|250. Infanterie-Division (German)|
250th Infantry Division
División Española de Voluntarios (Spanish)
Spanish Volunteer Division
|Active||June 24, 1941 – March 21, 1944|
|Size||47,000 troops (total)|
|Motto(s)|| Spanish: Sin relevo posible, hasta la extinción|
(No possible relief, until extinction)
|Engagements|| World War II |
| Agustín Muñoz Grandes |
Emilio Esteban Infantes
The Blue Division (Spanish : División Azul, German : Blaue Division), officially designated as División Española de Voluntarios by the Spanish Army and 250. Infanterie-Division in the German Army was a unit of Spanish volunteers and conscripts who served in the German Army on the Eastern Front of the Second World War. It also included over 150 to several hundred men of the Portuguese Legion sent by the Portuguese Estado Novo under the Spanish Flag, many of whom had already fought in the Viriatos during the Spanish Civil War.
Spanish or Castilian, is a Western Romance language that originated in the Castile region of Spain and today has hundreds of millions of native speakers in the Americas and Spain. It is a global language and the world's second-most spoken native language, after Mandarin Chinese.
German is a West Germanic language that is mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol (Italy), the German-speaking Community of Belgium, and Liechtenstein. It is also one of the three official languages of Luxembourg and a co-official language in the Opole Voivodeship in Poland. The languages which are most similar to German are the other members of the West Germanic language branch: Afrikaans, Dutch, English, the Frisian languages, Low German/Low Saxon, Luxembourgish, and Yiddish. There are also strong similarities in vocabulary with Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, although those belong to the North Germanic group. German is the second most widely spoken Germanic language, after English.
Among the approximately one million foreign volunteers and conscripts who served in the Wehrmacht during World War II were ethnic Germans, Belgians, Czechs, Dutch, Finns, French, Greeks, Hungarians, Norwegians, Poles, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedes and British, along with people from the Baltic states and the Balkans.
The Blue Division was the only component of the German Army to be awarded a medal of their own, commissioned by Hitler after the effectiveness it had impeding the advance of the Red Army.
The Spanish Volunteer Medal formally known as the Commemorative Medal for Spanish Volunteers in the Struggle Against Bolshevism , commissioned 3 January 1944, was awarded by the Third Reich to recognize the men of the Blue Division who served at the Russian front during World War II. This force, attached to the Heer of the Wehrmacht, known as the 250th Infantry Division (span.), was in total composed of 47,000 men, sent by Francisco Franco to aid the Third Reich, as a way to pay back Adolf Hitler's help during the Spanish Civil War.
Adolf Hitler was a German politician and leader of the Nazi Party. He rose to power as Chancellor of Germany in 1933 and later Führer in 1934. During his dictatorship from 1933 to 1945, he initiated World War II in Europe by invading Poland in September 1939. He was closely involved in military operations throughout the war and was central to the perpetration of the Holocaust.
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army, frequently shortened to Red Army was the army and the air force of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, and, after 1922, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The army was established immediately after the 1917 October Revolution. The Bolsheviks raised an army to oppose the military confederations of their adversaries during the Russian Civil War. Beginning in February 1946, the Red Army, along with the Soviet Navy, embodied the main component of the Soviet Armed Forces; taking the official name of "Soviet Army", until its dissolution in December 1991.
Blue Division casualties in all of the Russo-German conflict totaled 22,700 (3,934 battle deaths, 570 disease deaths, 326 missing or captured, 8,466 wounded, 7,800 sick, and 1,600 frostbitten).In action against the Blue Division, the Red Army suffered 49,300 casualties.
Although Spanish caudillo Francisco Franco did not officially bring Spain into World War II on the side of Nazi Germany, he permitted volunteers to join the German Army (Wehrmacht) on the condition they would only fight against the Soviet Union on the Eastern Front, and not against the Western Allies or any Western European occupied populations. In this manner, he could keep Spain at peace with the Western Allies, while repaying German support during the Spanish Civil War and providing an outlet for the strong anti-Communist sentiments of many Spanish nationalists. Spanish foreign minister Ramón Serrano Súñer suggested raising a volunteer corps, and at the commencement of Operation Barbarossa, Franco sent an official offer of help to Berlin.
