SS-Division "Nord"
in Northern Finland
1941 - 1944

UNDER CONSTRUCTION!

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A sole guard soldier of SS-Division "Nord" (mot.) in the village of Salla in late July 1941. (SA-kuva 25293)

The former Finnish village Salla was the first goal in the north when German XXXVI. Armee-Korps on 1.7.1941 launched its attack which mostly failed miserably after lasting only a couple of days. Eventually it took more than two weeks to German troops before they could conquer the village. Finnish 6th Division which had advanced fighting partly through the roadless wilderness to flank the Soviet defence positions and supply routes.from the south.

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In Finland between June 1941 - November 1944.

Strength [men]

6.1941 8.1941 1942 1944
8.150 10.100 23.000 20.000

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Divisionskommandeur
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17.6.41 - 20.4.42
?.10.41 - 30.3.42
1.4. - 20.4.42,

20.4.42 - 15.12.43.
15.12.43 - 20.5.44
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20.5. - 23.8.44
23.8. - 1.9.44
1.9.44 - 10.3.45
10.3. - 9.5.45
SS-Brigadeführer u. Generalmajor der Waffen-SS
SS-Standartenführer / SS-Oberführer
(30.1.42)
SS-Brigadeführer u. Generalmajor der Waffen-SS /
SS-Gruppenführer u. Generalleutnant der Waffen-SS
(?)
SS-Brigadeführer u. Generalmajor der Waffen-SS /
SS-Gruppenführer u. Generalleutnant der Waffen-SS
(1.44)
SS-Obergruppenführer u. General der Waffen-SS
SS-Oberführer
SS-Gruppenführer u. Generalleutnant der Waffen-SS
SS-Standartenführer
Karl-Maria Demelhuber
Hans Scheider (acting)
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Matthias Kleinheisterkamp
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Lothar Debes
Friedrich-Wilhelm Krüger

Gustav Lombard *
Karl[-Heinrich] Brenner
Franz Schreiber (acting) +
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* .Never took the command although was appointed Divisionkommandeur.
+ Commanded only the remnants of the division called "Kampfgruppe Schreiber".

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SS-Brigadeführer und Generalmajor der Waffen-SS [older style rank badges] Karl-Maria Demelhuber speaks to high German and Finnish officers during his departure ceremony in Kiestinki on 12.4.1942. Officers around the table are (from the left):
Chief of Staff of the Finnish III Army Corps Col. V. Oinonen, K.-M. Demelhuber, Commander of III Army Corps Maj.Gen. Hj. Siilasvuo,
Oberbefehlshaber / Armee-Oberkommando Lappland General der Gebirgstruppen Eduard Dietl, Commander of the temporary Division J Col. V. Palojärvi, an acting Divisionskommandeur SS-Nord SS-Oberführer Hans Scheider, SS-Obersturmbannführer Friedrich Gutberlet and Artillery Commander of Division J Lt.Col. E. Hülpers. (SA-kuva 81380)
Note the microphone on the left and the "humorous art" by unknown German artists on the barrack walls.

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SS-Gruppenführer und Generalleutnant der Waffen-SS Matthias Kleinheisterkamp with SS-Obersturmbannführer Constantin Heldmann (on the left) and two unknown SS officers (Adjutants: SS-Hauptsturmführer and SS-Untersturmführer) in the city of Hanko, Southern Finland on 1.6.1943. Finnisches Freiwilligen Bataillon der Waffen-SS (III.[finn.] / SS-Infanterie-Regiment "Nordland") was shipped to Hanko this same day and Kleinheisterkamp arrived to welcome the battalion back to Finland. (SA-kuva 128798)

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SS-Kampfgruppe "Nord"

SS-Kampfgruppe "Nord" was originally ordered to be formed on 24.2.1941 in Norway from the SS-Polizei-Brigade which consisted of SS-Totenkopf-Standarte 6 and 7. Regiments were reorganized, reinforced and renamed SS-Infanterie-Regiment 6 (mot.) and 7 (mot.) respectively. On 15.3. the new the Stab / SS-Kampfgruppe and other sub-units were established in Germany.

It was clear that SS-Kampfgruppe "Nord" was far from the effective combat-ready motorized unit when it marched from Northern Norway to Finnish Lapland for Unternehmen Barbarossa during june 1941 having some 1.800 motor vehicles and about 8.000 men. Its last elements arrived in Northern Finland from Germany on 16.6. including for example artillery and anti-aircraft formations. Units of the forthcoming division were for the first time together only a few days before the important attack date!

