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Glossary of German Military Terms and Abbreviations by Jason Pipes
This glossary contains hundreds of German terms related to the armed forces of Germany during the WWII era. This glossary has been compiled from numerous sources and was written especially with the military historian in mind. If you notice terms that are missing or incorrect please contact the webmaster.
[A] [B] [C] [D] [E] [F] [G] [H] [I] [J] [K] [L] [M] [N] [O] [P] [Q] [R] [S] [T] [U] [V] [W] [X] [Y] [Z]
Ia (1. Generalstabsoffizier): 1st General Staff Officer in the tactical detachment of a Division HQ. The Ia, otherwise known as the Chief of Operations, dealt with all areas of the command and tactical control of the units of a Division as well as areas of leadership, training, transport, housing, air-raid protection, evaluation, presentation of combat options to the commander, and also stood in as the commander when the commander himself was not available.
Ib (2. Generalstabsoffizier): 2nd General Staff Officer in the supply group of a Division HQ. The Ib was responsible for the supply of an entire Division and all matters of supply, movement of supplies, rations, ammo, etc, and the movement of wounded and prisoners. The Ib also was in charge of the movement of supply trains, deployment of construction facilities, traffic regualtion, and air-raid protection in the areas of the back-line services of a Division.
Ic (3. Generalstabsoffizier): 3rd General Staff Officer in the tactical detachment of a Division HQ. The Ic, otherwise known as the Chief Intelligence Officer, was responsible for all matters that dealt with intelligence. He was in charge of gathering and presenting as much data on the enemey as possible by using as many means as feesible. All intelligence information was then used by the other members of the Division staff to plan and execute combat and movement operations. This made the position of Ic very important to the operations of the unit as a whole. The Ic also was in charge of the discipline and spiritual guidance of the men of a Division.
IIa (Adjutant): The Division Adjutant, generally in the personnel group of a Division HQ. The IIa took care of all matters dealing with replacements, personnel matters of officers such as promotions, decorations, punishments, etc, as well as the rosters, war rolls, and lists of losses for a Division.
A.K. (Armeekorps): Army Corps, see below.
A.O.K. (Armeeoberkommando): Army Korps, see below.
Abschnitt [plural: Abschnitte]: Depending on its usage, this term could mean Regiment in which it was mainly used for border troops, or it could refer roughly to a district or sector. Abschnitt was originally a deceptive term originating from the time of the Treaty of Versailles to hide the fact that Germany had combat capable border troops in addition to the units allowed by the treaty. There was also an Abschnittkommando which controlled several Abschnitte and supposedly could operate like a Division but in practice was mainly administrative in nature.
Abschnittkommando: A divisional-sized administrative unit that controlled a number of regimental-sized border units.
Absichtspfeil: A tactical term generally meaning intended direction of movement of a unit in combat.
Abt. (Abteilung): Battalion, see below.
Abteilung [plural: Abteilungen]: Depending on its usage this term could mean detachment, department or battalion. The vast majority of the time Abteilung meant battalion. Abteilung was used for battalion-sized units in the Panzer, Kavallerie and Artillerie branches. Well known exceptions to the word meaning battalion were Armee-Abteilung and Korps-Abteilung in which army detachment and corps detachment were the meanings respectively.
Abw. (Abwehr): Defense, see below.
Abwehr: Defense; also relating to the secret German military security group.
Abwehrkampfe: Defensive combat.
Alarmeinheiten: Alarm units. The term alarm unit was used in several contexts. The most common were ad hoc units assembled by rear area support units and training units to respond to local emergencies such as airborne landings, amphibious assaults, local uprisings, and partisan activities. For example, a supply battalion might be tasked with forming one or two emergency units, generally of Kompanie size, from available personnel and weapons to help combat a local breakthough or partisan uprising. The unit might be sent to a pre-designated assembly area where it would link up with other alarm units. There they might be provided with additional equipment if available and then moved forward as a separate unit or attached to a larger combat unit as an augmentation. Alarm units were certainly not meant to be longstanding units nor did they have any special or elite status, they were in fact units generally formed as stop-gap measures.
Amt: Office or department (as in Auswärtiges Amt, or Foreign Office).
Arfü (Artillerieführer): Artillery Officer, see below.
