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SS-Fallschirmjäger-Batallion 500/600

Page Created
August 27th, 2022
Last Updated
September 13th, 2023
German Flag
Additional Information
Order of Battle

Waffen SS Cap Badge
October 1943
May 2nd, 1945
Theater of Operations
East Prussia
Organisational History

The unit is formed in October 1943 at Chlum, Czechoslovakia, the SS-Fallschirmjäger-Bataillon 500 emerges as a unique blend of Waffen-SS volunteers. A significant portion of the new recruits consist of disciplinary cases, comprising young soldiers who have committed relatively minor offences.

The recruits in question, known as Bewährungs-Schützen or B-Soldaten, are composed of individuals convicted of relatively minor offenses according to the strict SS penal code. They are not invited to join rather; this initiative aims to provide them with an opportunity to restore their honour on the battlefield. The offenses that led to their convictions included relatively minor infractions like being tardy on duty. Notably, one applicant, who ends up in the Dirlewanger Brigade due to being unfit for parachute training, has initially been sentenced to death for listening to the BBC. His sentence is later commuted to fifteen years of hard labour in Mauthausen’s quarries. Another recruit, a young Norwegian, received a ten-year sentence for intentionally injuring his hand to escape from the frontlines.

The ranks of these recruits also included a former 1. SS-Panzerdivision “Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler” officer demoted for homosexuality. Another officer retains his rank by transferring to the unit after engaging in an affair with a fellow officer’s wife. The official documentation, with Himmler’s precise annotations on the matter, adds a hint of irony to the episode. Additionally, there was a sergeant who was convicted of stealing from comrades’ lockers. This act deemed quite grave within the Waffen-SS where locker security is not commonly practiced. All disciplinary cases are overseen by Section-III, an integral part of the SS Parachute Battalion. This section also contains an SS lawyer with a clerical staff for keeping records on the probationary cases.

A substantial number of non-disciplinary volunteers are comprised of officers, Non-Commissioned Officers, and SS personnel who encounter career obstacles in their original units, often due to conflicts with their superiors. Some of these individuals are officers or lower-ranking soldiers who face political setbacks. Like a Non-Commissioned Officer who couldn’t advance within the Wiking division due to his fervent Nazism. Strikingly, as soon as he changes course and requests a transfer, he is promptly promoted to an officer’s rank.

Following training at Luftwaffe Fallschirm-Schule Nr. 3 in Mataruška banja, Yugoslavia, and later in Pápa, Hungary. Command of the battalion is entrusted to SS-Sturmbannführer Herbert Gilhofer. Aged thirty-three, Gilhofer had been in command of the SS-Panzergrenadier-Regiment 21 within the 10. SS-Panzer-Division “Frundsberg”.

On March 19th, 1944, the unit takes part in the German occupation of Hungary, Unternhemen Margarethe. The battalion returns to Yugoslavia for anti-partisan operations. Here they prepare for Unternehmen Rösselsprung. In May 1944, the battalion executes the daring glider and Parachute landings near Partisan leader Josip “Tito” Broz’s mountain headquarters in Drvar, Yugoslavia. While initially catching the enemy off guard, the paratroopers face fierce counterattacks from the surrounding mountains, resulting in heavy losses. Eventually they are relieved by elements of the 7. SS-Freiwilligen-Gebirgs Division Prinz Eugen.

Following their Drvar engagement, the battalion participates alongside SS-Jäger-Bataillon 502 in the removal of Horthy in Hungary. Subsequently, they deploy to Gotenhafen, East Prussia. The battalion is supposed to take part in the capture and occupation of the Åland islands, planned for the end of June 1944. In the end the attack does not take place because the Russians occupy the islands earlier.

In July, the battalion of 292 people is transferred to the vicinity of Vilnius. Here it fights as part of the Kampfgruppe formed by 1. Panzer Regiment Großdeutschland. This group takes part in the evacuation of Vilnius.

In August, the battalion is sent to the vicinity of Raseiniai, north-east of Kaunas. It is tasked in stabilising the front together with Panzer-Brigade von Werthen, part of 7. Panzer-Division and the 212. Infantrie-Division and the 252. Infantrie-Division. Due to these heavy losses, they fight together with the Panzerjäger Abteilung 731.

As part of the Panzerkorps Großdeutschland, the unit is repurposed as a mobile ‘fire brigade’ to counter Soviet advances on the Eastern Front. Following several months of engagements, the ninety surviving members of SS-Fallschirmjäger-Batallion 500 withdraw from the Eastern Front and redeploy to Neu-Strelitz, Germany in late October 1944.

