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The 1. Panzer-Division was formed in Weimar 1935 from elements of 3. Kavallerie-Division. It took part in the occupation of the Sudetenland area of Czechoslovakia in October 1938 under the command of XVI Armeekorps. It fought in Poland and later in the West, going through Luxembourg and the Ardennes before breaking through the Maginot line and entering France attached to Panzergruppe Kleist.

Following the campaign in France it supplied Panzer Regiment 2 to the forming 16. Panzer-Division and received Schützen Regiment to replace the loss. It later fought on the northern sector of the Eastern Front attached to Panzergruppe 4, before being transferred to the central sector and Panzergruppe 3.

It was transferred to France in January 1943 for refitting and was sent to Greece in July where it remained until November when it was sent to the Ukraine. It took part in the counteroffensive at Kiev attached to 4. Panzer-Armee and later took part in defensive actions near Berdichev. Following the massive Soviet offensive in June 1944 it took part in the German counteroffsive attached to XLVIII Panzerkorps, but following the failure to hold the southern flank it was forced to retreat back to the Vistula.

It remained there until October when it was transferred to Hungary taking part in the German offensive there until ending the war in eastern Austria where it surrendered to the US Army.

See also Operations of Encircled Forces: German Experiences in Russia

Known war crimes

On 5 September 1939 soldiers from the division killed several civilians in Milejowiec in retaliation for an attack on the troops by regular Polish troops during the previous night. (1)

Commanders

General der Kavallerie Maximilian Freiherr von Weichs (1 Oct 1935 - 1 Oct 1937)
Generalleutnant Rudolf Schmidt ( 1 Oct 1937 - 2 Nov 1939)
Generalmajor Friedrich Kirchner ( 3 Nov 1939 - 15 Feb 1940) m.d.F.b.
Generalleutnant Friedrich Kirchner (15 Feb 1940 - 17 July 1941)
Generalmajor Walter Krüger (17 July 1941 - 12 Dec 1941) m.d.F.b.
Generalleutnant Walter Krüger (12 Jan 1942 - 7 Aug 1942)
Oberst Oswin Grolig (8 Aug 1942 - 21 Oct 1942) m.d.st.F.b.
Generalleutnant Walter Krüger (22 Oct 1942 - 8 Sept 1943)
Oberst Walter Söth (9 Sept 1943 - ? Sept 1943) m.d.st.F.b.
Generalleutnant Walter Krüger (? Sept 1943 - 1 Jan 1944)
Generalmajor Richard Koll (1 Jan 1944 - 19 Feb 1944) m.d.F.b.
Generalmajor Werner Marcks (20 Feb 1944 - 17 Sep 1944)
Generalmajor Eberhard Thunert (18 Sep 1944 - 8 May 1945)

Area of operations

Poland (Sep 1939 - Jan 1940)
West wall (Feb 1940 - May 1940)
France (May 1940 - June 1941)
Eastern front, northern sector (June 1941 - Aug 1941)
Eastern front, central sector (Aug 1941 - Jan 1943)
France (Jan 1943 - June 1943)
Balkans & Greece (June 1943 - Oct 1943)
Eastern front, southern sector (Oct 1943 - July 1944)
Poland (July 1944 - Oct 1944)
Hungary & Austria (Oct 1944 - May 1945)

