2.SS-Panzer-Division Das Reich
The 2.SS first took part in the Campaigns in the Westagainst the Low Countries and France in 1940, and did so as theSS-V.T.-Division. It first saw action in the main drive for Rotterdam.After Rotterdam the Division, along with other Divisions, intercepted aFrench Force and pushed them back to the area of Zeeland. Next, it wasused to mop-up small pockets of resistance in the areas already capturedby the Germans. The Division was then transferred to France and helpedbreach a stiffly defended canal line, and then participated in the driveon Paris. At the end of the Campaign, it had advanced all the way to theSpanish Frontier.
Originally, the SS-V.T.-Division was composed of threeof the original four SS-Standarten. LAH was the other SS-Standarten, andit was developed on its own. The other three SS-Standarten wereDeutschland, Germania and Der Fuhrer. After the Western Campaign wasover, the SS-V.T.-Division was reorganized. The SS-Standarten Germaniawas transfered out of the Division and along with the SS-Standarten,Nordland and Westland, formed the backbone of a different SS-Division,Germania, which was soon to become the Wiking Division. For the loss ofGermania, the SS-V.T.-Division was given a SS-Totenkopfstandartedesignated as SS-Infanterie Regiment 11. Soon after, the Divisionchanged its title from V.T. to Deutschland, and soon after that, toReich.
During the period after the fall of France, the Division wasstationed in France preparing for the invasion of England. The Division,now called Reich, was moved to Romania to take part in the invasion ofYugoslavia and Greece in March of 1941. In April, 1941, Reich took partin the successful capture of Belgrade, the Capital of Yugoslavia. Afterthe capture of Belgrade, the Division was moved to Poland to take part inthe upcoming invasion of the Soviet Union.
During the invasion of the SovietUnion, Reich fought with Army Group Center, taking part in the Battle ofYalnya near Smolensk, and then in the spearhead to capture Moscow. Reichcame within a few miles of the Soviet Capital in November, 1941, reachinga sort of “High Water Mark” of the German advance in the Soviet Union.With the Soviet Capital within sight of the Division, weather, massivelosses and a major Soviet Winter Counter-Offensive pushed the Divisionback. After a period of very bloody losses for the Division, Reich waspulled out of the fighting and sent to France to refit as aPanzer-Grenadier Division. Part of the Division was left in the East,and they were titled Kampfgroup Ostendorf. Ostendork was sent to joinReich on June, 1942.
In November, 1942, portions of the Division tookpart in an attempt to prevent the scuttling of the French Fleet atToulon. Soon after, the Division was retitled again, this time toSS-Panzer-Grenadier-Division “Das Reich”.
Early in 1943, Das Reich wastransferred back to the Eastern Front where it helped reclaim the crumblingcentral front around Kharkov. After helping recapture the city ofKharkov, Das Reich along with many other Divisions was thrown into amassive assault into the Kursk Salient, a huge bulge in the Soviet Frontline around the area of Kursk. Das Reich pushed upwards of 40 miles intothe southern sector of the bulge, but was pulled out of the battle alongwith the other SS-Division when the offensive was called off. After aperiod of brief encounters, Das Reich was refit once again, this time asSS-Panzer-Division “Das Reich”. In doing so, it left a portion theDivision in the East titled Kampfgroup Das Reich, and officially know asKampfgroup Lammerding. The rest of the Division was transferred to theWest to refit, and while doing so also took part in anti-partisanoperations in France.
In Winter, 1943/1944, another massive SovietWinter Counter Offensive managed to encircle German units in the centerof the front. The Kamfgroup that Das Reich left behind was one of theunits encircled by the Soviet Offensive, and an assault by II. SS-Panzer-Korps managed to rescue the trapped elements of Das Reich. TheKampfgroup was then transferred to France to join the rest of the Divisionalready station there. The remaining small portion of Das Reich left inthe East was renamed Kampfgroup Weidinger and was involved in theretreats through Proskurow abd Tarnopol.
After the D-Day invasion inNormany, France, Das Reich was committed to stop the Allied advance, andtook part in the many attempts to stop the Allies near Caen and St. Lo.The Division recaptured Mortain, but was forced to retreat when it becameapparent the Allies were going to encircle the Division along with alarge number of other German units in the Falises Pocket. Thanks to theefforts of Das Reich along with the 9th SS-Panzer Division, a largenumber of German were able to escape the pocket and retreat to the east.
Pulled back across the Seine River and then to behind the West Wallfortifications in France, the 2nd SS Panzer Division then took part in theoperationsto punch through the Ardennes Forest in December, 1944. Coming withinsight of the River Meus, the Division was halted, and then slowly smashedby fierce Allied counter-attacks. Pulled out of the offensive, Das Reichwas transferred into Germany to again refit, and then to take part in thelast German offensive of the war in Hungary to attempt to break the siegearound Budapest. This offensive also ground to a halt, and Das Reichspent the rest of the war more-or-less fighting in parts from Dresden, toPrague to Vienna. In the end, most of the Division managed to escape to the West to surrender to the Americans.
SS-Regiment Germania, plus other divisional elements, detached on1 Dec 1940 to form cadre for SS-Division Wiking; SS-Regiment 11,formerly SS-Totenkopf-Standarte 11 attached in its place; divisiondesignated SS-Divsion Reich (mot.), 28 Jan 1941
Oberstgruppenführer Paul Hausser, 10.19.39 – 10.14.41
* a battle group (kampfgruppe) remained in Russia 2.44 – 3.44: