The Freikorps Danmark (called Frikorps Danmark by the Danes, sometimes listed as SS-Freiwilligen-Verband Dänemark) was founded in 1941 on the request of the Danish NS-party (Danmarks Nationalsocialistiske Arbejder Parti (DNSAP)) and with the approval of the Danish government. There were some trouble with recruiting officers until it was decided that they would keep their Danish rank (and pension) when they joined the Waffen-SS. The Danish soldiers swore an oath to the commander of the Wehrmacht and not the usual oath to Adolf Hitler.
Christian Peder Kryssing became the first commander of the unit even though he was not a member (or even supporter) of the DNSAP. Kryssing was soon replaced by pro-Nazi Christian Frederick von Schalburg (who at the time was attached to Wiking division) who finished their training.
Freikorps Danmark was transfered to the Eastern front in May 1942 and were attached to the Totenkopf division. They fought in the savage battles of the Demjansk-pocket and lost 78% of it’s manpower (including Christian Frederick von Schalburg and his successor Hans von Lettow-Vorbeck).
Freikorps Danmark was sent back to Denmark in August 1942 on leave. They returned to the Eastern front in October (with Knud Børge-Martinsen as the new commander) and was stationed near Nevel.
The unit was withdraw from the front in March 1943 and sent to the Grafenwöhr camp (near Nuremberg). It was disbanded 20 May and most of the Danes were transfered to SS-Panzergrenadier Regiment 24 Danmark (of the Nordland division).
Known war crimes
According to letters written by Danish volunteers no prisoners were taken after Christian Frederick von Schalburg was killed in action 2 June 1942.
Christian Peder Kryssing (19 July 1941 – 23 Feb 1942)
Knud Børge-Martinsen (23 Feb 1942 – 1 Mar 1942)
Christian Frederick von Schalburg (1 Mar 1942 – 2 June 1942)
Knud Børge-Martinsen (2 June 1942 – 9 June 1942)
Hans von Lettow-Vorbeck (9 June 1942 – 11 June 1942)
Knud Børge-Martinsen (11 June 1942 – 20 May 1943)
31 Mar 1942 900
May 1942 1.386
Nov 1942 1.800
Holders of high awards
Holders of the Honor Roll Clasp of the Heer
– Nielsen, Johannes Just, 15.07.1942, Legions-Untersturmführer, Freikorps Danmark
[Some Danes in German war service are known to have received the Knight’s Cross, thus, in February 1945, the SS officer Søren Kam became the third Danish proprietor of the Knight’s Cross. The SS Officer [Oberscharführer?] Egon Christophersen, received it July 1944. Source]
[On 15 February 1945 the newspaper Politiken brought an official statement from Berlin via Reuters that on 7 February Adolf Hitler had awarded Søren Kam, a company Commander of the SS-Panzergrenadier-Regiment “Germania”, the Knight’s Cross for “especially decisive action in the battle against the enemy” making Kam the third Dane to receive this award. The statement proceeded to mention that Kam had been wounded in battle several times and for battlefield bravery been awarded the Iron Cross Second and First Class, the Infantry Assault Badge, Close Combat Clasp and the silver Wound Badge and that he had seen combat in the battles of Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkiv, Cherkasy, Kovel and Warsaw. Source]
Christian Peder Kryssing (Danish officer who reached the highest Waffen-SS rank of any non-German, SS-Brigadeführer)
Christian Frederick von Schalburg (Landsungdomsfører, youth leader, of Danmarks Nationalsocialistiske Arbejderparti (DNSAP), the Danish NS Party, KIA 1 March 1942 as commander of Freikorps Danmark. The Schalburg Cross was created and the Danish SS was named the Schalburgkorpset in his honour)
The “Freikorps Danmark” cuff title was authorized for this unit.
A collar insignia with the Danish flag was briefly used in 1942 and when the unit was formed many members who transferred from SS-Freiwilligen-Standarte Nordwest continued to wear the trifos (three legged swastika) collar tabs.
A Danish flag with the text “Frikorps Danmark” in the upper right corner was used as unit flag.
(“For Denmark! Against Bolshevism! Sign up at…”)
During the course of the war, approximately 6000 (about 8000 according to Oluf Krabbe 1903-1999) Danes joined the corps, including 77 officers of the Royal Danish Army.
SS-Panzergrenadier Regiment 24 Danmark
In the spring of 1943 there was a great reorganization and expansion of the Waffen-SS. Many Waffen-SS units were dismantled and many new ones were created. One of the abandoned units was the Free Corps Denmark, and many of the Northern and Western European volunteers were now officially inaugurated in the Waffen-SS as they were to be included in new units. The Danish, Norwegian and Dutch volunteers who had been in their three legions were now gathered in the so-called “III. Germanian Panzer Corps “. This corps was to contain 2 divisions: Division Wiking and a newly created division, Division Nordland.
Division Nordland was to be constructed in such a way that the Regiment Nordland, which until then had been part of Division Wiking, should be the backbone of the division, while the Norwegians were transferred to 23. SS Panzer Grenader Regiment Norway and the Danes were transferred to 24. SS Panzer Grenader Regiment Denmark. The Danish regiment was colloquially “Regiment Denmark”.
