France Fights On (English Translation) - Thread III - The lost files

Exotic interludes
With the summer of 1941 now too far advanced, Hitler finally had to decide to push Barbarossa back for a year. And so here is the Wehrmacht forced to wait until the following spring for its next decisive offensive, which will win the war! During this transitional period, the Brandenburg will try to reconstitute its forces while exercising its talents in secondary operations from which Berlin nevertheless hoped for great things.
The Iraq affair and the mirages of the Orient
Operation Ostmond, i.e. the German intervention for the benefit of the Rashid Ali regime, very indecisive and strictly disastrous for those who contributed to it, is paradoxically the best known of all the actions of the z.b.V. 800 – basically for the exotic mess impression it leaves. However, it was not the first time that Brandenburg had landed in Islamic land – even if, among the many subjects that did not fascinate the Nazi hierarchy, we can undoubtedly rank the Arab-Muslim world. Indeed, an exception that confirms the rule, the Abwehr was very interested in the vast allied colonial empires ranging from Morocco to India, in an attempt to set up destabilization enterprises there.
One country, in particular, had long been in the crosshairs of the men of Canaris, although it was not strictly speaking part of the British Empire: Afghanistan, as much for its warlike tradition as for its proven sympathy towards Germany (notably that of King Mohammed Zaher Shah). In addition, the Kingdom was bordering India, which was far more strategic. In 1939, an Afghan diplomatic mission had already visited Berlin to discuss the problems caused by the leprosy that was ravaging the country. In 1941, the Reich decided to send a scientific expedition, led by Herr Doktor Manfred Oberdörffer (a specialist in tropical diseases), assisted by Herr Doktor Fred Hermann Brandt (a famous entomologist and botanist). Of course, these medical luminaries were to be taken over by the Abwehr... Thus began Operation Tiger – a generic code name that would eventually be found in just about every anti-British operation in the region, and which eventually even by designating the Indian formation of the Wehrmacht!
On May 22, 1941, doctors Oberdörffer and Brandt therefore entered the Brandenburg-sur-Havel camp to receive accelerated training of the “Brandenburg” type before going to Afghanistan via the USSR, which the postponement of Barbarossa owed considerably facilitate ! While their official goal was of course to study Lazarus disease, their real objective was to contact Mirza Ali Khan, self-proclaimed leader of Waziristan in exile, in order to convince him – and the Pashtuns of the region with him – to resume the fight. against the British occupier *. And to respect local custom, the Germans did not come empty-handed: they brought two tons of “medical equipment”, which turned out to be in reality small arms, ammunition and even a 2 cm Flak cannon!
Once in Kabul, the two men joined Oberleutnant Dietrich Wiezel – a veteran Brandenburger from the Benelux, who had arrived as a scout in April and had transformed the German legation into a real center of operations. The latter made them leave the capital on July 15 with an escort to the Indian border. Oberdörffer and Brandt then penetrated about thirty kilometers inside the Raj, engaging in insignificant acts of sabotage, the most notable of which was the destruction of an English radio relay. But Mirza Ali Khan, the Fakir of Ipi (his native village) could not be found… And during this time, one of Wiezel's government contacts in Kabul had spilled the beans to King Zaher Shah. The latter, unwilling to poison already strained neighborhood relations with Bombay (the outbreak, at the same time, of the Iran affair, showed that the teeth of the British lion were long and solid), then launched his army in pursuit of the two Germans! The group fell into an ambush, its guides having probably been bribed – Oberdörffer was killed and Brandt, wounded, was repatriated to Germany… where he continued his career in Brandenburg!


Exotic... the fakir of Ippi whom the Brandenburgers will not be able to meet in Afghanistan:

However, this disappointment did not discourage Oberleutnant Wiezel. Continuing to play on the ambiguity of a kingdom which refused to support the Axis, but also to break its relations with it, the Brandenburger continued his actions of subversion, even crossing the border with the USSR in May 1942 to try to raise Uzbekistan! Having received the reinforcement of some Indian volunteers recruited among the Allied prisoners of war engaged in the Tiger Legion and then trained at Gut Quenzsee, he then regularly attacked the Allied lines of communication in the region until September 1943, when the deterioration of the situation compelled him to join the Heimat.

* Between 1936 and 1939, following the "interference" of the British colonial justice in a case of kidnapping and forced marriage internal to his clan, Ali Khan had raised the whole province, forcing Bombay to send 60,000 men to restore the 'order. In 1941, the situation had barely calmed down…
The Iraq affair was obviously of a completely different magnitude. Many things have been written about the “Lune d’Orient Plan” and it would be pointless to claim to summarize them in a few lines. Let us simply specify that, in the mad hope of seeing the Arab population rise up against the Franco-British occupier, the Reich embarked on an operation intended to destabilize the very unpopular regime of the regent Abdelilah ben Ali el-Hashemi, culminating on April 1 1941 with the coup d'etat of the colonels of the “Golden Square” – one of the greatest successes of Ambassador Fritz Grobba, posted in the region.
From then on, and even prior to the triggering of this coup that Germany had favored well in advance, the question arose of the effective support that Berlin was going to be able to provide to the new government led by Rachid Ali al-Gillani. With no doubt the certainty that this "campaign of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs" could lead to nothing, but also with the hope of regaining the favor of Hitler (who remained obsessed with the idea of a diversion which would ensure that not stagger Barbarossa again), so Canaris ordered the Brandenburg to make a purely sacrificial gesture – but just as Göring ordered the Luftwaffe and Mussolini the Regia Aeronautica.
Lune d’Orient was already off to a bad start – but once inadvertently blown on March 5, following the capture of four Brandenburgers in transit in Lebanon, it could only fail. Two companies of light infantry, a company of paratroopers and a company of Brandenburgers (mainly Germans from Palestine) were thus thrown onto the plateau of the oasis of Deir Hassem, like pure lost children. The Brandenburgers then had the task of framing – with increasing difficulty – the demotivated, under-equipped and notoriously unreliable forces of the four divisions of the Iraqi army, thrown into a pre-determined fight against the Franco-French reaction force. dispatched to restore order and lift the siege of Habbaniyah. The Deutsches Orient Korps supposed to take them up would of course remain a complete chimera*.
While striving to keep their allies in line, the Germans chained exploits without a future. Capture of a river convoy on the Tigris, fierce resistance in the outskirts of Kut with a troop of Bedouins, “armored” counter-attack in Fallujah (with some Italian CV-33 armored cars and tankettes, bought before the war by Iraq ) sowing temporary trouble in the British ranks… But each stroke of brilliance was followed by much heavier failures. Despite their attempts to flee to Turkey, less than twenty of the Brandenburgers sacrificed in Iraq would see their country again before the end of the war.
Let us conclude the pan-Arab whims of the Abwehr with a less significant episode, but all the same a little more glorious: Operation Salaam. The latter consisted of the infiltration into Cairo of two agents, Johannes Eppler ** and Gerd Sandstede, to gather intelligence on troops in transit to Italy and Greece. Eppler and Sandstede landed on April 29, 1942 at the port of Yanby (south of Medina, in Saudi territory), escorted by a dozen men, including some Brandenburgers commanded by the famous Hauptmann-Count Lázló Ede Almásy of Zsadány and Törökszentmiklós. Almásy, a former pilot of the Austro-Hungarian aviation, was also a renowned automobile raid pilot and a great familiar with the desert, having been part of an archaeological expedition that sought the lost White City of Zerzura ***! This adventurous profile, to say the least, was the ideal cover for this caravan made up of three Ford C11 ADFs and three Ford CMP F8s (but armed with MG 15s). the Sonder Kommando Almasy. The latter quickly gave up getting lost in the desert in search of forgotten cities, and instead went up along the coast of the Red Sea to Palestine, to cross the Sinai before finally reaching Egypt thanks to a network previously established supply depots! Despite a week-long delay due to a detour due to stagnant water, the group was finally due to reach Suez on May 23.
The caravan then turned around, leaving the two agents to set up a network in Egypt that we will not hesitate to describe as exotic. Its members included belly dancer Hekmat Fahmi (a darling of many British officers attending the Kit-Kat Club), various members of the government administration in Cairo, and several Egyptian army officers undeterred by their anti-British activities after the war. operation Ramses Mummy. The network will however be dismantled on October 1, 1942, all of its members being arrested and imprisoned. Epple and Sandstede will prefer to talk to avoid the firing squad. As for Count Almásy, who had meanwhile returned to Germany, he received the Iron Cross 1st class for his brilliant expedition.


The Almasy column before its departure:


Count Almasy, finding his bearings in the desert with a compass:

* This formation would have been (theoretically) composed of Sonderverbands 287 (Arab volunteers) and 288 (a regiment commanded by the Oberst Menton and composed of various personnel: Germans from Palestine, deserters from the French colonial army, former legionnaires, GebirgsJaegers from the 1. GJ, Brandenburgers and even some sailors familiar with the region). Of course, neither of these two formations – whose means of transport to Iraq remained to be specified anyway – was operational in April 1941… Despite a vague plan by Deutsche-Arabische Lehr Abteilung supposed, , to attack the Middle East through the Caucasus once the USSR was swept away, the two units were dispersed in July 1941. They formed the core of the 101. Leichte-InfanterieDivision, part of which was then reassigned to the Brandenburg regiment to make up for the losses of the summer of 1943.
** From an Egyptian father, he was a great lover of the epic of Laurence of Arabia.
*** His life later inspired the film The English Patient.
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Hit Fighting France: yes, but how?
But back to closer shores. Among the succession of annoyances which will persist in accumulating in the Mediterranean for the Axis between 1940 and 1943, there is a major one, more irritating than the others: France, defeated, crushed even at home, but which nevertheless persists again and again taunting the Nazi regime over the sea. On the express instruction of Admiral Canaris – who was increasingly worried about the influence that the Sicherheitsdienst SS was gaining at his expense, notably following the fiasco of Baghdad – the Brandenburgers received the order in October 1941 to unite all their commandos from East Africa, South West Africa and Palestine into a single ad-hoc company, the 13. Tropen-Kompanie. This one is in the wake sent to Catania, in Sicily. For the Abwehr, it seems obvious that the desert and the long desolate shores of Africa lend themselves admirably to the tricks and the little war of the Brandenburgers. With the help of a few light vessels, or even submersibles, it should therefore be possible to maintain a form of insecurity on the coasts of the AFN at little cost, maintaining the “diversion” dear to the Führer, while demoralizing these damned French…
After a short period of training and information, the 1. HalßKompanie of Oberleutnant Friedrich von Kœnen – a son of a settler from South West Africa – is finally ready. However, it is not she who takes action. On November 31, 1941, due to the lack of the initially planned Dornier 24 seaplane (which was shot down during a reconnaissance by French fighters on patrol!), a group of seven men taken from the strength of the 5. Kompanie and under the orders from Leutnant Joseph Kiefer embarked from Genoa in U-331 bound for Chenoua Bay, to blow up the Algiers-Blida-Oran line – this was Operation Hai. The latter takes place according to plan… until the commando, on its way to the re-embarkation point, is captured by the French. These, understanding by examining the equipment of the commandos what their target was - there is not much else to aim for in the sector ... - have plenty of time to spot and then defuse the charges. Indeed, these were scheduled to jump after 12 hours, when the group was supposed to have already left Algeria. Worse, no doubt: this failure puts the security services on alert, which will then multiply air or land patrols on the coast as well as static guards on the installations deemed the most strategic.
Informed, the new 13. Tropen-Kompanie prefers to postpone its projects in Algeria. However, the Brandenburg hasn't given up on hitting France - it's just made more cautious by circumstances.
The 1. HalßKompanie (Kœnen) therefore decides for the moment to target less risky sectors than Algeria – if only with regard to the means of accessing them. Indeed, the Brandenburgers are not spies: they are supposed to return to the base once their task is completed. And in view of the difficulties of the Kriegsmarine in the Mediterranean, which will only get worse, and the limited confidence that the Germans have in the Regia Marina, Oberleutnant von Kœnen finally decides to favor the land route to maritime integration.
However, to act in this way, one can hardly pass through Morocco. Indeed, the French protectorate is bordered to the north and south by two Spanish colonies – and while Spain is a little less friendly than before, it remains as understanding as ever. The Brandenburgers can therefore try to take advantage of the vast desert expanses to infiltrate from the Spanish Sahara. The French forces cannot be everywhere… But you still have to have the means to match your ambitions! More or less complex projects are set up, involving a landing in Laâyoune (in Western Sahara), after a possible stopover in the Canary Islands. Equipped with three or four capture vehicles – including an armored SAV-41 captured in Greece! – the Brandenburgers are supposed to go north to carry out a daring raid on the arsenal of Agadir. The operation was finally postponed and then canceled, both to take account of the extreme Spanish reservations and the execrable state of the local infrastructure – not to mention the risks. Eventually, von Kœnen's teams would have to content themselves with patrolling the desert at night on their capture vehicles, along the southern border or from Tangier * Morocco, which seemed more affordable than Algeria, turns out to be a mirage…
However, in January 1942, the Brandenburgers present in Western Sahara were relieved by their colleagues in the Sonderkommando Winner (or Arabische Sicherungs-Verband z.b.V.). This unit mounted on dromedaries is led by Leutnant Franz Wimmer-Lamquet – an Arabist officer raised in East Africa, survivor of the Iraq affair – and forms a commando well suited to the environment, as it is essentially composed of Mauritanian and Tuareg volunteers, supervised by former legionnaires of German origin. Its two squadrons of camels will carry out numerous intelligence raids, and even some attacks on isolated French installations, even on convoys circulating between Morocco and the AEF. Then, faced with the ineffectiveness of their mosquito bites, they disguised themselves in French uniforms to massacre civilians in order to stir up the more or less constantly simmering revolt against the colonizer… Wimmer-Lamquet was finally repatriated with his Germans in March 1943 , when Spain finally decides to move away from the Axis – but its camel riders will continue their own fight against the French for a long time.


Von Koenen, the looter of Africa:
More productive is the action of Konrad von Leipzig and his 2. HalßKompanie. Also born in South West Africa, Leipzig is a career officer. He should have been demobilized after a very serious injury received in Albania, which cost him a leg. However, refusing to be sidelined, the man has become one of the most charismatic executives of the 13. Tropen-Kompanie. He quickly understands that the AFN is too closely watched to do anything useful there – on the other hand, he plans to use the great void of the former Italian colony in Libya, which is very poorly supervised and shared rather vaguely between France and United Kingdom. Leipzig therefore proposes to target the French, then the English and to disturb the peace reigning in Egypt, by carrying out raids as far as the Nile through the desert. A particularly ambitious project… But Leipzig is cheeky, and does not hesitate to ask for the assistance of the Italians. It brings together around twenty men who all speak French, English or Arabic and disembarks them discreetly from an Italian submarine on January 22, 1942 south-east of Misrata, almost at the junction of the Allied occupation zones. – which are supposed to be guarded only by third-rate units. Going back to Tripoli in two stolen vehicles and in French uniforms, they are however hung around Al-Khums by a squadron on dromedaries – because if the garrisons present in the cities are indeed mediocre, the camel riders who patrol the desert expanses are not. no way!


Von Leipzig, the maimed who did not want to give up:


Brandenburger in the desert on a DIY Steyr 1500. OTL, they went to the Nile!

