- 1 Summary
- 2 Origins – the Abwehr
- 3 Bataillon Ebbinghaus – Poland
- 4 Abwehr takes control – Brandenburgers
- 5 France and the Low Countries – Yugoslavia
- 6 Training and structure
- 7 North Africa
- 8 Operation Barbarossa – Ostfront
- 9 Brandenburg Division – the Balkans
- 10 Dodecanese Islands
- 11 Loss of Abwehr control – transfer to the Front
- 12 Orders of battle
- 13 Sub-Battalions
- 14 Awards
- 15 See also
- 16 Further reading
- 17 External links
- 18 References
|Bataillon Ebbinghaus, 1939|
|Bau-Lehr-Kompanie z. b. V. 800, from October 1939|
|Bataillon Brandenburg, from January 1940|
|Regiment Brandenburg, from June 1940|
|Sonderverband Brandenburg, from November 1942|
|Division Brandenburg, from April 1943|
|Infanterie-Division Brandenburg (motorized)|
|Panzer-Grenadier-Division Brandenburg, from September 1944|
|Panzerkorps Großdeutschland, from December 1944|
|Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment Brandenburg, 10 March until 10 May 1945|
Units of Brandenburgers operated in almost all fronts - the invasion of Poland, Denmark and Norway, in the Battle of France, in Operation Barbarossa, in Finland, Greece and the invasion of Crete, Romania, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia. Some units were sent to infiltrate India, Afghanistan, Middle East countries and South Africa. They also trained for Operation Felix (the planned seizure of Gibraltar), and Operation Sea Lion (the planned invasion of Great Britain). The unit had considerable successes early in the war acting as advance units that captured strategic bridges, tunnels and rail yards in Poland and the Netherlands.
The unit was the brainchild of Hauptmann (Captain) Theodor von Hippel who, after having his idea rejected by the traditionalist Reichswehr, approached Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, commander of the German Intelligence Service, the Abwehr.
Regiment Brandenburg evolved out of the Abwehr's 2nd Department, and was used as a commando unit during the first years of the war. Initially the unit consisted mainly of former German expatriates fluent in other languages. Until 1944 it was an OKH unit rather than a unit of the regular army (Heer). The unit steadily expanded until it was reallocated to the Großdeutschland Panzer Korps to be used as a frontline combat unit.
Origins – the Abwehr
During World War I, General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck, Commander of the East African theatre, conducted a brilliant guerrilla war against the Allied colonial troops. At the same time in the Middle East, T. E. Lawrence was enjoying great success using Arab hit-and-run tactics against the Turks. Hauptmann Theodor von Hippel had served under Lettow-Vorbeck in Africa, and after the war became a strong advocate of the tactics pioneered by his former commander and the British Lawrence.
Hippel's vision was reminiscent of that of David Stirling, founder of the British SAS. Hippel proposed that small, élite units, highly trained in sabotage and fluent in foreign languages, could operate behind enemy lines and wreak havoc with the enemy's command, communication and logistical tails. When Hippel approached the Reichswehr, his idea was rebuffed. The traditionalist Prussian officers saw this clandestine form of warfare would be an affront to the rules of war, and claimed that men who fought that way would not deserve to be called soldiers. Undaunted, Hippel then took his idea to Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, commander of the German Intelligence service, the Abwehr. Hippel was employed in the Abwehr's 2nd Department, and given the task of making his vision a reality.
Bataillon Ebbinghaus – Poland
The original formation, designated Bataillon Ebbinghaus was formed mostly from Volksdeutsche from Poland who were fluent in Polish. The battalion was formed with support of the OKW, which had been arranged by Canaris, but meant that the unit fell under Wehrmacht command. A large number of the recruits were small time criminals and various thugs who fled from Poland.
