SS-Brigadeführer and Waffen-SS General Major Franz Augsberger

The future 20th Estonian SS Volunteers Grenadier Division leader, Franz Augsberger, was born on October 10, 1905 in Vienna, the former Austro-Hungarian Empire's capital, as the son of a hotel owner. Augsberger studied at the highest school of technology and then worked as an architect in Vienna. After work, he listened to some lectures at the academy of photo art, where he studied Norwegian and then worked as a structural engineer in Norway.

Since 1927 Augsberger was the member of the Steirischer Heimatschütz (the Styrian Homeland Security), from where he went to the SA in 1930. On April 20, 1932 he joined the national socialist labor party, but on June 19, 1933 the party was banned in Austria. Augsberger then went to Germany, where he joined the SS and in 1935 became the SS-Untersturmführer (Junior Lieutenant). From June 1, 1935 until July 1, 1936 he studied at the SS officer candidate school in Brunswick, after graduation he became the SS-Obersturmführer (Lieutenant). He continued his service in the school's administration and on June 1, 1937 became SS-Hauptsturmführer (Captain).

On August 1, 1939 he became the SS-Sturmbannführer and as a battalion leader was taken to SS Panzer Division Wiking, where at first he served in Regiment Westland and later in Regiment Nordland. From the last regiment he was sent to the SS Division Nord, where he took part in the anti-bolshevists battle in Finland as the regiment leader.

September 29, 1942 Augsberger, who by that time was the SS-Obersturmbannführer (Lieutenant Colonel), was sent to form the Estonian legion. He must have been dealing with some kind of paperwork at first, because he arrived to Debica, the factual formation place of the Legion, at the end of November the same year. The first few hundred Estonians had been trained there by that time for a month and a half. At first Augsberger became the Legion's 1st Regiment leader. From July 1, 1943 he was officially named as the Legion leader and became the SS-Standartenführer (Colonel) the same day. From May 5 the same year an Estonian brigade was named the battle formation of the Legion and in October this became the 3rd Estonian Brigade. Augsberger and his brigade were sent to battle with the Rosona partisans' republic on the northern border of Belarus in November. But the same month this brigade had to participate in the battles near Nevel to bar the Russians from breaking through the German front.

January 24, 1944 an order came to form the former 3rd Estonian Briagde into the 20th Estonian SS Volunteer Grenadier Division. Since the Russians had crushed the German Army Group Nord under Leningrad and the retreating German front couldn't stop before Narva river, the new division leader Augsberger received an order on February 7 to take his division to Narva front. Factually the 3rd Estonian Brigade grew into a division in Estonia – when at the end of 1943/at the beginning of 1944 the brigade had 5,099 men, six months later, on June 30, 1944, the number of men in the division was 13,423. By that time Augsberger had received his last rank – on June 21 he was promoted to SS-Brigadeführer.

In September the same year the 20th Estonian SS Division had to retreat to Germany. Augsberger also went there. In Neuhammer, near Breslau (the modern Wroclaw in Poland) the 20th Estonian SS Division was reorganized. In January 1945 Augsberger was sent to Silesian front with his division.

On March 3, 1945 Augsberger received the Knight's Cross, but he got to enjoy his high award for a short period of time. The Estonian 20th SS Division was in danger of being surrounded and Augsberger asked from Generalfeldmarschall Schörner a permission to retreat. "German soldiers do not retreat, they fight on their positions until the last man is standing," replied Schörner, whose nickname among his inferiors was the Wild Ferdinand. A few days later the pocket closed west of the 20th Division. On march 16 Augsberger received and order after all – to take his division through two Russian fronts to the West. During the breakout his car was hit by a missile and Augsberger was instantly killed. It probably happened on March 17, 1945 (some claim that it was March 19). The 20th Estonian SS Division men remember Augsberger as a fun and talkative man, who treated Estonians correctly.