Großdeutschland was it an elite division(in what way)?

Discussion in 'Axis Units' started by Sgt. Paul, Jan 29, 2009.

  1. Sgt. Paul

    Sgt. Paul Junior Member

    I have read that that Großdeutschland was an elite division. But what made it so special? How did it became so famous/notorious? (name/heritage, performance, morale, equipment, organization, recruitment etc..?)

    Thanks you for your time and help!

    Paul
     
  2. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

  3. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    They certainly began with elite intentions. Formed from the 'Kommando der wachtruppe' (then 'Wachtruppe Berlin', before their last pre-'IR Grossdeutschland' identity as 'Wach Regiment Berlin'), prewar they were perhaps the closest German analogy to the Guards regiments performing ceremonial & escort duties around London and the Royal palaces.
    The men were seconded from assorted units to perform these duties for a period before returning to their units, they only became a 'real' regiment when Hitler ordered a proper full time establishment giving them a fuller status other than just as a primarily ceremonial unit. I reckon if you think of 'The Guards' whenever they're mentioned it gives not a bad indication of where they fitted in the world of Prussian esprit-de-corps.
    They certainly seem to have proved their worth in the campaigns to come.

    I'm not normally a great fan of James Lucas books but his 'Germany's Elite Panzer Force - Grossdeutschland' isn't a bad read.

    Possibly the most polished exponents of the Goose-step in the world?
    (Though perhaps the Red Square chaps hold the all time title...)
     
  4. Pete Keane

    Pete Keane Senior Member

    I have just finished reading 'The Forgotten Soldier' by Gus Sajer , he was a Frenchman fighting for the Germans. He started off in a transport regt. but was recruited to Gros Deutchland.

    If you have an interest in that Division it would be worth hunting out a copy.

    Regards

    Pete.
     
  5. kfz

    kfz Very Senior Member

    Wasnt Grossdeutschland later changed to a motorised infantry division, famous for their combined use of armour, APC's, infantry on a small scale...

    interesting subject.
     
  6. vista52

    vista52 Member

    I worked with an Ukrainian Welder who was in the Gross Deutschland Division during WW2. He was a Tiger Tank Driver. He said the Russians chased 'em all over Eastern Europe. He thought he had been immensely lucky to of been captured by the British. And yes, he had a # stamped on his arm.
     
  7. Gerard

    Gerard Seelow/Prora

    . And yes, he had a # stamped on his arm.
    I didnt think that related to Wehrmacht troops. I thought only SS had the number under the armpit.
     
  8. vista52

    vista52 Member

    He was a welder and I was an electrician working on a Power Station in Kent. He showed me a tattoo that was not under his armpit but more on the inside of his upper arm muscle. He had been in the Russian Army and taken prisoner and then joined the German Forces. He was well aware his chances were slim to nil if he was captured by the Russians and that number was a sure give-away.

    This was in the early 70's and I was 23/24 but knew quite a lot from reading and that program on ITV called 25 years, anyone remember that?? I just did a google and the program was call "All Our Yesterdays".

    He never told me war stories and I never pushed him to. He was a German Veteran of Kursk which I knew had been a terrible experience for both armies..

    Growing up in the '60's and working in the 70's it wasn't un-common to be able to talk to WW2 veterans and even some WW1 veterans. If you were respectful, they would talk to you.

    Only once on my first day at work for the GPO did someone ever say to me "Don't mention the war to Bil or the Japanese, he was on the River Kwai Railway" so I never did, and I was happy to leave a few days later.

    I was working with an old boy once and he said to me"See that man over there, thats Claude Connibear MM. lost his eye crossing the Rhine".

    I've just lost my Dad 6 months ago and my mum turns 88 in a few months. He was Bomber Command and my Mum was ATS in 194O, attached to the Admiralty at the Gare Loch, Scotland. My Dad's best friend was a captured U-Boat man and my biggest regret is that I don't remember which Boat he was on.

    I should of introduced myself earlier, but this is a little of who I am.

