Formation   Structure   SS-Standarte 'Westland'   Combat history

Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment 10 'Westland' / SS-Standarte 'Westland'

Next to 'Germania' and 'Nordland', Standarte 'Westland' was one of the infantry regiments of the 'WIKING' division. 'Westland' consisted mainly of Dutch volunteers, other nationalities like Flemings and Germans were also represented, but in much smaller numbers. In 1941 the Estonian SS-Freiwilligen-Panzer-Grenadier-Batallion 'Narwa' was also added to 'Westland'. Especially the officers and NCO's were mainly of German origin. Initially, the relation between them and their subordinates was not too good. After they had arrived and been approved in the Freimannkazerne (SS-barracks) Munich, the volunteers faced a harsh and difficult time. The German 'Ausbilders' had no eye for the specific needs of the foreign volunteers and the recruits were regarded as second-rate soldiers. Even 'WIKING' commander Felix Steiner admitted after the war that his personnel had not been fully prepared for the arrival of foreign recruits. The Dutch volunteers were far from an harmonious company as their difference in political opinions ('moderate' NSB, 'radical' NSB, NSNAP, etc.) were the source of a lot of tension. Even on the train transporting them to the barracks in Germany the volunteers came to blows on several occasions.

Another aspect that contributed to the angry departure of some Dutch volunteers was the German recruitment policy. A great number felt they had been cheated by the recruiters, who often lied about the organisation that the men signed up for. Only when they had arrived in the SS-barracks did they find out that they had really signed up for the Waffen-SS and that the promised all-political, police or sports education did not exist. In their first months in Germany the recruits were allowed to return home and a lot of them chose to do so. The fear of losing their Dutch nationality and the lack of interest in a military career was reason for many of them to avoid becoming a member of the multinational elite corps. Others simply returned to the Netherlands because they refused to take the oath on Adolf Hitler: "Ich schwöre dir, Adolf Hitler, als Führer aller Germanen, Treue und Tapferkeit. Ich folge Dir und den von Dir bestimmten Vorgesetzten Gehorsam bis in den Tod, so war mir Gott helfe."
Those who left the barracks were often unable to escape the SS for a long time. A number of them became members of the Nederlandsche SS (later: Germanischen SS in die Niederlande) or operated as special policemen. Others chose to sign up for the Waffen-SS again a year later when the great battle against the Soviet Union had started.

 
A Dutch 'Westlander'
Not every Waffen-SS volunteer faced the Spartan conditions that existed in Munich. In December 1940, 132 Dutch recruits were trained in Oberau nearby Berchtesgaden. Remarkably, the training and education they received there was generally regarded as a positive experience, and the Dutch recruits who passed the training in Munich and Oberau were sent to Klagenfurt (Austria). In the Lehndorfkazerne all volunteers had to complete a course in which they learnt to handle infantry weapons. In April 1941 the first volunteers arrived in Klagenfurt.

Anton Mussert (leader of the most important collaborating political movement in the Netherlands: the NSB) initially resisted the establishment of the SS-Standarte 'Westland'. Mussert was not willing to support the recruitment of young Dutch men by the SS. This unwilling attitude changed when the SS threatened to drop Mussert for another Dutch NSB celebrity: Meinout Rost van Tonningen. Mussert, afraid of losing his leading position, changed his mind and dropped his objections against the recruitment of Dutch Waffen-SS volunteers as well as his resistance to the recruitment of NSB-members. Later on, Mussert would fully support the Dutch contribution to the Waffen-SS.

'Westland' sleeveband

By pleasing the German occupiers with his collaboration, the extremely naive Mussert not only hoped the Dutch would be able to claim a prominent position in the new Europe after the final German victory, but even thought that he would get permission to rebuild a Dutch army simply for helping the Germans in their battle against communism. In January 1941 Mussert called his NSB-members to join the Waffen-SS in order to make this dream come true.

The execution of Operation 'Barbarossa' on June 22nd 1941 started the war on the hated bolshevism in which the German army units and especially those of the Waffen-SS soon needed fresh troops after suffering high casualties. Many members of the Nederlandsche SS entered the Waffen-SS as Voorman Feldmeijer considered this as a duty that every SS-man had to fulfil. He would not be disappointed by his SS-men. The war against bolshevism motivated almost the entire Nederlandsche SS to depart for the Eastern Front. Most of them served in the 'WIKING' regiment 'Westland'.

The first time Dutch Waffen-SS volunteers saw action was when 'WIKING' entered the war. The division was placed in the Heeresgruppe 'C' (Süd) that received orders to conquer the Ukraine. The book 5.SS Pantserdivisie 'Wiking' (p.102) by Jan Vincx contains a story of a Dutch volunteer F.I.R. who describes his feelings when he heard the news that the German army had crossed the borders of the Soviet Union. F.I.R. and his unit were ordered to leave the barracks and travel to Breslau, Militsch-Oels and finally Lublin. After a number of exercise fights in the wooded area, the volunteers gained knowledge of Soviet combat tactics. This, and the fact that everything was kept secret from the outside world led the Dutch volunteers to conclude that an attack on the Russians would come soon. F.I.R. wrote: "Now I knew for sure, this policy of secrecy close to the demarcation line was meant to hide the numerous German combat units that had arrived in the area. And so: there would be a war with Russia very soon!" F.I.R. was right, although 'WIKING' had to wait a while before it would be thrown into action. On June 29th 1941 commander Felix Steiner received orders to march on Lemberg by way of the villages Zamosz and Rava-Russkaja (Rawa-Ruska?).

