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33rd Waffen-Grenadier-Division of the SS Charlemagne (French No. 1)
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originally from the French SS Volunteer Strike Brigade where French volunteers from the Totenkopf and Wiking divisions were concentrated. The brigade was formed in July 1944 and operated on the front in the Carpathian Mountains as part of the Horst Wessel Division. In August 1944, Himmler decided to create the 33rd SS Grenadier Division "Charlemagne". The SS strike brigade became the basis of the men. 22.2.1945 sent to the front in Pomerania. After heavy losses, reformed into the French Volunteer SS Charlemagne Strike Regiment, which had 600 infantry and 400 engineers.
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Zřejmě nejznámější fotografie příslušníků divize. Všimněte si nášivky francouzské trikolóry na pravé paži vojáka vpředu.
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The previous photo was taken in 1943 in the Soviet city of Smolensk. The soldier in the foreground is armed with an MP38 submachine gun.
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Creation of the division
In July 1944, the formation of the division began from a diverse set of components: 1,200 remaining LVF men, 1,000 remaining members of the Sturmbrigade SS Frankreich, 2,500 members of the French militia and volunteers, 1,500 French volunteers from the Kriegsmarine, several hundred volunteers from the Schultzkommandos Todt organization, and several hundred former members of the National-sozialistische-Kraftfarhkorps. The total number of men reached about 7,400, but in the end only one-third of them were actually combat-ready in terms of training and equipment. It was nominally commanded by the former LVF commander, Brigadier General Edgar Puaud, with actual decision-making powers vested in SS-Brigadenführer Gustav Krukenberg.
Composed of the 57th Infantry Regiment of two battalions, the 58th Infantry Regiment of two battalions, an artillery section, an anti-tank battalion and divisional units.
Chronology of the Charlemagne Division's combat deployment in Pomerania
17.2.1945 The first convoy of Charlemagne left Brudzew in the direction of Miastko. A day later, units of Battalion I/57 followed, and other units followed in succession until 23 February. On 21 February an engineer company arrived from Hradisteko in Bohemia, where it had just completed its training. The division was to be deployed directly against the junction of the two advancing Soviet armies. The arrival station was Czarno, lying one hundred kilometres from the coast, as the various convoys arrived they were sent into the engagement one by one, with no opportunity to regroup and wait for the heavy guns.
22.2.1945 The first detachments of the 57th Regiment, under Haupsturmführer de Dourmont, arrived at Czarne.
24.2.1945 The 58th Regiment also arrived in the town.
25.2.1945 The division without heavy equipment and without radio communication, without artillery and air support faced units of the 3rd Guards Cavalry Corps and the 3rd Guards Tank Corps. The division went on the offensive almost on the run, managing to destroy 32 tanks, but suffered the loss of 2,000 men. Its four battalions virtually disintegrated and were forced to retreat in disarray.
The night of 25-26 February 1945 The 57th Regiment's headquarters moved to Bincze and both battalions of the regiment went on the offensive, Battalion I/57 captured the village of Barkowo and Battalion II/57 Uniechów, but before being outnumbered and threatened with encirclement they had to retreat after heavy fighting. The freshly joined Battalion I/58 joined with Battalion II/57 at Borowiny and joined the fight.
26.2.1945 The division commander and his staff settled in Damaslawek. Battalion II/58 arrived in Czarne and went to the battlefield. The division headquarters became the target of a tank attack and the division guard company joined in its defense. The positions of both regiments were breached by a strike of two Soviet tank brigades and four infantry divisions. Charlemagne ceased to be a cohesive body and broke up into several parts. Obersturmführer Puaud, with 3,000 men, took up a circular defence around the village of Borowina; Haupsturmführer de Bourmont marched north to Damaslawek, where the divisional headquarters was located, and which was currently repelling an enemy attack. Although the French had destroyed 19 tanks, they had to clear Damaslawek. The headquarters broke away from the enemy after 6 p.m. and retreated to the coast through the muddy roads.
Night of 26/27.2.1945 Puaud and his 3,000 men escaped from Borowina, joined up with Fenet's battalion at Czarne and together they headed for Szczecinek, where Bassompierre and a detachment of anti-aircraft artillery were located, along with a column of Frenchmen who had just arrived from Wildflecken. These were two convoys, mostly units of Battalion II/58. At the same time the guns arrived, but their operators were still on their way from the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. At that time, the division's losses were 500 dead and 1,000 missing, not including the wounded.
28.2.1945 The French marched to Bialograd, where they were to regroup, with the Soviets already at the gates of the city. Early in the morning they attacked the railway station, where the French convoy had to defend itself in close combat, in which it managed to repel the enemy. An armoured train loaded with howitzers passed through Bobolice and Koszalin and unloaded the armament at Kolobrzeg, where it was later used to defend the town. At the request of Colonel Kopp, the commander of the Szczecinek defences, a marching battalion of 250 men was formed under the command of the divisional orderly, Oberstrumführer Auphan, to defend the 1,200 long stretch. Together with a detachment of Wehrmacht troops, it managed to hold off the enemy for a whole day and then broke away towards Barwica and from there to Karlin. The Charlemagne Division moved on foot to Polczyn Zdroj and headed for the Baltic coast towards Kolobrzeg. On icy roads, in heavy frost and blizzard conditions and under Soviet air raids, it covered 72 km in a day. However, she had to leave all her armaments on the road.
