The 37th SS Cavalry Div. was listed for the first time on the schematic unit roster of the Waffen-SS on 1 March 1945.
It had been officially established on orders of the Reichsführer-SS on 19 February 1945, following the near-complete annihilation of the 8th and 22nd SS Cav. Divs. during the Budapest breakout attempt of 11/12 February 1945.
The first divisional emblem (before the title “Lützow” was bestowed) consisted of 3 cavalry pennants in a yellow ring, which presumably symbolized the fact that the 37th SS Div. was the third cavalry division of the Waffen-SS. Late in the war it was replaced by the “Lützow” emblem: a letter “L” crossed by a vertical sword; the same sword having coincidentally been the emblem of the original SS Cavalry Brigade.
The namesake of the division was Ludwig Adolf Wilhelm Freiherr von Lützow (1782-1834), who led a swashbuckling German volunteer cavalry unit known as the “Black Troop” in the war against Napoleon in 1813.
The initial structure of the 37th SS Cav. Div., with commanders and field-post numbers where known, was as follows:
Divisional Commander: SS-Oberführer Waldemar Fegelein HQ Staff: 45 725 (FP number)
SS Cavalry Regiment 92 (2): 46 450
Commander: SS-Sturmbannführer (later Obersturmbannführer) Karl-Heinz Keitel
I. Detachment (Abteilung): 47056
II. Detachment: 66 631
SS Cavalry Regiment 93 (3): 45 757 Commander: SS-Ostubaf. Friedrichs
I. Detachment: 65 297
II. Detachment: 67 195
SS Cavalry Regiment 94 (1)
Commander: SS-Stubaf. Toni Ameiser
(Number in parenthesis after the regimental title indicates the order in which the regiments were formed.)
SS Artillery Detachment 37: 64 669
Commander: SS-Stubaf. Albert Scheuffele
SS Anti-tank (Panzerjäger) Detachment 37 Commander: SS-Obersturmführer Rudi Mueller
1. Company: SS-Ostuf. Hans-Rudolf Suss
2. Company: (Hetzer assault guns) SS-Untersturmführer Fruehinsfeld
SS Engineer (Pionier) Battalion 37: 65125 Commander: SS-Ostuf. von Wanka 1st Company 2nd Company 3rd Company
SS Medical Detachment 37
Divisional medical officers: Hstuf. Dr. Erwin Dorn and Dr.
Schreiner 1st Company 2nd Company
SS Maintenance Detachment 37 Commander: SS-Ostubaf. Barthelmes 4 different support and supply companies SS Field Replacement Battalion 37: 66 993 Commander: SS-Stubaf. Ernst Imhoff 1st through 4th Companies
SS Reconnaissance Detachment 37 (a late addition to the division) Known to contain at least one bicycle squadron.
SS-Oberführer (here an Ostubaf.) Waldemar Fegelein, first commander of the “Lützow” Division
Emblems of the SS Cavalry Divisions. Left to right:
8th “Florian Geyer,” 22nd “Maria Theresia,” and 37th “Lützow.”
In early March 1945, Oberfhr. Waldemar Fegelein was replaced as divisional commander by Standartenführer Karl Gesle (the original 1st Staff Officer of the 8th SS Cavalry Div. “Florian Geyer”). Other staff officers were as follows:
Ia (1st Staff Officer or Chief-of-Staff) Major Helmut Poertner
01 (1st Ordnance Officer) Hstuf. Ludwig-Karl Ergert, who later became Ib (2nd General Staff Officer/Quartermaster)
Ic (3rd General Staff Officer or Intelligence Officer) Hstuf. Otto Holz
IIa (Divisional Adjutant) Stubaf. Bornscheuer succeeded by Hstuf. Karl Richter
IVa (Divisional Maintenance Officer) Hstuf. Schlafmann and Hstuf. Stapenhorst
IVb (Divisional Medical Officer) Hstuf. Dr. Kurz and Dr. Buelow
IVc (Division Vetrinary Officer) Stubaf. Dr. Tillmanns V (Transport Officer) Hstuf. Traupe Staff Quarters Commandant: SS-Stubaf. Franz Friedrich Divisional Escort Squadron: SS-Ostuf. Guenter Temme (formerly with SS Cav. Rgt. 16/8th SS Cav. Div.)
Staff Signals Platoon: SS-Ustuf. May
After the encirclement of the two SS Cavalry divisions at Budapest in December 1944, all unattached personnel from the supply, medical, vetrinary and replacement units of these divisions, along with cavalrymen who had been on leave, were assembled in the vicinity of Marchfeld on the Hungarian-Slovakian border. Early in January 1945 these troops were moved to “Schuett Island” near Pressburg (Bratislava), Slovakia, where the “collection station” for the 8th and 22nd SS Divs. had been established. This was soon redesignated the “Recruit Depot of the SS Cavalry Divisions” (Field Post number: 15 435), and was stationed in the town of Senz. It would become the nucleus of the new 37th SS Cavalry Division.
