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Manwon Lender

Battle of Berlin, The 33rd Waffen Grenadier Brigade of the SS Charlemagne

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Manwon Lender

The battle of Berlin has always been a topic of interest for me. I would like to discuss the units and individuals that fought in final battle once Army Group Vistula and Army Group Centre were surrounded cut off or destroyed. What I find amazing is the fact that during the last week and up until the surrender that the majority of fighters were veterans from foreign SS units, disorganized Wehrmacht units, very poorly trained Volkssturm units, and Hitlerjugend ( Hitler Youth ) members. But, what is even more interesting is the fact the last unit fighting to protect the Fuhrer Bunker and Hitler himself were not even German, they in fact the French Unit of SS described below.

33rd Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS Charlemagne
33rd Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS Charlemagne - Wikipedia

Charlemangne SS Division
"AXIS & LEGION MILITARIA" - Axis & Legion Militaria (bizland.com)

 

French SS - Berlin 1945 - Mark Felton Productions

 

 

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Manwon Lender

The 33rd Waffen Grenadier Brigade of the SS Charlemagne ( 33rd Waffen-Grenadier-Brigade der SS "Charlemagne") was a unit of the Waffen SS was formed in September 1944 from French collaborationists many of whom were already serving in various other German units. Named after the 9th-century Frankish King, it replaced the existing Vichy French Legion of French Volunteers against Bolshevism formed in 1941 within the German Army (Wehrmacht) and the SS-Volunteer Sturmbrigade France (SS-Freiwilligen Sturmbrigade "Frankreich") formed in July 1943, both of which were disbanded the same month. It also drafted in French recruits from other German military and paramilitary formations and Miliciens (detested Milice security police) who had fled ahead of the Allied Liberation of France (June–November 1944).

The unit was formed in September of 1944, and after training it was reclassified as a division, however it was not a full strength Combat Waffen SS Division. It only had 7,340 men at the time of its deployment to the Eastern Front: in February 1945. It fought against Soviet forces in Pomerania where it was almost annihilated during the East Pomeranian Offensive within a month. SS-Brigadefuhrer Gustav Krunenberg was appointed to command the division, while Edgar Puaud, who had commanded the LVF, was the nominal French commander. Between 320 and 330 French troops arrived in Berlin on 24 April after a long detour to avoid advance columns of the Red Army. On 28 April, the Red Army started a full-scale offensive into the central sector. Charlemagne was in the center of the battle zone around the Reich Chancellery.

French SS man Eugene Vaulot, who had destroyed two tanks in Neukölln, used Panzerfausts to claim six more near the Furherbunker. He was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross by Krukenberg on 29 April. Vaulot was killed three days later by a Red Army sniper. Second Lieutenant Roger Albert-Brunet destroyed four Soviet tanks by Panzerfaust on 29 April 1945. He was awarded the Iron Cross 1st class by Krukenberg. During the fighting, Hauptstrumfuhrer Henri Joseph Fenet was wounded in the foot. The Soviets forces drove what was left of the battalion back to the vicinity of the Reich Aviation Ministry in the central government district under the command of SS-Brigadefuhrer Wilhelm Mohnke. For the combat actions of the battalion during the Battle iof Berlin, Mohnke awarded the Knights Cross of the Iron Cross to Fenet on 29 April 1945. After Hitler's suicide on 30 April, the unit's men were part of the last defenders in the area of the bunker complex.

By the evening of 30 April, the French SS men serving under Fenet had destroyed another 21 Soviet tanks. On the night of 1 May, Krukenberg told the men that were left to split up into small groups and attempt to break-out, by this time there were only 30 members of the French 33rd Waffen Grenadier Brigade of the SS Charlemagne left. Having escaped out of Berlin, Fenet with a small remainder of his unit surrendered to British forces at Bad Kleinen and Wismar. Some of the Frenchmen, such as Fenet, were turned over to the Soviet Army. Twelve who had been turned over to French authorities by the US Army were shot as traitors. Fenet was allowed to be treated for his foot wound at hospital. He was then returned to a Soviet POW camp and a short time later released. Most of the rest who made it to France were apprehended and sent to Allied prisons and camps. Fenet was arrested upon his return to France. In 1949, Fenet was convicted of being a Collaborator and sentenced to 20 years of forced labour, but was released from prison in 1959.

In closing I think the strangest thing about this is that the last defenders of the Fuhrer Bunker and Adolf Hitler were not even German. This French Unit was the last unit actually defending the Bunker. Now while I dont agree with what they did, ( They were Collaborators ) I must say as a Soldier Myself that is loyalty. While I sit here typing this I can't begin to understand it, but I can appreciate the pride it took in doing their duty in the face of such adversity even if it lead to their death, and I can respect that, even though I could never support any regime like the Nazis.

