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24TH WAFFEN MOUNTAIN DIVISION OF THE SS KARSTJÄGER

The 24th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Karstjäger was a German mountain infantry division of theWaffen-SS, the armed wing of the German Nazi Party that served alongside, but was never formally part of, theWehrmacht during World War II. Named Karstjäger, it was one of the 38 divisions fielded by the Waffen-SS. Formed on 18 July 1944 from the SS Volunteer Karstwehr Battalion, its nominal strength was never more than theoretical and the division was soon reduced to the Waffen Mountain (Karstjäger) Brigade of the SS. Throughout its existence as a battalion, division and brigade, it was primarily involved in fighting partisans in the Karst Plateau on the frontiers of YugoslaviaItaly, and Austria; the mountainous terrain required specialized mountain troops and equipment.

Founded in 1942 as a company, the unit consisted mainly of Yugoslav Volksdeutsche and recruits from South Tyrol. Although focused on anti-partisan operations, it also saw action in the wake of the Italian surrenderwhen it moved to disarm Italian troops in Tarvisio and protect ethnic German communities in Italy. In addition, at the end of the war it successfully fought to keep passes into Austria open, allowing German units to escape the Balkans and surrender to British forces. The remnants of the unit became some of the last Germans to lay down their arms when they surrendered to the British 6th Armoured Division on 9 May 1945.

History[edit]

 

 

 

 

The training centre for the SS-Freiwilligen-Karstwehr Battalion was located in Pottenstein, Austria

Origins[edit]

In mid-1942, the Waffen-SS formed a company intended for anti-partisan operations in the rugged and high-altitude border region between ItalyAustria and Yugoslavia known as the Karst.[2] SS-Standartenführer(Colonel) Hans Brandt, a geologist and speleologist, suggested the creation of the unit.[3]The company was formed at the SS training centre in Dachau on 10 July 1942 from soldiers of the supply services training and replacement battalion of the 23rd Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Kama (2nd Croatian).[4]

It was expanded to battalion strength of around 500 troops in November 1942, and as the SS-Freiwilligen-KarstwehrBattalion,[5] it spent the first six months of 1943 training in Austria.[2] The unit drew its recruits mainly from YugoslavVolksdeutsche (ethnic Germans) and South Tyrolians,[6] with the officer cadre being drawn from SS geological detachments.[3] The battalion-strength Waffen-SS Geological Corps (GermanSS-Wehrgeologenkorps), from which such detachments were drawn, was formed in April 1941 and consisted mainly of engineers with a few geologists. They examined caves and natural obstacles, and determined whether off-road terrain was suitable for tanks.[7] They were also responsible for locating sources of fresh water.[8] Following the Italian capitulation in September 1943, the battalion was tasked with disarming Italian troops around Tarvisioon the border between the three countries. It then moved on to protective duties for nearby Volksdeutsche communities. From October 1943 until June 1944, the battalion was based at Gradisca d’Isonzo in Italy, and participated in anti-partisan operations in the areas ofTriesteUdine and the Istrian peninsula.[2] On 10 October, a column of the battalion was ambushed at thePredil Pass, suffering three killed and eight wounded. The following day the battalion burned down the village ofStrmc and killed 16 local men in retaliation. Up to 19 October 1943, the battalion suffered a total of 18 killed and 45 wounded in a series of engagements near the village ofFlitsch. During the same period, the battalion captured two Ita

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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