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The 1. Gebirgs-Division consisted mainly of Bavarians and some Austrians and was formed on 9 April 1938 in Garmisch Partenkirchen from the Gebirgs-Brigade.
It fought in the Polish campaign as a part of Heeresgruppe Süd and distinguished itself during the fighting in the Carpathians. It later took part in the French campaign and was then posted to take part in the planned operations against United Kingdom and Gibraltar but both operations were cancelled.
After taking part in the invasion of Yugoslavia the division crossed the Soviet border. It fought at Kiev, Stalino, the Dnieper crossings and Kharkov. After the Caucasus campaign the division was posted in Greece and later Serbia were it took part in antipartisan operations.
In 1944 it fought in Hungary agaist the Soviets and ended the war in Austria. It was renamed 1. Volks-Gebirgs-Division on 12 March 1945.

This unit took part in anti-partisan operations in Croatia.

Known war crimes

On July 6 1943 a German column entering Albania was ambushed by the partisan battalion Tomori at the Barmash pass in southeastern Albania near Ersekë (Erseka) and suffered heavy losses. In reprisal the villages of Borovë (Borova) and Barmash were attacked, in Borovë all the houses were burned down and 107 civilians killed.

On 25 July 1943 soldiers from the division attacked the village of Mousiotitsas in Greece following the discovery of a cache of weapons nearby killing 153 civilians.

On 16 August 1943 the village of Kommeno was attacked at the order of Oberstleutnant Josef Salminger, the commander of GebirgsJäger-Regiment 98, a total of 317 civilians were killed.

Soldiers from this division together with Cham Albanian militia killed 201 civilians in the Paramythia of Greece 19-29 September 1943 in reprisal to the killing of German soldiers by Greek partisans.

Elements from this division took part in the murder of thousands of Italians from the Italian 33. Infantry Division Acqui September 1943 on the Greek island of Cefalonia following the Italian surrender, for more info see the XXII Gebirgs-Armeekorps.

Soldiers from the division took part in the murder of 32 officers and an estimated 100 soldiers from the Italian 151. Infantry Division Perugia in Albania following the Italian surrender.

Following the killing of Oberstleutnant Josef Salminger by Greek partisans, the commander of XXII Gebirgs-Armeekorps General der Gebirgstruppe Hubert Lanz issued an order of the day on 1 October 1943 calling for a “ruthless retaliatory action” in a 20km area around the place were Salminger had been attacked. In the village of Lingiades 87 civilians were killed and in total at least 200 civlians were killed.

Commanders

General der Gebirgstruppen Ludwig Kübler (1 Sep 1939 - 25 Oct 1940)
General der Gebirgstruppen Hubert Lanz (25 Oct 1940 - 1 Jan 1942)
General der Artillerie Robert Martinek (1 Jan 1942 - 1 Dec 1942)
Generalleutnant Walter Stettner Ritter von Grabenhofen (1 Dec 1942 - 10 Oct 1944)
Generalleutnant Josef Kübler (10 Oct 1944 - 10 Mar 1945)
Generalleutnant August Wittmann (10 Mar 1945 - 12 Mar 1945)

Operations Officers (Ia)

Oberstleutnant Max Pemsel (10 Nov 1938 - 15 Oct 1939)
Oberstleutnant Hans Degen (15 Oct 1939 - 15 Jan 1941)
Oberstleutnant Hans Steets (15 Jan 1941 - Jan 1943)
Oberstleutnant Karl-Wilhelm Thilo (Jan 1943 - 25 Aug 1944)
Oberst Hans-Georg Faulmüller (25 Aug 1944 - 20 Dec 1944)
Major Hans Rasch (20 Dec 1944 - 5 Jan 1945)
Oberstleutnant Anton Leeb (5 Jan 1945 - 12 Mar 1945)

Nicknames

Edelweiß

Holders of high awards (1. Gebirgs-Division/1. Volks-Gebirgs-Division)

Holders of the Close Combat Clasp in Gold (4)
- Bernbacher, Peter, 14.01.1945, Oberjäger, Gruppenführer i. d. 3./Geb.Jäg.Rgt. 99
- Brey, Sebastian, 14.01.1945, Feldwebel, Zugführer i. d. 3./Geb.Jäg.Rgt. 99
- Keller, Gebhard, 08.05.1945, Oberjäger, sMG-Zugführer i. d. 9./Geb.Jäg.Rgt. 98
- Seber, Anton, 01.04.1945, Oberfeldwebel, Zugführer i. d. 8./Geb.Jäg.Rgt. 98
Holders of the Commendation Certificate of the Commander-in-Chief of the Army (7)
- Berauer, Gustl, 06.07.1941 (014), Feldwebel, 13./Geb.Jäg.Rgt. 98 (1)
- Feser, Raimund, 07.03.1943 (2946), Hauptmann, Kdr. II./Geb.Jäg.Rgt. 99
- Grosse-Leege, Walter, 05.01.1942 (643), Major, Kdr. III./Geb.Art.Rgt. 79
- Groth, Heinz, 27.12.1944 (5074), Major, Div.Adj. 1. Geb.Div.
- Lins, Dr. Karl, 15.07.1942 (1118), Oberarzt, Btl.Arzt III./Geb.Jäg.Rgt. 99
- Simet, [first name not listed], 05.01.1942 (623), Leutnant, Zugführer i. d. 14./Geb.Jäg.Rgt. 98
- Wurst, Gerhard, 14.08.1942 (1154), Leutnant, Zugführer i. d. 13./Geb.Jäg.Rgt. 98
Holders of the German Cross in Gold (85)
Holders of the German Cross in Silver (1)
- Hofmann, Dr. Hans Otto, 18.01.1943, Oberstleutnant d.R., Div.Nachsch.Tr. 54
Holders of the Honor Roll Clasp of the Heer (25)
Holders of the Knight's Cross (35, including five unofficial/unconfirmed)
Unit-Level Commendation Certificate of the Commander-in-Chief of the Army (1)
- 1. Gebirgs-Division und 3. Gebirgs-Division
- Date/Place of Action: 21.08.1942 Besteigung des Elbrus-Gipfels
- Award Date: 14.12.1942 / Vorschlagsbuch (1423)
Holders of the Romanian Order of Michael the Brave, 3rd Class (Orden “Michael der Tapfere” III. Klasse) (1)
- Dietz, Rudolf, Königlichen Dekrets Nr. 907 / 31.03.1943, Leutnant, Art.Rgt. 79 (mot)

