Latvian Police Battalions

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Latvian Police Battalions were World War II paramilitary units created from Latvian volunteers and conscripts by the Nazi German authorities who had occupied the country in June 1941. Police Battalion recruits consisted primarily of those who had served in Latvian police, army and militia organization which had been disbanded upon the Soviet occupation of Latvia in 1940. Police Battalions carried out guard duties, raids against Soviet partisans and fought on the Eastern Front.

Formation[edit]

The first battalion (1st Schutzmannschaft Battalion Riga (later 16th Police Battalion Zemgale)), was formed in September 1941 and sent to the Eastern Front on October 21. The second of the Latvian police battalions to be sent outside Latvia left for Belarus on December 28, 1941 (numbered l7th by the Germans). The third (the 2lst) was sent to the front at Leningrad on March 30, 1942, but at first underwent training and built fortifications there. It was actually placed in the front line in July. The front around Leningrad was held not only by Germans and Finns, but also by Norwegians, Dutch, Belgians, Estonians, and the Spanish Blue Division. Shortly the 2lst Battalion was joined by another Latvian battalion whose commander Captain Praudiņš was soon arrested for anti-German remarks, sentenced to death by a German military court, but was saved by the vigorous protests from the Latvian Self-Administration. Praudiņš was stripped of his rank and returned to the front as a soldier. However, eventually he regained his rank and as a Major commanded a Latvian regiment in Courland in 1945 and received several high German decorations.

In Latgale the Germans formed seven police battalions out of local ethnic Russians (No 283, 314, 315, 325–328).

By 1943 there were 29 Latvian police battalions scattered all over the German-occupied Soviet Union from Leningrad to Crimea. For example, the 17th Battalion fought at Kharkov, the 23rd in Crimea.

Provision[edit]

The battalions were poorly armed. Therefore, they sometimes even had to steal automatic weapons from German supply depots. To improve the firepower of the 26th Battalion, corporal Žanis Butkus dug up weapons which he had captured as a leader of a group of national partisans in June and July 1941 and which he had hidden from the Germans.

Conflicts with Germans[edit]

Not all of the service was in the front lines, and the actions in the rear frequently brought Latvians and Germans into conflict. The Latvians had no desire to fight against national partisans (Poles, Ukrainians, etc.) who were against both Germans and the Soviets. For example, the Latvian battalions stationed for a while near Vilnius established secret communications with the Polish partisans and agreed not to attack each other (when the Poles mistook a Latvian company for Germans and did attack them, they later sent an apology).

A battalion on the other side of the former Latvian-Polish border prevented the German SD from collecting and sending Polish women to Germany in September 1943.[1]

Reforming and incorporation into Latvian Legion[edit]

In 1942, the 19th and 21st Latvian Police Battalions were attached to the 2 SS Infantry Brigade. The brigade was an international formation that included Dutch, Flemish and Norwegian volunteer Legions. In January 1943, the 19th and 21st Police Battalions were serving with the Brigade, impressed by their conduct, Heinrich Himmler changed the 2 SS Infantry Brigade into a Latvian Brigade and at the same time set the foundations for a Latvian Division.

The existing 18th, 24th, and 26th Latvian Police Battalions serving in Leningrad front were used to form the Brigade's 2nd SS Volunteer Regiment. They were then sent for training at Krasnoye Selo, where Himmler added the 16th Latvian Police Battalion to the brigade in February. On 18 May 1943, these Latvian Battalions along with the other three Latvian Legion Battalions were incorporated into the 2 SS Infantry Brigade, and re-designated the 2 SS Latvian Brigade (later 19th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (2nd Latvian)).[2]

In August 1, 1943 four battalions ( 278th Sigulda, 278th Dobele, 276th Kuldīga and 312th) were incorporated in 1st Police Regiment Riga (Lettisches Freiwilligen Polizei Regiment 1 Riga). On February 1944 two more regiments were formed – 2nd Liepāja (from 22nd Daugava, 25th Abava, 313th and 316th battalions) and 3rd Cēsis (from 317th, 318th and 321st battalions). From July 1944 all three regiments where involved in battles near Daugavpils where they suffered heavy casualties.

Six battalions (20th, 23rd, 267th, 269th, 322th and 271st) continued their fight in Courland Pocket until capitulation.

Police Battalions and Regiments[edit]

