SS Corps

The Overview of the Corps

SS Corps cannot be viewed as wholes, because a corps is not a fixed or defined unit. A corps consists of several big units (such as divisions or brigades). Normally one corps has two to four divisions and corresponding special units. An army usually has two to five corps. Just like within an army, the membership of the corps changes according to the situation on the front. Some units leave to battle in other areas of the front or new units are subjected to the corps.

Until 1943 there were no SS Corps, because only eight SS Divisions existed, which were subjected to the Wehrmacht corps’ and armies, but were actually led by Himmler.

The turning point came during the battles in Ukraine, where on March 14, 1943 the SS Panzer Corps conquered back Kharkov. SS-Obergruppenführer Paul Hausser had managed to assemble three famous SS Divisions (the LAH, the Das Reich, the Totenkopf) into one corps, which slashed the Red Army with its battle fist. This was one of the biggest wins for the Germans after a long time.

Hitler gave his permission to form new SS Divisions. At the same time the SS Corps were being formed, because the SS-units refused to serve under the Wehrmacht’s board. The Waffen-SS was supposed to be to savior of Germany.

The numeral consistency of the SS Divisions is logical and controllable. The numbers were given to the divisions according to when they were formed. However, this does not apply for the SS Corps. The corps with the biggest number was the XVIII SS Army Corps, but only sixteen corps are known. Perhaps the corps were not formed under all numbers?

From 1943 to 1944 the SS Corps were only formed out of SS Divisions and the Wehrmacht units were only subjected to them for battles. Towards the end of the war, many SS Corps had only names. For example, the XV SS Cossack Cavalry Corps operated under the SS only on paper. The men of this unit did not wear SS-uniforms nor were they part of the SS. Another special unit was the IX SS Mountain Corps, which had two SS-cavalry divisions.

These four SS Panzer Corps were very important during the last battles of the World War II. The SS corps that was in close connection with our history was the III (Germanic) SS Panzer Corps, which had its main battles in Narva and in the Sinimäed Hills.

By 1945 the following SS Corps were formed:

  • I SS Panzer Corps LAH
  • II SS Panzer Corps
  • III (Germanic) SS Panzer Corps
  • IV SS Panzer Corps
  • V SS Mountain Corps
  • VI (Latvian) SS Army Corps
  • IX SS Mountain Corps
  • X SS Army Corps
  • XI SS Panzer Corps
  • XII SS Army Corps
  • XIII SS Army Corps
  • XIV SS Army Corps
  • XV SS Cossack Cavalry Corps
  • XVI SS Army Corps
  • XVII Waffen-SS Corps
  • XVIII SS Army Corps

It is not known if any more corps were formed. Also the units constantly changed within the corps. In different areas of the front the corps had several different units serving under them.

Towards the end of the war battle groups (Kampfgruppe) were formed out of many SS Divisions, which were subjected to the SS and also to the Wehrmacht corps. That is why a corps cannot be viewed as a whole. There are no certain data about when some units were merged with a corps or separated from it. More accurate information about the corps’ actions can be found from several books devoted to German corps, published in Germany.

Some Information About the Corps:

I SS Panzer Corps LAH
This corps had (according to June 1944):
1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler
12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend

In July 1943 SS-Obergruppenführer Sepp Dietrich was appointed as the leader of this corps. After rough battles in Russia, the 1st SS Division LAH was sent in January 1944 to Northeastern France to be reorganized. At the same time the new 12th SS Division Hitlerjugend was being trained in Northern France. Both divisions were under the I SS Panzer Corps.

In June 1944 the corps was sent to bloody battles in Normandy. They retreated to the Aachen area while having difficult battles and suffering terrible losses. In August 1944 SS-Obergruppenführer Georg Keppler was appointed to the corps leader’s position. The corps was subjected to the 6th SS Panzer Army. In connection with Sepp Dietrich becoming the 6th SS Panzer Army’s leader on November 5, 1944, the corps was led by SS-Brigadeführer Hermann Priess. In December 1944 the corps participated in the Ardennes offensive. The losses of the 6th Army were 3,818 killed, 13,693 wounded and 5,940 missing, in total 23,451 men.

In February 1945 the corps had rough battles in Hungary. In March 1945 they retreated to Austria and battled to protect Vienna.The corps had 20,000 to 25,000 men in March. The corps surrendered in May 1945 to the US units in Steyr area.

II SS Panzer Corps
The corps included (according to March 1944):
9th SS Panzer Division Hohenstaufen
10th SS Panzer Division Frunsberg

Both divisions were trained in 1943 in France. In March 1944 the corps was sent under Tarnopol. In June 1944 the corps was sent to Normandy. In July SS-Brigadeführer Wilhelm Bittrich became the leader of the corps. In October 1944 they were in reserve in Arnhem, where the British’ airborne landing landed directly where the corps was. The corps destroyed the British 1st Airborne Division units completely – the whole allies’ operation ended with a catastrophe. In December 1944 the corps participated in the Ardennes offensive serving under the 6th SS Panzer Army.

