Mountain Troop (Germany)
The German Alpine Corps of the German Army was the first larger unit of the German mountain troops. The Alpine Corps, which was set up in 1915 based on the Austro-Hungarian model, was primarily deployed in the Alpine region during the First World War to support the Imperial and Royal Mountain Troops and in the Balkans. The Reichswehr , Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS also raised mountain troops. During World War II they committed a number of war crimes , including a. the massacre in Kefalonia . In this context, the traditional maintenance of the mountain troops is accused of a lack of distance to their own role in the Third Reich .
Mountain riflemen in Bavaria
The Bavarian mountain riflemen can be seen as forerunners . In order to protect the Bavarian southern border from Austrian attacks, a mountain rifle corps was set up in 1805, the history of which goes back to 1492. In 1869 the mountain rifles were disbanded as a state institution of the army , but some of them continued to exist as private traditional associations. In the German Empire there was no direct transition from these ancient mountain troops to the modern mountain troops in Austria.
Their tradition is continued today by civil associations. In their home regions they play a major role in the cultural self-image and cultivate certain military customs, but are no longer part of the regular armed forces, although they certainly maintain connections to the troops stationed in the respective regions.
Mountain troops of the army of the German Reich
In 1892 ski training was carried out with the hunter battalions No. 8 in Schlettstadt and No. 10 in Goslar . They only set up their own snowshoe troops after they met French Chasseurs alpins in the Vosges at the beginning of the First World War . On November 21, 1914, the Bavarian Snowshoe Battalion No. 1 met in Munich. Shortly afterwards, the Württemberg snowshoe company No. 1 and the Prussian snowshoe battalions No. 2 and No. 3 followed.
It consisted of the 1st Bavarian Jäger Brigade and the 2nd Jäger Brigade, which also included the snowshoe battalions. In addition there were corps troops. The alpine corps first had to prepare its soldiers for difficult tasks: a partly high alpine front and a numerically superior enemy who had a very well trained mountain troop in the form of the Alpini . A line of defense with associated infrastructure was built. Valuable experience in mountain fighting could be gained, and the Alpine Corps gradually became a consolidated force. The combat activity itself was rather low, the Alpine Corps primarily served to support the ally. Without the cooperation of the German Alpine Corps, however, an Italian breakthrough in the Dolomites would have been possible.
When the German Alpine Corps moved from the meanwhile consolidated Tyrolean Front to Serbia in mid-October 1915, the commanding general of the Austrian Southwest Front, Archduke Eugen , received the edelweiss badge of the Austrian mountain troops in the Hotel Elefant in Bressanone in recognition of his performance in defense of the Italian offensives in the Austro-Hungarian Alps. Since then, members of all German mountain troops have been wearing this emblem on their hats, but unlike in Austria with the stem facing forward.
From 1916 the Alpine Corps was deployed in the Battle of Verdun , in 1916/17 it fought in Transylvania and Romania . In autumn 1917 it was used again on the Adriatic front during the Twelfth Battle of the Isonzo, and in 1918 in Flanders and on the Somme. At the end of the war the Alpine Corps was in Macedonia.
Mountain troops of the Reichswehr
The Treaty of Versailles limited the strength of the army of the new German Reichswehr to 100,000 men. Despite this low strength, they did not want to do without the mountain troops that had proven themselves in World War I. The Versailles Treaty also forbade maintaining mountain troops. Nevertheless, a hunter battalion was set up in each division and provided with mountain equipment. In July 1925, part of these battalions as a mountain troop was equipped with high mountain equipment, while another part received special equipment for low mountain ranges.
