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Panzergrenadier Division Großdeutschland

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Panzergrenadier-Division Großdeutschland
„Großdeutschland”-Division (Wehrmacht).svg
Unit insignia
Active19 May 1942 – 9 May 1945
Country German Reich
Allegiance Adolf Hitler
Heer - decal for helmet 1942
German Army (Heer)
Part of • Infantry Regiment
 • Infantry Division
 • Panzer Grenadier Division
 • Panzer Corps
Garrison/HQGrafenwoehr Training Area,
near Grafenwöhr, Bavaria, Germany
Military training area near
Zielenzig, Brandenburg, Germany
Nickname(s)Die Feuerwehr
("The Fire Brigade")[1]
Motto(s)Gott, Ehre, Vaterland
("God, Honor, Fatherland")[2]
Wilhelm-Hunold von Stockhausen [de]
Gerhard Graf von Schwerin
Walter Hörnlein
Hermann Balck
Hasso von Manteuffel
Karl Lorenz
Dietrich von Saucken
Georg Jauer
Cuff title(Gothic Script cuff title; 1939–1944)
(Latin Script cuff title; 1944–1945)

The Panzergrenadier Division "Großdeutschland"[notes 1], also commonly referred to simply as Großdeutschland[notes 2] or Großdeutschland Division, was an elite combat unit of the German Army (Heer) that fought on the Eastern Front in World War II.

Originally formed in 1921 it was known as the Wachregiment Berlin[3] and served as a ceremonial guard unit and by the 1939 had grown into a regiment of the combined Wehrmacht German armed forces. The regiment would later be expanded and renamed Infantry Division Großdeutschland in 1942, and after significant reorganization was renamed Panzergrenadier Division Großdeutschland in May 1943. In November 1944, while the division retained its status as a panzergrenadier division, some of its subordinate units were expanded to divisional status, and the whole group of divisions were reorganized as Panzerkorps Großdeutschland.


The Infantry Regiment Grossdeutschland was activated on 14 June 1939. The regiment saw action in France in 1940. It was attached to Panzer Group 2 in the opening phases of Barbarossa, and was nearly destroyed in the Battle of Moscow in late 1941. On the last day of February 1942, the remnants of the regiment absorbed two battalions of reinforcements that arrived from Neuruppin and the regiment was reconstituted. It later moved to Orel, and on 1 April 1942 the former Infantry Regiment Großdeutschland was reinforced and expanded into the Infanterie-Division Großdeutschland (mot.) (motorized Infantry Division Grossdeutschland) using newly arrived troops from Germany.[4]

The division was assigned to XXXXVIII Panzer Corps during the opening phases of Fall Blau, the Wehrmacht's 1942 strategic summer offensive in southern Russia. During the combined Soviet winter offensives Operation Uranus and Operation Mars, the division fought near Rzhev, where it was rendered combat ineffective.

In January–February 1943, Großdeutschland and XXXXVIII Panzer Corps, along with the II SS Panzer Corps took part in the Third Battle of Kharkov. The division fought alongside the 1.SS Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler, 2. SS Division Das Reich and 3.SS Division Totenkopf during these battles.[5] After the conquest of Kharkov, the Großdeutschland was again pulled back and refitted.

In 19 May 1943, with the addition of armoured personnel carriers and Tigers the division was redesignated Panzergrenadier Division Großdeutschland (Armored Infantry Division Grossdeutschland),[6][7] though in reality it now had more armoured vehicles than most full-strength panzer divisions.


Großdeutschland Division soldiers, Kursk, July 1943
Großdeutschland Division soldiers, Kursk, July 1943

The newly re-equipped division was subordinated to the XXXXVIII Panzer Corps, part of Fourth Panzer Army, and took part in the Battle of Kursk. During the buildup period, a brigade of two battalions equipped with the new Panther tanks, which were plagued by technical problems, suffering from engine fires and mechanical breakdowns before reaching the battlefield. By 7 July, the division had only 80 of its 300 tanks still fit for combat.[8] After the Kursk offensive was cancelled, the division was transferred back to Army Group Center, and resumed its role as a mobile reserve. The Tiger I tank company was expanded to a battalion, becoming the III. Battalion of the Panzer Regiment. Großdeutschland saw heavy fighting around Karachev before being transferred back to XLVIII Panzer Corps in late August.[9] For the rest of 1943, Großdeutschland retreated across Ukraine, and in 1944 into Romania, where it took part in the First Battle of Târgu Frumos.

