The 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend ("Hitler Youth") was a German Waffen-SS armoured division during World War II. The Hitlerjugend was unique because the majority of its junior enlisted men were drawn from members of the Hitler Youth, while the senior NCOs and officers were generally veterans of the Eastern Front.
The division, with 20,540 personnel, first saw action on 7 June 1944 as part of the German defense of the Caen area during the Normandy campaign. The battle for Normandy took its toll on the division and it came out of the Falaise pocket with a divisional strength of 12,000 men.
Following the invasion battles, the division was sent to Germany for refitting. On 16 December 1944, the division was committed against the US Army in the Battle of the Bulge. After the failure of the Ardennes offensive the division was sent east to fight the Red Army near Budapest. The 12th SS eventually withdrew into Austria; on 8 May 1945, the surviving 10,000 men surrendered to the US Army at Enns. At 7:20 am, Captain McLean reported that two lieutenant colonels and a major approached troops of Major General Stanley Eric Reinhart, announcing that within two hours the end of their column would reach the city.
The reputation of the division has been affected by war crimes committed by members of the division during the early battles in Normandy.