In late February and early March 1945, the Waffen-SS commander-in-chief for the Protectorate of Bohemia-Moravia, SS-Brigadeführer Karl Graf von Pueckler-Burghaus began ordering the mobilization of SS security, training and replacement troops stationed in the territory.
The massive Waffen-SS training grounds at Beneschau near Prague, which provided facilities for artillery, panzergrenadier and engineer schools, now had to begin the process of forming the training personnel and students into front line battle groups. Part of the Beneschau (or Bohemia) complex was the SS Panzergrenadier School at Kienschlag, which since the 17th of February 1945 had been under the supervision of SS-Brigfhr. August-Wilhelm Trabandt (former CO of the 18th SS Div. „Horst Wessel“). He was now instructed to reform his training regiment into a combat ready battle group of roughly brigade strength with the addition of an engineer battalion and an artillery detachment.
In the course of March. Trabandt succeeded in putting together a three battalion grenadier regiment, drawing the personnel from Kienschlag and other facilities in the area. The engineer battalion for Kampfgruppe „Trabandt” was drawn from the SS Combat Engineer School at Hradischko. The artillery detachment seems to have been formed from part of the SS Artillery School I at Glau-Trebbin, which had begun mobilizing in late March 1945. It consisted of two field howitzer batteries and a rocket mortar element containing two truck-mounted multi-barreled units. The detachment commander was SS- Obersturmbannführer Dr. Arthur Curtis.
Simultaneously, the remainder of the staff and students affiliated with the Kienschlag facility were also formed into another battle group that came under the command of the school’s instructional commandant, SS-Ostubaf. Rudolf Konopaki. This unit was based on the members of a Hitler Youth military training camp in Bohemia and their instruction cadre which had come from Kienschlag. Part of the SS Grenadier Training and Replacement Bn. 10 at Bruenn (Brno) was also used in this formation which was referred to as SS-Regimental Kampfgruppe „Konopaki.” It was subordinated to KGr. „Trabandt” in April 1945.
SS-Staf. Karl Schlamelcher, CO of SS Artillery Rgt. „Bohemia- Moravia”
On 9 April 1945, SS-KGr. „Trabandt” was transported by truck to the Zistersdorf area on the Austrian border where it was attached to the 8th Army of Army Group South. It was ordered to prepare for an attack aimed at eliminating a Soviet bridgehead over the March River—an action that never seems to have developed.
In the meantime, Brigfhr. Pueckler-Burghaus was busy putting together two further regimental battle groups, named appropriately „Bohemia” and „Moravia,” from Waffen-SS troops stationed in the Protectorate. These two battle groups were supposed to combine with KGr. „Trabandt” to form two brigades (again named „Bohemia” and „Moravia”), which were to serve as the basis for a new SS division. From all avail-able evidence, the „Bohemia” Rgt. never actually linked up with KGr. „Trabandt,” but remained 250 km away from it in the vicinity of Prague through the first part of May 1945. But the „Moravia” Rgt. had joined KGr. „Trabandt” by mid-April, and was in the vicinity of Furth, Lower Austria by 16 April 1945. The only part of the new division to ever be grouped together properly was the headquarters staff (essentially just the command post of KGr. „Trabandt”), which would be classified as a „reserve” formation in the ranks of 8th Army.
The only additional reinforcement sent to KGr. „Trabandt” was the Kampfgruppe „Schulze,” consisting of 4th Co./SS- Pz.Gr. T & R Bn. 2 (actually a replacement unit for the 2nd SS Pz.Div. „Das Reich”) from Prag-Rusin, and a number of officer cadets from SS Junkerschule „Prag.” This task force was sent to Mistelbach, Austria (near Zistersdorf) via a motorized convoy on 10April 1945.