1.3.1945 The battalion charged with the defence of Szczecinek finally arrived from Polczyn Zdroje after a 60 km march, stocked up on ammunition and provisions and was allowed two days rest.
2.3.1945 The division was reorganized as follows: Marching Regiment, Commander Sturmbannführer Raybaud Reserve Regiment, Commander Hauptsturmführer de Bourmont Two assault battalions with a total strength of 1,200 men, commanded by Hauptsturmführer Fenet and Hauptsturmführer Bassompierre
Night 3/4 March 1945 The two regiments took up a defensive position in front of Karlin. All four battalions engaged in combat, the regimental commander Reybald was severely wounded. The battle moved from north to south, towards Bialograd. The troops had to break the encirclement. The division headquarters and Fenet's marching battalion led the breakthrough. The two reserve battalions followed, the retreat was covered by the second marching battalion.
4.3.1945 At five o'clock in the morning Soviet tanks arrived at the gates of Kolobrzeg. The Charlemagne Division, along with numerous Wehrmacht units, found itself trapped. In the morning the situation became critical. The Soviet tanks were unable to penetrate the harbor, so they surrounded the city airtight and turned east to eliminate the pocket in the area of Bialograd and Karlin.
5.3.1945 The French in Karlin resisted all day
The night of 5./6.3.1945 At two o'clock in the morning Fenet's battalion arrived in front of Bialograd. The city was on fire and in the blaze of flames the city in ruins was fought for at close range. The battalion, under the command of Krukenberg and Fener, moved southeast under cover of the forests towards the Gryfice base. The remaining three battalions soon followed. Puaud decided to catch up with the vanguard at one o'clock in the morning, but the reserve regiment was already running considerably behind schedule on its departure from Karlin. More than 2,000 men were organising themselves in vain, morale was at freezing point. Bassompierre's marching battalion still held Karlino and tried to escape by the Karlino-Bialograd railway. After stiff resistance, however, it was scattered and destroyed. Its remnants, in small groups, attempted to break through independently towards the Oder River. Bassompierre was captured by the Poles on 17 March.
6.3.1945 After passing through Bialograd, the reserve regiment, led by Puaud and de Bourmount, attempted to cross the vast plain under cover of dense fog. However, the fog lifted and the whole regiment found itself surrounded. Puaud's detachment was wiped out after 8 a.m. by a superior force of Soviet infantry and tanks after having fired all its ammunition. Both Puaud and de Bourmount were wounded, lost on the retreat, and missing from that day forward. All that remained of the division were a number of scattered individuals and three battalions - one in Danzig, one completely surrounded in Kolobrzeg, and Fenet's marching battalion of about 500 men, which after a three-day march arrived in Miedzyrzecze, where it was reinforced by a number of lone French and other foreign Waffen SS. The division was reduced to a mere battalion and reorganized into four companies, each 200 men strong, with over 300 lone returnees added.
7.3.1945 The French were heading for Gryfice, but the Soviets were advancing too fast. The only way to avoid total annihilation was a hasty retreat to the Baltic coast. The fight was for Gorke.
8.3.1945 The battalion advanced to Zatomi, the soldiers were decimated by hunger and dysentery.
9.3.1945 Within sight of the sea the battalion reached Niechorze and Rewal.
11.3.1945 The Soviets caught up with the French, the battalion had to attempt a breakthrough along the coast to the west under threat of further encirclement. Between its vanguard and the rear troops, about 5,000 civilians were caught. The French were aided by two Kriegsmarine vessels which shelled Soviet positions on the cliffs and supported pockets of resistance on the beaches. Haupsturmführer Roy with several Tiger and Panther tanks held on to the cliffs. The French, after heavy fighting and considerable losses, broke through the encirclement.
12.3.1945 Within sight of Dziwnów, with the help of several German units, they crossed the Oder in boats and reached Korlzowa on Wollin Island, the day after they reached Swinoujscie. The bloody Pomeranian campaign, during which they saved 5000 civilians, was over for the French in the ranks of Charlemagne.
Behind the defensive line, the Charlemagne Division was reorganized into a mere battalion of fighting men - the Französisches Freiwilligen-SturmBataillon der SS "Charlemagne". These last 300 men took part in the street fighting in Berlin as part of the SS Nordland Division, defending the approaches to Hitler's bunker. The last two Knight's Crosses awarded in Berlin were awarded to the Frenchmen of the Charlemagne. The last survivors of the battalion surrendered on May 2. Other units of the French Waffen SS fought against the Americans in Bavaria. The twelve survivors were captured and handed over to French General Leclerc, who had them shot without trial as deserters on May 8, 1945, because "they were fighting in a foreign uniform".
Source: Christian de La Maziere - Volunteer in the SS Division Charlemagne Werner Haupt - Deutsche Spezial-divisionen
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