1st Mountain Division (Wehrmacht)

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1. Gebirgs-Division
(English: 1st Mountain Division)
Country Germany
RoleMountain warfare
EngagementsWorld War II

The 1st Mountain Division (German: 1. Gebirgs-Division) was an elite formation of the German Wehrmacht during World War II, and is remembered for its involvement in multiple large-scale war crimes. It was created on 9 April 1938 in Garmisch Partenkirchen from the Mountain Brigade (German: Gebirgs Brigade) which was itself formed on 1 June 1935. The division consisted mainly of Bavarians and some Austrians.[citation needed]

Poland and France[edit]

The 1st Mountain Division fought in the Invasion of Poland as a part of Army Group South and distinguished itself during fighting in the Carpathians and at Lwów. On 8 September 1939 in Rozdziel village its soldiers committed a war crime (killing 6 civilians and 3 POWs, burning houses) and attempting to execute another 250 civilians.[1]

It subsequently took part in the Battle of France as a part of XVIII Army Corps and was selected to take part in the planned operations against the United Kingdom (Operation Sea Lion) and Gibraltar (Operation Felix) but both operations were cancelled. With Felix cancelled, the division took part in the Invasion of Yugoslavia in April 1941 as part of the 2nd Army.

Eastern Front and Balkans[edit]

Soldiers of the Division during an anti-partisan operation in Yugoslavia, 1943–44

The 1st Mountain Division participated in Operation Barbarossa, (the invasion of the Soviet Union). On 30 June, the division captured Lviv. There, the Germans discovered several thousand bodies of prisoners who had been executed by the NKVD, as they could not be evacuated.

The 1st Mountain Division continued its advance into the Soviet Union, participating in the breakthrough of the Stalin Line and the advance to the Dniepr and Mius rivers.[citation needed] In May 1942, the division fought in the Second Battle of Kharkov and then participated in the offensive through southern Russia and into the Caucasus (Operation Edelweiss).

In a symbolic propaganda move, the division sent a detachment to raise the German flag on Mount Elbrus on 21 August. Although the feat was widely publicized by Goebbels, Hitler was furious over what he called "these crazy mountain climbers," his rage lasting for hours.[2][3] However, by December 1942 with Soviet forces en-circling the 6th Army at Stalingrad, the 1st Mountain Division, as part of the 17th Army, was ordered to withdraw to the Kuban bridgehead.

In April 1943, the division was posted to Yugoslavia, where it participated in the anti-Partisan offensive named Case Black, and later Greece where it took part in anti-partisan operations. In November 1943, the division returned to Yugoslavia, where it took part in operations Operation Kugelblitz, Schneesturm and Waldrausch. In March 1944, the division was engaged in the Operation Margarethe (German occupation of Hungary). After Operation Rübezahl in Yugoslavia in August 1944, the division took part in defensive fighting against the Red Army in the Belgrade Offensive, and suffered severe losses. During the operation, the division commander, General Stettner, was killed in the battle on 17 October on Avala mountain near Belgrade. In late November, it was transferred in Baranja, to the most endangered spot of the German defense.[citation needed]

It was renamed 1. Volks-Gebirgs-Division in March 1945. Its final major operations were near Lake Balaton (Operation Spring Awakening) against the 3rd Ukrainian Front. Two months later the division surrendered to the Americans in Austria.[citation needed]

War crimes[edit]

Division's commander, General Walter von Grabenhofen [de], in Yugoslavia, June 1943

During the Invasion of Poland, soldiers from the division assisted in the round-up of Jewish civilians from Przemyśl for forced labour, and photos of this were printed in newspapers. Photos 7 and 8

During the Case Black operation in Yugoslavia, the division and other units committed crimes against prisoners of war and civilians. In the after-battle report on 10 July, the division reported that it took 498 prisoners, 411 of whom were shot.[4]

On 6 July 1943 a unit from the division attacked the village of Borovë in Albania. All of the houses and buildings were completely burned or otherwise destroyed. Among the 107 inhabitants killed were five entire families. The youngest victim was aged four months, and the oldest 73.

On 25 July 1943, soldiers from the division attacked the village of Mousiotitsa in Greece after a cache of weapons was found nearby, killing 153 civilians. On 16 August 1943, the village of Kommeno was attacked on the orders of Oberstleutnant Josef Salminger, the commander of GebirgsJäger Regiment 98. A total of 317 civilians were killed.