The commando then withdrew towards the coast, where it was recovered on the 29th. And Konrad von Leipzig indicated in his report that “Any action on the Libyan coast seems doomed to failure without committing large military resources, impossible to provide in the absence of a port or naval transport greater than what a submarine can offer. Despite the existence of many potential targets, our resources are still too weak to be able to act in this area. »
The veteran is not discouraged – after all, his group still wandered seven days in Allied territory without being destroyed! And from the beginning of November 1942 – when the war in the East was in full swing – he directed his action towards Sicily, on the verge of falling into the hands of the Allies. This island with steep coasts and relatively poorly controlled becomes one of the favorite playgrounds of the Brandenburgers, who benefit from the complicity of fascist sympathizers. Leipzig creates a commando unit on Sturmboots, called Küstenjäger-Abteilung (battalion of coastal hunters), which harasses the Allied rear lines from Reggio di Calabria, and multiplies the blows against depots or patrols close to the coast. The most important operation - led by Kœnen in person, returned from Morocco and in American uniform - was the destruction of an ammunition depot south of Messina, on November 15, 1942. The US Army in turn suffered the blows of the Brandenburg dagger “with the red scorpion” … and the commando withdrew without loss, re-embarking as planned after several nights of marching to the rendezvous point.
However, in the Italy of 1942, not all contacts are necessarily reliable: a group intended to sabotage a railway work north of Taormina after an insertion in gliders was thus captured on November 25, 1942 by a British patrol arriving on the scene just after landing, and "completely by chance"... But on the 27th, it was the turn of the Brandenburgers to take prisoner British commandos disembarked from a submarine, on information - then from a second, two days later deceived by messages sent by the Germans using the captured radio station!
But these meritorious efforts further and further away from France would not change the fate of arms: at the end of December 1942, Italy rocked and the Axis definitively lost control of the Mediterranean, which put an end to the activities of the Brandenburgers on this theatre.
Thus, it is more than doubtful that Germany participated in any way in the attack on Customs in Oran. And even if, according to certain historians, it is doing too much honor to the NEF to attribute to it all the paternity of this affair, the fact remains that no archive has revealed to date the slightest clue in this sense. In truth, the latter are even formal: on January 7, 1943, the last Brandenburgers left the region for good **.
Admittedly, an Arabische Fallschirmjäger-Einheit of about twenty men commanded by the Hauptmann Wolf was well constituted on February 5, 1943 - but these Arab volunteers will remain in Germany, serving little more than guard of honor to the Grand Mufti before to be absorbed by the 5. Kompanie… and to go and fight far from the Mediterranean, on a front where Brandenburg would find itself facing its Destiny.


Paratroopers of the Arabisches FJE for the review:

* Kœnen will for a time consider making contact with veterans of the Rif War, but vigorous Spanish opposition will kill this project in the bud.
** Konrad von Leipzig would finally commit suicide on January 5, 1945 – not because of the German defeat, but because of unbearable pain from his amputated leg (phantom limb syndrome).
The Eastern Front – the grinder
Apart from operations around the Mediterranean, the winter of 1941-1942 was a waiting period for Brandenburg. Taught by the Pyrrhic victory of Merkur, he did not participate in the Limnos disaster and even less in the defense of the Peloponnese alongside the Italians. The Reich buys time for Barbarossa – and the regiment, certain of its future triumph, does the same. The losses in the Balkans have only just been reabsorbed anyway... so wasting more men is out of the question. The unit nevertheless took advantage of this delay to expand in order to align in the spring of 1942 four companies per battalion – this was not the case in 1941 – although at the cost of integrating a few recruits who were unexpected, to say the least. downright dubious from the racial point of view (crucial, as we know, for the recruitment of the Wehrmacht).
These include Ukrainians from the OUN of Stepan Bandera, the largest of which would form the Nachtigall and Roland battalions. Officially created on March 19, 1941 – while their comrades were preparing to invade the USSR – these two formations finally had plenty of time to receive Brandenburg training at the Neuhammer camp, under the orders of Oberleutnant Herzner, the one who took tunnels even before war was declared. The Ukrainians were under the authority of two leaders – as is often the case with troops of foreign origin. The political leader was their compatriot Roman Shukhevych – who himself had as his “adviser” a well-known pan-Slavic academic, Theodor Oberländer. As for the operational leader, it was Major Yevhen Pobiguschiy, a former veteran of the Polish army in Galicia who had rallied to the Germans. And in fact, the recruits received almost more political education than military practice – Richard Yary, Stepan Bandera's deputy, personally saw to it. On the other hand, the equipment turned out to be more fanciful: Czechoslovakian uniforms, Austrian helmets and armbands Im Dienst der deutschen Wehrmacht (the same as for the future Hiwis!).
If we add to the 400 Ukrainians the 35 Georgians of the Tamara battalion as well as the fifty or so Estonian volunteers in exile from the Erna reconnaissance group (Erna luuregrupp – in-depth reconnaissance in Estonian), and it will be understood that Brandenburg thus had a pool of potential volunteers as original as they are varied...
The purpose of these lines is obviously not to describe in detail the uncertain future of these small "foreign" units, which will weigh very little on the Eastern Front - essentially for lack of a policy consistent with their objectives. . Let us therefore only remember that about twenty men joined the ranks of the Brandenburg – for the most part Galicians vaguely Volksdeutsches according to the Reich and quite enough German for the Abwehr.
On the morning of May 17, 1942, the regiment therefore lined up three four-company battalions for Barbarossa – it was more ready than ever for the fight that awaited it. The Brandenburgers are among the first to cross the border – and even a few hours before the “official” start of the conflict, of course. Divided into the three Heer Army Groups attacking the Soviet Union, they were dropped by air near their targets, or crossed the demarcation line on foot, disguised as NKVD guards. As usual, their objectives are essentially the waypoints and strategic sectors essential to the progress of the panzers but likely to be destroyed or at least defended by the Red Army. An immense task, the main chapters of which will be described.


Brandenburgers disguising themselves as Soviet soldiers:


Preparation for the assault - we spot the targets with models:
I. Battalion (Army Group South): disappointments and mistakes
In this sector considered less strategic than Belarus, the Heer deployed a limited number of troops. It must therefore rely on the army of its main ally on this front: Romania, whose geographical position and claims partly shape the start of the campaign. However, although part of the conflict, Romania will not launch its offensive until May 27 - as much for purposes of diversion as preparation. For ten days, the HG Süd will therefore have to progress with the sole help of the Hungarian army and the Slovaks, along an axis bordered by the Carpathians to the south and by the Prypiat marshes to the north. The Soviet defense is obviously facilitated: the main thrust can only target L'vov, the real lock of the sector. To facilitate progress towards it, Brandenburg has therefore put the means. Under the orders of Major Friedrich-Wilheim Heinz, the entire I. Battalion (except the paratrooper section of the 4. Kompanie, stationed in Suwalski) is regrouped in Zakopane. Men have long trained in the Tatra Mountains. Their breakdown is as follows:

1. Kompanie: Army Group reserve;
2. Kompanie and 4. Kompanie (excluding paras): XLIX. Gebirgs-ArmeeKorps (17. Armee);
3. Company: III. Panzer Corps (Panzer Group 1).

Benefiting from the momentum of the offensive – if not the surprise – as well as a certain caution from the Soviets (whose troops had withdrawn at the last moment 30 kilometers back), the Brandenburgers recorded their first successes during the Battle of borders. Under the orders of Oberleutnant Werner John, a section of the 3. Kompanie seized the bridges over the Bug located in the Oustylouh sector. The 2. Kompanie of Hauptmann Wolf-Justin Hartmann does the same with the railway structure on the San in Butsiv. But these border actions are only a few things that the Fallschirmjäger Zug of Leutnant Lükte will try to achieve three days later, a little further north and during Operation Bogdanov.
Parachuted 140 km behind the Russian lines by three Junkers 52 flying at night at 60 meters altitude, its 35 men attacked alone Bogdanov station and its two bridges located on the Lida-Maladechna line, which leads to Minsk. The Brandenburgers seize the works, eliminate the destruction charges and wait for the panzers… which do not come, blocked by the less effective defense of the Red Army in the sector. The commandos must replicate themselves in the forest, chased by the NKVD. They have 7 dead, 4 wounded and 13 missing – two thirds of the unit are out of action! The survivors will finally be cleared by the advance of the Heer on May 25...


FJ boarding toward Bogdanov !

During this time, the bulk of the 1st Battalion progresses at the head of the HG Süd, which advances rather sluggishly… The 2nd and 4th Kompanien open the way to the 3rd Gebirgs-Division. Closely followed by the Ukrainians Nachtigall and Roland – they are theoretically named – they finally enter L'vov on 30 May. The discovery of prisons emptied by the NKVD and especially of a forgotten mass grave in the Brygidki prison unleashed the fury of the Ukrainians. Reinforced by OUN militiamen from the woods, the latter then embarked on a veritable pogrom which would be the start of a multitude of sordid executions. In this sector, the Holocaust by bullets is not the work of Einsatzgruppe C alone… Furious at the lack of discipline of these men, Major Heinz will send a vehement report to his superiors… who will be much more shocked by the proclamation of Bandera Independence! Heinz would call for these "far too zealous" elements to be quickly removed - but he would only get his own subsequent ouster from the II. Battalion, whose command will later be assigned to Wilhelm Walther.


Nachtigall singing ...


The Rollands, in Czechoslovakian uniform, with a OUN placard.

The rest of the campaign takes place in scouting and assault missions. In Lutsk, the Brandenburgers cross the Styr in the lead, once again taking significant losses in a fight where they use very little of their assets. In Vinnitsa, the 2. Kompanie suffered a new bloodletting during the capture of the bridges over the South Bug. Attacking under Russian artillery shells, the commandos took the red trenches in hand-to-hand combat… On August 3, after 28 dead and 50 wounded, the formation was repatriated.
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II. Battalion (Army Groups Nord… and Süd): Leningrad… or not!
Given the uneven distribution of Wehrmacht efforts along the front line, the II. Battalion was cut in two. The 7. and 8. Kompanien were allocated to the HG Nord - which must seize the city of the tsars - while the 6. Kompanie was assigned to the HG Süd. We will therefore obviously split the story of these formations.
Assigned specifically to the 18. Armee, the Brandenburgers of the 7. Kompanie immediately encountered very strong resistance in the direction of the Jüra – in truth, the men of Leutnant Pfannenstiel did not even manage to debouch and had to wait for the infantry to reduce a simple boundary force! The time to drill, the bridge jumps, under the noses of the commandos.
However, the Brandenburgers hastened to catch up by leading the assault on Riga on May 29, then crossing the Daugava, teamed up with the pioneers of KG Lasch. Running across the Riga railway bridge before the charges exploded, the commandos managed to defuse all the explosive charges… except one, which took away a pillar and caused the structure to collapse, which therefore found itself level with the waves. . The situation of the bridgehead (now isolated, or almost!) remained critical for 48 hours – during this period, the Oberst Lasch gave plenty of artillery while demanding that Pfannensteil cross the rest of his men to the superstructures flush with the water! After very long moments of great tension, it takes an arbitration of the HQ of the 18. Armee so that the Brandenburgers can not execute this crazy order. With the Soviets finally stalling under pressure from other sectors of the front, the bridgehead will be stabilized without much more incident.


The collapsed bridge of Riga - in the foreground, a bridge built after by the pioneers:

Assault on the Riga bridge in 42:

But in the meantime, the 7. Kompanie did not remain inactive. Indeed, on the night of June 1, in Courland, a group of Soviet marines landed on the German rear attacked a field hospital! A bloody struggle begins in the midst of the wounded on both sides, bullets whistle and bayonets cross above the operating tables. To unravel this sort of hostage-taking, the head doctor personally requests the intervention of the men of Pfannensteil, who will defeat the "Black Hand" after a hard night of fighting.
Worn out by a resistance that we did not imagine to be so strong in Berlin, the 7. Kompanie was then redeployed to the rear of HG Mitte, to carry out anti-partisan sweeps throughout Latvia. To the astonishment of the command, the Brandenburgers are doing wonders in this ancillary task, for which there is a lack of means. The thing is duly noted in high places: these new Banden-Jadgkommandos, mobile, flexible and perfectly familiar with guerrilla techniques, are perfectly suited to this task, the importance of which grows every day.
For its part, the 8. GebirgsKompanie of Oberleutnant Hans-Wolfram Knaak is further south, in Lithuania - attached by chance, to PanzerGruppe 4 of Höpner, an old acquaintance of Knaak *!


Knaak, the anti-Nazi or almost:

The unit multiplies the helping hand in the vanguard of the panzers. On May 19, it thus removed a bridge over the Dubysa, at Ariogala. Three sections of the Himmelfahrtkommandos (Ascension commandos) of the Brandenburgers seize almost by chance a hastily abandoned bridge, and which can therefore be demined in peace... but not for long. With the bulk of the German tanks having been repulsed by Shestopalov's 12th Tank Army, Heinz Drenger's Tyroleans faced a fierce Soviet counterattack alone, all night from the 19th to the 20th - and they suffered terribly. Drenger would later recount: “A man fell next to me, hit in the heart, then a second who was standing behind the machine gun. I glance to the left and the village from which we arrived: no trace of German troops. No one's coming. Then another Tyrolean by my side is shot in the ear. I just hear him call his mother that he expires. “Replacing for a time their famous discipline of fire by a real fire of hell, the Brandenburgers cling, the time that a reconnaissance squadron of the 8. Panzer guided by the Feldwebel Haut (known as “Petit-Haut”, in French in the text) finally arrives on the scene in the early morning and repel the assault. Yellow smoke bombs are immediately fired to avoid friendly fire; the position is saved.
The next day, with the Soviet forces now openly in retreat, the men of Feldwebel Haut in turn took a bridge at Lyduvėnaai. Then, on the 22nd, Knaak marched north with 40 men on capture vehicles and in Soviet uniform, to seize the Josvainiai bridge, on the Šušvé river. The operation fails, however, in the face of a fierce Soviet counter-attack which forces the Brandenburgers to slip away in confusion, with 5 dead.
On the 24th, things went better for the Himmelfahrtkommandos: at Kédainiai, they seized a bridge for only one wounded. On the other hand, on the 26th, while the panzers were now rushing towards Daugavpils, fifty men in greatcoats and Russian trucks tried to seize two bridges over the Daugava by surprise – but they were very quickly spotted. The sentries shout “Nemetskiy! (“The Germans!”) and the commandos fail to approach. Hans-Wolfram Knaak must expose himself to observe the situation - a gust mows him down in the moment. Stung, the commandos don their Bergmütze (Gebirgsjäger beret) and take the road bridge in a single charge – they will hold it until the order to withdraw arrives… Indeed, Manstein's tanks are no longer advancing and they therefore had to withdraw, carrying the body of the chief, those of three other dead and 20 wounded. Feldwebel Ernst Prochaska – who had taken command – would later note, very bitterly: “If the tanks had been able to relieve us in the hours that followed, the work would have remained in our hands. »
The bridges will eventually be blown up, and the city will not fall until July 3. In the meantime, Knaak will have been made Hauptmann and posthumously decorated with the Knight's Iron Cross, thus serving the propaganda of a regime that he has always hated but for which he nevertheless fought.
However, not all Brandenburgers are so brave or competent – so in Jēkabpils on May 29, the Feldwebel Werner advances towards the bridge over the Daugava with a grab truck, a Russian-speaking Volksdeustche on the running board… and a side- German car carrying a 5 cm mortar just behind him! The Reds see their opponents coming from very far away, identify a Feldgrau in the truck and pulverize it with the AT cannon. On all his section - 15 men - only Werner will survive; he will be found alone, in the middle of the body of his comrades...
Subsequently, the 8. Kompanie will not really have the opportunity to distinguish itself – the northern front very quickly becomes secondary for all the protagonists. Still, the unit had big plans for Leningrad, reportedly involving the Ivanovskoye Dam… It would eventually return to Neuhaus on August 14, 1942 – with the 7. Kompanie. But before that, Siegfried Grabert had finally earned his Hauptmann stripes! Indeed, on June 8, on the Daugavpils front, the 51 Brandenburgers of his group were forced to face the counterattack of Sobenniko's 29th Army, alongside the Landsers and as simple infantry. Equipped with a single Pak 38 of 50 mm, the commandos hold all their positions, for only 1 dead and 8 wounded... and also a great moment of fright when a KV pushes the line up to 20 meters from the CP before being destroyed by point-blank fire.
To conclude the table of II. Battalion, it remains for us to mention the case of the 6. Kompanie.
Deployed in Romania, it was engaged later than the others and took part in a few actions towards Mohyliv-Podilsky, then at the siege of Odessa (in September 1942), under the command of a Siegfried Grabert who had arrived in the meantime and was decidedly indefatigable. Subsequently entrusted to Oberleutnant Hans-Gerhard Bansen (another “historical” member of the group), it remained in the sector until the outbreak of Saturn – the Soviet counter-offensive intended to liberate the port – in January 1943. After fierce fighting against marines at Rybakivka, alongside the Romanians, the deterioration of the situation led to his repatriation to Baden Unterwaltersdorf on February 3, 1943 - we will see later in what context.

