by H.L. deZeng IV

The German ethnic group in Croatia and Bosnia had a 1941 population of 150,000 to 200,000, depending on the source consulted. The first steps to establish armed formations within the group were taken on 21 June 1941 with the creation of the Deutsche Mannschaft (DM) from qualified men between 18 and 45 years of age, as a para-military party organization set up for self-defense purposes and somewhat similar to the Allgemeine-SS in Germany. Six weeks later, on 31 July, an armed component of the DM was authorized and established in Osijek (Esseg) under the designation Einsatzstaffel der Deutsche Mannschaft (ES d. DM) from qualified men between 18 and 28 years of age. With one active (Verfügungs-) and three standby or preparatory (Bereitschafts-) battalions in a total average strength of around 3,000, the ES d. DM protected German communities and fought communist Partisans in Croatia until spring 1943, and was formally a special component of the Croatian Ustasha Militia with the members swearing an oath of allegiance to both Adolf Hitler and the Croatian state leader Ante Pavelić. In practice, however, the ES d. DM operated primarily under German military and political authority. (1)

Additional Croatian Volksdeutsch units were formed during 1942, including a Jäger (light infantry) battalion in January, a guard company called Volunteer Co. Ruma in June and a railway guard battalion a few months later that was expanded into three battalions around the beginning of 1943. Part-time civilian local defense units, initially called Ortsschutz and then from 1943 Deutsche Heimatwacht (German Home Guard), were established in many of the individual Volksdeutsch communities in Slavonia and Syrmia as the danger of partisan attack intensified from the end of 1941. Rather than being considered formal units, these local defense formations were designated by the name of their town or village.

In April 1943 the ES d. DM and most of the other units were disbanded and the men mustered into the newly formed German-Croatian police and the Waffen-SS., thus losing all previous connection to the Croatian Armed Forces. Only the three railway security battalions were excluded from this process, which was completed by 1 May 1943. By 1 July 1943, 2,500 Volksdeutschen from the Einsatzstaffel and the other disbanded units had already been incorporated into the German-Croatian police organization, 1,000 more Volksdeutschen were recruited up to the end of November, and another 1,600 from the three railway security battalions joined the others in December 1943.

German National Group in Croatia - Total Strength on Various Dates

11 August 1942 
Total strength of the Einsatzstaffel   2,980 
Volksdeutsch in various formations of the German and    
Croatian Armed Forces   2,930 
Total:   5,910 
1 July 1943 
Volksdeutsch in the Waffen-SS and Police in Germany   13,500 
Volksdeutsch in the German Police in Croatia   2,500 (to eventually increase to 3,500) 
Volksdeutsch in the German Wehrmacht   350 
Volksdeutsch in the German Wehrmacht as translators   700 (to eventually increase to 1,200) 
Volksdeutsch in Croatian railway security battalions   1,600 
Volksdeutsch in other troop units of the Croatian Armed Forces   450 
Total in combat formations   19,100 
Volksdeutsch in the Organisation Todt   2,200 
Volksdeutsch serving as workers in Germany   4,500 
Total in non-combatant service   6,700 
Grand total   25,800 
31 December 1943 
Volksdeutsch in the Waffen-SS and the German Police   17,538 
Volksdeutsch in Militia Units Within the Independent State of Croatia   7,510 
Total:   25,048 


1. Broszat, Martin - Waffendienst der Volksdeutschen in Kroatien, in: Gutachten des Institut für Zeitgeschichte, Band Nr. II (München, 1966), pp.225-31; Wacker, Peter - Die Einsatzstaffel der Deutschen Mannschaft und die übrigen bewaffneten Einheiten der Deutschen Volksgruppe in Kroatien 1941-1945, in: Feldgrau, April 1962, pp.64-68; Sundhaussen, Holm - Zur Geschichte der Waffen-SS in Kroatien 1941-1945, in: Südost-Forschungen, Bd. XXX (1971), pp.176-96; Harriman, Helga H. - The German Minority in Yugoslavia, 1941-1945, phil. dissertation, Oklahoma State University, 1973, pp.130, 133, 139; NARA WashDC: RG 242 (T-501 roll 248/454; roll 267/383).