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German Armed Forces Research 1918-1945

Swedish Volunteers in the German Wehrmacht in WWII

During the Second World War Sweden was a neutral country with a relatively strong pro-Allied sentiment. The last major fighting Sweden took part in was during the Napoleonic Wars. When the Soviet Union invaded Finland in 1939 though, at least 10,000 men volunteered for service with the Finnish forces to fight against the Soviets. This number is especially significant because there were approximately 6.5 million people living in all of Sweden at the time. Sweden and Finland are both Northern European countries and had much in common, therefore, when the Soviets invaded, many Swedes felt compelled to join the Finnish Forces.

Because Sweden was a strict neutral during WWII, other than during the short experience of the Winter War in 1939, it did not openly allow for recruitment into foreign armies. When Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941 its sentiments changed very little, although the Finns were allowed to garner volunteers once again. Approximately 1,500 Swedes volunteers for service with Finland between 1941 and 1944.

Before Germany invaded the Soviet Union, very few if any Swedes served with the Germans, although at least one Swedish volunteer was listed as serving with the 5.SS-Panzer-Division Wiking. When Germany invaded the Soviet Union, Swedish volunteers for the German Wehrmacht was gathered either through the German Legation in Stockholm or through the Auslands Organization, both via Norway. Swedish approval of recruitment was still not official after the invasion of the Soviet Union though, and the volunteer operations were very much clandestine affairs. In total between 130 and 300 Swedes are thought to have served in the German Wehrmacht. David Littlejohn lists the number of Swedish volunteers at 130 in volume 3 of "Foreign Legions of the Third Reich", 150 volunteers are listed according to Swiss Dr. Franz Riedweg - the head of Germanic Volunteer recruiting, 175 volunteers are listed by H. Picker in "Hitler's Table Talk", and 315 volunteers are listed by Gottlob Berger in an unpublished biography. 300 is the generally accepted number of volunteers in the German Wehrmacht, but approximately 30 to 45 Swedes were killed in WWII under Axis control with 130 Swedish volunteers surviving the war, according to Lennert Westberg, which would, therefore, place the actual number of volunteers at about 175. 11 Swedes are said to have gone to the SS Officers school at Bad-Tolz, and Swedes also are known to have fought in the Battle of Berlin in April of 1945 while serving in the Nordland Division. The vast majority of Swedes served in the ranks of the Waffen-SS, but never in a national unit or legion like many other ethnic groups. Most Swedes were scattered within different Waffen-SS units and formations. The 5.SS-Panzer-Division Wiking, 11.SS-Panzergrenadier-Freiwilligen-Division Nordland, and the 23.SS-Freiwilligen-Panzergrenadier-Division Nederland are all known to have had Swedes in their ranks.

At least one small unit, Panzergrenadier-Kompanie 3 - Panzer-Aufkläkrung-Abteilung 11 - 11.SS-Freiwilligen-Panzergrenadier-Division Nordland, (3rd Company of the Armored Recon Battalion of the 11th SS Volunteer Armored Infantry Division Nordland), was composed of a large number of Swedes. In fact, Panzergrenadier-Komapanie 3 was given the title Swedenzug as a result of the number of Swedes in its ranks. The Swedish volunteers served in the 4.Zug of Panzergrenadier-Kompanie 3.

Order of battle of the SS-Panzer-Aufklärung-Abteilung 11

Kommandeur: SS-Hstf Rudolf Saalbach
Stab Adjuntant: Ostf. Eriksen (1944), Ostf. Schmitz
Abteilung.Arzt: Dr. Artner

Authorized strength of the Abteilung: 800

    Späh-Kompanie 1: (Ostf. Lorenz)
    • 1. Zug w/ SPW (4 u. 8 Rad-Spähwagen/4 & 8 wheeled Armored Cars)
    • 2. Zug w/ SPW
    • 3. Zug w/ SPW
    • 4. Zug w/ SPW

    Späh-Kompanie 2: (Ostf. Heckmueller)
    • 1. Zug w/ Halbketten-Spähwagen (Half-track Armored Cars)
    • 2. Zug w/ Halbketten-Spähwagen
    • 3. Zug w/ Halbketten-Spähwagen
    • 4. Zug w/ Halbketten-Spähwagen

