|250th Infantry Division|
250. Infanterie-Division (German)
Spanish Volunteer Division
División Española de Voluntarios (Spanish)
Badge of the Spanish Volunteer Division
|Active||24 June 1941 – 21 March 1944|
|Motto(s)||"Sin relevo posible, hasta la extinción"|
|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 as 250. Infanterie-Division in the German Army, was a unit of Spanish volunteers who served in the German Army on the Eastern Front during the Second World War.
Blue Division casualties throughout the Soviet-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 was neutral and did not 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 population. 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.
Hitler approved the use of Spanish volunteers on 24 June 1941. Volunteers enlisted at 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 per cent of officers and NCOs were professional soldiers given leave from the Spanish army, including many veterans of the Spanish Civil War.[ citation needed ]The division was made up of mainly Falangist volunteers and almost a fifth of early volunteers were students. 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 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 German Army'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 German 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 Hitler oath, 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.the Blue Division was formally incorporated into the German Wehrmacht as the 250th Division. It was initially assigned to Army Group Center, the 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
The iconostasis of the Church of Saint Theodore Stratelates on the Brook was used for firewood by the division's soldiers. The iconostases of the Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Sophia, Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Kozhevniki, and the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Mother of God in the Antoniev Monastery were taken to Germany at the end of 1943.According to the museum curator in the Church of the Transfiguration on Ilyina 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 Siege of Leningrad, 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 Soviet 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.
Eventually, the Allies and conservative Spaniards (including many officials of the Catholic Church) began to press Franco for the withdrawal of troops from the quasi-alliance with Germany. Franco initiated negotiations in the spring of 1943 and gave an order of withdrawal on October 10. Some Spanish volunteers refused to return. 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 Mountain Division and the 357th Infantry Division. One unit was sent to Latvia. Two companies joined the Brandenburger Regiment and German 121st Division in Nazi security warfare in Yugoslavia. 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.
The Blue Division was the only component of the German Army to be awarded a medal of their own, commissioned by Hitler in January 1944 after the Division had demonstrated its effectiveness in impeding the advance of the Red Army.Hitler referred to the division as "equal to the best German ones". During his table talks, he said: "...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.
Through rotation, as many as 45,482 Spanish soldiers served on the Eastern Front.[ citation needed ] 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.
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.
Regarding Portugal, although some sectors of public opinion with anti-communist sentiments have had some sympathy for the Blue Division, however the always prudent and cautious president of the government, António de Oliveira Salazar, managed to dominate the most radical sectors and prevent the formation of a Portuguese unit. Despite Portugal's neutrality about one hundred and fifty Portuguese soldiers fought in the Blue Division, However these Portuguese were mainly Portuguese with roots in Spain and who had already fought on the Franco side in the Viriatos division during the Spanish Civil War. These Portuguese fought integrated in the Spanish ranks and at no time did they create any type of subunit with its own identity.
The siege of Leningrad was a prolonged military blockade undertaken from the south by the Army Group North of Nazi Germany against the Soviet city of Leningrad on the Eastern Front in World War II. The Finnish army invaded from the north, co-operating with the Germans until Finland had recaptured territory lost in the recent Winter War, but refused to make further approaches to the city. Also co-operating with the Germans since 1942 in August: the Spanish Blue Division that was transferred to the southeastern flank of the siege of Leningrad, just south of the Neva near Pushkin, Kolpino and its main intervention was in Krasny Bor in the Izhora River area.
The Blue Legion, officially called the Spanish Volunteer 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 Allies. It officially consisted of two battalions. It was later estimated that the legion grew to over 3,000 Spaniards.
The German 218th Infantry Division (218.Infanterie-Division) was an infantry division of the German Army that served in World War II. It was organised along the standard lines for a German infantry division, and had about 15,000 men, 48 guns in its artillery regiment, and mobility was provided mainly by horse-drawn vehicles, it had about 5,000 horses. Its men moved predominantly on foot.
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.
