The German Army in Normandy 12th Hitlerjugend Panzer Division

The most implacable opponents of the British and Canadians fighting in Normandy were the largely teenage soldiers of the Hitlerjugend. From D+1 through to attacking back into the Falaise Pocket, this unique division constantly thwarted Montgomery’s plans and exacted a terrible price on the Allies for every mile gained.

Formed from ‘volunteers’ (many weren’t) from the Hitler Youth Movement in the aftermath of Stalingrad, this division of boys aged 17 on recruitment into the SS, came of age and were declared fully operational just before D Day. Coming from a highly militarised society they made exceptional and highly committed soldiers but with officers and non-commissioned officers from the Leibstandarte commanding them, they were inculcated with Nazi brutality and the standards of the Eastern Front from the outset.

Both Hitlerjugend’s alleged atrocities and their remarkable doggedness in battle made them a loathed but grudgingly respected opponent to all who fought them, in some cases in what was tantamount to a private war. This programme will be a factual and impartial coverage of a controversial subject, avoiding both glorification and vilification. The story of the fighting very much speaks for its self and covers virtually all the main British and Canadian operations from a German perspective.

Production notes:
This unique Division is much studied and followed by those interested in the Waffen SS. The fact that they were the major opponent facing the British and Canadians who did more than any other German division to shape the Normandy battle in which the daily casualty rates exceeded those of Passchendaele.
The production style will use a combination of:
•    On location walk through of the campaign by the BHTV team.

•    Interviews with the last surviving senior German officer, Hauptsturmbannfuhrer Hubert Meye, who was chief of staff of the HJ Division.

•    Vignettes of equipment and their use e.g. Panther and the PAK 38 or 40 (Richard Hone).

•    SS re-enactment footage.

•    Green screen to explain details of a selection of the other equipment and vehicles used by the HJ (Richard Hone).

•    Limited Bundesarchiv & IWM B&W footage will be used where it can be correctly attributed.

•    Numerous maps and pieces to contextualise the both the campaign context and the unit action.

•     Rarely seen contemporary photographs. Will be used.

Tim Saunders. Half of Tim’s fourteen books have been on aspects of the Normandy Campaign, this coupled with his knowledge of the ground as a battlefield guide, makes him an acknowledged expert in the subject of the Hitlerjugend Division. As a former army officer he is adept at taking an objective stance when dealing with the controversial subjects such as the allegations of atrocities by both sides during the battles fought around the Norman city of Caen. He will take us to where great events were played out.
Richard Hone. A former Warrant Office of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, Richard lives and breaths armoured vehicle and equipment. His insight and knowledge of the workings of the German Army in Normandy, as seen in the best selling DVD ‘Wittmann v Ekins – Death of a Panzer Ace’ brings the subject to life and makes this programme a refreshing new look at the soldiers who fought in the very heart of the Normandy Campaign against both British and Canadian troops
Andrew Duff. Another former army officer, Andrew maintains the Division’s story firmly within the campaign as a whole, with his succinct yet insightful contextual briefings and comment on the Allied view of events. The level of his scholarship, while being readily accessible, will ensure that this production will have a wide appeal.

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Keith is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE