14th SS Volunteer Infantry Division History
The division was recruited from the inhabitants of the Galicia district of the General Government. The surplus of volunteers (more than 80 thousand signed up on June 1, 1943) also allowed the formation of the 204th police and SD battalion and a number of other units, some of which were later used to recreate the division after its defeat at Brody in July 1944. From the fall of 1943, divisions of the division were used in operations against partisans in Europe. In mid-July 1944, the division of the first set was defeated by the Red Army in the battles near Brody. At the end of September 1944, the division’s combat-ready regiments were deployed to suppress the Slovak uprising, and by mid-October 1944, the division was involved inSlovakia in full force. At the beginning of 1945, the division was transferred to the Balkans, where it participated in operations against the Yugoslav partisans. In mid-March, the German command was going to disarm the division, transferring its weapons to the German formation being formed, but the rapid advance of the Red Army forced it to be transferred to the front, where it operated together with the 1st German Cavalry Corps and, before surrendering, was subordinate to the 4th Panzer Corps…. In the last days of April 1945, the division was formally transformed into the 1st Ukrainian Division of the Ukrainian National Army, although on German maps and documents it still had its former name and the command of the SS troops considered it their formation. In the period from 8 to 11 May 1945, parts of the division surrendered to American and British forces.
The Galician Division was not the first SS division to be formed outside of Germany. Already in 1940, about 18 thousand volunteers were required to maintain a constant number of SS troops. However, at the request of the Wehrmacht, the SS troops could receive only 2% of the total number of German recruits, which amounted to about 12 thousand people a year. Reichsfuehrer SS Heinrich Himmler and the leadership of the SS Troops decided to compensate for the missing number by forming foreign units. The formation of foreign units was entrusted to the head of the SS headquarters, Obergruppenführer Gottlieb Berger. The first foreigners in the SS were the Volksdeutsche Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, which were not formally subject to conscription in the Wehrmacht.
The first foreign SS units were created in the summer of 1940 following Hitler’s orders to expand the SS forces. The first to be formed were the Westland regiment from the inhabitants of the occupied Benelux countries and the Nordland regiment from the inhabitants of the occupied Denmark and Norway. In December 1940, both regiments were included in the 5th SS Panzer Division “Viking”.
In Eastern Europe, at the beginning of the war, enrollment in the SS troops was limited to Volksdeutsche: in 1942, the first separate unit of this type was formed – the 7th Volunteer Mountain Division of the SS Forces “Prince Eugen” from Volksdeutsche Hungary, Romania, Croatia and Serbia. However, soon the SS troops began to recruit Slavs : in 1943, the 29th SS Volunteer Infantry Division “RONA” (1st Russian) was formed from Russian prisoners of war and volunteers. In this row was the 14th Galician Volunteer Infantry Division under the SS Forces, formed in 1943, exclusively from volunteers.
Ukrainain SS Combat use
The first SS units formed in Ukraine to engage the partisans were units of the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th SS regiments, which operated against the partisans in France, Poland, Yugoslavia and Western Ukraine. At that time, they did not yet belong to the SS Galicia division, where they would be officially enrolled in mid-1944. According to the Institute of History of the Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, these units have been taking part in punitive operations in southeastern Poland since the fall of 1943. So, at the beginning of 1944, to suppress the partisan movement from France to the General Government ( Zbarazh region ), the 4th regiment was transferred.
Battle Group Beersdorf ( German Kampfgruppe Beyersdorff )
In early February 1944, the division received an order to form a combat group to participate in punitive operations in the Galicia district. The group, led by the division’s artillery regiment commander, Standartenfuehrer Beersdorf, joined the 5th SS regiment in the Zamoć region in mid- February. Soon a second battle group was formed in the division, which was sent to the Brody area, where the 4th SS regiment was already operating. The composition of the combat group was recalled to the camps on March 20, 1944, while the 4th and 5th regiments, which were subordinate to the SS and SD of the General Government, continued to participate in punitive operations, during which divisions of the division carried out a number of military crimes.
The ceremonial funeral of the first dead fighters of the division (Alexei Bobak and Roman Andriychuk) took place in Brody on March 2, 1944.
“Fortified city” Ternopil
The 3rd Battalion of the 4th Volunteer Regiment of the Galicia Division called the Mitscherling Battalion was part of the garrison of the fortified city of Ternopil (German: Fester Platz ), the siege of which by Soviet troops lasted from March 23 to April 15, 1944. On April 5, after a prolonged artillery bombardment, the battalion surrendered during the assault.
