The Panzergrenadier-Division "Großdeutschland" was an elite combat unit of the German Army that fought on the Eastern Front in World War II. Großdeutschland was one of the best-equipped units of the German Army; the unit 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 be expanded and renamed Infantry Division Großdeutschland in 1942, 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, 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, was nearly destroyed in the Battle of Moscow in late 1941.
On the last day of February 1942, Rifle Battalion Großdeutschland was disbanded and two battalions formed a new Großdeutschland Regiment out of reinforcements arriving from Neuruppin. The regiment moved to Orel after, on 1 Apr 1942 the former Infantry Regiment Großdeutschland was expanded to the Infantry Division Großdeutschland; the Infantry Regiment Großdeutschland reorganized and expanded to become Infanterie-Division Großdeutschland. 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. After the fall of Kharkov, the Großdeutschland was again refitted. In 19 May 1943, with the addition of armoured personnel carriers and Tigers the division was redesignated Panzer Grenadier Division Großdeutschland, though in reality it now had more armoured vehicles than most full strength panzer divisions; the newly re-equipped division was subordinated to the XLVIII Panzer Corps, part of Fourth Panzer Army, 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. After the Kursk offensive was cancelled, the division was transferred back to Army Group Center, 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. For the rest of 1943, Großdeutschland retreated across Ukraine, 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. 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; the division was nearly destroyed during the battles in the Memel bridgehead. 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. By 25 April 1945, the division was engaged in heavy fighting in the battles around Pillau; the book German Army and Genocide mentions the following incident, from the invasion of Yugoslavia: When one German soldier was shot and one 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. Part of the photographic presentation for the book includes a photo where the Großdeutschland cuff title on the officer is visible; the official Großdeutschland history by Helmuth Spaeter mentions that only "draconian measures were 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, the Barbarization of Warfare. Structure of the division: Headquarters Grossdeutschland Reconnaissance Battalion Grossdeutschland Panzer Regiment Grossdeutschland Panzergrenadier Regiment Grossdeutschland Fusilier Regiment Grossdeutschland Engineer Battalion Grossdeutschland Artillery Regiment Grossdeutschland Tank Destroyer Battalion Grossdeutschland Army Anti-Aircraft Battalion Grossdeutschland Assault Gun Battalion Grossdeutschland Signal Battalion
Battle of France
The Battle of France known as the Fall of France, was the German invasion of France and the Low Countries during the Second World War. In the six weeks from 10 May 1940, German forces defeated Allied forces by mobile operations and conquered France, Belgium and the Netherlands, bringing land operations on the Western Front to an end until 6 June 1944. Italy invaded France over the Alps. In Fall Gelb, German armoured units pushed through the Ardennes and along the Somme valley, cutting off and surrounding the Allied units that had advanced into Belgium, to meet the expected German invasion; when British and French forces were pushed back to the sea by the mobile and well-organised German operation, the British evacuated the British Expeditionary Force and French divisions from Dunkirk in Operation Dynamo. German forces began Fall Rot on 5 June; the sixty remaining French divisions and two British divisions made a determined resistance but were unable to overcome the German air superiority and armoured mobility.
German tanks outflanked the Maginot Line and pushed deep into France, occupying Paris unopposed on 14 June. After the flight of the French government and the collapse of the French army, German commanders met with French officials on 18 June to negotiate an end to hostilities. On 22 June, the Second Armistice at Compiègne was signed by Germany; the neutral Vichy government led by Marshal Philippe Pétain superseded the Third Republic and Germany occupied the north and west coasts of France and their hinterlands. Italy took control of a small occupation zone in the south-east and the Vichy regime retained the unoccupied territory in the south, known as the zone libre. In November 1942, the Germans occupied the zone under Case Anton, until the Allied liberation in 1944. During the 1930s, the French built fortifications along the border with Germany; the line was intended to economise on manpower and deter a German invasion across the Franco-German border by diverting it into Belgium, which could be met by the best divisions of the French Army.