Order of battle (1939)

Gebirgsjäger-Regiment 98
Gebirgsjäger-Regiment 99
Gebirgsjäger-Regiment 100
Gebirgs-Artillerie-Regiment 79
Gebirgs-Panzerabwehr-Abteilung 44
Gebirgs-Aufklärungs-Abteilung 54
Gebirgs-Pionier-Bataillon 54
Gebirgs-Nachrichten-Abteilung 54
Divisions-Nachschubführer 54
Gebirgs-Träger-Bataillon 54
Gebirgsjäger-Feld-Ersatz-Bataillon 54

Order of battle (1942)

Gebirgsjäger-Regiment 98
Gebirgsjäger-Regiment 99
Gebirgs-Artillerie-Regiment 79
Hochgebirgs-Jäger-Bataillon 1
Hochgebirgs-Jäger-Bataillon 2
Gebirgs-Panzerjäger-Abteilung 44
Gebirgsjäger-Bataillon 54
Gebirgs-Aufklärungs-Abteilung 54
Gebirgs-Pionier-Bataillon 54
Gebirgs-Nachrichten-Abteilung 54
Gebirgsjäger-Feld-Ersatz-Bataillon 54
Kommandeur der Gebirgs-Divisions-Nachschubtruppen 54
Kriegsgefangenen-Gebirgs-Träger-Bataillon 54
Divisionseinheiten 54

Notable members

Alfred Leeb (son of GFM Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb was KIA on 19 Sept 1939 near Holosko/Poland as a Leutnant and Fhr. Pi.Zug 10./GJR 99)
Ferdinand Schörner (The last living German Field Marshal, holder of the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds)
Chiang Wei-kuo (son of the Chinese leader General Chiang Kai-Chek served in I./Gebirgsjäger-Regiment 98 in 1937 - 1939, reaching the rank of Leutnant before returning to China at the outbreak of war.)

Generalleutnant Walter Stettner Ritter von Grabenhofen during anti-partisan operations in Montenegro June 1943
gebirg-div-1-montenegro-grabenhofer
(Courtesy of Bundesarchiv/Wikimedia, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 Germany)

Mountain troops in the Caucasus
gebirg-div-1-caucasus
(Courtesy of Bundesarchiv/Wikimedia, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 Germany)

Mountain troops in the Caucasus
gebirg-div-1-caucasus2
(Courtesy of Bundesarchiv/Wikimedia, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 Germany)

Mountain troops in Albania 1943 with a 7.5 cm le.IG 18 infantry support gun
gebirg-div-1-albania
(Courtesy of Bundesarchiv/Wikimedia, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 Germany)

Mountain troops in Yugoslavia 1943-1944 during an anti-partisan operation
gebirg-div-1-yugoslavia
(Courtesy of Bundesarchiv/Wikimedia, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 Germany)

Fahnenjunker Chiang Wei-kuo
chiang-wei-kuo
(Courtesy of Wikimedia)

Footnotes

1. One of 40 soldiers cited in the Wehrmachtbericht or Armed Forces Communiqué but not named in the newly established Honor Roll of the German Army due to a change in award policy made effective 8 Aug 1941 (and beginning with award # 74). The soldiers in question, did, however, receive the Commendation Certificate.

Sources used

Rudy D'Angelo - Cefalonia 1943: Massacre of the Royal Italian Acqui Division (in The Military Advisor, Vol 8 No 2)
Colin Heaton - German Anti-Partisan Warfare in Europe 1939-1945
James Lucas - Hitler's Mountain Troops: Fighting at the extremes
Hermann Frank Meyer - Blutiges Edelweiß: Die 1. Gebirgsdivision im Zweiten Weltkrieg
Charles T. O'Reilly - Forgotten Battles: Italy's War of Liberation, 1943-1945
Owen Pearson - Albania in the Twentieth Century, A History: Volume II: Albania in Occupation and War 1939-45
Gerhard Schreiber - Deutsche Kriegsverbrechen in Italien: Tater, Opfer, Strafverfolgung
Gerhard Schreiber - Die italienischen Militarinternierten im deutschen Machtbereich, 1943 bis 1945: Verraten, verachtet, vergessen
Georg Tessin - Verbände und Truppen der deutschen Wehrmacht 1933-1945
Miranda Vickers - The Albanians: A Modern History
Gordon Williamson - German Mountain & Ski Troops 1939-45

Reference material on this unit

Ralph Klein, Regina Mentner & Stephan Stracke - Mörder unterm Edelweiss: Dokumentation des Hearings zu den Kriegsverbrechen der Gebirgsjäger
Hubert Lanz - Gebirgsjäger: Die 1. gebirgs-Division 1935-1945
Hermann Frank Meyer - Blutiges Edelweiß: Die 1. Gebirgsdivision im Zweiten Weltkrieg
Hermann Frank Meyer - Kommeno: Erzählende Rekonstruktion eines Wehrmachtsverbrechens in Griechenland

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