Hitler Youth War Service: 12th Waffen-SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend


Figure 1.--Thee are some of the Panzergrenadier boys of the 12th Waffen-Ss Panzer Division that fought the British and Cnadians to a standtill at Caen after the D-Day Division. Panzergrenadier meant the infantry assigned to Panzer divisions. Notice the Iron Crosses that the three boys here have just been awarded, apparently in the field. The pgotographbis undated, but was apparently taken around June 15-20, 1944./.

Hitler Youth boys were fed into the Wehrmacht. One panzer division was actually organized from HJ recruits. The decission was made to form the unit in 1943. Youth Leader Axman organized it as a birthdate present for the Führer. It was the famed 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend of the Waffen SS. The Division was commanded by Germany's youngest general, Kurt Meyer. There were 50 Wehrmacht officers selected that had been Hitler Youth leaders were assigned to the new Division and were used to form the core of it. HJ boys that demonstrated leadership skills were selected for NCO school. The SS ordered 10,000 boys in the Summer of 1943 to report for basic training. Many of these boys were still 16. Most of the rest were 17 years old. The training was just like any Waffen SS unit, with one exception. The HJ boys received a candy ration rather than the cigarette ration normally given to soldiers. The division was deployed to France in preparation for the anticipated Allied invasion. The Division went into action in June 1944 against the Canadians trying to take Caen during the Normandy campaign. The reckless courage the boys showed fighting the British before Caen was legendary. The Division itself was desimated. They managed to destroy 28 tanks while losing only 6 of their own. The ferocity of this division was said to be "seldom equalled and never excelled during the whole campaign." The Division suffered high casualties, in part because of the reckless courage og the HJ boys. After only the first month of figthing, the Division lost 20 percent of its strength killed, 40 percent were wounded and 50 percent of its armored vehicles were lost. This HJ Division proved one of the most fanatical in the Wehrmacht. Although heavily outnumbered by British and Canadian units and totally lacking air support, yhe Division stalled the Mongomery's advance for weeks. Montgomery was not able to break through Caen until the U.S. Third Army under Patton had broken out at St Lo. With the American breakout the Sivision was in retreat (July 1944). Only about 600 men left managed to get back to the Reich. All of their tanks were lost. Field Marshal von Rundstedt said, "It is a pity that this faithful youth is sacrificed in a hopeless situation."

The HJ and the Wehermacht

The Hitler Jugend program from an early sage placed considerable emphasis on the military spirit. A part of the oprogram was instilling the noble destiny of German youth to die for the Führer. The program even included mock funerals for fallen heros. Thus it was only a natural progression for the HJ to formalize itsrelationship bwith the Wehrmacht. The Hitler Youth leadership just before Hitler launched World War II entered into a formal agreement with Wehrmacht (August 11, 1939). Baldur Von Schirach for the Hitler Youth organization and Wilhelm Keitel, Chief of the High Command of the Wehrmacht (OKW) finalized a program of close cooperation between their respective organizations. se two conspirators. The agreement itself stated: "while it is exclusively the task of the Hitler Youth to attend to the training of their units in this direction, it is suitable in the sense of a uniform training corresponding to the demands of the Wehrmacht to support the leadership of the Hitler Youth for their responsible task as trainers and educators in all fields of training for defense by special courses ..., A great number of courses are in progress." [IMT document 2398-PS] Schirach for the HJ agreed to carry out its pre-military activities under standards laid down by the Wehrmacht and Keitel for OKW agreed to train 30,000 Hitler Jugend instructors each year. The agreement stated that it "gives the possibility of roughly redoubling the same 30,000 leaders in the Hitler Youth schools

HJ Division

The decission was made to form a dedicated HJ unit in 1943. The war had turned decicelky against Germany in 1942. The British 8th army defeated the Afruka Korps before Suez (October followed by the Anglo-American Torch invasions (November 1942). Days later the Red Army struick the Germsn 6th Army at Stalingrad (November 1943). Then the final German summer offensive in the East failed at Kursk (July 1943). The German forces were dwindkling at the same time that the American and Soviets were deploying large numbers of new divisions. Tapping into the Hitler Youth provided two great advantages. First boys 17 years of age coukd be mobilized at a time that youth could only be conscripted at age 18 years. And the boys had groiwn up in the Hitler Youth. They were thus for the most part true believers uin Hitler anhd National Socislism. Many were anxious to enter the fight fir the Fatherland. Not inly were there thes practical consideration, but Youth Leader Axman knew it would please the Führer, very impotyanht in the NAZI system. He this presenhted the new Hitler Youth Division go Hiler as a birthday present (April 20, 1943). It was the famed 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend of the Waffen SS.

Commander and Officer Corps

The Division was commanded by Germany's youngest general, Kurt Meyer. He was 34 years old and had joined the Hitler Youth before the NAZIs had seuized power. There were 50 Wehrmacht officers selected that had been Hitler Youth leaders were assigned to the new Division and were used to form the core of it. While the boys that made up the Division were totallyinexperiebced, the officers amd many of the NCOs were veterans from fighting in the East and thus battle hardened veterans highly familiar with combat and Panzer warfare.

The Volunteers

Axman began a recruitment drive within the HJ aimed orimarily at the 17-year-old class which meant may boys whob were just turing 17 years old. The boys were not conscrioted, they were volunteers although presure was put on somr by thrir HJ leaders. There was no shortage of volunteers. Most fervent HJ boys still believed tht Germany was going to win the War. And some eager boys of 16 years were even accepted. An effective Panzer division needed some experienced veterans. Thius some Waffen-SS survivors from diovisions chewed up at Kursk. Many were survivors from Leibstandarte-SS Adolf Hitler. Needed squad and section leaders were filled with Hitler Youth members who had demonstrated leadership aptitude during HJ paramilitary training exercises. They were sent to NCO school.