The 1st Mountain Division murdered 5,200 Italian soldiers from the 33rd Infantry Division "Acqui" in September 1943 on the Greek island of Cefalonia after they had surrendered. The division also executed all officers and non-commissioned officers of the 151st Infantry Division "Perugia", who had surrendered in Albania in early October 1943.[5]

After the killing of Oberstleutnant Josef Salminger by Greek partisans, the commander of XXII Gebirgs-Armeekorps General der Gebirgstruppe Hubert Lanz ordered, on 1 October 1943, a “ruthless retaliatory action” in a 20 km area around the place where Salminger had been attacked. In the village of Lyngiades, 92 of its 96 residents were executed.[6]

The division's war crimes are described in H. F. Meyer's book Bloodstained Edelweiss: The 1st Mountain Division in the Second World War.[7]


Order of battle[edit]


  • 98. Mountain Infantry Regiment
    • 3 Battalions
  • 99. Mountain Infantry Regiment
    • 3 Battalions
  • 100. Mountain Infantry Regiment
    • 3 Battalions
  • 4. Panzerabwehr (anti-tank) Battalion
  • 79. Mountain Artillery Regiment
    • 4 Battalions
  • 54. Signals Battalion
  • 54. Pioneer Battalion
  • 54. Supply Troops
  • Service Troops


  • 98. Mountain Infantry Regiment
    • 3 Battalions
  • 99. Mountain Infantry Regiment
    • 3 Battalions
  • 54. Field Medical Battalion
  • 44. Panzerabwehr Battalion
  • 79. Mountain Artillery Regiment
    • 4 Battalions
  • 54. Signals Battalion
  • 54. Pioneer Battalion
  • 54. Supply Troops
  • Service Troops


  • 98. Mountain Infantry Regiment
    • 3 Battalions
  • 99. Mountain Infantry Regiment
    • 3 Battalions
  • 44. Panzerjäger Battalion
  • 79. Mountain Artillery Regiment
    • 4 Battalions
  • 54. Mountain Jäger Battalion
  • 54. Reconnaissance Battalion
  • 54. Mountain Signals Battalion
  • 79. Mountain Field Medical Battalion
  • 54. Mountain Pioneer Battalion
  • 54. Mountain Pack Mule Battalion
  • 54. Supply Troops
  • Service Troops

Notable members[edit]

  • Ferdinand Schörner War criminal and the last living German Field Marshal, holder of the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds
  • Wego Chiang son of the Chinese leader General Chiang Kai-shek served in I./Gebirgsjäger-Regiment 98 in 1937 – 1939, reaching the rank of Leutnant before returning to China at the outbreak of war.


  1. ^ http://military.lib.ru/research/meltyukhov2/03.html. In Russian. Retrieved December 30, 2020.[dead link]
  2. ^ Heer et al. (2000), p. 163
  3. ^ Speer, Albert (1970). Inside the Third Reich. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. p. 332. ISBN 978-1-8421-2735-3.
  4. ^ Schmider 2002, p. 282.
  5. ^ Hooper, John (7 June 2003). "Germany confronts Nazi atrocity". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 28 February 2020.
  6. ^ Mörder unterm Edelweiss : Dokumentation des Hearings zu den Kriegsverbrechen der Gebirgsjäger. Klein, Ralph., Mentner, Regina., Stracke, Stephan., AK Angreifbare Traditionspflege. Köln: Papyrossa. 2004. ISBN 3-89438-295-3. OCLC 55963087.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  7. ^ "H.F. Meyer – Bloodstained Edelweiss. The 1st Mountain-Division in the Second World War". Archived from the original on 1 December 2008. Retrieved 13 September 2009.


  • Schmider, Klaus (2002). Partisanenkrieg in Jugoslawien 1941–1944 [Partisan war in Yugoslavia 1941–1944] (in German). Hamburg: Mittler. ISBN 978-3-8132-0794-1.
  • Hubert Lanz, Max Pemsel: Gebirgsjäger. Die 1. Gebirgs-Division 1935–1945. Podzun, Bad Nauheim 1954.
  • Hermann Frank Meyer: Blutiges Edelweiß. Die 1. Gebirgs-Division im Zweiten Weltkrieg, Ch. Links Verlag, Berlin 2008, ISBN 3-86153-447-9. (Online).
  • Hermann Frank Meyer: Kommeno. Erzählende Rekonstruktion eines Wehrmachtsverbrechens in Griechenland. Romiosini, Köln 1999, ISBN 3-929889-34-X.
  • Josef M. Bauer (1992), Unternehmen "Elbrus": Das kaukasische Abenteuer: Tatsachenbericht (in German), Frankfurt am Main/Berlin: Ullstein, ISBN 3-548-33162-9
  • Ian Baxter (2011), Hitler's Mountain Troops 1939–1945: The Gebirgsjager: Images of War (in German), Pen & Sword Books, ISBN 978-1-84884-354-7
  • Ralph Klein, Regina Mentner & Stephan Stracke (2004), Mörder unterm Edelweiss: Dokumentation des Hearings zu den Kriegsverbrechen der Gebirgsjäger, ISBN 3-89438-295-3