Formation   Structure   Combat history

Combat history of 'Landstorm Nederland'

September 1944, Belgium

In September 1944 two battalions of the Landstorm was transferred to the frontlines in Belgium (the third stayed in Roermond for training reasons). The units were poorly armed and trained and lacked combat experience. Landstorm Nederland was send to defend the Albert-canal in northern Belgium. The first Batallion was placed in Merksem, the second in Hasselt. In this region the Batallion fought against the Dutch Prinses Irene Brigade. Landstorm Nederland proved to be incapable to stop the allied advance and was forced to withdraw. Medio October 1944 the unit arrived in the Veluwe again.

Arnhem

During the start of the daring airborne operation 'Market Garden' on September the 17th 1944, the third Batallion Landstorm Nederland was still in training in Hoogeveen. After coming to the conclusion that every available combat unit should be send to fight the airborne troops, the German commanders decided to transfer the third Batallion to Arnhem. The badly trained and poorly armed Landstormers were incorporated in the German 9.SS-Panzer-Division 'Hohenstauffen'. III.SS Landstorm Nederland under command of SS-Ostubaf. Hermann Delfs (4 Kompanien - about 600 men) was added on 18-09-1944 to 9.SS.Pz. Division 'Hohenstauffen'.

Because of a lack of heavy weapons and very little experience 'Hohenstauffen' commander Harzer initially decided to keep the III./SS-Grenadier Regiment Landstorm Nederland in reserve. On 18-09-1944 he added the unit to 'Sperrverband Spindler". In the night of 20-09 - 21-09 III.SS Landstorm Nederland arrived after a journey by bike from Hoogeveen. On 21-09-1944 the III.Landstorm Nederland was moved to the Betuwe for defensive actions around Elst. On 25-09-1944 Elst was taken by the British 43th Wessex Division.

SS-Freiwilligen-Grenadier-Brigade 'Landstorm Nederland'

From November the 1st 1944 this became the new name of Landstorm Nederland. The three batallions (forming the new 83.Regiment) were strenghtened with SS-Wachbataillon 'Nordwest' (forming the new 84.Regiment) and with new recrutes. Among the new volunteers were many members of the Jeudstorm (the youth organisation of the NSB, the Dutch collaborating fascist movement). After the SS-Brigade had received new weapons it had to move into defensive positions near the rivers Waal and Rhine.

34.SS Freiwilligen-Grenadier-Division 'Landstorm Nederland'

On February the 10th 1945 Landstorm Nederland became a Division. This status was didn't match with reality. Landstorm Nederland didn't even have the strength of a Brigade. Despite this the Division had received orders to relieve the Fallschirmäger-Regiment 7 that had dug in near the Rhine. The 83.Regiment of 34.SS 'Landstorm Nederland' moved into defensive positions behind the rivers the Meuse and the Waal in the area Betuwe and Bommelerwaard. 84.Regiment defended the south of de Veluwe (a large forest in the central Netherlands) and a small strip along the Rhine near Rhenen. In order to improve the effectiveness of the defense the Germans had flooded parts of de Betuwe. The Dutch SS-Division now faced the Prinses Irene Brigade, the 49nd British Division and some Canadian units. The presence of the Dutch Prinses Irene Brigade caused strange situations. It is claimed that several Landstormers had familymembers who fought in this enemy unit.

34.SS Freiwilligen-Grenadier-Division 'Landstorm Nederland', nevertheless, executed a daring attack on February the 23rd 1945. The Dutch SS-Grenadiers succesfully stormed a British strongpoint near Zetten and got an honourable mention on the Wehrmachtsbericht (German military radio news) of that day. The Hallamshire Battalion of the 49th Infantry Division, that had fortified in a farm called 'de Hoeven', had lost 31 men as a result of the attack.

 
Lippert, commander of Gr.Rgt.84 and Krafft, commander of Gr.Rgt.83.
The Landstorm Nederland Division nevertheless lost many of its soldiers on the battleground. Next to this the number of desertions was still growing. Some of the very desperate men even planned to kill their officer Resler and surrender their positions to the allies. Unfortunately their plan leaked out and they were arrested. The conspirators were shot on March the 9th 1945.

In 1945 it was long clear that the Germans were going to lose the war. This was probably one of the reasons that the very fanatic among the Dutch SS soldiers started to use terror against the civilian population. Especially the 84.Regiment, the former SS-Wachbataillon 'Nordwest', did not hesitate to shoot Dutch civilians when they e.g. entered Sperrgebiet (forbidden areas). The war was coming an end. The last strong resistance by Landstorm Nederland was offered in March 1945 in the villages of Oosterbeek and Otterlo. The next days, the Canandians took over 300 prisoners of war and in the period between 16-03 and 28-04 1945 they took another 187 Landstormers. The war in the Netherlands ended on May the 5th (offically on May 6th) except for a part of Landstorm Nederland.

The final days

The final days of Landstorm Nederland had a remarkable and violent course. All this was a result of the strange status that the village Veenendaal had in the last days of the German occupation. While the German Army in the Netherlands had surrendered, Veenendaal was still occupied by some German units and a contingent of Landstorm Nederland. Veenendaal was actually a German enclave in the liberated Netherlands. The population had to wait for their liberators until the late afternoon of May the 9th 1945. Unntil that time both sides were still firing at each other. The Landstormers were not yet prepared to give themselves up. On May the 7th the Dutch SS-men even blew de Vaartbrug (a bridge), probably for defensive reasons (one of the SS-men was accidently blown with it).

On the same day a clash with a resistance group from Wageningen took place. The group assumed that Veenendaal was liberated like the rest of the Netherlands. When they entered Veenendaal to visit one of their members who had been hiding there during the occupation, they found out they were wrong. In the tragic fight that followed three of the resistance members were killed, one of them was probably shot by the Landstormers while wounded.