  • Polizei z. b. V. Bataillon 1 Meiers, October 1944
  • Polizei z. b. V. Bataillon 2, October 1944
  • Schutzmannschaft Front Bataillon 16 Zemgale, 22 October 1941 – 8 February 1943
  • Schutzmannschaft/Lettische Polizei Ost Bataillon 16, 21 March 1942 – 18 May 1942
  • Schutzmannschaft Front Bataillon 17 Vidzeme, 21 December 1941 – May 1943
  • Schutzmannschaft/Lettische Polizei Ost Bataillon 17 Rēzekne, 18 March 1942 – 18 May 1942
  • Schutzmannschaft Front Bataillon 18 Kurzeme, 13 January 1942 – May 1943
  • Schutzmannschaft/Lettische Polizei Ost Bataillon 18 Ērgļi, 18 March 1942 – 18 May 1942
  • Schutzmannschaft Front Bataillon 19 Latgale, 16 December 1941 – 30 January 1943
  • Schutzmannschaft/Lettische Polizei Ost Bataillon 19, 18 March 1942 – 18 May 1942
  • Schutzmannschaft/Lettische Polizei Wacht Bataillon 20 Riga, April 1942 – January 1944
  • Schutzmannschaft/Lettische Polizei Ost Bataillon 20 Abrene, 9 May 1942 – 18 May 1942
  • Schutzmannschaft/Lettische Polizei Front Bataillon 21 Liepāja, 25 February 1942 – 30 January 1943
  • Schutzmannschaft/Lettische Polizei Front Bataillon 22 Daugava, 25 February 1942 – 7 February 1944
  • Schutzmannschaft/Lettische Polizei Front Bataillon 23 Gauja, 25 February 1942 – 8 May 1945
  • Schutzmannschaft/Lettische Polizei Front Bataillon 24 Talsi, 1 March 1942 – 18 April 1943
  • Schutzmannschaft/Lettische Polizei Ost Bataillon 24 Venta, June 1942 – 1942
  • Schutzmannschaft/Lettische Polizei Front Bataillon 25 Abava, 6 March 1942 – 7 February 1944
  • Schutzmannschaft/Lettische Polizei Ost Bataillon 25, June 1942 – July 1942
  • Schutzmannschaft/Lettische Polizei Front Bataillon 26 Tukums, 6 March 1942 – 23 April 1943
  • Schutzmannschaft/Lettische Polizei Front Bataillon 27 Burtnieki, 14 March 1942 – April 1943
  • Schutzmannschaft/Lettische Polizei Front Bataillon 28 Bārta, 9 March 1942 – 13 July 1943
  • Schutzmannschaft/Lettische Polizei Ost Bataillon 266, 18 May 1942 – November 1944
  • Schutzmannschaft/Lettische Polizei Front Bataillon 267 Rēzekne, 18 May 1942 – 1 June 1943
  • Schutzmannschaft/Lettische Polizei Ost Bataillon 268 Ērgļi, 18 May 1942 – 3 February 1944
  • Schutzmannschaft/Lettische Polizei Wacht Bataillon 269, 18 May 1942 – June 1943
  • Schutzmannschaft/Lettische Polizei Front Bataillon 270, 18 May 1942 – 18 February 1943
  • Schutzmannschaft/Lettische Polizei Front Bataillon 271 Valmiera, 15 January 1943 – October 1944
  • Schutzmannschaft/Lettische Polizei Front Bataillon 272 Daugavgrīva, 1 July 1942 – April 1943
  • Schutzmannschaft/Lettische Polizei Front Bataillon 273 Ludza, 1 July 1942 – 15 July 1943
  • Schutzmannschaft/Lettische Polizei Front Bataillon 274, 1 October 1942 – 30 September 1944
  • Schutzmannschaft/Lettische Polizei Front Bataillon 275, 16 October 1942 – June 1943
  • Schutzmannschaft/Lettische Polizei Front Bataillon 276 Kuldīga, 17 December 1942 – 11 August 1943
  • Schutzmannschaft/Lettische Polizei Front Bataillon 277 Sigulda, 17 December 1942 – 11 August 1943
  • Schutzmannschaft/Lettische Polizei Front Bataillon 278 Dobele, 17 December 1942 – 11 August 1943
  • Schutzmannschaft/Lettische Polizei Front Bataillon 279 Cēsis, 4 January 1943 – 15 July 1943
  • Schutzmannschaft/Lettische Polizei Front Bataillon 280 Bolderāja, 23 January 1943 – 9 April 1943
  • Schutzmannschaft/Lettische Polizei Front Bataillon 281 Abrene, 23 January 1943 – 9 April 1943
  • Schutzmannschaft/Lettische Polizei Front Bataillon 282 Venta, 1942 – 15 July 1943
  • Schutzmannschaft/Lettische Polizei Front Bataillon 283, July 1942 – May 1944
  • Lettische Polizei Bataillon 283 (Russian), May 1944 – December 1944
  • Lettische Polizei Front Bataillon 311 Valmiera, 12 May 1943 – 2 July 1943
  • Lettische Polizei Front Bataillon 312, 15 May 1943 – 11 August 1943
  • Lettische Polizei Front Bataillon 313, 2 August 1943 – 7 February 1944
  • Lettische Polizei Bataillon 314 (Russian), May 1944 – July 1944
  • Lettische Polizei Bataillon 315 (Russian), January 1944 – April 1945
  • Lettische Polizei Front Bataillon 316, 2 August 1943 – 7 February 1944
  • Lettische Polizei Front Bataillon 317, 18 October 1943 – 14 February 1944
  • Lettische Polizei Front Bataillon 318, 25 October 1943 – 14 February 1944
  • Lettische Polizei Front Bataillon 319, 25 October 1943 – 8 May 1945
  • Lettische Polizei Wacht Bataillon 320, 21 December 1943 – 20 September 1944
  • Lettische Polizei Front Bataillon 321, 22 December 1943 – 14 February 1944
  • Lettische Polizei Front Bataillon 322, 23 July 1944 – 8 May 1945
  • Lettische Polizei Front Bataillon 325 (Russian), March 1944 – December 1944
  • Lettische Polizei Front Bataillon 326 (Russian), March 1944 – May 1944
  • Lettische Polizei Bataillon 327 (Russian), March 1944 – April 1944
  • Lettische Polizei Bataillon 328 (Russian), March 1944 – July 1944
  • Lettisches Freiwilligen Polizei Regiment 1 Riga, 1 August 1943 – 19 November 1944
  • Lettisches Freiwilligen Polizei Regiment 2 Liepāja, February 1944 – 26 October 1944
  • Lettisches Freiwilligen Polizei Regiment 3 Cēsis, February 1944 – August 1944

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Mangulis, V. Latvia in the Wars of the 20th Century. CHAPTER IX JULY 1941 TO MAY 8, 1945. Historia.lv.
  2. ^ Lumans, Valdis O. (2006). Latvia in World War II. Published by Fordham Univ Press. ISBN 0-8232-2627-1 p. 286