Beutepanzer, How Nazi Germany Relied on Captured Military Vehicles To Continue The Fight

By Bundesarchiv - CC BY-SA 3.0 de

The Germans during WWII were known for their engineering craftsmanship, but a less known fact is that they were very resourceful in times of need, confiscating and adjusting their enemy’s weaponry for their own goals.

Numerous photographs prove how the German war machine functioned on the tanks and vehicles seized after the occupation of Czechoslovakia, Poland, France, Belgium, Netherlands and other countries. Later, the Germans incorporated Soviet tanks, small arms, and artillery. They would rename the captured weapons and stamp them with a swastika or a German Cross.

The first years of the Nazi conquest were still plagued by the lack of motorized infantry units and tanks that proved to be technically inferior to the French ones. Nevertheless, an element of surprise, strong fighting spirits, and superior tactics kept the German war machine rolling during the first two years of the war.

As the war carried on, supplies were scarce and the salvage tactic became more common. The Germans used Allied planes, tanks, and vehicles, throwing everything they got in the defense of the Reich.


Panzer 38(t), formerly known as LT vz. 38. By Werner Willmann - Own work, CC BY 2.5
Panzer 38(t), formerly known as LT vz. 38. Photo Credit

Czechoslovakia was peacefully occupied, falling a victim to the German diplomatic pressure. Since the country surrendered without a fight, its army, and complete military industry fell into the hands of the Germans. During the 1930s Czechoslovakian tanks were considered top notch. This is why the Germans decided to adopt their designs and basically rename the existing models such as the LT vz. 35 and LT vz. 38, into Panzer 35(t) and 38(t). The stands for Tschechisch, the German ford Czech.

The Germans produced 1400 of the PzKw. 38 and 434 PzKw. 35 that were mostly used during the invasions of Poland, France, and the Soviet Union. In 1942, the tanks were already considered obsolete and most of the surviving units were sent to serve in the German puppet states, such as the Independent State of Slovakia, Romania, and Bulgaria.


 7TP light tank. By Unknown - Rajmund Szubański Polska broń pancerna 1939("Polish Armored Ttoops 1939") Public Domain.
7TP light tank. 

As Poland fell in the first months of the war, a vast majority of the Polish Army was captured. Along with them, the Germans captured most of their tanks. The Germans incorporated the Polish 7TP light tank, which was technically superior to the German light tanks of the time.

The tank utilized a Bofors wz. 37 anti-tank gun which could penetrate any German armor, including the one of the Panzer IV. The Panzer IV was the newest addition to the German arsenal during the Polish campaign, but it was still vulnerable to the 7TP. On the other hand, the Polish tank was too lightly armored and especially vulnerable to aerial bombardment. The tanks were mostly used on the Eastern Front, but the one on the picture was captured by the Allies in France, in 1944.


Netherlands was one of the many European countries that capitulated under Blitzkrieg, without getting a chance to put out a decent fight. Some of the armor formerly used in the Royal Netherlands Army was quickly incorporated into the German Army. As the Germans were still in deficit with AFVs (Armored Fighting Vehicles), they were keen in capturing as many of the Dutch DAF M36 and M39, as well as the Swedish-made Landsverk L-180s series armored vehicles that were purchased by the Netherlands Army prior to the war.

Dutch L-181 (Pantserwagen M.36). By Unknown - waroverholland, Public Domain
Dutch L-181 (Pantserwagen M.36). 

These armored vehicles were used mostly for reconnaissance and police service. Even though their numbers were small (less than ten of the each model was incorporated into active service) most of these vehicles served during the Invasion of France and Operation Barbarossa.

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