Fall Weiss (Plan White), involved small groups of German special forces dressed in civilian clothes crossing the Polish border the night before the German invasion and seizing key strategic points before dawn on the day of the invasion. The secret Abwehr battalion detailed to undertake these operations was given the euphemistic title of "Training and Construction Company 800 for Special Duties". A group under the command of Lieutenant Hans-Albrecht Herzner had to capture a railway station at Mosty in the Jablunkov Pass to prevent the destruction of a railway tunnel. Crossing the border on August 26, 1939, Herzner's group managed to capture the railway station at Mosty later that afternoon. Out of contact with the Abwehr, Herzner did not know that the previous evening, after the British and French hinted at further appeasement of Hitler's demands, Adolf Hitler had postponed the invasion; every other commando unit had been informed of this except his. It was not until 9.35am the following day that the Abwehr finally managed to get through to Herzner and order him to release his Polish prisoners and return (see Jabłonków Incident).
The Ebbinghausers also had created confusion in the Polish rear by capturing or destroying major road and rail junctions, as well as helping the advancing troops by securing vital bridges and other strategic targets and preventing their demolition. Despite the success of the Bataillon Ebbinghaus, it was disbanded immediately after the campaign.
During the invasion of Poland itself, Battalion Ebbinghaus engaged in mass atrocities against Poland's population and captured PoWs. On September 4, members of the Freikorps Ebbinghaus executed 17 defenders of Pszczyna among them boy scouts from the Pszczyna secondary schools, and 29 citizens of Orzesze who were tortured before execution. Further massacre happened in Siemanowice on 8 September where 6 Poles were murdered in mass execution, on 1 October 1939 Freikorps murdered 18 people in Nowy Bytom. Larger massacres happened in Katowice where hundreds of people were executed.
Abwehr takes control – Brandenburgers
Canaris gave Hippel the go-ahead to create an Abwehr controlled unit along the lines of the Ebbinghaus Battalion. Basing the new formation on many of the former Ebbinghausers, Hippel formed the original regiment, Lehr und Bau Kompanie z.b.V. 800 (or Special-Purpose Training and Construction Company No. 800) on 25 October 1939.
Recruitment for the company was almost directly contrary to those of Heinrich Himmler's SS. Rather than recruiting only those who embodied the Aryan ideal of the übermensch, Hippel scoured the Reich to find Slavs, Poles and other ethnics willing to fight for Germany. Every recruit had to be fluent in at least one foreign language. However, many recruits were fluent in several. The recruits were also schooled in the customs and traditions of their specific region. Knowing every habit and mannerism in their area of operations would enable the men to blend in and operate as effective saboteurs.
The formation was barracked at Stendal in the old Mark of Brandenburg, Berlin, and had training grounds nearby in Friedenthal (Oranienburg). The influx of new recruits meant that on 15 December 1939, less than three months after its founding, the company was expanded and redesignated Bataillon Brandenburg (Brandenburg Battalion). The men of the Bataillon came to be known as the Brandenburgers.
The original battalion consisted of four companies, organised along ethnic 'Front' lines, as shown below. The battalion also included a Motorcycle platoon and a Fallschirm-platoon.
- 1. Kompanie (based in Baden bei Wien), men from Baltic/Russian territories
- 2. Kompanie (based in Brandenburg an der Havel), men who had lived in English-speaking territories and North Africa
- 3. Kompanie (based in Bad Münstereifel), Sudeten Germans / Yugoslavia
- 4. Kompanie (based in the Lower Rhine), Volksdeutsche Ethnic Germans from countries such as Poland
As the battalion expanded further, it created more mixed units. The so-called Arabic Brigade was nominally connected to the Brandenburgers, took its orders from the German oriental mission, and was composed mainly of men from the Caucasus.
France and the Low Countries – Yugoslavia
The Brandenburgers saw extensive action in Fall Gelb, clearing the way for the Fallschirmjäger before the Battle of Fort Eben-Emael. On 8 May, two nights before the opening of the offensive the Brandenburgers went into action. Donning the enemies' uniforms over their own German ones (so they could quickly change in case of capture and be treated as POWs rather than spies and facing execution), small groups began to cross the border into the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.