SS-Staf. Wolfgang Joerchel, CO of SS-Rgt. „Bohemia”
Despite the wide separation of the various units, the formation of the „Bohemia-Moravia” SS Div. was well underway by the second half of April. Germans were not the only nationality in the division; at the Bohemia Troop Training Grounds several units of the Slovakian Army and the Slovak Hlinka Guard Militia were incorporated into the Waffen-SS during April 1945 and found their way into the new division. The initial divisional order-of-battle looked like this:
Divisional Staff at Zistersdorf (actually, the staff of SS-KGr. „Trabandt”)
1st Grenadier Rgt. (KGr. „Trabandt”)
2nd Grenadier Rgt. („Bohemia” [in Prague])
3rd Grenadier Rgt. („Moravia”)
Battle-Group Rgt. „Konopaki” (at Zistersdorf)
Battle-Group „Schulze” (at Mistelbach)
Engineer Bn. (KGr. „Trabandt”)
Bicycle Reconnaissance Detachment (KGr. „Bohemia- Moravia” [in Prague])
Signals Detachment (KGr. „Bohemia-Moravia” [in Prague])
Artillery Detachment „Trabandt” (at Zistersdorf)
Artillery Regimental Battle-Group „Bohemia-Moravia” (Prague)
Strength: 8,000 to 10,000 men all ranks.
The commander of the 2nd Reinforced Grenadier Rgt. was SS- Standartenführer Wolfgang Joerchel (formerly CO of SS Rgt. 48 „General Seyffardt”/“Nederland” Brigade). This unit was formed from portions of the SS-Junkerschule „Prag” and the SS Infantry Replacement Rgt. „Prag” and remained in the vicinity of Prague throughout April 1945.
The divisional bicycle recce detachment, known as the SS Radfahr Abteilung „Koerner,” was formed at the SS Artillery School II in Beneschau under a tactical instructor, SS-Hauptsturmführer Koerner. It contained four squadrons of roughly company size each. On 30 April it was sent to Prague with its supply column remaining in the garden of Konopish Castle at Beneschau. The -detachment orderly officer was SS-Standartenoberjunker Helmut Sieben.
Brigfhr. Karl Graf von Pueckler-Burghaus W-SS C-in-C Prague
SS-Freiwilligen Div. Kampfgruppe BOHMEN-MAHREN (Bohemia-Moravia) Emblem: The coat-of-arms of Bohemia and Moravia. This Division was formed in the last weeks of the war from the SS KGr. „Bohmen-Mahren” which had contained smaller battle groups formed from various W-SS training schools and replacement units in the Protectorate. The new Division was never numbered but contained three infantry and one artillery regiments and was a full-strength unit
The divisional signals detachment seems to have been formed around the signals battery of the SS Artillery T & R Rgt. in Prague, and came under the command of Hstuf. Gonschor. The regimental artillery group consisted of 26 highly mixed batteries under the command of SS-Staf. Karl Schlamelcher, who was also the commandant of the SS Artillery School II at Beneschau. This element of the division also remained around Prague and Staf. Schlamelcher was effectively the commander of the „northern” half of the „Bohemia-Moravia” Division.
Brigfhr. August-Wilhelm Trabandt
THURN, Oswald. 18 376. SS-Ostubaf. 1909 Marmagen. Rekr.-Dep. „Boehmen-Maehren. MIA 5 May 1945 Teinitz
GOLANBECK, Guenther. 25 919. SS-Uscha. 21 March 1923. SS-Junkerschule Prag (13. Lehrgang, I. Lehrgruppe). MIA
SCHARENBERG, Wolfgang. 22 378. SS-Junker. 1920, Rostock. SS-Art.-Schule Beneschau? MIA 4 May 1945 Prag-Beneschau
By late April the Austrian portion of the division, including the 1st Grenadier Rgt., was seeing very heavy defensive action against the Soviets, first at Zistersdorf then to the south of the Danube near Vienna, Gross Tajax and Krems. The Battle- Group Rgt. „Konopaki” appears to have veered off from the remainder of KGr. „Trabandt” towards the end of April and was reported at Znaim, south of Bruenn and then in the Budweis area of the Sudetenland. On 20 April a combat detachment assigned to KGr. „Trabandt” from the SS Artillery School I (Glau), led by SS-Obersturmführer Landrock, was engaged against enemy tank forces around Siethen. During the evacuation of the town, 12 badly wounded soldiers had to be left behind and they were promptly murdered by the communists.