On 17.6.1941 SS-Kampfgruppe was officially ordered to becomeSS-Division "Nord" (mot.) and SS-Brigadeführer Herrmann transferred the command to SS-Brigadeführer und Generalmajor der Waffen-SS Karl-Maria Demelhuber. Since 10.6.1941 SS-"Nord" belonged to XXXVI. Armee-Korps (XXXVI.AK) (Befehlshaber General der Kavallerie Hans Feige) together with 169. Infanterie-Division (169.I.D.) and corps troops. Finnish 6th Division (6.D), a few border jäger kompanies and a fortress artillery battalion were also attached to army korps for retaking the former Finnish village Salla and for advancing to Murmansk railway in Kandalaksa [Kantalahti].

The new division commander mentioned in his first memorandum to General Feige that his troops were far from ready for such a demanding operation. Although SS-"Nord" was almost fully motorized and well equipped on paper there were certain serious defects in armament and vehicles and the majority of men were poorly trained recruits and without any combat experience. Additionally personnel consisted of a strange mix of very young inexperienced soldiers and NCOs and older rather incompetent reservists who were mainly officers. Because of many delays the newly formed SS formation still lacked major parts of its planned troops and support weapons. Although SS-"Nord" was officially "promoted" to a full division, initilly it was still SS-Kampfgruppe "Nord" (mot.).
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Attack against Salla and Alakurtti

The attack of the XXXVI. Armee-Korps towards Kandalaksa [Kantalahti] started on 1.7.1941 with about 40.600 German and 16.000 Finnish soldiers. Troops had to attack partly through the almost impassable untouched abysmal forest wilderness along the one main road . Landscape was full of small rivers, streams, lakes, swamps and bogs. For their supply combat units had only a few very weak paths, trails and roads not well suitable for motor vehicles at all. Especially the fully motorized inexperienced SS-"Nord" in the middle of the Salla front met serious difficulties because of strong Soviet counter-attacks.

After only a few days unsuccessful close-combat in the forest many SS soldiers lost their nerves and lots of men just escaped from the front. Only very hard Prussian discipline prevented the whole units to leave their defensive lines. Critical situation was solved replacing the most incompetent leaders but relationships between the personnel of "ordinary" Wehrmacht and "elite" SS became very bad at that stage.

The burned village of Salla was captured quite easily from the north by German 169.ID. after Finnish 6.D had flanked Soviet defences from the south marching through the roadless wilderness and surprised Soviets east from Salla at Kairala. Also Alakurtti was captured rather easily. Germans' total casualties were especially high compared to any battles of the Eastern Front: over 9.000 men! Due to very heavy losses, hard Soviet resistance and numerous fortified defence lines much weaker attacker had no power to push Soviet troops away from their positions even after numerous attempts. The arrival of fresh Soviet troops finally stopped XXXVI.AK at Alakurtti - Vilmajärvi area until autumn / fall 1944.
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Attack against Kiestinki and Louhi

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Commander of Finnish III AK Maj.Gen. Hj. Siilasvuo is visiting the mobile combat Stab of SS-Division "Nord" (mot.) east from Kiestinki village in the late summer 1941. Persons from the left are: Chief of Staff of III AK Col. V. Oinonen, Ia / SS-Div."Nord" Hstuf./Stubaf.(?.41) Joachim Ruoff (?), Maj.Gen. Siilasvuo, Divisionskommandeur / SS-Div."Nord" SS-Brigadeführer Karl-Maria Demelhuber, German liaison officer Major Munch, Artillery Commander of III AK Col. H. Schreck and an unrecognized Finnish officer. (SA-kuva 76685)

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In late July and August 1941 units of SS-Division "Nord" (mot.) rested and trained intensively. Between July and September "Nord" was gradually moved away from the Salla - Alakurtti - Kandalaksa front and transferred 140 km south to Kiestinki area. There Maj.Gen. Hj. Siilasvuo's Finnish III Army Corps (III Armeijakunta, III AK) was preparing to continue its attack towards the village of Kiestinki and further to Loukhi [Louhi] on the Murmansk - Leningrad railway with its experienced Finnish troops.

The first arrived SS-I.R.6 (mot.) (I. and II./SS-I.R.6 and III./SS-I.R.7) was attached to reinforce Finnish Group J (Ryhmä J) (Commander Lt.Col. J. Turtola, 8.8.41- Col. H. Schreck) which on 14.8.1941 was officially renamed temporary Division J (Divisioona J, Div.J) (Commander Col. V. Palojärvi, Chief of Staff Maj. W. Halsti).

On 3.8.1941 also Panzer-Abteilung z.b.V. 40 (Stab and 2.Pz.Kp.), SS-Feld-Artillerie-Regiment "Nord" with two light field artillery battalions and two separate German field artillery battalions as well as a German MG-Bataillon 13 (mot.) were moved away from Salla - Kiestinki front and subordinated to Finnish III AK. Motorized and armoured units were primarily subordinated to a fast group called Detachment Somersalo / Group J (Osasto Somersalo) (Lt.Col. A. Somersalo).

