ϟϟ-Panzerkorps: Late January to early February 1943
During the initial defensive fighting, Paul Hausser´s élite SS-Panzergrenadiers held the line firm while a host of retreating Romanian, Italian, Hungarian and fragmented German units streamed westwards past them. As Waffen-SS troops fanned out across the winter wasteland, they had a series of vicious encounters with the advance guard of the Soviet 17th Guards Corps. Intermingled with the Soviet troops were retreating columns of the hard-pressed German 298th and 320th Infantry Divisions, who had marched across the steppe to seek safety in the west. In a couple of cases, Waffen-SS reconnaissance troops mounted raids to rescue recently captured infantrymen, racing into Soviet positions on their motorcycles and raking them with machine-gun fire. Image: Waffen-SS men steel themselves for the Battle of Kharkov. The Ukrainian winter tested the strength and endurance of the Waffen-SS élite panzer force to the limit. Credit: Tim Ripley. Commons: Bundesarchiv.