My study of the 17. SS Panzergrenadier Division 'Gotz von Berlichingen'

What is a German Personnel Order?

I’ve started to read the books I now have for some months, if not years about the 17. SS Panzergrenadier Division.
And there is a lot in the book that doesn’t make much sense to me at all.
That’s why I’m making my studying bigger to also include the computer and digital tools I have availlable.
One question I have is the one in the title.
Couldn’t find much with a quick search query online what it actually is.
Maybe you can help me out with this?

By the way, let me know if it is better to create a ‘blog’ thread as you call it here to keep everything about my study in one place. Or if it’s okay if I just creat topics as I need to.

Thanks for reading.

Note: I have decided to change the topic post because it is going to include everything of my studying of the 17. SS Panzergrenadier division. And this title seemed much more sensible to me. And tidyer to include everything about my study.
I hope you appreciate this change in the title and layout.

Could you elaborate more about the context?

It is in the context of raising/creating the division.

This is probably not a complete answer but some (most? all?) ‘Personalbefehl’ concerned organisation, which soldier/officer belonged to which unit, unit composition (list of all personnel belonging to the unit), sub-units making up a larger unit, new ranks (new rank usually meant that the promoted officer/soldier also got a new role), I guess it could also include information about soldiers/officers who have left the unit by getting killed…

Edit: “raising/creating a division”. Yep. The order that unit X shall be created, composed of sub-units and allocated staff according to long lists of officers and soldiers

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Thank you for the quick reply on my question. One of probably many to follow during my study.
If I’m understanding correctly, these ‘sub units’ are units within a unit?
And these units, like artillery and anti tank units can also be pulled out of existing units?
And get asociated with that unit?
Instead of being an seperate and indepent unit?
Or not being listed as such?

And if I understand correctly, a ‘personalbefehl’ is basically the administration of how a division will be formed? And how it looked like on paper?
And everything the unit did and was doing was carefull recorder on paper and send back to the upper command in Berlin or so?

I’m also going to try searching on this new query online, maybe find some more information.

Maybe this helps in visualizing the structure of a motorized infantry division (in this case in 1941) ?

An army consists of people and equipment.
These “objects” get sorted into a hierarchy of units, the naming of these depends on the country that “owns” them (Heer and Waffen-SS had different names/labels).
One possible hierarchy of units could be (army group) - army - division - brigade - battalion - company - platoon - group - (half group) - soldier.
Golikell posted a diagram of one such structure.

I believe that the USSR used the name ‘front’ instead of army group.
A ‘Personalbefehl’ could probably be on any of these levels.
Imagine that the whole structure gets reorganised to remove one platoon from each company and add one company to each battalion. Lots of orders to get that mess organised.
Units that were heavily decimated could be rebuilt on the principle ‘make one whole from parts of two’

First of all thank you @golikell for posting this visual, indeed this is helping me to make sense of this all.
But it doesn’t really brings a definition to the word, it doesn’t make the term a lot clearer to me.
From what I understand from your image is, that a personnel order is basically a map of an army or other part of a unit. And shows what ‘parts’ are in that army or division. And that that is the way for the high command in Berlin or somewhere else that makes the bigger decisions. To know how the unit basically looks like. And what they can do with it and what not. Would that summarize a little what it is, looking at your visual you’ve uploaded?

Note: It does help me a lot with complicated or difficult concepts or ideas to show visuals to help me better understand what you are trying to teach me.

Thank you @Uncle-Heavy for your answer as well. Your definition also adds something to forming a definition what a personnel order exactly is as well. So basically most of what is ‘in’ a unit consists of labels. On paper. To help the army leaders know what is in that unit. And that they can make the right decisions according to what is in that unit on it’s ‘map’ or ‘table’ of organisation. And that any kind of structure was possible for how a unit could be formed.
I’m getting that from battered units, like elements of a effectively destroyed unit.
Or if some unit doesn’t have for example an AT unit in it. And the other unit has two and the leaders higher up decide. They don’t need two AT units. They could decide to take that second AT unit out of that unit. And relocate it into another unit that does need it according to the leaders higher up. Am I now beginning to understand it a little better?

A ‘Personalbefehl’ deals with personnel, people, being assigned new roles and/or ranks.
“These 50 soldiers (list of names and ranks) shall be transferred from this unit to that unit”
“This officer has the rank xx from date dd-mm-yy”
Compare to the case when the headmaster of a school says/writes that a pupil/student shall be moved to another class or another school.
Parents moved to other town/suburb, kid belongs to a new school district, the school management tells the teacher that child named xx yy is no longer in their class and to send his admin papers to the new school/teacher.

Assigning equipment to a unit is done with other orders.

