Brandenburg Division: Commandos of the Reich
Eric Lefevre

In contrast with other German elite units like Waffen-SS and Fallschirmjaeger there aren’t many books written about the Brandenburg Division. French author Eric Lefevre describes in his 330 pages thick book, which is divided in three parts and 17 chapters, the rise and fall of the unit.

Part one – The Von Hippel Battalion (1939-1940)
This first part starts with a chapter about the precursor of the Brandenburg unit, the so-called Kampf-Trupps or K-Trupps (combat teams), during the invasion of Poland. Most members of these K-Trupps were Volksdeutschen (ethnic Germans) from Poland. After the successful invasion of Poland the Bau-Lehr-Battalion zbV 800 was founded. One of the leading figures behind this foundation was Captain Von Hippel, who had already gained experience in commando style warfare in German-East Africa (present-day Tanzania) during WW1.
The next chapters are about the recruitment and training of the first volunteers, mainly Volksdeutschen from in example Poland, Czechoslovakia and the southern of Africa. Besides basic military training the recruits were trained in the use of explosives, special driving manoeuvres with all sorts of cars and how to disguise themselves. These chapters are detailed and have some nice anecdotes. It’s also made clear why the unit got the name Brandenburg.
After extensive training it’s time for the men to get into action. In the next three chapters the author describes the operations of the Brandenburgers during the invasion of Holland, Belgium and Luxemburg.
The first part of the book ends with a chapter about the preparation of the Brandenburgers for a German invasion of Great-Britain and Gibraltar. If not cancelled in the last moment the Brandenburgers would have played a vital role in both invasions.

Part two – The Brandenburg Regiment (1940-1942)
After the successful operations in Western Europe it’s time for action in the East and North-Africa. These actions are covered in this 2nd part.
Besides pure military operations the Brandenburgers were also used for undercover operations to gather intelligence and diversion. In one such operation they secured the British controlled Romanian oil fields for German use by bringing the British in discredit.
In the spring of 1941 the Battalion is transformed into Lehr-Regiment Brandenburg and most of the companies are moved to the East to prepare for Operation “Barbarossa”. Their main task was to capture bridges before the retreating Russians could blow them. The actions of the Brandenburgers on the Eastern front are very briefly covered in this book.
In chapter 10 there’s a detailed description of a daring mission in the Finnish-Russian border area. The task of the “Hettinger Company” was to destroy some bridges of the Murman railway line. In my opinion this mission is a perfect script for a Hollywood movie.
In the battle against the Russians the Brandenburgers co-operated successfully with local people like Chechens, Armenians and Georgians. The author makes it clear these co-operations were so successful because of the attitude and open mind of the Brandenburgers to other cultures.
This part of the book includes also two chapters about some operations in North-Africa.

Part three – The Brandenburg Division (1942-1945)
This last part starts with Operation “Darg Kohn” on the Eastern Front in November 1942. Around the same time the Abwehr looses control of the unit. In April 1943 the unit is transformed into the Brandenburg Division. In a briefly but clear way the structure of the new division is explained by the author.
Chapter 16 is about the remarkable story of an agreement between Obergefreiter Fred “Colonel Branto” Brandt, Albanian mountain tribes and British Intelligence Service officers in the battle against Communist partisans. This chapter is also detailed and very remarkable.
The last chapter is mainly about the bloody and exhausting eleven days long march of Lieutenant Roseke and a few men of the 6th Company through Russian territory back to the German lines at the end of January 1945.
The book ends with an appendix which includes a short history of the Abwehr, a chronological and historical summary of the Brandenburg unit, a order of battle and a list with RK holders. There’s also a bibliography but unfortunately there’s no index. In the book are 45 b/w photos and 5 maps.

In contrast to Franz Kurowski’s book The Brandenburgers, which covers almost the complete history of the Brandenburg unit, Eric Lefevre’s book contains several stories which give a good view on the unit, their tactics and actions. So don’t expect the complete history of the unit in this book, for example the operations on the Eastern Front and Yugoslavia are very briefly covered. Levefre has not only chosen success stories but spends also pages on operations which were a disaster, for example the mission in Afghanistan at the end of chapter eight.
The book is attractive to read because the writing style is like in an adventure roman. Because of this style it’s sometimes hard to believe the dialogues written in the book did really happen.
In my opinion the book is a good choice for people who want some general information on this unit. For people who have a deeper interest I recommend to buy this book and Kurowski’s book The Brandenburgers.

(Reviewed by William Van Dijk)

Buy the book using the links below and you help support the site: