5th SS Panzer Division Wiking

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5th SS Panzer Division Wiking
5. SS-Panzerdivision Wiking
5th SS Division Logo.svg
Unit insignia
Country Nazi Germany
BranchFlag of the Schutzstaffel.svg Waffen-SS
RoleArmoured warfare
EngagementsEastern Front

The 5th SS Panzer Division Wiking (German: 5. SS-Panzerdivision Wiking) or SS Division Wiking was an infantry and later an armoured division among the thirty-eight Waffen-SS divisions of Nazi Germany. It was recruited from foreign volunteers in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Iceland the Netherlands and Belgium under the command of German officers. During World War II, the division served on the Eastern Front. It surrendered on 9 May 1945 to the American forces in Austria.

Formation and training[edit]

After the German invasion of Poland in 1939, Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS, sought to expand the Waffen-SS with foreign military volunteers for the Nazi "crusade against Bolshevism". The enrollment began in April 1940 with the creation of two regiments: the Waffen-SS Regiment Nordland (for Danish, Norwegian, Swedish and a minority of Icelandic volunteers), and the Waffen-SS Regiment Westland (for Dutch and Flemish volunteers).[1]

The Nordic formation, originally organised as the Nordische Division (Nr. 5), was to be made up of Nordic volunteers mixed with German Waffen-SS personnel. The SS Infantry Regiment Germania of the SS-Verfügungs-Division, which was formed mostly from Germans, was transferred to help form the nucleus of a new division in late 1940.[2] In December 1940, the new SS motorised formation was to be designated as SS-Division Germania, but after its formative period, the name was changed, to SS Division Wiking in January 1941.[3] The division was formed around three motorised infantry regiments: Germania, Westland, and Nordland; with the addition of an artillery regiment. Command of the newly formed division was given to Felix Steiner, the former commander of the Verfügungstruppe SS Regiment Deutschland.[4]

After formation, the division was sent to Heuberg in Germany for training; by April 1941, it was ready for combat. The division was ordered east in mid-May, to take part with Army Group South's advance into Ukraine during Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union.[5] In June 1941, the Finnish Volunteer Battalion of the Waffen-SS was formed from volunteers from that country. This unit was attached to the SS Regiment Nordland of the division. About 430 Finns who fought in the Winter War served within the SS Division Wiking since the beginning of Barbarossa. In spring 1943, the Finns' 2-year contract ended, and the Finnish battalion was withdrawn. During that same timeframe, the Regiment Nordland was removed to help form the core of the new SS Division Nordland. They were replaced by the Estonian Battalion Narwa.[6]

Invasion of the Soviet Union[edit]

Troops of the division in the Soviet Union in 1941.

The division took part in Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union, advancing through Galicia, today's Ukraine. In July and August, Wiking participated in the encirclement battles at Uman and Kiev. Later in August, the division fought for the bridgehead across the Dnieper River at Dnepropetrovsk. Finally, the division took part in the heavy fighting for Rostov-on-Don before retreating to the Mius River line in November, to hold for the winter.

In February 1942, the Soviet’s winter offensive had established breakthroughs on either side of the transportation hub of Izium. A Kampfgruppe was formed around the 1st battalion of the Germania regiment and the division's assault gun battery and sent north to help contain the Soviet thrusts. By the 25th of February, this Kampfgruppe was virtually annihilated in defensive battles near Izium against superior Soviet armored forces. Ultimately the front had been stabilized however, and conditions had been set for the devastating Axis counterattack at the Second Battle of Kharkov a few months later. [7]

During the spring of 1942, the division received reinforcements for the coming offensive, including a battalion of Finnish infantry and a battery of StuG III’s to replace earlier losses. In early June 1942, Wiking received its panzer battalion, making it among the first SS Divisions to be given its own armored contingent. The panzer battalion had just under sixty tanks, and was made up of two companies of Panzer IIIs and one company of Panzer IVs. The battalion was commanded by veteran SS officer Johannes Mühlenkamp. [8]

