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Security Divisions (German: Sicherungs-Divisionen) were German rear-area military units engaged in Nazi security warfare during World War II.
History and organization
The Wehrmacht security divisions were set up at the beginning of 1941 and were intended to perform policing, security and counter-insurgency duties in the rear of the main German field armies, under the direction of the respective army rear area command, or Korück. They were organised from divisions initially raised in the 3rd wave of mobilisation, these being former Landwehr divisions largely manned by second-line reservists.
As Rear Security Divisions they were not well equipped like front line troops, some of the divisions started out as infantry divisions but once they were assigned to rear security, their heavy weapons were sent off to be used by front line troops.
Security divisions were often made up of soldiers from the reserve and in 1942 Landeschützen (territorial guard) troops. Police battalions were also part of the divisions, which were supposed to be provided with one standard regiment of troops, plus an artillery detachment, as a 'strike force', though in practice this was often used for frontline duty as local conditions demanded. In many cases, the Security Divisions also included battalions of Ukrainian, Russian or French soldiers as well as a unit of captured foreign tanks. Their exact organisation varied widely between individual formations and during the course of the war (see the 286th Security Division for example).
Many of the Security Divisions were thrown into frontline service during the major Soviet offensives of 1944, such as Operation Bagration, and destroyed in the process. Some were rebuilt as standard infantry divisions due to the chronic manpower shortages of the Wehrmacht in this period.
The Security Divisions of the Wehrmacht were responsible for a large number of war crimes and in many cases for systematic programmes of repression against the civilian population. This occurred most notably on the Eastern Front, particularly in the rear areas of Army Group Centre, where they acted with extreme brutality. The British historian Ian Kershaw concludes that the Wehrmacht's duty was to ensure that the people who met Hitler's requirements of being part of the Aryan Herrenvolk ("Aryan master race") had living space. He wrote that:
The Nazi revolution was broader than just the Holocaust. Its second goal was to eliminate Slavs from central and eastern Europe and to create a Lebensraum for Aryans. ... As Bartov (The Eastern Front; Hitler's Army) shows, it barbarised the German armies on the eastern front. Most of their three million men, from generals to ordinary soldiers, helped exterminate captured Slav soldiers and civilians. This was sometimes cold and deliberate murder of individuals (mostly Jews), sometimes generalised brutality and neglect. German soldiers' letters and memoirs reveal their terrible reasoning: Slavs were 'the Asiatic-Bolshevik' horde, an inferior but threatening race
Several high-ranking Wehrmacht officers, including Hermann Hoth, Georg von Küchler, Georg-Hans Reinhardt, Karl von Roques, Walter Warlimont and others, were convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity at the High Command Trial given sentences ranging from time served to life. During World War II, the German military helped fulfill Nazism's racial, political, and territorial ambitions. Long after the war, a myth persisted claiming the German military (or Wehrmacht) was not involved in the Holocaust and other crimes associated with Nazi genocidal policy. This belief is untrue. The German military participated in many aspects of the Holocaust: in supporting Hitler, in the use of forced labor, and in the mass murder of Jews and other groups targeted by the Nazis.
The military’s complicity extended not only to the generals and upper leadership but also to the rank and file. In addition, the war and genocidal policy were inextricably linked. The German army (or Heer) was the most complicit as a result of being on the ground in Germany’s eastern campaigns, but all branches participated.
List of Security divisions
All the Security Divisions with the exemption of the 325th were on the Eastern front.
- Bartov, Omer. Hitler's Army: Soldiers, Nazis, and War in the Third Reich, OUP, 1992. ISBN 978-0195079036
- Gerlach, Christian. Kalkulierte Morde, 2000. ISBN 978-3930908639
- Shepherd, Ben. War in the Wild East: The German Army and Soviet Partisans, Harvard University Press, 2004. ISBN 978-0674012967
- ^ a b c Williamson, Gordon. (2014). German security and police soldier 1939-45. Osprey Pub. p. 15. ISBN 9781782000075. OCLC 869386216.
- ^ In addition to evidence given in accounts of individual actions, Gerlach (in Kalkulierte Morde) and others have shown that the number of people reported killed in supposed "anti-partisan operations" consistently exceeded the number of weapons actually recovered by a factor of up to ten (Gerlach, pp.957-8), suggesting that the majority of those killed were, in fact, unarmed civilians.
- ^ Kershaw, Professor of Modern History Ian; Kershaw, Ian; Lewin, Moshe (1997-04-28). Stalinism and Nazism: Dictatorships in Comparison. Cambridge University Press. p. 150. ISBN 9780521565219.
- ^ "THE GERMAN HIGH COMMAND TRIAL" (PDF).
- ^ "High Command Trial (1947-1948)". www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org. Retrieved 2019-03-15.
- ^ Bradley, Sharon. "LibGuides: Phillips Nuremberg Trials Collection: Trial 12 - High Command Case". libguides.law.uga.edu. Retrieved 2019-03-15.
- ^ "The German Military and the Holocaust".
- ^ Stepherd, Ben H. (2017). Hitler's soldiers : the German Army in the Third Reich. Yale University Press. p. 174. ISBN 9780300228809. OCLC 1001820837.