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"German Army Propaganda Units" from Tactical and Technical Trends

A report on German Army propaganda units in WWII, from Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 30, July 29, 1943.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department publication Tactical and Technical Trends. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]


Propaganda within Germany, according to an official Allied source, is the responsibility of the Ministry of Propaganda. In occupied countries and in the theaters of war, propaganda is the responsibility of a department in the Supreme Command of the Aimed Forces (OKW) known as the Armed Forces Propaganda (Wehrmachtspropaganda or W.Pr.) with headquarters located at 27 Bendlerstrasse in Berlin.

The two authorities work in very close liaison with each other on questions of policy. In addition, the redistribution of all propaganda material received from the occupied countries and the theaters of war is the responsibility of W.Pr. Actually, W.Pr. controls the publications by press, radio, and otherwise, of the Ministry of Propaganda regarding operations by the armed forces and collateral subjects.

W.Pr. is also responsible for the appointment of all propaganda personnel in the occupied countries and the theaters of war.

a. Army Propaganda Units

These comprise four types of units:

1. Propaganda Depot Battalion (Propaganda Ersatz Abteilung)
2. Propaganda Service Battalion (Propaganda Einsatz Abteilung)
3. Propaganda Battalions (Propaganda Abteilungen)
4. Propaganda Companies (Propaganda Kompanien)

Units 2, 3, and 4 are provided by drafts from the Propaganda Depot Battalion. The propaganda companies are numbered in the 501 series and more than fifteen are numbered in the 601-700 series. The battalions appear to be unnumbered and there are also propaganda companies which are unnumbered. Unnumbered battalions and companies bear names which correspond to the country or territory in which they operate. All personnel belonging to these units are classed as signal corps personnel and wear lemon-yellow piping.

(1) The Propaganda Depot Battalion

This depot battalion is housed in the Propaganda Kompanien Barracks located in Potsdam. It is a pool for trained propagandists awaiting assignment, in addition to being the training center. The battalion consists of four companies: 1st company, journalists: 2nd company, photographers and war artists; 3rd company, war reporters; 4th company, depot company, which includes administrative personnel, and personnel who have returned to the depot after completing a tour of duty.

In addition there is a section for radio propaganda experts. Recruits are mainly men who in civil life were journalists, press photographers or film cameramen. They receive normal infantry training and frequently are sent on courses of from 4 to 6 weeks duration at the Ministry of Propaganda.

(2) The Propaganda Service Battalion

This battalion has its HQ in Potsdam in the same barracks as the Depot Battalion. It consists of two companies: 1st company, a pool of linguists; 2nd company, called the Propaganda Liaison Company (Propaganda Verbindungskompanie) which provides personnel for ensuring the transit of propaganda material (including periodicals and daily papers), to and from the various branches of the propaganda organization throughout the occupied countries and the theaters of war. Its strength is about 400 men.

(3) Propaganda Battalions

There is one of these in each of the occupied countries. In Russia, there are three. They are concerned with conducting and controlling propaganda among the civil population. Propaganda battalions were formed in advance, for countries about to be invaded, and were among the first to make contact with the civil population. Their principal function in the early stages of occupation appears to be the reassurance of the civil population with a view to rendering assistance in the maintenance of public order, and to assist in the reestablishment of public utilities.

The organization appears to be elastic, as each battalion is modified according to the area in which it works. They have an HQ Section in the chief town or capital, and a section (Staffel) in each of the more important towns. Each section is similarly constituted and has a total personnel of about 30. These include:

Section Commander     Theater Censor
Adjutant Literary Censor
Film Censor Advertisement Censor (who controls public speeches and advertisements)

All of these are Sonderführer (special director). The remainder are clerks and orderlies. Sonderführer are personnel with specialist qualifications acquired in civil life. They wear uniform, and are subject to military law. They do not hold military rank, but are classified as ranking with NCOs, platoon, company, battalion, and other commanders.

The organization is clearly shown in France, where there is a Propaganda Battalion HQ in the Hotel Majestic in Paris, and propaganda sections located in Bordeaux, Dijon, and other towns. There are propaganda battalions at Riga, Smolensk and Kremenchug (in the Ukraine) with offices (Aussenstellen) in the smaller towns. There is one such Aussenstelle at Minsk.

The propaganda battalions are controlled by the W.Pr. in Berlin and forward material there. The literary censors control all published matter and keep a watch on all book-shops. Radio transmitting stations are all controlled by the propaganda battalions who appoint switch censors. In Russia the propaganda battalions provide troops with posters, leaflets and illustrated publications to distribute to the inhabitants of villages. Loud speaker vehicles are made available to them and it is laid down that they must include in their propaganda such topics as news favorable to the progress of German troops, the release of prisoners belonging to minority regions, administration of real estate, etc.

(4) Propaganda Companies

Our official source states, a propaganda company consists of the following personnel:

(a) reporters, radio commentators, photographers and cameramen, whose duty it is to secure reports of troops in action, for publication by press and radio, and to take films for inclusion in newsreels.

(b) a welfare section (Betreungstrupp), whose duties include the distribution of literature to the troops and the arranging of entertainments, and the showing of films for the troops.

b. Method of operation

The reporters, radio commentators, photographers and cameramen are allotted to units in action as required. In Africa for example, a war correspondent platoon (Kriegsberichterzug) was attached in August 1942 to the Ramcke (Parachutist) Brigade. This platoon was organized in four "reporter sections" of which two were light, and known as "word and picture sections' (Wort und Bild), and two were heavy, and known as "radio and film" sections (Rundfunk und Film). The two light sections were attached, one following the other, for a period of about three weeks, to the front-line troops. The two heavy sections were attached to units for short periods according to the situation. Films taken in Africa were silent - the dialogue being added later in Germany from records made on a "Magnetophone" and synchronised. In Russia sound films are usually made on the spot. The propaganda company in Africa did not broadcast, but recorded material for programs and the records were forwarded to Berlin for distribution. For this work there were Spanish, French, English, and Arabic-speaking officers on the roster of the company.

c. Welfare Section

The section possesses a mobile motion picture truck, several mobile film units on trucks, a band wagon, two loud-speaker trucks and a mobile library. A general staff officer, of about lieutenant colonel's rank with the Panzer Army in Africa directed the movements of this equipment, and those in charge of it reported to him once a week. The films, shown by the unit, were those current in Germany and no special propaganda films were shown. The mobile truck gave its shows in the open air using forward projection, with the audience between the screen and the truck. Antiaircraft protection was always provided. Sometimes movies were given in tents.

Periodicals for the troops are produced in the various theaters of war. In Africa the periodical was entitled "Die Oase" (The Oasis) and was produced by a lieutenant with one enlisted helper. The number of copies was limited and a standing order existed that it must not be sent out of Africa.

As regards transport, the propaganda company in Africa had the following, which is probably a typical allotment.

     Two small cars (Volkswagen) - one for the company commander
     One large car
     One mobile movie truck
     Four mobile movie outfits on trucks
     One ration truck
     One office truck
     One field kitchen
     One clothing truck and armory

The propaganda company in Africa used the regular courier aircraft for forwarding its material to Berlin, though propaganda companies in Russia are known to have aircraft of their own.


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