In the summer of 1942, the unit took part in Army Group South's offensive Case Blue, with orders to capture Rostov and the Maikop oil fields. After capturing both targets, the division came to a halt in the foothills of the Caucasus on 14 August. In late September 1942, Wiking participated in the operation aimed to capture the city of Grozny, alongside the 13th Panzer Division. After much difficulty, the division captured the Malgobek ridge on 6 October, but the objective of seizing Grozny and opening a road to the Caspian Sea was not achieved. The division took part in the attempt to seize Ordzhonikidze. The Soviet Operation Uranus, the encirclement of the 6th Army at Stalingrad, brought any further advances to a halt and later necessitated a retreat from the Caucasus.

After Operation Winter Storm, the failed attempt to relieve the 6th Army, Erich von Manstein, the commander of Army Group South, proposed another attempt towards Stalingrad. To that end, Wiking entrained on 24 December; however, by the time it arrived at Simovniki on 30 December, the Wehrmacht was retreating westwards. The Wiking Division was tasked with covering the retreat of Kleist's First Panzer Army back across the Don. Wiking held Simovniki for seven days, covering the retreat of several large German formations, taking high casualties in the process.. The division escaped through the Rostov gap and took up a new defensive position at Stalino on 05 February.[9]

Ukraine Battles 1943-1944[edit]

In early 1943, the division fell back to Ukraine south of Kharkov, recently abandoned by the II SS Panzer Corps commanded by Paul Hausser. In the remaining weeks of February, the Corps, including Wiking, engaged Mobile Group Popov, the major Soviet armoured force named after Markian Popov during the Third Battle of Kharkov. As the post-Stalingrad Soviet offensive exhausted itself, Manstein was able to stabilize the front.

In 1943, Herbert Gille was appointed to command the division. The SS Regiment Nordland, along with its commander Fritz von Scholz, were removed from the division and used as the nucleus for the new SS Division Nordland. The Finnish Volunteer Battalion was also withdrawn and they were replaced by the Estonian Battalion Narwa.[6]

In the summer of 1943, the division, along with the 23rd Panzer Division, formed the reserve for Manstein's Army Group in Operation Citadel. Immediately following the German failure in the Battle of Kursk, the Red Army launched two counter-offensives, Operation Kutuzov and Operation Rumyantsev. Wiking, together with the SS Divisions Totenkopf and Das Reich, was sent to the Mius-Bogodukhov sector. The Soviets took Kharkov on 23 August and began advancing towards the Dnieper. In October the division was pulled out to a quiet sector of the line just as the Dnieper–Carpathian Offensive overtook Army Group South.

In November 1943 the division participated in Operation Harvest Festival, engaging in the mass murder of thousands of Jews at Majdanek concentration camp.[10]

In the aftermath of the fall of Kiev in late December 1943, the 1st and 2nd Ukrainian Fronts of the Red Army encircled several German divisions during the Battle of the Korsun–Cherkassy Pocket in January 1944. Over 60,000 soldiers, including the Wiking division, were trapped along the Dnieper River. Roughly half of German forces broke out of the encirclement. Similar to other formations in the pocket, Wiking suffered heavy casualties and lost nearly all of its heavy equipment.

In early March 1944, while still refitting after its ordeal in the Cherkassy Pocket, the division was ordered to the town of Kovel to help contain a Soviet breakthrough. Only a portion of the division’s strength, equipped only with small arms, and the division commander Gruppenführer Herbert Gille, made it into Kovel before being surrounded by Soviet forces. A breakout was deemed impractical, as there was over 2,000 German wounded in the city.