One of the few actions that was successful in the opening days of the campaign was the seizure of the Meuse bridge in the Dutch town of Gennep. An eight-man team, led by Leutnant Wilhelm Walther, was given the task of capturing the bridge intact. At 2am on May 10, Walther's team, now disguised as Dutch military police escorting German prisoners, made their assault. Two guard posts were destroyed, but three Brandenburgers were wounded and the team was pinned down. Dressed in a Dutch uniform, Walther advanced across the bridge. The confused defenders hesitated, allowing the rest of the team to take them out, seizing the bridge and disabling the detonators. Many more operations like this took place over the course of the campaign. However very few were successful and on another bridge, Brandenburgers were arrested by Dutch troops and shot as spies.
After the capitulation of France, the Brandenburgers (along with the elite Infantrie-Regiment Großdeutschland) were moved to northern France in preparation for Operation Seelöwe. After the invasion was called off, the Battalion moved to southern France and began training for another aborted plan, Operation Felix, the proposed assault on Gibraltar.
During this time, the Battalion was again enlarged, and redesignated Regiment Brandenburg. Along with the increase in size, the Regiment also received Coastal Raider and specialist Tropical components.
After Benito Mussolini's botched invasion of Greece, Hitler was forced to postpone his invasion of the Soviet Union and invade Yugoslavia and Greece – a plan codenamed Operation Marita – and to be launched on 6 April 1941. Again, the Brandenburgers were to play a role, with a large 54 man team from III./Regiment Brandenburg (the Sudeten and Slavic battalion) seizing the vital dockyards at Orşova on the Danube a day before the opening of the campaign.
Training and structure
Despite the increased size, the Brandenburgers were still highly skilled. The training was physically and mentally demanding, with focuses on foreign languages, small unit tactics, parachuting, demolitions, covert operations, use of vehicles and aircraft and familiarity with enemy weapons, including tanks. Some sub-units were specifically trained as pilots or trained in forgery, demolitions or camouflage. One company was formed from 127 expert cross country skiers, and was specially trained to fight in the frozen wastes of the northern Soviet Union. The company was also equipped with dog sleds.
In action, a Brandenburger unit could consist of two-man teams, to 12-man squads, to full 300-man companies, depending on the mission requirements. At this stage in the war, virtually all Brandenburger operations took place behind enemy lines.
Despite these precautions to remain within the rules of war, all Brandenburgers carried a suicide pill when operating behind enemy lines.
When the Afrika Korps shipped to Libya, Brandenburgers did also. The men, raised as four companies of special Tropical Units, were fluent in either English or Arabic and used captured British vehicles to operate behind enemy lines in raids and reconnaissance missions, mirroring the actions of the British LRDG. Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel at first disapproved of the Brandenburgers, but after he saw the damage being inflicted by the LRDG and Stirling's SAS, realised their value and accepted their unorthodox methods. The unit was charged with disrupting British supply lines, but it was difficult to resupply them or provide transportation, so most men were either killed or captured.
Operation Barbarossa – Ostfront
The first German units to cross the Soviet frontier in June 1941 were the men of the Brandenburg Regiment. On the first day, Brandenburgers seized road and rail junctions, secured river crossings and wreaked havoc with the already inadequate Soviet communications and supply lines.
Meanwhile, the Küstenjäger-Abteilung (or Coastal Raiders Battalion) of Rittmeister Conrad von Leipzig performed many amphibious raids along the coasts of the Black Sea, the Baltic and the Sea of Azov.
In Ukraine, the Brandenburgers operated in co-operation with the volunteer Ukrainian unit Ukrainische Gruppe Nachtigall in support of Heeresgruppe Süd. The units enjoyed overwhelming success, despite the questionable actions of some of the Ukrainian units.
