wss-20

The 20. Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS (estnische Nr. 1) was formed from the 3. Estnische SS-Freiwilligen Brigade and Estnisches SS-Freiwilligen-Panzer-Grenadier-Bataillon Narwa. Ost-Bataillon 658 and Ost-Bataillon 659 were used to form SS-Freiwilligen-Grenadier-Regiment 47 and Ost-Bataillon 660 to form III./SS-Freiwilligen-Grenadier-Regiment 46.
It fought on the Eastern front, including the great battle at Narwa 1944 and was later evacuated from Estonia along with the rest of the German forces.
It continued fighting in Silesia and later Czechoslovakia until the end of the war when parts of the surrendered to the western allies.

Lineage

Estnische SS-Legion (Oct 1942 - May 1943)
Estnische SS-Freiwilligen-Brigade (May 1943 - Oct 1943)
3. Estnische SS-Freiwilligen-Brigade (Oct 1943 - Jan 1944)
20. Estnische SS-Freiwilligen-Division (Jan 1944 - May 1944)
20. Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS (estnische Nr. 1) (May 1944 - May 1945)

Commander

SS-Brigadeführer Franz Augsberger (24 Jan 1944 - 19 Mar 1945) (KIA) (1)
SS-Brigadeführer Berthold Maack (20 Mar 1945 - 8 May 1945)

Quartermaster

SS-Hauptsturmführer Rudolf Bössel (1 Aug 1944 - 1 Mar 1945)

Area of operations

Eastern front, northern sector (Jan 1944 - Dec 1944)
Eastern front, central sector (Dec 1944 - May 1945)

Manpower strength

17 Apr 1944 7.760 (245/952/6.563) (Officers/NCO/Enlisted)
June 1944 13.423
20 Sep 1944 15.382 (439/1.978/12.965) (Officers/NCO/Enlisted)

Honor titles

This division was not named, but one of its units was:
SS-Frw. Gren. Regt. 45 “Estland”
“Estland” is German for “Estonia”, this being an Estonian unit.

Holders of high awards

Holders of the German Cross in Gold (1)
- Ruus, Hando, 30.12.1944, Waffen-Obersturmführer, SS-Div.Füs.Btl. 20
Holders of the Honor Roll Clasp of the Waffen-SS (2)
- Augsberger, Franz, 19.04.1945 [per Scherzer], SS-Brigadeführer u. Generalmajor der W-SS, Kdr. 20. Waffen-Gren. Div. d. SS (estn. Nr. 1)
- Ruut, Oskar, 15.02.1945, Waffen-Obersturmführer, SS-Div.Füs.Btl. 20
Holders of the Knight's Cross (6, including one unofficial/unconfirmed) (5 RK + 1 EL)
- Oakleaves
-- Rebane, Alfons 09.05.1945 Waffen-Standartenführer Kdr Waffen-Gren.Rgt der SS 46 (estn. Nr.2)
[proposal arrived at HPA on 12.04.1945 ; no further handling or an award according to the files ; in the HPA list of higher grades of the Knight's Cross there are to find no further entries ; case treated by the Ordenskommission of the OdR in 1974 and decided : ""875.EL = 8.5.1945" ; OL award # "875" determined by the OdR, award date changed by Fellgiebel later]
- Knight’s Cross
-- Augsberger, Franz 08.03.1945 SS-Brigadeführer und Generalmajor der W-SS Kdr 20. Waffen-Gren.Div der SS (estn. Nr. 1)
-- Langhorst, Bernhard 05.04.1945 SS-Sturmbannführer d.R. Kdr SS-Pz.Jäg.Abt 20
-- Maitla, Paul 23.08.1944 Waffen-Hauptsturmführer Führer I./Waffen-Gren.Rgt der SS 45
-- Nugiseks, Harald 09.04.1944 Waffen-Unterscharführer Zugführer i. d. 1./SS-Frw-Gren.Rgt 46 (estn. Nr. 2)
-- Riipalu, Harald 23.08.1944 Waffen-Obersturmbannführer Kdr Waffen-Gren.Rgt der SS 45