33rd Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS Charlemagne
33rd Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS Charlemagne - Wikipedia

One of the last SS units to hold out defending Hitler’s bunker in Berlin was comprised entirely of Frenchmen

WAR HISTORY ONLINE - THE PLACE FOR MILITARY HISTORY NEWS AND VIEWS

Charlemangne SS Division
"AXIS & LEGION MILITARIA" - Axis & Legion Militaria (bizland.com)

French SS - Berlin 1945 - Mark Felton Productions

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ted hughes
Posted (edited)

Mark Felton puts out some solid stuff, I subscribe to him on YouTube: Mark Felton - Wikipedia

Edited by ted hughes
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Manwon Lender
1 hour ago, ted hughes said:

Mark Felton puts out some solid stuff, I subscribe to him on YouTube: Mark Felton - Wikipedia

Yes he really does and its not only good its great!!!!!:tu:

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Manwon Lender
On 4/18/2021 at 2:05 PM, ted hughes said:

Mark Felton puts out some solid stuff, I subscribe to him on YouTube: Mark Felton - Wikipedia

French Waffen SS Soldiers during the Battle of Berlin from the 33rd Waffen Grenadier Brigade of the SS Charlemagne. The Soviets forces drove what was left of the battalion back to the vicinity of the Reich Aviation Ministry in the central government district under the command of SS-Brigadefuhrer Wilhelm Mohnke. For the combat actions of the battalion during the Battle of Berlin, Mohnke awarded the Knights Cross of the Iron Cross to Fenet on 29 April 1945. After Hitler's suicide on 30 April, the unit's men were part of the last defenders in the area of the Fuhrer bunker complex, that was beneath the Reich Chancellery.

See the source image

                                                            

See the source imageSee the source image

 

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Peter B
On 4/18/2021 at 2:34 PM, Manwon Lender said:

...Twelve who had been turned over to French authorities by the US Army were shot as traitors...

In an incident that took place 8 May 1945 at Karlstein near Bad Reichenhall in Bavaria, [French General Leclerc] was presented with a defiant group of captured Frenchmen of the SS Charlemagne Division. He asked them why they wore a German uniform, to which one of them replied by asking why Leclerc wore an American one. Leclerc told his men to get rid of them. That was taken as a death sentence. The group of French Waffen-SS men was summarily executed by the RMT without any form of military tribunal procedure, and their bodies left where they fell until an American burial team collected them three days later. (Wikipedia)

I know I shouldn't, but I have a hard time condemning Leclerc.

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Manwon Lender
8 minutes ago, Peter B said:

In an incident that took place 8 May 1945 at Karl stein near Bad Reichenhall in Bavaria, [French General Leclerc] was presented with a defiant group of captured Frenchmen of the SS Charlemagne Division. He asked them why they wore a German uniform, to which one of them replied by asking why Leclerc wore an American one. Leclerc told his men to get rid of them. That was taken as a death sentence. The group of French Waffen-SS men was summarily executed by the RMT without any form of military tribunal procedure, and their bodies left where they fell until an American burial team collected them three days later. (Wikipedia)

I know I shouldn't, but I have a hard time condemning Leclerc.

I suppose its a natural reaction, based upon what we now know about the Schutzstaffel ( SS ).  But, to summarily executive prisoners of war, without do process is a violation of the Geneva Convention and it is also a war crime. During the Nuremberg War Crimes Trial the Nazi Leadership were tried for a crime that was never heard of before they called it Crime Against Humanity. Crimes under this blanket charge include executing Prisoners of War, so while I would not try to change your point of view, I also disagree with completely.

i am a retired US Army Veteran who spent 23 years on Active Duty. Having served in combat zones on a number of occasions. I would have never allowed my Soldiers under any circumstances to commit a crime like that, If I had caught them in the process of doing it, I would have had them prosecuted with in full limits of the law. By allowing a crime like to be committed or to involve ones self in it, violates the code of conduct and it will cause all discipline to break down. 

Take care

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and then

When troops commit crimes against humanity as the Germans did for much of the war, they DESERVED summary justice.  This wasn't done to the Wehrmacht rank and file.  The Schutzstaffel were party to all manner of evil and they got less than they deserved, IMO.  As for heroic actions defending Berlin, no doubt many of them were still obsessed with the dictator but I'd imagine they fought like lions because they KNEW what the Russians were going to do to them if they surrendered.  When an invading army rapes and pillages and then gets pushed back into its own territory, justice will be done.

