Den Norske Legion
In 1933, a Norwegian
pro-Nazi party was instituted by Vidkun Quisling and was called the "NASJONAL SAMLING"
(National Unity). In April 1940, Germany invaded the Norwegian coastlines because Hitler
feared that the British fleet would invade Norway's vital strategic seaports and take
control of its natural iron resources. During the German occupation of Norway, the
pro-Nazi Party under Quisling's leadership actively supported the Germans. There was a
Norwegian interest in forming an expeditionary force to fight along side the Finnish against
the Soviets. With German support represented by Reichskommissar Josef Terboven, the pro-nazi
party called for a meeting of four high officials of the Norwegian Army to create a legion.
A massive recruiting rally was held on the University Square in Oslo on 4 July 1941.
It is interesting to note that the Norwegian Post Office assisted the enlistment drive by issuing
a semi-postal stamp on 1 August 1941.
Notice the Norwegian Legionnaire wearing the royal uniform,
on his left arm is an emblem showing "the cross of Saint Olaf," the symbol used by members
of the Quisling party. In the background are both the Norwegian and Finnish flags. The propaganda
value was to encourage political members to enlist in the Finnish forces;
however, most volunteers
ended up joining the Waffen-SS. (for more info. go to my Legion Stamp page).
The Norwegian Government intended to form a full regiment
of two battalions but due to strict admissions standards and brief six terms of enlistment only
one battalion was realized. They were to be titled "Gula" and "Frosta" (later the named for the
1st battalion was changed to VIKEN, the other battalion was never formed). The Legion was sent
to Bjolsen Skole camp in Norway where uniforms were received. The Legionnaires were surprised
to receive German SS uniforms since they had expected to wear Norwegian or Finnish uniforms.
The only difference was the Norwegian national flag sleeve patch, which was worn on SS uniforms for a very
short time. Many volunteers were already wearing locally made collar tabs with the Norwegian emblem made
of metal or embroidered. In addition, some volunteers wore the locally made "Dens Norke Legion" cuff title.
Interesting press photo showing a contingent of Norwegian volunteers marching in Oslo
in front of the castle where Quisling resided, and just before leaving towards the training camp in
Fallingbostel and so on to the Eastern Front.
On 29 July 1941, the first 300 Norwegian volunteers arrived in Kiel, Germany, and were sent to
Fallingbostel Training Camp. By August 1941 the total number of recruits had grown to over 700.
By the end of 1941, it had the strength of 1218 men with an additional reserve battalion provided
for replacement. The officers were sent to Lauenburg training camp.
In these training camps small quantities of German made insignia were issued. A collar tab displaying a Norwegian
lion holding an axed was issued and worn on the right collar. In addition, a cuff title bearing the name
"Frw. Legion Norwegen" was issued or awarded. Members of the "Nasjonal Samling" and its para-military
arm "Hird" were allowed to wear their emblem, a circular St Olaf's Cross with upright swords sleeve patch in white
and black for EM/NCO and silver and black for officers. However according to reliable sources these sleeve patches
were not only worn by members but by all Norwegian legionnaires.
The Legion was officially named "Den Norske Legion" (The Norwegian Legion).
Norwegian Legion Cuff Title
On top you'll see an enlisted RZM pattern Norwegian Legion Cuff Title.
The information found on
many books indicating that another cuffband existed with the inscription "Legion Norwegen" are incorrect.
According to my Norwegian colleague Bjørn Jervas, many Norwegians opted in removing the
"Freiw." from the cuffband in order to rename it "Legion Norwegen."
Originally volunteers wore locally hand made cuffbands with the latin lettering "Den Norske Legion" embroidered
in white on a black silk cuffband.
Also because of the shortage of SS cuff bands many Norwegians wore locally made cuffbands. These cuffbands look
similar to the German made RZM style, but with the lettering made of what appears
to be rough cotton thread, possibly wool.
