List of Waffen-SS foreign volunteers and conscripts

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Waffen-SS recruitment and propaganda posters from across Europe

The Waffen-SS ("Armed SS") was created as the armed wing of the Nazi Party's Schutzstaffel ("Protective Squadron"; SS).[1] It grew from three regiments to over 38 divisions during World War II, and served alongside the Heer (regular army) but was never formally part of it.[2] By 1945, the Waffen-SS had developed into a multi-ethnic and multi-national military force of Nazi Germany, its divisions manned by volunteers and conscripts from across Europe.[3]

When Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party came to power in 1933, a number of paramilitary organizations already existed, namely the Sturmabteilung ("Storm Detachment"; SA) and Schutzstaffel ("Protection Squad"; SS).[4] Together, these two groups numbered more than three million men, a fact which deeply troubled the traditional officer corps of the German Army.[5][4] In 1933, a group of 120 loyal SS men were chosen to form the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler.[6] A year later, Hitler approved the formation of the SS-Verfügungstruppe, which, together with the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler, made up the early elements of what would eventually became the Waffen-SS.[6] It was Hitler's wish that unit should never be integrated into the army nor the state police, but remain an independent force of military-trained men at the disposal of the Führer in times of both war and peace.[7][8] It was commanded by Heinrich Himmler in his capacity as Reichsführer-SS.[9]

The Waffen-SS was initially given the lowest priority for recruits and its members were regarded as "amateur soldiers" by the regular army.[10] The Germanic Waffen-SS divisions had extremely tough entry requirements; out of every 100 applicants, only 7 were accepted.[5] Josef Dietrich, a high ranking SS general, insisted that all men of the Waffen-SS would have to be mature, a minimum height of 180 cm, between the ages of 23 to 35, in superb physical condition, and have a perfect ancestry record, with no hint of Jewish blood.[5][10]

Initially, only Germans that belonged to the Aryan race were allowed to join the Waffen-SS, but due to shortage of manpower when events turned against the Axis powers the Nazis dropped their racial restrictions and allowed foreign volunteers and conscripts to form Waffen-SS divisions.[11][12] The Nazis instructed all members of the Waffen-SS to fight against "Bolshevik subhumans".[13]

For all its expenditure and training, the Waffen-SS did not see actual combat until Germany invaded Poland, effectively starting World War II in Europe. It was then only about 10,000 men strong.[3] When Germany next turned West to conquer France and the Low Countries in 1940, the Waffen-SS had expanded to 100,000.[5] That same year, Himmler opened up membership for people he regarded as being of "related stock", which resulted in a number of right wing Scandinavians signing up to fight in the Waffen-SS. When the Germans turned East and invaded the Soviet Union in the biggest military operation in history, further volunteers from France, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Czechoslovakia, and the Balkans signed up to fight for the Nazi cause.[5] After 1942 when the war turned decisively against the Nazi Germany, further recruitment from the occupied territories signed up to fight for the Nazis.[5] Eventually units consisting of Russians, Indians, Arabs and even Britons were created.[5] At its peak, the Waffen-SS numbered almost a million men (38 divisions) from across Europe.[8] After the war, the unit was banned and declared a criminal organization for its heavy involvement in war crimes.[14]

List of foreign volunteers and conscripts by country[edit]


British Commonwealth[edit]









  • India: 2,500 in the
    • Indisches Freiwilligen Infanterie Regiment 950 or "Tiger Legion"


  • Ireland: Irish Brigade, SS Jagdverband



  • Luxembourg: 3,000+[32] in the
    • Conscripts of the Waffen-SS (until September 1944)
    • Volunteers of the Waffen-SS







Soviet Union[edit]


  • Armenia: 2,000 to 4,000 in the
    • Kaukasische Waffen-Verband der SS
      • Stab Kaukasischer Waffen-Verband der SS
      • Stab Waffen-Gruppe Armenien
      • Stab Waffen-Gruppe Nordkaukasus
      • Stab Waffen-Gruppe Georgien
      • Stab Waffen-Gruppe Aserbeidschan





North Caucasus[edit]



United States[edit]


Croatia and Bosnia[edit]



