Research on the German Armed Forces 1918-1945
This unit was formed in October 1934 in Bielefeld. It was originally known as Wehrgauleitung Bielefeld*.
Shortly after the unit was established it was given the cover name Infanterieführer VI**.
The organic regimental units of this division were formed by the expansion of the 16.Infanterie-Regiment of the 6.Division of the Reichswehr.
With the formal announcement of the creation of the Wehrmacht (which had covertly been in place for over a year) on October 15th, 1935, the cover name Infanterieführer VI was dropped and this unit became offically known as the 6.Infanterie-Division.
The 6.Infanterie first saw action in 1940 under Generalmajor von Biegelben in France, where it earned a reputation as an effective fighting unit.
In June, 1941 it took part in the invasion of Russia as part of 9.Armee under Heeresgruppe Mitte. The division took part in heavy fighting on the drive to Moscow but managed to cross the Volga river north of the Russian capital in late November. It was in an exposed position when the Soviet winter offensive began, holding some 16 miles of frontage when the average was around six miles against a determined assault. Still, the 6th gave ground only grudgingly, moving back gradually, both inflicting and sustaining heavy casualties. The division remained with Heeresgruppe Mitte for the next two and a half years.
In 1942 it fought in the defensive battles on the central sector of the eastern front, while notably, in March 1943 taking part in 9.Armee's brilliant retreat from the Rzhev salient - a manuever which freed a dozen divisons from very precarious circumstances. In July 1943, under Generalleutnant Horst Grossman (1943-44) it was involved in the Kursk battles as part of XLVII Panzer Korps. The division later fought heavily in the rear-guard defensive battles of the middle-Dnieper.
The 6th was smashed in the Soviet Summer offensive of 1944 along with most of the rest of Heeresgruppe Mitte. Most of the division was surrounded with XXXV.Korps and forced to surrender. It was destroyed on June 6, 1944, and officially disbanded on July 18, 1944.
The Division was reformed on July 25, 1944 in Sennelager as the 6.Grenadier-Division.
* In 1934 the German armed forces were still known as the Reichswehr and the restrictions of the treaty of Versallies were technically still in place. These restrictions limited the number of German divisions to 7 but almost from the start in 1921 there were plans to expand that number. Shortly after the NSDAP came to power in 1933 the number of divisions was indeed expanded from 7 to 21. The Reichswehr divisions didn't transition over during the reforming and expansion period, they were used instead to help provide a basis for the newly forming units. The commanders of the 7 divisions of the Reichswehr also served as the head of a regional Wehrkreiskommando of the same number as the division, thus serving a duel role. During the transition period the Reichswehr Wehrkreiskommandos were upgraded into Korp formations and the commanders were transfered to serve as their new commanding officers. Through this move the staff of each of the Reichswehr divisional units was lost making it unwieldy to transfer entire divisions into the newly forming Wehrmacht. From here the first step in the expansion from 7 to 21 divisions was the formation of 3 Wehrgauleitung in each region previously controlled by the Reichswehr divisions,creating 21 Wehrgauleitungen (7x3=21). Each Wehrgauleitung was named according to the city it was housed in. The 21 Wehrgauleitungen were the true foundation for the first divisions of the Wehrmacht. The regimental units of the former 7 divisions were shifted about and used to form the organic units of the new divisions.
** The german armed forces expanded from 7 divisions to 21 in 1934. In an effort to hide the expansion for as long as possible, all new divisions were given cover names. The cover names given to each of the 21 new divisions corresponded to the title of the commander placed in charge of the unit in most cases. As there was an Infantry and Artillery commander in each of the 7 divisions of the Reichswehr (known as Infanteriefüher I-VII and Artilleriefüher I-VII, depending on the number of the division in question) they took command of 14 of the newly formed divisions (2x7=14). When the various Infantry and Artillery commanders took command, their new divisions existance was hidden by the use his previous title as the cover name for the unit. The remaining 7 new divisions not commanded by one of the previous Infantry or Artillery commanders were taken over by newly appointed commanders and given cover names such as Kommandant von Ulm, or Kommandant von Regensburg.
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