A caudillo was a type of personalist leader wielding military and political power. There is no precise definition of caudillo, which is often used interchangeably with "dictator" and "strongman". The term is historically associated with Spain, and with Spanish America after virtually all of that region won independence in the early nineteenth century. The term is often used pejoratively by critics of a regime. However, Spain's General Francisco Franco (1936–1975) proudly took the title as his own during and after his military overthrow of the Second Spanish Republic in the Spanish Civil War (1936–39), in parallel to the German and Italian equivalents of the same period: Führer and Duce. Spanish censors during his rule attacked publishers who applied the term to Hispanic American strongmen. Caudillos' exercise of power is a form considered authoritarian. Most societies have had personalist leaders at times, but Hispanic America has had many more, the majority of whom were not self-described caudillos. However, scholars have applied the term to a variety of Hispanic American leaders.
Francisco Franco Bahamonde was a Spanish general and politician who ruled over Spain as a military dictator from 1939, after the nationalist victory in the Spanish Civil War, until his death in 1975. This period in Spanish history is commonly known as Francoist Spain.
Francoist Spain, known in Spain as the Francoist dictatorship, officially known as the Spanish State from 1936 to 1947 and the Kingdom of Spain from 1947 to 1975, is the period of Spanish history between 1936 and 1975, when Francisco Franco established a totalitarian dictatorship. Francoist Spain has been considered fascist in the terms of authoritarian ultranationalism, but it has been described by some authors as semi-fascist.
Hitler approved the use of Spanish volunteers on 24 June 1941. Volunteers flocked to recruiting offices in all the metropolitan areas of Spain. Cadets from the officer training school in Zaragoza volunteered in particularly large numbers and were given leave by the Spanish army. Initially, the Spanish government was prepared to send about 4,000 men, but soon realized that there were more than enough volunteers to fill an entire division: 18,104 men in all, with 2,612 officers and 15,492 soldiers.
Fifty percent of officers and NCOs were professional soldiers given leave from the Spanish army, including many veterans of the Spanish Civil War. Many others were members of the Falange (the Spanish Fascist party). Others felt pressure to join because of past ties with the Republic or—like Luis García Berlanga, who later became a well-known cinema director—to save relatives in prison from execution. The division also included a number of Portuguese volunteers.
Luis García-Berlanga Martí was a Spanish film director and screenwriter.
Portugal, officially the Portuguese Republic, is a country located mostly on the Iberian Peninsula in southwestern Europe. It is the westernmost sovereign state of mainland Europe. It is bordered to the west and south by the Atlantic Ocean and to the north and east by Spain. Its territory also includes the Atlantic archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira, both autonomous regions with their own regional governments.
General Agustín Muñoz Grandes was assigned to lead the volunteers. Because the soldiers could not use official Spanish army uniforms, they adopted a symbolic uniform comprising the red berets of the Carlists, the khaki trousers of the Spanish Legion, and the blue shirts of the Falangists—hence the nickname "Blue Division". This uniform was used only while on leave in Spain; in the field, soldiers wore the German Army (Wehrmacht Heer) field grey uniform with a shield on the upper right sleeve bearing the word "España" and the Spanish national colours.
On July 13, 1941, the first train left Madrid for Grafenwöhr, Bavaria for a further five weeks of training. There they became the Heer's 250th Infantry Division, and were initially divided into four infantry regiments, as in a standard Spanish division. To aid their integration into the German supply system, they soon adopted the standard Heer model of three regiments. One of the original regiments was dispersed amongst the others, which were then named after three of the Spanish cities that volunteers largely originated from—Madrid, Valencia and Seville. Each regiment had three battalions (of four companies each) and two weapons companies, supported by an artillery regiment of four battalions (of three batteries each). There were enough men left over to create an assault battalion, mainly sub-machine gun armed. Later, due to casualties, this was disbanded. Aviator volunteers formed a Blue Squadron (Escuadrillas Azules) which, using Bf 109s and FW 190s, was credited with 156 Soviet aircraft kills.
