20th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Estonian)

  • 45th Waffen Grenadier Regiment of the SS Estland (?) (November 1944)
  • 46th Waffen Grenadier Regiment of the SS
  • 47th Waffen Grenadier Regiment of the SS

Division Leaders:

  • SS-Brigadeführer Franz Augsberger (until March 1945)
  • SS-Brigadeführer Berthold Maack
  • Waffen-Standartenführer Alfons Rebane

On the anniversary of Tallinn liberation, on August 28, 1942, a permission was given to form the Estonian SS Volunteer Legion. The training took place in Poland, in the Debica Heidelager near Krakov. At the beginning of November 1942, 89 SS Regiment Deutschland instructors came from Prague to train the new members. By the end of November the Legion had five shooters and one heavy weapons company, the unit had 969 men. Out of the first 900 volunteers of the legion, the SS Panzergrenadier battalion Narva was formed and it was sent in April 1943 to the SS Division Wiking in Ukraine, where it received an undying fame in the Izium battle.

Due to indirect enforcement the legion had 7,000 men by May 1943. These men were divided into two two-battalion regiments, heavy weapons regiment and other special units. On May 5, 1943 the legion was renamed as the 3rd Estonian SS Brigade.

After an eight-month training the brigade was sent to the Nevel front in November 1943, where it battled with the partisans' army in Nedzerdo and on the banks of Lake Meshno.

On January 24, 1944 the brigade was renamed as the 20th Estonian SS Division. On the second half of February the brigade was sent to Estonia and was subjected to the III SS Panzer Corps on the Narva front, where together with the 11th SS Division Nordland and the 4th SS Brigade Nederland they started to destroy the Red Army's bridgeheads on the Narva River's west bank. On February 24, 1944 they destroyed the Soviet Riigiküla bridgehead, on March 1, 1944 the Vepsa village and Vaasa and on March 5, 1944 Siiverts bridgehead.

At the end of March the Battalion Narwa returned to the division and it was sent to be rearranged and renamed as the 20th SS Fusilier Battalion (but the men used the battalion's initial name among themselves).

On July 24, 1944 the 45th Regiment and the Battalion Narwa stopped the Red Army's attack in Auvere. By the end of July the division had 15,000 men.

From July 26 until August 5 the division had rough battles in the Sinimäed Hills and managed to stop the Red Army's 2nd Attack Army's offensive. It was estimated that the enemy lost about 200,000 men. In August 1944 the division's Kampfgruppe Vent (with Major Kure, Captain Maitla and Captain Rannik's battalions) were sent to Elva, Kambja and Pangod and the Kampfgruppe Rebane (with Captain Sepa's battalions) to the Ahja River's line.

The division constantly received additions and by the beginning of September it had 15,382 men. At the end of September the Red Army broke through Tartu front and the German troops started to retreat from Estonia. The parts of the division which retreated from Narva front were besieged by the 8th Estonian Rifle Corps' on September 19, 1944 near Avinurme. The other parts of the division retreated through Courland to Germany. In October 1944 the reorganizing of the division began in Neuhammer, Silesia, and 15,000 Estonian soldiers from different units were there. After the men were distributed into schools and reserve regiment the division had 9,000 men left. On January 22, 1945 the division was sent to the Oppeln front, where they stopped the Red Army's attack. At the beginning of March 1945 they were trapped in the Oppeln pocket. After the division broke out of the pocket it was sent to reserve, but already on April 15, 1945 they were sent to the Schönau front. In April the division had 6,000 to 7,000 men. On May 8, 1945, after Germany capitulated, the division started to move towards Hirschberg-Prague and got in the “Czech Hell”. Only a small number of men managed to reach the US units.

Insignia:

Collar patches initially black, later runic symbols SS and eventually an armored hand holding a sword, in the middle the letter E.

6 men from this division received the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross.