My vote goes for the French Waffen SS who got their RK in the burning ruins of Berlin end April - early May 1945. They were fighting a lost battle, they perfectly knew it but they volunteered to go there.
Ritterkreuzträger of the 33 SS Division Charlemagne:
Hauptsturmführer Henri Joseph Fenet,
Untersharfuhrer Eugene Vaulot,
Obersturmführer Wilhelm Weber (German National)
Obersharführer Francois Appolot
At the end of March 1945, a thousand survivors of the Charlemagne were grouped together close to Neustrelitz. Brigadefuhrer Krukenberg calls for volunteers More than 600 accepted to fight to the end. 300 only, under command of Haupsturmfuhrer Fenet could board the 9 trucks that Krukenberg had been able to get to drive to Berlin the last reinforcements.
Berlin April 1945, "Last Squadron of an Europe that will die" (Rock Rostaing, veteran)
April 25 1945
Henri Fenet, former lieutenant of the colonial infantry, injured twice in front of Verdun in June 1940 and again injured in Galicia in the Sturmbrigade, is commanding the Company. Some weeks ago, he succeeded pulling his battalion out of the hell of Pomerania, the famous breakthrough of Dievenow. He got from that, with the iron cross of first class, the rank of Haupsturmführer. This 25 y.o. French SS heads a small Sturmbataillon composed from 4 companies (strongly reduced) and the Honour Company of Weber. On April 25, they embark and leave for Tempelhof. The vehicles of the French SS are blocked little before the capital by a bridge destroyed by some old Volksturm having taken them for Russians. They will continue on foot
"Exhausted, we walked like robots, muscles stiffen under the effect of the fatigue that we felt climbing on our legs. We walked obsessed by the concern to arrive early enough in the capital, not to allow anyone to block the road to our last fight, all our will, all our forces directed to this goal that attracted us with all its power: BERLIN!"
It is confirmed that the Sturmbataillon Charlemagne was the last unit to enter Berlin before it was completely encircled by the Soviet forces. The walk will be long and painful, kilometres holding panzerfaust, grenades, MG42 and ammunitions. Upon arrival, the volunteers take some hours of rests in the forest of Grünewald.
Brigadefuhrer Krukenberg meets General Weidling, Commander of Berlin forces. There, he is informed that he must also take the head of the Division SS Nordland, formed of Danish Dutch, Swedish volunteers. It seems that some English were there also, but this is not confirmed. He keeps under his direct orders the Honour Company of Obersturmfuhrer Wilhem Weber. The other French troops are divided up in four strong companies of 60 to 80 men each. At Tempelholf, the Sturmbataillon helps the feldgendarmes to filter the fleeing civilians from the deserters of the German army.
SS-Obersturmfuhrer Michel, commanding the 2nd company will seriously be injured. Brought by its comrades under cover in a cellar, he will be reported MIA.
April 26 1945, 6.00 a.m.
The French Sturmbataillon is engaged in the sector of Neukölln, Southeast Berlin. Some tanks of the Nordland Panzer Regiment, including a Koenigstiger, support an attack that bumps quickly to an eager resistance from the Soviet ones. Very quickly the first Russian tanks will be destroyed despite an eager resistance. Thirty are destroyed, as well as number of anti-tank guns.
Russian artillery has just destroyed a reserve section regrouped with not enough care: 15 corpses are lying on the sidewalk and the roadway. In a single morning, half of the French SS who came Berlin are slaughtered. One counts the KIA and the WIA by dozens. The main concern, now that the French attack reveals itself a failure, is to regroup the troops, isolated by the Russian advance in the sector, for new mission. Haupsturmführer Fenet set his HQ in the town hall, injured to the foot. It has to be brought around in a chair to keep on directing his men. At midnight, he receives the order to reach the Hermannplatz. The young SS leaves behind him a group headed by one of its faithful officers, Obersharführer Hennecourt, to regroup all those that were left behind by the withdrawal. A group of Hitlerjugend fights with the French Waffen SS.
Night of April 26
The survivors of the fight are regrouped on the Alliance Platz. The 1st company of Untersturmführer Labourdette was sent in mission to Tempelhof airport. The second company lost its commander, Obersturmfuhrer Michel. The 3rd company, that counts henceforth less than thirty men, is there, with Obersharführer Rostaing, a LVF veteran. The fourth company, more numerous, in the absence of his commander Obersturmfuhrer Olliver, engaged in another sector, is commanded by authentic Russian prince, the Standartenjunker Protopopoff.
