6th SS Mountain Division Nord
The SS Division "Nord" was a German army unit of the Waffen-SS. It was formed as SS-Kampfgruppe "Nord" in February 1941 in Norway but it was turned into a division in September 1941.
The division was composed of SS men used for garrison duties in Norway. It was transferred to Finnish Lapland prior to Operation Barbarossa as part of the German XXXVI Corps under AOK Norwegen. In July 1941 the division took part in Operation Silberfuchs with the German 169th Division and the Finnish 6th Division. Due to lack of training the soldiers were routed in the first attack against the Soviet forces at Salla.
The division was later attached to the Finnish III Corps operating in the Kiestinki area.
In September 1942 the division was renamed as the SS Gebirgs Division "Nord" (SS Mountain Division "the North") and in October 1943 finally as the 6th SS Gebirgs Division "Nord".
In 1944 the division took part in the Lapland War against Finland. After pulling out of Finland the division was transferred to Denmark and later to Germany. The division surrendered in May 1945 to US forces in Bavaria.
In the early spring of 1941 several Totenkopfstandarten, comprised of military age members of the Allgemeine-SS were transferred to Norway for garrison duty. SS-Kampfgruppe Nord (mot.) was formed from Totenkopfstandarten 6 and 7 (and, temporairily Totenkopfstandarten 9 in the late summer of 1941) as well as other units. The kampfgruppe participated in Operation "Silberfuchs" (Silver Fox), the liberation of part of Soviet-occupied Finland and the invasion of the Soviet Karelia. Inadequately trained, the unit suffered an inauspicious beginning with its defeat and rout at Salla in summer 1941. However, after being retrained under the tutelage of Finnish infantry, and repopulated with younger, more fit soldiers in the Waffen-SS replacement system, the unit performed well from 1942 on, often working in close conjunction with the Germany Army's 7th Mountain Division.
Later upgraded to a mountain division, Nord fought 1,214 consecutive days in the sub-artic taiga against the Soviets from July 1 1941 - 1944. One of the division elite components was the SS-Freiwilligen-Schikompanie Norwegen - a volunteer unit of Norwegians, Swedes and Danish expert skiers under Gust Jonassen used for ambushes and patrols. The division only departed when the German 20th Mountain Army was forced to withdraw from Karelia upon the conclusion of a separate armistice between the Finns and the Soviets in September 1944. The 6th SS Gebirgs Division then formed the rear guard for the three German corps withdrawing from Finland in "Operation Birke" (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.
After crossing the Skaggerak in a naval convoy, the division briefly refitted in Denmark before entraining again for commitment on its next mission in Operation Nordwind in the Low Vosges mountains of southeastern France. It then fought primarily in the Vosges and in the Saar-Moselle triangle during the remaining months of the war.
Chronological history of SS Division Nord
· February 1941: Feb 24 (28?): SS-Kampfgruppe Nord formed in Norway from German Totenkopfstandarten 6 & 7. Some recruits possibly from Konzentrationslager guards as well.
· April - May 1941: Kampfgruppe guards Norwegian coastline at Kirkenes & Vardö
· June 1941: Kampfgruppe assigned to Army Group North; unit strength: 8,048? - 10,573?. Brigadeführer Demenhuber replaces Brigadeführer Herrmann in command of SS-Nord. 6 days later, Herrmann announces to headquarters that Nord is unfit for combat due to lack of training and requests 2-3 additional months for training before committing to combat. General der Kavallerie Hans Feige, CO of XXXVI Corps, denies request and assures Herrmann that his men's high morale and firm determination will overcome their military shortcomings.
· June 10: Units begin to arrive at Rovaniemi
· June 17: Unit upgraded to a motorized division; begin advancing towards Soviet border
· June 22: Operation Barbarossa - Germany invades the Soviet Union
· July 1941: July 1: Operation "Silver Fox" - German & Finnish units liberate Soviet-occupied Finland and invade Soviet Karelia. SS-Nord assigned to German "Norway Army" with unit strength: 9,505. Assault on Soviet positions at Salla, after 2 attacks in which 5 SS battalions are skewered, the Soviets counterattack. Soldiers of the SS-Nord panic, abandon their weapons and run from the battlefield, suffering 86 killed, 232 wounded and 147 missing. The "Rout at Salla" becomes evidence for Heer officers that racial and ideological paragons do not automatically make good soldiers - only adequate training and preparation does. SS-Nord eventually rallies and participates in the failed drive to interdict the Murmansk railway at Louhi.
