Saturday, November 27, 2021

The Swedish Company – Swedish Volunteers in the Waffen-SS

From 1943-45, 3rd Company of the Recce Detachment of the "Nordland" Division bore the sobriquet, "The Swedish Company," because it contained a nearly all Swedish platoon, and had Estonian ethnic-Swedes scattered throughout the company along with either a Swedish company commander or Swedish officers attached to the company.

In format the company consisted of three light armored scout car platoons and the IV. (heavy) Platoon, whose armored vehicles had heavy machine guns mounted upon them.

Almost all Swedish in composition, IV. Platoon consisted of one or two officers, five NCOs and 30 to 35 men. Its first commander was Oscha. Walter Nilsson, was KIA on 25 January 1944 near Rogovitzky. Four Swedish officers eventually served with IV. Platoon, and two of them were also killed-in-action.

Much of 3rd Company was composed of ethnic-Germans from Romania, and there were concentrations of other Scandinavians and Swiss in it and the detachment as a whole. In early September 1944, the Swedish crew of an armored personnel carrier from 3rd Company (Sven Alm, Markus Ledin and Ingemar Johansson), were repairing the motor of their broken-down vehicle in a concealed position near Dorpat, Estonia when they noticed Soviet motorized forces bypassing them. They went on with their work and in a few hours had the motor operating again, but it then proved impossible to make any further contact with their unit. So they traveled by night in their vehicle through Soviet occupied territory until they eventually reached the Estonian coast. Here the trio was able to secure civilian clothes and a fishing boat which they used to take them safely across the Baltic to Sweden, thus escaping both Soviet captivity and the travails of the rest of the war.

One of the Swedish officers killed with 3rd Company was Ustuf. Rune Ahlgren, who had broken off his officer’s training course at the War College in Stockholm to join the Waffen-SS. He fell near Duna, Latvia on 30 October 1944 and was buried in the outskirts of the town. Another Swedish officer who had spent some time with the company at Narva, Ustuf. Thorkel Tillmann, was KIA near Cheux in Normandy on 20 July 1944 while attached to the staff of an SS Panzer Corps as a war correspondent. During the final battles of the "Nordland" Division in Berlin the surviving members of the "Swedish Company" generally fought on foot as infantrymen. At least some members of the company, including its long-time commander, Hans-Goesta Pehrsson utilized a Swedish armshield in the national colors of blue and yellow.

Uscha. Sven Erik Olsson, Swedish radioman with the "Nordland" Division

Swedish SS volunteers with the "Nordland" Division on the Narva Front

"Nordland" medical officers; a Swedish SS doctor is on the right (note armshield!)

Reported Numbers of Swedish Volunteers in the Waffen-SS

One hundred and one as of 31 January 1944 (from a speech by Ogruf. Berger; out of this total nine had been killed and seven wounded).

One hundred and thirty (David Littlejohn in Foreign Legions of the Third Reich, Volume 3).

One hundred and fifty (as of October 1943 according to the head of Germanic Volunteer recruiting, the Swiss Ostubaf. Dr. Franz Riedweg).

One hundred and seventy-five (as of 25 July 1942 according to 11. Picker in Hitler’s Table Talk).

Three hundred and fifteen as of 31 October 1944 (from an unpublished biography of Ogruf. Gottlob Berger by Robert Kuebler - this is close to the "usual" estimates by assorted Waffen-SS historians).

Swedish Casualties in the Waffen-SS

About 30 to 45 killed. Lennert Westberg, who is probably the most accurate among those who have written about the Swedish volunteers lists 130 survivors out of an estimated 175 Swedes in the Waffen-SS.

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