The Division Großdeutschland (which in German means “Greater Germany Division”) was an elite units of the German army was engaged in a number of fronts during the Second World War.
The origins of Großdeutschland back to 1919, when, following the end of the monarchy and of what was decided by the Treaty of Versailles, was dissolved the Prussian Guard Corps and the new Weimar Republic he found himself so devoid of a military representative and the ceremonies. For this purpose was established in 1921 a regiment of the Guards made up of seven companies of infantry and a company of machine gunners. In such departments were then aggregated also a battery of horse artillery.
Officially created June 24, 1921 the regiment was renamed Kommando der Wachtruppe (Guard troops), and the men of the seven companies that made it up were chosen from the best soldiers of the seven divisions of which he was then composed the Reichswehr.
With the coming to power of Hitler, the regiment was renamed in 1934 with the name of the capital (Wachtruppe Berlin), and finally 23 June 1937 in Wachregiment (Regiment of the Guard).
Two years later, June 12, 1939 General von Brauchitsch, Commander in Chief of the army, gave orders to set up the ‘Infanterie Regiment Großdeutschland (“Infantry Regiment Greater Germany”), consisting of four battalions.
In September of the same year, Germany attacked Poland, but the regiment Großdeutschland, still in the organization did not take part in the struggle, remaining at Grafenwöhr, to complete a hard and cared for training, since it was decided that the unit should have become an elite.
France and the Netherlands
Engaged in the Campaign of France in 1940, the regiment, framed in the XIX Army Corps of General Heinz Guderian, he was attached to various divisions demonstrating the extremely high military capabilities of its employees. After taking part in the initial attack on Sedan, the regiment was engaged in the fighting on the line Weygand. At the end of the war, the Großdeutschland was sent to Alsace and Burgundy to be reorganized and strengthened: the regiment had been chosen to participate in ‘Operation Seelöwe (the planned invasion of England’) and then to Operation Felix (the attack in Gibraltar), both never realized.
Yugoslavia and Russia
In April 1941, the regiment returned to action, taking part in the victorious campaign in the Balkans, after which he was transferred to Poland in preparation for the Operation Barbarossa. Framed in 2. Panzer Army, the Großdeutschland walked around Brest-Litovsk, then continuing on Minsk and Smolensk, taking part in major battles, ending the early stages of the attack at Tula, south of Moscow. In December 1941, as all other units of the Wehrmacht, the regiment was forced to retreat, suffering heavy losses, and rounding operations in Russia with over 4,000 men killed, wounded and missing.
The excellent performance conducted by the men of Großdeutschland determined the expansion division (April 17, 1942), while maintaining high selection criteria physical and moral: the soldiers of Großdeutschland had to be at least 1,70 m high, do not have any defect of vision or physical disability and have no criminal record.
Kharkov – Kursk
After a further phase of training to fill the gaps of the previous winter, in the summer of 1942, the division took part in all ‘Operation Blue, crossing the Don and Voronezh occupying while enhancing its reputation as a fighting spirit, and also continuing to suffer heavy losses (nearly 12,000 men in the entire 1942). In August 1942 the division was back in the central sector of the Eastern Front.
After the Operation Uranus, the Großdeutschland was first committed to Rzhev (contributing to the failure of Operation Mars) and then was hastily moved south to take part in the Battle of the Bulge February-March 1943.
Again reorganized and equipped with new artillery, with more than half-track troop transport and a battalion of heavy tanks Tiger, the division, along with the SS division “Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler”, “Das Reich” and “Totenkopf”, which contributed to the offensive led to the recapture of Belgorod and Kharkov.
For the ‘Operation Zitadelle in the organic Großdeutschland had an entire armored regiment with four companies of Panzer IV and a company with 14 tiger tanks, and two battalions of tanks Panther. From the first day of the offensive the division led the German attack in the south of the salient, distinguishing in particular in the occupation of the town of Cherkasskoye. However, the Soviet resistance thwarted all attempts to reach Kursk German decreeing thus the end of the operation and, in fact, the loss of German strategic initiative, which by then was in Soviet hands.
Towards the defeat
In 1944, the Großdeutschland found itself engaged in continuous defensive fighting on the Eastern Front: during the summer the ‘Red Army, with the’ Operation Bagration, launched an attack against Army Group Center, engulfing and destroying dozens of divisions. By the end of the year the Soviets reached the Baltic, bisecting the German front and isolating Army Group North, and occupying some parts of German territory, in this context, the division Großdeutschland found himself constantly at the forefront in the remains of central front in fighting continuously until the end of the year, allowing the various sub-units in turn only a few weeks of rest to try to regroup.
In November of 1944 with the remnants of the division Grossdeutschland, the Panzer Corps was formed Großdeutschland which also included the Brandenburg Division, the Führer Grenadier Brigade and the Führer Begleit Brigade. In January 1945, the latter two units were transformed into divisions and was added to the Panzer Corps Panzer Division “Kurmark” and the Führer Begleit Brigade (spare unit to Hitler after the failed assassination attempt of July 20, 1944). After taking part in the fighting in Gumbinnen in East Prussia, the Panzer Corps participated at ‘Battle of the Bulge, and finally reached Spremberg here was destroyed April 21, 1945.
The remains of the original division Großdeutschland remained isolated in ‘April 1945 on the coast of the Baltic Sea were evacuated in Schleswig-Holstein, where they submitted May 13, 1945 to the British. However, by virtue of internal agreements with the Allies, the Großdeutschland prisoners were handed over to the Soviets.
•Hunert Oberstleutnant Wilhelm-von Stockhausen (June 12, 1939 – August 10, 1941)
•Oberst Walther Hoernlein (10 August 1941-1 April 1942)
•General der Infanterie Walter Hörnlein (1st April 1942 – March 4, 1943)
•General der Panzertruppen Hermann Balck (March 4, 1943 – JUNE 30 1943)
•General der Infanterie Walter Hörnlein (June 30, 1943 – 1st February 1944)
•General der Panzertruppen Hasso von Manteuffel (1 February 1944 to 1 st September 1944)
•Generalmajor Karl Lorenz (1st September 1944 – 1st February 1945)
•Generalmajor Hellmuth Mäder (1 February 1945-8 May 1945)
Mechanized divisions of the Wehrmacht