Massacre of 3.ϟϟ-Panzerdivision „Totenkopf“

A young Grenadier of SS-Pz.Gren.Div. Totenkopf
Report of experiences of Hanns Bitterlich after surrendering to the U.S. 11th Armored Division, Third Army, at Linz in May 1945: The Americans denied any kind of food to the utterly tired men during the first four days. There were no blankets, no tents, nothing to eat. Crowds of civilians wanted to bring water in pails and other vessels. The American panzer-crews poured out the water and sent the civilian columns back. Thirst seemed to be worth than hunger for the young people, for many of them ran towards the guards and were shot down. On the fourth day at 07:00 the POWs of 3.SS-Panzer-Division Totenkopf were being force-marched to Pregarten into Soviet held territory by their American captors. On this road to Freistadt there happened a general massacre of German Prisoners of War by American soldiers. The men and leaders were so much bodily enervated - they simply could not go on anymore. The rate of marching speed was destined by the American panzers and was extremely fast, as 40 km had to be covered on foot daily. They dragged themselves to the road-ditch or let themselves fall into it. The escorting American soldiers jumped down from their panzers and shot from the shortest distance with their tommy-guns bullets into the temples or necks of the German Prisoners of War sitting or lying at the road-ditch. There they lay, the old Sergeant-Majors and Corporals, who had fought for years and who had gone with glad confidence into American captivity only four days ago - one beside the other at a distance of a few metres. From time to time, several tried to break out, but were mostly shot down by the elevated panzer machine-guns. It seemed that the American panzer unit wanted to win the same glory which we had acquired before in fair fight. Source: Wie ein Fels im Meer by Karl Ulrich. Image: Unidentified SS-Sturmmann of SS-Panzergrenadierdivision Totenkopf on Eastern Front. Commons: Bundesarchiv.


  1. GCollins30/8/11

    The Totenkopf division reached the American Zone by running fights and withdrawals, only to find out that the demarcation-line was removed for about 50 km to the west according to an agreement between Americans and Russians. Who has fought only against Soviets for years can imagine what this piece of news meant for every member of the division. The Americans refused the passing of the demarcation-line! The desperation and anger caused by this rose to extremes and the demarcation-line was broken through by force, the US barricades run over, an immense steam of vehicles poured forth into the American zone of Interest. The US Third Army were pissed having suffered losses when the Totenkopf broke through their lines.
    By the end of 1942 the Totenkopf had experienced virtually a complete turnover in personnel. The high casualty rates meant by late 1943 virtually none of the original cadre were left. However, its reputation lingered. The men the US 11th Division turned over to be slaughtered by the Soviets in 1945 were just ordinary Waffen SS troops. The officers were executed by the Soviets and only a few men survived captivity.

  2. not to mention operation keelhaul, the most disgraceful british act of world war two