The 2nd SS
Panzer Division "Das Reich" (German: 2. SS-Panzerdivision
"Das Reich") was a division of the Nazi
Waffen-SS during World War
II. It was one of the thirty-eight divisions fielded by the Waffen-SS.
Das Reich served during the invasion of France and took part in
several major battles on the Eastern Front, including in the Battle of
Prokhorovka against the 5th Guards Tank Army at the Battle of Kursk.
It was then transferred to the West and took part in the fighting in
Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge, ending the war in Hungary and
Austria. Das Reich committed the
Oradour-sur-Glane and Tulle
1 Operational history
2 War crimes
3 Post-war apologia
6 See also
In August 1939
Adolf Hitler placed the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler
(LSSAH) and the
SS-Verfügungstruppe (SS-VT) under the operational
command of the OKH, (Supreme High Command of the German Army). Events
during the Invasion of Poland raised doubts over the combat
effectiveness of the SS-VT. Himmler insisted that the SS-VT should be
allowed to fight in its own formations under its own commanders, while
the OKW tried to have the SS-VT disbanded altogether. Hitler was
unwilling to upset either the army or Himmler, and chose a third path.
He ordered that the SS-VT form its own divisions but that the
divisions would be under army command.
In October 1939 the
SS-Verfügungstruppe (SS-VT) regiments,
Deutschland, Germania and Der Führer, were organized into the
Paul Hausser as commander.
Thereafter, the SS-VT and the LSSAH took part in combat training while
under army commands in preparation for Operation
Fall Gelb against the
Low Countries and France in 1940.
In May 1940, the Der Führer
Regiment was detached from the SS-VT
Division and relocated near the Dutch border, with the remainder of
the division behind the line in Münster, awaiting the order to invade
the Netherlands. Der Führer
Regiment and LSSAH participated in the
ground invasion of the Netherlands which began on 10 May. On the
following day the rest of the SS-VT Division crossed into the
Netherlands, participating in the drive for the Dutch central front
and Rotterdam, which they reached on 12 May. After that city had
been captured, the SS-VT Division, along with other German formations,
were sent to "mop up" the remaining French-Dutch force holding out in
the area of
Zeeland and the islands of Walcheren and South
After the fighting in the Netherlands ended, the SS-VT Division was
ordered to make for France. On 24 May the LSSAH, along with the
SS-VT Division were positioned to hold the perimeter around Dunkirk
and reduce the size of the pocket containing the encircled British
Expeditionary Force and French forces. A patrol from the SS-VT
Division crossed the canal at Saint-Venant, but was destroyed by
British armor. A larger force from the SS-VT Division then crossed the
canal and formed a bridgehead at Saint-Venant; 30 miles from
Dunkirk. On the following day, British forces attacked
Saint-Venant, forcing the SS-VT Division to retreat and relinquish
ground. On 26 May the German advance resumed. On 27 May the
Deutschland regiment of the SS-VT Division reached the allied
defensive line on the
Leie River at Merville. They forced a bridgehead
across the river and waited for the SS Division Totenkopf to arrive to
cover their flank. What arrived first was a unit of British tanks,
which penetrated their position. The SS-VT managed to hold on against
the British tank force, which got to within 15 feet of commander Felix
Steiner's position. Only the arrival of the Totenkopf Panzerjäger
platoon saved the Deutschland from being destroyed and their
bridgehead lost. By 30 May, most of the remaining Allied forces
had been pushed back into
Dunkirk where they were evacuated by sea to
England. The SS-VT Division next took part in the drive towards
USSR, 21 June 1941
After the close of the Battle of France, the SS-VT was officially
Waffen-SS in July 1940. In December 1940 the Germania
Regiment was removed from the Verfügungs-Division and used to form
the cadre of a new division, SS Division Germania. It was made up
of mostly Danes, Norwegians, Dutch and Flemish volunteers from the
occupied territories. By the start of 1941 the division was
renamed "Reich" (in 1942 "Das Reich"), and "Germania" was renamed
In April 1941, Germany invaded Yugoslavia and Greece. The LSSAH and
Das Reich were attached to separate army
Panzer Corps. Fritz
Klingenberg, a company commander in the Das Reich, led his men across
Yugoslavia to the capital, Belgrade, where a small group in the
vanguard accepted the surrender of the city on 13 April. A few days
later Yugoslavia surrendered.