At the beginning of May 1945, the southern part of the „Bohemia-Moravia” Div. was deployed around Krems on the Danube. On 8 and 9 May, Brigfhr. Trabandt made the decision to release all of the Russian prisoners that had been taken and head for the American lines. The surrender of this part of the division was accepted by U.S. troops at Gallneukirchen on 10 May 1945. On the very next day the disarmed Waffen-SS men were turned over to the Soviets at Pregarten. The result was a tragedy for the „Bohemia-Moravia” Division. Brigfhr. Trabandt and thousands of his soldiers wound up in distant parts of the Gulag system. Trabandt returned home 9 ½ years later but not many of his men ever made it back.
The „northern” branch of the „Bohemia-Moravia” Div. led by Staf. Schlamelcher, and consisting of the regimental artillery group, the 2nd Grenadier Rgt. and the bicycle and signals detachments, found itself fighting Czech partisans around Prague during the first days of May 1945. It was not an easy struggle and German soldiers and civilian who fell into the hands of the terrorist „freedom fighters” were invariably tortured and killed. This is what happened to Staf. Joerchel, Brigfhr. Pueckler-Burghaus and the Estonian Waffen-Ostubaf. Maitla, among others. The „Allied” atrocities committed in Prague were of a particular bestial nature, but needless to say no one was ever asked to account for those „war crimes”!
After the capitulation, the northern portion of the „Bohemia- Moravia” Div. together with the SS Panzergrenadier Rgt. 4 „Der Führer” of the „Das Reich” Div., had the responsibility for escorting some of the 280,000 German civilians who were attempting to escape the Protectorate, back to the Reich. Most of these people, including many weaponless soldiers, were able to cross the demarcation lines at Strakowitz.
The rest of the „Bohemia-Moravia” Div. which was serving as a rearguard for the massive civilian evacuation now had to get through the Soviet lines on its own. The breakout was set for 14 May 1945, five days after the bulk of the German Armed Forces had surrendered! The division was split into three main groups, each of which was to try and get out of the Soviet-held territory in a different direction.
The 1st Group led by Hans Joachim Lindow, a long-time officer-instructor at SS Artillery School II, was to head for the direction of Lower Bavaria. The 2nd Group under Ostubaf. Gattinger was to make its way to the Wald Kotzten-Cham area in Bavaria and the 3rd Group led by Guenter Woltersdorf was to steer for western Austria.
Flamethrowers from SS-Engineer Bn. “Hradischko” and ”Bohemia-Moravia” Division
Even at this late date the Soviet-held lines were filled with gaps and openings that still offered avenues of escape to retreating soldiers and civilians. But it was a risky proposition getting through them. The first „Bohemia-Moravia” divisional elements managed to slip through but it was too late for many of the follow-up columns that were being led by the senior officers. The Russians reacted to the breakthroughs by rapidly plugging up the holes in their positions and a sizeable part of the division was captured. These unfortunate soldiers were first sent to the Platna POW Camp and then gradually dispersed to far-flung slave labor camps.
The whole story of the „Bohemia-Moravia” Div. from be-ginning to end was one of unavoidable confusion. It was the shortest-lived division of the Waffen-SS and as far as is known, was never assigned any specific unit numbers. The divisional ID sign was supposed to have been the coat-of-arms for Bohemia and Moravia. In a number of post-war histories this unit has been confused with the 31st SS Grenadier Div. „Batschka,” but there were no connections between the two formations. „Bohemia-Moravia” was a unique division in its own right that made its own important contributions in the last critical days of the war. It is not an understatement to say that the lives of many thousands of people were owed to the brave soldiers of this division.
Cover photo: Recruits of the SS-Verfuegungstruppe are sworn-in in Prague. Machine guns were set up in front of the runic insignia of the Schutzstaffel