* A former horseman with little interest in Nazism, Knaak had been involved with Höpner in a plot organized in 1938 by General Beck to overthrow Hitler! He had also been arrested several times by the Gestapo, but the latter had never been able to prove anything.
III. Battalion (Army Group Center): vain sacrifice
Of all the formations deployed by the Regiment during Barbarossa, it is undoubtedly this one that will have the most mixed results, even though it fields the thinnest workforce. Indeed, it operates amputated from its 11. Kompanie – used for operations in Africa and the Middle East, it was bled in Iraq. The other companies are only more solicited…
The 220 men of the 10. and 12. Kompanien - deployed with the 9. and 4. Armee - therefore have the difficult task of allowing General von Bock's army corps to advance along the direct road to Moscow, and on the worst possible ground. As for the 9. Kompanie, supposed to serve as a reserve and take over to advance, it will in fact have to be quickly redeployed against the Partisans and the multiple groups of Soviet soldiers forgotten by the Red Army during its retreat, but not having no intention of surrendering. To try to compensate, the 10. and 12. Kompanien will integrate respectively 5 Lithuanian officers and 50 white Russian soldiers in their ranks - a very meager reinforcement… We understand better the reason for the deployment of the paratroopers of Operation Bogdanov, so far to the north ! In fact, the operations of the two companies will be carried out by small groups – sometimes less than five men.
The 10. Kompanie (Oberleutnant Aretz) is the first to act. Gathered in the forest of Plaska, in the north of Poland, it is divided into eight units for as many bridges to be taken intact over all of eastern Lithuania.
At 5:00 a.m., Leutnant Kohlmeyer's Stoßtrupp (50 men) captured the Kapčiamiestis bridge for only 4 wounded and opened the way to XXIV. PanzerKorps, whose 10. ID (word) rushes north.
In Augustòw, things are not going so well. Prepared to defend itself, the Red Army does not allow itself to be overwhelmed and undertakes to blow up the work. The 13 Brandenburgers who hoped to take advantage of the confusion generated by the artillery barrage had to approach under enemy fire to try to defuse the charges. Leutnant König, head of the section, takes a bullet in the chest which kills him instantly - despite all their drive, his men only manage to partially preserve the work, which is too damaged to allow the passage of chariots.
The small group of Leutnant Herbert Kriegsheim (3 men!) must for its part seize the bridge over the Biebrza, just south-west of the city of Lipsk. Advancing without waiting for the start of the offensive, its members are stopped by an NKVD patrol to which they have not given the correct password. With a gesture, the commandos throw their frontoviki coats to the ground and get rid of the intruders... but the alert is given, and the area is saturated with flares. Kriegsheim deduces from this that it is wiser to wait for the artillery barrage... which unfortunately makes it catch up with the German infantry, who fire on these individuals located on the wrong side of the front! The two men from Kriegsheim are injured by these fratricidal shots. So, the Leutnant charges the bridge alone, seizes it and faces the counter-offensive of a Soviet section until the infantry arrives! He will be evacuated, disembowelled by a bayonet but alive – and his objective is intact…
At Siółko, Unteroffizier Zöllner’s group – four other Brandenburgers in Russian uniform – also seized their objective, at the cost of one death and two seriously injured. Less fortunate, the ten men of Feldwebel RennKamp saw their target - the Holynka bridge - destroyed in front of them by the border guards.
The other three works are taken without difficulty by the Brandenburgers, all in Soviet uniform. On the other hand, the five Lithuanian “V-Männer” failed to seize the railway tunnel leading to Vilnius. The road will be decidedly long to Moscow…
Despite the losses, the 10. Kompanie will continue the following weeks of reconnaissance and raids for the benefit of Panzergruppe 3 (Hermann Hoth), and more particularly of the 12. Panzer (Josef Harpe).
The 12. Kompanie must for its part seize fourteen bridges over the Bug, the Moukhavets and the Leśna Prawa. The White Russians are targeting three works on the Narew and the Supraśi, in the heart of Belarus. Faced with strong resistance from the Soviet border guards, fortunately not reinforced by regular troops, the company seized half of its objectives, for 7 deaths. The White Russians do a little less well, with only one work out of three, for 5 deaths. Oberleutnant Schader and his men will then greatly facilitate the advance of Panzergruppe 2 (Heinz Guderian) towards Minsk.
But the Soviets weren't really taken by surprise… Far from contenting themselves with kicking in the door of a rotten house, the III. Battalion literally sacrifices itself to pave the way. Of 220 men deployed on May 17, 77 are out of action six weeks later. The unit will also be withdrawn from the front on August 3, 1942.


The Graukofts and other Fascist White Russians...
Far North: aborted projects
The Reich had important plans in Finland, and the Abwehr looked with pleasure on this terrain so vast and hostile that it could only be favorable to the Brandenburgers. To prepare for the offensive on Leningrad and the ports of the White Sea, Oberst Paul Haehling von Lanzenauer had therefore seen the big picture with no less than 3 separate formations deployed throughout the theater of operations from May 17, 1942.
At the start of Barbarossa, the 15. LeichteKompanie (Oberleutnant Trommsdorf) therefore moved to Rovaniemi – nicknamed the FinnlandKompanie, it was composed specifically to contribute to the capture of Murmansk *. Arriving on the Karelian border, a small group of Sudeten and Germano-Baltes commanded by Leutnant der Reserve Adrian von Fölkersam** must for its part infiltrate deep into the forests of Estonia to make contact with the “Brothers of the Forest” and carry out guerrilla actions with them. Finally, the 16. LeichteKompanie (Hauptmann Benesch) is deployed in the Baltic, in anticipation of future landing operations on Saaremaa (Operation Beowulf).


Po 2 captured, with two brandenburgers in civilian clothes going up for a mission behind the lines...


Adrian von Fölkersam, from Estonia to Maiköp (OTL) via Kyiv FTL:

The Russo-Finnish armistice concluded on May 24 took everyone by surprise – the two liaison officers dispatched by the Brandenburg (Oberleutnant Kurt Reinhardt and Sonderführer [interpreting officer] Werner Schwarze) were repatriated in disaster from Helsinki while the voltage rises. Ultimately, the Brandenburgers are evacuated without incident, but they will not remain inactive! Indeed, Finland's neutrality does not mean the end of Abwehr projects in the region – they are just made much more difficult by Helsinki's about-face.
The 15. LeichteKompanie should have helped to capture Murmansk, which is now impossible***? Never mind, it can still disrupt traffic around the large port, taking advantage of the arctic climate (freezing in winter, hot and humid in summer), lakes, forests and vast expanses of snow. The FinnlandKompanie will undoubtedly be very comfortable in this hostile environment, as long as it circumvents (by sea in particular) the territory of the former ally!
However, no offense to Oberleutnant Trommsdorf, his first demonstration did not convince Eduard Dietl – who found the Brandenburgers still too tender for the Arctic Circle. He will therefore make them spend long moments with his best elements, learning to build huts that can be heated by candlelight, to eat at -40°, to find their way by compass over 50 km in a uniform expanse of snow and... to add cod liver oil (an excellent stimulant!). At the end of March 1943, after having spent six months hardening up, the troop was ready for Operation Lutto – an action so important that none of the maneuvers or reorganizations that we will describe later could cancel it.


Exercise of the 15.leichteKompanie in the Far North, stream 42:

The latter, however, is of a fairly elementary plan: taking advantage of the loosening of the Communist lines to the east of Kirkenes (where the SS had been routed the previous month), the Brandenburgers - deposited on the coast by light boats - simply have to go through the woods to blow up the railroad tracks, destroy the Ristikent depot (huge area where lend-lease supplies accumulate) and then return after a month of patrolling.
On April 6, the 15. LK takes off – but nothing goes as planned. Barely landed, a snowstorm disorients his guide (Finnish). The latter leads them, not towards the hoped-for gap, but towards a Soviet strongpoint which decimates the attackers! At this moment, knowing the alert had been given, Oberleutnant Trommsdorf prudently chose to retreat – but it turned into a nightmare. Harassed by Soviet patrols, under a slight thaw that melted the snow and transformed it into sticky (but icy!) mud, the commandos were quickly exhausted, starved and chilled with cold. Finally, on April 22, Trommsdorf uses his second-to-last flare to signal himself to a Finnish patrol who interne him for humanitarian reasons. The 15. LK will be released very discreetly in September 1943, having lost 17 men in the adventure...
Luckier, von Fölkersam's group carried out many raids on the Baltic coast with real efficiency, notably weakening the 29th Rifle Corps of the Red Army, made up of men from the former Lithuanian army and recklessly put in line through Moscow. During one of his incursions, Fölkersam also came across a staff in the process of being transferred and captured numerous documents – these will no doubt have a hand in the decision taken on June 28 by Field Marshal von Leeb to force the passage to Tartu… Reinforced regularly by Finnish volunteers engaged individually and parachuted in, as well as by Estonians from the Erna group, these men ended up having a permanent HQ in the Kaulta marshes. They will then make a specialty of bivouac attacks at night (actions coordinated by radio**** with the 18th Army), sowing concern among the Reds, collecting a wealth of useful information and... unleashing reprisals on the civilian population. The Brandenburgers then evacuated – an unexpected mission – two thousand Estonian civilians threatened by an enraged NKVD and resorting to procedures very comparable to those of the Reich in this area. After very tough clashes in Kaulta, Adrian von Fölkersam will get his way – several of his men will collect the 2nd class Iron Cross and he himself will be entitled to those of 2nd and then 1st class. But, for lack of breakthrough on Leningrad, all its actions will be short-lived, and will cease from November 1942*****.


"Erma" in forest, 42:
As for the 16. LeichteKompanie, it will participate in Operation Kegelrobbe, the landing on Saaremaa. On August 21, it will contribute in particular to securing the bridgehead, before helping to reduce Kuressaare on the 22nd. It will cost him 14 killed or missing. The Gray Seal will have been expensive.

Ad-hoc actions in the Far North and in Ukraine
After Barbarossa's bloodletting and its aftermath, in the fall of 1942, Brandenburg was once again waiting. Often deployed in the front line by generals who appreciate both their sapper skills and their drive, the commandos have been in great demand and it has cost them dearly: out of the 3 battalions with 4 companies deployed, the regiment has lost one equivalent of 2 and a half companies – between dead, seriously injured and missing! Although some of the wounded will of course return, a halt to activities will nevertheless be necessary in order to rally the troops and work out – now that the situation is “stabilized” ****** on the Eastern Front – new projects which will make it possible to use the Brandenburgers to the best of their ability. their skills.
Thus, taking over from the Trommsdorf team - still interned in Finland following the Lutto fiasco - Leutnant Sölder arrived in Norway on May 5, 1943 for a few months with his 14. LeichteKompanie. For him, no distant raid in the snow: it is a question here of helping the Gebirgs-Armeekorps of Norway to defend itself against the infiltrations of Soviet commandos regularly deposited by submarines of the Northern Fleet. The Brandenburgers now, used defensively and equipped with locally sourced armament *******, multiplied effective actions: laying minefields in landing zones, better cooperation with Luftwaffe ASM seaplanes, tracking and destroying Soviet commandos , mini-raids in enemy territory via the sea… or through Finnish territory -which will result in losses, whether by internment or during engagements (which will be denied on both sides but will sometimes involve the troops of Helsinki!). Sölder himself distinguished himself by eliminating with his section – and in hand-to-hand combat! – a group of four snipers entrenched in a redoubt. He remained in the breach with his team until September 1943, when the deterioration of the situation in other theaters led to their reassignment, without giving them time to carry out a new raid project against the Murman way ( Operation Lachsfang). It is true that the latter would have been, in any case, very difficult to achieve in the absence of finished support. During its few months of activity, the 14. LK nevertheless put several hundred Reds out of action and took dozens of prisoners... But the losses were proportionate, despite the reinforcement of a few Karelian deserters who joined in the process of itinerary.


Not present in this text and for good reason ... Kayak guerrillas on Finnish lakes OTL:


The same in Soviet uniforms:


Kayak training:………

Much further south, the German army failed in its first assault on Kyiv. In this region streaked with waterways and faced with Soviet forces that can no longer be underestimated, General von Manstein – the main designer of the future Zitadelle – now proposes to resort once again to these elite fantasies, which have served it so well since 1940. In the vanguard of the full regiment – whose redeployment in Ukraine is scheduled for December 1942 – the I. Battalion therefore arrives on November 3, 1942.
This battalion, at the head used Hauptmann Wilhelm Walther replaced Major Friedrich-Wilhelm Heinz (left to set up a new school for the Abwehr), will position itself in Chernivtsi. It is expected that it will of course act in support of the German forces, but also of the Romanian troops, on the shores of the Black Sea. And it is now a question for the Brandenburgers, and beyond the traditional bridge captures, to operate much further ahead of the Wehrmacht, to destroy ammunition depots, eliminate advanced CPs, even the populations of the Don and the Caucasus against the Soviet regime ********.
Walther and his men prepare seriously… until all these beautiful projects come up against reality from the front. Faced with a series of Soviet counter-offensives generated all around the Kiev salient, the Brandenburgers will run from one hot spot to another without perhaps being able to breathe!
On November 20, 1942, the I. Kompanie was placed at the disposal of the 2. PanzerArmee to try to counter Operation Uranus – fortunately for it, its marching order arrived too late for it to find itself surrounded with the formation that she was supposed to support. As for the 2. and 3. Kompanie, they best assist the 1. PanzerArmee against the Mars operation – without being able to modify the final result, but certainly contributing to the relative good performance of Guderian's forces, especially during battles on the banks of the Lisogir (November 23) or the Uday (November 26). Once again, Brandenburg is consumed in battles unrelated to its status, and without strategic impact...
To the south, the 6. Kompanie tries to do the same alongside the Romanian army. Lacking Sturmboots – impossible to deploy as Soviet naval and air superiority is great – it generally fights like a normal elite infantry formation. On November 23, however, it uses two captured American lend-lease trucks to carry out an in-depth reconnaissance for the benefit of the 73. ID - which at the same time takes over from a very tested Romanian 6th ID. As we saw above, his withdrawal from the front will allow him not to be stuck in Odessa...