The war would take place outside French territory avoiding the destruction of the First World War. The main section of the Maginot Line ended at Longwy. General Philippe Pétain declared the Ardennes to be "impenetrable" as long as "special provisions" were taken to destroy an invasion force as it emerged from the Ardennes by a pincer attack; the French commander-in-chief, Maurice Gamelin believed the area to be safe from attack, noting it "never favoured large operations". French war games held in 1938, of a hypothetical German armoured attack through the Ardennes, left the army with the impression that the region was still impenetrable and that this, along with the obstacle of the Meuse River, would allow the French time to bring up troops into the area to counter an attack. In 1939, Britain and France offered military support to Poland in the case of a German invasion. In the dawn of 1 September 1939, the German Invasion of Poland began. France and the United Kingdom declared war on 3 September, after an ultimatum for German forces to withdraw their forces from Poland was not answered.
Following this, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada declared war on Germany. While British and French commitments to Poland were met politically, the Allies were not in a position to render meaningful military assistance to the Poles in a timely manner. If Allied military intervention in Poland had been feasible, it would have come at the risk of drawing the Soviet Union into the war on Germany's side due to the recently-signed German-Soviet non-aggression pact and subsequent Soviet invasion of eastern Poland; as a result, the Allies settled on a long-war strategy and mobilised for defensive land operations against Germany, while a trade blockade was imposed and the pre-war re-armament was accelerated, ready for an eventual invasion of Germany. On 7 September, in accordance with their alliance with Poland, France began the Saar Offensive with an advance from the Maginot Line 5 km into the Saar. France had mobilised 98 divisions and 2,500 tanks against a German force consisting of 43 divisions and no tanks.
The French advanced until they met the thin and undermanned Siegfried Line. On 17 September, the French supreme commander, Maurice Gamelin gave the order to withdraw French troops to their starting positions. Following the Saar Offensive, a period of inaction called the Phoney War set in between the belligerents. Adolf Hitler had hoped that France and Britain would acquiesce in the conquest of Poland and make peace. On 6 October, he made a peace offer to both Western powers. On 9 October, Hitler issued a new "Führer-Directive Number 6". Hitler recognised the necessity of military campaigns to defeat the Western European nations, preliminary to the conquest of territory in Eastern Europe, to avoid a two-front war but these intentions were absent from Directive N°6; the plan was based on the more realistic assumption that German military strength would have to be built up for several years. For the moment only limited objectives could be envisaged and were aimed at improving Germany's ability to survive a long war in the west.
Hitler ordered a conquest of the Low Countries to be executed at the shortest possible notice to forestall the French and prevent Allied air po
Adolf Hitler was a German politician and leader of the Nazi Party. He rose to power as Chancellor of Germany in 1933 and Führer in 1934. During his dictatorship from 1933 to 1945, he initiated World War II in Europe by invading Poland in September 1939, he was involved in military operations throughout the war and was central to the perpetration of the Holocaust. Hitler was raised near Linz, he moved to Germany in 1913 and was decorated during his service in the German Army in World War I. In 1919, he joined the German Workers' Party, the precursor of the NSDAP, was appointed leader of the NSDAP in 1921. In 1923, he was imprisoned. In jail, he dictated the first volume of his autobiography and political manifesto Mein Kampf. After his release in 1924, Hitler gained popular support by attacking the Treaty of Versailles and promoting Pan-Germanism, anti-semitism and anti-communism with charismatic oratory and Nazi propaganda, he denounced international capitalism and communism as part of a Jewish conspiracy.
By July 1932 the Nazi Party was the largest elected party in the German Reichstag, but did not have a majority, no party was able to form a majority parliamentary coalition in support of a candidate for chancellor. Former chancellor Franz von Papen and other conservative leaders persuaded President Paul von Hindenburg to appoint Hitler as Chancellor on 30 January 1933. Shortly after, the Reichstag passed the Enabling Act of 1933, which began the process of transforming the Weimar Republic into Nazi Germany, a one-party dictatorship based on the totalitarian and autocratic ideology of National Socialism. Hitler aimed to eliminate Jews from Germany and establish a New Order to counter what he saw as the injustice of the post-World War I international order dominated by Britain and France, his first six years in power resulted in rapid economic recovery from the Great Depression, the abrogation of restrictions imposed on Germany after World War I, the annexation of territories inhabited by millions of ethnic Germans, which gave him significant popular support.