By the end of March 1944, a relief force had been assembled outside of the pocket, lead by Obersturmführer Karl Nicolussi-Leck. This force was built around the 8th Company of Wiking’s 5th Panzer regiment, which had just received sixteen new Panther tanks. Fighting through determined Soviet resistance and heavy snow, the relief force broke through to the pocket on 30 March. Now able to be resupplied and receive reinforcements, Gille conducted counterattacks throughout April, culminating in the scattering of Soviet forces around Kovel on 24 April. [11]

Through May, the division received replacements for earlier losses, including Panzer IVs, Stug IVs, and Panther tanks. In early June the division was ordered west, to new defensive positions at Maciejow. On 06 July, the Soviet armored advance reached Maciejow. Wiking’s tanks and AT guns were well dug-in and camouflaged, and were able to destroy over 300 Russian armored vehicles in three days of fighting. After bringing the Red Army’s advance to a standstill in that sector, Wiking was dispatched to Poland on July 13, 1944. [12]

Warsaw battles[edit]

Warsaw Uprising insurgents inspect war trophies including an armband with the Wiking name
A German SdKfz 251 armoured fighting vehicle of the Wiking Division captured by the Polish insurgents

In late-August 1944, the division was ordered back to Modlin Fortress on the Vistula River line near Warsaw where it joined the newly formed Army Group Vistula. Fighting alongside the Luftwaffe's "Hermann Göring" Panzer Division, the division participated in the Battle of Radzymin. The German counterattacks brought the Soviet offensive to a halt and the front line stabilized for the rest of the year.

The division remained in the Modlin area, grouped with the 3 SS Totenkopf and the IV SS Panzer Corps. Gille was promoted to the command of the new SS Panzer Corps, and after a brief period with Oberführer Eduard Deisenhofer in command, Standartenführer Johannes Mühlenkamp, commander of the SS Panzer Regiment 5 Wiking, took command. Battles around Modlin followed for the rest of the year. In October, Mühlenkamp was replaced by Oberführer Karl Ullrich, who lead the division for the rest of the war.

In late-December 1944, the German forces, including IX SS Mountain Corps, were encircled in Budapest. The IV SS Panzer Corps was ordered south to join Hermann Balck's 6th Army for a relief effort codenamed Operation Konrad.

Budapest relief attempts[edit]

As a part of Operation Konrad I, the 5th SS Panzer Division Wiking was committed to action on 1 January 1945, fighting alongside the 3rd SS Panzer Division Totenkopf. Near Tata, the advance columns of the Wiking attacked the 4th Guards Army. The Soviet forces halted the German advance at Bicske, 28 kilometres from Budapest. After the failure of Konrad I, Wiking was moved south of Esztergom, near the Danube bend.

The second relief attempt, Operation Konrad II, got under way on 7 January with Wiking advancing south towards Budapest. By 12 January, the SS Panzergrenadier Regiment Westland had reached Pilisszentkereszt, 20 kilometres from Buda. Despite initial successes, the division was unable to exploit its breakthrough and was ordered to pull back and regroup.

A third attempt, Operation Konrad III, in cooperation with the III Panzer Corps, took place 100 kilometres to the south. It started on 20 January and achieved initial tactical success. The quick redeployment of more Red Army troops prevented a German breakthrough, turning the German forces back by 28 January. By the end of January, Wiking and Totenkopf had suffered 8,000 casualties, including 200 officers. --> On 13 February 1945, the division was ordered west to Lake Balaton, where Oberstgruppenführer Sepp Dietrich's 6th SS Panzer Army was preparing Operation Spring Awakening, an offensive at Lake Balaton.[13] Gille's remained as a support to the 6th SS Panzer Army during the beginning of the operation. Dietrich's army made "good progress" at first, but as they drew near the Danube, the combination of the muddy terrain and strong Soviet resistance ground them to a halt.[13] The division performed a holding operation on the left flank of the offensive, in the area between Lake Velence-Székesfehérvár. As the operation progressed, the division was engaged in preventing Soviet efforts at outflanking the advancing German forces. On 16 March, the Soviets forces counterattacked in overwhelming strength causing the Germans to be driven back to their starting positions.[14] On 24 March, another Soviet attack threw the IV SS Panzer Corps back towards Vienna; all contact was lost with the neighbouring I SS Panzer Corps, and any resemblance of an organised line of defence was gone. Wiking withdrew into Czechoslovakia. The division surrendered to the American forces near Fürstenfeld, Austria on 9 May.