SS-Standartenführer (here an Ostubaf.) Karl Gesele, last commander of the “Lützow” Division
In late February/early March 1945, the SS Cav. Rgt. 92 began forming in the Gaenserdorf-Leopoldsdorf-Orth-on-the-Danube area, under the leadership of Stubaf. K.-H. Keitel. Keitel had been a regimental commander in the 22nd SS Cav. Div. “Maria Theresia,” who had been wounded in the Budapest cauldron and evacuated by air. During this same time period, the SS Artillery Detachment 37, under Ostubaf. Scheuffele, began assembling in and around Gajary, Malachy, and Stupava. 1st Battery, which was initially stationed in Stupava, was relocated to Grossenzersdorf, east of Vienna, in early March 1945.
A major part of the “Lützow” Div. consisted of 16 to 17-year-old Hungarian-German volunteers, who had joined up with the Waffen-SS to defend their “Hungarian homeland.” Most of them could only speak broken German, but they demonstrated a great deal of spirit and enthusiasm. They began their training in the Pressburg area. Commands were frequently given in mixed Hungarian and German and Hungarian military songs were usually sung. The relations between the Reich Germans and the Hungarian Germans in the division were friendly and relaxed. Long marches and drills were conducted without complaint. By this stage of the war there was little left to smile about, but there were still attempts made at humor. Some of the men of in the 37th SS Div. chose to alter their divisional abbreviation (SSKD) to read SSKDDDK for: “sehr spät kommst Du, doch Du kommst!” (“You came very late, still you came!”).
In mid-March 1945, all battle-worthy segments of the division, including the SS Cav. Rgt. 92, the SS Artillery Detachment 37, and the divisional staff, were sent to the Znaim area and ordered to get ready for action. It was now beginning to prove impossible to fully form the various regiments, battalions and detachments. Likewise, the units could only be partially armed and equipped due to the drastic military situation that existed. There was little motorized transport available, so horses and oxen had to be used to haul supplies.
The first segment of the “Lützow” Div. to be formed was the SS Cav. Rgt. 94 under Stubaf. Toni Ameiser (formerly with the 22nd SS Cav. Div. “MT”), and with part of the SS Artillery Detachment 37, it was sent into action in the Gran sector in Western Hungary in early March 1945. Designated the SS-Kampfgruppe “Ameiser,” it fought alongside the 96th Inf. Div. of the 8th Army in the defensive and withdrawal battles to the northwest of Gran. Later in the month the battle-group would be resubordinated to the 37th SS divisional staff.
By late March/early April 1945, Staf. Gesele and the “Lützow” HQ staff were in charge of the following combat elements:
SS-KGr. “Ameiser,” a motorized Army infantry regiment, an Army machine gun battalion and the remnants of a Hungarian Honved Division. This force was sent into the gap between the 6th SS Panzer Army and the 8th Army to the north of Vienna with orders to block the advancing Soviets at all costs.
On 26 March 1945, Army Operations Command ordered the formation of another cavalry group from the 37th SS Div. to serve with the 6th SS Panzer Army. On the next day, 6th SS Panzer Army reported that the useable part of the 37th SS Div. located around Pressburg (Bratislava), was being readied for action. Known as the SS-Kampfgruppe “Keitel” it was put together on 27 March from the following elements:
SS Cavalry Regiment 92 (Ostubaf. Keitel)
Staff and Detachments
I. /SS Rgt. 92 under Hstuf. Mayer
II. /SS Rgt. 92 under Hstuf. Schultes
One artillery section with a battery of light field howitzers under Ustuf. Lombard
One bicycle squadron from SS Reconnaissance Detachment 37
SS Anti-tank Detachment 37 under Ostuf. Mueller including Ustuf. Fruehinsfeld’s “Hetzer” Company
One platoon of 7.5 cm artillery under SS-Hauptscharführer Liepelt
One infantry escort platoon under Hscha. Plowinsky
One heavy infantry gun platoon under Ustuf. Jnatischen
One surgery staff under a Luftwaffe doctor
One supply company
Two batteries of Hungarian light field howitzers
Assorted motorcycle, medical, veterinary and signals troops
Total strength: around 2,000+ men
For operational purposes the battle-group was divided into four detachments: I./SS 92, II./SS 92, Heavy Weapons (Stubaf. Etzler) and Staff Units (Hstuf. Weidenback —killed-in-action during the attack on Unter-Hoeflein).
