Typical German Infantry Battalion

A German Abteilung, abbreviated as "Abt.", was the smallest unit to operate individually in the German Army and Waffen-SS of World War Two. It was usually commanded by an Oberst (Colonel) or Oberstleutnant (Lieutenant Colonel). Although more commonly used to mean "battalion", the term Abteilung can also be used to denote a detachment, or in the civilian world an office department.

In traditional German military fashion, the name of the unit (if applicable) and/or the type of unit it is would precede the term denoting the size of the unit (i.e. 1. Aufklärungs-Abteilung).


There would normally be different sections in a German battalion devoted to different tasks, although since this is the smallest unit to operate individually, it was limited.

Usually, a German Abteilung consisted of:

  • The Headquarters company, containing the Battalion Commander and its staff.
  • A communications section, comprised of radio operators of all kinds (from wired to wireless).
  • Two or more weapons companies; depending on the battalion's responsibility.
    • In an Infanterie-Abteilung, three or more infantry weapons companies were present.
    • In a Panzer-Abteilung, there were usually four companies of tanks.
    • In an Artillerie-Abteilung (including assault guns), there most often were two or more companies.
  • A supply section, responsible for the influx of necessary rations and munitions.
  • Possibly a recon section would be present, depending on the type of battalion (in ad hoc formation of units, small recon companies would be assigned to a unit needing it, although in other instances entire battalions were devoted to reconnaissance.

Further ReadingEdit

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