Das Reich V is the final volume in the massive history of the 2 SS Panzer Division Das Reich, and covers its actions from the end of 1943 until the end of WW II in May 1945. Following the battles and retreats during the summer and fall of 1943, in December Das Reich was withdrawn for refitting and reorganization in the west. However, it left a sizeable kampfgruppe to support the defence of the Eastern Front. The Kampfgruppe Das Reich fought in southern Russia until April 1944, when it rejoined the division in southern France. Das Reich moved north after the Allies landed in Normandy. It fought hard around Caen and later held the exit for retreating German units from the Falaise Pocket. The division retreated toward the German border and its elements defended in the Westwall during September and October. After refitting once more, in December 1944 Das Reich participated in the Ardennes Offensive until mid-January 1945. In February and March 1945 one of its elements fought at the Remagen Bridgehead.
At the beginning of February 1945 the division was transferred to Hungary. After a hurried refitting, in March it participated in the three efforts to relieve Budapest. Following that failed attempt, Das Reich fell back toward Austria in late March. It defended Vienna for approximately 2 weeks and then it was broken up, its units fighting in Austria and Czechoslovakia. In May, the various elements had to fight their way toward the west. Some surrendered to the Allies, some to the Russians, others to the Czechs, who then turned them over to the Russians. The last attempts lasted until several days after the official surrender date.
This last volume closes the book on the first division of the Waffen-SS. Das Reich produced the most Knight’s Cross recipients and during the war contributed cadres for many of the later SS-Divisions.