Hitler sought Lebensraum for the German people in Eastern Europe, his aggressive foreign policy is considered the primary cause of World War II in Europe. He directed large-scale rearmament and, on 1 September 1939, invaded Poland, resulting in Britain and France declaring war on Germany. In June 1941, Hitler ordered an invasion of the Soviet Union. By the end of 1941, German forces and the European Axis powers occupied most of Europe and North Africa. In December 1941, shortly after Japan attacked Pearl Harbour, Hitler declared war on the United States, bringing it directly into the conflict. Failure to defeat the Soviets and the entry of the United States into the war forced Germany onto the defensive and it suffered a series of escalating defeats. In the final days of the war, during the Battle of Berlin in 1945, he married his longtime lover Eva Braun. Less than two days on 30 April 1945, the two committed suicide to avoid capture by the Soviet Red Army. Under Hitler's leadership and racially motivated ideology, the Nazi regime was responsible for the genocide of at least 5.5 million Jews and millions of other victims who he and his followers deemed Untermenschen or undesirable.
Hitler and the Nazi regime were responsible for the killing of an estimated 19.3 million civilians and prisoners of war. In addition, 28.7 million soldiers and civilians died as a result of military action in the European theatre. The number of civilians killed during World War II was unprecedented in warfare, the casualties constitute the deadliest conflict in history. Hitler's father Alois; the baptismal register did not show the name of his father, Alois bore his mother's surname Schicklgruber. In 1842, Johann Georg Hiedler married Alois's mother Maria Anna. Alois was brought up in the family of Johann Nepomuk Hiedler. In 1876, Alois was legitimated and the baptismal register changed by a priest to register Johann Georg Hiedler as Alois's father. Alois assumed the surname "Hitler" spelled Hiedler, Hüttler, or Huettler; the name is based on "one who lives in a hut". Nazi official Hans Frank suggested that Alois's mother had been employed as a housekeeper by a Jewish family in Graz, that the family's 19-year-old son Leopold Frankenberger had fathered Alois.
No Frankenberger was registered in Graz during that period, no record has been produced of Leopold Frankenberger's existence, so historians dismiss the claim that Alois's father was Jewish. Adolf Hitler was born on 20 April 1889 in Braunau am Inn, a town in Austria-Hungary, close to the border with the German Empire, he was christened as "Adolphus Hitler". He was the fourth of six children born to his third wife, Klara Pölzl. Three of Hitler's siblings—Gustav and Otto—died in infancy. Living in the household were Alois's children from his second marriage: Alois Jr. and Angela. When Hitler was three, the family moved to Germany. There he acquired the distinctive lower Bavarian dialect, rather than Austrian German, which marked his speech throughout his life; the family returned to Austria and settled in Leonding in 1894, in June 1895 Alois retired to Hafeld, near Lambach, where he farmed and kept bees. Hitler attended Volksschule (a state-owned primary schoo
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union, which started on Sunday, 22 June 1941, during World War II. The operation stemmed from Nazi Germany's ideological aims to conquer the western Soviet Union so that it could be repopulated by Germans, to use Slavs as a slave labour force for the Axis war effort, to murder the rest, to acquire the oil reserves of the Caucasus and the agricultural resources of Soviet territories. In the two years leading up to the invasion and the Soviet Union signed political and economic pacts for strategic purposes; the German High Command began planning an invasion of the Soviet Union in July 1940, which Adolf Hitler authorized on 18 December 1940. Over the course of the operation, about three million personnel of the Axis powers – the largest invasion force in the history of warfare – invaded the western Soviet Union along a 2,900-kilometer front. In addition to troops, the Wehrmacht deployed some 600,000 motor vehicles, between 600,000 and 700,000 horses for non-combat operations.