Mountain troops of the Wehrmacht
On March 16, 1935, as part of the preparations for war in Germany, the arms restrictions of the Versailles Treaty were declared irrelevant and the "Law on the Development of the Wehrmacht " was enacted. The conscription was reintroduced and the existing Reichswehr into the Wehrmacht renamed. The formation of 36 army divisions was planned. From the few existing mountain units, a mountain brigade was initially created, which grew up to become the 1st Mountain Division by the late autumn of 1937. The annexation of Austria (" Anschluss ") in March 1938 brought reinforcement by the mountain troops of the former federal army , which were used as their core troops when the 2nd and 3rd divisions were set up. The Wehrmacht set up a total of eleven mountain divisions:
- 1st Mountain Division
- 2nd Mountain Division
- 3rd Mountain Division
- 4th Mountain Division
- 5th Mountain Division
- 6th Mountain Division
- 7th Mountain Division
- 8th Mountain Division
- 9th Mountain Division , formerly 9th Mountain Division (East)
- 10th Mountain Division formerly 9th Mountain Division (North)
- 188th Mountain Division formerly 188th Reserve Mountain Division
In addition there was the 1st Ski-Jäger-Division and some parts of the mountain troops used outside the mountain divisions.
Superordinate large units ( 20th Mountain Army , XV. , XVIII. , XIX. , XXI. , XXII. , XXXVI. , XXXXIX. And LI. Mountain Army Corps , Mountain Corps Norway) could also consist entirely or partially of non-mountain troops consist.
The mountain troops fought less in the high mountains than in impassable areas, such as Norway, Yugoslavia, Greece, the USSR and Finland.
It was also used in seafaring operations such as the invasion of Norway and Denmark on April 9, 1940, and as airmobile forces during the landing on Crete in May 1941. Since in the countries of Europe occupied by Germany, impassable mountain regions were the preferred operational areas of partisans, the mountain troops were therefore also used to fight partisans.
National Socialist Propaganda
The successes of the mountain troops were used by the Nazi regime and the National Socialist propaganda and were sometimes overrated or exaggerated. Colonel-General Eduard Dietl ( NSDAP member since 1921) was stylized by Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels as the "hero of Narvik".
The major of the mountain troops Albert Hohenester created propaganda caricatures and paintings from the everyday life of his troops.
The ascent of the summit on August 21, 1942, was used for propaganda purposes by the high mountain hunters of the "mixed Elbrus company" of the west summit of the Elbrus , who hoisted the swastika flag there after conquering the Elbrus house at an altitude of 4200 meters with 80 Soviet crews had been.
The Nazi command staff of the Army at the Army High Command, established on March 15, 1944, was under the command of a general of the mountain troops with Ferdinand Schörner and, from May 15, 1944, with Georg von Hengl .
"[...] If this fight against the gangs in the East as well as in the Balkans is not carried out with the most brutal means, the available forces will no longer be sufficient to master this plague in the foreseeable future. The troops are therefore entitled and obliged to use any means in this struggle without restrictions, even against women and children, if only it leads to success ... "
At the beginning of July 1943, the 1st Mountain Division was relocated to western Greece in the Epirus , as the success of ELAS in partisan warfare made it necessary to reinforce the German occupation forces, and in response to this, the military pressure should be intensified.
In the western Greek village of Kommeno , soldiers of the division killed 317 residents on August 16, 1943, because resistance fighters from the village had supplied themselves with food. In the three months between the beginning of July and the beginning of October 1943 alone, the division's troops destroyed around 207 villages with 4,500 houses and killed over 2,000 Greeks and Albanians, including women, the elderly and children. An indication that there were very few skirmishes with partisans is the fact that “only” 23 mountain troops died in this period.
Soldiers of the division shot around 5,200 Italian soldiers and almost all officers in the massacre on Kefalonia between September 21 and 24, 1943, the majority of whom were murdered after the fighting ended. These members of the Italian “Acqui” division had surrendered to the Germans shortly before on the Greek islands of Kefalonia and Corfu . This mass shooting took place on the basis of orders from the Wehrmacht High Command and was a clear violation of international law . This was one of the most serious war crimes committed by Wehrmacht units.
Soldiers of the 1st Company of the Mountain Pioneer Battalion 818 shot in the Tuscan Falzano in Cortona three men and a 74-year-old woman in retaliation for the deaths of two German soldiers who had died on 26 June 1944 in the battle with Italian partisans. The next day, the mountain soldiers killed ten more civilians with dynamite and machine guns.
