An excellent expose capturing the significant contribution of the Spanish fighters of the 250th Ski Company that served in the German Wehrmacht at Lake Ilmen on the Russian Front during World War II. The book outlines the sacrifice and dedication of these soldiers and how they adapted to the harsh Russian winter conditions.
Lake Ilmen is a large lake in the Novgorod Oblast of Russia. It’s a historically important lake, which formed a vital part of the ancient trade route from the Varangians to the Greeks. The city of Novgorod – which is a major trade center of the route – lies six kilometers below the lake’s outflow.
The Battle for Staraya Russa was part of the attack of ArmeeGruppe Nord towards Leningrad.
After battling for the line between Pskov-Ostrov the Germans pushed for the control of Lake Ilmen. They needed the control over Novgorod, northwest of Lake Ilmen, and Staraya Russa, south of Lake Ilmen. They captured Staraya Russa on august 9th 1941. Three Days later the Russian 34th Army counterattacked the Lake Ilmen area but were stopped and thrown back by a combined German Spanish force who were called in to support X Korps. After these battles Staraya Russa stayed under German control until February 1944.
Generally, Lake Ilmen was an unknown battle fought with a tenacity where the ambushed 290th Division were attempting to hold their ground. The men of Ski Company of the Spanish Blue Division was requested to relieve the Germans. Facing temperatures near – 50° F; the majority of the personnel were disabled with frostbite, however most battled fearlessly before they fell back. This book focused on the individual soldier stories from this battle and their eyewitness accounts. A great story of sacrifice complimented with tons of photos, maps and battlefield details. Although this epic struggle is well known in Spain it is now presented from a major publishing firm in an excellent format.
Published in 2019, this book will continue to resonate over the years for Spanish historians of the Russian Front during World War II. The Spanish 250th Ski Company paid their dues on the field of honor fighting for the Germans in a lost cause against the Russians and the cold winter that has been the downfall of many great armies.