The offensive marked an escalation of World War II, both geographically and in the formation of the Allied coalition. Operationally, German forces achieved major victories and occupied some of the most important economic areas of the Soviet Union and inflicted, as well as sustained, heavy casualties. Despite these Axis successes, the German offensive stalled in the Battle of Moscow at the end of 1941, the subsequent Soviet winter counteroffensive pushed German troops back; the Red Army absorbed the Wehrmacht's strongest blows and forced the Germans into a war of attrition that they were unprepared for. The Wehrmacht never again mounted a simultaneous offensive along the entire Eastern front; the failure of the operation drove Hitler to demand further operations of limited scope inside the Soviet Union, such as Case Blue in 1942 and Operation Citadel in 1943 – all of which failed. The failure of Operation Barbarossa proved a turning point in the fortunes of the Third Reich. Most the operation opened up the Eastern Front, in which more forces were committed than in any other theater of war in world history.
The Eastern Front became the site of some of the largest battles, most horrific atrocities, highest World War II casualties, all of which influenced the course of both World War II and the subsequent history of the 20th century. The German armies captured 5,000,000 Red Army troops, who were denied the protection guaranteed by the Hague Conventions and the 1929 Geneva Convention. A majority of Red Army POWs never returned alive; the Nazis deliberately starved to death, or otherwise killed, 3.3 million prisoners of war, as well as a huge number of civilians. Einsatzgruppen death-squads and gassing operations murdered over a million Soviet Jews as part of the Holocaust; as early as 1925, Adolf Hitler vaguely declared in his political manifesto and autobiography Mein Kampf that he would invade the Soviet Union, asserting that the German people needed to secure Lebensraum to ensure the survival of Germany for generations to come. On 10 February 1939, Hitler told his army commanders that the next war would be "purely a war of Weltanschauungen... a people's war, a racial war".
On 23 November, once World War II had started, Hitler declared that "racial war has broken out and this war shall determine who shall govern Europe, with it, the world". The racial policy of Nazi Germany portrayed the Soviet Union as populated by non-Aryan Untermenschen, ruled by Jewish Bolshevik conspirators. Hitler claimed in Mein Kampf that Germany's destiny was to "turn to the East" as it did "six hundred years ago". Accordingly, it was stated Nazi policy to kill, deport, or enslave the majority of Russian and other Slavic populations and repopulate the land with Germanic peoples, under the Generalplan Ost; the Germans' belief in their ethnic superiority is evident in official German records and discernible in pseudoscientific articles in German periodicals at the time, which covered topics such as "how to deal with alien populations". While older histories tended to emphasize the notion of a "Clean Wehrmacht", the historian Jürgen Förster notes that "In fact, the military commanders were caught up in the ideological character of the conflict, involved in its implementation as willing participants."
Before and during the invasion of the Soviet Union, German troops were indoctrinated with anti-Bolshevik, anti-Semitic, anti-Slavic ideology via movies, lectures and leaflets. Likening the Soviets to the forces of Genghis Khan, Hitler told Croatian military leader Slavko Kvaternik that the "Mongolian race" threatened Europe. Following the invasion, Wehrmacht officers told their soldiers to target people who were described as "Jewish Bolshevik subhumans", the "Mongol hordes", the "Asiatic flood", the "Red beast". Nazi propaganda portrayed the war against the Soviet Union as both an ideological war between German National Socialism and Jewish Bolshevism and a racial war between the Germans and the Jewish and Slavic Untermenschen. An'order from the Führer' stated that the Einsatzgruppen were to execute all Soviet functionaries who were "less valuable Asiatics and Jews". Six months into the invasion of the Soviet Union, the Einsatzgruppen had murdered in excess of 500,000 Soviet Jews, a figure greater than the number of Red Army soldiers killed in combat during that same time frame.
German army command
Staraya Russa is a town in Novgorod Oblast, located on the Polist River, 99 kilometers south of Veliky Novgorod, the administrative center of the oblast. Its population has decreased over the past years, going from 41,538 recorded in the 1989 Census to 35,511 in the 2002 Census to 31,809 in the 2010 Census; the origin of the name of Staraya Russa is unclear. The most involved and widespread hypothesis was presented by philologists and linguists R. A. Akheyeva, V. L. Vasilyev, M. V. Gorbanevsky. According to this hypothesis, Russa comes from Rus'—a people of Slavic, Finno-Ugric and Varangian composition who settled in the vicinity to control trade routes leading from Novgorod to Polotsk and Kiev—which, in turn, is thought to originate from an Old Norse term for "the men who row" as rowing was the main method of navigating the rivers of Eastern Europe, that it could be linked to the Swedish coastal area of Roslagen or Roden, as it was known in earlier times. Staraya is Russian for "Old". Thought to have originated in the mid-10th century, it was first mentioned as Rusa in chronicles for the year 1167 as one of three main towns of the Novgorod Republic, alongside Pskov and Ladoga.