Prosecution was the responsibility of the Allies immediately after the end of the war. General of the mountain troops Ludwig Kübler was sentenced to death in 1947 in Yugoslavia for war crimes and executed . The Western Allies were more considerate of German war criminals: the mountain troop general Hubert Lanz was sentenced by a US military tribunal to 12 years imprisonment for the massacre in Kefalonia in the Generals Trial in Southeastern Europe as war criminals, but was released from prison in 1951. In Germany in the early 1950s there was little interest in a systematic criminal investigation of Wehrmacht crimes due to rearmament. Investigations against members of the mountain troops were often stopped early because alleged exonerating witnesses were found through the “comrades of the mountain troops”. Even Italy was not interested in prosecuting German war criminals in the first post-war decades of the "Cold War". The central office of the state justice administrations for the investigation of National Socialist crimes in Ludwigsburg and the public prosecutor's office for Nazi crimes in Dortmund provided z. B. the investigations against other perpetrators in the Kefalonia case.
Only as a result of recent historical research such as those by Jakob Knab and Hermann Frank Meyer and investigations by the Italian authorities did the criminal investigation move again. In 2005 and 2006, an Italian military court in La Spezia sentenced the company commander of the mountain pioneers, Josef Scheungraber, and ten other German perpetrators to life imprisonment in absentia for the incident in Falzano . Only Scheungraber was brought to trial in Germany at the end of 2008 and sentenced to life imprisonment on August 11, 2009 . The other ten convicted in Italy have not yet been prosecuted in Germany. There are around two hundred names of members of the mountain troops of the Wehrmacht who are said to have committed war crimes. A frequent obstacle to a judicial conviction is that, even if the intentional killings can be proven, the unequivocal proof of the existence of a murder characteristic cannot be achieved. A conviction for murder then fails due to a lack of evidence , a conviction for manslaughter because the statute of limitations has now expired .
Mountain troops of the Waffen SS
From 1941 the following mountain divisions were set up in the Waffen SS :
- 6th SS Mountain Division "North"
- 7th SS volunteer mountain division "Prinz Eugen"
- 13th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS "Handschar" (Croatian No. 1)
- 21st Waffen Mountain Division of the SS "Skanderbeg"
- 23rd Waffen Mountain Division of the SS "Kama"
- 24th Waffen Mountain (Karst Jäger) Division of the SS
These large units of very different quality and origin were mainly used in partisan warfare, with the “Prinz Eugen” division in particular attracting attention due to its brutality and a large number of war crimes.
Like the Wehrmacht mountain troops, members of the mountain troops of the Waffen-SS and the Ordnungspolizei were also marked with the edelweiss. The weapon color was hunter green based on the Wehrmacht mountain troops .
Mountain force of the Ordnungspolizei
Among the regiments formed by the Ordnungspolizei in 1942 from independent battalions, there was also a Police Mountain Infantry Regiment specially trained for use in the mountains (in the list of police regiments No. 18), which was set up for use in the northern Caucasus. The Wehrmacht had to withdraw from this area at the end of 1942, so the Police Mountain Infantry Regiment 18 first came to the Kiestinki Front in Finland and then to Greece in the summer of 1943. Like all police regiments, the name of the association was preceded by a decree of February 24, 1943, the addition "SS-". Members of the 1st Battalion (formerly Pol.Batl. 302) and the Police Mountain Artillery Department were deployed in Athens in the spring of 1944 to deport Jews to the concentration camps.
Mountain troops of the Bundeswehr
The mountain troops of the Bundeswehr are primarily intended for combat under extreme conditions. These include extreme weather with a focus on winter and difficult terrain such as mountains, high mountains, deserts and arctic regions.
