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221st Security Division
221. Sicherungs-Division
Active 1941–1944
Country  Nazi Germany
Branch Army
Type Security division
Size Division
Engagements World War II
Bandenbekämpfung

The 221st Security Division was a rear-security division in the Wehrmacht during World War II. Commanded by General Johann Pflugbeil, the unit was deployed in German-occupied areas of the Soviet Union, in the Army Group Centre Rear Area, for security and Bandenbekämpfung ("anti-bandit") duties. It was responsible for large-scale war crimes and atrocities including the deaths of thousands of Soviet civilians.

Operational history[edit | edit source]

The division was formed in June 1941 and spent three months at the front and six months on rear-security duties in the Gomel area. Its duties included security of communications and supply lines, economic exploitation and combatting guerillas (partisans) in the Werhmacht's rear areas.[1] In September 1941, the officers of the division attended the Mogilev conference, organised by General Max von Schenckendorff, commander of Army Group Centre Rear Area behind Army Group Centre.[2] The conference, while ostensibly an "anti-partisan training", resulted in a dramatic increase in atrocities against Jews and other civilians in the last three months of 1941.[3] The division reported shooting 1,847 "partisans" in two months alone. Hostage-taking also increased dramatically. Wehrmacht units were receiving directives that 50 to 100 "communists" were to be killed as atonement for the death of a single German soldier.[4]

In March of 1942, the division embarked on large-scale anti-partisan operations in the Yelnya-Dorogobuzh area east of Smolensk.[5] The so-called anti-partisan operations in "bandit-infested" areas amounted to destruction of villages, seizure of livestock, deporting of able-bodied population for slave labour to Germany and murder of those of non-working age.[6] The tactics included shelling villages not under German control with heavy weapons, resulting in mass civilian casualties. General Johann Pflugbeil directed his troops that the "goal of the operation is not to drive the enemy back, but to exterminate him".[7] During the operation, the unit recorded 278 German troops killed, while 806 enemies were reported killed in action and 120 prisoners were handed over to Wehrmacht's Secret Field Police for execution. Only 200 weapons (rifles, machine-guns and pistols) were seized.[7]

The division saw brief front-line duty in October 1943 fighting the Soviet Red Army troops at Gomel. In November, it was transferred to rear-security duties (Bandenbekämpfung) in Belarus. The unit was largely destroyed during the Soviet Red Army summer offensive Operation Bagration in June 1944. The remaining personnel were absorbed into other security units.[8]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Citations[edit | edit source]

  1. Shepherd 2003, p. 70.
  2. Beorn 2014, p. 97.
  3. Beorn 2014, pp. 101–106.
  4. Hartmann 2013, p. 36.
  5. Shepherd 2003, p. 59.
  6. Shepherd 2004, p. 63.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Shepherd 2003, p. 63.
  8. Mitcham 2007, pp. 273–274.

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

Further reading[edit | edit source]

  • Marston, Daniel; Malkasian, Carter, eds (2011). Counterinsurgency in Modern Warfare. London: Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 1849086435. 
  • Megargee, Geoffrey P., ed (2009). The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos, 1933–-1945. Volume 1. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. p. 731. ISBN 0-253-35328-9. 
  • Rutherford, Jeff (2014). Combat and Genocide on the Eastern Front. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 1107055717. 
  • Shepherd, Ben H. (2016). Hitler's Soldiers: The German Army in the Third Reich. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press. ISBN 0300179030. 


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