Army Group Rear Area Command (Wehrmacht)

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Army Group Rear Area Command
Befehlshaber des rückwärtigen Heeresgebietes
Active1941–45
Country Nazi Germany
BranchArmy (Wehrmacht)
Part ofArmy High Command (OKH)
EngagementsWorld War II
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Eduard Wagner

Army Group Rear Area Command (German: Befehlshaber des rückwärtigen Heeresgebietes) was an area of military jurisdiction behind each of the three Wehrmacht army groups from 1941, the German invasion of the Soviet Union in Operation Barbarossa, through 1944 when the pre-war territories of the Soviet Unions had been liberated. The areas were sites of mass murder during the Holocaust and other crimes against humanity targeting the civilian population.

Background and planning[edit]

During the early stages of the planning for the invasion of the Soviet Union, Operation Barbarossa, the rear areas behind the front lines were envisioned to be subordinated to the respective armies, as they had during the invasion of Poland. By early April 1941, however, the military planners decided to limit the areas of army jurisdiction (Rear Army Area (Wehrmacht) [de]), with the bulk of the territory to be controlled by the Army Group Rear Areas.[1]

The planners envisioned that the occupied territories would quickly pass onto civilian administration; thus, the directives called for the Army Group Rear Areas commanders to concentrate on the security of lines of communication and important military installations, such as storage depots and aerodromes. Army Group Rear Areas were also responsible for the transfer of prisoners of war to the rear.[2]

Organisation[edit]

Army Group North, Army Group Centre and Army Group South Rear Area Commands were responsible for the rear area security in their respective areas of operation. Each had a headquarters subordinated to the corresponding army group, while also reporting to the Wehrmacht Quartermaster General Eduard Wagner, who had responsibility for rear security.[3] Each Army Group Rear Area had a propaganda company [de], for propaganda activities aimed at the civilian population.[4]

Army Group Rear Area commanders controlled nine Security Divisions, tasked with security of communications and supply lines, economic exploitation and combating irregular fighters (partisans) behind the front line. Security Divisions also oversaw units of the Geheime Feldpolizei (Secret Field Police) of the Wehrmacht. Rear Area commanders operated in parallel with the Higher SS and Police Leaders appointed by the head of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, for each of the army group rear areas.[3] In the words of historian Michael Parrish, these army commanders "presided over an empire of terror and brutality".[5]

Security warfare and atrocities[edit]

The area commanders' duties included security of communications and supply lines, economic exploitation and combating guerillas (partisans) in Wehrmacht's rear areas.[6] In addition to the Wehrmacht security forces, the SS and the SD formations operated in the same areas, under the command of the respective Higher SS and Police Leaders. These units included Einsatzgruppen detachments, three police regiments (North, Centre and South), the Waffen-SS units of the Kommandostab Reichsführer-SS, and additional Ordnungspolizei (Order Police Battalions), which units perpetrated mass murder during The Holocaust in the areas of military jurisdiction.[7]

The security formations, often in coordination with or under the leadership of the Wehrmacht, conducted security operations against the civilian population, under the doctrine of Partisanenkrieg (later Bandenbekämpfung, or "bandit fighting"). "Anti-partisan operations" in "bandit-infested" areas amounted to destruction of villages, seizure of livestock, deporting of able-bodied population for slave labour to Germany and murder of those of non-working age.[8] In its reports, the Wehrmacht units euphemistically described the operations as "elimination of partisan nests, partisan camps, partisan bunkers". Their records show that in the early phases of the occupation, in 1941–42, Wehrmacht security divisions lost one soldier killed for every 100 "partisans" that died, with the Jewish population making up the majority of the victims.[9] In the Army Group Centre Rear Area, 80,000 "suspected partisans" were killed between June 1941 and May 1942, for 1,094 German casualties.[10]

Commanders[edit]

