SS Police Regiment Bozen
The SS Police Regiment Bozen was a security and police formation of the German SS, established in 1943 under the authority of the Supreme SS and Police Command in Italy. The regiment was considered a formation of both the SS and the Ordnungspolizei, with members issued German regular police uniforms.
The regiment was created to recruit ethnic Germans from the Italian Tyrol into the German police, specifically for the purposes of performing anti-partisan and security duty within the borders of the Italian Social Republic. Most of the regiment members were veterans of the Italian Army with service on the Eastern Front. Originally known as the "Police Regiment South Tyrol", in November 1943 the name was changed to Polizeiregiment Bozen. Throughout the year and half of its existence, the regiment was headquartered at Bolzano, Silandro and Gossensaß.
The Bozen Regiment was composed of a headquarters staff with three battalions, each battalion having between one to five police infantry companies. The unit was lightly armed and considered a Panzergrenadier type formation in the German infantry order of battle. The "sister" regiment to the Bozen police was the SS Police Regiment Brixen. Originally, the regiment was under the command of the Nazi appointed governor (Gauleiter) of the Tyrol Franz Hofer, but was absorbed into the SS and Police formations quickly thereafter. Simultaneously, the regiment was seen as a military formation and thus also under the command of the regular German military in the area. Finally, when performing garrison duties in major cities (such as Rome), the regiment was under direct SS control.
In 1944, duties included security within the city as well as sweeps of the countryside for Italian Army deserters and escaped prisoners of war. Within Rome itself, the 11th Company (Leutnant der Schutzpolizei Wolgasth commanding) conducted daily patrols through the streets; on 23 March 1944, the 11th company was attacked by Italian partisans. Twenty eight SS soldiers were killed outright, with a few more dying over the next day. The German security forces in Rome, led by SS-Obersturmbannführer Herbert Kappler, organised a reprisal which became known as the Ardeatine massacre.
In April and May 1944, First Battalion of the Bozen Regiment took part in an Axis operation Braunschweig against Slovene and Croat partisans. During the operation German troops on 30 April burned down village Lipa on Učka Mountain in Istria and killed 263 civil inhabitants. A number of photos taken by serviceman Urban Rienzner during the operation are kept in South Tyrol Land Archive (Südtiroler Archiv - Bildarchiv Urban Rienzner).
As Italy fell to the Allied advance, members of the Bozen Regiment were either folded into other German combat units or discharged as defeat grew near. The unit itself had officially ceased to exist by the spring of 1945.
Chain of command
- Regimental Commander: Oberst der Schutzpolizei Alois Menschik
- Regimental Adjutant: Hauptmann der Schutzpolizei Ullbrich
- 1st Battalion:
- Companies 1 - 5
- 2nd Battalion: Major der Schutzpolizei Schroder
- Companies 6 - 10
- 3rd Battalion: Major der Schutzpolizei Hellmuth Dobbrick
- Companies 11 - 13
Senior order of battle
- Supreme SS and Police Command (Italien) - SS-Obergruppenführer Karl Wolff
The overall military command which encompassed the corresponding SS units was the German 14th Army under the command of Generaloberst (Colonel General, a rank above full General and below Field Marshal) Eberhard von Mackensen. The SS garrison troops in Rome were under the command of the German occupation commander Luftwaffe General Kurt Mälzer. Both men answered to Field Marshal Albert Kesselring, considered the highest-ranking German commander in the Italian theatre.
The Police Regiment Bozen is figured prominently in the film Massacre in Rome, starring Richard Burton which depicts the partisan attack on the 11th company in the city of Rome. The film refers to the unit as the "SS Bozen Police" and incorrectly depicts the battalion as being a Waffen-SS unit, complete with full SS uniforms and insignia. In reality the regiment was strictly a police unit, was not considered part of the Waffen-SS, and wore regular police uniforms of the Ordnungspolizei. The film also depicts battalion commander Hellmuth Dobbrick as leading the unit through the streets of Rome and being present during the partisan attack. Dobbrick was in fact not present, with the company commander Leutnant Wolgasth being the senior officer on the scene.
- Klanjšček 1984, pp. 266.
- Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican, Gallagher, J. (1969)
- Klanjšček, Zdravko (1984). NARODNOOSLOBODILAČKI RAT U SLOVENIJI 1941-1945. Beograd: Vojnoistorijski institut.