The combat force of the mountain troops of the Bundeswehr is formed by the mountain troops . The focus is therefore on infantry fighting with hand weapons against enemy, unarmored or only lightly armored ground troops . The mountain troops are only able to defend armored troops to a limited extent, but their use in the high mountains can only be expected to a limited extent. To do this, it forms tank destruction troops equipped with anti-tank weapons or falls back on the anti-tank systems that are loaded onto Wiesel in the heavy companies . The heavy companies support the fight against infantry with automatic cannons and mortars.
The expansion of height positions to artillery firing positions , and the transition to the position warfare is through the modulation of the light mountain howitzers 105 mm no longer provided. The mountain troops have long-range self-propelled howitzers for artillery fire support.
Mountaineers fight in the plain like dismounted hunters and paratroopers . These types of troops are particularly suitable for local and house warfare and for use in terrain that is unfavorable for tanks such as forests or heavily cut terrain.
A particular challenge arises for logistics in the mountains . The mountain troops therefore have mountain animals from the deployment and training center for pack animals 230 , which can ensure supplies even under unfavorable conditions. The mountain troops also have their own logistics associations equipped with vehicles . The mountain troops also work together with the army aviation troops . Pilots who are deployed in the mountains undergo special mountain flight training .
After the establishment of the Bundeswehr, the 1st Mountain Division was set up in 1956 . The fighting core of the mountain troops was formed by the Mountain Rifle Brigades 22 and 23 . The division also included the Panzer Brigade 24 mechanized and armored forces on a large scale, which were not suitable for mountain warfare. In 1981 the Mountain Infantry Brigade 22 was converted to the Panzer Grenadier Brigade 22 . 45 years after its foundation, the division was dissolved in 2001 with a festive roll call in Garmisch-Partenkirchen . The last major unit of the mountain troops was now the 23 Mountain Infantry Brigade . In 2008, the Mountain Hunter Battalion 571 of the Jägerbrigade 37 in Schneeberg was disbanded. The Mountain Infantry Battalion 571 was dismantled after the takeover of parts of the NVA and was the only part of the mountain troops that was not based in the Alpine region .
Today is Gebirgstruppe the Bundeswehr therefore essentially only from the 23rd Mountain Infantry Brigade , the soldiers of different service branches summarizing but whose infanteristischer combat troops core of the three currently active mountain infantry battalions there.
The membership in the mountain troops is not precisely defined as it has no particular organizational significance. But one takes as criteria the name, tradition and adapted to the high altitude equipment, uniform approach and training activities, the Bundeswehr will be counted the following main troops to Gebirgstruppe:
- Gebirgsjägerbrigade 23 " Bayern ", Bad Reichenhall (with all subordinate troops)
- Training base mountain and winter combat , Mittenwald
- Mountain Music Corps of the Bundeswehr , Garmisch-Partenkirchen
- Partly active mountain tank battalion 8, Pfreimd
- (Positioning planned for September 20, 2014. The battalion is part of the traditional line of the disbanded Mountain Tank Battalion 8 in Kirchham . Contrary to the name, it is a "regular" tank battalion. However, the soldiers will wear the edelweiss on their black berets )
The Land Command Bavaria is due to its use of space and capability profile, as well as the origin of many of his soldiers, who Gebirgstruppe and their traditions close, without being a part of the mountain troops in the narrow sense. In the special forces command , some soldiers of the mountain / arctic trains specialize in fighting in the high mountains and in winter.
Since 23 soldiers from different branches of service serve in the Mountain Infantry Brigade, their uniforms vary slightly. As a sign of belonging to the mountain troops, the soldiers wear the edelweiss on their headgear . In addition, the members of the Mountain Infantry Brigade 23 and the Mountain Music Corps of the Bundeswehr wear the edelweiss as part of their association badge on the sleeve of their uniforms .
Units of the armored and army reconnaissance troops subordinate to the mountain troops wear the "general" service suit with beret. The beret badge of the military branch is supplemented with the edelweiss badge .