For the invasion of the Soviet Union (Operation Barbarossa), Das Reich
fought with Army Group Center, taking part in the Battle of Yelnya
near Smolensk; it was then in the spearhead of
Operation Typhoon aimed
at the capture of the Soviet capital. By the time Das Reich took part
in the Battle of Moscow, it had lost 60 percent of its combat
strength. It was further reduced in the Soviet Winter
Counter-Offensive: for example, the Der Führer
Regiment was down to
35 men out of the 2,000 that had started the campaign in June. The
division was "mauled". By February 1942, it had lost 10,690
men. By mid-1942, the division now known as Das Reich was pulled
out of the fighting line and sent to the west to refit as a
In 1943, Das Reich was transferred back from France to the Eastern
Front. There it participated in the fighting around Kharkov.
Thereafter, it was one of three SS divisions which made up the II SS
Panzer Corps, which took part in the
Battle of Kursk
Battle of Kursk that summer.
Das Reich operated in the southern sector of the Kursk bulge. It was
pulled out of the battle along with the other SS divisions when the
offensive was discontinued, giving the strategic initiative to the Red
Battle of Kursk
Battle of Kursk was the first time that a German
strategic offensive was halted before it could break through enemy
defences and penetrate to its strategic depths. In October, Das
Reich was redesignated, this time as SS
Panzer Division "Das Reich" to
reflect its complement of tanks.
Beginning on 6 June 1944, the Allied
Normandy landings took place on
the coast of France. At that time, SS-Das Reich was located in
Southern France. The division was ordered north shortly after the
Normandy landings occurred. On 4 August Hitler ordered a
counter-offensive (Operation Lüttich) from Vire towards Avranches;
the operation included Das Reich. However, the Allied forces were
prepared for this offensive, and an air assault on the combined German
units proved devastating. Paris was liberated on 25 August, and
the last of the German forces withdrew over the
Seine by the end of
August, ending the Normandy campaign. The U.S. 2nd Armored
Division had encircled Das Reich and the 17th SS Panzergrenadier
Division Götz von Berlichingen around Roncey. In the process Das
Reich and 17th SS Panzergrenadier Division had lost most of their
armored equipment. Das Reich had about 2,650 men along with 14
75-mm. antitank guns, about 37 artillery pieces, 1 assault gun, and 1
Panther tank with two other tanks in the repair shop by September
1944. The division surrendered to the U.S. Army in May 1945.
One of the war crimes took place at Laclotte Castle on 7 June 1944. At
right, the location where civilians were shot.
After the Allied second front opened on 6 June 1944, all resistance
groups joined "into the uprising". Part of Das Reich was ordered to
attack strongholds of the rural guerrilla bands of French Resistance
fighters as it moved to Normandy. After a successful FTP offensive
on 7 and 8 June 1944, Das Reich was ordered to the Tulle-Limoges
area. The arrival of Das Reich troops "rescued the beleaguered"
army troops and ended the fighting in the city of Tulle. On 9
June, in reprisal for the German losses, the SS hanged 99 men from the
town and another 149 were deported back to Germany.
Further information: Oradour-sur-Glane
Burned out cars and buildings still litter the untouched remains of
the original village of Oradour-sur-Glane
The division massacred 642 French civilians in the village of
Oradour-sur-Glane on 10 June 1944 in the Limousin region.
SS-Sturmbannführer Adolf Diekmann, commander of the I Battalion, 4th
Regiment (Der Führer) that committed the massacre,
claimed that it was a just retaliation due to partisan activity in
Tulle and the kidnapping of Sturmbannführer Helmut Kämpfe,
commander of the III Battalion, although the German authorities had
already executed ninety-nine people in the
Tulle massacre, following
the killing of some forty German soldiers in
Tulle by the Maquis
On 10 June, Diekmann's battalion sealed off Oradour-sur-Glane, and
ordered all the townspeople to assemble in the village square,
ostensibly to have their identity papers examined. All the women and
children were locked in the church. The men were led to six barns and
sheds. One of the six survivors of the massacre, Robert Hebras,
described the killings as a deliberate act of mass murder. In 2013, he
told the U.K. newspaper The Mirror that the SS intentionally burned
men, women, and children after locking them in the church and spraying
it with machine gun fire:
It was simply an execution. There were a handful of Nazis in front of
us, in their uniforms. They just raised their machine guns and started
firing across us, at our legs to stop us getting out. They were
strafing, not aiming. Men in front of me just started falling. I got
caught by several bullets, but I survived because those in front of me
got the full impact. I was so lucky. Four of us in the barn managed to
get away because we remained completely still under piles of bodies.