In early August, the division was transferred to East Prussia from Army Group South Ukraine.[10] Over the next months, Großdeutschland was involved in heavy fighting in both East Prussia, including a counter-attack on Wilkowischken and the Baltic States, suffering high casualties in both men and materiel.[11][12] The division was nearly destroyed during the battles in the Memel bridgehead.

Panther tanks of the division in Romania, 1944
Panther tanks of the division in Romania, 1944

In November 1944, while the division and several attached units were redesignated as Panzerkorps Großdeutschland. By March 1945, the Panzer Grenadier Division Großdeutschland had been reduced to around 4,000 men after the Battle of Memel.[13] By 25 April 1945, the division was engaged in heavy fighting in the battles around Pillau.[citation needed] Eight hundred men of the division were evacuated on ferries via the Baltic Sea and surrendered to British forces in Schleswig-Holstein on May 9. The rest were either killed or captured during the fighting in Pillau or surrendered to Soviet forces on May 9 on the Vistula spit.

War crimes

During the campaign in France, Großdeutschland carried out racially motivated murders of hundreds of captured black African members of the French army, which fell into the hands of the infantry regiment. The soldiers of Großdeutschland murdered captured blacks on account of their race, which they believed to merit their separation from white soldiers, and then their execution. For example, on June 10, 1940, at least 150 captured black soldiers were separated and murdered by Großdeutschland in the Erquinvillers area. On 19 and 20 June 1940, the regiment's soldiers carried out a series of massacres of captured blacks in the Chasselay area, in which the regiment together with the SS division 3rd SS Panzer Division Totenkopf murdered about 100 black soldiers for racial reasons.[14]


The book German Army and Genocide mentions the following incident, from the invasion of Yugoslavia:

When one German soldier was shot and one seriously wounded in Pancevo, Wehrmacht soldiers and the Waffen SS rounded up about 100 civilians at random...the town commander, Lt. Col. Fritz Bandelow conducted the Courts Martial...The presiding judge, SS-Sturmbannführer Rudolf Hoffmann sentenced 36 of those arrested to death. On April 21, 1941, four of the civilians were the first to be shot...On the following day eighteen victims were hanged in a cemetery and fourteen more were shot at the cemetery wall by an execution squad of the Wehrmacht's Großdeutschland regiment.

— [15]

Part of the photographic presentation for the book includes a photo where the Großdeutschland cuff title on the officer is clearly visible. The subject of Grossdeutschland's complicity in many subsequent war crimes in Russia and Ukraine, was the subject of the book by Omer Bartov The Eastern Front, 1941–45, German Troops, and the Barbarization of Warfare (1986, ISBN 0-312-22486-9).

Under existing international law at the time, reprisals were permitted though the Allied nations and Nazi Germany had differing interpretations of the law. In postwar war crimes trials, reprisal killings were deemed to be illegal, a conclusion enshrined in international law by the United Nations.[16][17]


Structure of the division:[18]

  • Headquarters
  • Grossdeutschland Reconnaissance Battalion
  • Grossdeutschland Panzer Regiment
  • Grossdeutschland Panzergrenadier Regiment
  • Grossdeutschland Fusilier Regiment
  • Grossdeutschland Engineer Battalion
  • Grossdeutschland Artillery Regiment
  • Grossdeutschland Tank Destroyer Battalion
  • Grossdeutschland Army Anti-Aircraft Battalion
  • Grossdeutschland Assault Gun Battalion
  • Grossdeutschland Signal Battalion
  • Grossdeutschland Divisional Supply Group


