“Die Spielhahnjäger”

A long-term side project: The 97. Leichte Infanterie (Jäger) Division

This page is intended as an evolving resource for researchers interested in the establishment, service, and fate of the 97th Light Infantry (later Jäger) Division on the Eastern Front.

This case study explores a unit raised specifically for the invasion of the Soviet Union. The Division was formed in the fall of 1940 in Wehrkreis VII with its seat in the town of Bad Tölz, Bavaria. The 97th took part in Operation Barbarossa as part of Army Group South and later was subordinated to Army Group A for the invasion of the Caucasus Mountains. Retreating over Crimea, the division took part in the general fighting retreat towards Germany. It finally surrendered in the Deutsch-Brod pocket in May 1945.

While this unit is interesting for having participated in some of the lesser-known campaigns on the Eastern Front, what sets it apart further is that it was never relocated to another theater, was never reformed despite suffering more than 10,000 casualties, and was the host division for early foreign volunteers, before these were subordinated to the Waffen-SS. Documentation at the divisional level is nearly complete from its formation in December 1940 until operations in the fall of 1944. As with many German units on the Eastern Front in the spring of 1945, divisional paperwork is missing for the last months of the war. It is likely that it was destroyed under orders before surrender to the Red Army.