Arko (Artilleriekommandeur): Artillery Commander, see below.
Armee [plural: Armeen]: Army. An organizational formation made up of Korps units (such as Armeekorps, Panzerkorps, etc).
Armee-Abt. (Armee-Abteilung): Army Detachment, see below.
Armee-Abteilung [plural: Armee-Abteilungen]: Army Detachment. Usually larger than a single Korps but smaller than a full Armee. Sometimes formed by grouping Korps in an Armee together. Armee-Abteilung Narwa consisted of the Korps of the 18.Armee along the Narva River north of Lake Peipus, while the Korps south of Lake Peipus reported directly to the 18.Armee. These formations were sometimes formed in emergencies, such as when the Soviets broke though a line and a Korps HQ in the area became the controlling HQ for all forces sent to stem the tide (such as Armee-Abteilung Hollidt).
Armeegruppe [plural: Armeegruppen]: Army Group. By 1943 these were usually two or three adjacent Armeen, possibly but not always one German and one Axis-allied, with one of the Armee HQs (usually the German) temporarily placed in command over the others. An Armeegruppe was always subordinate to the local Heeresgruppe. Before late 1943 the term Armeegruppe had a less defined meaning, and could mean an Armee sized grouping (Panzergruppe 2 was reinforced in August 1941 and was called Armeegruppe Guderian) or even a Korps sized unit (such as Armeegruppe Felber).
Armeekorps: Corps. An organizational formation generally containing two or more Divisionen plus any attached units and formations, units in reserve, and its own organic units. Korps served at the operational level directing the local and regional actions of their core units. In theory a Korps could have between 40,000 and 60,000 men within its ranks.
Armee-Nachrichten-Führer: Army Signals Officer, served on the staff HQ of an Armee.
Armee-Pionier-Führer: Army Engineer Officer, served on the staff HQ of an Armee.
Artillerie-Führer: Artillery Commander. The General Staff officer in charge of coordinating Korps level artillery and also a Korps level numbered HQ used to control artillery assets. Used earlier in WWII, see also Artillerie-Führer.
Artillerie-Kommandeur: Artillery Commander. The General Staff officer in charge of coordinating Korps level artillery and also a Korps level numbered HQ used to control artillery assets. Used for most of WWII.
Auffrischung: Refresh, as in to refresh a unit after a period of combat.
Aufgestellt: To form, formed, as in to form a unit.
Batl. (Bataillon): Battalion, see below.
Bataillon [plural: Bataillone]: Battalion. An organizational formation made of Kompanien and usually attached to a Regiment.
Batterie [plural: Batterien]: Battery. An organizational equal to a Kompanie but used in place of that term for units of similar size but composed of artillery or anti-aircraft weapons. An Infanterie-Bataillon was composed of 3 or 4 Infanterie-Kompanien while an Artillerie-Abteilung was made up of 3 or 4 Artillerie-Batterien.
Baupionier: Construction Engineers.
Beabsichtigen: Intended, as in the intended movement or action of a unit.
Befehlshaber der: Commander of…
Bereitstellungraum: Assembly area of a unit.
Bewährung: Punitive or probation. When speaking of units this type of unit Bewährung-Bataillon was used as a punishment unit for soldiers guilty of serious violations of German military law. If a soldier broke a military law, disobyed an order or otherwise was found guilty of a crime or criminal act he could be sent to this type of unit. If he served well and survived he could be rehabilitated back to a regular unit after a set amount of time.
Bodenständige: Static. Used as an adjective (and not capitalized when used) to indicate a unit was not fully field-mobile.
Brigade [plural: Brigaden]: Brigade. Same in German as in English. An organizational unit usually made up of 2 or more Regimenter. A Brigade sized unit could serve either as an independent unit or as an organic part of a Division. Early in the war many Divisionen consisted of one or more Brigaden, each consisting of a number of Regimenter along with the usual attached and organic units. During the war most all German Divisionen did away with this formation and they were later most often found serving on an independent basis. Sometimes they served as an organic part of a Korps in place of a Division.
Brückenbau: Bridge building. Also refers to a type of unit known as Bridging Engineers.
Chef des Generalstabes: The Chief of General Staff.