One man tried to get away before they had gone – he was shot dead.
The SS were walking around and shooting anything that moved. They
poured petrol on bodies and then set them alight."
Marcel Darthout's experience was similar. His testimony appears in
historian Sara Farmer's 2000 book Martyred Village: Commemorating the
1944 Massacre at Oradour-sur-Glane:
We felt the bullets, which brought me down. I dove... everyone was on
top of me. And they were still firing. And there was shouting. And
crying. I had a friend who was lying on top of me and who was moaning.
And then it was over. No more shots. And they came at us, stepping on
us. And with a rifle they finished us off. They finished off my friend
who was on top of me. I felt it when he died.
Darthout and Hebras' eyewitness testimony was corroborated by other
survivors of the massacre. One other survivor, Roger Godfrin, escaped
from the school for refugees despite being shot at by SS soldiers.
Only one woman, Marguerite Rouffanche, survived from the church. She
later testified that at about five in the afternoon, two German
soldiers placed a crate of explosives on the altar and attached a fuse
to it. She and another women and her baby hid behind the sacristy;
after the explosion they climbed on a stool and jumped out of a window
three meters from the ground. A burst of machine gun fire hit all of
them, but Rouffanche was able to crawl into the presbytery garden. The
woman and infant were killed.
Diekmann was later killed in the battle of Normandy in 1944. On 12
January 1953, a military tribunal in Bordeaux, heard the case against
the surviving sixty-five of the approximately two hundred SS soldiers
who had been involved. Only twenty-one of them were present. Seven of
them were Germans, but fourteen were Alsatians, (French nationals of
Germanic culture). On 11 February, twenty defendants were found
guilty, but were released after only a few months for lack of
evidence. In December 2011 German police raided the homes of six
former members of the division, all aged 85 or 86, to determine
exactly what role the men had played that day.
Following the war, one of the regimental commander of the division,
Otto Weidinger, wrote an apologia of the division under the auspices
of HIAG, the revisionist organization and a lobby group of former
Waffen-SS members. The unit narrative was extensive and strived for a
so-called official representation of their history, backed by maps and
operational orders. "No less than 5 volumes and well over 2,000 pages
were devoted to the doings of the 2nd
Panzer Division Das Reich",
points out the military historian S.P. MacKenzie.
The Das Reich history was published by HIAG's publishing house Munin
Verlag. Its express aim was to publish the "war narratives" of former
Waffen-SS member, and the titles did not go through the rigorous
fact-checking processes common in the traditional historical works;
they were revisionist accounts unedited by professional historians and
presented the former
Waffen-SS members' version of events. The Das
Reich divisional history, like other
HIAG publications, focused on the
positive, "heroic" side of National Socialism. The French author
Jean-Paul Picaper, who studied the Oradour massacre, notes the
tendentious nature of Weidinger's narrative: it provided a sanitized
version of history without any references to war crimes.
