- Panzer Corps Feldherrnhalle (Germany)
The Panzerkorps "Feldherrnhalle" was a German
panzer corpsformed mostly of SA recruits. The Panzerkorps "Feldherrnhalle" fought on the Eastern Front during the Second World War.
While the élite formations of the
Waffen SS, Luftwaffeand Heer (German Army) are generally well-studied, the formations titled "Feldherrnhalle", although just as élite in status and combat achievements, remain relatively unknown.
The "Feldherrnhalle" units were the combat formations which drew manpower from the SA, tracing their history back to the days of the 1923
Beer Hall Putsch. The Feldherrnhallewas the monument in Munichwhere the attempted coup was crushed, and the units which bore the title were considered the élite formations of the SA.
The initial unit, the "SA-Standarte Feldherrnhalle" (a "Standarte" was an organization of regimental size) was formed after the death of
Ernst Röhmon Night of the Long Knives, when the SA's position as the major paramilitaryformation of the NSDAPwas taken over by the SS. It was made up of the most promising SA men drawn from SA units all over Germany. The "Standarte" was a not a combat unit, providing guard units for SA government offices, with headquarters in Berlinand units stationed in Berlin, Hannover, Hattingen, Krefeld, Munich, Ruhr, Stettinand Stuttgart.
In March 1938, men from the "Standarte" were among the first units which marched into
Austriaduring the Anschluss. In September 1938, the "Feldherrnhalle" was placed under the control of the Wehrmacht, and the cadre of the unit was transferred to the Luftwaffe, forming the "Luftlande-Regiment" (glider infantry regiment) Feldherrnhalle, a part of the "7. Flieger-Division". The remainder of the regiment was transferred to the Heer, forming the "120. Infanterie-Regiment (mot)" of the "60. Infanterie Division (mot)" and "271. Infanterie-Regiment" of the "93. Infanterie-Division".
The cadre for the "60. Infanterie-Division" came from "Gruppe Eberhardt" (also known as "Sonderverband Danzig"). The "Gruppe" was a unit of "
Ordnungspolizei" and SA men, commanded by Friedrich-Georg Eberhardt, an SA commander. During the Invasion of Poland, "Gruppe Eberhardt" was responsible for the capture of the Danzig Post Office, defended by the Polish postal workers commanded by a reserve officer. After fierce fighting, the Polish militia retreated to the cellar, however the SA men could not capture the building. The "Gruppe" finally defeated the Poles and secured the building by forcing the Danzig Fire Brigadeto flood the cellar of the building with gasoline. When the militia surrendered, they were subjected to several days of continuous torture and humiliation and then executed.
After the Polish campaign, "Gruppe Eberhardt" was dissolved and the SA men were used to form the "60. Infanterie-Division (mot)", the majority of SA men joining the "120. Infanterie-Regiment (mot)". The division was not ready for the campaign in the West, and formed a part of the
OKHReserve during this period, being based in Lorraine (Lothringen).
In January 1941, the division was moved to
Romania. In April, the 60th took part in Operation Marita, the invasion of the Balkans and Greece. The SA formation acquitted itself well in the fighting in Serbia, and at the end of the campaign was moved back into Romania to join Army Group South, which was preparing for Operation Barbarossa. On June 1941, the division crossed the Soviet border and began the advance towards Crimeaand eventually Rostov on Don. During the blitzkriegcampaign, the division again performed superbly, advancing as a part of "Panzergruppe 1". By the end of the campaign, the division had taken part in the capture of Rostov-on-Don before the Army Group was ordered to abandon the city and form defensive lines for the winter. Over the winter of 1941-1942 the division managed to hold its position despite terrible conditions and ceaseless Soviet counterattacks.
In 1942, the division took part in
Fall Blau, the advance through the Don Basintowards Stalingrad. As a part of "Generaloberst" Paulus' "6. Armee", the division was involved in heavy fighting during the Battle of Stalingrad. When Soviet offensives encircled Paulus' Army, the division continued resisting the Soviets until the final collapse of the German defense in February 1943.
The remnants of the division which had been on leave or convalescing were ordered to the south of France to begin reforming the division, to be upgraded as a
panzergrenadierdivision and redesignated "60. Panzergrenadier-Division Feldherrnhalle".
