SS Penal battalion 500/600:Paratroopers

German SS and Waffen-SS 1923-1945.
Marc Rikmenspoel
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Post by Marc Rikmenspoel » Sun Oct 03, 2004 1:03 pm

Yes, Spitt, sorry about that! And thanks for explaining the circulation of the photos.

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Post by sid guttridge » Mon Oct 04, 2004 5:28 am

Hi Paddy,

I belatedly caught your earlier reference to the cancelled drop on the Aaland Islands by SS-Fallschirmjaeger Battlion 500 in June 1944.

My information was that it was "600" rather "500" that was slated for this operation. The fact that "500" had been rendered effectively hors de combat during the raid on Tito in May tended to reinforce this impression.

Can you clarify about the Aaland operation ("Tanne") and another airborne operation probably also intended for Scandinavia ("Fichte")? I have also seen 91st LL Division, 416th Infantry Division and the short-lived Grenadier-Lehr-Division mentioned in connection with "Tanne", the latter two presumably by sea.

Cheers,

Sid.

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SS Penal battalion 500/600:Paratroopers

Post by Ljotrulf » Mon Oct 04, 2004 9:17 am

I take it that you both heard that Adolf Kunzmann had died?

Paddy Keating

Post by Paddy Keating » Tue Dec 07, 2004 2:02 am

I knew Kunzmann was dead. He was highly rated by quite a few more recent war photographers. In fact, the former chief editor of Magnum in Paris told me that Kunzmann could have been the German Capa had he been inclined. I have a collection of original Kunzmann images, some of which bear his studio copyright stamp. Herr Kunzmann was also quite canny in asserting his copyright in his work after WW2. I heard that he gave a lot of his stuff to Munin Verlag, which is effectively the publishing arm of HIAG, and is now to all intents and purposes run by Patrick Agte.

Image

Above is a well known Kunzmann photo. This is a 1950s print given by Herr Kunzmann to Walter Scheu, the officer on the right of the picture wearing the black Panzer sidehat, and is stamped with Kunzmann's copyright notice on the reverse. Scheu's photo collection also contains a wartime print. The officer with the Iron Cross 1st Class is Leifheit, OC of the Field Training & Replacement Company. The two Luftwaffe NCOs are jump instructors from Fallschirmschule 3.

Anyway, that's all by the by, as it were. Sid asked about SS-Fallschirmjäger-Btl 500 and 600 and the Aaland operation. SS-FJ-Btl 600 did not come into being until October 1944. Immediately after Drvar, in the first week or so of June, survivors of the battle took part in anti-partisan operations in the Petrovac area, not far from Drvar, before being withdrawn to Ljubljana or Laibach, as it was then called.

The training wing, comprising the Field Training & Replacement Company, which was held in reserve, and Fallschirmschule III transferred from Kraljevo to the Hungarian airborne base of Papa. On June 30th 1944, just 292 men were fit for duty. The battalion was scheduled for rest and refitting but had been moved to Gotenhafen on June 29th for the planned jump on Aaland after Finland's withdrawal from hostilities. The drop was cancelled and SS-FJ-Btl 500 was flown to Lithuania. They remained on the Eastern Front until October. Milius, who took over as CO on June 26th, told me that by the time the battalion was withdrawn, they were down to less than forty effectives, not counting the Field Training & Replacement Company, which had been posted to Neu-Strelitz as the cadre of the new SS-Fallschirmjäger-Btl 600. The fit survivors of SS-FJ-Btl 500 were with Skorzeny in Budapest on October 15th along with members of SS-FJ-Btl 600 for Operation Panzerfaust. After Panzerfaust, they joined SS-FJ-Btl 600 in Neu-Strelitz.

So, while the 500 was badly damaged at Drvar, it was not hors de combat by any stretch of the imagination. It was certainly understrength but the training wing ensured a fairly steady flow of replacements.

PK

Paddy Keating

Post by Paddy Keating » Tue Dec 07, 2004 2:15 am

While we're on the subject of SS-Fallschirmjäger-Btl 500 and 600, perhaps some of the members here might be interested in seeing what they looked like and seeing what Drvar looks like today. The Battle of Drvar on May 25th and 26th 1944 resulted from the German attempt to capture or kill Josip Broz alias Tito whose partisan headquarters were in the Bosnian town.

Image

This photo was taken during the heavy fighting around the church in Drvar during the initial phase in which SS assault teams, accompanied by Luftwaffe and Brandenburg interpreters and other specialists, moved to secure the town, clearing the houses of partisans and neutralising the various Allied mission HQs.

