The 707th Infantry Division, also known as the 707th Security Division, was a German Army division of World War II. It was formed in May 1941, and destroyed by the Red Army in June 1944. The unit was mainly used as a rear-security division in German-occupied areas of the Soviet Union, and was responsible for large-scale war crimes including the deaths of thousands of Jewish civilians.
The 707th Infantry Division was raised at Munich on 2 May 1941, and subsequently undertook training in the region. Historian Ben H. Shepherd described the unit as "an extremely substandard division of the fifteenth wave" to be raised by the German Army during the war, with its personnel being "overaged, undertrained and underequipped". The 707th Infantry Division was also much smaller than the standard size of German infantry divisions, comprising just 5,000 soldiers. All of the division's initial officers, other than its commanding officer until February 1943, Major General Gustav von Bechtolsheim, were reservists. Most soldiers in the division were aged over 30, and the officers were typically even older. Major General von Bechtolsheim and his operations officer were deeply committed Nazis.
In August 1941, the 707th Infantry Division was deployed to the Eastern Front to undertake security duties in the occupied regions of the Soviet Union behind Army Group Centre's front lines. In October 1941, personnel of the division conducted public hangings of resistance members in Minsk, including that of 17-year-old Jewish nurse Masha Bruskina. The 707th Infantry Division and attached Order Police units murdered over 10,000 individuals, most of whom were Jews, in Belorussia between October and November 1941. Almost all of the division's officers and enlisted personnel willingly took part in these killings; the small number who refused were only lightly punished. This operation was initiated by von Bechtolsheim, who issued orders explicitly calling for the "annihilation" and "extermination" of Jews. Very few other German Army units undertook similar killings.
The 707th Infantry Division continued to undertake security duties in German-occupied areas of the Soviet Union for the remainder of 1941 and throughout 1942 and 1943. During the spring and early summer of 1942 the division conducted a so-called "anti-partisan operation" designated Operation Bamberg in which more than 4,000 Soviet citizens – the majority of whom were civilian farmers – were killed. Shepherd has written that while other German security divisions also killed large numbers of civilians during such operations, the 707th Infantry Division had the worst record. Historian Jeff Rutherford made a similar comparison, labelling the 707th "infamous".
From January 1944 the 707th Infantry Division was used as a front-line unit in defensive roles. On 23 June, at the start of the major Soviet Operation Bagration offensive, it formed part of Army Group Centre's reserve. Later in June the division was encircled and destroyed by Soviet forces near Bobruisk. It was formally disbanded on 3 August 1944.
The 707th Infantry Division comprised the following units throughout its existence:
- 727th Infantry Regiment
- 747th Infantry Regiment
- 657th Artillery Battalion
- 707th Engineer Company
- 707th Signal Company
- 707th Divisional Supply Troops
- Works consulted
- Adair, Paul (2000). Hitler's Greatest Defeat: The Collapse of Army Group Centre, June 1944. London: Cassell & Co. ISBN 030435449X.
- Bonn, Keith E., ed. (2005). Slaughterhouse: The Handbook of the Eastern Front. Bedford, PA: Aberjona Press. ISBN 097176509X.
- Hastings, Max (2015). The Secret War: Spies, Codes and Guerrillas 1939–1945. London: William Collins. ISBN 9780007503919.
- Longerich, Peter (2007). Holocaust: The Nazi Persecution and Murder of the Jews. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0192804367.
- Marston, Daniel; Malkasian, Carter, eds. (2011). Counterinsurgency in Modern Warfare. London: Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 1849086435.
- Mitcham, Samuel W. (2007). German Order of Battle: 291st–999th Infantry Divisions, Named Infantry Divisions, and Special Divisions in WWII. Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania: Stackpole Books. ISBN 0811748448.
- Nafziger, George. "Organizational History of 371st through 719th German Infantry, Security and Panzer Grenadier Divisions 1939-1945" (PDF). The Nafziger Collection of Orders of Battle. US Army Combined Arms Research Library. Retrieved 27 August 2016.
- Rutherford, Jeff (2014). Combat and Genocide on the Eastern Front. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 1107055717.
- Shepherd, Ben H. (2004). War in the Wild East the German Army and Soviet Partisans. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0674043553.
- Shepherd, Ben H. (2016). Hitler's Soldiers: The German Army in the Third Reich. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press. ISBN 0300179030.