*It had 90 specialists: GebirgsJägers, sappers, dog handlers trained in Sperenberg – of course all skilled skiers and volunteers for an Arctic deployment. The latter were accompanied by Akjas (Finnish sled dogs) and had a mobile medical unit with a doctor and six nurses, two radio teams as well as a 7.5 cm mountain cannon that could be dismantled and transported to mule back!
** Fölkersam comes from an old Livonia family, related to the Porte-Glaive knights later absorbed by the Teutonics. The von Fölkersams brilliantly served the Tsarist army, before having to flee before the October Revolution. The lieutenant thus counted among his ascendants a general of the Engineers who designed the fortress of Sevastopol, a rear admiral, and … an imperial chamberlain who was also curator of the Gallery of Imperial Regalia at the Hermitage Museum!
*** In retrospect, this task would probably have been beyond the reach of Eduard Dietl's GAK, even with the support of the Brandenburgers and Finns.
**** In particular using the Kyynel post, designed by the Finnish intelligence service. Light (1.5 kg), compact (fits in a rucksack), solid (resists a parachute drop), with a range of 600 km and equipped with a self-destruction charge, it is the ideal tool for the commando in the Baltic.
***** The Ernas will end up pretty badly for the most part. Let us quote the case of Toomas Hellat: captured on November 10, 1943, he will be horribly tortured at the Lubianka and will deliver the names of 200 “Brothers of the Forest” before being sent to the Gulag. He will not be released until 1955.
****** Euphemism widely used at the time in the German army, not to say "blocked".
******* Submachine guns PPSh41 (USSR) and Suomi KP-31 (Finland) - weapons with large capacity magazines and withstanding the cold well - traditional Puukko daggers - useful in combat such as fishing or cutting wood - and boots Kirza (USSR) impervious to moisture and cold! All imported from Finland, the Soviet weapons and equipment having of course been taken during the Winter War.
******** These are the Schamil Operations (named after the iman Chamil, a great figure in the resistance to the tsarist armies), supposed to engage a future Caucasian Sonderverband Bergmann, supervised by the Brandenburg and commanded by the indefatigable Theodor Oberländer. This training was to be based on the Chechen insurgent hotbeds of the Khasan brothers and Hussein Israilov – but the unit and its operations will obviously never exist. Nevertheless, the hundred men of the stillborn Bergmann, carefully selected and trained in spite of everything, will undoubtedly be the best German Osttruppen: some will even join Brandenburg in September 1943.
On the other hand, the Chechen maquis would make life difficult for the NKVD forces for a long time, being both emboldened by the German invasion and by the complicit policy of the People's Commissar for Internal Affairs in Chechnya-Ingushetia, Sultan Albogatchiev. Politically, their action will culminate with the foundation of the Caucasian Brotherhood Party (OPKB), destined to overflow towards the republics of Kabardino-Balkaria or Dagestan. This uprising was finally bloodily suppressed in December 1943. Khasan Israilov was treacherously shot on his way to a meeting to negotiate "an honorary surrender". Further south, in Armenia and Georgia, several clans will wait with arms at their feet for help that will never come – apart of course from the poor attempt of the Tamara battalion.


Khasan Israilov, the Chechen sold by an imam bought by Beria. The entire population will be deported to Kazakhstan in 44-45:


Volunteer of the Sonderkommando Bergmann (Caucasus, does not exist FTL). Abundantly decorated, good auxiliaries ...


Enhard Lange, of Operation Schamil:
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The stab in the back
But the Brandenburg's most formidable enemy is about to enter the scene - and it is not an Allied troop, but a Nazi organization! Already on April 18, 1942, SS-Standartenführer Walther Schellenberg (SD-Ausland) had relatively discreetly created the Sonderlehrgang z. b. V “Oranienburg - a company-sized SS unit, commanded by SS-Hauptsturmführer Pieter van Vessem and incorporating some Dutch-Flemish. Its modus operandi and its stated objectives are very reminiscent of that of the Brandenburg regiment... This formation therefore openly appears as a rival, while benefiting from the most effective lobbying of the Führer, provided by Himmler himself. On the contrary, the soldiers of the Abwehr suffer greatly from the progressive loss of credibility of the institution on which they depend.
This move was expected - for several years already the Black Order had its sights on special operations. Already in November 1941, he was calmly considering the creation of an SS-Karstwehr-Bataillon intended to be parachuted into the USSR ahead of the German forces to supervise (he too…) a supposed Caucasian revolt then to serve as an escort for a SonderKommando of the Ahnenerbe. This battalion was theoretically to be entrusted to SS-Sturmbannführer Hans Brand – whom we would see again much later in the Balkans at the head of the SS-Freiwilligen Gebirgs-Brigade Karstjäger. A vague project of course – it would hardly go beyond German ambitions in this part of the globe – but which did not constitute the first proven incursion of the SS into the flowerbeds of the Abwehr. And of course, it wouldn't be the last – as the months passed, Admiral Canaris' organization was losing ground...
The reversal of Italy will allow the SS to deliver the decisive blow. On December 25, while several Brandenburg units deployed preventively in the Balkans captured a good part of the Regio Esercito leadership – Baron Adrian von Fölkersam attributing himself squarely to the Viceroy of Albania, Francesco Jacomoni, and the chief of the Commando Superiore delle Forze Armate Albania, Camillo Mercalli! – the Oranienburg releases Benito Mussolini, detained at the Campo Imperatore hotel, in Gran Sasso. He thus attributes to himself in one fell swoop, by an action that is ultimately not very risky, a considerable prestige...
This thunderclap will provide the ReichsFührer-SS Himmler with the long-awaited opportunity to promote his own purebred Übermenschen against the discreet Brandenburgers of Canaries, who do nothing visible – therefore nothing useful. Not to mention the fact that the Abwehr did not know (or did not want …) to foresee the Italian betrayal! It is in vain that the admiral will submit new projects to Hitler – from the most far-fetched (infiltration of Armenian commandos in the USSR by Turkey) to the most realistic (raids on Allied port installations in Italy). The most documented to date is undoubtedly the massive use of White Russians for the formation of a Sonderverband “Graukopf” (based on the Russian Fascist Party of Anastase Vonsyatsky, tolerated by the Japanese in Manchuria). A proposal hardly appreciated in Berlin, one suspects it.
On February 1, 1943, a new directive from the OKW granted the components of the Brandenburg regiment the status of Sonderverbänden in überbesetzter Divisionsstärrke (special units made available to the division). This change, effective from the 20th of the month, marks the global withdrawal of Brandenburgers from special operations. The regiment thus loses its special status and becomes a trivially expendable elite infantry. No less… and especially no more.
After a new transitional period of three months, which is an opportunity to prepare or execute final fires (see below), the deceased regiment is profoundly transformed.
- The general staff becomes the Sonderverbänd 800,
- the I. Battalion becomes the Sonderverbänd 801,
- II. Battalion becomes Sonderverbänd 802,
- III. Battalion becomes Sonderverbänd 803,
- independent companies become Sonderverbänd 804.
The latter will subsequently be reinforced by a contingent of volunteers from the regrouping of the crowd of units or embryonic units that the Abwehr had tried to create after 1940 – an ultimate reinforcement of quality.
Sonderverbänden 801 to 804 will form the nuclei of the two future regiments of the Brandenburg division – at the rate of two Sonderverbänden per regiment. Each of these two units is therefore made up of seven battalions: four of Jägers, one of Signals, one called “tropical” and one of Küstenjäger, suitable for naval maneuvers*.
To these elements are added the regiment-school (sometimes called Sonderverbänd 805) as well as a group of volunteers from the East called Alexander – both mobilized in reserve. The first will have the particularity of remaining under the direct control of the Abwehr until very late. It will also be baptized internally Lehr-Regiment KurFürst – a play on words in the form of flattery towards the instructors, for who knows that a KurFürst was an elector of the Holy Roman Empire, or a kingmaker in short. Passing through this training, however, did not exempt recruits from having to undergo specific training afterwards.
As for the Legionär-battalion “Alexander”, it will bring together White Russians, Ukrainians and other Caucasians deemed worthy of joining the regiment, under the wing of its leader, Hauptmann Alexander Auch (a Volksdeutsche born in Saint-Petersburg). Comprising two companies, a “white” (from Russia) and a “black” (from the Caucasus), its supervision will be mainly provided by Brandenburgers in convalescence.
Initially, the unit in transformation is entrusted to Oberst Alexander von Pfuhlstein. This hero of the Eastern Front – who was also an opponent of the Nazi regime – had succeeded Paul Haeling von Lanzenauer on February 12, 1943, who died of jaundice contracted during a stay in a front hospital. It therefore seemed natural to everyone that he preside over the destinies of the future division... In fact, he had already had the feat of bringing together in the barracks the majority of the Brandenburgers, scattered throughout Europe and even beyond, to carry out the reformations! However, from May 1, 1943, and to everyone's surprise, the new division was offered to General Joseph Irkens - an artillery officer who was certainly competent, but above all far removed from the special forces. Having neither the codes of his unit, nor the time to earn the respect of his subordinates, he will not have the heavy burden of leading the Brandenburg division to the end, or almost...
Such a parachute drop could only make one cringe… the choice of regimental commanders was therefore surprisingly less controversial. Thus, the 1. Regiment is entrusted to the emblematic Major Wilhelm Walther – whose name is unanimous in the ranks – while the second finally falls (after an interim provided by Oberst Wolfgang von Kobelinsky**) to Major Franz Pfeiffer – a veteran of the 1. Gebirgsjäger it's true, but also an authentic alpine Jaeger who will know how to preserve the traditions of the specialized units. Not that this designation was immediately important – in fact, the majority of the battalions of the 2. Regiment will leave for the front without their parent unit having been able to be created...
Thus, on May 1943, the division was declared ready for combat. All its components are transferred during the month to northern Greece, to barracks in Ioannina and Kozani - that is to say on the rear of General Löhr's 12. Armee, supposed to block the 18th Army Group allies in the Peloponnese. Dressed in a distinctive new uniform (with light green piping, oak leaves of the Jägers on a metal badge stapled to the left side of the cap, and a silver Brandenburg sweatband sewn onto the right sleeve in place of the Hunters' badge), the Brandenburgers will then confine themselves to the thankless task of fighting against the Partisans, despite some final outbursts that we will describe.


Von Pfuhlstein:


Franz Pfeiffer, the defector of the 1.GJD:

* Four companies with Sturmboote 42 assault craft and Pionierlandungsboote 41 landing craft. Formed in Lindau, these companies never received their full equipment.
** Even today, the choice of this officer linked to Valkyrie questions...
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Final Digressions
Among all the weaknesses that the Abwehr attributed to the USSR, some still contained a good deal of reality. And being itself the instrument of a totalitarian regime, the Nazi intelligence service was undoubtedly particularly well placed to suspect that certain Soviet citizens were not particularly happy with their lot - even if they contributed very actively to the Stalinist war economy!
Thus was born, at the end of December 1942, the idea of attacking the Vorkuta-Kotlas railway line. The latter, built in 1941 with the blood of thousands of prisoners of what was not yet called the Gulag Archipelago, transported huge quantities of coal from Vorkuta (nicknamed "the guillotine of ice", because the temperatures could down there to -60°) towards the industrial centres. Mines which were, of course, exploited by the many detainees of the regime. In addition, the line also served Oukta, a major oil center. We therefore understand its eminently strategic nature!
The Brandenburg then designed Operation Dschungel (Jungle), entrusted to AbwehrKommando 204. Composed of 12 soldiers (including two radio operators) dressed in the uniform of NKVD units in the Arctic, this commando would be parachuted into the Vorkuta region by a seaplane taking off from around Kirkenes. Objective for these men: the railway bridge of Kojva, on the Pechora. This first action carried out, the group would then remain in the region to carry out a multitude of acts of propaganda or sabotage, culminating (ideally) in the organization of a revolt in the Vorkoutlag! The commando had to foment the insurrection there, encourage the escape of as many prisoners as possible and then assist them in their assault on the armories. Such an earthquake would not fail to paralyze the entire economy of the Gulag Archipelago! And he would undoubtedly force Beria to redeploy a good part of his units to put down the mutiny.
Dschungel, benefiting from the presence in Norway of the 15. LeichteKompanie, reached a very advanced stage – it was even planned to be launched on March 15, 1943. However, its preparation fell behind schedule (largely due to the fact that the Finns do not collaborate), then the fiasco of the Lutto operation and finally, to finish, serious doubts about the reliability of the Russian auxiliary V-mann supposed to guide the group. All of these elements therefore lead the Abwehr to postpone and then finally to cancel the operation.
A little more serious is the project – blown by Prince Junio Valerio Borghese, another great commando in semi-disgrace – to attack the dry dock in Durban, South Africa. A strategic installation if any… even if the main beneficiary of its decommissioning would be the Japanese Empire. This drydock is indeed the only allied installation on the Indian Ocean to be able to accommodate a large ship (battleship or aircraft carrier) since the fall of Singapore to the hands of the Japanese.
Inspired by the methods of the Decima MAS, the Abwehr plans to mobilize a large transport submarine: the U-200, a Type IX-D2. Responsible for supplying U-boats operating in the South Atlantic and the Indian Ocean, it could quite well drop a small group of men on the South African coast, on the way ... Prepared thanks to the direct support of Admiral Dönitz, Operation Monsun (Monsoon) was launched despite the regiment's change in status. Thus, on June 12, 1943, the Leutnant Hans Brügmann and five Küstenjäger embarked in Kiel – it was also for the submarine which welcomed them on a first cruise. They didn't get very far: on June 24, U-200 was surprised on the surface southwest of Iceland by a patrolling Coastal Command B-24, whose depth charges executed the ship just as where he tries to dive. It sank carrying crew and passengers…
Theoretically the first of a succession of operations intended to revive the guerrillas of Lettow-Vorbeck in Tanzania (!) and to destroy the Portuguese installations used by the Allies in Angola, the fatal cruise of the Brügmann expedition will be the only one. The Kriegsmarine is obviously not capable of providing a safe means of transport for the commandos, in the Atlantic or in the Mediterranean.


