The traditions of the German 44.Infanterie-Division were deeply rooted in the history of the Austrian units which it was originally formed from, namely, the Austrian K.(u.)k. Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 4 “Hoch- und Deutschmeister” which was a part of the 2nd Austrian Infantry Division prior to 1938.
In 1696 Franz-Ludwig, Count Palatine of the Rhein, Duke of Neuberg, authorized the “Hoch- und Teutschmeister” regiment which was to be composed of three battalions of foot, each of which would have four companies. This is considered to be the formal birth of the Hoch- und Deutschmeister line, possibly the proudest name in Imperial Austria’s military history.
The regiment was commanded by Prince Eugen in the victorious battle of Zenta which helped break Turkish power in Europe, HuD baptism of fire. The Regiment also took part in the storming of Belgrade in 1717 and the attack on Kolin in the Seven Years War in 1757. In 1769 HuD was granted the Number 4. Under Emperor Josef II HuD Nr. 4 became known as a House Regiment for Wein (Vienna) and recruitment was concentrated in that city. The regiment was referred to as the “Wiener Edelknaben” which translates to “Vienna Pages” – the sons of the best families of Wien sought positions in the unit and members included Archdukes and Imperial princes.
In 1788 HuD Nr. 4 helped conquer Belgrade and in 1790, Cetin. In the various wars with France, the unit fought in more than 90 battles in 25 years. In the Wars of Liberation the Deutschmeister fought Napoleon at San Michele in 1813, at Mincio in 1814, at Valeggio in 1814, and finally carried its banner triumphantly through the streets of Paris in 1815. HuD was used in Hungary in 1849 to help crush the Hungarian revolt and fought at Koeniggsgrätz in 1866 when Prussia defeated Austria. In 1897, the band of HuD traveled to the United States for the St. Louis Exposition where it was received with great a claim.
In the First World War HuD fought on the Eastern Front against the Russians where it suffered enormous losses and was transferred to the Italian front where it ended the war on the Piave River. When WWI ended, Hoch- und Deutschmeister was disbanded. With the end of the Hapsburg Empire HuD was made a part of the newly formed Austrian Volkswehr. By 1933 HuD was once more permitted to wear its traditional sky-blue color. After the Anschluss with Germany in 1938 HuD was absorbed into the Wehrmacht as Infanterie-Regiment 134 of the 44.Infanterie-Division, bringing with its vast traditions and history.
One of the most important traditions the unit brought into the Wehrmacht was its regimental Colors. During the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, the Austrian K.(u.)k. Infantrerie-Regiment Nr. 4 “Hoch-und Deutschmeister” had 3 battalions, each of which carried their own battalion Colors. In 1868, a new set of Austrian Army regulations stipulated that only the I and II battalions would be authorized to carry Colors. The I battalion retained its Colors and the II battalion took on the colors of the III battalion. The reason for this was because during the wars of 1866 the III battalion particularly distinguished itself in battle, so therefore the II battalion Colors were retired, and instead, the battalion carried the Colors formerly belonging to the III battalion. Army regulations were changed again in 1889, this time with all II battalion Colors being retired throughout the Army as well leaving a single regimental Color based on the I battalion. A request by the regiment allowed them to retire the I battalion Color and instead retain the former III battalion flag as their sole regimental Color. The II Battalion was also granted the privilege to continue carrying it for the regiment. Additionally, unlike other Austrian regiments that paraded their Colors in the center of the regimental formations, Hoch-und Deutschmeister was entitled to carry their colors in the lead of the regiment. These exceptions remained basically in effect through World War I.
After the Anschluss, Infanterie-Regiment 134 was granted the distinction of carrying two different Colors, unlike any other unit in the German Army. It was also granted the name “Hoch- und Deutschmeister” after the title of the Austrian unit upon which it was based. On special occasions, the regiment was allowed to carry the battalion Colors of the defunct Infanterie-Regiment Nr 4, and this occurred both before and during the war.