To confuse things more for you, the Germans did also have non organisational units (like the Schwere Panzer Abteilung) that could be temporarily attached to other units (usually at Divisional level). Moreover, specially towards the end of the war, Kampfgruppen (Battle groups) could be formed on a provisional basis from units available at the moment and in situ, to be thrown in to battle. The Germans were very strong in this regard. Destroy a Division, get a Kampfgruppe instead.

A Personal order is contains actually the Table of Organisation (TOA) of a unit down to the personal level. (Organisatietabel) It tells you the function, the rank that the function has attached and who fullfills the function:

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1 and 2 are promotions (higher rank)
3 assigns people to roles/jobs
4 moves named people to ‘Sonderkommando Berlin’

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Thanks for the new information.

From what I now understand from reading all the information you provided once more from beginning to ending.
Is, a ‘personal befehl’ or personnel order/personeelsorder.
Some that deals with people.
It doesn’t deal with equipment, because that is another order.

Personnel befehl basically means that it is a order to organize people in a specific unit within the hierarchy of the German army in this case.
Everything, from ranks to roles and the combat status concerning the personnel of a specific unit or object of that unit or army is done with this.
And everything concerning this is carefully recorder on paper, for the high command that gives the orders.

Does this sound a little better now? Am I understanding it better now? And please say so if not and help me to understand further. Because I think it is an important term to understand for reading further in the book.

Thanks for your patience and willingness to help me out in this matter. And to teach me new things.

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That is my understanding based on very limited research.
The basic requirements to get people organised is the same in
all armies and other large organisations.

Okay, may I ask how you did that research?
Did you search on the internet?
Did you read books?
Or a combination of the two?
However, I think I’m just after a basic definition of the term in plane and simple words explained for someone who doesn’t study this everyday or for a living.
And if I did understand it enough this way to continue on with reading the book.
Than I assume it would be enough for me to know this.
A vague understanding of the term and if needed, dive deeper in the subject later.

You asked about ‘German Personnel order’ .
‘Personnel’ is the English spelling, in German it is Personal.
The English ‘order’ in this context should be ‘Befehl’.
I Googled ‘Personalbefehl’, I also tried ‘Personalorder’ but the
results didn’t look promising.
The first search result was a Polish page with a list of various
German documents, the second result was this:
Nr 3 was this topic here in Armorama.
Number 4 looked good:

clicking along in this site and linked sites finally gets you to a page (browser must allow pop-up windows) where you can read actual Personalbefehle.

This was sufficient for me to draw the conclusions I did.
Knowing languages helps. Searching on the internet or a database is not done in one step.
The first few searches usually gives clues about which words that I should search for.
Initial guess → pages with words that seem promising → search with those words, maybe remove some of the old ones → repeat the refinement process until finding a useful result.


Well, I think I leave it here regarding the German Personnel Order.

I would like to know some more about the Reichsprotektorat Frankreich in 1944, regarding the personnel of the 17. SS Panzergrenadier Division. Were there also a lot of French people recruited into this division? Because they were from within the protektorat recruited?

My studying continues with this question.
I have done a quick search on the internet on a few keywords such as ‘Reichsprotektorat’ and ‘Reichsprotektorat Frankreich’ and ‘What is a Reichsprotektorat’ and a few more of these words.
But without much relevant results.

Would you like to help me with this piece of information for my study as well?
If you need anymore information or context, I would happily provide that.

So far, the study is going nicely.
I really like it to search for specific keywords and learn something with each and every word.
And every page I’m reading from the book.

So far, I’ve done some searching and reading about Obersturmbannfuhrer Werner Ostendorff.
Which is also a very interesting guy.
Very enterprising guy, with lots of different positions in Reichswehr, Algemeine SS and the WAFFEN-SS as well.

And there’s more good stuff coming, I’m feeling.
Thank you so far for helping me with my study, every bit of help is highly appreciated.
Have a nice day.

What I understand is that France as a whole was not a Reichsprotectorate, only Northern France (together with Belgium). The rest was simply occupied. Moreover, it was established on the 13 of July. That means that is had a life span of 3 months. As far as I know, conscription in France by the Germans was only in place in the annexed part (Alsace-Lorraine) ( So if there were any French people in GvB, then it was not because of the Protektorat, but because of the “normal” conscription.

@golikell Thank you, that’s very interesting to read. So it can be that there were French in the GvB division?
This would be why I’m seeking help on internet places like this. Because others at least for the time being seem to have much more succes with finding interesting links and websites than I seem to have. I don’t know why, but that is the case at the moment.

Do you have any experiences with Quora or are you on that platform? Should I consider making an account for that platform? Would that be worthwile?

As said, they might be in there, but as “regular German” originating from the annexed part. Probably on an individual base… Nice example: in the Oradour-sur-Glane massacre, 13 conscripts were involved and 1 volunteer.

As for Quora: it just popped up during my searches. I found part of the info elsewhere, but this one gave me more.
Wether it it worthwile to create an account, you have to research for yourself…

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