By Henry L. deZeng IV

Formed immediately following the German victory in Yugoslavia in Apri11941. Elements were engaged against Partisan elements as early as 22 June 1941. Peak strength of this organization (probably 1942-43) was 66,566 men, according to German sources, although a respected postwar Yugoslav historian (Strugar, p.30) says it reached 85,000 at the end of 1941. A Slovenian historian (Ferenc) says that during its course of existence, the Wehrmannschaft enrolled a total of 84,700 men in Untersteiermark and 17,592 in Oberkrain, according to surviving German documents.

All males between 18 and 45 who belonged to the Steirischer Heimatbund, created 10 May 1941 under SA-Oberführer Franz Steindl, and the Kärntner Volksbund, created 24 May 1941 under Wilhelm Schick, automatically were members of the Wehrmannschaft. Initially, the sole purpose of the Wehrmannschaft was military training, i.e., drilling, weapons training and National Socialist political instruction. Virtually all Volksdeutsche belonged to the two political organizations, and this is why the membership number is so high in a region with a total population of only some 825,000.

The Wehrmannschaft is best characterized as being a “garrison militia”, although the men were well-clothed in standard SA uniforms and brown RAD uniforms with SA badges and rank designations, and mountain boots. The unit was well equipped with light arms and automatic weapons, and even had its own light artillery battery.

The Wehrmannschaft was formed and controlled by the SA-Gruppe Südmark, which had its Verwaltungsstelle and Verwaltungs- Standartenführer in Marburg (Maribor). The commander of the Wehrmannschaft was Gauorganisationsleiter and SA-Oberführer Franz Steindl. The Untersteiermark and Oberkrain Wehrmannschaften were two distinctly separate organizations. Both were tactically subordinated to the German military command in Graz, Austria.

For reference purposes only, the Wehrmannschaft was under SA-Gruppe Südmark (Kdr.: SA-Brigadeführer Orth), which was located in the Austrian portions of Steiermark and Kärnten, although elements were in Slovenia during April and May 1941, but then returned to Austria. SA-Gruppe Südmark order of battle on 1 December 1941:

SA-Gebirgsjägerbrigade 95
SA-Gebirgsschützenstandarte 26
SA-Gebirgsjägerstandarte 27
SA-Gebirgsjägerstandarte 83
SA-Gebirgsjägerbrigade 96
SA-Gebirgsschützenstandarte 3
SA-Gebirgsjägerstandarte 138
SA-Gebirgsjägerstandarte 188
SA-Gebirgsjägerbrigade 97
SA-Gebirgsjägerstandarte 7
SA-Gebirgsjägerstandarte 8
SA-Gebirgsjägerstandarte 17
(Note: the above units were purely German and located in Austria).

Organizationally, the Wehrmannschaft consisted of 13 regiments, of which 10 were in Untersteiermark and 3 in Oberkrain. Organizational structure from inception to end: Standarten (Regiments), Sturmbannen (Battalions) and Sturmen (Companies).

At the time of the invasion of Yugoslavia (early April 1941), the Wehrmannschaft in both Untersteiermark and Oberkrain had 10,818 men. From April/May 1941 to September 1941, the Wehrmannschaft functioned as auxil1iaries for the various Gendarmerie stations throughout Untersteiermark and Oberkrain. It was not until June 1941 that they began to be formally organized into SA-Wehrmannschaft companies. The men were recruited from the local Slovene population, and were not all Volksdeutsche or Kulturbund Nazis.

By the end of June 1941, 9 regiments of Wehrmannschaften were being formed in Untersteiermark. Commander was SA-Standartenführer Franz Blasche, with HQ in Maribor. These were:

SA-Wehrmannschaftbrigade “Cilli” (SA-Standartenführer Drägert) in Celje
SA-Wehrmannschaftstandarte “Cilli-Ost” (SA-Standartenführer Wolf) in Celje;
SA-Wehrmannschaftstandarte “Cilli-West” (SA-Standartenführer Wolf) in Celje;
SA-Wehrmannschaftstandarte “Marburg-Stadt” (SS-Sturmbannführer Rüpschl?) in Maribor;
SA-Wehrmannschaftstandarte “Marburg-Gebiet” (SA-Standartenführer Hans Müller) in Maribor;
SA-Wehrmannschaftstandarte “Windischgraz” in Slovenj Gradec;
SA-Wehrmannschaftstandarte “Pettau-Nord” in Ptuj;
SA-Wehrmannschaftstandarte “Pettau-Süd” in Ptuj;
SA-Wehrmannschaftstandarte “Lichtenwald” in Sevnica;
SA-Wehrmannschaftstandarte “Gurkfeld” in Krsko.

