7.SS-Freiwilligen-Gebirgs-Division “Prinz Eugen”
The title Prinz Eugen comes from the German spelling of the nameFrancois Eugene, Prince of Savoy, who lived from 1663 to 1736. Born in Paris, France,Eugene is known to history as being one of the greatest European soldiers of all time.After being refused a commission in the French army by King Louis XIV, Eugene entered the service of the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold Iin 1683, to fight against the Ottoman TurksMade field marshal in1693, Prince Eugenewas the commander anddiplomat who led themilitary campaigns that wouldlay the foundations forHabsburg power incentral Europe. Hefought the Turks atVienna, and helped toestablish theAustrio-Hungarianempire.He also fought againstFrance in two wars, andwhile in command of theimperial army he helpedMarlborough in severalbattles during the War ofthe Spanish succession.Later, Prince Eugene wonseveral further victoriesagainst the Turks,capturing Belgrade in1718.
After a fairly long process of attempting to form an SS Division from therather large Volksdeutsche community living outside of Germany, andnot to meerly incorporate them into other various Wermacht units, GottlobBerger (As head of the SS recruiting office) managed to help secure the 7thDivision of the ss. The 7th Division of the SS was formed from theVolksdeutsche living in the Serbian and Croatian areas of Yugoslavia throughvolunteers, and then through conscription. The Division was initiallyestablished in March of 1942 from a SS Selbstschutz (ss ProtectionForce) and the Einsatz-Staffel (Also called Prinz Eugen) fromCroatia.
In the early months of the Divisions History, it was found stuggling tofillits ranks through the use of volunteers alone, and soon consciption was usedto finish the Division, eventually gaining some 21,500 members.
The 7th Division of the SS was designed for anti-partisan warfare in theBalkan region, and it was during such operations in October, 1942, that theDivision first saw action near the Serbian-Montenegro border in mountainseast of the Ibar River. Soon after this action, the Division was transferedto the Zagreb-Karlovac area and took part in Operation White with otherGerman units. Operation White was one ofthe many major anti-partisan operations in the Balkan Region aimed atdestroying Tito’s resistance movement. This operation proved to be afailure though, and Tito’s forces managed to evade the brunt of the Germanoffensive.
Throughout the next few months, the Division was placed under Army GroupE,and in May, 1942, the Division took part in more anti-partisan operations,this time during Operation Black. After Black, elements of the Divisionwere sent to North of Sarajevo, and later, the Division was sent to Mostar.
Next, the Division saw service on the Dalmation Coast while disarmingItalian soldiers in September, 1943. After helping to disarm Italians, the7th SS helped occupy the Brac, Hvar and Korcula Islands and the PeljesacPeninsula. In December, 1943, the 7th SS once more was in action againstTito’s forces, and once more, the actions proved less-than-promising.
In January, 1944, the 7th SS Division was transfered to the Split,Dubrovnikarea for more training at which time the Division was also reorganized.Prinz Eugen was transfered back to the Bosnia area in March, 1944, andcontinued its part in anti-partisan operations. In May, 1944, the 7th foughagain against Tito’s partisans near Drvar. Next, the Division was moved andfought against Russian and Bulgarian units in August, 1944. At this time,the Division suffered greatly and took a good deal of casualties.
In September, 1944, the Division saw action in what was probably its mostimportant role so far. Prinz Eugen, along with elements of other Waffen ssunits helped to hold a vital bridgehead in the Vardar Corridor in Macedoniaso as to help 350,000 German soldiers escape from possible encirclement bythe advancing Soviets. The 350,000 German soldiers were attempting to movenorth from occupation duties in the Aegean and Greek regions of theBalkans. Prinz Eugen was badly mauled, but the operation proved to be asuccess. After helping hold the line in the Vardar corridor, the Division took partin many rear-guard actions resulting in a long retreat from Cacak all theway to Brcko and over the Drina.
In January, 1945, the Division fought partisans near Otok, and later wassent to the area of Vukovar where it fought again against advancing Sovietforces, and Tito’s partisans. From February, 1945 to April, 1945, theDivision was in action against the Partisans and the Soviets, finally endingthe War in Slovenia and being taken by the Yugoslav government.
Obergruppenführer Arthur Phelps, 1.30.42 – 5.15.43
Brigadeführer August Schmidthuber, 1.20.45 – 5.8.45