War crimes[edit]

Following the killing of Hilmar Wäckerle, one of the division's high ranking field officers, in the city of Lviv, Jews in the area were rounded up by members of the division's logistics units led by Obersturmführer Braunnagel and Untersturmführer Kochalty. A gauntlet was then formed by two rows of soldiers. Most of these soldiers were from the Wiking's logistics units, but some were members of the German 1st Mountain Division. The Jews were then forced to run down this path while being struck by rifle butts and bayonets. At the end of this path stood a number of SS and army officers who shot the Jews as soon as they entered a bomb crater being used as a mass grave. About 50 or 60 Jews were killed in this manner.[15]

In addition, historian Eleonore Lappin, from the Institute for the History of Jews in Austria, has documented several cases of war crimes committed by members of Wiking in her work The Death Marches of Hungarian Jews Through Austria in the Spring of 1945.[16] On 28 March 1945, 80 Jews from an evacuation column, although fit for the journey, were shot by three members of Wiking and five military policemen. On 4 April, 20 members of another column that left Graz tried to escape near the town of Eggenfeld, not far from Gratkorn. Troops from the division stationed there apprehended them in the forest near Mt. Eggenfeld and then herded them into a gully, where they were shot. On 7–11 April 1945, members of the division executed another eighteen escaped prisoners.[16]

In 2013 the NRK quoted "the first Norwegian [to publicly admit] that he participated in war crimes and extermination of Jews in Eastern Europe"[17] during World War II, former soldier of the division, Olav Tuff, who admitted: "In one instance in Ukraine during the autumn of 1941, civilians were herded like cattle—into a church. Shortly afterwards soldiers from my unit started to pour gasoline onto the church and somewhere between 200 and 300 humans were burned inside [the church]. I was assigned as guard, and no one came out."[17]

The 2014 Norwegian book Morfar, Hitler og jeg (Grandfather, Hitler and I) quotes the diary of a division soldier from 1941 to 1943: "and then we cleaned a Jew hole".[18]


No. Portrait Commander Took office Left office Time in office
Felix Steiner
Steiner, FelixSS-Obergruppenführer
Felix Steiner
1 December 19401 May 19432 years, 151 days
Herbert Gille
Gille, HerbertSS-Gruppenführer
Herbert Gille
1 May 19436 August 19441 year, 97 days
Eduard Deisenhofer
Deisenhofer, EduardSS-Standartenführer
Eduard Deisenhofer
6 August 194412 August 19446 days
Johannes-Rudolf Mühlenkamp
Mühlenkamp, JohannesSS-Standartenführer
Johannes-Rudolf Mühlenkamp
12 August 19449 October 194458 days
Karl Ullrich
Ullrich, KarlSS-Oberführer
Karl Ullrich
9 October 19445 May 1945208 days


The organisation structure of this SS formation was as follows:[19]

Designation (English)[20] Designation (German)[21]
  • SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment 9 "Germania"
  • SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment 10 "Westland"
  • SS Panzer Regiment 5
  • SS Panzer Artillery Regiment 5
  • SS-Panzergrenadierregiment 9 "Germania"
  • SS-Panzergrenadierregiment 10 "Westland"
  • SS-Panzerregiment 5
  • SS-Panzerartillerieregiment 5
  • 5th SS Panzer Division Structure (1940):[22]
    • SS Regiment Germania
      • 1. Battalion
      • 2. Battalion
      • 3. Battalion
    • SS Regiment Nordland
      • 1. Battalion
      • 2. Battalion
      • 3. Battalion
    • SS Regiment Westland
      • 1. Battalion
      • 2. Battalion
      • 3. Battalion
    • 5. SS Artillerie
      • 1. Battalion
      • 2. Battalion
      • 3. Battalion
      • 4. Battalion
    • 5. SS Support Battalion
    • 5. SS Engineer Battalion
    • 5. SS Tank-Destroyer Battalion
    • 5. SS Anti-Tank Battalion
    • 1. Sanitary Company
    • 2. Sanitary Company
    • 1. Defense and Works Company
    • 2. Defense and Works Company
    • 3. Defense and Works Company