Having been assembled at Marchfeld, SS-KGr. “Keitel” reached its assigned deployment area west of Wiener-Neustadt- Neunkirchen-Terwitz on 4 April 1945. It was placed on the right wing of 6th SS Panzer Army and subordinated to I. SS Panzer Corps led by SS-Gruppenführer Hermann Priess. Almost immediately the battle-group was caught up in violent fighting in an effort to drive off strong enemy attacks on Bad Fischau, Willendorf and St. Johann-am-Steinfelde. Heavy losses were taken in both men and material.
SS-Obersturmbannführer (here a Stubaf. in the “MT” Div.), Toni Ameiser, commander SS Cavalry Rgt. 94/ “Lützow.”
One of the bravest of the brave: SS-Brigadeführer August Zehender (second from right, as an Ostubaf.), the commander of the 22nd SS Cavalry Div. “Maria Theresia’’ who was killed in the Budapest breakout attempt
Contact with the right-hand neighbor, a Volkssturm unit from Army Group “Balck,’’ could only be maintained through motorcycle scouting parties. The first command post for SS-KGr. “Keitel” was established at Gruenbach, while the artillery batteries were put into firing positions that covered the roads running through the valleys and passes around the Schneeberg. The battle-group’s primary mission was to occupy and maintain positions blocking the Soviet advance to the north of Wiener- Neustadt, from Willendorf to Gruenbach to Puchberg. The “Lützow” troopers would successfully carry out this assignment until late April 1945, when they were forced to fall back to the Schwarzau area in the high mountains.
On 8 April 1945, SS Anti-tank Detachment 37 under Ostuf. Mueller was given the job of retaking the main battle lines that ran southeast of Puchberg to a point near Sixenstein/Sieding. In addition to his unit, Mueller’s attack force consisted of the following:
1 infantry escort platoon
1 engineer company under Ostuf. von Wanka
1 Austrian home guard company
1 bicycle squadron from SS Recce Detachment 37
1 heavy mortar platoon under Ustuf. Innatischen.
In very difficult fighting, with heavy losses to both sides, the 37th SS Cavalrymen attained their goal, but because the Soviets maintained a fire dominance over all available roads in the sector, it proved impossible to maintain the retaken positions for long.
SS-KGr. “Keitel”/37. SS Cav. Div., was officially recorded in the Army war registry on 12 April 1945, as part of the I. SS Panzer Corps, along with the 1st SS Panzer Div. “LSSAH,” the 12th SS Panzer Div. “Hitler Jugend” and the Kampfgruppe 356. Vienna fell to the Reds on 13 April and 6th SS Panzer Army was kept busy trying to maintain a thin front from Semmering to the Danube. April 14th found the “Lützow” divisional staff along with the heavy battery from SS Artillery Detachment 37, serving as part of a battle-group in the proximity of Floridsdorf, where artillery blocking positions were built after a relocation move from the Hellabrunn-Horn line. Other small, detached segments of the division were now in action at many points along the withdrawal routes into Austria and Czechoslovakia.
After much hard defensive fighting around Gruenbach, Klaus and Puchberg, SS-KGr. “Keitel” was ordered to relocate to a new line in the mountains that ran from Huetberg-Kloster Taler to Gscheid-Sparbacher Huette on the Schneeberg to Singerin-Nasswald. A part of the battle-group was in the Schwarzau area and the Pernitz Mountains at the end of April, and finally wound up around St. Aegyd.
Most of the still-forming segments of the “Lützow” Div. were used to fill in various battle-groups in the course of April 1945. The final higher orders received by the 37th SS Div. from the SS Main Office, directed it to reassemble in the Sisak area for a last round of equipping and refitting, but this proved to be a complete impossibility given the collapsing military situation. Towards the latter part of April, the 37th SS divisional staff was relieved of its battle-group duty north of Vienna and again took charge of the remaining undeployed parts of the division. On
19 April 1945, the bulk of the 37th SS Cav. Div. marched through Pisek-Tabor and Zwettl to join the left wing of 6th SS Panzer Army. Also around this time the divisional HQ received official notification that the Führer had finally bestowed upon the unit the title 37. SS-Freiwilligen Kavallerie Division “Lützow.”
But the war was now winding down for the “Lützow” soldiers. On 7 May, the chief-of-staff of SS-KGr. “Keitel,” Stubaf. Gustav Etzler (in temporary charge of that position), was ordered by 6th SS Panzer Army HQ to make contact with American forces to begin surrender negotiations. At 1000 hours, at Wind- ischgarsten, Stubaf. Etzler of the “Lützow” Div. became the first representative of 6th SS Panzer Army to meet with the enemy. In the course of the day he was joined by three more parliamentarians from the Army HQ.
