6th SS Mountain Division Nord

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
6th SS Mountain Division Nord
6th SS Division Logo.svg
Insignia of 6th SS Mountain Division Nord (Hagall rune)
Active September 1941 – May 1945
Country Nazi Germany Nazi Germany
Allegiance Adolf Hitler
Branch Flag Schutzstaffel.svg Waffen-SS
Type Mountain infantry
Size Division
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Matthias Kleinheisterkamp
Lothar Debes

The 6th SS Mountain Division Nord was a German unit of the Waffen SS during World War II, formed in February 1941 as SS Kampfgruppe Nord (SS Battle Group North).

The Division was the only Waffen SS unit to fight in the Arctic Circle when it was stationed in Finland and northern Russia between June and November 1941. It fought in Karelia until the Finnish armistice in September 1944 when it marched on foot 1,600 km through Finland and Norway. It arrived in Denmark in December and then transferred to western Germany. It fought in the Nordwind offensive in January 1945, where it suffered heavy losses and surrendered to the American forces in Austria at the end of the war.

Their logo features the Hagal (Armanen rune).

Formation[edit]

After the Norwegian Campaign and the surrender of Norway, Adolf Hitler did not want units of the Wehrmacht (regular army) to guard the new border between occupied Norway and the Soviet Union, created when Joseph Stalin annexed northernmost Finland, so he decided to send units of the SS-Totenkopfverbände (SS-Death's Head Units) formed from concentration camp guards.

The first unit to assemble in Kirkenes, was the SS Battalion Reitz, named after their commander Obersturmbannführer Wilhelm Reitz. The SS 9th "Totenkopf" Regiment, led by Obersturmbannführer Ernst Deutsch soon followed.

They were joined in the Spring of 1941, by the SS 6th and 7th Regiments and moved into positions at Salla in northern Finland. The formation was well equipped but barely trained, and the commanding General Nikolaus von Falkenhorst did not trust their fighting ability.

Operation Barbarossa[edit]

The original plan for Operation Arctic Fox

The formation was in position on the Norwegian–Finnish border by late June and as the invasion of the Soviet Union (Operation Barbarossa) started they were committed to the attack, in Operation Arctic Fox.

Involved in the battle at Salla, against strong Soviet forces they suffered 300 killed and 400 wounded in the first two days of the invasion.

The battle at Salla was a disaster: the thick forests and heavy smoke from forest fires disoriented the troops, and the units completely fell apart.

The Brigade got a new unit attached, SS Gebirgsjäger (Mountain) Artillery Regiment 6, and was now designated as a Division, the SS Division "Nord". In September 1941 SS Division "Nord" was attached to the Finnish III Corps under Finnish General Hjalmar Siilasvuo (this was the only time that an SS Division was under the command of a non-German officer), and took up new positions at Louhi, Kiestinki.

By the end of 1941, it had suffered severe casualties. Over the winter of 1941–42 it received replacements from the general pool of Waffen SS recruits, supposedly younger and better trained than the SS men of the original formation.

1942/1943[edit]

The rebuilt Division was called into action against the Soviet spring offensive in 1942 and this time managed to hold its lines. Throughout the rest of 1942 and through 1943 it remained on the Kestenga front, which was quiet compared to other areas of the Eastern Front. In September 1942, the unit was renamed the SS Gebirgs-Division "Nord" (SS Mountain Division "North") and in October 1943 became the 6th SS Gebirgs-Division "Nord".

1944/1945[edit]

In the Soviet summer offensive the division held its lines in heavy fighting until it was ordered to withdraw from Finland, upon the conclusion of a separate armistice between the Finns and the Soviets in September 1944. The 6th SS Mountain Division then formed the rear guard for the three German corps withdrawing from Finland in Operation Birch and from September to November 1944 marched 1,600 kilometers to Mo i Rana, Norway, where it entrained for the southern end of the country. The Norwegian Ski-Battalion unit was then left behind, in accordance with their contracts. They were merged into "SS-und-Schi-Jäger-Polizei-Battalion 506 (mot.) with app. 50% men from different German Police units in South Norway. The rest of the Division headed for Germany.

After crossing the Skagerrak in a naval convoy, the division briefly refitted in Denmark. The Division's losses were replaced for the greater part of young Volksdeutsche (ethnic Germans) who had received only a brief training and had not volunteered but been drafted to the Waffen SS in the normal conscription procedure. Their fighting value was therefore correspondingly lower than had been the case with the former personnel and naturally lowered the combat abilities of the entire division.

The division was slated for participation in the German offensive in the Ardennes known as the Battle of the Bulge, but did not assemble in Aarhus, Denmark, until 20 December, several days after the attack had already begun.

Instead, the division was allotted to Operation Nordwind in the Low Vosges mountains of southeastern France. Arriving at the front lines just before New Year’s Day. Nord was the largest German division involved in Nordwind, and it had young and fit personnel compared to regular Army outfits. By 2 January, part of the division (SS Gebirgs Regiment 12 and 506th Battalion) went into action against the U.S. 45th Infantry Division, attached to 361st Volksgrenadier Division. For six days the SS men fought in and around the town of Wingen, finally being pushed back by the Americans with most of the battle group killed or captured.