[About units of SS-"Nord" attacking with Finish troops.]

On 18.8.1941 the grouping of SS-"Nord" was as follows:

Still under the command of Gen.Kdo XXXVI.AK at Kairala (Salla - Alakurtti direction):

Rgt.Stab / SS-IR 7
I./SS-IR 7
II./SS-IR 7 (- 5.Kp.)
14.Pz.Jg.Kp. / SS-IR 7 (- 1.Zug)

Stab / SS-Flak-Abteilung "Nord"
1. s.Flak-Batterie
[4x 8.8 cm Flak]
3. le.Flak-Kompanie (- Zug)
[8x 2 cm Flak]

Zug / SS-Bäckerei-Kp. [2x oven]
1.J.K.
(Jagd-Kommando?) / SS-IR 7
kleine Kraftwagen-Kolonne / SS-Nachschub "Nord"
verst.
[reinforced] grosse Fernsprecher-Trupp (a) mot. / SS-Na.Abt."Nord"
2x kleine Funk-Trupp d (30 Watt) / SS-Nachrichten-Abt."Nord"
mittlere Funk-Trupp b (100 Watt) / SS-Nachrichten-Abt."Nord"

Under the command of Finnish 6th Division at Vuorijärvi (south from Alakurtti) were:

Stab / SS-Aufklärungs-Abteilung "Nord"
5. Infanterie-Kompanie / SS-IR 7
verst.
[reinforced] Funk-Trupp / SS-Nachrichten-Abt."Nord"
2x Tornister-Funk-Trupp a / SS-Nachrichten-Abt."Nord"
mittlere Funk-Trupp b (100 Watt) / SS-Nachrichten-Abt."Nord"

At Kiestinki direction subordinated to Finnish Division J of III Army Corps were:

Rgt.Stab / SS-IR 6
verst.
[reinforced] 2. Infanterie-Kompanie / I./ SS-IR 6
II./SS-IR 6
III./SS-IR 6
14.Pz.Jg.Kp. / SS-IR 6
IG-Zug / 13. Infanterie-Geschütz-Kp. / SS-IR 6
III./SS-IR 7
IG-Zug / 13.IG-Kp./SS-IR 7
Pi.Kp. / SS-IR.7

Rgt.Stab / SS-Artillerie-Regiment "Nord"
I. Artillerie-Abteilung
II. Artillerie-Abteilung

2. le.Flak-Kompanie [9x 3.7 cm Flak] / SS-Flak-Abteilung "Nord"
Feldgendarmerie-Trupp
Krad-Gruppe / Kradmelde.Zg.Div.Kdo
2x kl.Kw.Kolonne / SS-Nachschub "Nord"
San.Kp. / SS-San.Dienste "Nord"
Kr.Kw.Zug / SS-San.Dienste "Nord"
SS-Kriegsberichter (K.B.) Zug
(SS War Correspondent Platoon)
2x kl.Fe.-Trupp b mot / SS-Nachrichten-Abt."Nord"
2x gr.Fe.-Trupp a mot / SS-Nachrichten-Abt."Nord"

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According to an original photo caption: "A German fire observer section in the forest near the [Kiestinki -Louhi] railway at Kiestinki on 21.8.1941". More likely this is although a radio section of SS-Division "Nord" subordinated to the temporary Finnish Division J.
(SA-kuva 43667)

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Under the command of SS-Division "Nord" (AOK Norwegen, Finnish III Army Corps since 31.8.1941) were:

Div.Kdo / SS-"Nord"
I./SS-IR 6 (- verst.2.Kp)
([Kampf-]Gruppe Schreiber)
Zug / 3. le.Flak-Kompanie / SS-Flak-Abteilung "Nord"
[4x 2 cm Flak]
Pionier-Kp. / SS-IR 6
SS-Nachrichten-Abteilung "Nord"
(- troops subordinated elsewhere)
SS-Versorgungstruppen
(supply troops) (- troops subordinated elsewhere)

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SS-Division "Nord" (mot.)

SS-"Nord" was officially subordinated to Finnish III AK on 31.8.1941. Finally the HQ of this fully motorized infantry division SS-Division "Nord" (mot.) remained almost inactive having only rear area securing and supply duties while most of its combat troops were assigned to assists Finnish units.

[About units of SS-"Nord" attacking with Finish troops.]