April 27 1945
Having regrouped those of his men that were still valid, Hauptsturmfuhrer Fenet gave them some hours of rests in a brewery, the Thomas Keller, and went to the HQ of Division Nordland to receive the instructions of Brigadeführer Krukenberg. Standartenoberjunker Douraux is with him. After a stop to the medical unit, set in the basement of the Reichbank, the battalion Commander went searching for his Commander. He will found him in the basements of the Opera, located in the well-known Unter den Linden. Fenet learns that his battalion will be divided in small group of 8 men each, in charge of fighting against tanks in the streets of the capital. By day, the French SS will therefore leave their positions to reach the basements of the Opera, where units will be reorganised. Those trips will be done through the tunnels of the Berlin subway. The division HQ moves to Stadtmitte underground station, in a train lit with candles. In this sinister setting, Brigadeführer Krukenberg distributes some Iron Crosses earned during the fight of Neukölln.
"The men surround me, stuff my pockets with candies, chocolates and cigarettes that has just distributed. Its party time, everybody is singing"
Night of April 27 1945
The Russian tanks mass themselves in the vicinity of the Allianz Platz. Half a dozen of them succeed in launching an attack heading for the ministry of justice of the Reich, following the Wilhelmstrasse. They finally will be destroyed not far from the bunker occupied by the Führer. "It is very calm, this night end: There is nothing else than the T34 that burns next to us, astounding. Large flames dance now around the steel carcass, projecting their violent glimmer against the obscurity of the sky that the pink halo of the fires above the roofs does can’t dissipate".
April 28 1945
Early in the morning, Weber Hennecourt attack the Russian tanks. Fight of this kind will not stop until the end Berlin battle. "Already the preceding day and the beginning of the night had been very hard. But from this morning, the battle will attain its peak point and will maintain at that level until the end. Until the last hours, we will live in an inferno, permanently pounded by the mortars, the PAK and the tanks, pestered by the infantry, having to push back several times an hour the assaults of the Russian tanks". A true competition is now taking place between the volunteers to know who will destroy the largest number of enemy tanks. Now that everything is lost, the men of the Charlemagne take all the risks. Untersharfuhrer Eugène Vaulot destroys his fourth Russian tank by panzerfaust. Its friends occupy the outposts and await the armored enemies behind some ruined wall, not shooting till the last minute. The Soviet have to involve artillery guns and mortars, attempting to get rid of these tanks hunters that cause heavy losses. Some will finish the fight with other foreign SS volunteers. Despite his injury and the ban of his commander, Haupsturmführer Fenet joins its men on the fire line. He co-ordinates the action of the small groups that do not stop opposing the irresistible advance of the Soviet tanks. He found back Obersturmführer Weber, whose SS nickname “Cyclone” and the fact that he doesn’t speak a word of French do not prevent him to enjoy a fanntastic popularity in his company. He has just destroyed a T34 that burns few meters away. Only Russian tanks so far entered in action and the French SS did not had yet the opportunity to oppose Soviet infantry in the Berlin sector that they occupy between the Wilhemstrasse and the Friedrichstrasse. Fenet manage to join his liaison agents who relate him the terrible moments that they have just lived. After the death of Untersharführer Millet, killed April 26, his friend Riberto replaces it. He will manage an attack against a building held by the Soviet and, with other liaison agents, will eliminate a group of around fifty opponents. Few hours later, he will set off again in patrol with his friend Untersharführer Lacombe, aka Bicou, 18 y.o., the youngest NCO of the French battalion. In company of their friend Designer, a former Paris fireman, they fight with guns and grenades in the ruins of a building occupied by the Russians. Very seriously injured, Riberto will lose an eye, just as another French SS, Boural, that was wounded on Neukölnn. The latter will survive the Berlin battle and will enter into the orders after the war.
Night of April 28 1945
The French SS hear the cries of German women, raped by Soviet soldiers few dozen meters away, in the basements of the buildings.
pril 29 1945
At dawn, Russian tanks attempt again to progress alongside the Wilhelmstrasse. The shooting of the French panzerfausts blocks the first ones. But the others tanks shoot back, trying to collapse the buildings where the SS are ambushed in this central part of Berlin. Vaulot destroys four new tanks, while his friend Untersharfuhrer Albert Brunet gets three. Haupsturmführer Fenet must back up, his HQ totally devastated by the shells, and retreat before the survivors of his units are encircled. In fact the Russian infantrymen begin seep in party and of other of his position. His men set fire to the buildings to cover their withdrawal. Henceforth, the French SS will now fight few dozens meters behind their preceding front line.
They hold now the Puttkammerstrasse crossroad . The HQ is installed in a bookstore that will be under fire from Soviet 120 mortars
" One of us discovered an album in colour devoted to the Spain that becomes the distraction of the shelter where, to role turn, the men will take a little rests. We leaf through it as if we searched through these sunny landscapes an antidote to our inferno visions". Standartenjunker Protopopoff is killed by a shell in the yard building behind the HQ. The Russians launch a third armoured assault. Shells do not stop hitting, brightness whistle. The SS Rostaing is buried under gravat and we believe he is dead when he arises, white of dust, to the HQ of the battalion to receive the first class iron cross. In the evening of April 29, the French volunteers hold again and again their positions. But they count many KIA, notably among the officers, such as Standartenoberjunker Block and de Maignan, and many injured as Standartenoberjunker de Lacaze, Abacus, Frantz and Untersturmführer Berthaud. Untersturmfuhrer Labourdette disappeared in the corridors of the subway during a clash with a Russian patrol. According to the men of the 1st company, he was killed.