The primary reason for the dissolved of the small legions and Free Corps Denmark was that the SS was tired of all the political complications surrounding the units and that the NS parties of the home countries tried to keep them under their influence. To fill the ranks, German officers were picked up from 1. SS Brigade and new Danish recruits from the SS Academy in Sennheim, and soldiers from the abandoned Free Corps Denmark’s Ersatzbataljon (reserve), which was currently residing in Mogilev, Belarus.
But all this was not enough to fill the ranks of III. Germanian Panzer Corps, nor Regiment Denmark, so 13,000 Romanians were picked up with “German descent”. And so the dream of a pure German/Germanic corps went slightly into disintegration. And it made the Danish volunteers outraged.
In a letter said a volunteer;
“These more or less folketyske ’Germanere’ [folk-German Germanic], who come from Hungary, Romania, Poland, Ukraine etc., should then be compared to purebred Danes of Nordic-Germanic blood”.
In another letter, a volunteer says:
“In some companies it has already been forbidden to speak Danish in the living rooms. Another place has a German Officer allowed himself to call the Danes for Poles. A greater insult to honour cannot be imagined. ”
The Danes also called these Romanians “Swamp Germans”.
The dissatisfaction did not reach common opposition to the SS management decision, but some deserted and some obtained repatriation.
Source: Nord Front
Battle of Berlin
On 16 April, Nordland was ordered back into the line east of Berlin. Despite recent replenishment, the division was still grossly understrength. From 17 to 20 April, the division was involved in combat all along its front, and withdrew into the city. On 24 April, the main Soviet assault was towards the Treptow Park area, which the rest of the Pioneer battalion and the remaining Tiger tanks of Panzer battalion Hermann von Salza were defending. Obersturmbannführer Kausch led the few tanks and armoured vehicles in a counterattack and succeeded in temporarily halting the enemy advance. However, by midday, the 5th Shock Army was able to advance again.
Later in the evening of 24 April between 320 and 330 French troops from the 33rd Waffen-Grenadier Division of the SS Charlemagne arrived in Berlin after a long detour to avoid Soviet advance columns. On 25 April, Brigadeführer Gustav Krukenberg was appointed the commander of (Berlin) Defence Sector C which included the Nordland Division. Joachim Ziegler was relieved of his command of Nordland earlier the same day. The French Waffen-SS troops now known as Sturmbataillon “Charlemagne” was attached to the Nordland Division. The arrival of the French bolstered the Nordland Division whose “Norge” and “Danmark” Panzergrenadier regiments had been decimated in the fighting against the Soviet Red Army forces. They each roughly equalled a battalion.
By 26 April, with Neukölln heavily penetrated by Soviet combat groups, Krukenberg prepared fallback positions for Sector C troops around Hermannplatz. He moved his headquarters into the opera house. As the Nordland division fell back towards Hermannplatz the Charlemagne and one-hundred Hitler Youth attached to their group destroyed 14 Soviet tanks with Panzerfausts; one machine gun position by the Halensee bridge managed to hold up any Soviet advance in that area for 48 hours. The Nordland’s remaining armour, eight Tiger tanks and several assault guns, were ordered to take up positions in the Tiergarten, because although the two divisions of Weidling’s LVI Panzer Corps could slow the Soviet advance down, they could not stop it.
The Soviet forces advance into Berlin followed a pattern of massive shelling followed by assaults using house-clearing battle groups of about 80 men in each, with tank escorts and close artillery support. On 27 April, the remnants of Nordland were pushed back into the central government district (Zitadelle sector) in Defence sector Z. Krukenberg’s Nordland headquarters was a carriage in the Stadtmitte U-Bahn station. Thereafter, the troops in the government district were pushed back into the Reichstag and Reich Chancellery.
On 30 April, after receiving news of Hitler’s suicide, orders were issued that those who could do so were to break out. Prior to that Brigadeführer Wilhelm Mohnke briefed all commanders that could be reached within the Zitadelle sector about the events as to Hitler’s death and the planned breakout. The break out from the Reich Chancellery and Führerbunker started at 2300 hours on 1 May. There were ten main groups that attempted to head northwest.
Fierce fighting continued all around, especially in the Weidendammer Bridge area. What was left of the Nordland Division under Krukenberg fought hard in that area but Soviet artillery and anti-tank guns were too strong. The Nordland’s last Tiger was knocked out attempting to cross the Weidendammer Bridge. Thereafter, several small groups reached the Americans at the Elbe‘s west bank, but most (including Mohnke’s group and men from Krukenberg’s group), did not break out. Krukenberg made it to Dahlem, where he hid out in an apartment for a week but then had to surrender.
On 2 May hostilities officially ended by order of Helmuth Weidling, Kommandant of the Defence Area Berlin and General of Artillery.
Berlin after the battle, May 2, 1945: A smashed armored personnel carrier Sd.Kfz 250 belonging to the 11th SS Volunteer Panzergrenadier Division Nordland, also known as 11.SS-Freiwilligen-Panzergrenadier-Division Nordland, on Friedrichstrasse after fierce fighting.
Denmark in WWII
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