. All the women and children were locked in the church. One of the six survivors of the massacre, Robert Hebras, described the killings as a deliberate act of mass murder. In 2013, he told the U.K. newspaper The Mirror that the SS intentionally burned men, women, and children after locking them in the church and spraying it with machine gun fire:
It was simply an execution. There were a handful of Nazis in front of us, in their uniforms. They just raised their machine guns and started firing across us, at our legs to stop us getting out. They were strafing, not aiming. Men in front of me just started falling. I got caught by several bullets, but I survived because those in front of me got the full impact. I was so lucky. Four of us in the barn managed to get away because we remained completely still under piles of bodies. One man tried to get away before they had gone – he was shot dead. The SS were walking around and shooting anything that moved. They poured petrol on bodies and then set them alight.”
Marcel Darthout’s experience was similar. His testimony appears in historian Sara Farmer’s 2000 book Martyred Village: Commemorating the 1944 Massacre at Oradour-sur-Glane:
We felt the bullets, which brought me down. I dove… everyone was on top of me. And they were still firing. And there was shouting. And crying. I had a friend who was lying on top of me and who was moaning. And then it was over. No more shots. And they came at us, stepping on us. And with a rifle they finished us off. They finished off my friend who was on top of me. I felt it when he died.
Darthout and Hebras’ eyewitness testimony was corroborated by other survivors of the massacre. One other survivor, Roger Godfrin, escaped from the school for refugees despite being shot at by SS soldiers. Only one woman, Marguerite Rouffanche, survived from the church. She later testified that at about five in the afternoon, two German soldiers placed a crate of explosives on the altar and attached a fuse to it. She and another women and her baby hid behind the sacristy; after the explosion they climbed on a stool and jumped out of a window three meters from the ground. A burst of machine gun fire hit all of them, but Rouffanche was able to crawl into the presbytery garden. The woman and infant were killed.
Diekmann was later killed in the battle of Normandy in 1944. On 12 January 1953, a military tribunal in Bordeaux, heard the case against the surviving sixty-five of the approximately two hundred SS soldiers who had been involved. Only twenty-one of them were present. Seven of them were Germans, but fourteen were Alsatians, (French nationals of Germanic culture). On 11 February, twenty defendants were found guilty, but were released after only a few months for lack of evidence. In December 2011 German police raided the homes of six former members of the division, all aged 85 or 86, to determine exactly what role the men had played that day.
After the Allied second front opened on 6 June 1944, all resistance groups joined “into the uprising”. Part of Das Reich was ordered to attack strongholds of the rural guerrillabands of French Resistance fighters as it moved to Normandy. After a successful FTP offensive on 7 and 8 June 1944, Das Reich was ordered to the Tulle-Limoges area.The arrival of Das Reich troops “rescued the beleaguered” army troops and ended the fighting in the city of Tulle. In reprisal for the German losses, on the following day, the SS hanged 99 men from the town and another 149 were deported back to Germany.
Le Massacre de Tulle, 9 juni 1944
The execution starts, 99 men were taken along to the foot of standard lamps or under the balconies of the street of the Pont-Neuf
Following the war, one of the regimental commander of the division, Otto Weidinger, wrote an apologia of the division under the auspices of HIAG, the revisionist organization and a lobby group of former Waffen-SS members. The unit narrative was extensive and strived for a so-called official representation of their history, backed by maps and operational orders. “No less than 5 volumes and well over 2,000 pages were devoted to the doings of the 2nd Panzer Division Das Reich“, points out the military historian S.P. MacKenzie.
|Born||27 May 1914
Würzburg, Kingdom of Bavaria,German Empire
|Died||10 January 1990 (aged 75)
|Years of service||1934–45|
|Unit||SS-PzAufklAbt 2 “Das Reich”
SS-PzGrenRgt 4 “Der Führer”
|Battles/wars||World War II|
|Awards||Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves|
The Das Reich history was published by HIAG’s publishing house Munin Verlag. Its express aim was to publish the “war narratives” of former Waffen-SS member, and the titles did not go through the rigorous fact-checking processes common in the traditional historical works; they were revisionist accounts unedited by professional historians and presented the former Waffen-SS members’ version of events. The Das Reich divisional history, like other HIAG publications, focused on the positive, “heroic” side of National Socialism. The French author Jean-Paul Picaper, who studied the Oradour massacre, notes the tendentious nature of Weidinger’s narrative: it provided a sanitized version of history without any references to war crimes.
- SS-SturmbannführerWilhelm Kment, Prior to 1935
- SS-ObergruppenführerPaul Hausser, 19 October 1939 – 14 October 1941
- SS-BrigadeführerWilhelm Bittrich, 14 October 1941 – 31 December 1941
- SS-BrigadeführerMatthias Kleinheisterkamp, 31 December 1941 – 19 April 1942
- SS-GruppenführerGeorg Keppler, 19 April 1942 – 10 February 1943
- SS-BrigadeführerHerbert-Ernst Vahl, 10 February 1943 – 18 March 1943
- SS-StandartenführerKurt Brasack, 18 March 1943 – 29 March 1943
- SS-GruppenführerWalter Krüger, 29 March 1943 – 23 October 1943
- SS-BrigadeführerHeinz Lammerding, 23 October 1943 – 24 July 1944
- SS-ObersturmbannführerChristian Tychsen, 24 July 1944 – 28 July 1944
- SS-OberführerOtto Baum, 28 July 1944 – 23 October 1944
- SS-BrigadeführerHeinz Lammerding, 23 October 1944 – 20 January 1945
- SS-StandartenführerKarl Kreutz, 20 January 1945 – 4 February 1945
- SS-GruppenführerWerner Ostendorff, 4 February 1945 – 9 March 1945
- SS-StandartenführerRudolf Lehmann, 9 March 1945 – 13 April 1945
- SS-StandartenführerKarl Kreutz, 13 April 1945 – 8 May 1945