Night of April 29 1945
All along the night, Berlin is nothing more than a gigantic inferno. A horrendous odour of corpses in decomposition rises from the ruins. The cries of the raped women continue. "How to talk about night? The houses, the tanks that burn are our lights, and Berlin illuminates in the fire that devours it."
April 30 1945
The dawn of April 30 set up in an astounding atmosphere. The Russians pound the remaining defenders of the capital of the Reich under rockets launched from the "organs of Stalin". The noise becomes more and more deafening, while columns of black smoke rise in the sky. A Ukrainian prisoner announces to Haupsturmführer Fenet that the final assault will take place the 1st May. The attacks will take place all night long. The Russian infantrymen progress in the wake of the tanks. A T34 succeeds in crossing the outposts line and to penetrate about thirty meters in Sturmbataillon positions before being destroyed. Russians launch without stops new attacks in the Wilhelmstrasse and attempt to overflow the French positions. Haupsturmführer Fenet decides then to withdraw about one hundred meters to install the last French fighters in the building of the RSHA, Prinz-Albrechtstrasse. At about 6 p.m., the retreat is finished and the French SS set a final position in the basement, where the low windows provide observation and shooting posts. Very quickly, harsh engagements oppose them to the infantry.
May 1 1945
The Red Army engages the fight massively, in an apocalyptic way. Tanks are destroyed only few tens of meters behind the French lines! The sturmgewehre spit their last bullets "He did not lied, this Ukrainian! All night long and the whole morning, the storm of the red assaults cuts down themselves on us with the last violence". The afternoon the position worsens, the building of the French Waffen SS is in flame, they must abandon it to back up about ten meters to the Sichereitshauptamt.
Night of May 1 1945
A last iron Crosses distribution will take place in the night, to the glimmer of candles found in the basements of the ministry. At the same moment, Untersharfuhrer Vaulot, familiarly called Gégène by his friends, receives the Cross of knight of the iron cross for having destroyed in solo fight his eighth Russian tank. Brigadeführer Krulenberg pronounces a small speech where he evokes the bravery of the French soldiers on all the battle fields of the world. The Brigadeführer leaves his Stadtmitte HQ around midnight. He directs towards the Northwest of the capital to attempt a breakthrough. With him, some men of the Charlemagne, such as Obersturmführer Weber and Obersharführer Appolot, who have just been proposed for the cross of knight of the iron Cross, just as Haupsturmführer Fenet. During the breakthrough attempt, Vaulot will be killed and Krukenberg arrested. Some say that Appolot was also killed during that night, but it seems that he managed to go through, see his biography at the end of this section.
May 2 1945
The last volunteers hold the basement of the RSHA up to the morning of May 2. They are about thirty, 10% only of the troops engaged some days beforehand. At dawn, while they move to the Air Ministry buildings, they become see Russian and German soldiers that seem to fraternise. There would be therefore had an order of cease-fire? Cars roll with white flags. Fenet decides to return to the Ministry of justice of the Reich to get new orders. At the head of its men, he will cross Soviet soldiers that will not attempt even to stop them. Only his officer, Standartenoberjunker Douraux, injured to the arm, will have his gun confiscated. With them, about twenty men belonging to the Waffen Fusilier Battalion der SS 15 (Latvian Volunteers) that fought in another wing of the ministry. They try a breakthrough towards for Pankow. A ventilation opening allows the last French SS to reach the underground subway. At the Stadtmitte station, they do not find any traces of the former divisional HQ. At Kaiserhof station, Fenet observes through a ventilation shaft hundreds of Soviet soldiers that clutter the devastated roadways. Everything seems finished
"As far as the look can go, Russians, vehicles with the red star that circulate in all directions. Not a single fire blow, the walls of the Reichskanzlei are mute. There has not more anyone around, everything is finished !" He decides nevertheless to head to the Potsdamerplatz station. There, they hide under the deck of a bridge, hoping to escape capture. Nevertheless the French are soon discovered by Russian patrols. They confiscate their watches then, next only, their weapons. They join a column of prisoners. Untersharfuhrer Brunet is killed by a bullet in the head by an obviously drunken Russian soldier. This young under officer had got alone 4 of the 62 Soviet tanks destroyed by the assault during the Berlin battle. For the survivors begins the captivity, then will come, at the time of return in France, the hour of the judgement and of jails.
"In this flame, our ancestors see formerly the picture of the undefeated sun. For us, men of the Waffen SS, the light would not know to extinguish itself. We know that the night and the death arrive. But we know that the sun will return. We believe that life will re-emerge" - Henri Fenet.