Panzer-Grenadier-Division Großdeutschland

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Panzer Grenadier Division Großdeutschland (Greater Germany)
„Großdeutschland”-Division (Wehrmacht).svg
Unit insignia
Active 19 May 1942 – 25 April 1945
Country  Germany
Branch Army
Type Panzergrenadier
Size Division
Part of Expanded from Regiment to become Motorized Infantry Division 1942 and Panzer Grenadier Division 1943.
Garrison/HQ Berlin, Cottbus, Okhtyrka
Nickname(s) The Fire Brigade[1]

World War II

Generalleutnant Hasso von Manteuffel
Generalmajor Karl Lorenz
Cuff title Cuffti2.gif

The Panzer Grenadier 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. Großdeutschland was one of the best-equipped units of the German Army.[citation needed]

The unit originally started out as a ceremonial guard unit in the 1920s and by the late 1930s 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, Rifle Battalion Großdeutschland (all that was left of the original regiment) was disbanded and two battalions formed a new Großdeutschland Regiment out of reinforcements arriving from Neuruppin. The regiment later moved to Orel after, and on 1 Apr 1942 the former Infantry Regiment Großdeutschland was expanded to the Infantry Division Großdeutschland.[2]

The Infantry Regiment Großdeutschland reorganized and expanded to become Infanterie-Division Großdeutschland (mot.). The division was assigned to German XLVIII Panzer Corps during the opening phases of Fall Blau, 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 XLVIII.Panzerkorps, 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.[3] After the fall 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 Panzer Grenadier Division Großdeutschland,[4][5] though in reality it now had more armoured vehicles than most full strength panzer divisions.


Großdeutschland Division soldiers, Kursk, July 1943

The newly re-equipped division was subordinated to the XLVIII 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.[6] 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.[7] 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.[8] 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 large casualties in both men and materiel.[9][10] The division was nearly destroyed during the battles in the Memel bridgehead.

Panzers 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.[11] By 25 April 1945, the division was destroyed in the battles around Pillau.[citation needed]

War crimes[edit]

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.

— [12]

Part of the photographic presentation for the book includes a photo where the Großdeutschland cuff title on the officer is clearly visible. The official Großdeutschland history by Helmuth Spaeter mentions that only "draconian measures were occasionally required to halt looting by the civilian population" in Belgrade. The events of 21 April in Pancevo are not discussed directly, though many references are made to "security duties" in Yugoslavia.

The subject of Grossdeutschland's complicity in war crimes 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).

List of commanders[edit]

Infantry Regiment Grossdeutschland
Infantry/Panzergrenadier Division Grossdeutschland


  1. ^ Großdeutschland means "greater Germany" or "united 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. ^ Spaeter 1992, p. 290.
  3. ^ Ziemke 2002, pp. 89-97.
  4. ^ Wolfgang Schneider (2005). Tigers In Combat II. p. 21. Retrieved 12 May 2013.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ Ziemke 2002, p. 136.
  7. ^ Ziemke 2002, p. 152.
  8. ^ Ziemke 2002, p. 341.
  9. ^ Ziemke 2002, p. 342.
  10. ^ Sharpe & Davis 2001, p. 48.
  11. ^ Sharpe & Davis 2001, p. 54.
  12. ^ Hamburg Institute for Social Research 1999, p. 42.


  • Hamburg Institute for Social Research, ed. (1999), The German army and genocide : crimes against war prisoners, Jews, and other civilians in the East, 1939-1944, New York: New Press, ISBN 978-1-56584-525-1
  • Sharpe, Michael; Davis, Brian L (2001), GROSSDEUTSCHLAND: Guderian's Eastern Front Elite, Compendium Publishing Ltd, ISBN 0-7110-2854-0
  • Solarz, Jacek. Division/Korps "Großdeutschland" 1943-1945 Vol. I and II. (Polish/English edition by Wydawnictwo "Militaria", Warsaw, 2005) ISBN 83-7219-237-5
  • Spaeter, Helmuth (1992), The History of the Panzerkorps Großdeutschland Vol I, Winnipeg, Canada: J.J. Fedorowicz, ISBN 0-921991-12-6
  • Spaeter, Helmuth (1995), The History of the Panzerkorps Großdeutschland Vol II, Winnipeg, Canada: J.J. Fedorowicz, ISBN 0-921991-27-4
  • Spaeter, Helmuth (2000), The History of the Panzerkorps Großdeutschland Vol III, Winnipeg, Canada: J.J. Fedorowicz, ISBN 0-921991-50-9
  • Spaeter, Helmuth (1990), Panzerkorps Grossdeutschland: A Pictorial History, Pennsylvania, USA: Schiffer Books, ISBN 0-88740-245-3
  • Ziemke, Earl F. (2002), Stalingrad to Berlin: The German Defeat in the East, Washington, D.C: Center of Military History, US Army, ISBN 9781780392875

Further reading[edit]

  • Jung, Hans Joachim (c. 1990s), The History of Panzerregiment "Grossdeutschland" (English Translation), Winnipeg, Canada: J.J. Fedorowicz, ISBN 0-921991-51-7
  • Herbst, Jurgen (2002), Requiem for a German Past:A Boyhood among the Nazis, Madison, WI, USA: University of Wisconsin Press, ISBN 978-0-299-16414-0 A memoir by the author.
  • de Lannoy, François and Jean-Claude Perrigault La division Grossdeutschland ("The Grossdeutschland Division from Regiment to Panzerkorps 1939-1945") French edition, Editions Heimdal
  • Lee, Cyrus A. Soldat: The World War Two German Army Combat Uniform Collector's Guide (Volume V: Uniforms and Insignia of Panzerkorps Grossdeutschland 1939-1945) (Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, Missoula, MT, 1993) ISBN 0-929521-76-5
  • Lucas, James (1978), Germany's Elite Panzer Force: Grossdeutschland, London: Macdonald and Jane's, ISBN 0354011650
  • McGuirl, Thomas & Remy Spezzano (1997), God, Honor, Fatherland: A photo history of Panzergrenadier Division "Grossdeutschland" on the Eastern Front. 1942 - 1944, Southbury (Connecticut, USA), ISBN 0-9657584-0-0
  • Quarrie, Bruce (1977), Panzer-Grenadier Division, Grossdeutschland, London, UK: Osprey Publishing Group, ISBN 0850450551
  • Scheibert, Horst (Bruce Culver Editor) Panzer Grenadier Division Grossdeutschland (English version by Squadron Signal Publications, Carrollton, TX, 1987) ISBN 978-0-89747-061-2
  • Novotny, Alfred (2002), The good soldier: from Austrian social democracy to communist captivity with a soldier of Panzer-Grenadier Division Grossdeutschland, Bedford, Pa: Aberjona Press, ISBN 0966638999 A memoir by the author.

External links[edit]