In early August 1942, a Brandenburger unit of 62 Baltic and Sudeten Germans led by Freiherr Adrian von Fölkersam penetrated farther into enemy territory than any other German unit. They had been ordered to seize and secure the vital Maikop oilfields. Disguised as dreaded NKVD men, and driving Soviet trucks, Fölkersam's unit passed through the Soviet front lines and moved deep into hostile territory. The Brandenburgers ran into a large group of Red Army deserters fleeing from the front. Fölkersam saw an opportunity to use them to the unit's advantage. By persuading them to return to the Soviet cause, he was able to join with them and move almost at will through the Russian lines.
Operating under false identity of NKVD Major Truchin based in Stalingrad, Fölkersam explained his role in recovering the deserters to the Soviet commander in charge of Maikop's defenses. The commander not only believed Fölkersam, but the next day gave him a personal tour of the city's defenses. By August 8, the German spearheads were only 12 miles away. The Brandenburgers made their move. Using grenades to simulate an artillery attack, they knocked out the military communications center for the city. Fölkersam then went to the Russian defenders and told them that a withdrawal was taking place. Having seen Fölkersam with their commander and lacking any communications to rebut or confirm his statement, the Soviets began to evacuate Maikop. The German spearhead entered the city without a fight on August 9, 1942.
By 1943, the most common mission assignment was long range reconnaissance. During the 1942 advance of Heeresgruppe Süd in Ukraine, the Brandenburgers revived their role from the early days of the campaign, forging ahead of the Panzer columns, seizing bridges, road and rail junctions, and attacking the Soviet command and control structure. Mostly, these missions were performed by units of 20-60 Brandenburgers, dressed as Soviets and driving captured Red Army vehicles.
Between January and April 1943, the Brandenburgers were expanded to the size of a division, and specialized sub-units for U-boat crews, air defense, artillery, tank, antitank and combat engineering were created. Men were transferred from the Afrika Korps and Kriegsmarine.
Brandenburg Division – the Balkans
By late 1942, the majority of the Brandenburg regiment was being used in "fire brigade" duties, acting as elite infantry and plugging gaps in the German lines. In February 1943, the Brandenburgers were pulled out of the line and moved back to Germany. The Regiment was being expanded again, this time to become Division Brandenburg. The division's first commander was to be Generalmajor Alexander von Pfuhlstein. The division was to be formed by four regiments. One regiment was returned to the Eastern front, to resume duties as a "fire brigade", one battalion was sent to Africa to continue harassing the Allies in the Mediterranean. The remainder of the division was sent to the Balkans, to engage in anti-Partisan operations.
On May 25, 1944, specialist members of the division, attached to SS-Fallschirmjäger-Bataillon 500, took part in Operation Rösselsprung, an airborne operation to capture Yugoslav Partisan leader Josip Broz Tito at his headquarters near Drvar, thereby ending communist resistance in the Balkans. Tito escaped just before the SS-Fallschirmjäger reached the cave in which he made his headquarters and the SS-Fallschirmjäger were forced to withdraw to the town cemetery, where they dug in and endured a night of ferocious partisan assaults. German casualties were 213 killed, 881 wounded, and 51 missing, with a total of about 6,000 on the Partisan side (German wartime estimates). SS-Fallschirmjäger-Btl 500 was all but wiped out, one of four times this happened to the unit and its successor, SS-Fallschirmjäger-Btl 600, in the eighteen months from November 1943 to May 1945.
In mid 1943, King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy ousted the Fascist dictatorship of Benito Mussolini and changed sides. Following this, many Brandenburger units were moved from the Balkans, and took part in actions to disarm Italian soldiers and secure regions vital to the German war effort.
One vital area was the island of Kos, in the Dodecanese island chain off the coast of Turkey. Kos had been secured by British troops in September 1943, and a large garrison of allied Italian troops was also present. The island had a vital airstrip, and had to be recaptured. Along with Luftwaffe Fallschirmjäger, men of the Küstenjäger-Abteilung along with the Fallschirm-Kompanie of the Brandenburg Division took part. The Brandenburgers, under command of Leutnant Langbein, landed at night on the southern coast of the island, and quickly subdued the beach defenses, controlled by Italian troops. The unit then advanced to the town encountering no resistance, and began clearing the town. The British and Italians attacked later in the evening, the Brandenburgers repulsed them and then assaulted and captured the British and Italian positions, linking up with the Fallschirmjäger and securing the island.
