Franz repper wrote:Jagdpanther wrote:Some individual Spaniards decided to fight on of their own accord after the "official" withdrawl of the Azul Dv - they were formed into the "Unit Ezquerra" of the Waffen-SS.
Ade the unit took its name from Miguel Ezquerra a SS-Hauptsturmführer ,Sorry if you knew this already
Hope no one minds if I post the attached from our site. The history of the 250. Infantrie Division is of personal interest to me and I have met many of the vets of the Division at their annual reunions and rememberance parades to the Valley of the Fallen.
As you know I post on the Irish sites as azul250. I am sure most of this is already common knowledge among many in the PG community but for what its its worth:
A Short Article on the involvement of Spanish Volunteers in the Armed Forces of the Third Reich.
SPANISH BLUE AND GERMAN GREY - BLUE DIVISION
Operation BARBAROSSA, the German invasion of Russia on June 22, 1941, was greeted with general approval by the people of Spain. When Franco on his own initiative decided to provide soldiers for the Eastern Front the move was supported by a significant majority of the Spanish population.
And there was no shortage of volunteers and though only 4,000 men were initially required, the overwhelming response prompted the authorities to set the goal of a full division, which in the Spanish Army equalled 19,000 men. Volunteer regiments were raised in Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, Valencia and all other metropolitan areas. On July 2nd, 1941 the recruiting stations were officially closed, with the number of even a full division having been surpassed. The men who lined up at the party offices and Army barracks were not raw recruits, most were Civil War veterans thoroughly familiar with the rigors of military life. By mid July a large contingent of Spaniards had volunteered to join the Axis armies in their war against Soviet communism.
On July 13, 1941, the first train left Madrid for Grafenwohr, Bavaria for a further five weeks of training. There they became the Heer's 250th Infantry Division, but more generally known as the Blue Division for the blue shirts worn by Falangists among the enlistees, and were divided into four infantry regiments. Following the standard Heer model, one of these regiments was dispersed among the others, which were named after three of the Spanish cities that volunteers largely originated from - Barcelona, Valencia and Seville. Each regiment had three battalions (of four companies each) and two weapons companies. An artillery regiment of four battalions (of three batteries each). Aviator volunteers formed a "Blue Squadron" (Escuadrilla Azul) which, using Bf 109s and FW 190s, was ultinatedly credited with 156 Soviet aircraft kills.
MONTAGE OF THE SPANISH 'BLUE SQUADRON'
SPANISH INVOLVEMENT - UNDER PRESSURE FROM THE ALLIES
Spain officially remained neutral throughout World War II and in 1941 the Allies vehemently protested against what they regarded as this violation of neutrality. As the fortunes of war turned against the Axis, the Allies began to place considerable pressure on Spain to recall its fighting force. Negotiations with the German government began in the Spring of 1943, On September 25 1943, after Franco considered all the factors, he decided to repatriate the Blue Division, although he allowed those who wished to continue fighting to remain with the Germans. This decision did not become public until October 1, when the petition to repatriate was formally presented to Hitler.
On October 12, the Blue Division was relieved by the 21 5 th German Division. The Division withdrew to the southern riverbank of the Oranienbaum pocket, to be reorganized and prepared for repatriation.
OFFICERS OF THE BLUE LEGION
”Blue Legion"/Legión Azul
A Spanish force, called the “Blue Legion”, compromising 3,000 men volunteered to remain behind, commanded by Colonel Antonio García Navarro and it was attached to 121st infantry Division. This compromise decision was reluctantly accepted by the Germans and those Spanish volunteers who did not want to abandon the struggle, but even this token force was ordered to withdraw in March, 1944.
By May 1944, all Spanish soldiers and aviators were withdrawn from the Eastern Front and repatriated to Spain. Losses in the Blue Division and Legion were high: 4,500 dead, 8,000 wounded, 7,800 sick, 1,600 frostbitten, and 300 prisoners or missing: over 22,000 casualties out of the 47,000 total who fought in the division.
An honest assessment of the Spanish Volunteers would cast them in a favourable light, their fierce fighting abilities places them among the most successful foreign legions who fought for the Third Reich. Spaniards were the only Europeans to join the SS and German army not from Axis occupied territory in any significant numbers and they proved themselves in battle continuously, in one of the most brutal theatres of war in history, the Eastern Front.