On 16 January, the SS Gebirgs Regiment 11 surrounded six companies of the American 157th Infantry Regiment. The Americans were forced to surrender three days later, losing 482 men. The Nord advanced for four more days before being stopped by American counterattacks.

The Division remained on the western front after the Nordwind offensive, fighting the Americans around Trier and Koblenz on the Moselle River in March before going into 7th Army's reserve in April. By this point the division had lost most of its heavy weapons (officially to fuel shortages) and was grossly understrength. In May 1945, the unit's survivors surrendered to the Americans in Austria.

Names used[edit]

  • SS-Kampfgruppe Nord (February 1941 – September 1941)
  • SS-Division Nord (September 1941 – September 1942)
  • SS-Gebirgs-Division Nord (September 1942 – October 1943)
  • 6. SS-Gebirgs-Division Nord (October 1943 – May 1945)

Commanders[edit]

Area of operations[edit]

  • Germany (February 1941 – June 1941)
  • Finland & northern Russia (June 1941 – November 1944)
  • Norway & Denmark (November 1944 – January 1945)
  • Western Germany (January 1945 – April 1945)
  • Austria (April 1945 – May 1945)

Staff headquarters[edit]

Manpower strength[edit]

  • June 1941: 10.373
  • December 1942: 21.247
  • December 1943: 20.129
  • June 1944: 19.355
  • December 1944: 15.000

Order of battle[edit]

  • Division staff
  • SS Gebirgsjäger (Mountain) Regiment 11 "Reinhard Heydrich"
  • SS Gebirgsjäger Regiment 12 "Michael Gaissmair"
  • SS Gebirgs Artillery Regiment 6
  • SS Sturmgeschütz (Assault Gun) Battery 6
  • SS Infanterie Regiment (mot) 5
  • SS Infanterie Regiment 9 (until 1943)
  • SS Schützen (Rifle) Battalion (mot) 6
  • SS Gebirgs Panzerjäger (Tank Hunter) Battalion 6
  • SS Ski Jäger Battalion "Norwegen"
  • SS Flak Battalion 6
  • SS Gebirgs Signals Battalion (mot) 6
  • SS Gebirgs Reconnaissance Battalion (mot) 6
  • SS Gebirgs Pionier Battalion 6
  • SS Dina 6
  • SS Bekleidungs-instandsetzung (clothing repair) Company 6
  • SS Medical Company 6
  • SS Veterinary Company 6
  • SS War Reporter platoon 6
  • SS Feldgendarmerie (Military Police) Troop 6
  • 2 Political Company (consisted of Norwegian volunteers, subordinated to AA6 for short periods)
  • 3 SS Police & SS Company (consisted of Norwegian volunteers, replaced the destroyed 3./Skijegerbataljon June 1944)

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Halle, Frode 1972: Fra Finland til Kaukasus. Nordmenn på østfronten 1941–1945. Litt av deres historie—fortalt av dem selv. [From Finland to the Caucasus. Norwegians on the Eastern Front 1941–1945. Some of their history—told by themselves]. Dreyers forlag. p.231

Further reading[edit]

  • Roger James Bender & Hugh Page Taylor - Uniforms, Organization and History of the Waffen-SS, vol 2
  • Terry Goldsworthy - Valhalla's Warriors: A history of the Waffen-SS on the Eastern Front 1941–1945
  • James Lucas - Hitler's Mountain Troops: Fighting at the extremes
  • Marc J. Rikmenspoel - Waffen-SS Encyclopedia
  • George H. Stein - The Waffen-SS: Hitler's Elite Guard at War 1939–1945
  • Gordon Williamson - 'German Mountain & Ski Troops 1939-45
  • Gordon Williamson - The Waffen-SS: 6. to 10. Divisions
  • Massimiliano Afiero - Nord: La prima divisione da montagna delle Waffen SS
  • Franz Schreiber - Kampf Unter Dem Nordlicht
  • Alfred Steurich - Gebirgsjäger im Bild: 6.SS-Gebirgsdivision Nord 1940–1945
  • Johann Voss - Black Edelweiss: A Memoir of Combat and Conscience by a Soldier of the Waffen-SS
  • Wolf. T. Zoepf - Seven Days in January: With the 6th SS-Mountain Division in Operation Nordwind

Insignia[edit]

Vehicle Insignia:

  • The "Hagelrune", literally, "Hail Rune a stylized Life/Death rune, like a combined "x" and "i;"

Collar Patches:

  • Standard Waffen-SS collar patches; possible use of "Hagelrune" collar patch.
  • "Reinhard Heydrich" cuffband introduced 1943 for 11th Regiment
  • "Michael Gaißmair" cuffband given to 12th Regiment, 1944