Division [plural: Divisionen]: Division. Same in German as in English. An organizational unit generally made up of 2 or 3 Regimenter and usually controlled by a Korps. In theory a Division would have had between 10,000 and 20,000 men within its ranks and they served at the operational level. There were many types of Divisionen formed before and during WWII, including the Infanterie-Division, Panzer-Division, Gebirgs-Division, etc. A German division during WWII had three main groupings within its larger structure, the divisional staff, the combat elements and the back-line services. The divisional staff was the brains of the unit being responsible for all higher level decisions, command and control and coordination with other units around it and was subordinated to. The combat elements were the most important being as they were responsible for the actual fighting ability of a Division. The back-line services were just as important being responsible for the support and supply of the combat elements in every way possible including all areas of food, water, clothing, rear area transport, medical, dental, postal, etc.
Durchbruckskampfe: Breakthrough combat.
Einheit: Detachment or unit.
Einmarsch: To march into, as in the unit marched into Paris.
Evangelischer Kriegspfarrer: Evangelical Priest, served on the general staff of Armeegruppen, Armeen, Korps, and Disivionen withinin the Personnel Group.
Fahrtruppen: Fast Troops.
Fallschirm: Parachute. Often used in conjunction with other unit types such as Fallschrimjäger.
Fallschrimjäger: Paratroop units.
Feld: Field. Sometimes used to designate certain rear-area units when they were deployed in the combat zone (although usually for security and not for combat). Also used to describe certain combat units such as Luftwaffenn-Feld-Divisonen.
Feldausbildungseinheit: Field Training Unit.
Feldgendarmerie: Field Police.
Feldkommandantur [plural: Feldkommandanturen]: Field Command unit. Equivalent roughly to a Regiment in size and importance but used for security purposes in occupied territory. See also Oberfeldkommandantur.
Feldlazarett: Field Hospital.
Fl. (Flieger): Flyer.
Fla (Fliegerabwehr): Literally air defense. In practice used to mean a light anti-aircraft unit or weapon, such as with a Fliegerabwehr-Abteilung. See also Flak.
Flak (Fliegerabwehrkanone): Anti-aircraft, see below.
Fliegerabwehr-Abteilung: Anti-aircraft battalion.
Fliegerabwehrkanone: Literally, anti-aircraft gun. The term Flak became known specifically to mean anything shot into the air in an air defense role against enemy air units. Originally Fla units mostly consisted of anti-airctaft machine guns while Flak units consisted of much larger-caliber guns.
Freiwillige: Volunteer. Used mainly by the Waffen-SS to denote units composed of foreign volunteers. For a time it was applied to non-German but Germanic volunteers (e.g., Norwegians, Danes, etc.), but was later applied to denote non-Germanic units (Ukrainians, etc.) as well. Nearly 2,000,000 foreigners served within the German armed forces during WWII, most from the regions of the former Soviet Union.
Fusilier: An historic German term often used to refer to heavy infantry units, original refering to the type of weapon carried of the same name. During WWII used to name infantry formations with some recon abilities that replaced an infantry division’s recon battalion mid-war when the Germans reduced the number of standard infantry battalions in their divisions from 9 to 6. See also Grenadier.
Granatwerfer: Mortar, literally grenade thrower.
Gefecht: Combat action.
Gegenstoß: Counter-thrust, as in a combat manauver.
Geheime Feldpolizei: Secret Field Police.
Grabenkrieg: Trench warfare.
Grenadier: An historic German term often used to refer to heavy infantry units, originally refering to the task and type of weapon carried, in this case hand thrown explosives (now known as grenades). Early in WWII used to refer to certain units to signify their elite status. On 15th October 1942 all German regular infantry regiments were renamed as Grenadier-Regimenter in the hopes of increasing their morale by establishing links to their elite counter-part units of the past. Grenadier was also used later in WWII to refer to the basic level of German soldier in an infantry unit. Instead of simply being a Gefreiter one became a Grenadier. Other resurrected historic terms were Fusilier Jäger and Musketier.
Generalkommando: General Headquarters.
Generalstab des Heeres: Army General Staff.
Grenzschutz: Border Defense.
Grenzschutz-Abschnitt: Border Defense Regiment.
Grenzewacht: Border watch.