Training

Some 10,000 highly motivated recruits arrived at the training camp in Beverloo, Belgium (July and August 1943). The training was just like any Waffen SS unit, with one exception. The HJ boys received a candy ration rather than the cigarette ration normally given to soldiers. Waffen-SS training was different than the Wehrmacht. Morale was extremely high in large measure because of the ideolgical commotment of the youth seklected. The traditional, stiff German codes of conduct between officers and men were relaxed. The ethos was more like tge Afrika Korps. There was aore informal relationship between officers and men, in thid case youth. Offucers might explain rather than barking irders. Tedious drills and especually goose-step marching were done away with. The experienced men with lessons from the Eastern Front helped helped train the inexoerienced youthful recruits. The training was realistic abd used live amunitiion. The Division completed its training (spring 1944). It was both fully trained and equipped. It condicted divisional maneuvers observed by General Heinz Guderian the faned Panzer commabder. Commabder in Chief West, Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt, also observed and noted the enthusiasm of thge youth was impressed with the unit profienct, remarkavle for such a newly created division.

Equipment

Waffen-SS units by 1944 were givennpriority over Wehrmacht units when it came to equioment. They were given the best equioment available. In the case of Panzer units this mean the new Panther and Tiger tanks. We do not yet gave details, hiwver ion the precise armament of the 12th Eaffen SS Division.

Deployment

The Division was move to Hasselt, Belgium, at a time that Rundstedt was making his final decesions on deoployment in advance of tge anticipated Allied criss0Channel knvasion. SS-Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler visited the division (May 1944). The division was finally deployed to France in preparation for the anticipated Allied invasion. OKW at the time expected the Allied strike to come at the Pas de Calais. The positioning near Caen in Normandy was probably because Rundstedt abd Rommel saw the division as inexperiences and wanted it deployed uin a rear area.

Action

When the allies struck at Normandy (June 6, 1944), the Hitler Youth Division found itsekf at the time as most critical positions in the battke for Normnahdy. It was one of three Panzer divisions within striking ditace of the lanbding beaches. These divisions ad their imense power was held in reserve by Hitler. Only he could give thec iorders to commit them. The Allies began lnding ion the Normandy beaches at dawn. Hitker was not awakened in the morning and Rommel had returned to Germsny for his wife;s birthday. Hitler finally relased the Panzers (2:30 pm). It drove toward Caen which ws located behind the British and Canbadian Sword and Juno beaches. Montgomey ws tasked on taking Caem on the first day. This was important because Caen diominated the direct route toward Paris. One circumstance that the Division had not trained for was iperaring in an enviroment where Germany had totally lost control of the air. Allied fighter bombers straved the advabncing Panzers. This slowed the advance. The Division finally rwached Caen (10:00 pm). The Division went into action against the Canadians trying to take Caen. The HJ Division faced an Allied force that had air superiority and acked by massive artillery support. The Candians faced a Divion equipped with the finest tanks of the War, excellent anti-tanl weapons and machine guns, and fanatically committed young soldiers. The reckless courage the boys showed fighting the British before Caen was legendary. The Division itself was desimated. They managed to destroy 28 tanks while losing only 6 of their own. The ferocity of this division was said to be "seldom equalled and never excelled during the whole campaign." They would hold Caen for the Germans, but at a terrible price.

Casualties

The Division suffered high casualties, in part because of the reckless courage of the HJ boys. After only the first month of figthing, the Division lost 20 percent of its strength killed, 40 percent were wounded and 50 percent of its armored vehicles were lost.

After Normandy

The Division withdrew from Normandy, but was mauled at Falaise. Like the rest of the Wehrmaht in France, the survivors sought refuge behind the Siegried Line (West Wall). Only about 600 of the youth, now griseled veterans managed to get back to the Reich (September 1944). All of their tanks were lost. Field Marshal von Rundstedt said, "It is a pity that this faithful youth is sacrificed in a hopeless situation." The Division did not desintegrate. The kjept fighting, particpating in the Bulge offenbsive. Hitlker ultimately sent to Hungary where they participated in the failed German effort to retake Budapest. Finally the last survivors turned west, not wabting tio be caotured by the Soviets. The 455 survuiving soldiers and one tank of the 12th SS-Panzer Division Hitlerjugend surrendered to the American 7th Army (May 8, 1945).







HBU






Navigate the Historic Boys' Uniform Chronology Pages:
[Return to the Main chronologies page]
[The 1900s] [The 1910s] [The 1920s] [The 1930s] [The 1940s] [The 1950s] [The 1960s] [The 1970s] [The 1980s] [The 1990s] [The 2000s]



Navigate the Historic Boys' Uniform Web Site:
[Introduction] [Activities] [Biography] [Chronologies] [Countries] [Essays] [Garments] [Organizations] [Other]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Questions] [Unknown images]
[Boys' Uniform Home]



Navigate the Historic Boys' Uniform Web organization pages:
[Return to the Main World War II Hitler Youth war srvice page]
[Return to the Main Hitler Youth war work page]
[Return to the Main D-Day page]
[Boys' Brigade] [Camp Fire] [National] [Pioneers] [Royal Rangers] [Scout]




Created: 8:14 AM 8/8/2012
Last updated: 8:14 AM 8/8/2012