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SS-Gebirgs-Division "Nord"

On 22.6.1942 SS-Division "Nord" was attached to a new German XVIII. Gebirgs-Armee-Korps which had arrived in Finland together with 7. Gebirgs-Division during the winter and spring 1942. They replaced the Finnish III AK and parts of the elements of the Finnish 3rd Division at Kiestinki - Louhi direction and were moved southwards to Uhtua front to protect the southern flank of the Germans. Part of the Finnish troops remained with Germans and some were moved to rear areas being reserves of the Finnish Supreme HQ (PM). In March 1944 both III AK and 3rd Division were transferred to Karelian Isthmus to reinforce Finnish defences on the Eastern Karelian Ishmus. Temporary Division J was suspended already on 7.8.1942 and thereafter a reinforced SS-Gebirgs-Division "Nord" hold the front-line at Kiestinki area until September 1944.

In September 1942 "Nord" received new units, equipment, weapons and vehicles from Germany. Division was largely reorganized and renamed SS-Gebirgs-Division "Nord" becoming officially a SS mountain division. The number "6." was attached to the division's name rather late on 22.10.1943 (according to SCHFR p. 254 number was used since August 1943).
 

The Birke Plan - Lapland War 1944 - 1945

Finns accepted the peace pact with the USSR on 2.9.1944. A day after that all German units received the following telex message: "Birke anschlagen" ("Cut the birch"). It meant that all units must began preparing for a retreat from Finland. On 4 September another more urgent message arrived: "Birke fällen" ("Fall the birch") which meant immediate evacuation of troops, weapons, vehicles and all possible supplies. Five days later the first elements of XVIII.Geb.-AK started their long march to Norway from the Kiestinki front. There were no serious fights with the slowly following Sovies at that stage. Soviet troops stopped rather soon after crossing the Finnish border but occupied temporarily some villages on the Finnish side.

During August and September 1944 Germans had activated two temporary units called Kampfgruppe West and Ost to secure their southern flank. Units taken from SS-Gebirgs-Division "Nord" together with Divisions-Gruppe Kräutler formed the bulk of these battlegroups. On 29 September 1944 Finnish Separate Battalion 5 (Er.P 5) (Maj. M. Hautala) was stopped by SS-Aufklärungs-Bataillon 6 (SS-Obersturmführer Zimmermann) securing the bridge over river Olhavanjoki. Finnish and German soldiers even smoked cigarettes together like earlier. Next day Er.P 5 received a new order: "The bridge must be taken by force." The attempt failed but it was the first serious military action during the so called Lapland War [Lapin sota].

[About SS-"Nord" delaying Finnish troops.]

SS-"Nord" left Finland to Norway in November 1944 and it was transferred to Germany during the last days of 1944. In spring 1945 division fought against US forces and surrendered to Americans. The last German troops withdrew from the Finnish territory on 23 April 1945. It was officially noted that the Lapland War had ended on 25.4.1945.
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Infantry Weapons Used by SS-Division "Nord"

In the summer 1941 40 to 95 % of the infantry weapons used by different units of SS-"Nord" were of Czech origin. For example lots of light 7.92 mm MG 26(t), MG 30(t) *, Polish lMG 28(p) and heavy MG 37(t) ** MGs were used. The portion of Czech light MGs was 75% and medium MGs 85%! Also the percentage of Czech-made G 24(t) rifles was about 40 to 50% and about 70% of pistols were Czech ones (Cz).
* British Bren LMG is a development of this weapon
** British Besa tank MMG is a development of this weapon

It's also interesting to note that SS-"Nord" had initially only a few MP 38/40 SMGs but lots of more typical SS-weapons like 9.00 mm Erma EMP and Bergman MP 35 SMGs instead. Germans' basic AT rifle was obsolescent and quite ineffective 7.92 mm Panzerbüchse 39 (Pz.B 39).

The new weapon models arrived in Finland later than elsewhere but still the amount of German-made weapons (Deutsche Waffen) rose gradually so that in the autumn of 1944 division had about:

  • 13.750 rifles (Kar 98k and G 33/40)
  • 960 sniping rifles (Kar 98k with ZF 41 scope sight)
  • 300 semi-automatic rifles (G 41(W))
  • 940 SMGs (MP 40)
  • 4.400 pistols (9 mm: Walther P 38 and P 08 Parabellum; 7.65 mm: Walther, Sauer and Mauser)

The exact amount of MGs is unknown but it has been over 1.000 pcs. MG 42 appeared in Finland as late as at the beginning of 1944 and MG 34 was therefore the main German LMG model used in 1944.

To the group of foreign weapons (Beutewaffen) belonged among others:

  • 350 Soviet SMGs (PPSh-41)
  • 635 Norwegian Colt-Browning m/14 pistols
  • numerous Soviet Pz.B 783(r) (PTRD-40) anti-tank rifles

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Sources: SCHFR, JATHI, PALMA1, SUOSO [5]
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Under construction!
Copyright © Harri Anttonen 2000 - 12.2016