On 31 July, after taking the standard personal oath to Hitler, under whose authority they were to be fighting,the Blue Division was formally incorporated into the German Wehrmacht as the 250th Division. It was initially assigned to Army Group Center, the spearheading force advancing towards Moscow.
The division was transported by train to Suwałki, Poland (August 28), from where it had to continue by foot on a 900 km march. It was scheduled to travel through Grodno (Belarus), Lida (Belarus), Vilnius (Lithuania), Molodechno (Belarus), Minsk (Belarus), Orsha (Belarus) to Smolensk, and from there to the Moscow front. While marching towards the Smolensk front on September 26, the Spanish volunteers were rerouted from Vitebsk and reassigned to Army Group North (the force closing on Leningrad), becoming part of the German 16th Army.
The Blue Division was first deployed on the Volkhov River front, with its headquarters in Grigorovo, on the outskirts of Novgorod. It was in charge of a 50 km section of the front north and south of Novgorod, along the banks of the Volkhov River and Lake Ilmen. According to the museum curator in the Spasa Preobrazheniya church on Ilyin Street, the division used the high cupola as a machine-gun nest. As a result, much of the building was seriously damaged, including many of the medieval icons by Theophanes the Greek.
In August 1942, it was transferred north to the southeastern flank of the Leningrad siege, just south of the Neva near Pushkin, Kolpino and Krasny Bor in the Izhora River area.
After the collapse of the German southern front following the Battle of Stalingrad, more German troops were deployed southwards. By this time, General Emilio Esteban Infantes had taken command.
The Blue Division faced a major Soviet attempt to break the siege of Leningrad in February 1943, when the 55th Army of the Soviet forces, reinvigorated after the victory at Stalingrad, attacked the Spanish positions at the Battle of Krasny Bor, near the main Moscow-Leningrad road. Despite very heavy casualties, the Spaniards were able to hold their ground against a Russian force seven times larger and supported by tanks. The assault was contained and the siege of Leningrad was maintained for a further year. The division remained on the Leningrad front where it continued to suffer heavy casualties due to weather and to enemy action. [ citation needed ]When Franco dispatched more reinforcements, this time it included conscripts as well as volunteers.
Through rotation, as many as 45,482 Spanish soldiers served on the Eastern Front. They were awarded both Spanish and German military awards, and were the only division to be awarded a medal of their own, commissioned by Hitler.
Eventually, the Allies and conservative Spaniards (including many officials of the Roman Catholic Church) began to press Franco for the withdrawal of troops from the Eastern Front quasi-alliance with Germany. Franco initiated negotiations in the spring of 1943 and gave an order of withdrawal on October 10.
Some Spanish soldiers refused to return. While some believed that Franco gave his unofficial blessing as long as their number was below 1,500, on November 3, 1943 the Spanish government ordered all troops to return to Spain. In the end, the total of "non returners" was close to 3,000 men, mostly Falangists. Spaniards also joined other German units, mainly the Waffen-SS, and fresh volunteers slipped across the Spanish border near Lourdes in occupied France. The new pro-German units were collectively called the Legión Azul ("Blue Legion").
Spaniards initially remained part of the 121st Infantry Division, but even this meagre force was ordered to return home in March 1944,and was transported back to Spain on March 21. The rest of the volunteers were absorbed into German units.
Platoons of Spaniards served in the 3rd Gebirgs Division and the 357th Infantry Division. One unit was sent to Latvia. Two companies joined the Brandenburger Regiment and German 121st Division in fighting against the Yugoslav Partisans.
The 101st Company (Spanische-Freiwilligen Kompanie der SS 101, "Spanish Volunteer Company of the SS Number 101") of 140 men, made up of four rifle platoons and one staff platoon, was attached to 28th SS Volunteer Grenadier Division Wallonien and fought in Pomerania and Brandenburg as Soviet troops advanced into eastern Germany. Later, as part of 11th SS Volunteer Panzergrenadier Division Nordland and under command of Hauptsturmführer der SS Miguel Ezquerra, the Company fought the last days of the war against Soviet troops in the Battle in Berlin.