Holders of high awards

Holders of the Close Combat Clasp in Gold (4)
- Backhaus, Alfred, 16.11.1944, Obergefreiter, stellv. Gruppenführer i. d. 2./Pz.Pi.Btl. 37
- Bergner, Otto, 20.01.1945, Unteroffizier d.R., Gruppenführer i. d. 2./Pz.Pi.Btl. 37
- Fink, Karl-Heinrich [also seen: Karl-Heinz / Karlheinz] , 24.04.1945, Hauptmann, Führer I./Pz.Gren.Rgt 113
-- [post at time of award ; officially awarded holding temporary post: Adjutant II./Pz.Gren.Rgt 40 according to Dörr, "Nahkampfspange", 4th ed.]
- Wagner, Josef, 08.01.1945, Feldwebel, 1./Pz.Gren.Rgt. 1
Holders of the Commendation Certificate of the Commander-in-Chief of the Army  (11)
Holders of the German Cross in Gold (108)
Holders of the German Cross in Silver (8)
- Dählmann, Dr. Hans, 05.10.1944, Oberstabsarzt, Kdo. 1. Pz.Div.
- Ebert, Franz, 05.10.1944, Heereswerkmeister d.B., IV./Pz.Art.Rgt. 73
- Könighausen, Dr. Peter, 02.06.1944, Stabsarzt d.R., II./Pz.Rgt. 1
- Krause, Kurt, 05.04.1945, Feldwebel, Pz.Werkst.Kp./Pz.Rgt. 1
- Schmidt, Otto, 21.06.1944, Major, Stab/Pz.Rgt. 1
- Schuttwolf, Heinz, 13.04.1945, Heeres-Werkmeister, Führer le.Kfz.Zug I./Pz.Rgt. 1
- Stoye, Hermann, 28.06.1944, Heeres-Hauptwerkmeister, 1./ Werkstattkp. 81
- Zöller, Dr. Walter, 09.09.1944, Stabsarzt d.R., San.Kp. 2/81
Holders of the Honor Roll Clasp of the Heer (30)
Holders of the Knight's Cross (36)
Holders of the Knight's Cross to the War Merit Cross (1)
- Kunstmann, Karl, 19.04.1945, Hauptmann, Chef Inst.Kp./Pz.Rgt 1

Holders of other notable badges & decorations

Holders of the Anti-Partisan Badge in Bronze (1)
- Bohlken, Erwin, 22.02.1944, Feldwebel, Pz.Rgt. 1

Order of battle (1 September 1939)

HQ
- 81. Mapping Detachment (mot)
- 81. Motorcycle Messenger Platoon
1. Schützen Brigade
- 1. Schützen Regiment
-- 2 x Battalion
- 1. Motorcycle Battalion
-- 3 x Motorcycle Company
-- Motorcycle Heavy Machine Gun Company
-- Heavy Company (mot)
1. Panzer Brigade
- 1. Panzer Regiment
-- Armored Signals Platoon
-- Staff Light Tank Platoon
-- Maintenance Company (mot)
-- 2 x Panzer Battalion
- 2. Panzer Regiment
-- Armored Signals Platoon
-- Staff Light Tank Platoon
-- Maintenance Company (mot)
-- 2 x Panzer Battalion
4. Reconnaissance Battalion
- Signals Platoon (mot)
- 2 x Armored Car Platoon
- Motorcycle Company
- Heavy Company (mot)
37. Panzerabwehr Battalion
- Signals Platoon (mot)
- 3 x Battery (mot)
73. Artillery Regiment
- Signals Platoon (mot)
- Weather Detachment (mot)
- 2 x Battalion (mot)
37. Panzer Signals Battalion
- Panzer Signals Company (mot)
- Panzer Radio Company (mot)
- Panzer Signals Supply Column
37. Pioneer Battalion
- 3 x Pioneer Company (mot)
- Brüko K (mot)
- Light Pioneer Supply Column (mot)
Support & Supply Units

Order of battle (Summer 1943)

