The 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich was one of the thirty-eight divisions of the Waffen-SS. It fought extensively alongside the regular German Army during World War II, taking part in several major battles on the Eastern Front, particularly at the titanic Battle of Kursk. The SS Das Reich also fought in Normandy, at the Battle of the Bulge and in the Hungarian and Austrian theaters of war.The 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich was one of the thirty-eight divisions of the Waffen-SS. It fought extensively alongside the regular German Army during World War II, taking part in several major battles on the Eastern Front, particularly at the titanic Battle of Kursk. The SS Das Reich also fought in Normandy, at the Battle of the Bulge and in the Hungarian and Austrian theaters of war.
The 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich was created in October 1939 by putting together the Deutschland, Germania and Der Führer regiments of the SS-Verfügungstruppe (SS-VT) into one divisional-strong military unit. However, in 1940, as the SS Panzer Division Das Reich swelled with new recruits, the regiment Germania was removed from the division to form the Wiking division. The symbol for the Das Reich division was the wolf’s hook or Wolfsangel rune.
The SS Panzer Division Das Reich first saw action during the invasion of France in May 1940. After spending some time guarding the border with Vichy France it was sent to the Netherlands. In April 1941, the Division fought in the Balkans campaign where a small detachment led by SS-Hauptsturmführer Klingenberg managed to get the mayor of Belgrade to surrender the city without a fight. From the Balkan Peninsula, the SS Panzer Division Das Reich was transferred to Poland to be refitted, and on June 22, 1941, it participated in the invasion of the USSR and fought on the frontlines until August. Between October and December, it fought in the failed offensive against Moscow. In March 1942, it was transferred to France to be sent back to the Eastern front again in January 1943, taking part in the capture and recapture of Kharkov. In July 1943, it fought at the Battle of Kursk.
After the D-Day, the SS Das Reich took part in several battles near Caen and St Lo to stop the Allies, alongside the 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend and the elite German Panzer Lehr Division. Das Reich panzer commander Ernst Barkmann destroyed numerous American tanks in small skirmishes. Although the Division recaptured Mortain, it was forced to retreat when it became apparent the Allies were going to encircle the Division along with a large number of other German units in the Falaise pocket. Because of the efforts of Das Reich along with the 9th SS Panzer Division Hohenstaufen, a large number of German forces were able to escape the pocket and retreat to the east.
After the Battle of the Bulge, the 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich was transferred into Germany to refit, and to take part in the last German offensive of the war in Hungary in an attempt to break the siege around Budapest. However, this offensive ground to a halt, and Das Reich spent the rest of the war performing a fighting retreat from Dresden, to Prague and finally to Vienna. At the end of the war, most of the Division managed to escape to the West to surrender to the Americans in May 1945. The 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich won 69 Knight’s Crosses and 151 German Crosses in Gold fighting ferociously on the battlefield.