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The Story Of The "Nordland"

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    Name: 11.SS Freiwilliegen-Panzergrenadier Division "Nordland"
    Divisions Ärmelband: "Nordland"
    Regiments Ärmelband: Norge,Danmark,Hermann von Salza
    Divisional Status:June 1943
    Nationality:German, Dane, Finn, French, Dutch, Norwegian, Hungarian, Rumanian and Estonians
    Fought in:Croatia, Russia, Courland, Germany, Berlin
    Knights Cross:27
    Fate:Annihilated in Berlin April/May 1945.
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    Concept and Formation
    By 1943, the foreign legions of the Waffen-SS had proven their worth in battle many times over. The 5th SS Panzergrenadier Division Wiking, a volunteer division, had been in action since 1940 and had amassed an impressive combat record.
    However, the Wiking, whose enlisted men were predominantly Nordic volunteers, was officered by Germans. In February 1943, Hitler ordered the creation of an SS Division which would be officered by foreign volunteers. The Wiking's SS-Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment Nordland, a Scandinavian volunteer regiment, was pulled out of the line to be used as a basis for the new division. The division was originally to receive the name Waräger (Varangians) but the name was rejected by Hitler himself. It was decided that the division was to continue using the already-existing regiment’s name, Nordland.
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    The Nordland's two Panzergrenadier regiments were also given titles. The regimental titles were a reference to the location where the majority of the regiment's recruits were from, SS-Panzergrenadier Regiment 23 Norge (Norwegians) and SS-Panzergrenadier Regiment 24 Danmark (Danes).
    Despite most volunteers hailing from Scandinavia, the Nordland carried the widest range of nationalities found in any single division. By the end of the war, Danish, Hungarian, Dutch, Norwegian, Estonian, Finnish, French, Romanian, Spanish, Swedish, Swiss and British volunteers had either served in the division or been attached to it.
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    After its formation in Germany, the division was attached to SS-Obergruppenführer Felix Steiner's III (Germanic) SS Panzer Corps and was moved to occupied Croatia for training and to complete its formation. Soon after its arrival, the SS-Freiwilligen-Legion Niederlande was attached to the division and it began combat operations against Josip Tito's partisans. In late November, the Danmark regiment was involved in heavy fighting with a force of 5,000 partisans near Glina. During this period, the Nordland's Panzer Abteilung, SS-Panzer Abteilung 11, was given the honour title Hermann von Salza in honour of the fourth Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights.(b.1179-d.1239)
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    In January 1944, orders were received to move the division to the Oranienbaum front near Leningrad, under the command of Generalfeldmarschall Walter Model's Army Group North.
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    Leningrad to Narva - Battle of the European SS
    Nordland, along with the rest of III (Germanic) SS Panzercorps arrived at the front near Leningrad and was almost immediately put into action against Russian attacks to break the German encirclement of the city. After the encirclement was broken, the Nordland effected a 60 kilometer fighting withdrawal to Oranienbaum. On the 14th of January, a Soviet assault succeeded in collapsing the German front, and the Nordland again fought its way back to the city of Narva in Estonia, where a new line of defence was being organised. In early February, the Soviets began their attacks towards the city and the Battle of Narva began.
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    The Battle has come to be known as the Battle of the European SS because the majority of the defenders were European volunteers. Joining the Nordland were the formations from all over Europe. The Walloons of the 5th SS Volunteer Sturmbrigade Wallonien, the Flemings of the 6th SS Volunteer Sturmbrigade Langemarck, the Estonians of the 20th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Estonian), the Dutchmen of the 4th SS Volunteer Panzergrenadier Brigade Nederland as well as regular German formations. Altogether, the defenders of the Narva River line amounted to 50,000 men. Against them, the Soviets threw 200,000 men of the Leningrad Front.
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    The original attack was launched on February 13th, with the Soviets attacking right across the line, as well as launching an amphibious assault from the Baltic near Mereküla. The Nordland annihilated the Soviet landing force. Over the next five months, the European SS held against the Soviet attacks, the Nordland seeing very heavy fighting. In March, the Soviets managed to destroy the Narva Bridge, cutting off the troops on the far side of the river. The men of Nordland's Pioneer Battalion quickly rebuilt the bridge while under heavy fire. The launch of Operation Bagration in June 1944 resulted in Army Group North becoming trapped in the Kurland Pocket. After months of heavy fighting, the Hermannsberg bridge over the Narva was blown and the defenders were moved 25 kilometers west to the Tannenberg Line.
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    Tannenberg Line - Kurland Pocket
    The Tannenberg Line anchored on three strategic hills. Running west to east, these were known as Hill 69.9, Grenadier Hill and Orphanage Hill. From Orphanage Hill, the rear side of the town of Narva could be protected.From 27 July, Nordland fought alongside Sturmbrigade Langemarck and Kampfgruppe Strachwitz from the Grossdeutschland Division to keep control of Orphanage Hill. Despite the death of the Nordland's commander, SS-Gruppenführer Fritz Scholz, who was killed in the fighting, and the subsequent deaths of the commanders of Norge and Danmark regiments, the division grimly held onto Orphanage hill, destroying 113 tanks on July 29th.
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    On the 4th of August, men from Penal Company 103, a punishment company, were reinstated and absorbed into the Danmark regiment. The III (Germanic) SS Panzer Corps bled itself white defending the Tannenberg Line, until on September 16th it was pulled back into Latvia to defend the capital, Riga. Riga fell on 12 October, and by the end of the month all Waffen SS units had been withdrawn into what was known as the Kurland Pocket.From late October to December 1944, the Nordland fought fierce defensive battles in the pocket, and by early December the divisional strength was down to 9,000 men. In January 1945, the division was ordered to the Baltic port of Libau, where it was shipped out of the pocket to Pomerania. The division disembarked at Stettin, with the Panzer Abt Hermann von Salza being sent on to Gothafen for refitting. In late January, Nordland was assigned to Steiner's 11th SS Panzer Army, which was now forming in anticipation of the defense of Berlin.
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