Free Corps Denmark

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Free Corps Denmark
Frikorps Danmark.svg
Active 1941–43
Country Denmark
Allegiance Nazi Germany
Branch Army
Type Infantry
Size 6,000
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Christian Peder Kryssing, Christian Frederik von Schalburg, Knud Børge Martinsen

Free Corps Denmark (Danish: Frikorps Danmark) was a Danish volunteer free corps created by the Danish Nazi Party (DNSAP) in cooperation with Germany, to fight the Soviet Union during the Second World War. On June 29, 1941, days after the German invasion of the Soviet Union, the DNSAP's newspaper Fædrelandet proclaimed the creation of the corps. Its formation was subsequently sanctioned by the democraticly elected Danish government which authorized officers of the Danish Army to join the unit.[1] The corps was disbanded in 1943.

The Danish Commander-in-Chief William Prior tried, unsuccessfully, to prevent Danish soldiers and officers enlisting in the Waffen-SS. During the course of the war, approximately 6000 Danes joined the corps, including 77 officers of the Royal Danish Army.

Establishment[edit]

Denmark had signed a treaty of nonaggression with Nazi Germany in 1939. Germany invoked this treaty on April 9, 1940, when it ordered the military occupation of Denmark under the guise of protecting the Danes from British invasion. Faced with potential German aerial bombing, King Christian X and the Danish government accepted "protection of the Reich" and permitted the "peaceful occupation" of the country in return for nominal political independence. The Danes began a policy of collaboration that included diplomatic and economic support of Germany. Cecil von Renthe-Fink, a German diplomat, was accredited to the Danish King and Cabinet as Reichsbevollmächtigter ("Imperial Plenipotentiary") and charged with the duty of supervising Danish government.

At the outset of the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, Germany asked Denmark to form a military corps to fight with the Germans against the Soviets. On June 29, 1941, seven days after the invasion had begun, the Danish Nazi Party newspaper Fædrelandet ("The Fatherland") proclaimed the creation of the Free Corps Denmark. Danish Foreign Minister Erik Scavenius entered into an agreement with the Reichsbevollmächtigter that officers and soldiers of the Danish Royal Army wishing to join this corps would be given leave and allowed to retain their rank. The Danish Cabinet issued an announcement stating that "Lieut. Colonel Christian Peder Kryssing, Chief of the 5th Artillery Regiment, Holbæk, has with the consent of the Royal Danish Government assumed command over Free Corps Denmark.

The role of the Danish government in forming the Free Corps Denmark is today disputed. Some authorities maintain that the Corps was unique among the legions of foreign volunteers fighting for Hitler in that it carried the official sanction of its home government. Others maintain that while the Danish government may have sanctioned formation of the Corps that it did not itself form the Corps.[2]

Recruitment[edit]

It is estimated that approximately 6,000 Danes served in the Free Corps Denmark during the course of the war.

A 1998 study showed that the average recruit to Free Corps Denmark was a Nazi and/or a member of the German minority in Denmark and that recruitment was very broad socially.[3] Bo Lidegaard notes: "The relationship between the population and the corps was freezing cold, and legionnaires on leave time and again came into fights with civilians meeting the corps' volunteers with massive contempt." Lidegaard gives the following figures for 1941: 6,000 Danish citizens had signed up and were approved for German army duty and 1,500 of these belonged to the German minority in Denmark.[4]

It should be noted, though, that half of the over 12,000 Danes that initially volunteered for active service were regarded as being not suitable for active service.

Service record[edit]

Danish Free Corp members make an oath in 1941

With about 1,000 recruits, the corps was sent to Langenhorn barracks in Hamburg for basic training in late July 1941. It was considered ready for action by September 15 and sent to Owińska in Poland.

C.P. Kryssing was dismissed in February 1942 for insufficient ideological adherence to Nazism. He was transferred to the artillery where he actually ended his career as a general.

Christian Frederik von Schalburg — a Danish-Russian aristocrat, anti-communist and member of the DNSAP. He had been raised in Russia and had seen the aftermath of the Russian revolution in 1917 — replaced Kryssing as the leader of Frikorps Danmark.

On May 8, 1942, the corps was ordered to the front line. The corps fought near Demyansk south of Lake Ilmen and Novgorod. During the night of June 2, Schalburg was killed. Hans Albert von Lettow-Vorbeck, his German replacement, was killed only a few days later. On July 11, 1942, Knud Børge Martinsen took command of the corps.

From August to October, the corps returned to Denmark, and it met much hostility from the civilian population. On November 13, 1942, the corps was deployed to Jelgava in Latvia. Originally, it was intended for anti-partisan activities, but it was then moved up to the front line. In December, the corps engaged in the Battle of Velikiye Luki in intense fighting, alongside the 1 SS Infantry Brigade.

In March, the corps was transferred to Grafenwöhr near Nuremberg in Germany. Then on June 6, 1943, the corps was disbanded. Most soldiers were transferred to "Regiment 24 Dänemark" in "Division Nordland". Others joined groups such as the HIPO Corps or Schalburg Corps.

Commanders[edit]

  • SS-Obersturmbannführer Christian Peter Kryssing 19 July 1941–23 February 1942
  • SS-Obersturmbannführer Christian Frederik von Schalburg 1 March 1942–2 June 1942
  • SS-Obersturmbannführer Hans von Lettow-Vorbeck 9 June 1942–11 June 1942
  • SS-Obersturmbannführer Knud Børge Martinsen 11 June 1942–21 March 1943
  • SS-Sturmbannführer P. Neergard-Jacobsen 21 March 1943–20 May 1943

References[edit]

In-line:
  1. ^ Bo Lidegaard (ed.) (2003): Dansk Udenrigspolitiks historie [The History of Danish Foreign Policy], vol. 4, p. 461
  2. ^ Lidegaard, pp. 462–3
  3. ^ Lidegaard, p. 463
  4. ^ Lidegaard, p. 464
  • Claus Bundgård Christensen, Niels Bo Poulsen & Peter Scharff Smith, Under Hagekors og Dannebrog - Danskere i Waffen SS 1940-45, Aschehoug, 1998. (In Danish with English summary). ISBN 87-11-11256-5.