Defeated by forces vastly superior in numbers after 2000 days of battle (I)

24.Waffen-Gebirgs-Division der SS

The once-mighty Waffen-SS panzers divisions inflicted heavy casualties on the Soviets in their desperate fighting withdrawal in the spring of 1945. The battered and tired remnants of 1.SS-Panzer-Division Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler5.SS-Panzer-Division Wiking and 9.SS-Panzer-Division Hohenstaufen marched into American captivity west of Wien with all heads held high after the ferocious fighting to escape the Soviets. So did what was left of 12.SS-Panzer-Division Hitlerjugend under the watchful eye of a Soviet tank column and 16.SS-Panzergrenadier-Division Reichsführer SS surrendered to British forces near Klagenfurt also Austria. 3.SS-Panzer-Division Totenkopf, together with Das Reich stubbornly defended Wien until April 15 1945 by fighting side-by-side in the southern wall of the city. When that collapsed they succeeded in escaping the Soviet trap only by crossing the left bank of Danube. After surrendering to the U.S. 11th Armored Division, at Linz in May 1945, the badly depleted Totenkopf were marched to Pregarten where the veterans were turned over to their sworn enemy, the Soviets, by the U.S. Third Army. The senior officers were executed on the spot by the NKVD, others were murdered as they were shipped to Siberia. The surviving remnants of the Totenkopf division later died in Soviet Gulags or were simply shot out of hand. Only few of them survived captivity to return to Europe. General of the U.S. Army Douglas MacArthur´s statement of July 8 1952: Hundred thousands of German prisoners of war we have handed over to the Soviets without any protests as slave-workers under violation of every human principle and every tradition. We have failed to resent the massacres. The Waffen-SS units that were dispatched to Heeresgruppe Mitte, found themselves trapped in Protektorat Böhmen und Mähren (Czech Republic) when World War II ended. Most of the troops tried to reach the demarcation line to surrender to the Western Allies. Elements of the Austrian SS-Panzergrenadier-Regiment 4 Der Führer of Das Reich performed a fighting retreat out of Prague. The regiment lead a convoy of 1000 vehicles towards Pilsen (Plzen) and surrendered near the Czech town of Rokycany to the U.S. 2nd Infantry Division in May 1945, saving several hundred ethnic Germans, mostly woman and children from the Czech communist partisans. The convoy was led by SS-Obersturmbannführer Otto Weidinger. However, part of SS-Panzergrenadier-Regiment 3 Deutschland of Das Reich was stationed east of Prague and completely cut off. Many were murdered by the Soviets and communist partisans, only a few managed to reach the demarcation line at Pilsen. On May 9 1945 the following message was sent to the divisional HQ: The regiment which had the honor of bearing the name "Deutschland" is now signing off. But in the end, the main body of 2.SS-Panzer-Division Das Reich managed to escape and surrender to the Western Allies. 10.SS-Panzer-Division Frundsberg was encircled by overwhelming Soviet units on the Czech-German border. Nevertheless, rather than formally surrender, the decimated Frundsberg managed to tear out a gap and headed westward. A few made it and surrendered to the U.S. 102nd Infantry Division on the Elbe River, but most were trapped by the Soviets or murdered by Czech communist partisans. The Czech communists resumed their hostilities on the surrendered Estonian 20.Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS regardless of their intentions. More than 500 Estonian freedom fighters were tortured and murdered. Some of the Estonians who had reached the Western Allies from Böhmen und Mähren were handed back to the Soviets. Images: SS-Obersturmführer Oswin Merwald (in tropical clothing) of 24.Waffen-Gebirgs (Karstjäger) Division der SS being guided to negotiate terms of surrender around Tarvisio in the northeastern Italy, at the border with both Austria and Slovenia. Although primarily focused on anti-partisan activities, the Karstjäger division successfully fought to keep passes into Austria open at the end of World War II, allowing German units to escape the Balkans and Italy. The remains of the unit finally surrendered to the British 6th Armoured Division on May 9 1945, one of the last German formations to lay down its arms. Oswin Merwald (sometimes incorrectly identified as SS-Obersturmführer Helmut Prasch) wearing a Der Führer cuff-title and the very rare Bandenkampfabzeichen in Silver (Anti-Partisan Badge) on his left breast pocket. The other SS-Obersturmführer is unidentified but wears a Leibstandarte SS cuff-title. Fair use.

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