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tortugabob
Posted (edited)

The SS divisions were some of the best fighting units of the war.  Far better than anything the allies had including some of the elite units. Did you know that many former German soldiers joined the French Foreign Legion and fought at Dien Bien Phu in Vietnam?  Some were captured there and never got to return home.  

Edited by tortugabob
I want to. Is that enough?
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Grey Area
On 4/20/2021 at 1:31 PM, Peter B said:

I know I shouldn't, but I have a hard time condemning Leclerc.

Most of the top brass were a bunch of idiots to be fair.  The war, from start to finish was a litany of mistakes, incompetence and sheer self importance, maybe excepting Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay and Rommel.

Like you @Manwon Lender I love exploring WW2 history, it’s like it’s own little microcosm of history, a unique episode unlike any other in all of history.

There is always something to learn and always something that blows my mind.

I regret that I never spoke to my Grandparents more about it, they were both involved with signals and took their signing of the official secrets act very very seriously.  My Gran had the claim to fame that she was the person who relayed the message from allied command to delay the D-Day landings due to weather.  My Grandad, who was a corporal never got over the fact that my Gran outranked him as a Sergeant.  I have a photo I will share of my grandad a bit later when I can find it.

 

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Manwon Lender
3 hours ago, Grey Area said:

Most of the top brass were a bunch of idiots to be fair.  The war, from start to finish was a litany of mistakes, incompetence and sheer self importance, maybe excepting Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay and Rommel.

Like you @Manwon Lender I love exploring WW2 history, it’s like it’s own little microcosm of history, a unique episode unlike any other in all of history.

There is always something to learn and always something that blows my mind.

I regret that I never spoke to my Grandparents more about it, they were both involved with signals and took their signing of the official secrets act very very seriously.  My Gran had the claim to fame that she was the person who relayed the message from allied command to delay the D-Day landings due to weather.  My Grandad, who was a corporal never got over the fact that my Gran outranked him as a Sergeant.  I have a photo I will share of my grandad a bit later when I can find it.

 

I am like you the historical facts of the WWII are very interesting, but for me it's more than that. I am one who believes that to forget what has occurred it the most dangerous thing we can do, because then it can repeat itself. You may not agree with my next comment but, I believe that the world has started to forget already. The US election of Donald Trump is a glaring example of this fact, however, after his actions as the President people did begin to wake up, and that is why he was not elected again. Please let me know when you post that photo, I would love to see it and thank you very much for your post, I have some other similar threads I am going to start, if you like .I will mention you do you dint miss them

Thanks again and have a good one.

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Manwon Lender
4 hours ago, tortugabob said:

The SS divisions were some of the best fighting units of the war.  Far better than anything the allies had including some of the elite units. Did you know that many former German soldiers joined the French Foreign Legion and fought at Dien Bien Phu in Vietnam?  Some were captured there and never got to return home.  

Yes Sir, I did in fact they did so to avoid prosecution for crimes against humanity. It was a great place to hide, and to get a new identify.

thanks for your post

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Manwon Lender
Posted (edited)
On 4/20/2021 at 11:57 PM, and then said:

When troops commit crimes against humanity as the Germans did for much of the war, they DESERVED summary justice.  This wasn't done to the Wehrmacht rank and file.  The Schutzstaffel were party to all manner of evil and they got less than they deserved, IMO.  As for heroic actions defending Berlin, no doubt many of them were still obsessed with the dictator but I'd imagine they fought like lions because they KNEW what the Russians were going to do to them if they surrendered.  When an invading army rapes and pillages and then gets pushed back into its own territory, justice will be done.

@Grey Area @tortugabob @toast @Helen of Annoy  Your analogy above is flawed concerning the statement you made about the Schutzstaffel, because they all can not be lumped into a single category, just like Republicans and Democrats can't be!!:lol: So no they did not deserve to be summarily executed like you stated above, and I will prove my point based upon the information I have included below.

Your comments that the reason they fought so hard was because they were afraid of what the Russians would do is completely ludicrous. If it were true they would not have stayed and fought to the end outside the Furher Bunker in Berlin, they would have run and left Berlin before the final battle. As far as, being obsessed with Hitler, that also isn't true or accurate, these men were brave souls who decided to make a last stand even though they knew it would mean their lives. This is what soldiers do, and it doesn't mean they support the leadership that they are defending. In the case of these soldier, their last stand was to allow German civilians to get as far away from Berlin as possible, because they knew how the Russian would treat them. 

