The troops bore the word ESPAÑA and a red/yellow/red horizontally striped shield worn on the upper right arm, and a helmet decal.
|250. Infanterie-Division (span.)|
250th Infantry Division (Spanish)
División Española de Voluntarios
Spanish Volunteer Division
|Active||June 24, 1941 – March 21, 1944|
| Agustín Muñoz Grandes|
Emilio Esteban Infantes
General Agustin Munoz Grandes
On July 13, 1941, the first train left Madrid for Grafenwöhr, Bavaria for a further five weeks of training. There they became the Heer's 250th Infantry Division, and were initially divided into four infantry regiments, as in a standard Spanish division. To aid their integration into the German supply system, they soon adopted the standard Heer model of three regiments. One of the original regiments was dispersed amongst the others, which were then named after three of the Spanish cities that volunteers largely originated from—Madrid, Valencia and Seville.
Each regiment had three battalions (of four companies each) and two weapons companies, supported by an artillery regiment of four battalions (of three batteries each). There were enough men left over to create an assault battalion, mainly sub-machine gun armed. Later, due to casualties, this was disbanded.
Aviator volunteers formed a Blue Squadron (Escuadrillas Azules) which, using Bf 109s and FW 190s, was credited with 156 Soviet aircraft kills.
Russian front August–October 1941
On 31 July, after taking the standard personal oath to Hitler, under whose authority they were to be fighting, the Blue Division was formally incorporated into the Wehrmacht as the 250th Division. It was initially assigned to Army Group Center, the force advancing towards Moscow.
The division was transported by train to Suwałki, Poland (August 28), from where it had to continue by foot on a 900 km march. It was scheduled to travel through Grodno (Belarus), Lida (Belarus), Vilnius (Lithuania), Molodechno (Belarus), Minsk (Belarus), Orsha (Belarus) to Smolensk, and from there to the Moscow front. While marching towards the Smolensk front on September 26, the Spanish volunteers were rerouted from Vitebsk and reassigned to Army Group North (the force closing on Leningrad), becoming part of the German 16th Army.
Volkhov October 1941 – August 1942
The Blue Division was first deployed on the Volkhov River front, with its headquarters in Grigorovo, on the outskirts of Novgorod. It was in charge of a 50 km section of the front north and south of Novgorod, along the banks of the Volkhov River and Lake Ilmen. According to the museum curator in the Spasa Preobrazheniya church on Ilyin Street, the division used the high cupola as a machine-gun nest. As a result, much of the building was seriously damaged, including many of the medieval icons by Theophanes the Greek.
Leningrad August 1942 – October 1943
Main articles: Siege of Leningrad and Battle of Krasny Bor
In August 1942, it was transferred north to the southeastern flank of the Leningrad siege, just south of the Neva near Pushkin, Kolpino and Krasny Bor in the Izhora River area.
After the collapse of the German southern front following the Battle of Stalingrad, more German troops were deployed southwards. By this time, General Emilio Esteban Infantes had taken command.
The Blue Division faced a major Soviet attempt to break the siege of Leningrad in February 1943, when the 55th Army of the Soviet forces, reinvigorated after the victory at Stalingrad, attacked the Spanish positions at the Battle of Krasny Bor, near the main Moscow-Leningrad road. Despite heavy casualties, the Spaniards were able to hold their ground against a Russian force seven times larger and supported by tanks. The assault was contained and the siege of Leningrad was maintained for a further year. The division remained on the Leningrad front where it continued to suffer heavy casualties due to weather and to enemy action. When Franco dispatched more reinforcements, this time it included conscripts as well as volunteers.
Through rotation, as many as 45,482 Spanish soldiers served on the Eastern Front. They were awarded both Spanish and German military awards, and were the only division to be awarded a medal of their own, commissioned by Hitler.
Disbandment and the Legión Azul
Eventually, the Allies and conservative Spaniards (including many officials of the Roman Catholic Church) began to press Franco for the withdrawal of troops from the Eastern Front quasi-alliance with Germany. Franco initiated negotiations in the spring of 1943 and gave an order of withdrawal on October 10.
Some Spanish soldiers refused to return. While some believed that Franco gave his unofficial blessing as long as their number was below 1,500, on November 3, 1943 the Spanish government ordered all troops to return to Spain. In the end, the total of "non returners" was close to 3,000 men, mostly Falangists. Spaniards also joined other German units, mainly the Waffen-SS, and fresh volunteers slipped across the Spanish border near Lourdes in occupied France. The new pro-German units were collectively called the Legión Azul ("Blue Legion").
Spaniards initially remained part of the 121st Infantry Division, but even this meagre force was ordered to return home in March 1944, and was transported back to Spain on March 21. The rest of the volunteers were absorbed into German units.
Platoons of Spaniards served in the 3rd Gebirgs Division and the 357th Infantry Division. One unit was sent to Latvia. Two companies joined the Brandenburger Regiment and German 121st Division in fighting against the Yugoslav Partisans.
The 101st Company (Spanische-Freiwilligen Kompanie der SS 101, "Spanish Volunteer Company of the SS Number 101") of 140 men, made up of four rifle platoons and one staff platoon, was attached to 28th SS Volunteer Grenadier Division Wallonien and fought in Pomerania and Brandenburg as Soviet troops advanced into eastern Germany. Later, as part of 11th SS Volunteer Panzergrenadier Division Nordland and under command of Hauptsturmführer der SS Miguel Ezquerra, the Company fought the last days of the war against Soviet troops in the Battle in Berlin.
The casualties of the Blue Division and its successors included 4,954 men killed and 8,700 wounded. Another 372 members of the Blue Division, the Blue Legion, or volunteers of the Spanische-Freiwilligen Kompanie der SS 101 were taken prisoner by the victorious Red Army; 286 of these men were kept in captivity until April 2, 1954, when they returned to Spain aboard the ship Semiramis, supplied by the International Red Cross.