Loss of Abwehr control – transfer to the Front
Since the beginning, Admiral Canaris and the Abwehr had been watched closely by Himmler's SS and in particular by Walter Schellenberg, Chief of Amt VI, Ausland-SD that made up the foreign intelligence branch of the SD.
The anti-Nazi views of the Abwehr came to a head in July 1944, when several high-ranking Abwehr officials, including Canaris himself, were implicated in the July 20 plot to kill Hitler. Control of the Brandenburg division was passed to the SD, but in September 1944 it was decided that special operations units were no longer necessary. The Brandenburg Division became Infanterie-Division Brandenburg (mot), was equipped as a motorised infantry division and transferred to the Eastern front.
1,800 men (including Freiherr Adrian von Fölkersam) managed to obtain transfers to SS-Standartenführer Otto Skorzeny's 502nd SS Jäger Battalion and continue operating as special forces within SS-Jagdverband Mitte, but mostly SS-Jagdverband Ost until the end of the war.
For the rest of the division, the return to conventional operations damaged morale, but despite this, the Brandenburgers were still considered élite, and so were assigned to Panzerkorps Großdeutschland along with its old training partner from 1940 to 1941, the Großdeutschland division. The Brandenburgers fought well in the Eastern front, being involved in the fighting retreat through the Baltic States and into East Prussia.
In late 1944, the division was equipped with a Panzer Regiment and redesignated Panzergrenadier-Division Brandenburg and returned to the front. The Brandenburgers were involved in heavy fighting near Memel, until their withdrawal, along with the Großdeutschland, via ferry to Pillau. The division was all but annihilated during the heavy fighting near Pillau. While some survivors surrendered to the British in Schleswig-Holstein in May, many Brandenburgers, highly skilled in evading detection, simply disappeared.
Orders of battle
Battalion Brandenburg – December 1939
- 1. Company
- 2. Company
- 3. Company
- 4. Company
- Motorcycle platoon
- Parachute platoon
Division Brandenburg – February 1943 - March 1944
- Division staff
- Jäger Regiment – 1 Brandenburg
- Jäger Regiment – 2 Brandenburg
- Jäger Regiment – 3 Brandenburg
- Jäger Regiment – 4 Brandenburg
- Tropische Einheiten Brandenburg
- Coastal Raiders Battalion Brandenburg
- Parachute Battalion Brandenburg
- Signal Company Brandenburg
- Independent Companies –
- 15.Parachute Company
- Auxiliary Units –
- Lehrregiment Brandenburg z.b.v Nr.800 (Training Regiment)
Panzergrenadier-Division Brandenburg – 1944-1945.
- Division Staff
- Panzer Regiment Brandenburg
- Jäger(mot) Regiment 1 Brandenburg
- Jäger(mot) Regiment 2 Brandenburg
- Panzerjäger Battalion Brandenburg
- Artillery Regiment Brandenburg
- Heeres Flak Battalion Brandenburg
- Reconnaissance Battalion Brandenburg
- Pioneer Battalion Brandenburg
- Signals Battalion Brandenburg
- Supply Train
The Special Group Bergmann or the Bergmann Battalion (German: Sonderverband Bergmann, meaning "highlander") was a military unit of the German Abwehr during World War II, composed of five German-officered companies of the Caucasian volunteers. The Bergmann battalion was formed of the émigrés and Soviet POWs from the Caucasian republics at Neuhammer in October 1941. Subordinated to the German commando battalion Brandenburgers and placed under the command of Oberleutnant Theodor Oberländer, the unit received training at Neuhammer and Mittenwald (Bavaria) with the Gebirgsjäger. Later a special 130-men-strong Georgian contingent of Abwehr codenamed “Tamara-II” was incorporated into Bergmann. By March 1942, there were five companies of some 300 Germans and 900 Caucasians:
In August 1942, Bergmann went to the Eastern Front, where it saw its first action in the North Caucasus campaign in August 1942. The unit engaged in anti-partisan actions in the Mozdok-Nalchik-Mineralnye Vody area and conducted reconnaissance and subversion in the Grozny area. At the end of 1942, Bergmann conducted a successful sortie through the Soviet lines, bringing with them some 300 Red Army defectors, and covered the German retreat from the Caucasus. Bergmann went through a series of hard-fought engagements with the Soviet partisans and regular forces in the Crimea in February 1943 and was dissolved – like other Ostlegionen units – at the end of 1943. The significantly shrunken ex-Bergmann companies were dispatched to conduct police functions in Greece and Poland.
