The 23rd SS Volunteer Panzer Grenadier Division Nederland was a German Wafffen SS division comprising volunteers from the Netherlands. It saw action on the Easter Front during World War II.
The Dutch soldiers were planned to be a part of the Nordland division but after protests from the Dutch nazi-party, National Socialistische Beweging (NSB), it was decided that they would form their own division.
In February 1945, the 4th SS Volunteer Panzergrenadier Brigade Nederland was merged into the 11th SS Volunteer Panzergrenadier Division Nordland , but after protests from the Dutch National Socialist movement, the National Socialistische Beweging, the NSB , it was formed into its own SS Panzergrenadier Division, although its strength never reached more than a brigade.
After the invasion of Poland in 1939, Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler sought to expand the Waffen SS with foreign military volunteers for the “crusade against Bolshevism”. The enrollment began in April 1940 with the creation of two regiments:the Waffen SS Regiment Nordland (for Danish, Norwegian and Swedish volunteers), and the Waffen SS Regiment Westland (for Dutch and Flemish volunteers).
The recruitment drive in Denmark was given an air of respectability by the support of Dutch General Staff Officer Lieutenant-General Hendrik Alexander Seyffardt . The drive was successful, and by April 1941, volunteers began arriving in Hamburg. They were processed and signed up for service in the Nordwest.
By July 1941, Nordwest was dissolved to form separate units. The Dutch were organized into SS Volunteer Unit Niederlande. By July 1941 the formation was the size of a reinforced infantry battalion, with five fully motorized companies. The unit was again redesigned, this time as SS Volunteer Legion Niederlande.
General Seyffardt was recruited to command the Legion, and recruits were permitted to wear the Prinsenvlag (an unofficial Dutch national flag) on the sleeve of the uniform. In November 1941, the legion was ordered to the front near Leningrad, under the overall command of Army Group North. 20 men from the division received the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross. After service in Leningrad in 1942, ordered to the Independent State of Croatia to join SS-Obergruppenführer Felix Steiner III SS Panzer. Upon its arrival, the Brigade received 1.500 Dutch recruits, drawn from the SS Division Wilking . During this period, the brigade was redesigned 4th SS Volunteer Panzergrenadier Brigade Nederland. At this time, its strength stood at 9,342 men.
General Hendrik Alexander Seyffardt was shot by the Dutch resistance on 05-02-1943, age 70 and he died of his wounds the next day. The brigade saw little action for the remainder of 1944. On 26 January 1945, the brigade received orders to evacuate the pocket by sea and report to the Swinemünde area to participate in the defence of the Oder Line. The brigade arrived in German territory on 4 February.
On 10 February, the brigade was redesigned 23rd SS Volunteer Panzergrenadier Division Nederland, with a strength of 1.000 men. The new division was attached to Steiner’s Eleventh SS Panzer Army, defending the Northern Oder region. The Nederland took part in the abortive Operation Sonnenwende, and the battles near Altdamm in February 1945.
The first Dutchman who received the Iron Cross was the 19 years old, SS Untersturmführer Gerard Mooyman
The next night of January the 30th 1943 Mooyman sighted a enemy gun very close to the Dutch and Norwegian lines. The young Dutchman silently crawled to the gun and destroyed it personally with a bursting charge.
In April 1945, the division was split into two Kampfgruppen, based on the reformed Regiment “General Seyffardt” and the Regiment “de Ruyter”. Kampfgruppe General Seyffardt headed south, Kampfgruppe de Ruyter remained on the northern Oder front.
The final Soviet offensive of 16 April had broken the German lines by 25 April. The breakthrough by the Red Army cut the lines of communication between the two Kampfgruppen. “de Ruyter” was pushed back to the town of Parchim. On 3 May, the Kampfgruppe, hearing rumours of Americans nearby, the formation broke out to the west, surrendering to the US Army.
Kampfgruppe “General Seyffardt” was pushed south by the Soviet offensive, into the area around Halbe. The remnants of the Kampfgruppe were absorbed into Kampfgruppe Vieweger of the 15th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS, the 1st Latvian. The “General Seyffardt” was destroyed in the Halbe pocket.
. Last commander of the 23rd SS Volunteer Panzer Grenadier Division Nederland was SS-Brigadeführer Jurgen Wagner Wagner born 9 September 1901 in Strasbourg. Wagner was extradited to Yugoslavia in 1947 to stand trial for war crimes.
After the war, the unit personnel were tried in the Netherlands, with several death sentences handed down. Wagner was extradited to Yugoslavia in 1947 to stand trial for war crimes. Found guilty before the Yugoslav military tribunal, he was sentenced to death and executed on 27 June 1947, age 45.