· July-Sept. 1941: Division assumes positions on the Kiestinki-Louhi road; small units broken up for retraining under the operational command of Finnish General Siilasvuo, the only instance of a Waffen-SS division with German troops under the tactical command of a German ally (although the Finns probably would have called themselves "co-belligerents!")
· August 1941: Nord suffers from heavy casualties due to combat and dysentery. Division receives 700 replacements; fortunately for Nord they are well-trained Waffen-SS troops.
· September 1941: Unit name changed to SS-Division Nord; upgraded to division all units returned to divisional command.
· November 1941: Division participates in last major drive to interdict Murmansk railway by Louhi.
· Dec 1941 -Sept 44: Participates in static combat along the Kiestinki-Louhi road, conducting long range patrols, raids and defense against multiple Soviet offensives.
· January 1942: Jan. 15: reconstituted unit as SS-Gebirgs-Division* new elements of unit to form in Germany.
· June 1942: June 17: upgraded to Gebirgs division.*
- The decision to turn Nord into a mountain division may have been made in January but executed in June.
· August 1942: returns to Finland
· September 1942: Division redesignated SS-Gebirgs-Division Nord Waffen-SS Norwegian freiwilligen. Gust Jonassen begins to form elite ski unit.
· Feb 1943: SS-Freiwilligen-Schikompanie Norge (Waffen-SS SS-Schijäger unit) attached to division
· July 1943: Waffen-SS SS-Schijäger CO Jonassen KIA
· October 1943: Some divisional officers transferred to 13th Waffen-Gebirgs Division der SS (kroatische Nr 1) Handschar
· Oct 22: Redesignated 6th SS-Gebirgs-Division Nord. Collaborationist force Norwegian Police Company #2 assigned to Skijäger unit
· January 1944: Waffen-SS SS-Schijägers expanded to battalion strength
· February 1944: Assault Gun Battalion transferred to 18th SS Freiwilligen-Panzergrenadier Division Horst Wessel
· March-April 1944: Collaborationist force Norwegian Police Company #2 withdrawn, replaced by 150-man #3 unit, which also operates under the Skijägers
· June 1944: June 25: Soviet attack; Norwegian ski volunteers suffers heavy losses (135 out of 300), Kaprolat; survivors are posted to SS-Polizei-Grenadier-Batallion (mot) 506.
· Sept - November 1944: Finland concludes separate armistice with the USSR. Division conducts rearguard action for withdrawing 20th Mountain Army. Skirmishes with some Finnish units during its 1,600 km road march to Norway.
· December 1944: In transit, Norway - Denmark - Germany.
· January 1945: Combat Operation "Nordwind" - the last German offensive of the west. SS-Kampfgruppe Schreiber (elements of SS-Gebirgsjäger-Regiment 12) attached to 361st Volksgrenadier Division, infiltrates through US VI Corps lines and seizes Wingen-sur-Mer in anticipation of armored reinforcement from Army Group G. Due to the failure of XIII SS-Armeekorps to break through US XV Corps units, Army Group G diverts panzers elsewhere. Unit troops at Wingen-sur-Mer must fight their way out of encirclement. Kampfgruppe "Wingen" loses over 500 men out of 725, but fights its way back to German lines. Remainder of division arrives too late to affect outcome of Nordwind, but SS-Gebirgsjäger-Regiment 11 cuts off & destroys six companies of the US 157th Infantry Regiment north of Reipertswiller in late January.
· Feb 1945: Division engaged in patrolling and defensive operations in the Low Vosges mountains.
· March 1945: Division transferred to Saar-Moselle triangle. Defensive combat against elements of US Third Army.
· March 16: Combat Pfaffenheck and Buchholz against a company from the US 90th Division and a platoon from the US 712th Tank Battalion
· April 1945: Retreats past Worms, Boppard, across the Rhine and deep into Germany... · May 1945: SS Division Nord surrenders to US troops in Bavaria
· Brigadeführer Karl Herrmann 02/1941 - 05/1941
· Obergruppenführer Karl-Maria Demelhuber 05/1941 - 04/1942
· Obergruppenführer Matthias Kleinheisterkamp 04/1942; 06/1942 - 10/1943
· Oberführer Hans Scheider 04/1942 - 06/1942
· Gruppenführer Lothar Debes 10/1943?
· Obergruppenführer Friedrich-Wilhelm Krüger 10/1943 - 08/1944
· Brigadeführer Gustav Lombard 08/1944
· Gruppenführer Karl Brenner 09/1944 - 04/1945
· Standartenführer Franz Schreiber 04/1945 - 05/1945