These 9 regiments, with a total of 99 companies, still existed as above at the end of 1941.

The Wehrmannschaften in Oberkrain began forming at the end of June 1941 with SA-Brigadeführer Beck as Kommandeur and with HQ in Veldes (Bled). Its order of battle at end of 1941 was:

SA-Wehrmannschaftstandarte “Krainburg” (15 companies - 1,750 men) in Kranj;
SA-Wehrmannschaftstandarte (name unknown) (29 companies -2,500 men) in Radovljica;
SA-Wehrmannschaftstandarte (name unknown) (13 companies - 1,340 men) in Škofja Loka;
SA-Wehrmannschaftstandarte (name unknown) (42 companies - 6,300 men) in Kamnik;
SA-Wehrmannschaftstandarte (name unknown) (15 companies - 1,800 men) in Meziča area.

All Wehrmannschaft regiments had a motorized company, an engineer company, a medical company and a signal company.

The Wehrmannschaft in Oberkrain disintegrated by early 1942, because for one reason the Partisans forces in Oberkrain were in much greater strength and much more active than in Untersteiermark. The Wehrmannschaft organization in Untersteiermark did not disintegrate until the early spring of 1944, because the Partisans had no strength in this area until the spring of 1943. In March 1944 and coincident with the dissolution of the larger organization, the Regiment "Untersteiermark" in 28 companies was formed using Wehrmannschaft alarm battalions that were constructed from the remaining pool of men. This Regiment fought against the Partisans to the end of the war in the area of Maribor, Celje and Kamnik.

Units - Organizational Notes and Operational Employment of the Wehrmannschaft

Apr 42: Wehrmannschaftssturmbann “Süd” was raised in April 1942 with 2,500 men and employed along the German-Italian border between Untersteiermark and the Italian-occupied Province of Ljubljana.

Jun 42: the Oberkrainer Selbstschutz (Gorenjsko Domobranstvo) was formed in June 1942 and served as a
Hilfspolizei force under the Kdr.d.Ordnungspolizei in the Oberkrain (Upper Carniola) area, primarily as an auxiliary customs guard.

29 Sep 42: Wehrmannschaft-Btl. “Süd” with 7 companies was located in the area Trbovlje – Prebold – Vransko - Čemšenik. Between Nov 42 and Jan 43, Btl. “Süd” was disbanded and in its place Wehrmannschaft-Alarm-Kpn. were created. Initially (Jan 43) there were 3 of these, but by Sep 43 the number had increased to 10.

1943: four (4) additional Wehrmannschaftssturmbannen were raised in 1943 in Untersteiermark for combat against the Partisans.

late Oct 43: Wehrmannschaft-Btle. “Ost” (SA-Hauptsturmführer Egger) and “West” mobilized with a total of 1,100 men in the area between Trbovlje and Šoštanj.

3 Nov 43: Wehrmannschaft-Btl. “Nord” had 7 companies and was stretched out in garrisons running along the road from Dravograd southeast to Vitanje.

13 Nov 43: Wehrmannschaft-Btl. “Mitte” mobilized to defend the area to the west and southwest of Maribor, with locations in the Ruse – Šmartno – Zreče – Vitanje area. Wehrmannschaft-Btl. “Nord” was mobilized at about the same time, and was located around Slov. Bistrica.

29 Nov 43: mention of Wehrmannschaft 2. Alarm-Kp.”Luttenberg” in and around Gornji (NE Kamnik).

13 Mar 44: the Wehrmannschafts-Rgt. “Untersteiermark” was ordered formed on 13 March 1944 by Franz Steindl with 4 and later 5 Sturmbannen for guarding industrial establishments, towns and the lines of communication (railroads and roads) and for use against the Partisans. Initial order of battle:

Regimentsstab in Slovenjgradec (Führungsstab) and Maribor (Verwaltungsstab)
I. Btl. “Marburg” (SA-Standartenführer Simon Kohlbacher) (10 companies) in and around Maribor,
II. Btl. “Pettau” (3 later 5 companies) in Ptuj and surrounding area,
III. Btl.”Cilli” (SA-Obersturmbannführer Wörndler) (4 later 7 companies) in Celje and surrounding area,
IV. Btl.”Rann” (4 companies) in Brežice (Rann) and surrounding area,

The Regiment was used to guard industrial, rail and road objectives and to assist the police in operations against the Partisans. In Sep 44, the Regiment reduced the number of companies from 25 to 15, but at the same time 3 reserve companies were set up. Directly under the Regimentsstab were an artillery battery, reconnaissance company, Gendarmerie school and the independent Alarm-Kp. “Trifail”, the latter being located in Trbovlje. The Regiment’s disintegration and the gradual desertion of its men to the Partisans is said to have begun in late spring 1944, just a few months after it was formed.

