The 1.Infanterie-Division was formed in October 1934 in Königsberg, East Prussia. It was originally known as Wehrgauleitung Köningsberg*. Shortly after the unit was established it was given the cover name Artillerieführer I**. The division was made up almost exclusively of East Prussian recruits. It’straditionalist lineage could be denoted by its use of the Hohenzollern coat of arms (the emblem of the ruling family of Imperial Germany from 1871 to 1918), as its divisional symbol. The organic regimental units of this division were formed by the expansion of the 1.(Preußisches) Infanterie-Regiment of the 1.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 Artillerieführer I was dropped, and this unit became officially known as the 1.Infanterie-Division. On February 3rd, 1936, it was transferred to Insterburg from Königsberg.
In 1939, during the invasion of Poland, the division was part of XXVI.Armee-Korp(Armee-Korps Wodrig), which in turn was part of General von Kuchler’s 3.Armeebeneath von Bock’s Heeresgruppe Nord. The 1.Infanterie-Division first saw combat when the 3.Armee launched across the East Prussian border. The 3.Armee was attempting to break through the Polish lines north of Warsaw, and in so doing, had to first crush the strong Polish defensive positions in and around the Polish city of Mlawa. Mlawa was one of the few heavily defendedPolish fortifications and was being held by the Polish 20th Infantry Division and the nearby MazowieckaCavalry Brigade. The 1.Infanterie-Division attacked the right-wing of the Polish 20th Infantry Division in an attempt to take Mlawa and thus help open the way for the advance of the rest of the 3.Armee towards Warsaw. The Poles held back the attacks of 1.Infanterie-Division though, until German units to the east created a dangerous gap in the lines between the 20th and the Mazowiecka Cavalry Brigade, effectively compromising the defensive positions it held, and causing it to pull out of Mlawa to a new defensive position along the Vistula River to the south, just north of Warsaw. After the heavy engagements between September 1st and 4th along the border, the1.Infanterie-Division pushed south and east where it crossed over the Narew andBug Rivers, fighting near We grow and Garwolin, finally ending the Campaign to the east of Warsaw near Siedice.
The division took part in the 1940 invasion of France, though only being lightly engaged.
In June 1941, the 1.Infanterie-Divison invaded Russia as part of Heeresgruppe Nord, and was heavily engaged during the drive on Leningrad. While suffering very heavy losses in the first campaigns of 1941, it would remain as part of 1.Armeekorps, a staple of the Leningrad fighting, taking part in the battles of Lake Peipus and Lake Ladoga, until October 1943 when it was seconded to Heeresgruppe Süd as part of XXXXVIII.Panzer-Korps. Here the Division saw heavy action in the battle of Krivoi Rog in the Dnieper campaign, and was later encircled with 1.Panzer-Armee between the Bug and the Dnestr rivers in March 1944. The Division managed to break out as rear-guard ofXLVI.Panzer Corps, suffering heavy casualties.
Rested and refitted, the Division was next sent to the Central sector of Heeresgruppe Mitte. Escaping piecemeal from the overwhelming Soviet Summer 1944 offensive, but still relatively intact, it remained with what was left ofHeeresgruppe Mitte, later ending the war in early 1945 fighting in its native East Prussia.
* In 1934 the German armed forces were still known as the Reichswehr and the restrictions of the treaty of Versailles 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 transferred 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 (7×3=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 (2×7=14). When the various Infantry and Artillery commanders took command, their new division’s existence was hidden by the use of 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.
* Some pre-war infantry divisions had a Beobachtung-Abteilung within their organization. These units were artillery observation units (sound and light measuring). After the Polish Campaign they were all removed and became independent Heerestruppen.
** Until 1940 divisional anti-tank units were known as Panzer-Abwehr-Abteilung. After the spring of 1940, they were classified as Panzerjäger-Abteilung.
*** Santitäts-Abteilung existed prior to mobilization in August of 1939, but they were organized much differently during peacetime than during the war. Each unit was divided into Sanitätsstaffeln, one for each garrison of the division in question. This is because rear area divisional service units for medical, veterinary, and supply functions were considered mobilization units, that is, they were formed upon mobilization and did not exist in their planned wartime forms until August of 1939.
Gen.Maj. Georg von Küchler 10.01.34 – 4.01.35
Knights Cross Holders