During World War II the Spanish State under Francisco Franco espoused neutrality as its official wartime policy. This neutrality wavered at times and "strict neutrality" gave way to "non-belligerence" after the Fall of France in June 1940. Franco wrote to Adolf Hitler offering to join the war on 19 June 1940. Later the same year Franco met with Hitler in Hendaye to discuss Spain's possible accession to the Axis Powers. The meeting went nowhere, but Spain would help the Axis — whose members Italy and Germany had supported him during the Spanish Civil War — in various ways.
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 16th Rifle Division was a formation in the Red Army created during World War II. The division was formed twice, and was given the title 'Lithuanian' during its second formation. It was originally established at Tambov in May 1918. It was wiped out at Mga in July 1941. Reformed and given the title 'Lithuanian', the division participated in several battles against Nazi Germany, including Kursk, Belarus, and the Baltic. The division became a brigade postwar but became a division again in 1950. It was disbanded in 1956.
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.
The Leningrad–Novgorod strategic offensive was a strategic offensive during World War II. It was launched by the Red Army on January 14, 1944 with an attack on the German Army Group North by the Soviet Volkhov and Leningrad fronts, along with part of the 2nd Baltic Front, with a goal of fully lifting the Siege of Leningrad. Approximately two weeks later, the Red Army regained control of the Moscow–Leningrad railway, and on January 26, 1944 Joseph Stalin declared that the Siege of Leningrad was lifted, and that German forces were expelled from the Leningrad Oblast. The lifting of the 900-day-long blockade was celebrated in Leningrad on that day with a 324-gun salute. The strategic offensive ended a month later on 1 March, when Stavka ordered the troops of the Leningrad Front to a follow-on operation across the Narva River, while the 2nd Baltic was to defend the territory it gained in pursuit of the German XVI Army Corps.
This is a sub-article to Leningrad–Novgorod Offensive and Battle of Narva.
This is a sub-article to Battle of Narva (1944).
The 44th Kievskaya of the Red Banner Rifle Division of Nikolay Shchors, or 44th Kievskaya for short, was an elite military formation of the Soviet Union.
The Medalla de la campaña de Rusia, commissioned 9 November 1943, was awarded by Nationalist Spain to those Spanish volunteers who served at the Russian front during World War II, as members of the Blue Division. 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.
Among the approximately one million foreign volunteers and conscripts who served in the Wehrmacht and Waffen SS during World War II were ethnic Germans, Belgians, Czechs, Dutch, Finns, French, Hungarians, Norwegians, Poles, Portuguese, Swedes, and British, along with people from the Baltic states and the Balkans. At least 47,000 Spaniards served in the Blue Division.
The 378th Rifle Division was an infantry division of the Red Army that began forming in August 1941 in the Siberian Military District, before being sent to the vicinity of Leningrad, where it spent most of the war. The soldiers of this division fought until early 1944 to break the siege and drive off the besieging German forces, distinguishing themselves in the liberation of Novgorod. Finally, the division was redeployed to advance into the Baltic states in 1944 and into East Prussia in the winter of 1945. As the war was ending the 378th was disbanded to provide replacements for other divisions. Nevertheless, it had compiled a very creditable combat record for any rifle division.
The 382nd Rifle Division was raised in 1941 as an infantry division of the Red Army, and served for the duration of the Great Patriotic War in that role. It began forming on August 10 in the Siberian Military District. It joined the fighting front in December with the new 59th Army along the Volkhov River. Apart from a few weeks in 1944 the division served in either the Volkhov Front or the Leningrad Front for the entire war. It suffered horrendous casualties after being encircled in the swamps and forests near Lyuban and was severely understrength for many months afterwards while serving on a relatively quiet front. It remained in the line in the dismal fighting near Leningrad until early 1944 with little opportunity to distinguish itself, and the division did not finally earn a battle honor until late January, 1944, during the Leningrad–Novgorod Offensive. Following this the division was moved to the Karelian Isthmus and entered the summer offensive against Finland in the reserves of Leningrad Front before being assigned to the 23rd Army. Following the Finnish surrender it was redeployed westward, helping to mop up pockets of enemy forces in the Baltic states in early 1945. The 382nd ended the war in Latvia, helping to contain and reduce the German forces trapped in the Courland Pocket, and was officially disbanded in February, 1946.
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