The 271st Regiment fought with distinction during the
Battle of France, taking part in the assaults on the Maginot Lineand advancing south, crossing the SeilleRiver and the Meurthe Riverin Alsace-Lorraine. The regiment ended the campaign on the Moselle Riverbetween Nancyand Epinal, advancing south where it ended near the region of the River Moselle between Nancy and Epinal on June 25th, 1940. The "93. Infanterie-Division" was stationed on the French Coast after the capitulation of France.
In March 1941, the regiment, along with the rest of the "93. Infanterie-Division", was ordered to the east to take part in
Operation Barbarossa. The division was to form a part of Army Group North, tasked with advancing on Leningrad. After the launch of the offensive on 22 June 1941, the regiment distinguished itself in heavy fighting during the advance.At the end of the campaign, the division was stationed near Leningrad, and over the winter of 1941-1942 saw heavy fighting against fierce Sovietcounterattacks.
The division remained in combat near Leningrad throughout 1942. In August, the regiment was granted the title "Feldherrnhalle" in honour of the outstanding performance it had shown during the battles in France and Russia. The regiment was redesignated "271. Grenadier-Regiment Feldherrnhalle". The regiment remained in action on the Northern front, fighting at the siege of
Cholmand the Battle of Velikiye Luki. In the summer of 1943, the "Feldherrnhalle" regiment was withdrawn from the division and sent back to Southern France to form join the remnants of the "120. Infanterie-Regiment (mot)" which were in the process of reforming the "60. Infanterie-Division (mot)" as the "60. Panzergrenadier-Division Feldherrnhalle".
Vitebsk - Narva - Byelorussia
The new division spent the rest of the year forming and training in Southern France. In November, all the divisional units had their numbers removed and were granted the title "Feldherrnhalle". The "271. Grenaider-Regiment Feldherrnhalle" formed the Grenadier-Regiment "Feldherrnhalle" and the reformed "120. Grenadier-Regiment Feldherrnhalle" became "Füsilier-Regiment Feldherrnhalle". In December, the division was ordered back to the eastern front, to join the Third Panzer Army which was involved in heavy fighting near
Vitebskin Belorussia. Arriving in early January 1944, the division fought exceptionally during the fierce battles around the city.
After executing a fighting withdrawal through Belorussia, the division was air-lifted via
Tartuairport to the Narvafront, where the "III. SS Panzerkorps" was involved in heavy fighting for the bridgehead over the Narva river. The division remained in combat on the Narva front, distinguishing itself in what would be known as the Battle of the European SS.
In May, the division was ordered south to bolster the forces of
Army Group Centre, engaged near Mogilevand Orscha. With the launch of the Soviet Operation Bagrationin June 1944, the division was pushed back towards Minsk, where it was encircled. In late July, after heavy resistance and several failed breakout attempts, the division was annihilated near the city.
Reformation - Debrecen - Hungary
Again, all members of the division who had been absent were ordered to begin reforming, this time near
Warthelager. Assembly of the division began in September, 1944. Concurrently, the formation of several new "Feldherrnhalle" formations began.
"106. Panzer-Brigade Feldherrnhalle"
The "106. Panzer-Brigade Feldherrnhalle" was formed from a cadre of SA men. The 106th boasted a strong consignment of the latest Panther ausf. G tanks, a fully mechanised Panzergrenadier battalion and a company of the brand new Jagdpanzer IV/70s. The brigade was sent into action in Alsace-Lorraine against the American forces of General Patton's
US Third Army. The 106th fought well during the withdrawal into Germany. On 6 April 1945, the remnants of the brigade were assigned to the ad-hoc "Panzer-Division Clausewitz". The brigade's survivors surrendered to the Americans on May 8, 1945.
"110. Panzer-Brigade Feldherrnhalle"
The "110. Panzer-Brigade Feldherrnhalle" was the second "Feldherrnhalle" panzer brigade. Formed from a cadre of SA men, the 110th was strongly equipped with a battalion of Panthers and a battalion of mechanised infantry. The 110th was sent to Romania, where it supported the forces of Army Group South Ukraine during the withdrawal into Hungary. The brigade, along with the reformed "Panzergrenadier-Division Feldherrnhalle" took part in the
Battle of Debrecenin October 1944, acquitting itself well. During these battles, the 110th fought alongside the "13. Panzer-Division". In November 1944, the brigade was disbanded and absorbed into the "13. Panzer-Division". As a result, the "13. Panzer-Division" was renamed "13.Panzer-Division Feldherrnhalle".