    Panzergrenadier-Kompanie 3 "Swedenzug": (Ostf. Kaiser, Ostf. Pehrsson, Ostf. Ahrens, Ostf. Pehrsson)
    (Authorized strenght of this Kompanie: 160; 1. - 3. Zug had Romanian Volksdeutsche)
    • 1. Zug w/ SPW
    • 2. Zug w/ SPW
    • 3. Zug w/ SPW
    • 4. Zug w/ mortar and sMG (Swedish) [1 officer, 5 NCO, 35 men]
    Panzergrenadier-Kompanie 4: (Ostf. Viehmann)
    • 1. Zug w/ SPW
    • 2. Zug w/ SPW
    • 3. Zug w/ SPW
    • 4. Zug w/ SPW
    schwere-Kompanie 5: (Ostf. Schmidt)
    • Panzerjäger-Zug (4 75mm PAK 40)
    • le.Inf.Gesch.Zug (6 75mm le.Inf.Gesch.Sfl.)
    • s.Inf.Gesch.Zug (2 150mm s.Inf.Gesch.)
    • Pionier-Zug (w/ Flammenwerfer)
    Source: Lennart Westberg, Die schwedischen Freiwilligen der Waffen-SS

    WW2 Berlin Germany Destroyed Armored Car This well-known photo of a blown-up armored car in Berlin was actually one of the Schwedish Kompanie's vehicles in the Nordland Division. It could have been company commander Pehrssons command vehicle that was shot up on the Friedrichstrasse just south of the Hitler Chancellery on the 1st of May 1945. The fallen Unterscharführern to the right of the armored car is in that case identical with the driver in the car, Ragnar Johansson from Stockholm, that was killed by a Russian hand-grenade. It's most likely that the armored car had participated in the attempt to break out of the city on the night to the 2nd of May. The picture was taken by the Russian reporter Mark Redkin. At a picture reconstruction, at place in Berlin, the researcher Lennart Westberg positioned the place for the photo to be Friedrichstrasse 107 with the walls of the guardhouse in the background, 200m north of the river Spree.

    WW2 Waffen-SS Swedish Officers Six Swedish officers in the Waffen-SS at the Narvafront, spring 1944. From left to right: Gösta B, a Kriegsberichter, Hans-Capsar Krueger, a Kriegsberichter; Hans-Gösta Pehrsson, a company commander in the SS-division Nordland, Carl Svensson, another Kriegsberichter, and Torkel Tillman, killed in action on the 26th of June 1944 in Normandy. Behind the camera is Rune Ahlgren, killed in action on the 30th of October, 1944 at Preekuln, Latvia as a platoon commander in SS-division Nordland.

    WW2 Waffen-SS Armored Car Armored Car from SS-Division "Nordland" with Swedish volunteers in Kurland, 1944 or by the Odenfont, 1945. The third man from the right is sergeant Ragnar Johansson from the Swedish "Skaraborgs" regiment in Skövde, Sweden. He fell on the May 2nd, 1945, the last day of the Battles for Berlin. Next to him stands the Stockholmer, Alfons Wahlberg, who was captured by Russian forces at Reinickendorf outside Berlin on the 21st of April, 1945. He returned to Sweden in 1947.

    WW2 Hans-Gösta Pehrsson Photo Volunteer Hans-Gösta Pehrsson, from Karlskrona (city in south-eastern Sweden). In this picture as SS-Hauptsurmführer, he volunteered for the Waffen-SS (fought with SS-Freiw.Pz-Gren.Wiking in the Frikorps Danmark in September 1941, became NCO after battles near lake Ilmen south of Novgorod in 1941-42. Went through the Waffen-SS war school 1943. He became commander of an armored car company in SS-Division Nordland during the battles in Estland, Lettland, and Pommerania (Estonia and Latvia) in 1944-1945. He became stf. Batallion commander and section chief in division Nordland's staff in April 1945. He was captured by the Russians during the final Battle of Berlin but managed to escape in the summer of 1945. In the picture from the Narvafront, Pehrsson is carrying a row of decorations; EK, Nahkampfspange in Silber (Close-combat badge in silver) and Eherenblattspange des Deutschen Heeres. He died 1974, 64 years old.

    WW2 SS-Untersturmführer Carl Svensson SS-Untersturmführer Carl Svensson standing to the left. He was working for the Swedish Navy 1941 before he went over to German service as an anti-aircraft instructor in the Waffen-SS. He went to the Waffen-SS war school (Junkerschule) at Bad Tölz in 1942 and served as a Kriegsberichter at Leningrad, in the Balkans, Normandy, Arnehm and on then on the Rhine-front(?) before he returned to Sweden in 1945.