The casualties of the Blue Division and its successors included 4,954 men killed and 8,700 wounded. Another 372 members of the Blue Division, the Blue Legion, or volunteers of the Spanische-Freiwilligen Kompanie der SS 101 were taken prisoner by the victorious Red Army; 286 of these men were kept in captivity until April 2, 1954, when they returned to Spain aboard the ship Semiramis, supplied by the International Red Cross.
Soldiers and officers of the Blue Division were awarded:
Hitler referred to the division as "equal to the best German ones". During his table talks, he also said:
To troops, the Spaniards are a crew of ragamuffins. They regard a rifle as an instrument that should not be cleaned under any pretext. Their sentries exist only in principle. They don't take up their posts, or, if they do take them up, they do so in their sleep. When the Russians arrive, the natives have to wake them up. But the Spaniards have never yielded an inch of ground. One can't imagine more fearless fellows. They scarcely take cover. They flout death. I know, in any case, that our men are always glad to have Spaniards as neighbours in their sector.
Later when Hitler considered an invasion of Spain to remove Franco and replace him with Agustín Muñoz Grandes, he decided against it, saying "The Spaniards are the only tough Latins. I would have a guerrilla war in my rear."
Many of the generals who perpetrated the attempted coup d'état against the Spanish government on February 23, 1981 had served in the Blue Division during World War II. Amongst them were generals Alfonso Armada and Jaime Milans del Bosch. Other Blue Division veterans, including Director of the Guardia Civil José Luis Aramburu Topete and José Gabeiras, remained loyal to the legal democratic government under the young King Juan Carlos I of Spain.
During the German occupation of Velikiy Novgorod, the city's kremlin suffered heavy battle damage. However, the Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Sophia itself survived. The large cross on the main dome (which has a metal bird attached to it, perhaps symbolic of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove) had fallen during shelling of the city while it housed the headquarters of the División Azul during World War II. The cross was carried back to Spain, first to Burgos and afterwards to the Spanish Army Engineers Academy in Hoyo de Manzanares near Madrid. [ better source needed ] It remained in the Madrid Military Engineering Academy Museum until 16 November 2004, when it was handed back to the Russian Orthodox Church by its discoverers, the Spanish historians Miguel-Ángel and Fernando Garrido Polonio.
The Blue Legion was a volunteer legion created from 2,133 Falangist volunteers who remained behind at the Eastern Front after most of the Spanish Blue Division was repatriated in March 1944 because Francisco Franco had started negotiations with the western Allies. It officially consisted of two battalions. It was later estimated that the legion grew to over 3,000 Spaniards.
The 33rd Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS Charlemagne and Charlemagne Regiment are collective names used for units of French volunteers in the Wehrmacht and later Waffen-SS during World War II. An estimated 7,340 to 11,000 men served in the unit at its peak in 1944. The unit's members participated in the final days of the Battle in Berlin in the area of the Führerbunker and were among the last Axis forces to surrender.
The Corps of Volunteer Troops was a Fascist Italian expeditionary force which was sent to Spain to support the Nationalist forces under General Francisco Franco against the Spanish Republic during the Spanish Civil War, 1936–39.
The 11th SS Volunteer Panzergrenadier Division Nordland was a Waffen-SS division recruited from foreign volunteers and conscripts. It saw action, as part of Army Group North, in the Independent State of Croatia and on the Eastern Front during World War II.
The Dirlewanger Brigade, also known as the SS-Sturmbrigade Dirlewanger (1944), or the 36th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS, was a unit of the Waffen-SS during World War II. Composed of criminals expected to die fighting on the front line, the unit was led by Oskar Dirlewanger. Originally formed for counter-insurgency duties against the Polish resistance movement, the unit was used in the Bandenbekämpfung actions in German-occupied Europe. During its operations, it engaged in raping, pillaging and mass murder of civilians.
The 5th SS Panzer Division "Wiking" was a Panzer division among the thirty eight Waffen-SS divisions of Nazi Germany. It was recruited from foreign volunteers in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, the Netherlands and Belgium under the command of German officers. During the course of World War II, the division served on the Eastern Front. It surrendered in May 1945 to the American forces in Austria.
This is a sub-article to Battle of Narva.
