The 12th SS Panzer Division "Hitler Youth" : its origins, training and destruction, 1943-1944 / by Craig W.H. Luther.
This manuscript provides a detailed history of the 12th SS Panzer Division "Hitler Youth" from its origins in early 1943 through its destruction in Normandy in the summer of 1944. The author based his account of the division principally upon primary sources, including extensive archival holdings, published memoirs and official histories, and numerous interviews with former division members. To gain additional insight into the division's combat history, the author visited the Normandy battlefields in March 1980 and again in June 1983. The 12th SS Panzer Division consisted mainly of 17-year-old volunteers from the Third Reich's only youth organization--the Hitler Youth. Formed after the defeat at Stalingrad and Germany's subsequent transition to a total war effort, the division was a symbol of the willingness of German youth to make the ultimate sacrifice for Fuhrer and Fatherland. Training of the Hitler Youth Division commenced in July 1943, and continued until the division entered combat in June 1944. Following the Anglo-American invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944, the 12th SS successfully defended the city of Caen until its capture by the Allies on July 9th. Thereafter, the division was withdrawn temporarily into reserve north of Falaise, only to be back in action within days. From mid-July to mid-August, the 12th SS played a major role in the unequal defensive struggle between Caen aned Falaise, at times standing between the enemy and the total collapse of the German front. With fatalistic resignation, the survivors of the division fought a skillful delaying action southeast of Falaise, helping thousands of German troops to escape encirclement and destruction. In this manner, the 12th SS Panzer Division "Hitler Youth" experienced its own Stalingrad on the fertile plains of Normandy, where, by mid-August 1944, the fighting had reduced the division to a small fragment of its original combat strength. During the Normandy campaign the 12th SS gained a reputation as a first-class fighting formation--well-trained and equipped and highly motivated. Unfortunately, the division was also responsible for the murder of more than 130 Canadian prisoners of war during the opening days of the campaign. These murders, which tarnished the division's otherwise impressive combat record, are discussed in a separate chapter.
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