After Pskov became independent, Russa became the second most important town and trade center of the Novgorod Republic after Novgorod itself. By the end of the 15th century, it contained about one thousand homesteads. Brine springs made the saltworks the principal business activity in the town, the biggest center of salt industry in the Novgorod region. Catherine II appointed German mineralogy expert Franz Ludwig von Cancrin as director of the salt-works in 1783; the wooden fortifications of Russa burned to ashes in 1190 and in 1194, after which they were replaced by the stone fortress. In 1478, it was incorporated into the Grand Duchy of Moscow together with Novgorod; the word Staraya was prefixed to the name in the 15th century, to distinguish it from newer settlements called Russa. The current name established only in the 19th century, when the salt mining settlements around the town became collectively known as Novaya Russa; when Ivan the Terrible ascended the throne in 1533, Staraya Russa was a populous town.
During the Time of Troubles, it was held by Polish brigands and depopulated. Only thirty-eight people lived there in 1613. In the course of the administrative reform carried out in 1708 by Peter the Great, Staraya Russa was included into Ingermanland Governorate. In 1727, separate Novgorod Governorate was split off. In 1776, Staraya Russa became the seat of Starorussky Uyezd of Novgorod Viceroyalty. In 1796, the viceroyalty was transformed into Novgorod Governorate. In the 1820s, military settlements were organized in Staraya Russa and around, in accordance with the project designed by Aleksey Arakcheyev, an influential statesman, it was inconvenient to have both civil and military administration in Staraya Russa, therefore the uyezd was abolished in 1824. The town of Staraya Russa and some adjacent territories were directly subordinated to the Defense Ministry; the military settlements were proven inefficient, in particular, in 1831, the area participated in the Cholera Riots. They were abolished in 1856.
In 1857, Starorussky Uyezd was re-established. The Soviet authority in Staraya Russa was established on November 5, 1917. In August 1927, the uyezds were abolished and, effective October 1, 1927, Starorussky District was established, with the administrative center in Staraya Russa. Novgorod Governorate was abolished as well and the district became a part of Novgorod Okrug of Leningrad Oblast. On July 23, 1930, the okrugs were abolished and the districts were directly subordinated to the oblast. On September 19, 1939, Staraya Russa was elevated in status to that of a town of oblast significance and thus ceased to be a part of the district; the town was occupied by the Germans between August 9, 1941 and February 18, 1944. Destroyed during the war, it was restored. On July 5, 1944, Staraya Russa was transferred to newly established Novgorod Oblast and remained there since. On February 16, 1984, Staraya Russa was awarded the Order of the Patriotic War. Within the framework of administrative divisions, Staraya Russa serves as the administrative center of Starorussky District though it is not a part of it.
As an administrative division, it is, together with two rural localities, incorporated separately as the Town of oblast significance of Staraya Russa—an administrative unit with the status equal to that of the districts. As a municipal division, the town of oblast significance of Staraya Russa is incorporated within Starorussky Municipal District as Staraya Russa Urban Settlement; the biggest enterprise in Staraya Russa is the aircraft repair. The mechanical engineering plant went bankrupt in 2011 and no longer exists. A railway which connects Bologoye and Pskov passes through Staraya Russa. Staraya Russa is connected by roads with Novgorod and Bezhanitsy via Kholm. There are local roads. There is a wharf on the Polist River in the Lake Ilmen basin; the Polist is navigable downstream from Staraya Russa. The town is served by the Staraya Russa Airport. Staraya Russa is a spa, celebrated for its mineral springs used for baths and inhalations. A summer residence of the Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky, who wrote his novels The Brothers Karamazov and Demons there, is open to visitors as a museum.