Photo (authentic!) taken by the B24 of the 120th Squadron at the precise moment when it sends the U-200 to the bottom:
Let us continue this inventory with Operation Mammut: the attempted parachute drop by a commando to support the insurgents of Iraqi Kurdistan. The warrior reputation of the Kurds, torn between three unwelcoming nations, had indeed reached Berlin!
A group consisting of Leutnant Gottfried-Johannes Müller, Kurdish militant Ramzi Nafie and radio operators Friedrich Hoffmann and Georg Konieczny, was to be parachuted north of Kirkuk by a KG 200 aircraft which would have made the round trip at night - in violating Turkish airspace, of course, but since Lune d'Orient, it was no longer a taboo. To do this, the few sources sometimes mention the use of a captured B-17 taking off from Romania… but nothing is certain, given the darkness in which this affair remains shrouded. In reality, the use of an Fw 200 seems much more likely to us.
Be that as it may, plane under false insignia or not, Mammut was launched on June 15, 1943... and quickly turned into a total failure! Detected by British radars in the sector (deployed after the Iraq affair opened London's eyes to Ankara's duplicity), the device was chased by all that the region had of devices to a few near modern – notably by Gloster Gladiators and… French Morane 410s! Without really being in danger, he had to - on the way there and on the way back - accelerate, make detours which exhausted his fuel and he ended up going to land in Turkey, where he was interned. Worse still: he also had to drop his passengers 250 kilometers from their planned insertion point, further dispersing their containers of weapons and radios! Deprived of their equipment, the four men are unable to make contact with the characters they were supposed to meet: Mahmoud Barzanji (sovereign of the very brief kingdom of Kurdistan) and Hadji Agha Bassa.
The unfortunates will then be ruthlessly hunted down, caught up in the desert by camel patrols, arrested, tortured and then sentenced to death – even if their sentences were finally commuted to life imprisonment. London was no longer joking (if we ever had…) with the Middle East. However, Leutnant Müller will still manage to escape in June 1944 and reach Germany… he will not be recaptured until January 1945!
Müller will then remain in prison until 1947. He will draw from his experience a book, Einbruch ins verschlossene Kurdistan (Breaking into closed Kurdistan) and remains to this day... the designer of the flag of independent Kurdistan, often brandished by the many separatists of the region. As for his teammate Ramzi Nafie, subjected to a particularly harsh detention regime, he was released in 1947 after sinking into madness and died within 2 years.
Last fireworks in Kyiv
To conclude this period in the history of Brandenburg, we cannot of course leave aside what was perhaps its most resounding achievement: the raid on kyiv. Triggered despite the regiment's change in status, at the insistence of a General von Manstein, quite contrite at the idea of losing one of his favorite tools on the eve of a decisive battle, this operation was in some way comes the swan song of Brandenburg – even if for Admiral Canaris, it seems that it was above all a last attempt to restore the credibility, and ultimately the survival, of his institution (if not of his own person…).
Surprisingly – and beyond the repercussions that this action had in the USSR of 1943 and its terrible consequences for those who had to suffer the wrath of the NKVD – this action has remained to this day relatively little documented. No doubt it was drowned in the gigantic tumult of Zitadelle... And moreover, it is more than likely that Stalin's USSR, as soon as the war was over, hastened to conceal the traces of what it considered to be a reverse - obviously minor on the scale of the conflict - but nevertheless particularly humiliating. It was therefore necessary to wait for the unexpected opening of certain Soviet archives to see more clearly, because even the German sources remained surprisingly poor - but there, we already knew that it was necessary to see the hand of the SS, little concerned to authorize the praise of their opponents. Anyway, we can now, in the light of this new information, describe the following course.
On the night of July 4 to 5, 1943, a section of the former 8. Gebirgsjäger-Kompanie commanded by Baron Adrian von Fölkersam – returned from the Balkans especially for the occasion and chosen for his perfect command of the language as well as Russian customs – infiltrates the Soviet lines through the Pripiet marshes. With 62 men, including several Lithuanians and White Russians, it then split into two groups: 12 men, commanded by the baron, advanced towards Kiev while 50 men, under the orders of Leutnant Ernst Prochaska – the replacement for the unfortunate Hans- Wolfram Knaak – must spread out along the future path of the commando's retreat in order to secure its retreat.
On the evening of the 5th, Fölkersam was in Chernobyl, disguised with his group as Soviet soldiers. They seized several civilian vehicles there and passed through Ivankov then Dymer to finally reach the outskirts of kyiv on the evening of July 7, in “borrowed” GMC trucks en route. Then, taking advantage of a night bombardment, they enter the capital of Ukraine in the middle of a convoy seeking shelter.
On the 8th, Fölkersam manages to join his contact designated by the Abwehr in the city – a disillusioned communist, whose nephew is even downright anti-Soviet. Having succeeded by trickery in getting his hands on NKVD uniforms, “Major Truchine” Fölkersam can move about freely in town to locate his targets. He moved into a house which he had carefully checked for bugging by the real NKVD, and then calmly waited for the HQ of the North-Ukraine GA to give him the green light by radio.
On the 14th, he finally received the order to act! Divided into three groups - as much for the sake of efficiency as to limit the risk of capture - the 13 men blew up the fuel depots of the central station, several ammunition trains and almost all of its switches. A splendid feat, surpassed only by that of comrade Fedor Andreievich Krylovich in Assipovichy (Belarus) sixteen days later … and in fact, which specialists in this type of action place in the lead because Krylovich acted alone or almost.
His crime accomplished, the group must now flee the city. Gathering his men in the middle of the fires, Baron Fölkersam hastily leaves the Ukrainian capital, with the painful certainty that he will be the subject of a real hunt. He needs a cover… But which one? The German-Latvian officer will seize his chance by his only hair.
On the morning of the 15th, as he advanced towards Malyn with his small troop (he picked up Prochaska's men on the way), he came across a bivouac of Russian, Ukrainian, Caucasian and Cossack riflemen, not far from Nemishajeve, who were all dreaming in the arms of Morpheus in the final struggle. The only officers present are simple lieutenants. Taken by a sudden inspiration, Fölkersam has his men surround the camp and wake everyone up by shooting in the air. Perched upright on the hood of his GMC, the regulation Tokarev pistol in hand, flanked by two sinister-looking Brandenburgers, the baron proves to be one of the most convincing political commissars. Major Truchine, of the 124th Brigade of the NKVD – he has not changed his pseudonym since kyiv! – starts screaming accusing the whole bivouac of desertion, laziness and other capital crimes in the USSR. Now is not the time for such betrayal, as Comrade Stalin lures the fascists into a trap on the banks of the Dnieper! A Cossack has the misfortune to giggle – nervous laughter no doubt, but Fölkersam immediately makes him kneel in front of him, puts the barrel of his pistol to his temple, then pretends to change his mind – “Later! he growls, before ordering the Soviets to regroup by nationality. They obey with alacrity: this staging and his perfect acting have just allowed the Brandenburger to take command of 500 frontovikis!
Fölkersam continues with impunity his bullying and his accusations, in particular against the Cossacks, before raising the column towards Malyn. On the way, he stops, gets the Cossacks into the trucks, takes them away until they disappear from the view of the troops, lines them up in a trench and finally pretends to execute them by firing a salvo at the above their heads. Then he orders them to join the German lines, the only chance of salvation now under penalty of being accused of desertion by the Soviets! For the other frontovikis, the detonations and the empty return of the trucks redoubled the terror inspired by Major Truchine.
Finally arriving on July 19 in front of Malyn, the baron sends the Russians into the city – therefore towards the front. He will join them later, he tells them, after he “gets rid of the Ukrainian and Caucasian traitors”. With that, he hastened to force the latter to desert, as he had already done with the Cossacks. Then he enters the city, yet under siege, crossing the NKVD roadblocks under the pretext of reporting on his brilliant disciplinary action! And, that's good: thanks to the story of the Russians he released, all Malyn already knows. Received by the People's Commissar for Internal Affairs, the German commando is warmly congratulated by this local official, who tells him in passing and with a smile that for him too, all Cossacks are traitors! Why don't you stay here and practice your skills, Major? The baron therefore inherits – officially this time! – a new hideout in town, where he will remain quietly until July 28, noting troop movements and flak locations while preparing for what’s next.
On July 29, while the 3. PanzerArmee of Model scrapped against the 3rd Ukrainian Front of Vatoutine in front of Malyn, the Brandenburgers persisted in weakening the Soviet defense: calls for withdrawal, multiplication of barrages preventing reinforcements from mounting but ignoring leaks , sabotage of equipment, anything goes! Adrian von Fölkersam himself manages to convince the commander of a Soviet battery to move his guns to a “less exposed” position, causing the Soviet armor to lose valuable support at the worst possible moment!
Finally, on July 30, he is said to have even persuaded one of the brigadier generals of Kriuchenkin's cavalry corps of the need to slow his advance – causing the entire formation to be delayed and facilitating the armored counterattack ordered by Model. Whether this last point is proven or not, one thing is certain: on July 31, Major Truchine evaporated and on the night of July 31 to August 1, the Brandenburgers were back in the German lines, after absolutely unforeseen actions. but who have sown an indescribable chaos! Along the way, luck smiled on them one last time when one of the vehicles in their convoy en route to the front, but nevertheless stopped by an orderly at a crossroads, broke down right in front of the Soviet sentries. With horror, the commandos observe approaching a mass of frontovikis who see themselves … being asked for a crank by one of the Russian legionnaires of the group! A mechanic agrees, fetches the instrument and repairs the vehicle with interminable slowness, which finally sets off again.
For only 2 dead and 1 missing (the latter in the cover team), Fölkersam has just signed the last action of the Abwehr commandos on the Eastern Front. He will collect the Ritterkreuz for this one. Small consolation: because from now on - and for lack of the commitment in Zitadelle of 2 battalions (Alexander and III./Jäger-Regiment 2) planned and requested by Manstein, but directly canceled by the OKH * - the Brandenburgers will no longer be called upon then only for the anti-partisan struggle and the defensive battles on the Greek and then Yugoslav front.


Fölkersam with his Ritterkreuz, past his raid...


Ernst Prochaska, killed in Caucasus OTL and Kavadartsi FTL:


In the truck, after a decoration discount (the buttonhole of the second on the right):


On the road to the OTL oil wells, disguised as Soviets:

* In retrospect, the targets designated for the commandos were never achieved by Walther Model's 3.PanzerArmee anyway...
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Purgatory: return to the Balkans
At the beginning of the summer of 1943, the bulk of the regiment was again in Greece. It should be noted, however, that this was not the first time that the Brandenburgers had returned – in small groups – to the Balkans since the outbreak of Barbarossa.
In October 1942, when the civil war between Chetniks and Titists was already in full swing in Yugoslavia – but before the Germans decided to rely more heavily on certain Serbian militias for their contingencies – a company of 7./Lehr -Regiment z.b.V. 800 is drawn from its rest. Under the orders of Oberleutnant Karl-Heinz Oesterwitz – a very experienced infantryman, volunteer since 1935 and veteran of all campaigns – she left for Belgrade to prepare for Operation Jablan: the capture of the leader of the Chetniks, Dragoljub “Draža ” Mihailović, so nicknamed by the German secret services!



The choice of this target responds to two considerations: to break the centralizing element of one of the main insurrectionary movements in Yugoslavia, and above all to eliminate a leader who persists in favoring an alliance with the Anglo-Saxons rather than a loyal anti- Bolshevik with the Reich. If by chance the royalist militiamen dispersed, it would be easy to conclude with them, in small groups, a series of various pacts – as with local warlords without outside support.
The Brandenburgers arrive in Serbia discreetly, in vehicles bearing a badge in the shape of a mosque (evoking the 11. SS-Gebirgs-Division Handschar) but also with military booklets identifying them as men of the 7./Gebirgsjäger Rgt 138 of the 3. Gebirgjäger Division, garrisoned in Greece!
Deployed in two Halbkompanien at Požega and Raška, the commandos then led a host of aggressive reconnaissance in central Serbia. All unsuccessful, they culminated in the “Brusnik mill ambush” on November 5, 1942 – named after the mill located north of Raška, and where Mihailovic was supposed to stay. Ordering a half-company to lock down the sector, Oesterwitz charges ahead of his other half-company, opening a flamethrower path in the lead. On his way, he rounds up (without much more violence, it seems) all the civilians he meets on the way, for fear that they will sound the alarm... but the assault nevertheless fails. Warned by an unspecified channel to date, the Chetniks decamped. The Brandenburgers only get their hands on two women “knowing nothing”, but having nevertheless taken the necessary steps to receive six individuals…
Operation Jablan will stop there - despite other intelligence gathering, the evolution of the situation in Yugoslavia will not allow other attempts, which will therefore sign the end of the regiment's interference in the Yugoslav civil war. This with the probable exception of a simple escort task for negotiators, which will nevertheless have allowed – and independently of “Jablan” – the Reich to conclude various agreements with various Chetnik forces which will be very useful to them…
Indeed, the security situation in the Balkans in general and in Greece in particular – already notably tense in normal times – is worsening day by day since the change of camp of the Italians. The local resistance movements are legion and sometimes opposed to each other, but their actions remain globally coordinated by the allied secret services.
Operating in a particularly hostile climate and in the midst of a population that hates them, the Brandenburgers unfortunately put to good use all the science acquired on the Eastern Front. To complicity, they respond with collective punishment: raking of countryside, burning of villages, massacres of civilians, systematic execution of prisoners after torture – we must agree that Brandenburg shows no more pity than the rest of the Wehrmacht. Faced with this daily life of massacres and atrocities, the loyalty of certain legionnaires of foreign origin is put to the test: those who imagined themselves fighting against the Bolsheviks in their country find themselves martyring a foreign population in their fight, and not even a communist!
The first alert took place on July 4, 1943. In the vicinity of Tsepelovo, the platoon of Leutnant Heineman (4. Legionär-Kompanie of the Legionär-battalion “Alexander”) was shaken by a mutiny which forced its officer to have his officer executed on the spot. five rebels! As soon as he returned to the camp, he sent all the other Ostruppen under his command (14 men) back to their prison camps...
Meanwhile, the fighting against the Partisans continues, particularly ferocious – in this area little guarded by the Germans, where EKKA and ELAS rule the roost on their own like earthenware dogs, the regiment has arrived like an elephant in a store of porcelain. Thus, on the same July 4, the 3. Kompanie of Hauptmann Babuke surrounded and destroyed an ELAS redoubt – its officer being however injured during the assault. He was therefore immediately replaced by Oberleutnant Schulte, but the latter himself was killed in an ambush two days later! Leutnant Herbert is to succeed him...
The unit is thus consumed, once again, in combat where the adversary uses practically the same methods as it. It's who will trap the other... However, despite the support of the Allied secret services and the episodic although painful interventions of the Balkan Air Force, the professionalism of the Brandenburgers still makes the difference. Whole groups of Partisans were thus liquidated over the weeks.
But the worst is yet to come. Informed of the fate of their comrades, 35 legionnaires of the 4. Legionär-Kompanie openly revolted on the night of July 20 and massacred their German cadres (including Oberleutnant Kohlmeyer, veteran of the Russian campaigns). After exchanges of fire with 63 other Russians who had remained faithful – a good half of whom were killed or wounded – they fled north in two trucks. The command is obviously furious and the whole 2./Jäger Rgt, led by Herbert Kriegsheim in person (the lion who had taken his bridge alone!) sets off in pursuit of the traitors... But they must quickly turn back in the face of the strong resistance of the Partisans, raised in its path. The entire 4. Legionär-Kompanie will be dissolved and Kriegsheim, relieved of his command, will be replaced by the Hauptmann Wasserfall.
It was one more unpleasant episode in a “dirty war”, although the Brandenburger showed in this one a little more intelligence than the other German formations. Indeed, he can count on his expertise in “small war”, and consequently creates specific ad-hoc groups:
  1. The Lauerspähtruppen (reconnaissance units on the lookout) watched the Allied air transport every night, to estimate the strength of the maquis and prepare ambushes intended to destroy the parachuted supplies or to neutralize the deposited agents.
  2. The Tiefenspähtruppen (deep reconnaissance units) infiltrate in small groups in the regions held by the Partisans, to carry out a counter-guerrilla there with the support of the classical forces of the Axis,
Finally, the commandos do not renounce Tarneinsätze (disguised actions): in civilian clothes, they penetrate deep into hostile territory, in particular for the purposes of espionage and assassination.
The Brandenburgers quickly acquired a nickname: the pandours of the Balkans (Panduren of the Balkans *), as well as a reputation for such terrible efficiency that Lothar Rendulic's 20th Army personally asked for their help to support its own repressive policy in Serbia. However, they won't get the chance. A final motorized incursion into the Klisoura gorges - in temperatures approaching 40°C, with heavy means of the SdKfz 7/1 Flakvierling type - enabled them to reach the Yugoslav border and inflict severe losses on the 'ELAS** … but immediately after, the regiment is regrouped in Salonica to be sent urgently to the front.