    Paul...Vista52
     
  9. hucks216

    hucks216 Member

    Hello - first time poster here with an interest in the GD Division.
    As a fighting formation GD started life as an Infantry Rgt (it did indeed 'spawn' from the Wach-Bataillon Berlin) amd unlike a lot of German army units it recruited from all over Germany as indicated by the choice of Grossdeutschland as the units name. It was intended to be raised as an elite unit from the beginning and generally had a larger establishment then the average infantry units, especially in the later years of WW2. It's first test in combat came during the 1940 French campaign where it was assigned to the crucial objective of Sedan.
    During the 1941 Balkan campaign it as part of the thrust to Belgrade, being narrowly beaten to the objective by a unit of the SS Das Reich.
    In early 1942 GD was expanded into a full motorized Infantry Division and at this stage of the war all recruits were to be volunteers.
    GD fought in a number of campaigns in Russia including helping to defend the Rhzev Salient, the Kharkov counter-offensive in 1943 and Kursk. Prior to Kursk, in June 1943 Infantry Division (mot.) GD was officially designated a Panzer Grenadier Division but due to it's larger tank component it could field more armour then a fully fledged Panzer division. An indicator of it's elite status can be found in the OOB for the Kursk offensive where it was the only army division to have it's own organic Tiger tank unit (at this stage, a company), the only other German military divisions being assigned their own Tigers were the SS Divisions, so in essence GD as a Panzer Grenadier Division took priority over 'pure blood' panzer divisions in the assignment of new tanks. All other Tigers used at Kursk were in independent detachments such as Heavy Tank Battalion 505.
    To cut this long story shorter :))) GD spent the rest of the war being used as a 'Fire Brigade' unit being sent to wherever the heaviest fighting was, including Targul Frumos & Jassy in Romania in 1944 and East Prussia in 1945, by which time it was the core unit of Panzerkorps Grossdeutschland (of note, GD was never designated a Panzer Division), from where they were evacuated back to Germany where the survivors surrendered to the British.
    There are many good books on the market for anyone with an interest in the unit..the 3 volume history by Helmuth Spaeter( The History Of The Panzerkorps Grossdeutschland); God, Honor, Fatherland and a soon to be released publication that ties in various items relating to GD that reside in collections with the division's WW2 history (this may well be a 2 volume set, to be published by Schiffer) - which is where my interest lies as one of the tunics in my collection is a GD officers tunic that was worn by a German Cross In Gold winner at Targul Frumos (and he can be seen wearing the very tunic on Pgs 198/199 of God, Honor, Fatherland and is featured in the soon to be released publications). All the books listed can be found on Amazon.
    I hope that I have been able to help explain the original question.
     
    von Poop likes this.
  10. Larkinator

    Larkinator Junior Member

    I just finished reading Robin Cross' "The Battle of Kursk: Operation Citadel 1943", and the Grossdeutschland division was mentioned as being heavily involved in the actions of Operation Citadel. Not as much of a mention as Liebstandarte or Das Reich, but still a heavy player in the battle, so I can only imagine they were considered a fairly elite unit if they were given the "honour" of being added to the ranks of the attacking units for Citadel.

    Also there's a good write up on their unit history in Chris Bishop's "Essential Guide to Vehicle Identification: Panzergrenadier Divisions 1939-1945" on pages 56-67. Grossdeutschland started as a Motorized division, by 1943 they were promoted to a full Panzergrenadier division and issued with heavier kit such as Gesschutzwagen III and IV's, and some of the first Panther V Ausf A's issued on the Eastern Front. They were also given a company of Tiger I's for Operation Citadel. By May 1944, Grossdeutschland was - according to Bishop, the only division remaining with a high level of top of the line equipment on the Eastern Front (Some of the first Hetzers and Panther V Ausf D's).

    Grossdeutschland was completely destroyed by April 25, 1945 during battles around Pillau, a few hundred survivors managed to escape encirclement and surrendered at Schleswig-Holstein to the British, but most captured around Pillau were taken captive by the Russians.

    Hope that helps
     
  11. Za Rodinu

    Za Rodinu Hot air manufacturer

    Elite as they were, in the aforesaid Battle of Kursk they had their nose busted and did not achieve very much in the end, did they?

    Perspective, it's all perspective. I wish I had a Goebbels working for me.
     
  12. Gerard

    Gerard Seelow/Prora

    They were elite in the sense of being constantly equipped with the best that the Reich could give them and also having plenty of experience, being ferried around the eastern front. But elite as in extremely well trained troops such as Marines or Commandos? No not really. Experienced might be a better word than elite, but thats just my humble opinion.
     
  13. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Some Pictures:

    1.
    [​IMG]
    Training of the spare brigade of the tank infantryman Ddivision " Großdeutschland". Removal of barbed wire. Sept '44.

