Volksgrenadier was the name given to a type of German Army division formed in the Autumn of 1944 after the double loss of Army Group Center to the Soviets in Operation Bagration and the Fifth Panzer Army to the Allies in Normandy. The resulting strategic emergency and concomitant manpower shortage required the creation of infantry divisions that economized on personnel and emphasized defensive strength over offensive strength. The Volksgrenadier divisions met this need by using only six line infantry battalions instead of the normal nine for infantry divisions - already a common reality for many existing divisions - and by providing more short-range firepower in the form of automatic weapons like the new "wonder weapon" Sturmgewehr 44. One of the battalions was provided with bicycles, in order to provide some semblance of a mobile reserve. The name itself was intended to build morale, appealing at once to nationalism (Volk) and Germany's older military traditions (Grenadier). Around 50 were formed late in the war.
Many prior infantry divisions that had been mauled or destroyed in combat were rebuilt to the new Volksgrenadier standard, and new divisions were raised as well. They were formed out of anything the Replacement Army could get its hands on: boys and elderly men, men previously rejected as physically unfit for service, wounded soldiers returning from hospitals, and transfers from the "jobless" personnel of the quickly shrinking Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe, usually organized around small cadres of hardened veterans.
Volksgrenadier divisions participated in the Battle of the Bulge, the defense of the Siegfried Line and Eastern Front, and the final battles in Germany. Many of the divisions were rushed into battle with a minimum of training, their morale shattered by earlier events and thus performed very poorly, though others acquitted themselves well given their weak organization and the poor strategic situation.
Pictured here is a German Volksgrenadier w/StG44 "Vampyr" sniper rifle from the 31. Volksgrenadier-Division, then deployed to defend Berlin in 1945 and named "Anton Wessel". Sold Out!