First adversaires - partisans groups in Belarus;

Sans titre.png

Remote reconnaissance groupe Lauerspähtrupp:


Titists in 43:


Fight against partisans in Dalmatia:


Interrogation of captured Titists :


Partisans on a ridge with an Italian taken Breda:

** Pandour originally designated the guards of the boyars in the Christian vassal principalities of the Ottoman Empire, before identifying the irregular troops of the armies of the Habsburgs of Austria… then the imperial guards. Today, it is sometimes used in German to refer to a particularly brutal man or soldier… and he left us in French the term pandore, ridiculously designating a gendarme. Let us note in conclusion that Pandur is also the name of a modern combat vehicle of Austrian manufacture.
** The ELAS will take revenge by attacking on the night of August 4 a field hospital of the regiment, killing 7 soldiers including 3 wounded finished in their beds.
The end: at the front, like everyone else!
Indeed, at the end of July 1943, the 12. Armee of General Löhr cracked under the blows of the 18th GAA, which chained operations Butress, then Whirlwind and finally Tower. Action must be taken, and the regiment is the main reserve available – not to mention the fact that it is practically the only one of value. To be sent to the front, the regiment is therefore urgently associated with a “special” PanzerBrigade – commanded by Generalmajor Hans-Joachim Deckert (an artillery school teacher) – just out of school and equipped with bric and pitchers to face Montgomery's tanks despite everything. Eventually, the whole, led by General Josef Irkens, will form the 19. PanzerGrenadier Division Brandenburg – it is under this name that the unit will exist until the end *. The merger took place from August 12 to 18, 1943, in the suburbs of Salonika, in the midst of indescribable chaos.
Despite the turmoil, the Brandenburg command takes a few moments to draft its own anti-partisan recommendations, which would make it possible to best use the special forces' own potential - they will be useful to many others, and even many more. late.
The Brandenburg recommends, from the tactical point of view, independent and stealthy actions, carried out on the scale of an airborne company behind enemy lines, and intended to execute ambushes or raids. For the acquisition of intelligence, on the other hand, it is advisable to carry out disguised reconnaissance patrols or even to constitute Stoßtruppen suitable for lighting and combat missions – in both cases, the troop must rely on a network of independent and funded indicators.
Finally, from a strategic point of view, lasting pacification must only concern militarily or economically crucial regions, and must be carried out by a single designated unit with all the necessary means and authorizations. The sectors likely to see enemy reinforcements arrive by parachute drops or infiltration will be defended by preventive sabotage and guerrilla actions, supported, again, by a network of indicators established beforehand.
In the panic, changes of commands are decided - thus, Major Franz Pfeiffer is transferred to his old unit, the 1. Gebirgsjäger, now in full retirement. He is replaced by Karl-Heinz Oesterwitz, an old-timer who received the Knight's Cross for having taken with eleven men a position defended by no less than 120 Soviets. As for Wilhelm Walther, sensing the onset of difficulties, he manages to be appointed deputy to Irkens – his place in the 1st Regiment is assigned to Hans-Gerhard Bansen, a trusted man. Walther will have to “defend” the Brandenburgers in what is obviously going to be a series of very difficult defensive actions.
In mid-August, the order of battle for the infantry elements of the formation is as follows:
* Jäger-Regiment 1: Major Hans-Gerhard Bansen
I. Battalion: Rittmeister Plitt
II. Battalion: Hauptmann Max Wrandrey
III. Battalion: Hauptmann Froboese
IV. Battalion: Hauptmann Weithoener.
* Jäger-Regiment 2: Major Karl-Heinz Oesterwitz
I. Battalion: Hauptmann Grawert
II. Battalion: Hauptmann Gerhard Pinkert
III. Battalion: Hauptmann Hartmann
IV. Battalion: Hauptmann von Koenen.
Nachtrichten Abteilung: Hauptmann Eltester.
Küstenjäger Abteilung: Rittmeister von Leipzig.

* His sleeve badge – worn unsystematically – will be a sleeping childish monster, a kind of crossbreed of squirrel and bat, close to the Siberian flying squirrel.
The days that follow are those of waiting, in the marshy plain between Salonica and Alexandria. The agreement is already proving to be difficult between young tankmen burning to risk their lives for the Reich and old veterans considering that their existence is more useful if it lasts until the next day... In the end, only the 242. StuG Abt (Hauptmann Ernst Benz), who collaborates independently in the action, seems sufficiently experienced in the eyes of the commandos!
On August 23, the division must finally move towards Korinos – in the sector of Katerini and Alexandria, already well known to veterans – to stop the advance of Commonwealth forces towards Salonika. Everyone ignores it... but the troops they will have to face form the tip of two army corps, operating with total air and naval superiority! The Brandenburgers are trying to apply against the Australians - but with armored vehicles - the ambush tactic that has made them successful. It works... until the Allied aerial reconnaissance fan their plan, already badly undermined by the indiscipline of the young tankers. The monitors HMS Terror and Erebus, occurring in the meantime, have the last word: the division must flee in haste, under the shells of the naval artillery. It is no less hard hung in the village of Sevasti by the infantrymen of the 2nd New-Zealand Division (Bernard Freyberg) and more particularly by the 28th Maori Battalion of Fred Baker.
It was in the chaos of a disorderly withdrawal that Hauptmann Siegfried Grabert died, his stomach ripped open by shrapnel (he was replaced at the head of his company by his deputy, Leutnant Karl Renner). This loss, very hard felt by all the Brandenburgers, symbolizes the rout and the bloodletting of Korinos: 965 dead, wounded and missing! All for near-zero results! It is in vain that the regime will award - with great cynicism, it must be said - to the deceased hero the rank of Major der Reserve as well as the oak leaves of the Knight's Cross µ. For the newly created division, August 24 is a doomed day – and the regiment will never be the same again.
But his ordeal is not over… Assigned – for lack of any other motorized unit available in the 12. Armee – to strategic sectors of the front, the 19. PzrGr finds itself constantly in line, and precisely in the conditions that the Brandenburg was supposed to avoid. It therefore suffered an inexorable attrition that the regular reinforcements of recruits from various sources – but mainly from the Abwehr – could never compensate for. It is in vain that the Kurfürst will provide less and less fit and trained Jaegers... As for the Luftwaffe and the Panzerwaffe, the general level will therefore go downhill, around a hard core of veterans whose members fall one by one. after the others.
Somewhat reinforced, however, by the addition of a second battalion of assault guns (the 201. StuG Abt, Major Dietrich Langel), the division was definitely attached to the XXII. Gebirgs-AK (Gustav Fehn). She then finds herself in charge of defending the valley of Gevgueliya – therefore Bulgaria – against a possible allied offensive… before having to urgently enter this same country to bring the Sofia regime back into line, which now claims to declare its neutrality. . Maneuvering to cut off the Bulgarian capital from any aid coming from the south, it then came up against the three infantry divisions of the 4th Bulgarian Army (Major-General Atanase Atanasov Stefanov) in the Ihtiman Region, itself subtly slide towards Thrace to get closer to the Allied lines.
In Samokov, the confrontation begins with a frozen face-to-face with the 9th DI… then the fight breaks out spontaneously. It ends with a triumph of the 19. PanzerGrenadier, which defeats in 48 hours - with, it is true, strong armored and air support - the three opposing divisions and seizes all its objectives for relatively low losses. . For once, the Brandenburgers benefited from a welcome tactical and material superiority, it hadn't happened for a long time! But the case was still not a military walk, as Leutnant Konrad Steidl, who commanded about thirty men, tells us.
“After 300 kilometers covered at full speed, we finally came face to face with the Bulgarian army. Tired, with gear in need of maintenance and far more spread out than usual, needless to say, we weren't in too much of a rush to take on this new opponent.
At the head of the column, we therefore found ourselves on the road to a strategic crossroads south of Zlokuchene, facing a roadblock “
not yet enemy” but which nevertheless refused to let us pass, specifying that its instructions included all nationalities. , whatever they are… In front of us, a good hundred Bulgarians behind their sandbags or at the bivouac. Surely so much behind. Nothing to scare us - we had seen others on the Eastern Front, but nevertheless enough for us to wait for the comrades before attempting a surprise blow. So we pretended to comply and settle in there.
So there we were when suddenly – I never knew precisely who, or even from which side – some jerk started shooting. Instinctively, we in turn opened fire, taking the Bulgarians completely by surprise, who fell back in disorder, abandoning the crossroads. Sure, we grabbed it, but immediately came under unpleasantly precise artillery fire. It was obvious that a counter-attack was brewing. I immediately radioed our situation, called for reinforcements (mainly tanks) and responded with mortars turned against their former owners.
We must not lie – our adversaries fought, and even valiantly. Without the intervention of the Luftwaffe (whose Fw 190 F still machine-gunned everything that moved a little too much), we would undoubtedly have been repelled. I spent very long moments watching for the arrival of an armored vehicle, a truck, a section on half-track… Anything really. But nothing ! The Bulgarians eventually got into close combat and I then found myself emptying my magazines and grenade bag while yelling at my comrades to fall back. Just then, a Panzer IV appears and fires right at our position! I was able to throw myself behind a sandbag just in time. Damn tankers... but this time, they saved the day! »

Konrad Steidl

Steidl's half-company suffered significant losses during the engagement: 4 dead and 11 wounded. But this action – like the others carried out by the most loyal and courageous elements of the small Bulgarian army – will not change the final fate of the conflict. The next day, Sofia falls and the regime of Prince Regent Kyril of Preslav collapses...
The division therefore returned to the Gevgeliya valley. It will then stay there for a long time, to defend the road to Sofia and (especially) that of the Romanian oil fields.
This stay was abruptly interrupted at the beginning of November 1943, when the division had to forcibly carve out a way of retreat to the north, while the Allied forces were breaking through the 18th century. Gebirgs-AK (Eduard Dielt) and threaten to encircle him through Macedonia. On November 15, the Brandenburg attacks the 51st Infantry Division Highlands at Kavadartsi by night, together with the 1. Gebirgsjäger (Hubert Lanz) – the intervention of Major Franz Pfeiffer was invaluable for this collaboration, which aimed neither more nor less to save two complete corps from the rout.


Brandenburg column on a Yugoslav road ...


Heinz sitting on the passenger side and his assistant Johannes, standing on the door:

Returning for a time to its tradition of sudden assaults, sometimes in enemy uniform, the Brandenburg literally cut the 154th Infantry Brigade (Thomas Rennie) to pieces. It quickly put out of action several dozen British vehicles and entered the city of Kavadartsi itself, hoping to take the 152nd Infantry Brigade (Gordon MacMillan) in a pincer movement between itself and the 1. Gebirgsjäger, which had been attacking since South. At this time, the Brandenburgers regained their confidence – the march diary will disdainfully mention “those Tommies who hide at the bottom of their trenches at the first shell”. They themselves are used to jumping from rock to house with all their equipment on their backs **...
However, the Scots, now wide awake, took refuge behind the Luda Mara in flood and the Brandenburgers had the worst difficulty crossing. If they set foot on the other bank of very hard struggle and thanks to a big stroke of luck, they are finally repelled by the arrival of the 153rd Infantry Brigade (Basil A. Coad), accompanied by strong armored elements. It was at this moment that the Hauptmann Ernst Prochaska, promoted after his participation in the Kyiv raid and having just arrived in the Balkans, found his death: rushing onto the deck of the disputed bridge without understanding the reasons for the hesitation of the panzers (who find themselves facing Churchills who have arrived as reinforcements!) and unable to make themselves heard in the din of the battle, he climbs onto a tank… and immediately falls, a bullet in the forehead. His body will never be raised – the RitterKreuz will be awarded to him posthumously.
The Axis forces must then fall back – with their wounded, including Major Max Wandrey, lightly hit in the face by a shrapnel grenade after having (all the same) captured a British colonel with his staff! A short-lived tactical success, Kavadartsi restored the Brandenburg Division's letters of nobility, but at a cost that was still too high (around 300 dead, seriously injured and missing).



Diorama "Assault on the piers of Kavadartsi' by the author ...

The division will then keep the road between Macedonia and Bulgaria until December 1943. When Romania changes sides, the whole XXII. GAK must flee in disaster towards Serbia, targeted at the same time by an allied offensive! Threatened to be crushed between the British and the Soviets, the division retreats hastily towards Nis and manages to extricate itself from this trap by “adapting” the instructions which had been given to it.
Now stationed in Vojvodina, on the southern border of Hungary, the Brandenburgers will do nothing more - despite some local counter-attacks - than defend and withdraw. The only notable exception: a brilliantly fought fight against the Hungarians of the 4th CA (Major-General József Heszlényi), tempted for a moment by a change of alliance but whose know-how was clearly not up to that of the Germans.
The division is in all the losing fights: Hungary (including some cruises on the Danube in Sturmboote despite enemy air superiority), Croatia, Slovenia... When it finally disappears during the capitulation, in Austria, it is only a shadow of what it once was. In its workforce, less than 100 commandos from the first hour remain – all the rest have been consumed.

* But also, final insult, without mentioning the membership of Grabert in Brandenburg, officially for reasons of confidentiality. The hero praised by the propaganda thus approached the anonymous Jäger
** The Fallschirmjaëgers, informed of the Merkur disaster, jumped outright in parachutes with their heavy weapons slung over their shoulders (including MG42s!). They certainly risked breaking their necks, but they were not afraid of being assaulted on landing, armed with simple pistols.
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Conclusion: the wolf and the dagger, illegitimate children of the Heer and the Abwehr
As we come to the end of our story, what can we conclude about the sad fate of the Brandenburg regiment? First, of course, that its history is above all that of a regression, linked both to strategic conditions and to the political shenanigans specific to the Third Reich. But above all that it wonderfully illustrates the difficulty of creating units without any real doctrine to use them.
At the time of entering the conflict, Germany did indeed have a magnificent tool for infiltration and assault – but only by accident, and at the insistence of the Abwehr. Indeed, in all its planning since 1933, it must be admitted that in reality, the Wehrmacht had never left the Sturmtruppen, which in the meantime had become the sturmpioniers. For it – and it will be so until 1945 – espionage and sabotage were not part of the panoply of modern warfare. These are expedients used by the weak against the strong (racial tropism) and the coward against the brave (moral tropism).
Without a well-defined employment policy and without any long-term vision concerning intelligence or politics, the Brandenburg was therefore doomed in advance to insignificance and marginality, and therefore to acting well below its real capacities – even though, paradoxically, Berlin was aware of its value. From the point of view of the command, the regiment remained, so to speak, a kind of improved assault unit adept at Halßtarnung – which moreover was soon to show its limits against a professional adversary or even just on the lookout. Here, let's not kid ourselves: the dazzling successes of May 1940 were much more linked to the panic and unpreparedness of the Benelux armies than to the (very real) qualities of the soldiers engaged.
All the actions of the Brandenburg therefore remained a notch below the long-term operations of the SAS or other Spetsnaz - not that such operations were not actually attempted, but between insufficient means and absence of support, we have seen what it happened. No doubt the raids in Volltarnung achieved some resounding successes, especially in kyiv, but these are isolated exploits that demonstrate more potential than practical reality.
From then on, and in the absence of any prospect, the Brandenburg was no more than the assault fist formed by the school of Gut Quenzsee – during all the first years of the conflict, it exists, and it is undeniably formidable. But it can only be blunted by hitting redoubled blows on ever more numerous and ever more solid opponents.
Basically, when it received the directive confirming its change of status on February 1, 1943, the regiment was already dead. Admittedly, the Reich thus deprived itself for a pure question of palace intrigues of a tool which could still have been useful to it in the USSR then in France... but in any case, at that date, Germany no longer had strategy to win the war. She can no longer carry iron to the enemy, but simply make him suffer by defending his territory – and the commandos therefore obviously become useless.
Using them, even for a time, in the anti-partisan struggle, was therefore undoubtedly and despite everything the most relevant choice – even though of course it must also be seen as a form of vexation of the Abwehr, to the benefit of the SS. by Pieter Van Vessem then Otto Skorzeny. The reign of these “political soldiers”, obviously capable of political action (from San Grasso to Budapest), had only just begun. Fortunately, it would be brief!
Let's conclude with a question, purely speculative: by bombing the SS, sole master of special operations, had the Reich gained in exchange? And from a strictly military point of view, can we compare the soldiers of the Black Order to the Brandenburgers? Difficult to answer ... Nevertheless, and beyond the mixed results of the SS-Jäger-Bataillon 502, we can probably venture - basing ourselves among other things on the famous notebooks of Dennis Kolte * - to affirm that the models were more competent than copies. In itself, however, the comparison remains of little interest: their opposition was just one more rivalry, derisory and with no other purpose than a power struggle, such as the Thousand Year Reich has known so much in less than eleven years of 'existence.

* Writings undoubtedly apocryphal and obviously fanciful, although certainly due to the pen of a very experienced German soldier and recounting with a surprising sense of detail the events of the castle of Itter.


Historical badge of the Brandenburg regiment


An episode that does not take place FTL - the capture of Kos and then Leros, where the unit routs (with the 22.LFD) the Anglo-Italian forces and captures in Leros 12,000 soldiers ... Obviously, they seem very happy...


Max Wandrey, Dennis' boss...