ORBAT Legión Española de Voluntarios / Spanisches Freiwilligen-Legion/ ”Blue” Legion/Legión Azul/b]
1 Bandera de Granaderos (1st Grenadier battalion)
II Bandera de Granaderos (2nd Grenadier battalion)
Bandera Mixta (Mixed battalion)
Artillerie-Batterie (Artillery battery)
Panzerjäger-Batterie (AT battery)
Pionier-Kompanie (Engineer company)
Nachrichten-Kompanie (Signals company)
Aufklärungs-Einheit (Recon unit)
Versorgungstruppen (Support troops and services)
[b]DRAWING USED AS COVER FOR A BOOK ON VOLUNTERS IN THE WAFFEN-SS
SPANISH VOLUNTEERS IN THE WAFFEN-SS
A great deal has been written, almost two hundred books, articles, movies and other works, about the Blue Division, however the historiography of Spaniards serving in the Waffen-SS is much more limited. Two short books, by Fernando Vadillo and Carlos Caballero Jurado, rely on interviews with veterans and use of documents, to paint a portrait of these volunteers. The fact that Spainards fought in Heer, WaffenSS, and anti-Partisan Detachments of the SD and were transferred between various units, sometimes in tiny numbers relative to the size of Axis forces in the field, makes the task of compiling an accurate chronology of participation extremely difficult.
An additional difficulty arises in relation to the numbers of Spanish veterans of the Blue Division and the later Blue Legion who served in the Waffen-SS because German records of these enlistments are scarce, we can however say something about the potential manpower pool. At the end of their tours of duty with the Blue Division and the later Blue Legion, on the Eastern Front, 34 officers, 139 non-commissioned officers, and 210 were soldiers at the rank of corporal or below did not return to Spain. This group were partly reinforced by fresh forces smuggled across the border to Lourdes, France, where they were picked up by a special recruiting unit Sonderstab "F" (Special Staff F) established by the SS, with offices in Andorra, Puigcerdá, Port Bou, Hendaye and the Staff headquarters were situated at Lourdes.
Sonderstab “F” provided them with transportation to Germany, work contracts, and identity documents and they were then sent to the training base of Stablack-Sud Steinlager in Eastern Prussia. By D-Day, just over 400 had been assembled at this center. At Stablack, the Spaniards were divided into two battalions and deployed to the outskirts of Vienna for eight weeks of training, led by officers who had been liaisons between the Blue Division and the German military. From 8 June to 20 July, another 150 Spaniards joined the Batallon Fantasma (Ghost Battalion), as the unit was called by its soldiers. The name signified two things: first, the unit's shadowy existence in defiance of official agreements between the German and Spanish government; and second, that knowledge of the unit spread throughout the Spanish communities of Europe through rumour and word of mouth rather than through official declarations.
For those Spaniards who did volunteer, leaving Spain required courage because after the Blue Legion was withdrawn it became illegal for Spaniards to serve on the Axis side. The Spanish border was closely guarded and the potential recruits for this new SS unit had first to "escape" over the border to France. Border guards were under strict orders to shoot on sight any absconders and although many of these guards were sympathetic to their cause their duty came first for fear of their careers and families.
Other Sources of Recruits
With the crushing manpower shortage in Germany and their open access to Spanish recruits closed, the Germans began to search out other ways to enrol and retain Spaniards in the armed forces of the Third Reich. Besides those soldiers who remained, another source of volunteers came from Spanish workers already in Germany. Some of these workers joined the Organisation Todt, independently enlisted in one or other of the units of the Waffen-SS, or a Spanish Legion within the Wehrmacht.
Two Belgian légionnaires serving in the Wallonie, Alphonse Van Horembeke and Paul Kehren, both veterans of the Spanish Nationalist army during the Spanish civil war, were entrusted with the recruitment campaign among the Spaniards working or residing in the Reich.
By the end of March 1944 Van Horembeke, was asked to take care of the Spaniards scattered all over the Reich. The plan consisted in sending two confidential agents to Germany with the mission to contact as many Spaniards as possible with a view to enrolling them into the Waffen-SS, more particularly the Flemish 27.SS-Frw.Gr.Div. Langemarck. The Flemish formation had been chosen above any other unit because the Azul and the Langemarck had been engaged side by side on the Leningrad front from 1941 to 1943.
