history of the 275. infanterie
I. The 223.
The 275th Infanterie Division was built on the remnants of the old 223. Landwehr Division which had been formed in Dresden, Germany in 1939. As a Landwehr Division, the 223. was made up of men older than the average age of enlistment at the time. Soon after the German invasion of Poland on September 1st, 1939, the 223. was sent as occupation troops to Potsdam and the surrounding regions. Here, they existed in relative harmony with the locals, were well fed, healthy, and rested. During their time in Potsdam, the 223. participated in training exercises, preparing themselves for combat. In early spring, 1940, the division was transferred to Belgium and France as part of the 6th Army to reinforce troops fighting in those areas. The 223. remained in Bordeaux, France until being transferred once again in November, 1941, this time to the Russian Front as a part of Army Group North. Battling not only the Soviet Army, but also the notoriously harsh elements of the Russian Autumn and Winter, first slowed by vast fields of thick mud, then by a deep, unforgiving winter, the Division battled fiercely against the Soviets in the Russian Winter Offensive, the Siege of Leningrad, and at Lake Ladoga. Suffering heavy losses, three battalions were dissolved and the remainder of men were regrouped and sent as reinforcements to Southern Russia in the summer of 1943. Here, these men would take part in the fighting at Velikije-Luki, Kharkov, and Kiev. It was at Kiev that the division was finally destroyed, and what few brave survivors there were would become the cadre for a new division, the 275. Infanterie.
II. Official Activation
Officially activated on November 17, 1943, the 275. Infanterie was formed on the survivors of several divisions besides the 223rd. This conglomerate of defunct divisions was originally designated 352. Division, but was quickly re-designated as the 275. In February, 1944, the fledgling division was transferred to Brittany, France. By March, the Division had grown to 11,568 strong. By June, the Division also contained 1,560 HiWi troops.
III. Kampfgruppe Heintz and the Normandy Invasion
Around the time of the Normandy invasions, elements of the 275. were a part of Kampfgruppe Heintz, including two infantry regiments, one Panzer Jäger Kompanie, a Pionier abteilung, a Fusilier abteilung, an infantry howitzer platoon, and one platoon equipped with 75mm Pak guns, the men of which totaling around 4,000 strong. Kampfgruppe Heintz was deployed to an area West of St. Lo on June 8th, 1944 to aid in the defense against the invading Allied Armies. Their efforts were largely in vain, although they fought with great vigor and tremendous spirit. Until June 27th, when the rest of the division was sent to replace lost men of the Panzer Lehr Division, Kampfgruppe Heintz was the only element of the 275. involved in the fighting in Normandy. By July 24th, the entire division was committed to the campaign.
IV. Kampfgruppe Heintz from Cobra to Aachen
The remnants of Kampfgruppe Heintz were deployed alongside the famed Panzer Lehr Division during Operation Cobra, while the rest of the 275. was scattered throughout France, serving alongside various detachments of units such as the 352nd, Panzer Lehr, and the 2nd SS Panzer Division. During Operation Cobra, the Division, along with Kampfgruppe Heintz was almost completely wiped out, however, refused to surrender. The Division was in such poor condition that it was listed as all but destroyed by SS General Paul Haussar of the 7th Army. Despite this premature observation, elements of the unit continued fighting throughout the defense of Aachen, where they were removed from the line. At this time, the division reported only 800 surviving men of the original 4,000 men of Kampfgruppe Heintz. These brave men, starving and outnumbered, all but forgotten by their superiors, wearing soiled, torn uniforms, crawling with lice, exhausted and losing their will to live, refused to surrender and continued their defenses far past their expected date of expiration.
V. Return to Aachen, and into the Hürtgenwald.
Returning from the brink of defeat, the battle-hardened 275. was regrouped on October 1st, 1944, absorbing two Luftwaffe abteilungen as well as miscellaneous German local defense troops. On October 3rd, the division reported a strength of 5,000 men, six Sturmgeschütz assault guns, a 210 mm howitzer, and thirteen 105 mm howitzers. Despite being drastically undermanned, the 275. was returned to the fighting in Aachen in November, 1944. After another round of long stretches of combat service in Aachen, the division was pushed into the Hürtgen Forest. Here, they were faced with the task of fighting not only against the enemy, but against the elements as well as physical and emotional exhaustion. Braced against the cold with only their blankets and overcoats, the men of the 275. were suffering from exposure and trenchfoot from constant moisture. Combining such a hardship with difficult terrain, constant American pushes through the Siegfried line, and suffering morale makes for an army simply unfit for fighting. Despite this, the 275. fought with everything they had, but to no avail. The Hürtgen Forest was an absolute failure for the division, which was once again nearly totally decimated, however, once again, the division refused to surrender and the remaining troops were reassigned to the 344th Infanterie Division when the 275. was pulled from the line, dissolved, and completely rebuilt as a Volksgrenadier division, armed with the new Sturmgewehr weapons and observing different tactics as opposed to the traditional Infanterie doctrine.
Soon after the newly rebuilt 275. Volksgrenadier Division was returned to the fighting, it was finally completely extinguished in the Halbe Pocket around April 29, 1945, where they were completely overwhelmed by Soviet troops. Their fate was not one which resulted from cowardice, nor was it through any tactical blunder, the men of the 275. Infanterie Division fought long and hard in less than ideal conditions and to their final days, refused to surrender. Throughout the 275. Infanterie's history, they were met with defeat at almost every turn, but under the orders of General Leutnant Hans Schmidt, refused to surrender. Defeat after defeat, the division repeatedly bounced back to defend their homeland to the last man, which by the mighty hand of the Allied Armies, they were prevented from doing.