By Wolfgang Schneider
Authored by Wolfgang Schneider, one of the foremost experts on WWII armour warfare, TOTENKOPF TIGERS is the history of the Tiger Company of the 3.SS- Panzer-Division Totenkopf. In the fall of 1942, a heavy Tiger company was formed for each of the Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler, Das Reich and Totnekopf SS-Panzer-Grenadier Divisions. While each of the Tiger Companies of the other two divisions was used to form an independent Tiger battalion, the Totenkopf company remained as a company with its division until the end of the war. It used the Tiger I exclusively, never being issued the Tiger II.
Totenkopf Tigers participated in the retaking of Kharkov in early 1943, Operation Zitadelle in July and at the Mius in late July and August. the division withdrew behind the Dniepr at the end of September and fought at Ingules at the end of October, and at Kirovograd in January 1944. the company broke out toward Balta at the end of March and crossed into Romania at the beginning of April.
It remained there, taking on new tanks, until the end of May 1944. the company fought around Targul Frumos until the beginning of July. The Totenkopf company was then transferred to Poland, where it fought near Grodno in Mid-July. It was a part of the whirl;wind battle east of Warsaw and two of its Tigers even became involved in the Warsaw Uprising in August 1944 when they were passing through the city on their way back to their unit. The Totnekopf company was then transferred with its division to Hungary, where it participated in the three offensives to relieve Budapest. It then withdrew through Hungary and Austria, losing its remaining tanks along the way in bitter defensive fighting. Its men then fought as infantry armed with panzerfausts.
It surrendered with its division to the Americans on May 8, 1945. Its men were then handed over to the Russian; many did not return to Germany until 10 years later. Of the more than 500 men who served in this unit, approximately half were killed, wounded or taken prisoner. The company was almost in continuous battle for two and a half years, all of it on the Eastern Front. Long overdue, here is the story.
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