The Schutzstaffel can be broken into many categories and not all of them were the evil monsters that committed the horrendous  crimes against humanity we are all aware of, not even members of the Organiztions and members of the SS. Here is a break down of Military Organizations of the Third Reich by the Virtural Jewish Library ( A project for Alice) https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/military-organization-of-the-third-reich

Here is how the Virtural Jewish Library breaks down SS involvement in crimes against humanity:

The SS

The Schutzstaffel (Protective Squadron), or SS, was a large paramilitary organization that belonged to the Nazi party. The SS was led by Heinrich Himmler from 1929 until it was disbanded in 1945 with the defeat of Germany in World War II. The Nazis regarded the SS as an elite unit, a Party's “praetorian guard,” with all SS personnel selected on racial and ideological grounds. The SS was distinguished from the German military, Nazi Party, and German state officials by their own SS ranks, SS unit insignia, and SS uniforms.

The most recognizable branches of the SS, later charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity, were the departments that comprised the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (RSHA, Reich Security Head Office), Sicherheitsdienst (SD, Security Service), Einsatzgruppen (Special Mission Groups), the concentration camp service known as the SS-Totenkopfverbände (SS-TV, Death's Head Formations), and the Gestapo (Secret State Police).

The SS fighting units, called the Waffen-SS, were to evolve into highly skilled and effective soldiers, in many cases superior in these respects to the German army, the Heer

Of all the German military organizations of WWII the Waffen-SS is one of the most widely studied. This is in part because of the combat record of the Waffen-SS and the elite status of many of its units, and in part because of the brutality attributed to some of its formations and the war crimes some of its members were responsible for. By the end of WWII over 1,000,000 soldiers in 38 divisions would serve in the Waffen-SS, including over 200,000 conscripts.

The Waffen-SS was a part of the German Schutzstaffel or SS, which saw its rise during the late 1920s and early 1930s. The SS was the single most powerful political organization within the Third Reich and consisted of the Allgemeine-SS, Totenkopfverbande, and the Waffen-SS.

The Waffen-SS was born in 1933 after Hitler came to power when Politisches Bereitschaften or Political Readiness Detachments were formed under the control of the SS. These units were organized along military lines and were intended to help counter Communist strikes. On October 1st, 1934 these units became the SS-Verfügungstruppen or SS Special Use Troops. Initially the Verfügungstruppen consisted of small detachments located in larger German cities but by 1935 they were organized into battalions and in 1936 into Standarten or regiments. In 1936 two main SS-V Standarten existed, Deutschland and Germania. The Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler also existed at this time and although related it was considered somewhat outside the purview of the SS-V.

In 1938 the SS-Verfügungstruppen took part in the occupation of Austria and Czechoslovakia along side the Wehrmacht. After the occupation of Austria a third Standart was formed known as Der Führer. In 1939 the SS-Verfügungstruppen consisted of three Standarden, the LAH, and a number of smaller service and support units. For the Campaign in Poland in 1939 all SS-V units were organized into the SS-Verfügungstruppe-Division and placed under the operational command of the Wehrmacht. The SS-Verfügungstruppe-Division also fought in the Western Campaign 1940. After the conclusion of the Western Campaign the SS-Verfügungstruppen was renamed and became the Waffen-SS.

Although the Waffen-SS is frequently considered an elite organization not all of its units were actually elite. Some Waffen-SS units formed after 1943 had less than ideal combat records. This was in part due to the fact that the number of volunteers eligible for service in the Waffen-SS shrank as the war continued while the need for replacements increased. The number of conscripts taken into the Waffen-SS of lesser quality or questionable ability had a direct impact on combat effectiveness.

After WWII ended the Waffen-SS was condemned at the Nurnberg Trials as a criminal organization. This was in part due to a series of high profile atrocities and because of their connection to the SS and NSDAP. Only those who were conscripted into the Waffen-SS were exempt from the Nurnberg declaration. In reality more than 80% of the SS were not ethnic Germans. They were in fact conscripts who were either forced to join from conquered countries, or joined because they hated the Soviet Union and would gladly fight against their domination.

As a result Waffen-SS veterans were generally denied the rights and benefits granted to other WWII German veterans. Waffen-SS prisoners of war were often held in strict confinement and were treated harshly by the Soviets. Many foreign volunteers that served in the Waffen-SS were also treated severely by their national governments. In the years since WWII there have been attempts to rehabilitate the image and legality of Waffen-SS veterans, both through legislation and in published works by former officers like Paul Hausser (Soldaten wie andere auch - Soldiers Like Any Other). To this day the stigma on veterans from the Waffen-SS remains. 

After the war, the judges of Nuremberg Trials declared the entirety of the SS as a criminal organization, among others because of its implementation of racial policies of genocide. In reality the conscripted non-ethnic Germans were still stigmatized as a result of the horrific crimes against humanity that were committed by other branches of the organization.