From February to March 1945 they battled in Hungary in Budapest area. The 10th SS Panzer Division Frundsberg was separated from the corps and sent to battle under the 11th Panzer Army near the Upper Rhine. The corps received the 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich in return. In March 1945 they retreated to Austria, where they battled to protect Vienna. They retreated further to the Steyr area where the corps surrendered on May 5, 1945.

III (Germanic) SS Panzer Corps
The corps had (according to January 1944):
11th SS Volunteer Panzergrenadier Division Nordland
4th SS Volunteer Panzergrenadier Brigade Nederland

On March 30, 1943 Hitler gave the command to form an SS panzer corps out of West European volunteers. The legendary SS-Obergruppenführer Felix Steiner was appointed to the corps leader’s position. Volunteers from Norway, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, Estonia and even from Sweden were assembled together under his command. The training took place in the summer of 1943. In October 1943 the corps was sent to Croatia to battle with the partisans. In December 1943 the corps was sent to Leningrad to the west side of the Oranienbaum pocket.

In January 1944 they retreated to the Narva river’s line and formed a bridgehead to Ivangorod (Jaanilinn in Estonian). In February 1944 the corps was subjected to the 20th Estonian SS Division. From February to June 1944 they had rough battles on the Estonian side of Narva river. In July 1944 the unit retreated to the Sinimäed Hills (to Tannenberg’s positions), where all Red Army’s attacks were stopped. In September 1944 the corps retreated to Courland in Latvia, where it managed to keep the front until February 1945 when it went to Stettin on ships. From October 1944 until February 1945 SS-Obergruppenführer Georg Keppler led the corps.

In March 1945 the corps battled in Pomerania and in April it was taken to protect Berlin. The corps surrendered in May 1945 in Berlin and near it.

IV SS Panzer Corps
The corps included (according to July 1944):
3rd SS Panzer Division Totenkopf
5th SS Panzer Division Wiking

In July 1944 SS-Gruppenführer Otto-Herbert Gille was appointed to become the leader of the soon to be formed corps. Already in August 1944 the corps had battles between Visla and Bug. In December 1944 they moved to Hungary where under the 6th Army they attempted to break into the surrounded Budapest.

From February to March 1945 they battled over Stuhlweissenburg and retreated while battling to Austria. The 3rd SS Panzer Division Totenkopf was separated from the corps and given to the I SS Panzer Corps, which protected Vienna. In April 1945 the corps lineup was as follows: battle group from the 1st Panzer Division, 219th Attack Cannons Unit, battle groups from the 3rd Panzer Division and the 5th SS Panzer Division Wiking, SS Battalion Norge. The corps surrendered to the US troops in May 1945 in the Radstadt area.

V SS Mountain Corps
The corps included (as of May 1944):
7th SS Volunteer Mountain Division Prinz Eugen
13th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Handschar

In July 1943 SS-Obergruppenführer Artur Phelps became the leader of the corps. In October 1943 the corps crushed Tito partisans in Croatia.

In June 1944 the 7th SS Mountain Division and the 500th SS Parachute Battalion destroyed Tito’s headquarters. In October 1944 the corps had rough battles with the Red Army. The 13th SS Division was sent to Germany to be reorganized.

In January 1945 several Soviet Union Army’s and Bulgarian Army’s units were destroyed in the hills of Croatia.

Further confirmed data about the corps is missing. It is known that the 7th SS Mountain Division battled on the Balkan until it surrendered in May 1945. The 13th SS Mountain Division participated in the Hungarian battles in March 1945 and then retreated to Austria, where they surrendered at the end of the war. At the same time there are data according to which the V SS Mountain Corps was near Berlin and operated under the 9th Army in April 1945. SS-Obergruppenführer Jeckeln was the leader of the corps. It is unknown which units belonged to the corps at that time. It can be guessed that one of them could have been the 32nd SS Division 30th Januar.

VI (Latvian) SS Volunteer Army Corps
The lineup of the corps (according to February 1944):
15th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Latvian)
19th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (2nd Latvian)

The corps was formed from February to March 1944 when the front had reached the Velikaya river’s line. SS-Obergruppenführer Karl von Pfeffer Wildenbruch was appointed to the leader’s position. From July to August 1944 the corps had rough defence battles in the area of Lubana. They retreated to the Koiva river’s valley. The corps then had 31,446 men. In the summer of 1944 SS-Obergruppenführer Walter Krüger became the corps leader. The 15th Latvian SS Division was taken to be reorganized in West Prussia.