Nachtigall and Roland Battalions
The Nachtigall Battalion (English: Nightingale Battalion), also known as Ukrainian Nightingale Battalion Group (German: Bataillon Ukrainische Gruppe Nachtigall), officially known as Special Group Nachtigall, and the Roland Battalion (German: Battalion Ukrainische Gruppe Roland), officially known as Special Group Roland, were the subunits under command of the Abwehr special operation unit Brandenburgers (1st Brandenberg Battalion). They were the two military units formed February 25, 1941 by head of the Abwehr Wilhelm Franz Canaris, which sanctioned the creation of the "Ukrainian Legion" under German command. They were manned primarily by occupied Poland citizens of Ukrainian ethnicity directed to unit by Bandera's OUN orders.
In May 1941, the German command decided to split a 700-strong Ukrainian Legion into two battalions: Nachtigall ("Nightingale") and Roland Battalion. Training for Nachtigall took place in Neuhammer near Schlessig. On the Ukrainian side, the commander was Roman Shukhevych and on the German, Theodor Oberländer. (Oberländer was later to become Federal Minister for Displaced Persons, Refugees and War Victims in the Federal Republic of Germany.) Ex-Brandenburger Oberleutnant Dr. Hans-Albrecht Herzner was placed in military command of the Battalion. The Nachtigall unit was outfitted in the standard Wehrmacht uniforms. Before entering Lviv, they placed blue and yellow ribbons on their shoulders.
In comparison to Nachtigall – which used ordinary Wehrmacht uniform – the Roland Battalion was outfitted in the Czechoslovakian uniform with yellow armband with text "Im Dienst der Deutschen Wehrmacht" (In the service of the German Wehrmacht). They were given Austrian helmets from World War I. The Battalion was set up by the Abwehr and organized by Richard Yary of the OUN(b) in March1941, prior the German invasion to Soviet Union and commanded by Yevhen Pobigischiy . Approximately 350 Bandera's OUN followers were trained at the Abwehr training centre at the Seibersdorf under command of the former Poland Army major Yevhen Pobiguschiy.
In Germany, in November 1941 the Ukrainian personnel of the Legion was reorganized into the 201st Schutzmannschaft Battalion. It numbered 650 persons which served for one year at Belarus before disbanding. Many of its members, especially the commanding officers, went on to the Ukrainian Insurgent Army and 14 of its members joined SS-Freiwilligen-Schützen-Division «Galizien» in spring 1943.
Russian historian V. Chuyev states that despite the ending, OUN achieved its ultimate goals - 600 members of their organization had received military training and had battle experience and these men took positions as instructors and commanders in the structure of the newly formed Ukrainian Insurgent Army. S. Bandera wrote: "The end of OUN was such: the revolutionary columns were commanded by Roman Shukhevych with a small party of officers who had not only undergone military training, but had come to a clear understanding of military tactics. The most important, they brought with them - an understanding of organization, strategies and tactics of partisan fighting, and the German method of dealing with partisan groups. This knowledge was very useful in the formation and activities of the UIA and in its future conflicts. During its short history the Nachtigall Battalion had 39 casualties and had 40 wounded soldiers.
