1st Cossack Cavalry Division

The 1st Cossack Cavalry Division (German: 1. Kosaken-Kavallerie-Division) was a Russian Cossack division of the German Army that served during World War II. It was created on the Eastern Front mostly out of Don Cossacks already serving in the Wehrmacht, those who escaped from the advancing Red Army and Soviet POWs. In 1944, the division was transferred to the Waffen SS, becoming part of the XV SS Cossack Cavalry Corps, established in February 1945. At the end of the war, the unit ceased to exist.

1st Cossack Cavalry Division
Insignia of the 1st Cossack Cavalry Division
Country Nazi Germany
RoleSecurity warfare
Part ofXV SS Cossack Cavalry Corps
EngagementsWorld War II
Helmuth von Pannwitz
Don Cossack insignia


The division was created on 4 August 1943 by merging the Cossack regiments Platow and von Jungschulz under the command of the Reiterverband Pannwitz. All these units existed since 1942. To these further new regiments were added.[1] Initially organized to fight the Red Army in Southern Russia, the division was deployed to the puppet Independent State of Croatia, where they were placed under the command of the Second Panzer Army and were used to protect the railroad line from Austria through Zagreb to Belgrade. Some units were also used to fight partisans.[2]

The division's first fighting engagement was on 12 October 1943, when it was dispatched against Yugoslav partisans in the Fruška Gora Mountains. In the operation the Cossacks, aided by 15 tanks and one armored car, captured the village of Beocin, where the partisan HQ was. During that operation many villages were burned, including a monastery on Fruška Gora, and around 300 innocent Serbian villagers were killed. Subsequently, the unit was used to protect the Zagreb-Belgrade railroad and the Sava Valley. Several regiments of the division took part in security warfare (Bandenbekämpfung) and guarded the Sarajevo railroad. As part of a wide security sweep, Napfkuchen, the Cossack division was transferred to Croatia, where it fought against partisans and Chetniks in 1944.

While in Croatia the division quickly established a reputation for undisciplined and ruthless behavior, not only towards the partisans but also the civilian population, prompting Croatian authorities to complain to the Germans and finally to Adolf Hitler personally. Besides raping women, killing people and plundering and burning towns suspected of harboring partisans and their supporters, the division used telegraph poles along the railroad tracks for mass hangings as a warning to the partisans and others. Although the behavior of the Cossacks was not as ruthless as portrayed by Partisan propaganda, nevertheless during its first two months of deployment in Croatia, special divisional courts-martial imposed at least 20 death sentences in each of the four regiments for related crimes.[3]

The Cossacks' first engagement against the Red Army occurred in December 1944 near Pitomača. The fighting resulted in Soviet withdrawal from the area.

In December 1944 the 1st Cossack Division was transferred to the Waffen-SS and reorganized by the SS Führungshauptamt until 30 April 1945. Together with a 2nd Cossack Division it became part of the newly formed XV SS Cossack Cavalry Corps.[4]

At the end of the war Cossacks of the division retreated into Austria and surrendered to British troops. They were promised safety by the British but were subsequently forcibly transferred to the USSR.[5] The majority of those, who did not manage to escape, went into the labour camps of the Gulag. The German and Cossack leadership were tried, sentenced to death and executed in Moscow in early 1947. The remaining officers and ranks who survived the labour camps were released after Stalins death in 1953.[6]


  • Lt. Gen. Helmuth von Pannwitz
  • Col. Hans-Joachim von Schultz
  • Col. von Baath
  • Col. Alexander von Boesse
  • Col. Konstantin Wagner

Order of battle

In 1944 the division was composed of the following units:[7]

1st Cossack Cavalry Brigade Don

  • 1st (Don) Cossack Cavalry Regiment
  • 2nd (Ural) Cossack Cavalry Regiment
  • 3rd (Sswodno) Cossack Cavalry Regiment
  • Cossack Horse Artillery Regiment Don

2nd Cossack Cavalry Brigade

  • 4th (Kuban) Cossack Cavalry Regiment
  • 5th (Don) Cossack Cavalry Regiment
  • 6th (Terek) Cossack Cavalry Regiment
  • Cossack Horse Artillery Regiment Kuban

Divisional units

  • 55th Reconnaissance Battalion
  • 55th (Kuban) Cossack Horse Artillery Regiment
  • 1st Cossack Engineer Battalion
  • 55th Cossack Engineer Battalion
  • 1st Signal Battalion


  1. Tessin 1977, p. 37.
  2. Tomasevich 2001, p. 305.
  3. Tomasevich 2001, p. 306.
  4. Tessin 1966, p. 37.
  5. Newland 1991, p. 170–177.
  6. Newland 1991, p. 176.
  7. Mitcham 2007, p. 350.


  • Mitcham, Samuel W. (2007). German Order of Battle Vol. 2 291st - 999th Infantry Divisions, Named Infantry Divisions, and Special Divisions in World War II. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books. ISBN 978-0-8117-3437-0.
  • Newland, Samuel J. (1991). Cossacks in the German Army, 1941–1945. London: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-7146-8199-3.
  • Tessin, Georg (1966). Verbände und Truppen der deutschen Wehrmacht und Waffen SS im Zweiten Weltkrieg 1939-1945: Die Landstreitkräfte 1-5 (in German). 2. Frankfurt am Main: Mittler.
  • Tomasevich, Jozo (2001). War and Revolution in Yugoslavia, 1941–1945: Occupation and Collaboration. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. ISBN 978-0-8047-3615-2.
  • Bethell, Baron Nicholas (1974). The Last Secret. Aylesbury, Bucks: Andre Deutsch Limited. ISBN 978-0-4650-3813-8.

Further reading

  • François de Lannoy. Pannwitz Cossacks: Les Cosaques de Pannwitz 1942 - 1945
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