15-20 May 44: three battalions participated in anti-partisan Operation “Anton I” carried out in the Podhorje between Slovenjgradec and Maribor.

23 Jul 44: partial list of locations -
Wehrmannschafts-Rgt. “Untersteiermark”:
Stab III. Btl. in Mozirje/27 km NW of Celje
1. Kp. “Cilli-Ost” (154 men) in Rečica/10 km SSW of Celje
2. Kp. “Cilli-West” (150 men) in Mozirje
3. Kp. “Cilli-Ost” (123 men) in Luce/44 km WNW of Celje
4. Kp. “Cilli-Ost” (127 men) in Ljubno/36 km WNW of Celje
Kp. “Pettau” (from II. Btl.) (161 men) in Gornji Grad/37 km WNW of Celje.

25 Sep 44: Hitler ordered the creation of the Volkssturm. Wehrmannschafts-Rgt. “Untersteiermark” was used as the formation staff for the Volkssturm in the Untersteiermark and provided the personnel from former members of the Wehrmannschaft. Although this process did not really get under way until 1945, eventually 49 Volkssturm battalions were subordinated to it, but these only existed on paper.

mid-Jan 45: a fifth battalion was added to “Untersteiermark” at about this time. By now each battalion consisted of a Stab, 3 rifle and 1 heavy weapons company.

Mar 45: SA-Obersturmbannführer Swoboda commanded a Kampfgruppe consisting of the I., III. and IV. Btle. of Wehrmannschafts-Rgt. “Untersteiermark” which was deployed along the Mur River in eastern Untersteiermark.

27 Mar 45: when the Red Army broke the German defense in Hungary on 27 March 45, what was left of Wehrmannschafts-Rgt. “Untersteiermark” was broken up, the battalions becoming Volkssturm battalions, and these were moved into the threatened area east of Maribor, between the Mura and Drava Rivers. The Regimentsstab for “Steiermark” was disbanded on 16 April 1945 and then the individual battalions were destroyed in fighting with the Partisans one by one.

30 Mar 45: SA-Oberführer Franz Steindl, Kdr. of Wehrmannschafts-Rgt. “Untersteiermark”, reportedly KIA at Rechnitz, a small village along the Austria – Hungary border to the northeast of Graz, while engaged in heavy fighting against Soviet forces.

Sources used

Ferenc, Tone et al. Narodnoosvobodilna Vojna na Slovenskem 1941 – 1945. Third edition. Ljubljana: Vojaški Zgodovinski Inštitut Jugoslovanske Ljudske Armade in Inštitut za Zgodovino Delavskega Gibanja v Ljubljani, 1978.
Ferenc, Anton. Quellen zur Nationalsozialistischen Entnationalisierungspolitik in Slowenien 1941-1945. Maribor, 1980.
Harriman, Helga Horiak. “The German Minority in Yugoslavia, 1941-1945.” Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation. Oklahoma State Univ., 1973.
Karner, Stefan. Die Stabsbesprechungen der NZ-Zivilverwaltung in der Untersteiermark 1941-1944. Graz, 1996.
Schweighofer, Franz. “Die Wehrmannschaft des Steirischen Heimatbundes 1941-1945”; in: Feldgrau (Mitteilungen einer Arbeitsgemeinschaft), 9. Jahrgang 1961, Heft 5/1. Oktober 1961, pp.151-57.
Strugar, Vlado. Jugoslavija 1941-1945. Belgrade: Vojnoizdavački Zavod, 1969.
Vojnoistorijski glasnik, issues from 1955.
[Vojnoistorijski institute]. Zbornik dokumenata i podataka o narodnooslobodilačkom ratu jugoslovenskih naroda.
Znidaritsch, Marjan, Joze Dezman and Ludvik Puklavec. Nemska Mobilizacija Slovencev v Drugi Svetovni Vojni. Celje, 2001.