Situation of the SS division (2/6)
How was the situation of this SS division at the end of the war? To conclude the historical background here is the situation of the particular units that held positions in the searched areas.
The introduction to this set of World War 2 stories described the general situation. These information can be found quite easily. It is much more difficult to find information that mention an area small enough to be searched with a metal detector. In contrast to many others who study the past relic hunters need extremely specific location information. To know the big picture mentioned above is fine but we have to be able to put our finger on a tiny piece of ground on the map, maybe 100 m square in size.
The regular German army was called “Wehrmacht” The researched unit did not belong to the Wehrmacht but to the SS. This abbreviation means Schutzstaffel (something like “protecting guard”). This was a sort of military branch of Hitler’s Nazi party. Against the opposition of the Wehrmacht who wanted to remain the only army in Germany the party made the SS a second army. The SS was smaller than the Wehrmacht (1 million vs. 14 million soldiers) and had the same strange ideology as the Nazi party. They were not always better armed - as the Wehrmacht always tried to keep them small - but more fanatic.
Many SS units were accused of war crimes, in particular in Eastern Europe and Russia. While these crimes happened it is inaccurate to associate each and every SS unit with war crimes and concentration camps. As strong fighting forces most SS units were used for combat rather than terrorizing civilists which would have been a waste of military resources. The SS division in question was never accused of war crimes.
On the other hand, there are some reports that soldiers of this SS unit were shot by US soldiers after they had surrendered. It appears that the US soldiers hated everything that smelled like SS after they had discovered the concentration camps like Dachau. And they looked for soldiers with blood group tattoos since they knew SS soldiers had this tattoos. They were not the only ones, though.
The SS division in question went through 2 years of more or less constant fighting before ending up at the searched locations. During that time they had big losses. Like many SS units they were employed where the situation was worse. While they received massive replacements their real strength was far from the allotted numbers. The strength report of January 31, 1945, shows that from some 16000 soldiers just 2600 were capable of performing their duties, just 67 officers among them.
In terms of light equipment the situation was better.
From 3031 allotted pistols 2441 were actually available. The numbers for submachine guns were 1470 vs. 574, and for rifles 10911 vs. 9588. Most equipment was operational with the exception of the important light machine guns (just 46 of 507).
These numbers are mentioned to demonstrate the prospects for relic hunters to find small arms. Even if we assume that the division lost much of its equipment in the months after this strength report without the chance of proper replacement it still carried a tremendous amount of light weapons. When marching into captivity the soldiers were ordered to keep their weapons undamaged. Still, can at least one be found after some 60 years?
The most valuable information concerning this unit were two exact locations. The location of an occupied hill and the location of a crossroad used as an assembly point to march into captivity. I searched both areas with a metal detector.
So much for the theoretical background gained by research. Now to the actual search of the first area at the crossroad. Would it be productive? This is the moment where the theoretical work has to prove its practical value. Were the sources reliable or did they exaggerate or were they nothing more than fairytales? Often research tells a great story but when you are in the field there is just nothing to be found. Now came the moment of truth.
(C) Thorsten Straub www.metal-detecting.de 2006-2011.