In October 1944 the corps retreated to the Courland pocket, where they battled until the capitulation on May 9, 1945.

IX SS Mountain Corps
The corps included (as of February 1945):
8th SS Cavalry Division Florian Geyer
22nd SS Volunteer Cavalry Division Maria Theresia

In November 1944 the corps had rough battles in Hungary, around Budapest, and then retreated to the city. SS-Obergruppenführer Karl von Pfeffer Wildenbruch was its leader.

In February 1945 the corps was destroyed in street fights after the city had been conquered. The leaders of the corps and two divisions were killed.

X SS Army Corps
The lineup of the corps (according to January 1945):
163rd Infantry Division
8th Jäger Division
314th Infantry Division

The corps’ leader was SS-Gruppenführer Krappe. In January 1945 the corps was in Southern France. In April 1945 they battled near Berlin. According to some data the corps was subjected to the 11th SS Panzer Army.

XI SS Panzer Corps

In autumn 1944 the corps was on the Oder front and its leader was SS-Obergruppenführer Matthias Kleinheisterkamp. The corps included Wehrmacht units and the 502nd SS Panzerabteilung. In April 1945 they battled in east of Berlin.

XII SS Army Corps

The leader was SS-Obergruppenführer Curt von Cottberg. In August 1944 they battled on the Eastern Front, then on the Dutch border.

XIII SS Army Corps
The corps had (af of April 1945):
38th SS Grenadier Division Nibelungen
352nd Infantry Division
2nd Mountain Division

In November 1944 SS-Gruppenführer Max Simon became the leader of the XII SS Army Corps which was in Falkenberg. They had rough battles with British units in Lotring and in the middle of December 1944 they began to protect the Westwall (Siegfriedstellung).

After the enemy crossed the Moselle river in March 1945, they had defence battles in Saarland and in Rhineland. On April 1, 1945 they battled between Main and Jagst. In the middle of April they had rough battles on the Tauber-Aisch line and then under Würzburg and Nuremberg. At the end of April they also battled on the Donau line. On May 1, 1945 they were in Inn, Austria, where they surrendered.

XV SS Cossack Cavalry Corps
The lineup of the corps (according to April 1945):
1st Cossack Cavalry Division
2nd Cossack Cavalry Division
22nd Volksgrenadier Division
11th Luftwaffe Field Division

The leader was Lieutenant General Helmuth von Pannwitz. The members of this corps were not part of the SS nor did they wear a Waffen-SS uniform. The corps had battles in Yugoslavia and retreated to Austria.

XVI SS Army Corps

The leader was SS-Obergruppenführer Demelhuber. In January 1945 the corps was in West Prussia and Pomerania, in February on the Landeck line. The corps’ lineup was the following: 59th Grenadier Regiment, 48th SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment, 15th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS, 32nd Infantry Division and other battle groups.

XVII Waffen-SS Corps
The lineup of the corps (according to March 1945):
25th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS Hunyadi
26th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS Gömbös

In 1944 the 25th SS Division was formed and in March 1945 the 26th SS Division was added to it.

At the end of March 1945 the unit retreated to Austria. A new SS Corps was formed out of two Hungarian SS Divisions and its leader was Generaloberst Jenö vitez Ruszkay-Rantzenberger. 40,000 men gathered into this corps, but the leaders were unable to form a battle-worthy unit. The Hungarians received an order from their leader Ferenc Szalas not to battle against the Western allies. At the beginning of May 1945 the corps retreated in Austria to the Ried-Lake Mond-Gmunden line, where they surrendered to the US units.

XVIII SS Army Corps

SS-Obergruppenführer Georg Keppler was appointed to lead the corps that was in Waldkirchen in February 1945. The corps had five weak infantry divisions, one infantry brigade, one Belarus regiment and different battle groups on the Upper Rhine front and on the area between Offenburg and the Swiss border.

From April 11 to 26 they had rough battles with French and US units and on April 22, 1945 the whole corps was surrounded. At the end of April the XVIII SS Army Corps’ units managed to break out of the pocket.

Works Cited:

Kärtschmer, E., G. Die Ritterkreuzträger der Waffen-SS. Verlag K. W. Sch., 1982.
Windrow, M. and J. Burn. The Waffen-SS. Reed International Books, Ltd., 1995.
Landwehr, R. Narva 1944: The Waffen-SS and Battle for Europe. Legion Books, Inc., 1981.
Rauchersteiner, M. Der Krieg in Österreich. Viin, 1985.
Tieke, W. Korps Steiner. Nachträge zu den Truppengeschichten. Melbek, 1987.
Gailit, K. “Lätlased Teises maailmasõjas”. Rahva Hääl, 1994.