Waffen-SS foreign volunteers and conscripts

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The Waffen-SS foreign volunteers and conscripts

The Waffen-SS foreign volunteers and conscripts during World War II were members of the Waffen-SS who have been recruited or conscripted mainly from among the nationals of Nazi-occupied Europe. The recruitment began in April 1940 with the creation of two regiments: the Waffen SS Regiment Nordland (for Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish volunteers), and the Waffen SS Regiment Westland (for Dutch, and Flemish volunteers). As the Waffen SS Freiwilligen grew in numbers, the volunteers were grouped into Legions (with the size of battalion or brigade); their members included the so-called Germanic non-Germans as well as ethnic German officers originating from the occupied territories (i.e. the Volksdeutsche). Following Operation Barbarossa – as the war on the Eastern front raged – the Freiwilligen made up one half of the entire Waffen-SS fighting force. Notably, by February 1942 the recruitment to the Waffen-SS in south-east Europe turned into compulsory conscription for all German minorities of military age by the “iron law of their ethnicity”.

Frantic recruiting of all available manpower including SS takeover of complete Army, Navy, and Air Force units was introduced in 1943 in order to rebuild understrength regiments depleted by high casualty rates. A system of nomenclature developed to formally distinguish personnel based on their place of origin. The formations with non-German volunteers of Germanic background were officially named Freiwilligen (Scandinavians, Dutch, the Flemish, Walloons, and the Frenchmen), while the units with preponderance of the so-called non-German Volksdeutsche from satellite countries – organized into independent legions – had a designation Waffen attached to their names for the ease of formal identification. They were forbidden to display the SS-runes reserved for the original Reichsdeutsche. Despite manpower shortages, Waffen-SS remained faithful to the racist ideology of the Third Reich, barring undesirable ethno-racial and religious minorities from service.

The study of volunteer and conscript brigades and their badges has been made difficult, by the attitude to the Units, once the War was over or lost. The participants became a focus of hate and resentment from the local populous and in many cases, many were killed or at least imprisoned by their fellow citizens.

Many of the records and Uniforms were destroyed to hide participation and those items remaining, have become very rare and sought after.

The late Michael O’Hara, as a researcher and writer, had an interest many years before anyone else realized the scarcity of the items and information and his magnificent collection, ‘sold off’ after his death, became an opportunity to acquire a number of items which are rare or in the difficult to find box – we were fortunate to acquire a number of the items (we wish we had had the resources at the time to buy more) – and a number of these are illustrated here..

Intro (2)

38a 38b (2) 39a39b (2)

42a 42b (2) 43a43b (2)

46a 46b (2) 4747b (2)

47a 47c 49a49b (2)

51a 51b (2) 54a54b (2)

55a55b (2)56a 56b (2)

57a 57b (2) 59a59b (2)

60a 60b (2) 68a68b (2)

78a 78b (2) 78c78d (2)

82a 82b (2) 83a83b (2)

89a 89b (2) 401 (2)