Thegermanarmy.org - The German Army  1657-1945

1st SS PANZER DIVISION LEIBSTANDARTE ADOLF HITLER
Date of Publishing: 2000
Editor: Tankwaffe
Preface
The German army had a number of special forces, most of which are best described by the French term hors de ligne, that is "outside of the regular army." Foreign troops have always fallen into this category in every army and the Germans certainly ended up with a tremendous force of foreign soldiers fighting in their uniforms. However, the Germans had three other non-traditional forces in their army.
The first, the Waffen SS, sprang from Hitler's personal bodyguard and much like many other Guard forces in the world's long military history, developed into a completely independent army all unto itself. Though not intentionally, it most assuredly falls into a category quite similar to that held by Napoleon's Imperial Guard, whose roots also are found in a dictator's personal bodyguard. Unlike the Imperial Guard, which was Napoleon's favored children, the SS belonged not to Adolf Hitler, but to Heinrich Himmler, Reichsführer der SS. It was not only a field force, but a tool in the internal political struggle between Hitler's cronies.
The SS also, like Napoleon's Imperial Guard, contained large numbers of foreign troops. In contrast to Napoleon's Imperial Guard, however, the SS went on a massive recruiting effort among foreign nationals in an effort to make it as large as possible. And, also unlike Napoleon's Imperial Guard, the German portions of the SS were subjected to an ideological mania for racial purity that was frequently swept aside when it was convenient. Large portions of the SS contained non-Germanic troops. Much of the SS fought with a steadfastness that was found in Napoleon's Old Guard, while some parts formed with foreign nationals had very poor reputations that included mass desertions, mutiny, and atrocity.
The second portion of forces hors de ligne in the German army was the Luftwaffe ground troops. The German division of operations between the army, navy, and air force was contorted by personalities and the political power base on which the Reich was formed. Hermann Goring claimed and was given anything that had any involvement with flying. As a result, the German paratroopers or fallschirmjägers, were part of the Luftwaffe. Operationally they were handled by the Army, but they were Goring's toys to play with as he wished. Like the SS, however, they also developed a ferocious reputation as fanatical fighters and were greatly feared and respected by their enemies.
Unlike the fallschirmjägers, the Luftwaffe also produced a number of Luftwaffe Field Divisions. These units were a second line formation at best, though they frequently ended up in the front lines and invariably took a terrible pounding for their troubles. They were underequipped and undertrained for frontline duties, though eventually they developed reasonable combat skills. They were produced as Hermann Goring attempted to garner favor from Hitler by producing a series of divisions to block the advance of the Russian armies in the winter of 1941/2.
The third force hors de ligne was a small number of naval divisions that were raised very late in the war. The surface navy had been so torn up by the Allies that it had very little use. Those ships that were operational continued to retain full use of their crews, but those crews whose ships were gone, those support people who were suddenly without function, found themselves swept up and rifles shoved in their hands in an effort to stem the flow of the Russian hordes westward into the Fatherland.
The last force is the traditional forces hors de ligne and those are the multitude of completely foreign 'forces that fought alongside the Germans. The largest single group of foreigners in the German army were former citizens of the Soviet Union. They started out as small numbers of volunteers that simply joined up with the Wehrmacht as it pushed through Russia. They were deserters from the Soviet army and they were enthusiastic citizens who came forward and wanted to fight against their communist oppressors. It is believed that fully 25 percent of the German army at the end of the war were former citizens of the Soviet Union. 

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