Gruppe [plural: Gruppen]: Group.
Handelsmarine: German merchant marine.
Harko (Höherer Artillerie-Kommandeur): Higher Artillery Commander, see below.
Höherer Artillerie-Kommandeur: Higher Artillery Commander. The General Staff officer in charge of coordinating Armee level artillery and also an Armee level numbered HQ used to control artillery assets. Used later in WWII.
Heer: Army. The regular German Army. Began formation in 1933, announced to the world in 1935, disbanded in August of 1946 by the Allies.
Heeresgruppe [plural: Heeresgruppen]: Army Group. An organizational formation made up of a number of Armeen. The largest single German ground formation to see service during WWII. Usually consisted of hundreds of various units and upwards of a few hundred thousand men, all of which operated in a far ranging geographic region of the front at the strategic level. An example would be Heeresgruppe Afrika which controlled all units fighting in North Afrika at the time of its formation in 1943.
Hilfswillige: Auxiliary Volunteers. After the invasion of the USSR, many thousands of Soviet citizens volunteered to fight the Soviet regime. At first, the German government refused to use them, but later relented (no doubt in the face of mounting casualties) and allowed the German Army to use them in non-combat roles. Hilfswillige served as auxiliaries to the front line troops on various support tasks such as construction or carrying ammo.
Himmelfahrts Kommando: Literally translated means Journey-to-heaven-mission and describes any operation with extremely high risk, although not necessarily suicidal. This colloquialism was sometimes used in civil connotation such as for mine or bomb clearing work. The term is in reference to a specific type of mission and not to a unit type although members of penal units were often sent on these types of missions. Generally in the ranks of the Wehrmacht this black-humor term was understood to mean a mission where the chances of survival were very low. Examples were rearguard actions of small groups to cover the retreat of a larger unit by holding a position and delaying the enemy for as long as possible until it usually was too late for their own withdrawal, or a reconnaissance and commando raid far behind enemy lines.
Hochgebirgs: High mountains. Usually in reference to specialist units trained in high mountain warfare and survivial.
Jäger: If used in conjunction with other unit types it indicated the infantry component of that general type, such as Fallschirmjäger, Gebirgsjäger or Skijäger. When used in its hunting sense jäger did not necessarily imply infantry. Thus Panzerjäger meant anti-tank or tank hunter and not armored infantry. Also refers to a term put into use in 1942 to help boost the morale of light infantry units. See also Grenadier.
Jagd: Hunt, hunting. Often used in conjunction with another term to signify a units role. Also applied to weapons. A Jagdtiger was the special tank hunter/ambush version of the Tiger tank.
Jagd-Kommando: Literally, a Hunting Command. Generally refers to a commando outfit that, when the enemy overran an occupied area, would remain behind enemy lines and carry out sabotage and other guerrilla actions. These units did not generlaly operate as such and were taken over by the SS and used as front line combat troops in 1944-45.
Katholischer Kriegspfarrer: Catholic Priest. Served on the general staff of Armeegruppen, Amreen, Korps, and Disivionen withinin the Personnel Group or Adjutantur staff position.
Kosaken: Cossack. Usually but not always a cavalry unit. Formed from Russian Cossacks fighting along side Germany.
Kettenkrad: Tracked motorcycle.
Kompanie [plural: Kompanien]: Company. A Kompanie consisted of a number of Züge and made up the basis for Abteilungnen and Bataillonen. They served at the tactical level and would consist of between 100 and 200 men.
Kommandeur [plural: Kommandeure]: Commander. Typically the person commanding a unit such as a Divisionskommandeur. Other uses were rare except in the artillery branch. An Artillerie-Kommandeur or Arko was a numbered HQ used to control artillery assets at Korps level. Some were also called Artillerie-Führer for a short period in the war. Later in the war Höherer Artillerie-Kommandeur or Harko were created to control artillery assets at the Armee level.
Kommando [plural: Kommandos]: Multiple meanings – a command in the sense of a geographical area of authority. A headquarters; the HQ of an army group was a Heeresgruppe Kommando, an Army HQ was an Armeeoberkommando, etc. German Korps came in several varieties, of which a Generalkommando was a general corps HQ and a Höhere Kommando was a higher corps HQ formed from former Grenzschutz-Abschnitt-Kommandos established after the Polish campaign. The Höhere Kommando was supposedly for positional or static troops but by mid war there was little difference between it and a regular field corps. A “detail” or some small ad hoc formation (e.g., Latrinenkommando was slang for an outhouse cleaning squad).