Tropical Division "von Koenen"
The commander of a North African Abwehr unit during World War II, Friedrich “Fritz” von Koenen (1916–1944), was born in Danzig on 28 June 1916. Raised in German South West Africa (Deutsch-Südwest-Afrika) he joined the Abwehr’s emerging Brandenburg Division in 1941 and assumed command of the Tropenkompanie (Tropical Company; later named Tropenabteilung "von Koenen", or Tropical Division "von Koenen") in North Africa. Its members were handpicked, fluent in other languages, and used equipment acquired from Allied forces (such as a British Spitfire aircraft). Deployed on numerous commando and reconnaissance missions, the Tropenkompanie served as an advance unit for Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps. One particular success occurred in February 1943, when Koenen conducted a raid against American troops at the village of Sidi-Bou-Zid, Tunisia, and captured 27 tanks and armored troop carriers along with large supplies of guns and munitions. A Knight’s Cross was awarded to him later that year. Transferred to Yugoslavia, Koenen was killed in action on 22 August 1944 near Visegrad, Bosnia.
Tropen-Abteilung “von Koenen”
Five companies, based on the former Afrika-Kompanie and led by Fritz von Koenen. 5th Co. was a Brandenburger coastal raider unit (Küstenjäger). Beginning in mid-1941, the 13th Company of the Bau-Lehr-Regiment z. b. V. 800 "Brandenburg" was readied in Brandenburg as a “catch basin” for the formation of a tropical company. On 28 October 1941 the first half-company under Oberleutnant Wilhelm von Koenen departed Brandenburg for Tripoli via Naples. It was to be employed as a supply company.
The first live action by the Brandenburgers in North Africa took place during Panzer Group Africa’s eastward advance which began on 22 January 1942. As this move into Africa had been so quickly conceived and executed, Wilhelm Canaris had had no time to prepare for the employment of his agents there. Within Brandenburg were men who had lived or worked in tropical lands. Most of them were from families that had colonized the former German possessions of East and South West Africa. There were also Palestinian Germans and others from South Africa. Volunteers were called for and these former émigrés came forward in such numbers that within weeks more than sixty had been sifted, interviewed, selected and accepted. To the number of those chosen for the “Afrika Kompanie” were added communication experts. Command of the Company was given to Oberleutnant von Koenen, a man of wide experience with a great knowledge of Africa. He divided the Company into two half-Companies and sent them to Tripoli where the first half-Company arrived in October 1941. The second detachment sailed four months later. Most of the men in “Africa Kompanie” not only spoke English more or less fluently, but also had command of Arabic and Swahili as main languages, backed up by several of the African dialects. It was intended that the Brandenburg detachments be used for reconnaissance operations: to penetrate a short distance into the British lines and glean information about the conditions awaiting the Panzer Army. This idea of short, sharp missions was changed during June 1942, when it seemed as if Rommel had defeated the British Eighth Army and was about to drive on to the Nile.
In May 1943 the unit managed to escape to Italy. After North Africa, he in action with his unit in Greece and Yugoslavia in 1944. Major von Koenen was killed in action (Croatia) on 21 August 1944.
Battaglione(M) "IX Settembre"
Formed in la Seyne a Tolone France, the Italian all-volunteer unit Btg "IX Settembre" came from elements of special assault landing battalions XLII and L, elite Marine fighting units and were attached to the Brandenburg division. The unit was named in honor of the first day after the Italian armistice 8 September 1943 in defiance of the capitulation by the Italian King. From its inception, the unit was assigned to the second Regiment of the Wehrmacht’ s Panzergrenadier-Division Brandenburg which operated in southern France and Italy.
In Italy, the Btg IX Settembre continued its fight against the Allies. They also fought to contain the Anzio beachhead, on the Gustav Line, and participated in repelling Operation Anvil in 1943-1944. The Btg IX Settembre participated in bloody urban warfare fighting communist partisans in the mountains and small towns of Italy. It also participated in the German invasion of the island of Elba, the island known for Napoleon’s exile, where the unit seized tons of needed Italian weapons, ammunition, and equipment. The Btg IX Settembre soon found itself in the mountains bordering on France and Italy fighting US and British troops. These battle hardened veterans were then transferred to the Russian Front where they fought bravely and suffered the same privations alongside German units in East Prussia in 1945.