See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bender & Taylor 1971, p. 23.
  2. ^ McNab 2009, pp. 56, 57, 66.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i The Battle for Germany 2015.
  4. ^ a b Kershaw 2008, pp. 306-313.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g The Waffen-SS 2015.
  6. ^ a b Flaherty 2004, p. 144.
  7. ^ Reitlinger 1989, p. 84.
  8. ^ a b McNab 2009, pp. 56-66.
  9. ^ Lumsden 2002, p. 14.
  10. ^ a b Flaherty 2004, p. 145.
  11. ^ Goldsworthy 2010, p. 51.
  12. ^ Langer & Rudowski 2008, p. 263.
  13. ^ Stein 1984, p. 280.
  14. ^ Flaherty 2004, pp. 144-145.
  15. ^ Tomasevich 2001, p. 77.
  16. ^ Judah 2002, p. 28.
  17. ^ a b Nafziger 1992.
  18. ^ Tomasevich 2001, p. 496.
  19. ^ Lepre 1997, pp. 321, 329.
  20. ^ Thurlow 1998, p. 168.
  21. ^ a b Mitcham 2007, p. 144.
  22. ^ Kurowski 2014, p. Chapter X.
  23. ^ Bruyne & Rikmenspoel 2004, p. 75.
  24. ^ Merriam 1999, p. 8.
  25. ^ Abbott 2004, p. 41.
  26. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Mitcham 2007, p. 155.
  27. ^ The battalion was praised by many Waffen-SS commanders, even Heinrich Himmler, for its combat performance. Himmler said "Where a Finnish SS-man stood, the enemy was always defeated."[attribution needed] Neither the unit nor any of its members were ever accused of any "war crimes".
  28. ^ a b Source: Tim Ripley, The Waffen-SS At War: Hitler's Praetorians 1925–1945, 2004, ISBN 978-0760320686
  29. ^ This unit, the 8th SS Volunteer Sturmbrigade France was led by a former Foreign Legionnaire, Obersturmbannführer Paul-Marie Gamory-Dubourdeau. The 1st battalion of about 1000 men was attached to SS Division Horst Wessel and sent to Galicia to fight the Soviet advance. In fierce fighting the battalion suffered heavy casualties.[attribution needed]
  30. ^ 1 motorised infantry regiment (3 regiments from October 1944, but with French, Belgians and Spanish volunteers)
  31. ^ In the later stages of World War II Lainé decided to separate from Bagadou Stourm and integrate with the SS in the face of the assassination of several leading figures of the Breton cultural movement. One of those assassinated was priest and Breton language defender Abbé Jean-Marie Perrot, murdered by the communist terrorists of the French Resistance. The militia had originally been named Bezen Kadoudal, after the anti-Jacobin Breton rebel Georges Cadoudal. The 1943 assassination of the priest prompted Lainé to change the organization's name in honor of Perrot during December of that year. It had already been envisaged by German strategists that in the event of Allied invasion the Breton nationalists would form a rearguard, and that further nationalist troops could be parachuted into Brittany. [1] However, the rapid American advance from Normandy into Brittany forced the group to retreat along with the German army. In Tübingen many members were provided with false papers by Leo Weisgerber. [2] Following the war many of the organization's members, including Lainé, Heusaff and the nationalist poet Fant Rozec fled to Ireland.[attribution needed]
  32. ^ Until September 1944, Luxembourg was part of the German Empire, therefore the men were drafted into all German armed branches, no records were kept as "foreign fighters" because they were considered German.[attribution needed]
  33. ^ Mitcham 2007, p. 148.
  34. ^ Mitcham 2007, p. 149.
  35. ^ The number of Swedes who served in the SS is disputed, with estimates ranging from 180 to roughly 500. Gyllenhaal and Westberg in Swedes at War put the number of Swedes who fought for Germany at 200, the majority in the Waffen-SS.[attribution needed]
  36. ^ The thousands of Swiss, who fought for Germany, mainly entlisted in the Wehrmacht instead of the Waffen-SS. The numbers for members of the Waffen-SS range between 300 and 2,000 depending on the source.
  37. ^ Thomas, Nigel (2012). Germany's Eastern Front Allies (2): Baltic Forces. Osprey Publishing. p. 15. ISBN 9781780967349. 
  38. ^ At least 30,000 Georgians served in the German armed forces during World War II. The Georgians served in thirteen field battalions of up to 800 men, each made up of five companies. Georgians were also found in the Wehrmacht's North Caucasian Legion and in other Caucasian ethnic legions. The Georgian military formations were commanded by Shalva Maglakelidze, Michel-Fridon Zulukidze, Col. Solomon Nicholas Zaldastani and other officers formerly of the Democratic Republic of Georgia (1918–21).
  39. ^ SS-Waffengruppe "Georgien" was formed on December 11, 1944 and commanded by Waffen-Standartenfuhrer der SS Michail Pridon Tsulukidze.
  40. ^ Kasekamp, Andres (2010). A History of the Baltic States. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 155. ISBN 9780230364516. 
  41. ^ At least eight American volunteers are known to have been killed during their service in the Waffen-SS. They were Francesco Mattedi, a soldier in the Italian SS Division who was killed in Nettunia, 30 April 1944; Charles MacDonald, KIA near Johvi/Estonia, 14 March 1944; Raymond George Rommelspacher, died in Normandy/France, 6 October 1944, Edwin/Erwin Peter, KIA in Latvia, 2 July 1941; Andreas Hauser, died in Welikij in Ukraine, 18 January 1945; Lucas Diel, died on 9 December 1944 in Hungary; and Andy Beneschan, KIA in Bosnia, 16 April 1945. There were also numerous German-Americans who served in the Wehrmacht and as Waffen-SS officers during World War II. Among others were SS-Hauptsturmführer Josef Awender, a medical doctor in the SS ‘Frundsberg’ Division who was born in Philadelphia in 1913; SS-Untersturmführer Robert Beimes, a signal officer in the SS ‘Hitlerjugend’ Division, born in San Francisco in 1919. His father was a translator in the SD; SS-Hauptsturmführer Eldon Walli, born in New York City in 1913 in the SS-Kriegsberichter Abteilung (war reporters); and SS-Hauptsturmführer Paul Winckler-Theede, born in New York City in 1912 and served as a military judge in the SS ‘Das Reich’ Division.[citation needed]
  42. ^ Source: Heimdal "Dictionnaire historique de la Waffen SS", 1998.


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