 

Edited by Manwon Lender
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Grey Area
Posted (edited)
9 hours ago, Manwon Lender said:

I am like you the historical facts of the WWII are very interesting, but for me it's more than that. I am one who believes that to forget what has occurred it the most dangerous thing we can do, because then it can repeat itself. You may not agree with my next comment but, I believe that the world has started to forget already. The US election of Donald Trump is a glaring example of this fact, however, after his actions as the President people did begin to wake up, and that is why he was not elected again. Please let me know when you post that photo, I would love to see it and thank you very much for your post, I have some other similar threads I am going to start, if you like .I will mention you do you dint miss them

Thanks again and have a good one.

Hi manwon

This is Grandad Greyarea.  The photo was taken in 1940 I believe, he was 24 at the time.  It's actually a wedding photo.  There is another with both my Gran and Grandad in uniform, unfortunately I dont have that one.  They got married having met 2 weeks prior, they both had a days leave and did the deed.  They wouldnt see each other again until after the war.  They were married for 71 years until my Grandad's death in 2011.

196577752_grandadcopy1.thumb.jpg.ccbb90a92483861a2f2367366b77a885.jpg

My Grandad also had a significant story.  In 1941 my Grandad was sent to Iceland to establish a relay station for North Atlantic Naval operations.  Shortly after arriving they recieved news of the Hood's contact with the Bismarck and the subsequent sinking of the former.  However they didnt have the range yet to relay the news to the UK, so were left with the news.  The Hood was seen as the invincible dreadnaught of the British Navy, despite being a relatively lightly aroured battle cruiser.  My Grandad would describe the loss as catastrophic, to him and his unit, they were convinced that if the Hood could be sunk, they were all done for.  My Grandad would not talk about France.  He went in on around D-DAY+10.  Though in his later years he would travel a lot to revisit the places he fought in and would open up a little bit.  He described his regret at having not been involved with the initial D-Day landings.

My Grandparents have been the insparation of my life and I am who I am today because of them.  Gosh this got me all choked up.

Manwon, you are right, in that the war has been left behind a bit.  Sadly most of the veterans have passed away.  It's up to us to keep it alive I guess now and pass on their legacy to our own children.  What a generation.

Edited by Grey Area
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Manwon Lender
2 hours ago, Grey Area said:

Hi manwon

This is Grandad Greyarea.  The photo was taken in 1940 I believe, he was 24 at the time.  It's actually a wedding photo.  There is another with both my Gran and Grandad in uniform, unfortunately I dont have that one.  They got married having met 2 weeks prior, they both had a days leave and did the deed.  They wouldnt see each other again until after the war.  They were married for 71 years until my Grandad's death in 2011.

196577752_grandadcopy1.thumb.jpg.ccbb90a92483861a2f2367366b77a885.jpg

My Grandad also had a significant story.  In 1941 my Grandad was sent to Iceland to establish a relay station for North Atlantic Naval operations.  Shortly after arriving they recieved news of the Hood's contact with the Bismarck and the subsequent sinking of the former.  However they didnt have the range yet to relay the news to the UK, so were left with the news.  The Hood was seen as the invincible dreadnaught of the British Navy, despite being a relatively lightly aroured battle cruiser.  My Grandad would describe the loss as catastrophic, to him and his unit, they were convinced that if the Hood could be sunk, they were all done for.  My Grandad would not talk about France.  He went in on around D-DAY+10.  Though in his later years he would travel a lot to revisit the places he fought in and would open up a little bit.  He described his regret at having not been involved with the initial D-Day landings.

My Grandparents have been the insparation of my life and I am who I am today because of them.  Gosh this got me all choked up.

Manwon, you are right, in that the war has been left behind a bit.  Sadly most of the veterans have passed away.  It's up to us to keep it alive I guess now and pass on their legacy to our own children.  What a generation.

This is an absolutely wonderful post, I bet you are so proud of your heritage and of the legacy your Gandfather and Grandmother left for you. I am retired Military I spent 23 years in the US Army, and 10 mores as a US Government contractor. So I truly appreciate those who came before me and kept our World free. It sounds like he was a true hero, and your pride in them both is very well placed, and I feel it, by just reading your comments.

It's a shame more people don't appreciate their heritage like you obviously do. I totally agree it is up us to kept their legacy alive, and to never forget what they fought for. This is something that can't be forgotten, because it is a proven fact that history is cyclical and if we forget the mistakes made in the past it can actually repeat itself. When it comes to WWII, the things we  learned can't ever be forgotten and we can never allow anything like it to occur again.

Than you so much for sharing I am great full that you this.:tu:

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