See also[edit]



  1. ^ McNab, pp. 167, 178
  2. ^ McNab, p. 167
  3. ^ Stein, pp. 103, 104
  4. ^ Stein, p. 103
  5. ^ McNab, p. 178
  6. ^ a b Littlejohn (1987) p. 53.
  7. ^ Gilbert pp. 181-182.
  8. ^ Gilbert pp. 195-196.
  9. ^ Gilbert pp. 202-204.
  10. ^ Silberklang 2013, p. 406.
  11. ^ Gilbert pp. 278-279.
  12. ^ Gilbert pp. 281.
  13. ^ a b Stein (1984) p. 238.
  14. ^ Dollinger (1967) p. 182.
  15. ^ Rhodes, Richard (2003). Masters of Death: The SS-Einsatzgruppen and the Invention of the Holocaust. p. 63, Vintage.
  16. ^ a b Lappin
  17. ^ a b Olav Tuff (91): Vi brente en kirke med sivilister
  18. ^ Ei ny fortid [A new past] "Bestefaren Per Pedersen Tjøstland var frontkjempar i 5. SS Panzer-divisjon Wiking frå 1941–1943, og skreiv for bladet Germaneren. Hans eigne dagbøker og artiklar er ei hovudkjelde, men Jackson skriv at det er umulig å vite nøyaktig kva han var med på. Kanskje seier det sitt at han bruker uttrykket «så rensket vi et jødehull»"
  19. ^ Williamson Gordon. "The SS Hitler´s Instrument of the Power". KAISER, appendix, p. 244, "Schlachtordnung der Waffen-SS/Waffen-SS Order of Battle"; copyright 1994 by Brown Packaging Books Ltd., London.
  20. ^ MILITÄRISCHES STUDIENGLOSAR ENGLISCH Teil II/ Teil III, Deutsch – Englisch, Abkürzung Begriff, Bundessprachenamt (Stand Januar 2001).
  21. ^ Official designation as to „Bundesarchiv-Militärarchiv“ in Freiburg im Breisgau, stores of the Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS.
  22. ^ Baxter, Ian (2018-05-30). 5th SS Division Wiking at War 1941-1945: History of the Division. Pen & Sword Books Limited. ISBN 9781526721341.


Further reading[edit]

  • Nash, Douglas E.; Spezzano, Remy (2016). Kampfgruppe Mühlenkamp: 5. Ss-Panzer Division "Wiking", Eastern Poland, July 1944. Southbury: RZM Imports. ISBN 9780974838984.
  • Nash, Douglas E.; Spezzano, Remy (2019). Unternehmen Ilse: 5. Ss-Panzer Division "Wiking" Eastern Front 27 April 1944. Southbury: RZM Publishing. ISBN 978-0974838991.
  • Nash, Douglas E. (2019). From the realm of a dying sun. Volume I, IV. SS-Panzerkorps and the battles for Warsaw, July-November 1944. Philadelphia: Casement. ISBN 9781612006369.
  • Nash, Douglas E. (2020). From the realm of a dying sun. Volume II, IV. SS-Panzerkorps in the Budapest relief efforts, December 1944-February 1945. Philadelphia: Casement. ISBN 9781612008745.
  • Nash, Douglas E. (2021). From the realm of a dying sun. Volume III, IV. SS-Panzerkorps from Budapest to Vienna, February-May 1945. Philadelphia: Casement. ISBN 9781612009575.

External links[edit]