Original German WWII SS Identity Disc Dog Tag - 15th Waffen SS Grenadier Division (1st Latvian) - No. 58
Original Item: One-of-a-kind. This is a genuine German WWII SS Erkennungsmarke (identity disc or Dog Tag), used to identify soldiers in the field. These were made of plated steel, aluminum, or zinc, and were designed so that if a soldier died, the bottom half of the tag would be broken off, while the other half remained with their body.
It is marked as follows on both sides of the central perforation:
5. / J. R. 4.
LETT. ᛋᛋ - FRW. DIV.
The rear of the tag is marked with 58 on both sides. This indicates that the soldier (No. 58) was a member of the 5. Companie, Infanterie Regiment 4, which was part of the Lettische ᛋᛋ - Freiwilliger Division, or the 5th Company, 4th Infantry Regiment, part of the Lavtian SS-Volunteer Division. This division was then given a number designation, and renamed the 15. Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS (lettische Nr. 1). This would have been part of the Latvian Legion (Latvian: Latviešu leģions).
Created in 1943, it consisted primarily of ethnic Latvian personnel. The legion consisted of two divisions of the Waffen-SS: the 15th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Latvian), and the 19th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (2nd Latvian). The 15th Division was administratively subordinated to the VI SS Corps, but operationally it was in reserve or at the disposal of the XXXXIII Army Corps, 16th Army, Army Group North. The 19th Division held out in the Courland Pocket until May 1945, the close of World War II, when it was among the last of Germany's forces to surrender.
Condition of the disc is very good, with just a bit of oxidation and the text fully legible. It is slightly warped/bent, and the rear has what looks to be old dirt stuck on. It is non magnetic, and looks to be made from zinc or some similar metal.
Ready to research and display!
More on the Latvian Legion:
The Latvian Legion was created in January 1943 on the orders of Adolf following a request by Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS. The initial core of the force was populated by Latvian Police Battalions, which were formed starting in 1941 earlier for security duties and already serving on the Eastern Front under Wehrmacht command. While members of war crimes collaborator Arajs Kommando were subsequently joined to the Legion, this was late in the war as the Kommando was demobilized from anti-partisan and anti-Jewish action, with the first former Arajs unit attached to the Legion in December, 1944.
Under the Rosenberg labor decree of December 1941, the Germans had already begun conscripting Latvians in early 1942, giving them a choice of joining the labor service or police battalions. One month after the unit was founded, German occupation authorities in Latvia started conscripting military age men specifically for the Legion. Draftees were given a choice between serving in the Wehrmacht-subordinated Waffen-SS Legion, serving as German Wehrmacht auxiliaries, or being sent to a slave labor camp in Germany. Those who tried to avoid one of those options were arrested and sent to the camps. As a result, only 15-20% of the men serving in the legion were actual volunteers. Unlike in Lithuania, potential legionary recruits in Latvia did not organize an official boycott of conscription; some Latvians deserted however rather than serving the war effort.
With Germany losing the war, conscription was extended to larger and larger numbers of Latvians. The first conscription, in 1943, applied to all Latvian men born from 1919 to 1924. Subsequent conscriptions eventually extended to Latvians born between 1906 and 1928. The division commanders and most of the staff were German SS officers. The individual combat regiments were typically commanded by Latvian officers.
After the Red Army broke through German lines at Nevel along the 1st Baltic Front in November 1943, advancing on Latvia, the Latvian Self-Administration took over mobilization from the Germans on November 13. By June 26 there were 7,671 ethnic Russians from Latvia's Latgale, representing ten percent of men from the region, serving in various units of the Latvian Legion. On July 1, 1944, the Latvian Legion had 87,550 men. Another 23,000 Latvians were serving as Wehrmacht "auxiliaries".
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