Veenendaal was the last village but not the only one where Dutch resistance members clashed with Dutch Waffen-SS. Many times the risky and thoughtless actions of the Dutch resistance led to tragic firefights in the last hours of the war. Such a situation existed on May the 5th in Leersum. In the last confusing hours of the war when the resistance and the German occupiers beared each other, the Binnenlandse Strijdkrachten (resistance army commanded by Prince Bernhard) had shot a Dutch SS soldier. The Binnenlandse Strijdkrachten had been collecting weapons in a local factory that morning. The SS and Wehrmacht had discovered this and asked BS members what was going on. On that moment one of the BS men got his weapon and shot one of the Dutch SS men. The SS immediately opened fire, three of the BS members were killed in the unnecessary firefight. A German reprisal measure led to the loss of another four lives. A second group was saved by General Blaskowitz. The group of prisoners was going to be shot in the woods when Blaskowitz drove by. The German general immediately ordered to let the prisoners go and prevented another bloodshed.

The surrender of 34.SS Freiwilligen-Grenadier-Division 'Landstorm Nederland'

The British 49th Infantry division 'Polar Bears', commanded by Brigade-General Crosse, recieved orders to disarm the Division 'Landstorm Nederland' in the villages of Elst, Veenendaal, Doorn and Amerongen. On Mat the 7th Crosse had met commander SS-Oberführer Martin Maximiliaan Kohlroser in Doorn. Crosse demanded that the 3.000 Landstormers would leave their weapons, equipment and other military goods for an inspection in Elst. Kohlroser refused, he preferred to march fully armed to the POW-camps. Crosse next threatened to disarm the men by force so Kohlroser felt he had no choice and agreed. On May the 10th the Landstormers were transported to a fallow lying terrain belonging to youth hostel 'De Eikelkamp' in Elst. From there the SS-Division would march a couple of days later to the POW-camp 'De Harskamp'.

The commanders of 'Landstorm Nederland' fully cooperated. As agreed before, all weapons were lay down to be inspected by the 'Polar Bears'. The SS-officers nevertheless protested when Crosse demanded that they also had to turn in their pistol. Wehrmacht officers never were asked to this, so why should SS-officers agree with this uncommon measure ? Their protests dissapeared when Crosse had shown a copy of the 'Illustrated London News'. The paper had printed pictures of the horrific scenes in the deathcamps. The Waffen-SS officers strongly condemned the proceedings of the responsible ones. Next to that they claimed that they, the combat units of the SS, had not known of this horrific massmurder. Kohlroser further empasized this in a letter to Crosse on May the 16th 1945:

From : 34 SS Volunteer Gren Div
Landsturm Nederland

To : Commander Royal Artillery
49 (West Riding) Infantry Division
Brigadier E.N. Crosse


I thank you for the recognition of the discipline and behaviour of my troops during the handing over of arms. I assure you that even with this conclusion to the fighting, discipline and complete obedience are only natural to my troops

My troops firmly believe in chivalry and regard for a clean fighting opponent. The chivalry and restraint shown by you and your officers have made this difficult step considerably easier forme, my staff and my regiments. I ask you to interpret this obedience and discipline in carrying out this extremely hard order for us as the only possible proof that we as front line soldiers would have acted in the same way if the roles had been reversed.

I have been deeply moved by the contents of the illustrated paper you sent me. My officers and I as soldiers are enraged and as Germans deeply ashamed. As front line soldiers we strongly condemn these actions. I assure you that the officers and men of my Division neither knew of these atrocities, nor as fighting soldiers had anything in common with them.


(Signed) MM Kohlroser
SS Oberfuehrer and Div K.


Extra fanatism

The disarmament was completed on May the 16th. In total 212 officers and 5744 NCO's and soldiers had been taken prisoner of war. Their weapons, equipment and 'their' transport: 1070 horses, 578 barrows and 75 cows had been seized. Although 'Landstorm Nederland' could not be compared to one of the elite units of the Waffen-SS (e.g. 'Wiking' or 'Das Reich') it certainly was considered as a strong figthing force.

A number of Dutch Waffen-SS soldiers of 'Landstorm Nederland' fought ruthless in own their country. The men appreared to be extra fanatic because they had an idea what would happen to them if Germany would lose the war. Volunteering for a German unit, let alone an SS unit, was seen by the Dutch people as the most horrible act of collaboration. Long before the war came to an end, the word 'bijltjesdag' (axe day) appeared in the common streettalks. The plans of punishment were ready. When the southern parts of the Netherlans were liberated, 'bijltjesdag' became reality which strengthened parts of the Dutch SS in their thoughts to keep fighting to the end.

Summary

Date
Korps
Division
Heeresgruppe
Region
12-03-43 - - - the Netherlands
09-1944 LXXXVIII Armee Korps bat.1: 719. I.D.; bat 2: 85. I.D. Heeresgruppe "B" Albertcanal (Belgium)
23-09-1944 LXXXVIII Armee Korps Kampfgruppe Müller in 719. I.D. Heeresgruppe "B" Reusel (Belgium)
17-09-1944 (III.SS-Gr.Rgt. Landstorm Nederland) II. SS-Panzer-Korps 9.SS-Pz.Div. Hohenstauffen Heeresgruppe "B" Arnhem (NL)
10-1944 Kampfgruppe Rauter - Heeresgruppe "B" Veluwe and the river IJssel (NL)
2-1945 88. Korps - Heeresgruppe "B" Betuwe (NL)

Sources: (read literatuur for title specifications) Vincx en Schotanius, De Landstorm; Klietmann, Waffen-SS, eine Dokumentation; In 't Veld, de SS en Nederland; De Jong, Het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden in de Tweede Wereldoorlog.



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