SS-Fallschirmjäger-Bataillon 600

At Neu-Strelitz the unit is disbanded later by the end of October 1944. The Feldausbildungs-Kompanie of SS-Fallschirmjäger-Bataillon 500 and the surviving men of the battalion form the nucleus of the newly established SS-Fallschirmjäger-Batallion 600, which is officially designated as, Die SS-Jagdverbände SS-Fallschirmjäger-Batallion 600. The latter really

During this time, SS-Untersturmführer Walter Scheu, who has been newly promoted to the Kompaniechef Stab/SS-Fallschirmjäger-Batallion 600, takes initiative by leading a recruitment effort across Northern Germany. The Kompaniechef Stab and his team actively search Heer and Luftwaffe barracks throughout northern Germany to find potential recruits, aiming to bring the new SS-Fallschirmjäger-Batallion to its required full strength. Although local Heer and Luftwaffe commanders vehemently protest, their objections ae met with little success. The SS-Fallschirmjäger officer responsible for this recruitment has influential connections, which likely shielded him from disciplinary action or court-martial proceedings.

From its inception, SS-Fallschirmjäger-Batallion 600 is integrated into Otto Skorzeny’s SS-Jagdverbände commando organisation. As part of this formation, two companies from SS-Fallschirmjäger-Batallion 600 are attached to Skorzeny’s Panzerbrigade 150. In this role they participate in the Ardennes counter-offensive, Unternehmen Greif. Concurrently, the remainder of the battalion continues its efforts in Neu-Strelitz, concentrating on recruiting and training new personnel.

Following their involvement in the Ardennes counter-offensive, the surviving members of SS-Fallschirmjäger-Batallion 600 return to Neu-Strelitz on January 28th, 1945. In early February, the battalion relocates to the Oder Front, specifically the Schwedt bridgehead, as an integral part of Kampfgruppe Skorzeny. During this period, from February 1st, 1944, to March 3rd, 1944, they display formidable resilience by repelling intense Soviet assaults. After their retreat from the Schwedt Bridgehead SS-Hauptsturmführer Siegfried Milius assumes overall command of the unit around this time.

In the subsequent phase, SS-Fallschirmjäger-Batallion 600 receives replacements, augmenting its personnel strength to approximately eight hundred men. This battalion is subsequently assigned to the Zehden bridgehead as part of Kampfgruppe Solar, operating alongside SS-Jagdverband Mitte. Kampfgruppe Solar is deployed to the bridgehead on March 9th, 1944. Throughout the ensuing battle, Kampfgruppe Solar is reinforced by elements from retreating units. These units include remnants of SS-Panzergrenadier-Regiment 7 from the SS-Polizei-Division. Kampfgruppe Solar, is integrated into the Infantrie Division z.b.V. 610 under General Lendle’s overall command. The unit defends the locks that control the water level for the Finow and Hohenzollern Canals in the Bridgehead Zehden. Despite daunting odds, Kampfgruppe Solar holds its ground tenaciously until March 28th, 1944, when Milius orders a strategic withdrawal. In the process, many survivors perish while attempting to swim across the Oder River.

The remains of the unit move to Oderberg, to reorganise, and they return to the front on April 20th, 1945, (the Führer’s annyversary) attacking the Soviet Army’s flank, which advances against Bernau. The SS-Fallschirmjäger-Batallion 600 engages in a series of fierce rearguard actions throughout April, north of Berlin, as they retreat with the Soviets in close pursuit. A detachment from SS-Fallschirmjäger-Batallion 600 reportedly heads to Berlin, but once they depart the battalion, their fate becomes unknown. The unit fights in the last days of the war in Eberswalde, Prenzleu and Neu‑Ruppin. There the remains of the battalion are surrounded by the Soviets and only 180 men can break through.

On April 27th, 1945, SS-Obersturmführer Fritz Leifheit assumes the role of temporary commander for SS-Fallschirmjäger-Bataillon 600. The former commander Siegfried Milius is reassigned as the commander of Kampfgruppe Solar.

Eventually, as the situation becomes increasingly untenable, the battalion makes its way towards the American lines. On this path, they ultimately surrender on May 2nd,1945 to the US 9th Army at Hagenau, east of Hamburg. The men of SS-Fallschirmjäger-Batallion paid a high toll. Between 3,000 to 3,500 men served in the battalion at various points. Of this total amount only 180 were unharmed when the war ended.