An SS-Fallschirmjäger-Btl 500 machinegun section has moved into the cloisters of the church during streetfighting in Drvar early on the morning of May 25th 1944. Note the cautious-looking Luftwaffe Kriegsberichter in the background. This is Walter Henisch, who took the photograph you will see further on. He is not wearing a helmet as this would have interfered with his ability to look through the viewfinder of his Leica camera, which can be seen in his hands. The raid on Drvar was extensively covered by SS and LW reporters. As one would say today, many photo-journalists were ‘embedded’ with the unit for the operation.

It struck me that the SS paratrooper kneeling with the automatic pistol in his hand looked familiar. I took a closer look and realised that it was SS-Oberscharführer Walter Hummel of SS-Fallschirmjäger-Bataillon 500. Hummel jumped in the first wave just after dawn.Note that he is still wearing his kneepads..

Image

Here is Hummel’s Parachute Licence, a standard Luftwaffe-issue Fallschirmschützenschein but issued through the Reichsführung-SS in Berlin. It’s hard to see in this scan but he still wears the SS-VT ‘1’ collar patch denoting membership of SS-Regiment “Deutschland”. The photo was taken some time before he joined the parachute battalion but after the award of the Winter War Medal so he was wearing this in 1942. There are photos of SS paratroopers in the cemetary at Drvar after the battle wearing SS-VT numbered regimental collar patches.

In the portrait on the right, which is the original (not to scale), which has been featured in several books, Hummel wears the ‘D’ monogram of his parent unit. Hummel, who is still alive, told me that this portrait was done in Neu-Strelitz in November 1944. Indeed, it bears the studio’s address on the reverse. So this was taken just after Hummel was posted to the newly-forming SS-Fallschirmjäger-Btl 600 with the rest of the handful of SS-FJ-Btl 500 survivors to join the reserve company as cadre for the new unit.

Image

Here is Hummel’s SS-VT driving licence, a rare document in itself. But more interesting is one of the pictures he kept after the war. In the one on the bottom lefthand side, by Henisch, we see some SS-Fallschirmjäger getting ready to move towards the church. As they have their backs to the photographer, we can’t see their faces. But the paratrooper with the belt of MG ammunition around his neck is Walter Hummel. Note the fearsome house-clearing weapon carried by his comrade, comprising several egg grenades tied around a stick grenade.

Image

Here is a recent shot from almost the same place. The church looks much the same as it did on that warm May morning sixty years ago. It was restored after the war. Drvar was badly bombed by the Luftwaffe during the battle and then by the Allies afterwards, during which time the survivors of SS-FJ-Btl 500 and elements of the Prinz Eugen Division blew up or burnt just about any building left standing before withdrawing at the beginning of June. Drvar also suffered in the recent war.

Image

And here is a detail from a snapshot of proud young paratrooper Walter Hummel home on leave after completing his jump course at Fallschirmschule 3, near the Serbian town of Kraljevo where SS-Fallschirmjäger-Btl 500 were garrisoned from November 1943 to June 1944. Note his ‘Deutschland’ cuff title, the cloth jump badge awarded pending delivery of the metal badge and certificate, and his paratrooper trousers and boots. A couple of weeks later, Walter Hummel would be answering his name to the rollcall after the battle in Drvar, one of the survivors.

Image

To round this presentation off, here is another press photo of members of SS-Fallschirmjäger-Btl 500 in their Ju 52 on the way to Drvar as part of the first wave. I have dropped in a mugshot of Walter Hummel so that you can see that he is sitting there in the plane, captured in a pensive moment before the combat jump.

PK

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John W. Howard
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Wow

Post by John W. Howard » Wed Dec 08, 2004 3:19 pm

Hey Paddy:
Thanks for the great photos!!
John W. Howard

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Tom Houlihan
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Post by Tom Houlihan » Wed Dec 08, 2004 9:35 pm

Good job, Paddy! Outstanding photo series, and the commentary was excellent, as usual!

Thanks!
TLH3
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Post by Athos » Tue Mar 15, 2005 5:07 am

So thankful for pics and info all have provided already.

My question is: What Russian units did they fight at/around Grabow february 1945?

/Athos

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mightythor99
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penal units, german, wwii...................................