Army Group North Rear Area
No. Commander Took office Left office Time in office Ref
1
Franz von Roques
Roques, FranzGeneral of the Infantry
Franz von Roques
(1887–1967)
16 March 19411 April 19432 years, 16 days[5]
2
Kuno-Hans von Both
Roques, FranzGeneral of the Infantry
Kuno-Hans von Both
(1884–1955)
1 April 194330 March 1944364 days[11]
Army Group Centre Rear Area
No. Commander Took office Left office Time in office Ref
1
Max von Schenckendorff
Schenckendorff, MaxGeneral of the Infantry
Max von Schenckendorff
(1875–1943)
16 March 19416 July 1943 †2 years, 16 days[12]
-
Ludwig Kübler
Kübler, LudwigGeneral der Gebirgstruppe
Ludwig Kübler
(1889–1947)
Acting
22 July 19431 October 194371 days[11]
2
Edwin Graf von Rothkirch und Trach
Kübler, LudwigGeneral of the Cavalry
Edwin Graf von Rothkirch und Trach
(1888–1980)
1 October 19431 July 1944274 days[11]
Army Group South Rear Area
No. Commander Took office Left office Time in office Ref
1
Karl von Roques
Roques, KarlGeneral of the Infantry
Karl von Roques
(1880–1949)
15 March 194127 October 19417 months[13]
-
Erich Friderici
Friderici, ErichGeneral of the Infantry
Erich Friderici
(1885–1967)
Acting
27 October 19419 January 19422 months[5]
(1)
Karl von Roques
Roques, KarlGeneral of the Infantry
Karl von Roques
(1880–1949)
9 January 194231 December 194211 months[13]
2
Erich Friderici
Friderici, ErichGeneral of the Infantry
Erich Friderici
(1885–1967)
31 December 1942February 19431 month[5]
3
Joachim Witthöft
Witthöft, JoachimGeneral of the Infantry
Joachim Witthöft
(1887–1966)
as Army Group B Rear Area
February 194327 October 19438 months[11]
4
Friedrich Mieth
Mieth, FriedrichGeneral of the Infantry
Friedrich Mieth
(1888–1944)
as Army Group Don Rear Area
27 October 19432 September 194410 months[11]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ Hill 2005, pp. 40–41.
  2. ^ Hill 2005, pp. 42–43.
  3. ^ a b Megargee 2007, p. 36.
  4. ^ Hill 2005, p. 42.
  5. ^ a b c d Parrish 1996, p. 127.
  6. ^ Shepherd 2003, p. 70.
  7. ^ Brandon & Lower 2008, p. 276.
  8. ^ Shepherd 2004, p. 63.
  9. ^ Wette 2006, pp. 127−128.
  10. ^ Wette 2006, p. 130.
  11. ^ a b c d e Pohl 2008, p. 100.
  12. ^ Beorn 2014, pp. 95–96.
  13. ^ a b Megargee 2007, p. 95.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Brandon, Ray; Lower, Wendy (2008). The Shoah in Ukraine: History, Testimony, Memorialization. Indiana University Press. p. 12. ISBN 978-0-253-35084-8.
  • Beorn, Waitman Wade (2014). Marching into Darkness: The Wehrmacht and the Holocaust in Belarus. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-72550-8.
  • Hill, Alexander (2005). The War Behind The Eastern Front: The Soviet Partisan Movement In North-West Russia 1941–1944. London & New York, NY: Frank Cass. ISBN 978-0-7146-5711-0.
  • Megargee, Geoffrey P. (2007). War of Annihilation: Combat and Genocide on the Eastern Front, 1941. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-0-7425-4482-6.
  • Parrish, Michael (1996). The Lesser Terror: Soviet State Security, 1939–1953. Praeger Press. ISBN 978-0-275-95113-9.
  • Pohl, Dieter (2008). Die Herrschaft der Wehrmacht: Deutsche Militärbesatzung und einheimische Bevölkerung in der Sowjetunion 1941–1944. Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag. ISBN 978-3486580655.
  • Shepherd, Ben H. (2003). "The Continuum of Brutality: Wehrmacht Security Divisions in Central Russia, 1942". German History. 21 (1): 49–81. doi:10.1191/0266355403gh274oa.
  • Shepherd, Ben H. (2004). War in the Wild East the German Army and Soviet Partisans. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0674043553.
  • Wette, Wolfram (2006). The Wehrmacht: History, Myth, Reality. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-02577-6.