HQ
- Divisional Staff
- 81. Mapping Detachment (mot)
- Divisional Escort Company
1. Panzer Regiment
- Regimental Staff
- Regimental Band
- Regimental Signals Platoon
- 2 x Panzer Battalion
1. Panzergrenadier Regiment
- Regimental Staff Company (mot)
- 2 x Battalion
- 9. Self-Propelled Flak Company
- 10. Self-Propelled Infantry Gun Company
113. Panzer Grenadier Regiment
- Regimental Staff Company (mot)
- 2 x Battalion
- 9. Self-Propelled Flak Company
- 10. Self-Propelled Infantry Gun Company
37. Panzerjäger Battalion
- 3 x Self-propelled Company
1. Reconnaissance Battalion
- 2 x Armored Car Company
- Amored Car Company (half-track)
- 2 x Reconnaissance Company (half-track)
- Heavy Reconnaissance Company (half-track)
- Light Reconnaissance Supply Column
37. Panzer Artillery Regiment
- Regimental Staff
- Battalion (self-propelled)
- 3 x Battalion (mot)
- 73. Oberservation Battery (mot)
299. Army Flak Battalion
- Staff & Staff Battery (mot)
- 2 x Heavy Flak Battery (mot)
- Medium Flak Battery (mot)
- Light Flak Supply Column (mot)
37. Panzer Pioneer Battalion
- Staff
- Pioneer Company (half-track)
- 2 x Pioneer Company (mot)
- Brüko B Bridging Column
- Brüko K Bridging Column
- Light Pioneer Supply Column (mot)
37. Panzer Signals Battalion
- Panzer Telephone Company
- Panzer Radio Company
- Light Signals Supply Column (mot)
81. Feldersatz Battalion
- 4 x Company
Supply & Support Units

Notable members

Prince Franz of Bavaria (Oberleutnant, later transferred to the Luftwaffe, nicknamed "The Panzer Prince")
Hans Strippel (usually credited with 70 destroyed tanks but the exact number is unknown)
Hyazinth Graf Strachwitz von Gross-Zauche und Camminetz ("Der Panzergraf" ("The Armour Count"), Holder of the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds)

Insignia

Personnel of this unit wore a semi-official badge on the left side of the field and service cap which took the form of a single oak leaf, the divisional emblem.

Panzer III of 1. Panzer-Division
panzer3-1st
(Courtesy of Joe Imwalle)

Soldiers of 1. Panzer-Regiment on parade in Karlsbad in the Sudetenland on 4 October 1938
pzdiv-1-karlsbad-1938
(Courtesy of Bundesarchiv/Wikimedia, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 Germany)

Vehicles from 1. Panzer-Regiment crossing the river Meuse in May 1940
pzdiv-1-meuse-1940
(Courtesy of Bundesarchiv/Wikimedia, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 Germany)

Troops from 1. Panzer-Division on the Eastern Front in June/July 1941
pzdiv-1-east-1941
(Courtesy of Bundesarchiv/Wikimedia, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 Germany)

Footnotes

1. "Hitler strikes Poland: Blitzkrieg, Ideology and atrocity" by Alexander B. Rossino, page 139-141.

 

Sources used

Microfilm Publication A-3356, German Officer Personnel files, NARA
RKT & DKiGT karteikarten, BA/MA
Dermot Bradley, Karl-Friedrich Hildebrand, Markus Rövekamp - Die Generale des Heeres 1921-1945
Wolf Keilig - Die Generale des Heeres
Andris Kursietis - Die Wehrmacht at War 1939-1945
François de Lannoy & Josef Charita - Panzertruppen: German armored troops 1935-1945
Kurt Mehner - Die Deutsche Wehrmacht 1939-1945: Führung und Truppe
Samuel W. Mitcham Jr - The Panzer Legions: A guide to the German Army Tank Divisions of WWII and Their Commanders
Peter Schmitz, Klaus-Jürgen Thies, Günter Wegmann & Christian Zweng - Die deutschen Divisionen 1939-1945 (4 Vol)
Georg Tessin - Verbände und Truppen der deutschen Wehrmacht 1933-1945
Günter Wegmann & Christian Zweng - Formationsgeschichte u. Stellenbesetzung der deutschen Streitkräfte, 1815-1990, Teile IV, Abt. 1:  Die Dienststellen, Kommandobehörden u. Truppenteile des Heeres, Oct.35-May.45
Gordon Williamson - World War II German Battle Insignia

Reference material on this unit

Horst Riebenstahl - The 1st Panzer Division 1935-1945
Rolf Stoves - 1. Panzerdivision 1935-1945: Chronik Einer der drei Stamm-Divisionen der Deutschen Panzerwaffe

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