||This article includes a list of references, related reading or external links, but its sources remain unclear because it lacks inline citations. (January 2013)|
November 7, 1899|
Riga, Russian Empire
|Died||April 17, 1944
|Years of service||1918-1940, 1941–1944|
When Riga, the capital of Latvia fell to the Germans on July 1, 1941, the Germans began forming self-defence and police forces. Lieutenant Colonel Voldemārs Veiss was appointed the commander of such a Self Defence organization. Veiss broadcast a radio call for volunteers to enlist and rid Latvia of "traitors", including Soviet functionaries, communists and Jews. Many enlisted, and the "cleansing" started.
On July 20 the Nazis disbanded this organization and ordered the formation of auxiliary police forces instead, with Lt. Col. Veiss being appointed Chief of the Auxiliary Police. At the end of 1941, he became First Deputy Director General of the Director General of the Interior when the Latvian Self-Administration was reorganized.
As early as autumn 1941 Latvian auxiliary police units, temporarily attached to the Wehrmacht, were first used in front line duties. This occasional employment continued until the 2nd Latvian Brigade was formed from six Latvian battalions, four of which had combat experience. At the end of April 1943 a three battalion formation fighting under name of Latvian Legion was withdrawn from the front line and renamed 1st Volunteer Regiment of the SS (Latvian), with a change of Wehrmacht ranks to those of Waffen-SS. Voldemārs Veiss was given command of this regiment, which was a part of the 2nd Latvian Brigade, and received a rank of Legion-Obersturmbannführer.
In September 1943, during the Siege of Leningrad, Veiss earned an Iron Cross 1st Class for his actions during the Battle of Spaskaya Polist and in October he was promoted to Legion-Standartenführer and appointed Infantry Leader of the brigade. In January 1944 Veiss led a battle group (Kampfgruppe) bearing his name and for his defence of Nekokhovo and personal valour he became the first Latvian to receive the Knight's Cross.
When the 2nd Latvian Brigade became the 19th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (2nd Latvian) he continued as the Infantry Leader of this unit. On April 17, 1944 Veiss died after having been wounded by a grenade seven days earlier.
In March 1945 the 42nd Waffen Grenadier Regiment of the SS (1st Latvian) was named in his honour.
- Silgailis, Arthur - Latvian Legion, ISBN 0-912138-35-1
- Lumans, Valdis O. - Latvia in World War II, ISBN 0-8232-2627-1, ISBN 978-0-8232-2627-6, Fordham University Press 2006