Post by mightythor99 » Mon Nov 13, 2006 5:46 pm

i have a feldpost grouping, from a man, who was in the 88th panzer artillery regiment, and,.........his job, was, that he was in charge of the penal troops, for his unit, around orel, and kursk, and was killed there in july '43. he wrote his wife every few days, and describes fairly well, his troops. he did not like them, they were lazy, and were not allowed to have firearms. they built bunkers, cabins, etc,...........lots of shovel work. even for their own survival, they did not work very hard, and he hated being in charge of them. he wanted to be put with his battery, he had been a battery commander, but when this unit shipped out to russia, he stayed in prague, training people for artillery school. he was moved back to his unit, and stayed there, from about aug. '42 til july, '43, when he was killed. sounded like there were about 20-30 bad boys in his unit. he kept them fairly busy though, but it was a thankless job, and he says he had to stay on top of his men all the time,....give an inch, they take a mile kind of thing. he never really talks about what they did to get put in the unit,..............just that they were lazy and wouldnt work unless you were sitting on top of them.
I am interested in buying / trading for photo albums, photo groupings, diaries, feldpost groupings,etc, from any country in the world, any army/navy, etc, mostly 20th century!!

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Post by panzermahn » Tue Nov 14, 2006 3:56 am

Hi Paddy,

What happened to the photos? I can't see any of them anyway.

Oh yes, by the way, do you know what happened to SS Fallschirmjaeger Batt 500 in Lithuania? James Lucas's Storming Eagles had a photo with its caption stated that 2 sole surviving members of one of the companies of SS FJ BATT 500 that went into action in Memel, Lithuania.

Thanks,
Panzermahn

P.S. I am always interested in the SS FJ BATT in lesser known battles in the Eastern Front

Paddy Keating

Post by Paddy Keating » Tue Nov 14, 2006 6:22 am

I know the photograph to which you refer. While SS-Fallschirmjäger-Btl 500 suffered very heavy losses on the Eastern Front, I think the caption overstates it a bit when the two paratroopers are described as the sole survivors from one of the battalion's companies.

I'm more wary of showing photos than I used to be since the publication by Editoriale Lupo of Massimiliano Afieri's SS-FJ book, which was full of images taken from the internet, including some of mine, and other sources without permission. It was also full of plagiarised text, translated into Italian.

I'd just like to remind everyone, since this thread has been pulled up again, that the SS-FJ were not "penal" cases. The initial intake of recruits comprised certain percentage of disciplinary cases, which is a different thing altogether.

PK

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Post by panzermahn » Tue Nov 14, 2006 6:11 pm

Paddy Keating wrote:I know the photograph to which you refer. While SS-Fallschirmjäger-Btl 500 suffered very heavy losses on the Eastern Front, I think the caption overstates it a bit when the two paratroopers are described as the sole survivors from one of the battalion's companies.

I'm more wary of showing photos than I used to be since the publication by Editoriale Lupo of Massimiliano Afieri's SS-FJ book, which was full of images taken from the internet, including some of mine, and other sources without permission. It was also full of plagiarised text, translated into Italian.

I'd just like to remind everyone, since this thread has been pulled up again, that the SS-FJ were not "penal" cases. The initial intake of recruits comprised certain percentage of disciplinary cases, which is a different thing altogether.

PK
Hi Paddy,

I send you a PM.

Panzermahn

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mightythor99
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things worked the same in "good ol' east germany",

Post by mightythor99 » Tue Nov 14, 2006 9:47 pm

one of my contacts from east germany, that i used to get stuff from when the wall came down, was an east german paratrooper. not by choice though.........
he came home from work one day, in the late 1980's, in east berlin, and saw his apartment door open about an inch. hair on the back of his neck standing up, he walked up, and pushed the door open slightly, to see several men in suits, standing in his living room,.............AND, his nazi collection spread out on the floor.
they welcomed him, and told him to step inside, and close the door.
he did, and then they had him sit down, as they took the pieces out of his collection that they wanted for their own collections, and then they told him that he could keep the rest.
then, they said,.............."how would you like to be an east german paratrooper young man?"...............
he said, "well, do i get a parachute?"
they said, "of course,...ha ha ha".
so, he had about 10 minutes, and,................off he went.
the germans can be hard to get along with sometimes..........my mom is full blooded, so i know what it can be like sometimes.........

was he a "criminal"? their idea of "criminal", and ours, might be a little different.
I am interested in buying / trading for photo albums, photo groupings, diaries, feldpost groupings,etc, from any country in the world, any army/navy, etc, mostly 20th century!!

Paddy Keating

Post by Paddy Keating » Wed May 30, 2007 4:53 am

Here's a link to a thread about the Afiero book: http://www.feldpost.tv/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1103

PK

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Post by Annelie » Wed May 30, 2007 5:24 am

the germans can be hard to get along with sometimes..........my mom is full blooded, so i know what it can be like sometimes.........
What the heck is that supposed to mean?

I know people whom think the same of Americans, Brits, Scots,
Italians, in fact any nationality. Its got nothing to do with being German
only ones personality. :wink:
Annelie
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