In 1939 The ‘Wachtregiment Berlin ’, a pre-war guards unit used for ceremonial purposes, and volunteers from all over Germany , where amalgamated to form “Infanterie-regiment Großdeutschland”. Thus, the name Großdeutschland, which literally translates as ’Greater Germany’, was given to this four Battalion strong unit.That same year Germany invaded Poland whilst the regiment was still in the process of being reorganized. Despite this, Großdeutschland was to receive orders in the September to be transported by air to assist in the invasion.
The operation was cancelled however as Russian troops, at that time on friendly terms with Germany , entered eastern Poland rendering the air-assault unnecessary. In August of 1940, Großdeutschland was re-designated as a motorized formation, using primarily trucks and half-tracked vehicles which were synonymous with the tactics of ‘Blitzkrieg’ (Lit. ‘Lightning War’). It was around this time that the Regiment was issued the black ‘cuff-title’ worn on the right arm. Großdeutschland, although not involved with the initial invasion of France , was involved in fighting under the command of Heinz Guderian’s 19th Armeekorp during the later stages of the campaign.The following year in April 1941, Großdeutschland was actively involved in the invasion of Yugoslavia and then, in June 1941, was part of operation Barbarossa – The invasion of Russia . In this campaign Großdeutschland distinguished itself as one of the few units to reach the outer districts of Moscow as part of the 2nd Panzerarmee.
The regiment suffered a high casualty rate during the brutal fighting from Tula to Orel and the equally unforgiving winter.Due to the high attrition rate, the regiment was re-organized several time including the addition of armoured units in April 1942. This dramatic increase in size led to the regiment being re-designated as “Infanterie-Division (mot) Großdeutschland. The unit would continue to fight until the end of the year, taking in part in major battles west of Russias capital.Großdeutschland would continue to receive more re-enforcements and additional armour until, on 23 June 1943 , Großdeutschland was re-designated as "Panzer Grenadier Division Großdeutschland". Großdeutschland was now a Panzerarmee in its own right, comprising its own reconnaissance units which included armoured Pioneer Battalions. During 1943 Großdeutschland went on to fight at Kharkov , Belgogrod and Kursk during operation Zitadel.Großdeutschland later fought in operations in the Orel region until, in September 1943, heavy Russian attacks forced the Division and other units back across the Dneiper river to the south. Following the bitter fighting, Großdeutschland was sent back to France for replacements and refitting.Returning to the front the Division would continue to fight gallantly in Lithuania , Memel and Poland amongst other areas. Finally re-designated as “Panzer Korps Großdeutschland” in November 1944, the now Panzer Korps, fought numerous retreating battles facing far superior numbers and for this received the nick-name “Die Feuerweher” (Lit. ‘The Fire Brigade).
The remnants of Großdeutschland, surrounded in the last days of the war by Russian forces, broke out to surrender to western allied forces. Großdeutschland had fought some of the most brutal engagements in World War II and as a testimony to the fighting, left behind over 50,000 dead including 1,500 officers. As a combat unit it received more Knights Crosses than any other German military formation, and the courage and loyalty of the men is exemplified in the units motto :
GOD, HONOUR, FATHERLAND