The "Panzergrenadier-Division Feldherrnhalle" was only partially formed by September 1944, when it was ordered to the front in Hungary to strengthen "Armeegruppe Fretter-Pico", which was threatening to collapse in the face of a major soviet offensive near
Oradeaand Debrecen. The division, in truth only the size of a brigade, was committed to battle in mid-October, and ordered to hold a major crossing point on the Tisza River. When the Soviet spearhead threatened to encircle several panzer divisions near Debrecen, the division was thrown into battle in an ultimately successful attempt to cut off and annihilate the Soviet units. During the following battle, the division fought alongside both the "13. Panzer-Division Feldherrnhalle" and "schwere-Panzer-Abteilung 503" ("sPzAbt 503") for the first time.
After enjoying major success of the
Battle of Debrecen, the division fought in co-operation with "sPzAbt 503" and was soon involved in the withdrawal towards Budapest. The Panzergrenadier Division, "sPzAbt 503" and the "13. Panzer-Division Feldherrnhalle", by now exhausted and dangerously understrength, were pushed back into the city. On December 21, 1944, "sPzAbt 503" was renamed "schwere-Panzer-Abteilung Feldherrnhalle".
On December 31, the three formations were encircled along with "IX. SS-Gebirgskorps". For the next month, the "Feldherrnhalle" units desperately held out for rescue. After the failure of
Operation Konrad, "Armeegruppe Balck's" rescue attempts, the pocket collapsed and the divisions were destroyed on February 12, 1945. Among those to escape the pocket was a group of several hundred "Feldherrnhalle" men.
After the annihilation of three "Feldherrnhalle" units in Budapest, plans were made to not only reform the three units, but also for the creation of a Panzer Corps, along the lines of the "Panzerkorps Großdeutschland" or the "Fallschirm-Panzerkorps Hermann Göring".
The survivors of the encirclement, along with large numbers of new SA recruits, were formed into three new units. The remnants of the "Panzergrenadier-Division Feldherrnhalle" became "Panzer-Division Feldherrnhalle 1". Although not a full strength division, the unit was equipped with the latest equipment and well trained.
The "13. Panzer-Division Feldherrnhalle" became "Panzer-Division Feldherrnhalle 2". This division was virtually identical to the "Feldherrnhalle 1". It was commanded by the ace panzer commander "Generalmajor" Dr. Franz Bäke.
The remnants of the "sPzAbt Feldherrnhalle" were reformed, although the detachment never reached its former strength.
The corps was activated at the end of February, with most of the combat units being sent into action at the end of March 1945.The corps executed a fighting withdrawal towards
Viennaand then into southern Austria. Over the last months of the war, the corps saw heavy fighting and acquitted itself well. By the beginning of May 1945, the shattered remnants of the corps broke up and attempted to reach the American lines, where they surrendered on 9 May 1945.
Otto Kohlermann(? June 1943 - 3 Apr 1944)
Friedrich-Carl von Steinkeller(3 Apr 1944 - 8 July 1944)
Günther Pape(8 July 1944 - ? Nov 1944)
*General der Panzertruppen Ulrich von Kleemann (27 Nov 1944 - 8 May 1945)
Orders of Battle
"60. Panzergrenadier-Division Feldherrnhalle" - October 1944 -
Battle of Debrecen
*"Artillerie Regiment Feldherrnhalle"
"Panzer-Division Feldherrnhalle 1" - February 1945, Budapest
"Panzerkorps Feldherrnhalle" - March 1945, Hungary
*"Panzer-Division Feldherrnhalle 1"
*"Panzer-Division Feldherrnhalle 2"
* Sanchez, Alfonso Escuadra - Feldherrnhalle: Forgotten Elite
* [http://www.axishistory.com Axis History Factbook]
* [http://www.feldgrau.com German Armed Forces 1919-1945]
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