|SS-Standartenführer Fritz Witt|
Advance towards Kharkov: February 19 – March 10 1943
SS-Panzergrenadier-Division Leibstandarte SS was to be the anvil of the counterattack based around Krasnograd, while Das Reich and the newly arrived Totenkopf Division swung south and then northwards, forcing the Soviets back onto the guns of the Leibstandarte SS. The Waffen-SS men raced forward at such a break-neck speed that Soviet and German troops often became intermingled. Taken completely by surprise by this unexpected German push, the Soviets retreated northwards in near panic. The Das Reich and the Totenkopf swung to the northeast and run parallel to the Soviet lines of retreat, hammering into the flunks of the fleeing enemy. What followed over the next few days was little more than a slaughter as the powerful Waffen-SS units wreaked havoc among the demoralized enemy. Two entire Soviet armies were destroyed, and over 615 enemy tanks were either knocked out or captured, most of them the latest T-34 models. Over 354 artillery pieces and 600 anti-tank guns were also captured during the first phase of the counterattack. Although they had to abandon their heavy equipment, many Soviet troops were able to make good their escape on foot. Around 9,000 were taken prisoner and 23,000 killed. Generalfeldmarschall Erich von Manstein's 350 tanks outnumbered Soviet armor almost seven to one at the point of contact. Once having rejoined the SS-Panzerkorps, after taking part in the destruction of the Kegitschevka pocket, Leibstandarte SS led the way back to the city of Kharkov. Image: The commander of the SS-Panzergreanadier-Regiment 1, SS-Standartenführer Fritz Witt. Witt was an original member of the Stabswache. Credit: Gordon Williamson and Tim Ripley. Commons: Bundesarchiv.