Infantry Regiment Grossdeutschland

Infantry/Panzergrenadier Division Grossdeutschland

See also



  1. ^ Großdeutschland means "Greater Germany"
  2. ^ The formation went through various stages of expansion, reorganization and name changes, but "Großdeutschland" stayed through all the changes


  1. ^ Sharpe & Davis 2001, p. 88.
  2. ^ Jung, Hans Joachim (2000). Panzer Soldiers for "God, Honor and Fatherland": The History of Panzerregiment Grossdeutschland. Winnipeg, Canada: J.J. Fedorowicz. ISBN 0-921991-51-7.
  3. ^
  4. ^ Spaeter 1992, p. 290.
  5. ^ Ziemke 2002, pp. 89–97.
  6. ^ Wolfgang Schneider (2005). Tigers In Combat II. p. 21. ISBN 9780811732031. Retrieved 12 May 2013.
  7. ^ Nafziger, George. "Organizational History of Miscelleanous German Named Infantry and Panzer Grenadier, Brigades, Verbands & Divisions, 1939-1945" (PDF). Combined Arms Research Library Digital Library. US Army Combined Arms Center. Retrieved 10 July 2016.
  8. ^ Ziemke 2002, p. 136.
  9. ^ Ziemke 2002, p. 152.
  10. ^ Ziemke 2002, p. 341.
  11. ^ Ziemke 2002, p. 342.
  12. ^ Sharpe & Davis 2001, p. 48.
  13. ^ Sharpe & Davis 2001, p. 54.
  14. ^ Raffael Scheck: Hitler’s African Victims. The German Army Massacres of Black French soldiers in 1940. Cambridge UP 2006, ISBN 978-0-521-85799-4, hier besonders S. 124–126 und 154–157
  15. ^ Hamburg Institute for Social Research 1999, p. 42.
  16. ^
  17. ^ Neumaier, Christopher (January 2006). "The Escalation of German Reprisal Policy in Occupied France, 1941-42". Journal of Contemporary History. 41 (1): 113–131. doi:10.1177/0022009406058685. S2CID 159511312.
  18. ^ German Order of Battle, Panzer, Panzer Grenadier, and Waffen SS Division in WWII. p. 64.


Further reading

  • Jung, Hans Joachim (2000). Panzer Soldiers for "God, Honor and Fatherland": The History of Panzerregiment Grossdeutschland. Winnipeg, Canada: J. J. Fedorowicz. ISBN 0-921991-51-7.
  • Herbst, Jurgen (2002), Requiem for a German Past: A Boyhood among the Nazis, Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press, ISBN 978-0-299-16414-0
  • de Lannoy, François; Perrigault, Jean-Claude (1998). La Grossdeutschland: du régiment au Panzerkorps, 1939–1945 [Grossdeutschland: A Regiment of the Panzer Corps 1939–1945] (in French). Bayeux, France: Heimdal. ISBN 2-84048-110-3.
  • Lucas, James (1978), Germany's Elite Panzer Force: Grossdeutschland, London: Macdonald and Jane's, ISBN 0-35401-165-0
  • McGuirl, Thomas; Spezzano, Remy (1997), God, Honor, Fatherland: A Photo History of Panzergrenadier Division Grossdeutschland on the Eastern Front 1942 - 1944, Connecticut: Southbury, ISBN 0-9657584-0-0
  • Novotny, Alfred (2002), The Good Soldier: From Austrian Social Democracy to Communist Captivity with a Soldier of Panzer-Grenadier Division Grossdeutschland, Bedford, Pennsylvania: Aberjona Press, ISBN 0-966638-99-9
  • Quarrie, Bruce (1977), Panzer-Grenadier Division Grossdeutschland, London: Osprey Publishing Group, ISBN 0-85045-055-1
  • Scheibert, Horst (1987). The Panzer Grenadier Division Grossdeutschland: The Panzer Grenadier Division Grossdeutschland and Panzer-Korps Grossdeutschland, Panzer Division Brandenburg, Führer Begleit Division, Panzer Division Kurmark: A Pictorial History with Text & Maps. Carrollton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications. ISBN 978-0-89747-061-2.
This page was last edited on 23 August 2021, at 15:28
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