When the battered remnants of the 44th Infanterie Division finally laid down its arms on the 28-29 January 1943, what remained of the division outside of the cauldron amounted to less than 13% of its original strength largely made up of logistical troops, troops on leave or convalescents ready to return to duty, these troops were placed under the command of Oberstleutnant Fels who utilised these troops plus other troops returning from leave to form a Kampfgruppe in defensive positions west of Stalingrad. In the aftermath of the defeat at Stalingrad a decision had already been made by the OKH to reform the Division in recognition of its singular performance and achievements during the battle of Stalingrad, they were to be the first division reformed from the doomed 6th Army. Therefore an order was issued in March 1943 to transfer all remaining troops of the 44th Infanterie Division to be transferred immediately to new barracks in Antwerp, Belgium to form the cadre of the new Division. When these troops arrived they found that the headquarters organisation was already underway along with the framework for the new troop reorganisation, this task was undertaken from a cadre of Officers and NCO’s from the old division who had earlier been flown out as wounded personnel.
The arrival of reinforcements from Grenadier Regiments 887 (Wehrkreis XIII) and 888 (Wehrkreis XVII) made up the complement of the new Division. Grenadier Regiment 887 became Grenadier Regiment 134, whilst Grenadier Regiment 888 became Grenadier Regiment 132. Each regiment then donated a battalion each to reform Grenadier Regiment 131. Into each of the Grenadier Regiments was put a battalion of battle hardened veterans to help to stiffen the resolve of the new Regiments and also to pass on the traditions of the old Division into the ranks of the new recruits. In addition, to tap into the spirit of Austrian nationalism and by a special order directly from Hitler himself, the new Division was given the honorific title of “Reichsgrenadier Division”, in addition the honorific title of “Hoch- und Deutschmeister” was now extended from Infanterie Regiment 134 to the whole division. The awarding of the new divisional name took place at a solemn ceremony before a parade of the newly formed units at the Troop Training Grounds ‘Maria ter Heide’ in Antwerp on the 1 June 1943.
The Division was then gradually brought up to strength in men, vehicles, horses and equipment, despite the designation of its new name, the new division like its predecessor relied heavily on horses to move a lot of his heavy equipment and supplies. During this time it was also used to protect the Channel Coast to ward off the threat of invasion from England and exercises were performed in Northern France and Belgium to train the troops and hone the skills of the Staff Officers. All this came to an end when in response to the fall of Mussolini on the 25 July 1943 the division was placed on alert and entrained for Italy reaching the Innsbruck region during the period 27-29 July 1943.
The divisional commander Lieutenant General Dr Franz Beyer thanks the Divisional Staff Officers for their work during the reorganization of the division.
From left: OfeldArzt Dr Matzen, EvKrgsPf Fϋrle, (3 & 4 unknown), Major iG Ilking (Ib), OberStVet Dr Strubelt, OStInt Rusche, Major Vesenmeyer (IIa).
Company commander Oberleutnant Ehrenberger (Grenadier Regiment 132) in the midst of his men, Maria-ter-Heide Training Camp, Antwerp, Belgium, early 1943.
Working with horses! The newly reformed 44 Infanterie Division was as much a horse drawn Infantry Division as its predecessor was!
Divisional naming ceremony – June 1st 1943.
General der Panzertruppen Dr. Ritter von Hubicki reads the citation from Hitler to the paraded officers and men of the whole Division at the Maria ter Heide barracks in Antwerp in which the honourific title Reichsgrenadier Division “Hoch- und Deutschmeister” is bestowed on the newly reformed division in recognition of the fighting spirit and great sacrifices of the old division which was decimated whilst serving at Stalingrad the previous winter.
Remembering the fallen.
From left: General der Panzertruppen v. Vietinghoff (OB der 15 Armee), General der Infanterie Siebert (formerly Kdr der 44 Infanterie Division), BegleitOffizier (Escort officer) Oberstleutnant Goerke, General der Panzertruppen Dr. Ritter v. Hubicki, Rittmeister König, Generalleutnant Dr. Beyer (Kdr Reichsgrenadier Division Hoch- und Deutschmeister), Oberstleutnant i.G. Reinhardt (hidden) Korps-Ia.
Honour Guard of Grenadier Regiment 131 commanded by KpChef Oberleutnant Zappey.
Colour-Party of Grenadier Regiment 134 parading the flag of the old “Hoch- und Deutschmeister“ Regiment.
At the end of the celebration the music corps of the Division under the baton of Stabsmusikmeister Gaigg played the "Song of Comrades".
At the Grand Concert Hall of the People in Vienna, an additional ceremony was performed honouring the fallen of the 44th Infanterie Division and celebrating the renaming of the old division to that of Reichsgrenadier Division Hoch- und Deutschmeister. This ceremony was attended by Reichsleiter Baldur von Schirach, the Gauleiter of Vienna.