The Battle of Narva was a military campaign between the German Army Detachment "Narwa" and the Soviet Leningrad Front fought for possession of the strategically important Narva Isthmus on 2 February – 10 August 1944 during World War II.
This is a sub-article to Battle of Narva (1944).
Emilio Esteban-Infantes Martín was a Spanish officer who served during the Spanish Civil War, and later in World War II as commander of the Wehrmacht's Blue Division, or the 250th Infantry Division of the German Wehrmacht. He was a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross of Nazi Germany.
The Spanish State under Francisco Franco did not officially join the Axis Powers during World War II, although Franco wrote to Hitler offering to join the war on 19 June 1940. Franco's regime supplied Germany with the Blue Division to fight specifically on the Eastern Front against the Soviet Union, in recognition of the heavy assistance Spain had received from Germany and Italy in the Spanish Civil War. Despite ideological sympathy and allowing volunteers to serve on the Eastern Front, Franco later stationed field armies in the Pyrenees to deter a German occupation of the Iberian Peninsula. The Spanish policy frustrated Axis proposals that would have encouraged Franco to take British-controlled Gibraltar. Franco considered joining the war and invading Gibraltar in 1940 after the Fall of France, but knew his armed forces would not be able to defend the Canary Islands and Spanish Morocco from a British attack.
The Battle of Krasny Bor was part of the Soviet offensive Operation Polyarnaya Zvezda. It called for a pincer attack near Leningrad, to build on the success of Operation Iskra and completely lift the Siege of Leningrad, encircling a substantial part of the German 18th Army. The offensive near the town of Krasny Bor, formed the western arm of the pincer. The Soviet offensive began on Wednesday, 10 February 1943. It produced noticeable gains on the first day but rapidly turned into a stalemate. The strong defense of the Spanish Blue Division and the German SS Polizei Division gave the German forces time to reinforce their positions. By February 13, the Soviet forces had stopped their offensive in this sector.
The Legion of French Volunteers Against Bolshevism was a collaborationist militia of Vichy France founded on 8 July 1941. It gathered various collaborationist parties, including Marcel Bucard's Mouvement Franciste, Marcel Déat's National Popular Rally, Jacques Doriot's French Popular Party, Eugène Deloncle's Social Revolutionary Movement, Pierre Clémenti's French National-Collectivist Party and Pierre Costantini's French League. It had no formal link with the Vichy regime, even though it was recognized as an "association of public usefulness" by Pierre Laval's government in February 1943. Philippe Pétain, head of state of Vichy France, personally disapproved of Frenchmen wearing German uniforms and never went beyond individual and informal words of support to some specific officers.
The Estonian Legion was a military unit within the Combat Support Forces of the Waffen SS Verfügungstruppe during World War II, mainly consisting of Estonian soldiers.
Miguel Ezquerra Sanchez was a Spanish Falangist, soldier and volunteer member of the Waffen-SS. He fought in the Spanish Civil War and in the Second World War, in a battalion of the Spanish Blue Division or 250. Infanterie-Division as it was known in the German Army.
In the Battle of Castalla on 13 April 1813, an Anglo-Spanish-Sicilian force commanded by Lieutenant General Sir John Murray fought Marshal Louis Gabriel Suchet's French Army of Valencia and Aragon. Murray's troops successfully repelled a series of French attacks on their hilltop position, causing Suchet to retreat. The action took place during the Peninsular War, part of the Napoleonic Wars. Castalla is located 35 kilometers north-northwest of Alicante, Spain.
Antoine Morlot was a French division commander during the French Revolutionary Wars and Napoleonic Wars. After almost eight years of service in the French Royal Army, he became an officer in a local volunteer battalion during the French Revolution. In 1792 he fought with distinction at Thionville and other actions, earning a promotion to general officer in 1793. He was notable for his participation at the Battle of Kaiserslautern where he led a brigade. After another promotion he became a general of division in the Army of the Moselle. In 1794 he led his troops at Arlon, Lambusart, Fleurus and Aldenhoven.
This is a sub-article to Leningrad–Novgorod Offensive and Battle of Narva.
This is a sub-article to Battle of Narva (1944).
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