Another tradition of the 44.Infanterie-Division was instituted on March 23rd, 1944 while it was stationed in Italy. Members of the 44.Infanterie-Division (RGDHuD) were granted the right to wear a metal emblem upon their uniform shoulder-boards known as the Deutschmeister-Kreuz. It was a small blue-enameled Maltese cross edged in gold with a Reichsadler and banner in the center reading “Stalingrad”. For this reason, the emblem was also known by soldiers of the unit as the Stalingrad-Kreuz. The metal emblem was worn by any soldier or officer of the unit and was based on the cross worn by the chevalier monks of the Deutschmeister-Orden that were a part of the knightly orders of the 12th Century. The Deutschmeister-Kreuz was so popular that members of the unit sometimes wore it on the left side of their field caps as well! While this was generally against regulations it was in fact tolerated as many divisional units took to wearing their respective emblems towards the end of WWII. Interestingly, both emblems used by the 44.Infanterie-Division – the red-white-red shield used from 1939 until 1941 and the Deutschmeister-Kreuz used from 1943 until 1945 – date to the time of the Crusades.
On February 6th, 1945 the OKH issued an authorization to Infanterie-Regiment 134 of the 44.Infanterie-Division (RGDHuD) awarding it the honor of wearing a cuff title with the Hoch- und Deutschmeister name. The reason for the award of this cuff title was in recognition of its “heroic performance” in combat. Due to the date of the order, it is unlikely that any were ever worn by the unit and most sources on the topic agree. The post-WWII 44.Inf.Div. veterans organizations did issue three varieties of the HuD cuff title though, and these are sometimes confused with varieties assumed to have been awarded during WWII. No versions are even known to have been actually worn during WWII.
Western Campaign 1940
Eastern Front 1941-1943
Destroyed, reformed 1943
Italian Front 1943-1944
Eastern Front 1944-1945
The 44.Infanterie-Division was formed on April 1st, 1938 in Wien (Vienna), largely from the 2.Infanterie-Division of the former Austrian Army which provided Infanterie-Regiment 3 “Erzherzog Karl” for Infanterie-Regiment 131 and Infanterie-Regiment 4 “Hoch und Deutschmeister” for Infanterie-Regiment 134. Infanterie-Regiment 132, the third regiment of the new 44.Infanterie-Division, was formed from Niederösterreichischen Infanterie-Regiment 6 of the 3.Infanterie-Division.
Under the command of Generalleutnant Albrecht Schubert the division formed part of General Keinitz’s XVII.Armeekorps (14.Armee – List), for the invasion of Poland in September of 1939 where it took part in the attack on Krakau and the advance across the Vistula river. The division traveled some 540kilometers in 18 days of marching and fighting – an average daily march of 29 kilometers!
The May 1940 attack on France found the 44.Infanterie-Division initially held in OKHreserve at Hameln, being assigned to 6.Armee on May 15, 1940, for combat operations. As rear-guard, it was only lightly engaged and casualties were minimal for the duration of the campaign.
In the June 1941 attack on the Soviet Union, the 44.Infanterie-Division was a component of von Kleist’s 1.Panzergruppe/III.Armeekorps (motorized), along with the 14.Panzer-division, and the 298.Infanterie-Division for the drive south into and across Ukraine. In the 1942 summer offensive, as part of1.Panzerarmee/LI.Armeekorps, the 44.Infanterie-Division fought it’s way across the Donets and into the Caucasus, being abruptly re-assigned north to the soon-to-be ill-fated6.Armee/XI.Armeekorps for the drive on the Volga.
It was here, in late November of 1942, that the 44.Infanterie-Division found itself cut-off, immobilized, and reduced to a shell of its former strength in bitter defensive battles for the Stalingrad salient. With the exception of a handful of wounded troops flown out of the doomed city and its replacement unit, the entire44.Infanterie-Division was totally destroyed in Stalingrad or later went into Soviet captivity. It ceased to exist upon the February 1943 surrender of the entire 6.Armee at Stalingrad.
After the original 44.Infanterie-Division had been lost in the pocket at Stalingrad, in mid-1943, a 19th-wave division recruited in Austria, including a small cadre of Officers and NCO’s earlier flown out as wounded, was formed-up to replace the original 44.Infanterie-division. Its main infanterie-regiments were renamed as grenadier-regiments, and by personal order of Hitler the new division was given the unique honorary title, “Reichs-Grenadier-Division “Hoch und Deutschmeister”. After a brief training period, the division was sent to Italy as part of the reserve element for Heeresgruppe B in August 1943. In December, the division was sent south of Rome to stem the Allied advance. It would remain in Italy throughout the year, fighting in the bitterly contested battles of the Gothic line, and notably at Monte Battaglia in September of 1944.
The division was sent to the Hungarian sector of the Eastern Front in February 1945 where its remnants fought until falling back into Austria where the Division surrendered in May of 1945. Portions of the unit were taken by the Soviets while the majority came into American control near Rosenberg.