Korps [plural: Korps]: Corps, see Armee-Korps above.
Korps-Abteilung [plural: Korps-Abteilungen]: Corps Detachment. Later in WWII on the Eastern Front the Germans took to grouping sets of three burnt-out divisions (each about regimental strength at the time) into a Korps-Abteiling equivalent in size to an actual division. It was called a Korps-Abteilung because upon formation it was hoped that the original units could eventually be rebuilt. As the war ground on without respite it was realized that all these divisions would never again be rebuilt so they were simply redesignated using a divisional number from one of their original components.
Krad (Kraft-Radfahrzeug): Motorcycle.
Kradschützen: Motorcycle unit or soldier.
Kriegesgefangen: Prisoner of War.
Kriegsmarine: The German navy.
Kriegstagebuch: Unit war diary.
Kolonne: Column. An independent transportation unit varying from company to platoon in size and used for transporting equipment or supplies, such as a bridge column or light infantry column (which consisted of a set number of horse-drawn vehicles capable of transporting a fixed tonnage).
Landesschützen: Territorial units. In effect second-rate infantry used as security troops in occupied areas or mobilized as home defense towards the end of WWII.
Landwehr: Territorial army. In effect second-rate infantry mostly absrorbed or disbanded by the time war broke out in 1939.
Landsturm: Third-class infantry equivalent somewhat to militia. See also Volkssturm.
Legion [plural: Legionen]: Legion. Often used for units comprised of foreigners in German service. Used by both the German Army and Waffen-SS. A Legion had no fixed size and usually ranged in size from a battalion to a brigade.
leicht: Light. Often used as an adjective (and not capitalized as such) to indicate a unit was a lighter version of a particular type. A leichte Division was a motorized and lightly armored formation.
Luftlande: Air Landing.
Luftwaffe: Airforce. The German airforce.
Marine: Naval. Of the Kriegsmarine. For ground units often used with other unit terms such as Marine-Infanterie and Marine-Schützen. German naval infantry units were not elite ground troops like the US or British Marines, but were sailors and other naval personnel the German Navy no longer needed by late 1944.
Motorisiert: Motorizied. Often used as an adjective (and not capitalized as such) to indicate a unit was equiped with significant wheeled transport.
Musketier: An historic German term often used to refer to heavy infantry units, original refering to the task and type of weapon carried of the same name. During WWII used to refer to armored infantry units. Rarely used. See also Grenadier.
Nebel: Literally means fog. Used to refer to smoke. During WWII originally used to describe chemical warfare and smoke defense units. Later in WWII used to refer to rocker launcher units containing rocket propelled artillery. See also Nebelwerfer.
Nebelwerfer: Rocket Artillery. Nebelwerfer was originally a term for a chemical smoke mortar. Nebel units were subsequently used for rocket artillery since chemical warfare was not being waged and also as a deception to hide the appearance of a new weapon from enemy espionage. For a time earlier in WWII a Nebel unit could either be a 10-cm chemical mortar unit or a rocket artillery unit.
Oberfeldkommandantur [plural: Oberfeldkommandanturen]: High Field Command. Equivalent roughly to a division in importance and used for security purposes in occupied territory as a territorial organization controlling various security assets (Feldkommandturen) in its assigned area. They could function somewhat like a field unit in emergencies situations.
Oberbefehlshaber: Theater Commander. Not a combat formation – served far ranging strategic regions by controlling all troops in a major geographic area. Usually (but not always) controlled two or more army groups. Sometimes an army group HQ was simultaneously an Oberbefehlshaber.
Osttruppen: Eastern Troops. Initially the Germans refused to arm Soviet citizens who volunteered to fight the Soviet regime after the inital German inviasion in 1941. Later in the war as German casualties continued to soar the offical German stand changed Eastern Troop units were formed enmasse. Eastern Troop technically is not a unit type (although there were infantry and cavalry Eastern Troop units), but in effect it was used as such. An Ost Bataillon meant an infantry battalion of Eastern Troops. See also Hilfswillige
Pak (Panzerabwehrkanone): Anti-tank gun, see below.