On June 25, 1944, the division was transferred near Brody to the disposal of the 13th Army Corps, where it occupied the second line of defense, located 20 km from the front line. On June 30, 1944, the division consisted of 15,299 officers and men. On July 13, the 38th and 60th armies of the 1st Ukrainian Front launched an offensive at the junction of the 13th Army Corps and the 1st Tank Army as part of the Lvov-Sandomierz operation. On the morning of July 15, units of the division took part in a counterattack against the advancing Soviet troops – SS-Galicia with units of the 13th Army Corps operated from the north, and the German 1st and 8th Panzer Divisions of the 1st Panzer Army from the south. Joint strikesOf the 2nd Air Army and the troops of the 1st Ukrainian Front, both tank divisions were drained of blood, and the counterattack by the end of the same day was exhausted.
By July 18, the Brodov cauldron slammed shut. On July 20, several breakthroughs occurred in the sector of the front defended by the division, after which the divisional commander, General Freitag, decided to resign. The resignation was accepted by Commander General Arthur Gauffe, and the division came under the command of Major General Fritz Lindemann. On July 22, according to information from Wolf-Dietrich Heike, no more than 500 soldiers and officers managed to escape from the cauldron together with the division commander Freitag. At the gathering place of the division, they were joined by another 1,200 servicemen from the auxiliary divisions who were not in the boiler. Another insignificant part was able to come out with other parts.
Analyzing the course of hostilities, the commander of corps group C (Korpsabteilung C), Major General Wolfgang Lange, negatively characterizes the actions of the division during the Brod events. The same opinion about the fighting qualities and the commander of the XXXXVIII Panzer Corps, who participated in the battle, F. V. Mellentin. However, the chief of staff of the division Gaike believed that the main demoralizing factor – the use of Katyushas – influenced the division no more than the better trained German units. He also noted the bravery of the Galicians under the command of Lindemann and said that during the fighting there was not a single case of desertion.
The losses of the division during the battles in the Brody cauldron amounted to more than 9,600 people killed and missing.
Soldiers who later served in the SS Galicia division are related to the suppression of the Warsaw Uprising, but the unit itself did not participate in the suppression of the uprising.
Polish historians Ryszard Tozhetsky and Andrzej Zemba noted the presence of Ukrainians among the units that participated in the suppression of the Warsaw uprising : these were police units and SS units formed from Ukrainians in Galicia and the Ukrainian Self-Defense Legion (31st Schutzmannschafts SD battalion). Subsequently, they became part of the SS Galicia division.
Fight against Yugoslav partisans
In January 1945, the division was transferred to the Balkans in the Styria and Carinthian region (Carinthia), where it has been fighting the Yugoslav partisans since the end of February. At the same time, the division was replenished with about 600 people from the 31st police and SD battalion, formed on the basis of the Volyn Ukrainian Self-Defense Legion. By the beginning of March 1945, the division with support units and a wagon train numbered more than 20 thousand people (the largest division in numbers in the SS Forces).
Disbandment of the division
At the end of March, the division received an order to hand over all the weapons for the newly created German units; but the advancing Soviet units, which were already 40-50 kilometers from the division’s location, did not allow this plan to come true. Despite this, on April 3-4, 1945, Hitler issued another order on the formation of the 10th parachute division from the German parachute units retreating from Italy on the basis of the weapons of the 14th division. In early April, a general and about 1000 paratroopers arrive in the division for this purpose. But already on April 7, 1945, the front reaches the location of the division and the disbandment is canceled.
The last fighting at the front
From March 30, the division was transferred to the disposal of the 1st Cavalry Corps and from April 7, 1945 it was involved in defensive operations in the Feldbach region (Austria). From mid-April 1945, it was transferred to the jurisdiction of the 4th SS Panzer Corps. During their stay at the front, 98 soldiers of the division deserted.
1st Ukrainian division
At the end of April 1945, Pavlo Shandruk, the commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian National Army, arrives at the location of the division. Part of the division takes a new oath and since April 24, 1945, the division formally received the name “1st Ukrainian Division of the UNA (1 UD UNA)”, but on the OKW maps as of April 30, 1945 it continues to be listed under the same name.
On May 5, 1945, representatives of the division are sent to the side of the Allies to discuss the details of the surrender. On May 7, the retreat of divisional units began, which on May 8 turned into a general flight of SS units from the front. The retreating units of the division took different paths, which is why a smaller part of the division earlier surrendered to the Americans, and most of them were captured by the British. On May 10, 1945, the last division commander, Brigadeführer Fritz Freytag, shot himself to death.