Shortly before the end of the war, Btg IX Settembre was transferred to Italy where it’s remaining members surrendered to the Allies. This remnant, about 150 men, was incarcerated in the Gotti barracks in Vittorio Veneto. The unit was officially disbanded in Vittorio Veneto (Treviso) on 28 April 1945
Among so many other Orders and Awards 18 members of the Brandenburg German Special Forces were recipients of the Knight's Cross, three of them also recipients of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves.
Recipients of the Knight's Cross
- Hauptmann Afheldt, Eckart, 17.03.1945 als Oberleutnant, Führer II./JägerRgt 2 "Brandenburg"
- Oberstleutnant Bröckerhoff, Wilhelm, 08.05.1945 als Major, Führer PzArtRgt "Brandenburg"
- Oberst Brückner v., Erich, 11.03.1945 als Oberst,Kommandeur JägRgt 1 "Brandenburg"
- Sturmbannführer Fölkersam Baron v., Adrian, 14.09.1942 als Leutnant d. R., Adjutant Stab I./LehrRgt z.b.V. 800 "Brandenburg"
- Major Kirn (Witzel), Dietrich F., 12.12.1944 als Hauptmann, Führer Front-Aufklärungs-Kommando 202
- Rittmeister Knaak, Hans-Wolfram, 03.11.1942 als Oberleutnant, Chef 8./LehrRgt z.b.V. 800 "Brandenburg"
- Oberstleutnant Koenen v., Friedrich, 16.09.1943 als Hauptmann, Kommandeur III./4.Rgt "Brandenburg"
- Major der Reserve Lau, Werner, 09.12.1942 als Leutnant d. R., Zugführer 5./LehrRgt z.b.V. 800 "Brandenburg"
- Leutnant der Reserve Leipzig v., Hellmut, 28.04.1945 als Leutnant d. R., Zugführer PzAufklAbt "Brandenburg"
- Hauptmann Müller-Rochholz, Friedrich, 08.05.1945 als Hauptmann, Kommandeur PzSturmPiBtl "Brandenburg"
- Leutnant der Reserve Prochaska, Ernst, 16.09.1942 als Leutnant d. R., Führer 8./LehrRgt z.b.V. 800 "Brandenburg"
- Hauptmann der Reserve Röseke, Erich, 14.04.1945 als Oberleutnant d. R., Führer 9./JägRgt 1 "Brandenburg"
- Major der Reserve Steidl, Kurt, 26.01.1944 als Hauptmann d. R., stellv. Führer I./2.JägRgt "Brandenburg"
- Major Voshage, Werner, 08.05.1945 als Major, Kommandeur HeeresFlakAbt "Brandenburg"
- Oberstleutnant Walther, Wilhelm, 24.06.1940 als Oberleutnant, Stoßtruppführer 4./BauLehrBtl z.b.V. 800 "Brandenburg"
Recipients of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves
- Major der Reserve Grabert, Siegfried, 10.06.1941 als Oberleutnant d. R., Führer SonderKdo im BauLehrBtl z.b.V. 800 "Brandenburg"
- 320. Eichenlaub, 06.11.1943 als Hauptmann d. R., Chef 8./LehrRgt "Brandenburg" z.b.V. 800
- Oberstleutnant Oesterwitz, Karl-Heinz, 30.04.1943 als Oberleutnant, Chef 7./LehrRgt z.b.V 800
- 734. Eichenlaub, 10.02.45 als Oberstleutnant, Kommandeur JägerRgt 2 "Brandenburg"
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- Baron Adrian von Fölkersam (20 December 1914 – 21 January 1945) was a German Brandenburger and Waffen-SS officer in World War II.
- Who was Adrian Baron von Fölkersam?
- Who was Walther Wilhelm?