Panzerabwehrkanone: Anti-tank gun. The term was mostly used at the tactical level to describe various calibres of defensive and offensive anti-tank weapons.
Panzer: Armor or armored. Refers to German tanks and tank units. When used in combination with other unit types (except for anti-tank units), signifies that the unit was at least motorized and equipped to operate with the armored units troops, examples include Panzer-Artillerie, Panzer-Pionier, etc.
Panzerabwehr: Tank defence or Anti-tank.
Panzergrenadier: Armored Infantry. Panzergrenadier units were not necessarily armored – most used trucks as German industry was incapable of producing sufficient half tracks for all units. Panzergrenadier were assigned to Panzer-Division.
Panzerjäger: Anti-tank. Literally means tank hunter.
Panzerzerstörer: Anti-tank. Literally mean tank destroyer. Sometimes used in an attempt to boost morale in certain combat units.
Radfahr: Bicycle. Often refered to lightly mobile recon units mounted with bicycles.
Regiment [plural: Regimenter]: Regiment.
Reiter: Rider. Cavalryman.
Reserve: Reserve. Units in reserve were on standby behind the lines prepared for reinforcement as needed or to exploit battelfield advances or counter enemy breakthroughs. Often times training and replacement units that could handle security duties and combat duties in emergencies were named reserve units.
Ruckwartige: Behind the lines.
Ruckzug: Retreat or withdrawl.
Ruckzugkampfe: A fighting withdrawl or withdrawl or retreat from combat.
Schnell: Literally means fast, generally implied or mobile units. Schnelltruppen usually meant motorized troops although a Schnelle-Brigade (two were raised) were actually bicycle troops and not motorized.
Schnellboot: Fast Attack Boat.
Schutzstaffel: Literally Protection Force or Defense Squad. This complex organization was at the heart of the German political and social revolution and later attempts to control nearly all aspects of German (and later European) life. The Schutzstaffel consisted of three main parts, the Allgemeine-SS, the SS-Totenkopfverbände and the Waffen-SS. The well known image of this organization was its abreviation, the double SS.
Schwadron [plural: Schwadronen]: Squadron. Used in the cavalry, squadron was basically company-sized.
Schwere: Heavy. Often used as an adjective (and not capitalized as such) to indicate a unit contained above average equipement or weapons, such as schwere Panzer-Abteilung.
Sicherungseinheit: Security unit or detachment.
Ski: Ski (as in Skijäger units).
Sonderverband [plural: Sonderverbände]: Special Unit. Sometimes implied a special operations or elite unit (such as Sonderverbande 288) while other times it simply meant a unit organized for a special purpose.
Stab [plural: Stäbe]: HQ or Staff. Used to designate HQs that did not have organic subunits. An Infanterie-Regiment was a unit containing Infantrie-Bataillonen. An Infanterie-Regiment Stab was a unit HQ to which infantry assets could be attached but which itself did not have organic subunits.
Standarte [plural: Standarten]: Term for a Regiment initially used by the SA and SS. The National Socialists eschewed using the standard unit size names for their political troops below division level even when they actually followed standard unit organizations. A Standarte was for intents and purposes a Regiment. In 1940 the Waffen-SS adopted the standard unit size designations used by the rest of the Wehrmacht.
Stellungskampfe: Postional combat.
Strassenbau: Road building or construction. Road Engineers.
Sturm [plural: Stürme]: Company. Used by SA and SS units until 1940. See also Standarte above.
Sturmartillerie: Assault Gun. Literally assault artillery, the early-war term for the assault guns. Assault guns were part of the artillery branch and not armored troops.
Sturmbann [plural: Sturmbanne]: Battalion. Used by SA and SS units until 1940. See also Standarte above.
Sturmgeschütz: Assault Gun. Not all assault guns were in assault gun units, as this weapon was so useful it was used partly (or completely) in various anti-tank units and as replacements for actual tanks in armored units. It was cheaper and easier to build than a turreted tank.
Sturmpionier: Assault Engineer.
Teile: A part or portion of a unit.