Training and specialization
Special courses for fighting in the mountains and under difficult climatic conditions are carried out for the mountain troops and other parts of the infantry as well as the special forces at the training base for mountain and winter combat in Mittenwald. Army mountain guides receive particularly extensive training there . The deployment and training center for pack animals 230 is responsible for the training and further development of the military pack animals and their use.
The members of the various branches of the armed forces receive their branch-specific, course-related training mainly at their respective military schools . The infantry training of the mountain troops takes place together with the hunter and paratrooper troops mainly at the infantry school .
The tactical signs of the mountain troops follow the general NATO pattern and contain a triangle in the lower field as a stylized reference to the operational area in the mountains. The tactical sign of the mountain troops shows, for example, a St. Andrew's cross as the basic sign of the infantry (stylized crossed rifles , swords or bandeliers ). The tactical symbols of the other types of troops in the mountain troops are identical to the basic tactical symbols of the respective branches of service going beyond the mountain. Examples:
Maintenance of tradition
On the initiative of Franz Josef Strauss received from 1964 to 1966 three barracks of the Bundeswehr the names of generals of the mountain troops of the Armed Forces: Colonel-General-Dietl army barracks in Fussen , General Kuebler army barracks in Mittenwald and the General Konrad army barracks in Bad Reichenhall . After a long and sometimes passionate debate, the then Federal Defense Minister Volker Rühe ordered two of the barracks to be renamed Allgäu (Füssen) and Karwendel barracks (Mittenwald).
The Kameradenkreis der Gebirgstruppe eV , founded in 1952 by Rudolf Konrad , is an association made up of active and former soldiers from the mountain troops of the Wehrmacht and Bundeswehr . General a, convicted of war crimes. Shortly after his release from prison, D. Hubert Lanz became honorary chairman of the comrades' group and chairman of the traditional association of the 1st Mountain Division. Franz Josef Strauss expressed the understanding of tradition that prevailed for a long time among the comrades and active troops in a speech on February 17, 1986 on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the 1st Mountain Division: “General Kübler was both a man and a soldier for the German mountain troops an example. The troops owe him a lot to this day. ”His successor Edmund Stoiber , himself a member of the Comrades' Circle, also attested the mountain troops in 2001 on the occasion of the celebration of the dissolution of the division in 2001 as having an“ unassailable tradition ”. Every spring, the comrades group holds a memorial event for the fallen and missing members of the mountain troops at the memorial of the mountain troops on the Hohe Brendten near Mittenwald .
Under the influence of contemporary historical research such as that of Jakob Knab and alluding to the Stoiber quote, the working group “Attackable Tradition Maintenance” was founded . Together with the VVN, in the years 2002 to 2009, in close proximity to the Brendten celebration, it organized a variety of activities in which the mountain troops were only partially dealt with and were involved in war crimes of the Second World War.
For its part, the Comrades' Circle rejects these allegations as unjustified and declares that it is rather actively contributing to peace through international understanding. In his address at the memorial in 2005 , the commander of the 10th Panzer Division , to which the Mountain Infantry Brigade 23 is subordinate, emphasized that the commemoration "expressly also includes the war dead on the other side and the victims of persecution and crimes committed by Germans and in the name of Germany" encompass, and it is not about "outdated and uncritical hero worship, but also about a critical commitment to German history and orientation towards the suffering of the persecuted and humiliated, about political thinking and shared responsibility, democratic value awareness, non-prejudice and tolerance, willingness and ability to debate with the ethical questions of military service ”. In response to a small inquiry from the left-wing parliamentary group , the federal government announced that "honors to the dead in the context of memorial services for the victims of war and tyranny are expressly part of the tradition of the Bundeswehr" and "the cooperation between the Bundeswehr and the comrades of the mountain troops and the participation of soldiers of the armed forces at the so-called 'Brendtenfeier' are therefore not objectionable " .
Members of the Austrian Armed Forces , on the other hand, were prohibited from participating in the Brendten celebration by order of the Austrian Defense Minister Norbert Darabos in 2007 because the event did not distance itself from Nazi ideology.
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