Some believe that the Spanish State gave its unofficial blessing to this type recruitment as long as their number was below 1,500.
The distribution of the 600 to 800 (depending on the source used) Spainsh volunteers began when training finished. There were company sized groups attached to the Wehrmacht units such as the 357th Mountain Division, deployed in Slovakia. In August 1944, one of these companies was sent to the Carpathian Mountains, in the Bukovina region and were used as replacements for 3rd Gebirgsjäger Division, they were commanded by a German officer, Leutenant Panther. This Spanish unit fought a desperate rearguard action near Vatra-Dornei, Romania, defending the Carpathian mountain passes against the Red Army. During the last half of August 1944, the Spaniards fought doggedly until the defection of Romania on 27 August and on 31 August and what was left of the Company began a slow retreat northwest, fighting against attacks from both Soviet forces and Romanian guerrillas. At the end of October, the few dozen survivors of the unit finally reached Austria.
A further group of about 100 was attached to SS-Sturmbannführer Werner Hahn´s Karstjäger-Brigade of the 24th Waffen Gebirgs Division "Karstjäger".
Two training companies, that were set up at Stablack Training camp were assigned to anti-partisan duties in Yugoslavia in August 1944, establishing their headquarters in Zalec. They were attached to 8th Company, 2nd Battalion 3rd Regiment Brandenburg Division which at the time was on anti-partisan duties in Italy. They took part in operations in Rome, Carsoli, Turni, Bevagna and at Cita da Castello before being withdrawn to France.
NEWSPAPER PHOTO - SPANIARDS TRAINING WITH ITALIAN SS
While hundreds of troops underwent weeks of training to prepare them for the front, other Spaniards were quickly committed to battle. Serving in the Sicherheitsdienst (SD), the security service of the SS, these soldiers, fought against Spaniards in the French Resistance and against the Allies in Normandy. The Spanish embassy in Berlin estimated that in summer 1944 there were as many as a further 1,500 Spaniards working for German security services in France.
THE FORMATION OF THE SPANISH SS VOLUNTEER UNITS
Spanische-Freiwilligen-Kompanie der SS 101 was formed in Klagenfurt, Austria, Sep 1944 when one of the companies of the 3rd Regiment of the Brandenburg Division was transferred from the Heer into the Waffen-SS where it became the Spanische-Freiwilligen-Kompanie der SS 101.
The 101 Company which consisted of about 140 men, was attached to Leon Degrelle's 28th Waffen SS Division (Wallonien), incorporated into the organization as the 3d Spanish Company of the 1st Battalion, , 70th Panzergrenadier Regiment of the 28th Freiwilligen Panzergrenadier Division. and saw heavy action in Pomerania. Those that fought with Degrelle participated in the first combat engagements of the division on German soil ( more particularly at Krüssow on Febr; 12th 1945 ) and took part in the battle of Stargard in Pomerania,. Only 60 Spaniards escaped the encirclement of Stargard ( March 4 th 1945 ). The survivors were regrouped at Scheune ( South of Stettin ).
In the end, the 101st was attached to the 11th SS Division Nordland and fought to the bitter end in the defense of Berlin fighting in strategic battles in the area of Möritz Platz (by the Air Force and Propaganda ministries).
The Spanische-Freiwillegen Kompanie der SS 101 was organised in four rifle platoons and one staff platoon.
The sister company of the 101st, Spanische-Freiwilligen-Kompanie der SS 102 were quartered together in Stockerau and Hollabrunn, north of Vienna. The 102 had fought Tito's Yugoslav Partisans in Slovenia and Croatia during the summer of 1944, where it was as mangled as the 101st. After suffering serious losses against the Soviets the division was withdrawn to the River Oder where it formed a defensive line north of Berlin near Stettin. The company had the same order of battle as the 101st
OLD PHOTO OF OBSCHF RICARDO BOTET OF 101ST
In summary and despite attempts to prevent their continuing to serve in the armed forces of the third Reich hundreds of Spaniards were found within the SS-Div. Wallonie, the 24th SS Karstjaeger -where they formed the whole 5th Co of the II Btl ,SS Rgt 59 -, also within Einsatzgruppe Ezquerra in Berlin. Others served in some SD antipartisans units, an estimated 31 fought within the SS Polizei Freiwilligen Bataillon BOZEN , six others in the 1 Co of the Dirlewanger Brigade, 20 of them within the 29.SS Italian division (under Oberscharfuehrer Camargo), while other volunteers formed part of Otto Skorzeny's Jagdverbande 500.
