Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler
The Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler started life in the early days of the NSDAP as Adolf Hitler's personal, elite bodyguard. As the Waffen (or 'armed') SS increased in size throughout the 1930s and into the war years, so the Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler evolved into a full sized division, the 1st SS Panzer Division, a detachment of which was always close to Hitler. The Leibstandarte also provided many officers and NCOs for its younger sibling division, the 12th SS Division Hitlerjugend, formed in 1943.
The unit's title of "Adolf Hitler" was in honour of its importance in the political hierarchy of the Third Reich. Their original formation, as the Stabswache and then the Stoßtrupp Adolf Hitler, was intended to be a loyal and separate unit from the SA, and they were issued with unique uniforms and insignia, including the first use of the Totenkopf ("Death's Head") on uniform caps.
The unit took part in the Beer Hall Putsch, Hitler's first and failed attempt to take power. After his release from prison in 1924, another new unit was formed, the soon to be named Schutzstaffel, which loosely translates to 'protection force'. And so the SS was born.
From this point onwards there were now two completely separate paramilitary organisations within the NSDAP; the SA and the SS. By 1933 the SS had grown in size to 50,000 members, and from this an elite collection of men was hand-picked to act as a personal bodyguard to Hitler. It would be renamed three times before becoming known as the Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler. It was first known as the SS-Stabswache Berlin, before being redesignated as the SS-Sonderkommando Berlin. Two more units were formed (SS-Sonderkommando Zossen and SS-Sonderkommando Jüterbog) which acted as training and police units for the SS. These were absorbed into the main unit later in 1933, and it was all again renamed the Adolf Hitler-Standarte. During the rallies in honour of the 10th anniversary of the Putsch on November 8/9th, 1933, the unit took part and was finally renamed the Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler.
The friction between the SA, the SS and the German army came to a head in 1934, and the SA was completely usurped as a force during the Night of the Long Knives, when several key members were executed, including its leader Ernst Röhm. Around 177 people were executed, and the Leibstandarte played a key role, always following orders from Hitler without question. With the SA removed, the SS became the sole political protector of the Nazi party in Germany.
In 1941 men from the Leibstandarte formed the SS Division Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler. It was the first division in the Waffen-SS Order of Battle. Over the next two years, the Division became first a Panzer-Grenadier and then a full-blown Panzer division. In 1943 a junior division, the SS Division Hitlerjugend, was formed and acquired many officers and NCOs from Leibstandarte veterans.
The Leibstandarte saw action throughout the war, more often than not finding itself in the most important sectors. Not only were they part of the occupation of the Rhineland of Austria and Czechoslovakia, they also saw action in almost every major Wehrmacht operation. Like the other elite SS units (most notably the 2nd SS Division Das Reich and later, the 12th SS Division Hitlerjugend) Hitler took great interest in the placement of these units on the battlefield and their roles in the war on a strategic scale. They were used as 'fire squads' and often tipped the scale of battle in Germany's favour. A key example is the Battle of Kursk, when the Leibstandarte, having made the most impressive gains of all the German units involved, and on the verge of a breakthrough of the Russian defences, was withdrawn by Hitler and sent to occupy Italy. In his view, he needed not only military units, but units that were tied ideologically to fascism. The SS weren't just fighting units, they embodied the spirit of Nazism, and for this reason Hitler had nothing but the highest expectation of them and often demanded more of them than was humanly possible.
Despite fighting loyally for six years, and often achieving the impossible, Hitler eventually turned on the Leibstandarte. After withdrawing from the failed Operation Frühlingserwachen, Hitler demanded the unit return their sacred Adolf Hitler cuffbands. Sepp Dietrich was so disgusted by this command that it was apparently not passed down to the men, although some rumours abound that the cuffbands were returned to Hitler in a chamber pot.
A full list of major operations that the Leibstandarte participated in:
- Occupation of the Saar region of the Rhineland , 1935
- Anschluss with Austria, 1938
- Occupation of Czechoslovakia, 1939
- Polish campaign, 1939
- Invasion of Western Europe, 1940
- The Balkans Campaign , 1941
- Operation Barbarossa (Eastern Front), 1941-2
- Western Front, 1943
- Eastern Front, 1943, most notably Operation Citadel (the battle at Kursk)
- Occupation of Italy , 1943
- Eastern Front, 1943
- Western Front, from the Normandy landings to the Ardennes, 1944
- Eastern Front, including the abortive Operation Frühlingserwachen, 1945
The contents of this article is licensed from www.wikipedia.org under the GNU Free Documentation License. Click here to see the transparent copy and copyright details