    2.
    [​IMG]
    Ukraine Aug '44.

    3.
    [​IMG]
    NCO platoon leader. June '43

    4.
    [​IMG]
    Technical Sgt. June '43.

    5.
    [​IMG]
    Russia, with Achtyrka. - Technical sergeants in reconnaissance tank, column of armored infantry vehicles (Sd.Kfz. 250 and Sd.Kfz. 251) " of the armored infantry division; Großdeutschland" 1942
     
  14. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    6.
    [​IMG]
    Soviet Union north. - Soldier with binoculars in light armored infantry vehicle (Sd.Kfz. 250/11 with 2,8cm tank can) of the” division Großdeutschland “in the fire fight. Sept '43.

    7.
    [​IMG]
    Soldiesrs from Großdeutschland Division with machine gun 42 and rifles in the attack in covering, soldier with binoculars observing. June '43

    8.
    [​IMG]
    Scherl picture service, Berlin battle practice of the infantry regiment " Grossdeutschland" In these days a large battle practice of the Ersatzbataillions of the Infantrie regiment was " Grossdeutschland" accomplished, with which all branches of service went into action. Our picture points a heavy M.G. to firing position. The crews camouflaged themselves with white handkerchiefs and covers against air observation. 25.1.41.

    9.
    [​IMG]
    Russia, officers in Mercedes-Benz Kfz Specially information: Soot land center. - Officers in Mercedes-Benz L 1500A (L301) with camouflage finish. Div. Großdeutschland 1943.

    10.
    [​IMG]
    Russia, Füsiliere with " Panzerschreck" Scherl picture service Panzerfüsiliere of the division " Grossdeutschland" are " in the rubble of a house with; Panzerschreck" , the feared close-range weapon against tanks, in position gone and to expect here the attack of Soviet tanks.
     
  15. Ruimteaapje

    Ruimteaapje Member

    There's an Sd.Kfz. 247 behind that Pz.Kpfw. II. I don't think the column has any Sd.Kfz. 251 apart from the "reconnaissance tank". Looks like the bulk of the leichte Schützenpanzer (Sd.Kfz. 250) of the Großdeutschland recce battalion.
    5.
    [​IMG]
    Russia, with Achtyrka. - Technical sergeants in reconnaissance tank, column of armored infantry vehicles (Sd.Kfz. 250 and Sd.Kfz. 251) " of the armored infantry division; Großdeutschland" 1942
     
  16. Sgt. Paul

    Sgt. Paul Junior Member

    Thank you were much everyone for your help!
    /Paul
     
  17. Gerard

    Gerard Seelow/Prora

    They are fantastic pictures guys.

    One thing i would say about Grossdeutschland, there is a tendency to "romanticise" certain German Units such as the SS Panzer Divisions and the Gross deutschland, giving them a certain "elite" status. They received the same calibre of recruit as the other Heer Infantry divisions which wouldnt be seen as "sexy", had extremely high attrition rates because of their use as "fire brigade" units, being rushed to plug gaps in the line or participate in offensive actions, such as the situation would allow. But to say they were "elite", I dont think I can agree. As I have said earlier, they did receive the best the Heer could offer in terms of equipment and they certainly gained experience but sometimes it is inferred that, because they may have been considered "elite", that the soldiers were somehow better than their counterparts in other Heer formations and I just dont think that was the case.
     
  18. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    Andy,
    This for me is a super picture showing the taper bore A/T weapon fitted onto the small Sd.Kfz 250 halftrack.

    [​IMG]
    Regards
    Tom
     
  19. Sgt. Paul

    Sgt. Paul Junior Member

    Wasn't the whole Heer very well trained and had modern tactic for it's time? Compared to other nations army during that time? I have read somewhere (can't come up with the source right now) that Grossdeutschland was the most decorated German Heer unit, could this be possible (Iron Crosses etc)? Wouldn't this prove anything?
     
  20. Gerard

    Gerard Seelow/Prora

    Wasn't the whole Heer very well trained and had modern tactic for it's time? Compared to other nations army during that time? I have read somewhere (can't come up with the source right now) that Grossdeutschland was the most decorated German Heer unit, could this be possible (Iron Crosses etc)? Wouldn't this prove anything?
    Maybe so, Sgt. and I'm not saying that the Grossdeutschland was a bad formation by any stretch, just that they werent "supermen". :)
     

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