'Westland' lost its commander during the very first operations in enemy territory. On July 2nd 1941 SS-Standartenführer Hilmar Wäckerle was shot in the back by a Russian sniper while inspecting captured Russian weaponry and died. With him, the Dutch volunteers lost a capable and fanatical warrior. Wäckerle - a former Dachau commander who was replaced as a punishment for committing brutalities - was known for his daring actions in 1940 at the Grebbeberg against the Dutch (!). He was buried at the land of Slowida. The next day the 7.Kompanie of 'Westland' took revenge and the village that had possibly hidden the Russian sniper received 'Vergeltungsfeuer' (reprisal fire) from the SS-soldiers.

On July 19th 1941 the 9. and 10. Kompanie did a gruesome discovery. Six 'WIKING' Pioniere (combat engineers) were found dead and terribly mutilated. Apparently the six had fallen alive in to Soviet hands and had received a 'special treatment'. The 'Westlanders' now knew for sure that the Red Army soldiers were prepared to defend their country at all costs.

After the capture of Lemberg, 'WIKING' would attack Tarnopol, Proskurow, Berditschew, Shitomir, Bielaja Cerkow, Schpola, Winniza and finally Uman. In the forests of Taraschtascha attacks from Cossacks provided a valuable lesson and the men learned how important it was to dig in properly. After this 'Westland' was involved in the destruction of a large enemy force near Uman. Dnjepropetrowsk was the next city that found itself attacked by the Dutch Waffen-SS volunteers. The Red Army defended the city very well and was able to hold off the attackers for a while.

(to be continued)

Propaganda

Kommandeure of 'Westland':

1940

Regimentskommandeur: SS-Standartenführer Wäckerle

I. Btl.: Hstuf. Dr. Freiherr v. Hadeln

II. Btl.: Kummer (kia)

III.Btl.: Steinert

NARWA : -


1941

Regimentskommandeur: Standartenführer Hilmar Wäckerle (kia), Standartenführer Diebitsch, Oberführer Arthur Phleps

I. Btl.: Hstuf. Dr. Freiherr v. Hadeln

II. Btl.: Stubaf. Koeller

III.Btl.: Stubaf. Steinert

NARWA : Hstuf. Eberhardt


1942

Regimentskommandeur: Oberführer Arthur Phleps, Ostubaf. Maack, Ostubaf. Geißler

I. Btl.: Stubaf. Dr. Freiherr v. Hadeln

II. Btl.: Stubaf. Koeller, Stubaf. Steinert (kia)

III.Btl.:

NARWA : Hstuf. Eberhardt


1943

Regimentskommandeur: Ostubaf. Polewacz (kia), Stubaf. Erwin H. Reichel (kia), Ostubaf. August Dieckmann (kia)

I. Btl.: Stubaf. Dr. Freiherr v. Hadeln (kia), Hstuf. Sitter

II. Btl.: Hstuf. Bäuerle, Hstuf. Ziemssen, Hstuf. Walter Schmidt

III.Btl.:

NARWA : Hstuf. Eberhardt (kia), Hstuf. Koop (kia), Hstuf. Grafhorst (kia)


1944

Regimentskommandeur: Ostubaf. Marsell, Stubaf. Ehrath, Ostubaf. Franz Hack

I. Btl.: Hstuf. Günther Sitter (kia), Hstuf. Gerres (kia)

II. Btl.: Hstuf. Walter Schmidt, Hstuf. Heindl

III.Btl.: Hstuf. Oeck, Hstuf. Silberleitner (NARWA vanaf maart 1944 III./Westland)


1945

Regimentskommandeur: Ostubaf. Franz Hack

I. Btl.: Hstuf. Sacher (kia)

II. Btl.: Hstuf. Heindl

III.Btl.: Stubaf. Nedderhof (mia), Hstuf. Schlupp


kia = Killed In Action

mia = Missing In Action


01-07-1941, near Lemberg from left to right: Westland Kommandeur Staf. Wäckerle, Hstuf. Paetsch (Ic), Hstuf. von Schalburg, Brigf. Steiner (Div. Kommandeur), Hstuf. Ziemssen (Adj. Westland).


Arthur Phleps 'Westland' Regimentskommandeur (left) in '41 and '42 and Divisionskommandeur of 'Prinz Eugen' in '42 and '43 talking to his adjudant.


Günther Sitter Kommandeur I./'Westland' and Fritz Hack, the last Regimentskommandeur.

Sources: (read literature for title specifications) Klietmann, Waffen-SS, eine Dokumentation; Strassner, Europäische Freiwillige; Steiner, Die Freiwilligen; Stein, Geschichte der Waffen-SS; In 't Veld, De SS en Nederland. J. Vincx, 5. SS Pantserdivisie 'Wiking'.



  Text: EM © 2000 - 2004    Translations by: FvB © 2003
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