Ukrainian Division War crimes
From some of the volunteers who were not included in the first recruitment to the Galicia division, on the initiative of Himmler, the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th Galician SS volunteer regiments ( die Galizische SS-Freiwillige Regimenter ). They armed themselves and received supplies from the Central Bureau of the SS division in cooperation with the HSSPf from the Ukraine and Ordnungspolizei (Orpo). These regiments were subordinated not to the military, but to the police command of the Germans, in particular to the highest leader of the SS and police of the General Government. In February 1944, the 4th and 5th Galician volunteer regiments, according to the order of Himmler, were sent to fight the Soviet and Polish partisans. They were included in the Galicia division in June 1944.
According to the Polish and Ukrainian historical commissions, in February 1944, the 4th Galician Volunteer Regiment, with the assistance of the UPA, took part in the destruction of the Polish village of Guta Penyatska, where 172 houses were burned and more than 500 people of the Polish population, including women and children. In March, they themselves, with the assistance of the UPA detachment, in the Dominican monastery of the village of Podkamen killed more than 250 Poles.
In February 1944, two battle groups were created from the servicemen of the division, which acted together with the 4th and 5th SS regiments against the Soviet and Polish partisans. In the course of these operations, these units destroyed a number of settlements, while part of the civilian population died. Among these settlements are Ganachev and Ganachevka, Barysh near Buchach, Korostyatin, Lozova, Malaya Berezovitsa near Zbarazh, Igrovitsa, Plotycha (Ternopil region), etc. The unit also took part in the “pacification” of Polish villages: Vitsin, Palikrovy, Malinska, Chernitsa, Yasenitsa Polska, Kamyanka Strumilova, Budki Neznanovskie, Pavlovo and Chatki. Massacres were also carried out in other settlements, in particular, in the village of Zabutse.
According to Dieter Pohl, there is a high probability that soldiers from the SS “Galicia” division participated in the round-up of Jews in Brody in February 1944.
During its stay in Slovakia, the so-called SS brigade “Dirlewanger”, known for its war crimes, was subordinate to the division for some time. Subdivisions of the division, together with this brigade, participated in a number of operations against the Slovak partisans and the local population supporting them. Only fragmentary documentation of the behavior of the military personnel of the division itself during the suppression of the uprising has been preserved; Slovak historian Jan Korcek gives detailed data on nine cases of war crimes, it is known that during the raid on the village of Smercany, 80 of 120 houses were burned. Chief of Staff of the Division Wolf-Dietrich Heikewrote in his memoirs about individual “annoying incidents” in relation to the civilian population, linking them with the activities of the “Dirlewanger” brigade, as well as the East Turkic military formation
The division periodically included individual officers and servicemen of other units (in particular, volunteer and auxiliary battalions, as well as other SS divisions) involved in war crimes: in particular, the soldiers of the 204th Schutzmanschaft battalion, before entering the division, participated in the guard service in concentration camp Pustków
near the town of Debica (the exact number of those killed in the camp has not been established, since it was eliminated before the arrival of Soviet troops, but after the transfer of the battalion to a division)
In addition, after the defeat at Brody, about 1,000 servicemen of the division served in the SS Viking division, which was implicated in war crimes (it is not possible to establish the degree of involvement of the Galicia members).
In 2016, the Polish parliament qualified the crimes of the division’s soldiers against the Polish population as genocide.
The Ukrainian servicemen of the division were separated from the Germans and placed in a camp in the vicinity of Rimini (Italy). Due to the intervention of the Vatican, which viewed the soldiers of the division as “good Catholics and devoted anti-communists”, their status was changed by the British from “prisoners of war” to “surrendered enemy personnel”, and they were not extradited to the Soviet Union, unlike most collaborators of other nationalities… This was also due to the fact that the western allies of the USSR in the anti-Hitler coalition did not recognize the borders of states in Europe, to the change of which Nazi Germany was involved. London, which fully recognized the Polish government in exile, considered the population of Western Ukraine (including the soldiers of the 14th division, who were mainly from Galicia and, to a lesser extent, Volhynia) citizens of Poland, but not the USSR, therefore their extradition to the Soviet Union did not seem obvious to the British and the United States.
A commission reviewed the materials on the declared 774 war criminals, as well as additionally submitted lists of 38 and 71 names, possibly located in Canada. In respect of 341, the commission found no evidence that any of them lived or stayed in Canada; 21 of those on the list lived in Canada, but at the time of the consideration of the case left it, 86 died in Canada; it was not possible to establish the whereabouts of the 4 arrivals to Canada.