Totenkopf: Death’s head. The Totenkopf is a relatively old concept being the symbol or image of the skull and cross-bones. It was used originally as a unit symbol or on weapons and vehicles. During WWII the Totenkopf was used by the Panzer units of the Heer as an emblem although its most well known use was with the SS. The SS version of the Totenkopf was a distictive design different then the more traditional emblem used by the armor units. The SS version of the Totenkopf was also directly association with the Totenkopfverbande See also Totenkopfverbande below.
Totenkopfverbande: Death’s Head Units. The organization formed as a sub-unit of the political SS early in the 1930’s, initially to guard the concentration camps of the German Reich. Early in its career the Totenkopfverbande was formed as a seperate armed organization still under the control of the SS and similar to the Waffen-SS. The Totenkopfverbande would later go on to form the 3rd division of the Waffen-SS and various other small rear area security and occupation units.
Umbenannt: Reformed or reorganized.
Unterabschnitt [plural: Unterabschnitte]: Battalion (literally, Subsector). Used mainly for border troops. See also Abschnitt.
Volksgrenadier: People’s Infantry. Volk was a morale term used to encourage the idea that the war was a peoples war at the point in WWII when things were most grim in 1944 and 1945.
Volkssturm: Traditionally the Landsturm was third-class infantry equivalent somewhat to militia. Towards the end of WWII the concept was revived for smaller ad-hoc home-defense units to be pulled together for local defense because of the crumbling situation on the Eastern Front. These ad-hoc defensive units were to be a part of the newly formed Volksturm and would augment frontline combat troops. The Volksturm included all males aged 16-60. Even those with occupational deferrals could be members. Typically Volksturm units which saw action were composed of men between 45 and 55 but there were exemptions for those with debilitating problems. Regarding weapons the Volksturm deliberately avoided using “old shotguns” and the like so that there would be no question as to their legal status. Germans widely refused to serve in any type of partisan organization for fear of being shot if captured. The Volksturm was armed, albeit poorly, but with whatever military weapons were available and often with captured weapons. The common assumption today is that the Volksturm didn’t really amount to much. It is actually untrue to claim that the Volksturm was totally ineffective as Volksturm troops fought extensively on the Eastern Front, particularly in East Prussia, Breslau, along the Oder River and in Berlin. The 19.Armee on the Upper Rhine became so dependent on Volksturm troops that it was nicknamed the 19.Volkssturm-Armee. Volksturm troops also fought along the Western Front as well. While often ineffective in prolonged combat some Volksturm units fought well in local defense, in static positions, and in river positions.
Vormarschkampfe: Advance combat.
Vormarschpfeil: Tactical term meaning point of advance (advance wedge, column or point).
Wach: Watch or guard.
Waffen: Arms or armed.
Waffen-SS: Armed Schutzstaffel. Units of the political organization of the SS, the German Schutzstaffel. The Waffen-SS is often mistaken for the SS itself, and altought a part of the larger structure of the political SS, the Waffen-SS was a frontline fighting organization that would grow to well over 500,000 members by the end of WWII. Not immune to committing crimes of war, most units of the Waffen-SS fought with a fierce bitterness against the Allies, but they were not directly responsible for the holocaust as is often misinterpreted.
Werwolf: German guerrilla fighters dedicated to harass Allied rear areas. Initially conceived as an adjunct to the Jagd-Kommando units and placed under the command of Otto Skorzeny, the idea was later appropriated by Joesph Goebbels to represent the general rising up of the German people to defend against foreign invasion. Not widely effective or organized. Only a few known instances of involvement, mainly after the war ended and mostly in the Eastern regions.
Werfer: Literally launcher or thrower. Rocket artillery units. See also Nebelwerfer above.
Wehrmacht: Armed forces. The three major groupings of the German military, the Heer, Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine, as well the Waffen-SS which was tactically a part of the Wehrmacht as well.
Wehrmachtsgefolge: Armed Forces Auxiliaries. Those organizations that were not a part of the armed forces but which served such an important support role that they were given protection under the Geneva Convention and/or militarizied. The armed forces auxiliaries consisted in part of the Reicharbeitsdienst, NSKK, Organization Todt, and the Volksturm.
z.b.V. (zur besonderen Verwendung): For special use.
Zwischen: Between or among.
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