At the beginning of WWII Germany invaded and occupied Denmark and Norway, but left neutral Sweden alone. Less than a year later citizens from all three of those Scandinavian nations were volunteering to join the Waffen-SS. By the end of the war in 1945 the number of Scandinavians who had fought in the Waffen-SS had reached the thousands. Casualties were high, but there were survivors and they returned home, often to face retribution and condemnation.
The Nazis' dream of a world dominated by legions of Aryan 'supermen', forged in battle and absolutely loyal to Adolf Hitler, was epitomised by the Waffen-Ss. Created as a supreme military elite, it grew to become Nazi Germany's 'second army', an immense force totalling almost one million men by the end of the War. An astonishing fact about the Ss is that thousands of its members were not German. Men stepped forward from almost every nation in Europe, for many sometimes complex reasons that included hatred of Bolshevism and nationalist sentiment or even straightforward anti-Semitism; foremost among them were Scandinavians from Denmark, Norway, Sweden and even Finland. Thousands were recruited from 1940 onwards and fought with distinction on the Russian Front. They served as first in national legions but were then brought together in the elite Wiking Panzer Division and the Nordland Panzer-grenadier Division. In Hitler's Vikings, Jonathan Trigg details the battles these men fought and what inspired them to join the Waffen-Ss, based in part on interviews with surviving veterans.
In episode 55, I discussed the Flemish Waffen SS, with Jonathan Trigg. Since then he’s been busy tracking down the few surviving veterans of the SS who were from Scandinavia, for his new book Voices of the Scandinavian Waffen SS: The Final Testament of Hitler’s Vikings.
Being a fellow Yorkshireman, with a new book, on a very interesting topic, I thought it rude not to ask him back!