Order of battle

Waffen-Grenadier Regiment der SS 45 “Estland” (estnische nr. 1)
- I Batallion
-- 1. Kompanie
-- 2. Kompanie
-- 3. Kompanie
-- 4. (schwere)Kompanie
- II Batallion
-- 5. Kompanie
-- 6. Kompanie
-- 7. Kompanie
-- 8. (schwere)Kompanie
- 13. (IG)Kompanie
- 14. (TT)Kompanie
Waffen-Grenadier Regiment der SS 46 (estnische nr. 2)
- I Batallion
-- 1. Kompanie
-- 2. Kompanie
-- 3. Kompanie
-- 4. (schwere)Kompanie
- II Batallion
-- 5. Kompanie
-- 6. Kompanie
-- 7. Kompanie
-- 8. (schwere)Kompanie
- 13. (IG)Kompanie
- 14. (TT)Kompanie
Waffen-Grenadier Regiment der SS 47(estnische nr. 3)
Waffen-Artillerie Regiment der SS 20
- I Artillerie Abteilung
-- Stabbatterie
-- 1. Batterie
-- 2. Batterie
-- 3. Batterie
- II Artillerie Abteilung
-- Stabbatterie
- 4. Batterie
- 5. Batterie
- 6. Batterie
- III Artillerie Abteilung
-- Stabbatterie
-- 7. Batterie
-- 8 .Batterie
-- 9. Batterie
- IV (schwere) Artillerie Abteilung
-- Stabbatterie
-- 10.(schwere) Batterie
-- 11.(schwere) Batterie
-- 12.(schwere) Batterie
SS-Waffen Füsilier Batallion 20
SS-Waffen Pionere Batallion 20
- Stab
- 1. Pionere-Kompanie
- 2. Pionere-Kompanie
- 3. Pionere-Kompanie
SS-Feldersatz Batallion 20
- 1. Kompanie
- 2. Kompanie
- 3. Kompanie
SS-Waffen Nachrichten Abteilung 20
SS-Ausbildungs- und Ersatz Regiment 20

Notable members

Harri Rent (Lt.Colonel in the Estonian Defense Forces in the 1990s)
Hando Ruus (the only Estonian recipient of the German Cross in Gold)

Officers serving in the Einsatzgruppen and Concentration Camps

Concentration Camps 7
Einsatzgruppen 1
(includes officers serving in the Einsatzgruppen or Concentration Camps either prior to or after service in this unit)

Insignia

A collar insignia showing a mailed arm holding a sword together with a rounded E was used unofficially. An official one with only a sword and an E was authorized in the summer of 1944 but proved so unpopular that it was dropped and the unofficial insignia became the official one.

Estonian national sleeve shield (Waffen-SS and Heer versions)
sleeve-foreign-eesleeve-foreign-ee2
(Courtesy of The Ruptured Duck)


Waffen-Obersturmbannführer Haraldt Riipalu wearing the special collar tabs
riipalu-harald
(Courtesy of Gary)

Estonian soldiers with a kitten
wss-20-kitten
(Courtesy of Andreas)

Estonian soldiers with a Panzerschreck (Raketenpanzerbüchse)
wss-20-panzerschreck
(Courtesy of Bundesarchiv/Wikimedia, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 Germany)

The Monument of Lihula, a memorial unveiled in 2002.
It has been moved twice and is currently located in Lagedi. The text reads "To Estonian men who fought in 1940-1945 against Bolshevism and for the restoration of Estonian independence".
memorial-est-vol
(Courtesy of Wikimedia)

Memorial to the division at Sinimäe
memorial-est-vol-sinimae1  memorial-est-vol-sinimae2

(Courtesy of Abarmot)

Footnotes

1. Franz Augsberger was killed in action 19 March 1945 in Silesia.

Sources used

Christopher Ailsby - Hitler's Renegades: Foreign nationals in the service of the Third Reich
John R. Angolia - Cloth insignia of the SS
Georges M. Croisier - Waffen-SS (PDF)
Terry Goldsworthy - Valhalla's Warriors: A history of the Waffen-SS on the Eastern Front 1941-1945
Dr. K-G Klietmann - Die Waffen-SS: eine Dokumentation
David Littlejohn - Foreign Legions of the Third Reich, vol 4
Kurt Mehner - Die Waffen-SS und Polizei 1939-1945
Rolf Michaelis - Estländare i tysk tjänst 1941-1945: en översikt
Martin Månsson - Heinrich Himmler: A photographic chronicle of Hitler's Reichsführer-SS
Marc J. Rikmenspoel - Waffen-SS Encyclopedia
George H. Stein - The Waffen-SS: Hitler's Elite Guard at War 1939-1945
Frank Thayer - SS Foreign volunteer collar insignia and their reproductions (in The Military Advisor, Vol 4 No 2)
Gordon Williamson - The Waffen-SS: 11. to 23. Divisions
Mark C. Yerger - Waffen-SS Commanders: The Army, corps and divisional leaders of a legend (2 vol)

Reference material on this unit

August Jurs - Estonian freedomfighters in World War Two
Petter Kjellander - Till siste man: Estniska frontsoldater berättar
Mart Laar - Eesti Leegion: sönas ja pildis / The Estonian legion in words and pictures
Richard Landwehr - Estonian Vikings
Rolf Michaelis - Esten in der Waffen-SS: Die 20. Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS (estnische Nr. 1)
Harri Rent - Ma Jäin Ellu

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