5.ϟϟ-Panzerdivision „Wiking“ and the Kovel encirclement

SS-Gruppenführer Herbert Otto Gille and 5.SS-Panzer-Division Wiking
Panther n°634 of 5.SS-Pz.Div. Wiking in Kovel sector
An immobilized Panther of Wiking keeps fighting in Kovel sector
The Kovel encirclement: At the end of February 1944, 5.SS-Panzer-Division Wiking found it self in the area between Chelm and Lublin in Poland with the survivors who had been fortunate enough to escape the Cherkassy pocket. It was intended to reconstitute the division there. Then a call from the Führer Headquarters reached the division on March 12 1944. Wiking was to assist the defence of Kovel in Eastern Poland, which was under threat from a strong Soviet force. At the same time, Chelm and its environs were subject to massacres and revenge killings between Ukrainians and Poles. The most notable single day example of this occurred March 13 and 14 1944, when Polish partisans murdered 1,500 of the Ukrainians from Chelm region villages, 70% of whom were women and children. On the morning of March 16 1944, SS-Panzergrenadier-Regiment-Germania and Westland were loaded on trains. SS-Gruppenführer Herbert Otto Gille flew by Fieseler Storch from Lublin to Kowel. He landed there as planned and set up the command post. He acted with vigor and planned in great depth in order to improve the defensive posture of Kovel. But time was pressing. Two thousand wounded men lay in the city´s cellars, receiving only emergency care. Gille had his own doubts whether the city could be held until relief arrived. The first unit to arrive was Wiking´s SS-Panzer-Regiment 5. Commander was the daring officer SS-Obersturmführer Karl Nicolussi-Leck. He had already proven himself as an armor leader in the Caucasus. His Panzer Kompanie was well trained and newly equipped with 16 Panthers. It was further intended for the Germania of SS-Sturmbannführer Franz Hack and its 10 attached assault guns to accompany the attack. By April 10 1944 the Soviet encirclement of the city was broken and Wiking were pulled out of the line to continue refitting. In 1945, at the insistence of Joseph Stalin Poland's borders were redrawn, the Polish population was forcibly resettled and Kovel was incorporated into the Soviet Union. Top image: SS-Gruppenführer Herbert Otto Gille, in an observation post during a conference with SS-Standartenführer Mühlenkamp, preparing the attack out of the Kovel encirclement in March 1944. Photo by SS-Kriegsberichter Alois Jarolim. US NARA. Fair use. Bottom clip: a Panzerkampfwagen V Panther of SS-Panzer-Regiment 5 of the Wiking Division in Kovel sector, immobilized with track damage but the gun is in working order, and the crew continue to give fire support. Source: 5sswiking. Footage from Die Deutsche Wochenschau. Fair use.

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