FJ in combat gear and weaponry preparing to jump on Kos:


Wandrey and his men, leaving Leros:

That's it for this Brandenburg FTL story, dear friends. Did you enjoy this background work? For information, Obergefreiter Dennis Kolte is one of the main characters in my 'Ballad of the Hanged Man' - the FTL Balkan Campaign - with Capitaine Pierre Percay (and his memoirs 'From Sparta to Totenburg') and Croatian Major Ratko Vlašic as readers of Wings' work already know. Their stories, a little more grounded or even a little fantastic, remain to be translated. I'll get to it one day... In the meantime, I'm looking for another subject :)


Two profiles that inspired me a lot for the characters of Olaf and Kurt the gunner, from Dennis' reconnaissance group:
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Buona madre's district
January 11th 1944
Palais Longchamp, Marseille - In the gray of winter, the large building at the end of the Boulevard Longchamp looked sinister despite the hustle and bustle. The sentries paced back and forth, shivering in the mistral wind, contemplating the deserted streets and plane trees with their dried-up branches. The festive days were over, as was the joy of the Liberation. Marseille was suffering, starving and miserable. Deprivation affected man and beast alike - the collections of the Palais botanical garden had suffered greatly during the Occupation, as had those of the Jardin des Plantes in Paris. All those who were not at the front returned to a difficult daily life which, from a material point of view, had hardly improved with the departure of the occupying forces.
In his office, General de Gaulle, President of the Council, performed his duties as a statesman, glancing out of the window from time to time at the water features that gave the building its architectural cachet. A bailiff knocked on the door.
- Mr. Minister of the Interior and General Meunier, Mr. President of the Council.
- Please enter.

Georges Mandel entered, accompanied by a particularly stiff general. General Marie-Gustave Meunier had been Inspector General of the Gendarmerie since 1939. Replacing General Bourret (who had been taken prisoner and had reached the age limit anyway), he held joint command of the institution with Mr. Roger Léonard, Maître des requêtes. He gave a military salute to De Gaulle. Although dressed in civilian clothes (so as not to emphasize that Meunier outranked him in rank), the latter returned his salute before inviting his visitors to take their seats, with a courteous but authoritative hand. He finished his sentence, then put aside his pen.
- Minister, General Meunier, you have requested an urgent meeting.
- Indeed,
Monsieur le Président du Conseil, and I thank you, of course, for granting it so quickly," replied Mandel. In my opinion, the importance of the issues we are about to discuss requires arbitration at the highest level, but in confidence. I would like to point out, however, that the absence of Mr. Léonard, civil administrator of the Gendarmerie, is fortuitous and strictly linked to his activity. He is aware of this meeting, which he approves insofar as his status allows.
- Well...
(The General lights a Player's cigarette and takes a puff.) What's this all about, Minister? I suppose we're going to talk about public order?
- Yes, we are. First, I'm going to hand over to General Meunier, who will describe the situation we're facing. General, if you don't mind...

The officer ostentatiously corrected his posture and began his presentation.
- Monsieur le Président du Conseil, after speaking to the Minister of the Interior, I am obliged to alert government departments to the tense state of our institution, and to the condition of the population in the liberated departments. As you know, looting by the occupying forces, combined with the effects of the blockade put in place by our Navy and the Allied navies, have thrown the population into great material distress. Harvests were poor, rationing was rife, and the black market was bleeding production. Deliveries to the liberated ports only imperfectly made up the shortfalls. All this has led to widespread impoverishment, to the point of total destitution for many of our fellow citizens. Of course, we have not yet reached the level of certain regions of Italy, such as Calabria and Sicily, where, it is said, American cigarette packets are used as currency. Nevertheless, this winter has been terribly deadly. Marseille and Toulon were martyred cities whose wounds from 1940 were still far from healed. Many homes were insalubrious or even destroyed. Similar damage was observed throughout the Midi...
- And all over France, General! Come to the point, please.
- Yes, Monsieur le Président du Conseil. As you know, part of the Gendarmerie remained in place during the Grand... during the withdrawal of our armies across the Mediterranean. The Gendarmes maintained order under the yoke of the Occupier, more or less in forced liaison with the German Feldgendarmerie, while coping as best they could with the injunctions of the thugs and traitors of the New French State who thought they could give us orders. In doing so, our men fulfilled their duty, with honor and respect for the principles of the Gendarmerie. They can be justifiably proud of this.
- No one is disputing that here, General,"
replied De Gaulle in a subdued tone.
- Thank you, Monsieur le Président du Conseil. Alas, in the difficult situation it has been in for more than three long years, the Gendarmerie Nationale has undergone a forced slimming of its resources, whether as a result of departures for Africa, certain defections (most often to the Interior Forces, however), purges carried out by Monsieur Laval's henchmen and, worse still, deportations decided by the Occupier in a more or less arbitrary manner. All this to tell you, Mr. Président du Conseil, that we now have barely 65% of our pre-war manpower, not to mention equipment. This figure includes the men who have returned from North Africa and the companies kindly loaned to us by Colonel Tubert, who is in charge of the Gendarmerie in Algeria, given the calm prevailing in his three departments. However, the material situation of our fellow citizens, which I mentioned a moment ago, unfortunately runs the risk of pushing some of them into criminal behavior. We are therefore in danger of being overwhelmed.
- Unfortunately, this was to be expected. Aren't the military police of our armed forces and the American forces supporting your action?
- Not exactly, Mr. Chairman. In fact, they are very busy trying to control the soldiers under their jurisdiction. In fact, this is one of the cruxes of the problem. Driven by poverty, some of our fellow citizens have resorted to morally reprehensible expedients towards our soldiers, and especially towards American soldiers. This would only be regrettable if the soldiers in question did not sometimes find themselves cheated or were not too demanding in the... business relationships thus established. I'm afraid that not all our guests have the nobility of soul to understand such behavior and feel the need to make themselves comfortable, even at the expense of civilians who have nothing to do with it. Our meagre resources seem incapable of preventing the outbursts, which are becoming more and more numerous. The situation is explosive. All it would take is a spark for our services to be completely overwhelmed.
- I see...
De Gaulle took a long drag on his cigarette, looking thoughtful. Clarify, please. What excesses are you talking about?
Meunier replied in a saddened breath: "At the present time, Monsieur le Président du Conseil, our services have recorded exactly 1,242 cases of assault on the honor of one of our fellow citizens (1). Quite often, several soldiers are involved in the same case. And I'm not counting all the cases of which we've been unaware, as the expediencies I've mentioned contribute to the confusion. In addition, we record a large number of thefts, destruction of property and assaults. Finally, we have received reports of at least four murders in Marseille and three in Toulon, committed by members of the Allied armed forces.
After a rather uncomfortable silence, Meunier continued: "Many of these incidents are due to deserters, usually soldiers on leave who neglect to return to their unit (2). Sometimes it's because they're afraid of exposing their lives again, sometimes these men find their occupations more lucrative and pleasant. We are well aware of how attractive port cities can be to young, armed men left to their own devices."
At this point, Mandel intervened: "General Meunier in no way questions the desire of our American allies to control their soldiers. The MP Criminal Investigation Branch is doing a remarkable job, which should be commended (3). Nevertheless, despite individual goodwill on both sides, collaboration... (De Gaulle frowns with annoyance and the Minister recovers with a very slight sigh.) understanding between the services is still lacking. In practical terms, and sad to say, our police cannot incarcerate marauding foreign soldiers. In the event of a flagrant offence, our officials apprehend the culprits, sometimes risking their lives, and hand them over to their country's Military Police. Afterwards, they disappear from our files, because we can't access the armed forces' manpower lists, let alone summon anyone, and investigations into the cases referred to us are very often impossible."
General Meunier concluded.
- Our men are selflessly striving to maintain order. Unfortunately, however, the difficulties they encounter are leading to a great deal of inefficiency and frustration, which I am not ashamed to express here. Some of my subordinates are beginning to doubt even their own authority, and are considering turning away from the uniform, lacking the means to act as severely as they do towards our nationals.
De Gaulle crushed his Player's in the ashtray with a nervous gesture: "I can't imagine what the traitors in Paris would say about these... sad facts if they knew about them. And even what certain members of Parliament would say... Our friends across the Atlantic should realize that they are not coming to take control of a failed state to be placed under military administration! So... what do you propose, gentlemen?"
Mandel spoke again: "The situation poses an unprecedented legal problem. How do we deal with an act of common law committed by allied military personnel on the territory of the République ? We have no legal agreement with our allies on this subject. All we can do is hand the culprits over to the military justice system in their own country, and in the worst-case scenario, request their expulsion. In short, not much. It is urgent that the Ministère des Affaires Etrangères contact Mr. Hull's services to establish clear, official rules authorizing investigations, questioning, summonses and even incarceration according to the needs expressed by General Meunier. I also recommend that similar steps be taken with the Foreign Office and members of the Commonwealth, to anticipate problems that may arise in a few months' time...".
- Mr. de Margerie will consult our allies on this subject without delay. But let's be under no illusions, gentlemen: the Americans would rather wash their dirty laundry in the family! It is doubtful that they will accede to all our demands. And it's already almost certain that they'll never let us incarcerate one of their soldiers for more than 24 hours, let alone hand down sentences. So we'll have to find a way of associating ourselves with the decisions taken by foreign courts...

For a brief moment, De Gaulle looked thoughtful, then resumed, "Whatever it is, it doesn't solve your manpower problems, General!"
- Indeed,
Monsieur le Président du Conseil. So far, we've only touched on the most visible aspect of our difficulties. Marseille and Toulon are cities of transit, of all transits. This means all kinds of traffic, especially in these troubled times. As a result, we are confronted with the activities of the local underworld, which have taken on an unprecedented scale, posing equally unprecedented problems. I must admit...
Meunier hesitated, visibly embarrassed. Mandel cut him off curtly, but this seemed to relieve the general: "To better describe the situation to you, Mr. President of the Council, I've taken the liberty of calling in an expert. He's waiting in the anteroom. May I ask him to come in?
De Gaulle huffed, sensing more trouble ahead: "Please."

Shocking though they may be, such facts have unfortunately always been observed in almost all military campaigns. The figures given here bear no relation to the abominable violence and atrocities observed during the German advance into Russia or the Soviet occupation of Germany. They are also far lower than those observed during Germany's invasion of the occupied countries in 1939, 1940 and 1941. But the statistics on these crimes have little meaning for those who suffered them.
(2) A case in point is Eddie Slovik, the only US Army soldier to be shot for desertion during the conflict, after repeatedly refusing to return to his unit, even while in custody. The 48 others sentenced to death for desertion were never executed, having all agreed to return to the front.
(3) Historically, this department investigated 7,912 cases of deserter-related crimes in Europe in 1944-45.
The expert in question was a middle-aged man of ordinary appearance, dressed in a dark suit, wearing patent shoes and a felt hat.
- Monsieur le Président du Conseil, may I present Monsieur Robert Blémant, who is... special commissioner for the Police Judiciaire, assigned to the city of Marseille.
Mandel smiled curiously and continued: "Monsieur Blémant is also deputy head of the Sécurité du Territoire! For three years, while pretending to work for the traitors in Paris, he was able to deceive both the Occupation services and the envoys of Laval, Doriot, Sabiani and others. His network rendered great service to the country. Even if his men sometimes took initiatives... a little too energetic compared to the recommendations of my ministry, their patriotism cannot be questioned. In particular, they ensured... the elimination of a large number of enemy collaborators and agents (1) ."
Blémant replied affably: "Thank you, Minister. Monsieur le Président du Conseil, thank you for seeing me.
He unceremoniously took a seat in one of the armchairs left free: "I don't often have the opportunity to leave the Bishop's Palace during service, except when I'm on duty, of course. And every time I do, I worry about the traffic!" he added with a smile, in a slight northern accent, somewhat surprising for an expert from the Marseilles region.
- I'd like to add that Monsieur Blémant is actually attached to our secret service. He operates under the authority of Colonel Paillole, who holds him in the highest esteem and praises his efficiency (2).
Meunier coughed, seemed to choke for a moment, then turned away from the newcomer. The contempt thus expressed met with nothing but serene indifference from the "special commissioner".
De Gaulle held back the shadow of a smile: "I see... What can you tell us about the situation in Marseille, Monsieur le Commissaire spécial?"
- On the social context and the state of the population, not much more than General Meunier.

The interested party remained ostensibly unmoved. Blémant continued: "Nevertheless, I can tell you a great deal more about Marseille's nocturnal and underground activities, which you are no doubt aware of the influence they can have on the city. I have a large number of contacts in the criminal underworld. In fact, a large part of my network is made up of members of this milieu.
If De Gaulle was surprised, he didn't let on.
- As a policeman, you're in business with criminals, aren't you?
- Yes, it's a very useful habit. You should know that, in the Secret Service, nothing and nobody is completely black or white. And in the South, that's even truer, Secret Service or not. It's all about balance. You constantly have to balance the two, dressing Peter without undressing Paul...
- I get it, I get it. So, how can these contacts with the...
Milieu be of use to us?
- First of all, Monsieur le Président du Conseil - I apologize in advance for asking this question, but may I speak frankly?"
said Blémant, casting a sidelong glance at General Meunier.
- Insofar as it serves the interests of the Nation, I invite you to make a habit of it," grumbled De Gaulle with an air of annoyance.
- Very well, then. In that case, in order to give you a few keys, I'll have to do a bit of history. Uh, I see you smoke, Monsieur le Président, may I...?
De Gaulle nodded, and the man continued his talk with an American between his fingers.
- The organizations and families of the Vieux Port are the product of many conflicts. In 1939, the edifice built on their balance of power was extremely fragile. Already shaken by the arrival of the Germans, this edifice survived the Occupation, but was thrown down by the D-Day Landings and the Liberation.
- And that's fortunate,"
says Meunier.
- Indeed, my general, it's fortunate. Don't get me wrong, despite the methods I use, which you seem to disapprove of, I'm a police officer true to my oath, and my patriotism has nothing to envy that of the military in uniform - a uniform I've also worn, honorably I'm told (3).
- General, thank you for letting the commissioner continue!
- Thank you, Minister.