SS-Sturmbannführer Wilhelm Kment, Prior to 1935
SS-Obergruppenführer Paul Hausser, 19 October 1939 – 14 October
SS-Brigadeführer Wilhelm Bittrich, 14 October 1941 – 31 December
SS-Brigadeführer Matthias Kleinheisterkamp, 31 December 1941 – 19
SS-Gruppenführer Georg Keppler, 19 April 1942 – 10 February 1943
SS-Brigadeführer Herbert-Ernst Vahl, 10 February 1943 – 18 March
SS-Standartenführer Kurt Brasack, 18 March 1943 – 29 March 1943
SS-Gruppenführer Walter Krüger, 29 March 1943 – 23 October 1943
SS-Brigadeführer Heinz Lammerding, 23 October 1943 – 24 July 1944
SS-Obersturmbannführer Christian Tychsen, 24 July 1944 – 28 July
SS-Oberführer Otto Baum, 28 July 1944 – 23 October 1944
SS-Brigadeführer Heinz Lammerding, 23 October 1944 – 20 January
SS-Standartenführer Karl Kreutz, 20 January 1945 – 4 February 1945
SS-Gruppenführer Werner Ostendorff, 4 February 1945 – 9 March 1945
SS-Standartenführer Rudolf Lehmann, 9 March 1945 – 13 April 1945
SS-Standartenführer Karl Kreutz, 13 April 1945 – 8 May
The main organisation structure of this SS formation was as follows:
Regiment 3 "Deutschland"
Regiment 4 "Der Führer"
SS-Panzergrenadierregiment 3 "Deutschland"
SS-Panzergrenadierregiment 4 "Der Führer"
Organisation of a SS
^ Official designation in
German language as to
„Bundesarchiv-Militärarchiv“ in Freiburg im Breisgau, stores of
Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS.
^ a b Flaherty 2004, p. 149.
^ Stein 1984, p. 32.
^ Flaherty 2004, pp. 149–151.
^ a b Flaherty 2004, p. 152.
^ Stein 1984, pp. 62–64.
^ Stein 1984, pp. 65–66.
^ Stein 1984, p. 66.
^ Stein 1984, pp. 65–69.
^ a b Flaherty 2004, p. 154.
^ Flaherty 2004, p. 155.
^ a b Flaherty 2004, p. 156.
^ Stein 1984, p. 103.
^ Flaherty 2004, p. 160.
^ Stein 1984, p. 104.
^ Flaherty 2004, pp. 162, 163.
^ Flaherty 2004, p. 168.
^ Stein 1984, p. 167.
^ Flaherty 2004, p. 173.
^ Stein 1984, pp. 204, 207.
^ Clark 2012, p. 247.
^ Glantz 1986, p. 66.
^ Glantz 2013, p. 184.
^ Stein 1984, p. 210.
^ McNab 2013, p. 295.
^ Hastings 2013, p. ?.
^ Stein 1984, pp. 222–223.
^ Shirer 1960, pp. 1085–1086.
^ a b Zaloga p. 3
^ MacDonald 1963, p. 51.
^ Farmer, Sarah. Martyred Village: Commemorating the 1944 Massacre at
Oradour-sur-Glane. University of California Press, 2000, pp. 46, 47.
^ a b c Farmer, p. 49.
^ Parry, Tom (2 February 2013). "'I played dead as SS beasts wiped out
my entire village': Last witness of Nazi massacre tells his story".
mirror.co.uk. Retrieved 1 April 2018.
^ a b Farmer, Sarah. Martyred Village: Commemorating the 1944 Massacre
at Oradour-sur-Glane. University of California Press, 2000.
^ "Ex-SS soldiers face massacre charges". independent.co.uk. 6
December 2011. Retrieved 1 April 2018.
^ MacKenzie 1997, p. 138.
^ Wilke 2011, p. 379.
^ Picaper 2014.
^ GORDON WILLIAMSON: “The SS Hitler´s Instrument of the power”;
published by KAISER; appendix, page 244, “Schlachtordnung der
Waffen-SS order of battle”; copyright 1994 by Brown
Packaging Books Ltd., London.
^ MILITÄRISCHES STUDIENGLOSAR ENGLISCH Teil II/ Teil III, Deutsch –
Englisch, Abkürzung Begriff, Bundessprachenamt (Stand Januar 2001).
^ Official designation as to „Bundesarchiv-Militärarchiv“ in
Freiburg im Breisgau, stores of the
Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS.
Bessel, Richard (2006). Nazism and War. New York: Modern Library.
Clark, Lloyd (2012). Kursk: The Greatest Battle: Eastern Front 1943.
London: Headline Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-7553-3639-5.
Flaherty, T.H. (2004) . The Third Reich: The SS. Time-Life
Books. ISBN 1-84447-073-3.
Glantz, David M. (September 1986). "Soviet Defensive Tactics at Kursk,
July 1943" (PDF). U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. Ft.