By 10 May 1945, negotiations had been completed, and the “Lützow” cavalrymen began their march to the west. After first destroying their heavy weapons, the soldiers of SS-KGr. “Keitel,” escorted by motorcyclists and the last two “Lützow” assault guns, passed through Schwarzau in the Mariazell Mountains and Wildalpen in Altenmark/Enns on their way to the demarcation line. On 11/12 May, a further march was carried out to Windischgarten where the soldiers were disarmed by the Americans and then transported by truck and rail to Mauerkirchen- Altheim. On 13 May, just prior to the beginning of POW incarceration, Ostubaf. Keitel made one last review of his command and officially dissolved it. A measure of its sacrifice can be seen in the fact that in a little more than a month of hard combat, SS-KGr. “Keitel” had been reduced in strength from over 2,000 men to around 180!
After learning that Waffen-SS soldiers probably would not be released to go home like many of the regular Army troops and conscripts, some of the “Lützow” men carried out a successful mass breakout from the Altheim POW Camp on the night of 13 May. While many would remain free, others like Stubaf. Etzler would give themselves up after a month or so to rejoin their comrades in captivity.
The “Lützow” artillery detachment (or “Grosskampfbatterie” as it was now called), consisted of the following elements by 9 May 1945:
4 batteries of 10.5 cm light field howitzers
1 battery of 15 cm heavy field howitzers (motorized)
One 2 cm Flak battery
One 3.5 cm Flak battery
One 8.8 cm heavy Flak battery
Spurred on by rumors indicating that the Russians were shooting every SS man from NCO grade on up, the “Grosskampf - batterie” retreated towards the demarcation line and reached it on 10 May, on the Budweis-Linz road north of Freistadt. All field pieces had previously been destroyed and only motorized transport vehicles had been retained. One of the hazards of surrendering to the Americans at this time, was that one never knew what would happen. In the case of the “Grosskampfbatterie”/37th SS “Lützow,” the officers were sent to join other officers from their division in captivity, while the enlisted men were soon released in groups of 3 to return to their homes. They were the lucky ones.
This marked the end of the 37th SS Cav. Div. “Lützow”; most of its survivors surrendered to the Americans with the 6th SS Panzer Army. In its brief time on the battlefield, the “Lützow” Cav. Div. turned in a very creditable performance, given the severe difficulties and limitations imposed upon it. Its soldiers fully upheld the outstanding combat reputation attributed to the Waffen-SS.
Some Further Notes on Waffen-SS Cavalry Units
Possibly for the purpose of misleading the enemy, parts of the largely destroyed 8th and 22nd SS Cav. Divs. were known to have been kept functioning after the Budapest debacle. The Field Post Office of the 8th SS Cav. Div. “Florian Geyer” for instance, remained in operation right up to the end of the war. Elsewhere in Lower Silesia, in the last days of the war, recovered wounded from both the 8th and 22nd Divs. saw action with the SS-Kampfgruppe “Plaenk,” led by Ostubaf. Plaenk, who had commanded the SS Cav. Training and Replacement Detachment 8 in Warsaw until the end of May 1944. The fact that troops with insignia from these two divisions were still observed operating near the end of the war, kept alive (perhaps intentionally) speculation that the 8th and 22nd SS Divs. were still functioning to a degree. At least through the SS-KGr. “Plaenk” and the 37th SS Di v. “ Lützow ’’they continued to live on in spirit!
One further SS cavalry element was briefly in action in the spring of 1945. This was a battle-group from the SS Cavalry School at Weende near Goettingen. The school had only been authorized in late August 1944, and had begun its first training class on 1 October 1944. Its purpose was to train technical personnel for the different cavalry specialties. Initially the school had an 80-man staff (organized on the lines of a divisional staff), 200 students and 70 horses for training purposes.
At the end of November 1944, the school also became a reception and forwarding center for returning recovered wounded to the front line SS cavalry units. On 1 March 1945, Ostubaf. Gesele was placed in charge of the school, but he left within a matter of days to take command of the 37th SS Cav. Division. He was replaced by Stubaf. Rumpp, who had commanded Training Group B in the school. Rumpp’s job was to dissolve the facility and prepare the personnel for frontline service. Since it was impossible to utilize the school’s horses any further, they were all given to local farmers. A combat battalion was more-or- less put together from the school’s staff, an officer candidate training class, and two NCO training classes.
In late March 1945, this task force was sent towards Prague in three troop trains. The trains were heavily bombed and strafed en route by Russian aircraft and high casualties resulted. According to the school adjutant, Hstuf. Dr. Hans-Otto Mayer, the few members of the battle-group who reached their destination were immediately engulfed by a strong, attacking communist force, and were almost all killed or captured.