The Norwegian Legion on the Eastern Front
The Legion was commanded respectfully by Major Jorgen Bakke and Major Finn
Kjelstrup (both ex-Norwegian Officers) however both officers resigned in early December 1941. In
December 1941, after completing six months enlistment, Legionnaires re-enlisted for another six
months. Originally the plan was to have them serve in the Finnish sector of the Eastern Front but
because of the critical situations elsewhere in Russia, the Legion was transported by train to the Leningrad Front.
This Legion had no contacts with their compatriots in the Wiking Division who were considered full
Waffen-SS cadre personnel.
In February 1942, the Legion under the Command of Sturmbannführer Arthur
Quist was sent to the quietest sector near Leningrad front to support the 2nd SS (motorized)
Infantry-Brigade and 250th Spanish Blue Division.
The 2nd SS Brigade was an international unit,
which included Dutch, Flemish and Latvians.
In Norway the recruitment continued unabated. In April
1942, the effective strength of the Legion amounted to 1150 men with another 150 on reserve. By
May 1942, the entire Legion, having taken almost half in casualties over the previous three months,
was relocated to Konstantinovka for refitting. In July the losses combined with earlier casualties
and six months enlistment caused a manpower shortage in the Legion.
In August 1942, the Legion was
reinforced with 200 new recruits. In addition, another 93 men contingent arrived from the 1st Norwegian
Police Company. By the end of December 1942, the Legion's strength dropped to 20 officers and 678
other ranks. On 1 March 1943, the Legion including the 1st Police Company was withdrawn from the
Front lines and sent to Norway on home leave.
In May 1943, about 600 veterans were sent to the
Grafenwohr training camp in Germany where the III SS Panzer Corps was being formed. Here in the
Grafenwohr training camp, the Legion was disbanded and the Norwegian volunteers were offered to
re-enlist in the new "23. SS Panzer-Grenadier Regiment Norge," (23rd SS Panzer-Grenadier Regiment Norway).
Norwegian Legion SS HIRD insignia
Above is a picture illustrating SS-Sturmbannführer Major Jorgen Bakke commander of
the "Den Norske Legion" and in the background is SS-Brigaderführer Wagner, Vidkun Quisling and Reichskommissar Terboven near the Fallingbostel Training Camp.
Below is the very rare Waffen-SS HIRD officer sleeve insignia, which shows a circular St Olaf's Cross with upright swords in silver thread and black background.
Also you will notice a "Den Norske Legion" badge.
Norwegian SS Polizei Collar Tab
Very rare Norwegian collar tab worn by members of the Police
SS Companies. The Norwegian Police Companies wore both lion collar tabs. The white crowned lion insignia is made of zinc.
Norwegian Recruiting Propaganda Leaflet
Recruiting propaganda leaflet for the SS-Regiment Norge.
I was fortunate to have the leaflet translated by my
good friend Erik. I have only provided a partial translation of the propaganda
SS-Kriegsberichter Fritz Ihlen
For not so many years ago, during the winter of 1939/40, the Norwegian people reacted to Soviet's brutal
attack on little Finland. At that time it was only very few that dared to look the truth into its
eyes. Strong feelings of brotherhood was between the people of Norway and the Finnish people who at that
time fought the battle of the Nordic countries very alone. Most people agreed that what was happening in
the east was a threat to all the Nordic countries. The slogan at that time was: "Finland's fight is our fight."
Whoever fights for Finland also fights for his own country"...Norway.
Very much has happened since that time. Also our own country has been brought into the war. In spite of this we
have been spared from the worst act of war. We also experienced an occupation by a cultural people, of well
diciplined soldiers, and we experienced a reached out hand after the military defeat, not bolshevik degradation,
barbaric acts, rape, terror or rivers of blood from Norwegian men, women and children. In spite of this, Norwegian
people let themselves lead by anti-Norwegian, jewish propaganda. Things were put upside down, and we were
indoctrinated with the dangerous poison of hate.. We became blinded and willing tools of the enemies of Europe.