Blémant took a drag from his cigarette and continued: "So, as I was saying, until the war, the Marseilles underworld was run by a duo: Paul Carbone and François Spirito. Together, they had done the four hundred and one in France and Italy, including smuggling between the two, in violation of the embargo in place after the invasion of Ethiopia. From France to Italy, but also in the other direction, for more innocent trades... or not, ranging from Parmigiano Reggiano cheeses to opium, transformed by them into heroin! Two men for two profiles: Carbone on the side of the politicians - including the late Simon Sabiani, may the Devil rest his soul - and Spirito on the side of the traffickers. They complemented each other very well in terms of business and money. All was well in the best of worlds. In 1934, things got a little tense when they got involved in the Stavisky affair.
- I thought those names sounded familiar
," Mandel observed.
- So you know as well as I do, Minister, that they got off scot-free and returned to Marseille to the cheers of the mayor's supporters.
- What good citizens!"
smiled De Gaulle.
- You don't know what you're talking about. In 1940, worried about their business, they abandoned their protectors and obligers (some of whom were busy crossing the Mediterranean, or even the Atlantic) and decided to go... over the fence, you might say. This abrupt change generated annoyance and upheaval, encouraging competition. However, this competition was kept under control, with a little help from Laval's services, but mostly with the help of the Gestapo. You may say that this help was certainly not free...
- If you don't mind, I won't say anything,"
replied Mandel. "I don't think Monsieur le Président du Conseil will either.
- Just a figure of speech,
Monsieur le Ministre.
Blémant crushed his cigarette in the ashtray on the desk. "In any case, their business suffered a fatal blow at the end of 1943, with the arrival of our armies. Sensing the wind of the guillotine, Carbone fled to Paris, only to die in a train derailment - an accidental derailment! What a paradox, at a time when trains are more often strafed by Allied aircraft or sabotaged by the Resistance... He is said to have died with his legs severed and a cigarette in his mouth, having refused more useful help to others. His last words are said to have been "C'est la vie...". Proof of his influence, an NEF State Secretary was present at his funeral, as was Herr Otto Abetz himself, but also Mistinguett and Tino Rossi!"
Blémant smiled at this evocation, drew another cigarette from an elegant case bearing his initials, but played with it without lighting it.
- As for Spirito, he decided that the Spanish climate would be better for his health. The last I heard, he was thinking of crossing the Atlantic to continue his business (4). Other similar characters followed his example, when they could - we know what happened to Sabiani.
Meunier, Mandel and De Gaulle took on the pinched expression of those who suddenly breathed in a foul odor.
- Obviously, the fate of these scoundrels doesn't move me any more than it does you. Nevertheless, departures and deaths have created a void. And, as you know, Nature abhors a vacuum. And the Milieu is governed by very natural rules. The weakening and disappearance of the Carbon-Spirito duo has naturally allowed several families to expand. This was particularly true of a few Corsican clans, who had the luxury of playing the hero against both the occupying forces and their competitors, since after all, they were two sides of the same coin. In my opinion, however, they were more spectacular than effective. I'm thinking in particular of the carnage perpetrated in a brothel in 1941 by the Garneri of La Maddalena - in fact, a vendetta decided in retaliation for the annihilation of their village by German forces. And I don't need to mention the settling of scores disguised as the execution of collaborators. During the Liberation of Marseille, everyone obviously tried to buy themselves a virginity - our soldiers were very surprised (happily surprised, admittedly) by the organized nature of the insurrection and by the quality of the FFI's weaponry. They would also have been surprised by the criminal records of many of the fighters wearing the tricolor armband! One name stands out in particular: that of the Guérini brothers. Mémé and Antoine, who had the intelligence to stay on the right side (5). Their boys, and particularly a promising fellow named Deferre, rendered many services: espionage, hiding materials, exfiltration of airmen and infiltration of special forces. These are the rising stars, the future bosses.
- And they're your friends too!"
says Meunier.
- It's true, it's better to talk to them than to shoot at each other. Let's be pragmatic, not dogmatic. We saw in 1940 what happened when we obeyed people who followed the rules to the letter (6) !
- Mr. le président, Mr. Minister, I protest! We don't need to get involved with thugs and gangsters! Give me the time and means to reform the organization of the Gendarmerie and we'll be able to...
Blémant turned to the outraged officer and cut him off: "Come on, General, you know as well as I do that your men are overwhelmed and without local support. What's more, I doubt the government can give you the time and resources you're asking for! Perhaps your efforts will be useful in the long run. But in the meantime?"
- I refuse to talk to pimps and art thieves!
- You've been misinformed, General, it wasn't the Guérini brothers who tried to get their hands on the
Cézannes in the Musée d'Aix. And what does it matter, given that the curator had the presence of mind to hide them before the Guérini brothers arrived?
Irritated, De Gaulle thundered: "Gentlemen, that's enough! This is not the Café du Commerce, but the heart of the Republic. A little dignity, please!
- Yes,
Monsieur le Président du Conseil," choked Meunier, as stiff as Justice.
- Certainly, Monsieur le Président du Conseil," agreed Blémant, still smiling in his armchair.
- Resume, Commissaire.
De Gaulle was lighting up a new Player's: "What do our concerns for public tranquility have to do with... and your Corsicans?"
- Here's the thing... My Corsicans aren't yet completely... installed at the helm of the Marseilles scene. Although they're anxious not to make trouble in a city full of allied soldiers, they're encountering a few difficulties of... external origin.
- In other words?
- As you no doubt know, our friends on the other side of the Atlantic aren't themselves as virtuous as they'd like you to believe. You may be aware that the networks of Italian families in New York, including the famous Lucky Luciano, were of great help to the Americans - and indirectly to us - during the conquest of Sicily... and even during the takeover of Southern Italy?

He was met with looks of dismay.
- Didn't they? Well, I'll tell you. These families, known in Sicily and the United States as the Mafia, have connections with the American Army. The latter has drafted a large number of conscripts of Italian origin, who turn out to be servants, or even "Soldati", soldiers, of one Mafia clan or another. Every major family therefore has a criminal network within the troops currently encamped in our country.
Blémant straightened up, settling more comfortably in his armchair.
- Now, what do you think happens when all these people arrive in a territory in the throes of reorganization like the Var and Bouches-du-Rhône?

(1) Historically, the cell headed by Blémant in Marseille, supposedly working for the Vichy government, arrested no fewer than 170 German spies in 1941 and 1942. These agents were interrogated in a clandestine villa, and around fifty were given a "D for Definitive" measure. The cell's activity ceased in October 1942 after the arrest of a Vichy police informer, which led Bousquet to question the man's real political choices!
(2) Paillole on Blémant: "Procedures are repugnant to him and half-measures are revolting. Blémant is direct, ardent, ruthless!"
(3) Blémant served two years with the Spahis in Syria (1929-1931). He won the Levant medal before returning to France to study law.
(4) Spirito remained an international heroin trafficker. Already arrested and convicted in 1939 by the Americans for smuggling 100 kilos of opium on the liner Exeter, he eventually returned to France, where he could have been charged with collaboration... but was never tried! He died in Toulon in 1967, "retired from cars" (rangé des voitures - french expression meaning that he was, let say ... honourably discharged.
(5) That's not quite true. While Mémé will receive a well-deserved Croix de Guerre, Antoine will be worried about the operation of his gambling dens. He'll get off scot-free thanks to the help of special commissioner Blémant !
(6) In 1939, Blémant had illegally captured Hermann Brandl, a Reich spy deployed in Brussels. He proposed an extra-judicial execution. On Gamelin's direct orders, the agent was released and escorted "with civility"...
- It's the gang warfare of Chicago imported to our shores!
- Indeed, Monsieur le Président du Conseil indeed! And with the support of those among our nationals who dream of making a name for themselves, even if it means owing them a favor later on. Of the four murders committed recently in Marseille and attributed to allied soldiers, I can tell you that at least two are linked to territorial conflicts. One seems to have been committed during an ordinary brawl between sailors and soldiers in the Panier district... But the dead sailor was a Sicilian by birth, and the man who stabbed him was a New York soldier of Neapolitan origin, from Little Italy, Luciano's territory. Another murder: a Sicilian from Chicago, shot dead on Rue Longue des Capucins by a Corsican from Calenzana.
- A Corsican from...? How do you know?"
said an appalled Meunier.
- I know that your teams arrived too late to catch the shooter. They're forgivable, since Belsunce is a small street and the shooter could have slipped away easily. But one of my contacts witnessed the murder," replied Blémant with a toothy grin.
Meunier shook his head, suddenly tired. He barely had the strength to mumble: "And of course, it's a coincidence that Calenzana is the Guérinis' home town...".
- What's more, I think we should take a closer look at certain traffic accidents. Because in town, Jeeps brake really badly, it seems, whereas on the front, these vehicles have quite a good reputation. Not to mention all the collaborators who were lynched or executed in the days following the Liberation, without their real or supposed actions justifying the fate that befell them.
- We understand, Inspector, come to the point,"
Mandel intervened, his eyebrow furrowed.
- Well, Monsieur le Président du Conseil, let's take the example of the Sicilian from Chicago. He was linked to the Gambono clan, as one of their representatives confirmed to me. The Gambonos are supported by a Corsican family from Bastia. So we have Corsicans who are descendants of Sicilians working with other Corsicans to take on Neapolitans, who are allying themselves with yet other Corsicans! All these people are ready to kill each other to reclaim the territory of Carbone and Spirito! If the street is explosive, the Milieu is a powder keg with a lit fuse. A cocktail as unstable as nitroglycerin! In short, if the looming gang war really begins, we can look forward to a great show!
Silence followed. Everyone was aware of the seriousness of these words, which until then had seemed like a pagnolade (1). De Gaulle had understood what Blémant was getting at. He lowered his head slightly, taking the time to consider the files laid out before him. In exactly the same neutral tone, he said, without really believing it: "Come on, Marseille has always had a reputation for being a troubled city that went beyond reality. Even now, apart from a few murders, admittedly highly regrettable, the city remains generally safe. As for your friends in the Milieu who call themselves patriots, can't they put off their... struggles for influence?"
- Alas,
Monsieur le Président du Conseil, the worsening situation does not depend on us.
Mandel ticked at the "us" but did not interrupt the commissioner, who continued.
- The traditional Milieu is facing an alliance of circumstance between the Italian mafia imported from the USA and young Corsican clans who wish to take advantage of the temporary weakness of the Corsican families already established. But the Corsican families won't let themselves be taken out of the game without reacting. There is a real risk that Marseille, as well as Toulon, Nice and perhaps other ports, will become cut-throats. This could hamper the war effort, as everyone is so focused on defending their own territory. In fact, this is already the case! We're seeing real collusion between black-market traffickers and certain American supply officials. For the time being, it's mainly foodstuffs and civilian equipment. But... (Blémant looks grim...) How long before it becomes weapons. A case of machine guns here, a packet of grenades there... Marseille is going to become Chicago-on-the-Med! Luciano's New Yorkers are already making themselves at home: I hear they've renamed the Vieux Port "Buona Madre's District", as if it were a New York neighborhood! And it's only going to get worse as our armies advance, when the gangs see the possibility of setting up shop in Paris!
Paris under the control of Corsican or Sicilian gangs... My poor country, thought De Gaulle as he replied: "What can we do to avoid this catastrophe?"
In a white voice, General Meunier groaned: "As I've just told you, Monsieur le Président du Conseil, our forces are already inadequate for the task in hand. In the event of... a major conflict between the Commissioner's various... partners (he glanced contemptuously at Blémant), all we can do is keep score and pick up the dead. Let's hope the clashes don't claim too many innocent victims. Securing supplies and unloading can only be done with the help of the army, and that goes all the way to the supply depots close to the front."
- What do you think,
Monsieur le Ministre?" De Gaulle asked Mandel.
Mandel took a moment to answer before articulating: "If we have to escort every convoy out of the ports and secure the towns likely to be troubled as the Commissioner fears, we might as well declare martial law over the whole country. Technically, this has already been the case since 1939. But it will have to be applied by force. So many troops and resources distracted from the front, for the greater good of the enemy."
De Gaulle sighed: "Wasn't it possible to solve this problem before the war? Why are we suffering now, at a time when the country is recovering from the pain, the consequences of the mistakes of the past?"
- It's not that easy to get rid of organized crime
, Monsieur le Président du Conseil. Even with the best will in the world - and this was not the case before the war, I grant you - its ramifications run so deep into the fabric of the region and its system of powers that considerable resources would have been required. And that over time. Such action would have been out of reach, then as now. By way of comparison, in the Thirties, Mussolini tackled the problem in Sicily. Despite his expeditious methods, which were unencumbered by the rule of law or lawyers, he did not completely succeed, even though his regime had hundreds of Mafiosi arrested and convicted, sometimes without charge. As for us, today... we could possibly ask the Americans for help...
- And put the maintenance of order on French soil in foreign hands? Some might ask whether it was worth continuing the war in '40! But don't our English friends have similar worries with the American troops stationed on their territory?
- I assume that their nationals were less affected by the conflict. They didn't have to endure an occupation, a treacherous regime, then liberation... What's more, their criminal habits and customs differ markedly from ours. You know that their policemen don't need to be armed...
- It's true... Thank goodness we've at least escaped the importation of our fellow Africans' ancestral tribal wars!

(1) Typical southern french expression, which describe a loud, spectacular but quitte unharming and exagerated dispute.
De Gaulle turned sharply to the commissioner and called him out curtly: "Well, Blémant, you've described the problem, can you now show us your expertise by giving us the solution?"
- There is a solution,
Monsieur le Président du Conseil, but it requires accepting some... arrangements," replied the commissioner in an embarrassed tone.
- Arrangements! With...

De Gaulle coughed indignantly.
- No one has anything to gain from a gang war. The world is already suffering enough from the deaths that have been piling up for over four years. But the longer we wait and do nothing, the more tension will build to the point of explosion. What's more, even if the war - the war of the states - were to end tomorrow, our friends from Little Italy wouldn't be packing up to leave. After all, it's only after the war that business will really pick up.
Blémant took a handful of seconds to save his effect and declared, "That's why I've been asked to propose an agreement to the government."
A moment of astonishment followed. De Gaulle looked at Mandel, who was watching General Meunier, who was glaring at the Commissaire. The latter remained tight-lipped, staring at the President of the Council. The latter snarled: "So the masks are coming off... You're now the emissary of this 'we'. But who are they?"
- Just ordinary people, hiding in the shadows!" squeaked Meunier.
- Come on, it's nothing like that. If you'd like to see them in person, General, I can arrange a meeting. There's no warrant for their arrest...
A new moment of dismay. Mandel eyes heavenward. Thugs received in the palaces of the Republic!
Blémant smiles: "Everything would be legal, but I understand your reticence. This kind of promiscuity was good for Sabiani and company, but not for legalistic Republicans. So, rather than go to that extreme, I propose to be the one who walks between the shadows for you. For, gentlemen, I am after all only the messenger of citizens whose manners you disapprove of, but who, when the situation demanded it, demonstrated their patriotism, unlike many of their... colleagues. Today, they propose to continue their action in the general interest.
- A noble and disinterested approach, then!
articulated De Gaulle, containing his anger.
- Not entirely, I'm afraid.
- Please explain.
- Well, my connections in the
Milieu could guarantee the peace and security of the ports and transit zones, and even that of the Provençal and Alpine countryside, where they still have settlements. Supervision of the activities of permission-holders would drastically limit the excesses committed by some of our guests, which are of great concern, and rightly so, to General Meunier. Motivation of dockers, carriers and other port stakeholders would be ensured, and encouraged where necessary by any appropriate means. Of course, there would still be a... levy on imported foodstuffs, but the port's more intense activity would enable it to supply the most needy populations in a more or less satisfactory manner: this modest safety valve would contribute to social peace. This would also avoid any disruption to the logistics of our armies and those of our allies.
- And what would be the quid pro quo?
- Firstly, the... understanding of the authorities in the face of certain disappearances of non-military equipment. Then, in the event of further clashes with Italian-Americans, a discreet intervention with our allies across the Atlantic, who, I can assure you, are not without contacts with
Mafia leaders based in the United States, as the Luciano affair showed in Sicily. Finally, until the end of the war, the police could avoid disrupting the activities run by my acquaintances - in the knowledge that they would remain within reasonable limits so as not to disrupt the war effort.
- What activities are you talking about?
- Basically drinking establishments, easy girls and gambling.
- Everything for the soldier, so to speak!
Meunier was suffocating.
Blémant didn't seem to mind and continued: "We can also think a little beyond the conflict. Our country is weakened, Monsieur le Président du Conseil. We need to protect local businesses and feed the population, for everyone's sake. For example, my contacts have told me that some of their friends, whom I couldn't name without proof, would deeply regret it if reconstruction contracts went abroad. The Vieux Port has been largely destroyed. Pharaonic works are planned. The Germans themselves had plans, which they obviously intended to entrust to their companies. Tomorrow, will we be asking American companies to rebuild France?
- Don't push your audacity too far!
De Gaulle crushed the butt of his cigarette.
The silence of outrage hung over the group for a moment. The hour of liberation had come, but not yet the hour of cleaning up. De Gaulle lit up a Player's again. With him, coldness quickly overtook irritation. Mandel looked down, fatalistic. Meunier stared out the window.
The General - not the gendarme, but the head of government - looked Blémant in the eye again. After all, this man had served France at the risk of his life, and would continue to do so.
- In short, you're proposing an alliance with our thugs against the thugs of our allies.
- Oh no,
Monsieur le Président du Conseil, not an alliance, nothing so scandalous. More like a truce, while the country heals its wounds. Otherwise, chaos will ensue, I'm afraid.
- So it's an offer we can't refuse?
- Again, I wouldn't go that far. This offer can be refused. But in that case, we'll have to accept the consequences at regional, national and even international level.
- I'll make a note of that.

A long puff of cigarette later, De Gaulle added: "I think everything has been said, Commissioner. We'll take the necessary measures based on your expert opinion, which you've set out so well. The Minister of the Interior will keep you informed. You'll understand if I don't have you escorted out.