Monuments include the Transfiguration Monastery, which includes a cathedral built in sevent
The Brandenburgers were members of the Brandenburg German special forces unit during World War II. The unit was formed by and operated as an extension of the military's intelligence organ, the Abwehr. Members of this unit took part in seizing operationally important targets by way of sabotage and infiltration. Being foreign German nationals who were convinced Nazi volunteers, constituent members had lived abroad and were proficient in foreign languages as well as being familiar with the way of life in the area of operations where they were deployed; the Brandenburg Division was subordinated to the army groups in individual commands and operated throughout Eastern Europe, in southern Africa, the Middle East and in the Caucasus. In the course of the war, parts of the special unit were used in the fight against partisans in Yugoslavia before the Division, in the last months of the war, was reclassified and merged into one of the Panzergrenadier divisions, they committed various atrocities in the course of their operations.
The unit was the brainchild of Hauptmann Theodor von Hippel, after having his idea rejected by the Reichswehr, approached Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, commander of the German Intelligence Service, the Abwehr. Hippel proposed that small units, trained in sabotage and fluent in foreign languages, could operate behind enemy lines and wreak havoc with the enemy's command and logistical tails. Canaris was at first against the proposal as he viewed such measures similar to what the Bolsheviks had done and was suspicious of Hippel's motives. Still determined to form the unit, Hippel looked to his section chief, Helmuth Groscurth, who supported the unit's formation and the two men conferred on the matter on 27 September 1939. Just a few days after their meeting, the Army General Staff put forth a directive authorizing the creation of "a company of saboteurs for the West." As part of the Abwehr's 2nd Department, Hippel was tasked with creating the unit. The unit Hippel assembled was named the Deutsche Kompagnie later on 25 October it became the Baulehr-kompagnie 800 and again on 10 January 1940, the unit was called the Bau-Lehr-Battalion z.b.
V. 800. Training for the men in the Brandenburg Division ranged from five to seven months and included course instruction on reconnaissance, hand-to-hand combat, marksmanship in both German and Allied weapons, conventional infantry tactics, other specialized training. Brandenburg units were deployed as small commando outfits to penetrate into enemy territory and conduct both sabotage and anti-sabotage operations. Despite their demonstrated successes while incurring minimum casualties, many traditionally minded German officers still found their use abhorrent. Most of the personnel were fluent in other languages, which allowed them, for example, to penetrate the Netherlands in 1940 disguised as Dutch barge crews. In 1941, they preceded the invasion of Yugoslavia undercover as Serbian workers. Before Operation Barbarossa began, they were operating in the Soviet Union as Soviet workers and Red Army soldiers and adorned themselves in Arab garments to conduct surveillance on Allied warships traversing between the Straits of Gibraltar and North Africa ahead of the Wehrmacht deployment there.
Correspondingly, Department II of the Abwehr, under which the Brandenburgers were subsumed, had a distinct sub-component for army and air force operations. Many of the Brandenburgers were misfits who could hardly be characterized as conventional soldiers, due in large part to the nature of their operations, they would mingle with enemy soldiers, secretly countermand orders, redirect military convoys, disrupt communications—all the while collecting intelligence along the way. Ahead of the primary invasion forces in the USSR, operatives from the Brandenburg Division seized bridges and strategically important installations in clandestine missions lasting for weeks before they linked up with advancing forces; the predecessor formation to the Brandenburg Division was the Battalion Ebbinghaus, which originated before the invasion of Poland in 1939. Colonel Erwin von Lahousen from within Department II of the Abwehr, put together small K-Trupps, which consisted of Polish-speaking Silesians and ethnic Germans, whose job it was to occupy key positions and hold them until the arrival of regular Wehrmacht units.
The first members of the "K-Trupps" were German nationals. These men were civilians who had never served in the army but were trained by the "Abwehr" and were led by army officers. After the Polish campaign, this changed. Despite their seeming lack of prior experience, the demands placed on these newly formed commandos were high, it was mandatory. They were expected to be agile, capable of improvising, endowed with initiative and team spirit competent in foreign languages and in their dealings with foreign nationals, capable of the most demanding physical performance; the early guiding principle that required members of the Division Brandenburg to be volunteers ended with their increasing use and integration with the regular army. The night before the Invasion of Poland in September 1939, small groups of German special forces dressed in civilian clothes crossed the Polish border to seize key strategic points before dawn on the day of the invasion; this made them the first special