Belvoir. Soviet Army Studies Office Combined Arms Center Combat
Studies Institute (CSI Report No. 11). OCLC 320412485. Archived
from the original (PDF) on 2015-05-18.
Glantz, David M. (2013). Soviet Military Intelligence in War. London:
Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-1-136-28934-7.
Hastings, Max (2013) . Das Reich: The March of the 2nd SS Panzer
Division Through France, June 1944. Zenith Military Classics. Zenith
Press. ISBN 978-0760344910.
MacKenzie, S.P. (1997). Revolutionary Armies in the Modern Era: A
Revisionist Approach. New York: Routledge.
MacDonald, Charles B. The Siegfried Line Campaign (Publication 7-7).
Retrieved July 24, 2016.
McNab, Chris (2013). Hitler's Elite: The SS 1939–45. Osprey.
Picaper, Jean-Paul (2014). Les Ombres d'Oradour: 10 Juin 1944 [The
Shadows of Oradour: 10 June 1944] (in French). Paris: Éditions
l'Archipel. ISBN 978-2-8098-1467-5.
Penaud, Guy (2005). La Das Reich : 2e SS Panzer-Division (in
French). Périgueux: Lauze. ISBN 978-2-912032-76-8.
Shirer, William L. (1960). The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. New
York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0-671-62420-0.
Stein, George H. (1984). The Waffen SS: Hitler's Elite Guard at War,
1939–1945. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Wilke, Karsten (2011). Die "Hilfsgemeinschaft auf Gegenseitigkeit"
(HIAG) 1950–1990: Veteranen der
Waffen-SS in der Bundesrepublik
Waffen-SS veterans in the Federal Republic] (in
German). Paderborn: Schoeningh Ferdinand GmbH.
Zaloga, Steven. US Tank Battles in France 1944-45.
1st SS Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler
2nd SS Division Das Reich
3rd SS Division Totenkopf
5th SS Division Wiking
9th SS Division Hohenstaufen
10th SS Division Frundsberg
12th SS Division Hitlerjugend
4th SS Polizei Panzergrenadier Division
11th SS Volunteer Panzergrenadier Division Nordland
16th SS Panzergrenadier Division Reichsführer-SS
17th SS Panzergrenadier Division Götz von Berlichingen
18th SS Volunteer Panzergrenadier Division Horst Wessel
23rd SS Volunteer Panzergrenadier Division Nederland
6th SS Mountain Division Nord
7th SS Volunteer Mountain Division Prinz Eugen
13th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Handschar (1st Croatian)
21st Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Skanderbeg
21st Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Skanderbeg (1st Albanian)
23rd Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Kama (2nd Croatian)
24th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Karstjäger
8th SS Cavalry Division Florian Geyer
22nd SS Volunteer Cavalry Division Division Maria Theresia
33rd Waffen Cavalry Division of the SS (3rd Hungarian)
37th SS Volunteer Cavalry Division Lützow
1st SS Cossack Cavalry Division
Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Galician)
Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Latvian)
Grenadier Division of the SS (2nd Latvian)
Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Estonian)
Grenadier Division of the SS Hunyadi (1st Hungarian)
Grenadier Division of the SS (2nd Hungarian)
27th SS Volunteer
Grenadier Division Langemarck (1st Flemish)
28th SS Volunteer
Grenadier Division Wallonien
Grenadier Division of the SS RONA (1st Russian)
Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Italian)
Grenadier Division of the SS (2nd Russian)
Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Belarussian)
31st SS Volunteer
32nd SS Volunteer
Grenadier Division 30 Januar
Grenadier Division of the SS Charlemagne (1st French)
34th SS Volunteer
Grenadier Division Landstorm Nederland
Grenadier Division of the SS
38th SS Division
35th SS and Police
German armoured divisions of World War II
Panzer Division Clausewitz
Panzer Division Feldherrnhalle 1
Panzer Division Feldherrnhalle 2
Panzer Division Holstein
Panzer Division Jüterbog
Panzer Division Kempf
Panzer Lehr Division
Panzer Division Müncheberg
Panzer Division Tatra
1st "Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler"
2nd "Das Reich"
Panzer Corps Feldherrnhalle
Hermann Göring Division
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