LAST DAYS - FINAL BATTLES OF THE SPANISH SS IN BERLIN
In March 1945, Waffen-Haupsturmfuhrer der-SS Miguel Ezquerra was commissioned to enlist all the Spaniards he could find into one unit, including remnants of the 101st and the 102nd Kompanies, which he would command. The unit is variously known as ‘Waffen-SS Unit Ezquerra', “Sturmabteilung Ezquerra", the 'Ezquerra Unit' or “Einsatzegruppe Ezquerra”.
By the 21st April they were located in the centre of Berlin as part of the 11th SS Freiwilligen-Panzergrenadier Division "Nordland". The capital was in ruins but the Spanish accents of the small band of Iberians remaining in Germany could be heard during the brutal fighting at many strategic locations; Anhalter Banhof, Moritz Platz, Potsdammer Platz, Ubhan Anhalter. They fought bravery in the siege of the Propaganda Ministry and the Chancellors Office.
On May 1st the remainder of the Einsatz Gruppe, alongside the 15th Waffen Grenadier Division der SS, defended the Steglitz underground station and desperately tried to link up with the remainder of the Gross Deutschland Rgt holding the Alexander Platz underground station but Soviet infiltration units had blocked Friedrich Straße underground station. The eighty-or-so (again estimates vary) survivors were part of the general surrender in the following days.
GERMAN MEMORIAL TO SPANISH DEAD
The men of 'Unit Ezquerra' were amongst the last troops fighting the Russians in the rubble of Berlin. Miguel Ezquerra survived the battle, and later escaped from Russian imprisonment to return to Spain where he resumed his profession as a teacher, he wrote a number of books and articles on his experiences in the Third Reich. Many of those who served with him did not and are buried in far flung sites throughout the European continent.
Miguel Ezquerra Sanchez died in Madrid on 29th October 1984 and his funeral was attended by many of his comrades from the Falange Movement and surviving members of the various Volunteer Units.
COVER OF EZQUERRA BOOK - BERLIN, TO LIVE OR DIE
Spanish Volunteer Medal (German Government Issued)
The award presented to the volunteers was the “Erinnerungsmedaille für die Spanischen Freiwilligen’ im Kampf gegen den Bolschewismus”, or “Commemorative Medal for Spanish Volunteers in the Struggle against Bolshevism.. Known as the “Blue Division Medal”, it was instituted on January 3rd 1944 to recognize the 250th Infantry Division.
The “Blue Division Medal” was die struck in zinc alloy with a bronze wash. It was produced by the Deschler und Sohn firm, and measured 32mm in diameter and 1mm in width.
It is interesting to note that the Spanish State allowed the wearing of Third Reich awards in their original form, i.e., with swastika, after the war and therefore the “Blue Division” medal was officially produced in Spain as a replacement piece for veterans. Because their wear was officially sanctioned, these are not considered reproductions.
Spanish Volunteer Medal (Spanish Government Issued)
The Spanish Government also presented a commemorative medal to all Spanish Volunteers who fought against bolshevism in Russia. Again veterans continued to (ans dtill do) wear their awards as originally designed. This meant that there was a market for replacements, so this medal was in production after the end of the war. As with the "Blue Division" medal, these later awards, however, are not considered reproductions as the Spanish Government officially sanctioned them.
The medal was held by a white ribbon that had on either side with the national colors of Spain and the Third Reich.
Antonio J. Munoz - Forgotten Legions: Obscure Combat Formations of the Waffen-SS
Miguel Ezquerra - Berlin a vida o muerte
Jean-Pierre Sourd - True Believers: Spanish Volunteers in the Waffen-SS 1944-1945
The material used to compile this short article comes from various sources on the web unless otherwise stated. All photos and text are considered to be in the public domain, were this is a question of infringement of copyright the particular photos or text will be removed.