153 Training Division – A vital element in 3rd Romanian Army

By Derek Boyle

This article explains about the operational history of one of the German Divisions that served in Romania during WW2 that for a time came under the command of the 3rd Romanian Army. The 153rd Grenadier Division (German: 153. Grenadier-Division), sometimes referred to as 153rd Infantry Division (153. Infanterie-Division) in Wehrmacht documents, was an infantry division of the German Heer during World War II. It’s primary function had been to train troops going into theatre on local rules, laws and areas to avoid, as well as familiarise troops with both allied and enemy weapons, forces and tactics. Crucually Division Nr. 153 came under the command of the Romanian 3rd Army during its time following the retreat to Crimea, and primarily acted as Ausbilders (Instructors) for the Romanians, training them on German weapons and tactics; following the December 1941 refit of the Romanian Army, these Ausbilders were crucial to training. Below shows footage of the Ausbilders training Romanian soldiers in 1944.

Reddit.com. 2021. R/Germanww2photos. [online] Available at: <https://www.reddit.com/r/wwiipics/comments/hlr1pe/training_of_romanian_soldiers_on_a/&gt; [Accessed 3 January 2021].

I have also presented information about a single member of the Division who served within the 153rd to contextualise the individual fighting soldier. Included is the story of Otto Vitus Ostermeier, a Obergefreiter Kradmelder who served in Division Nr 153.

Operational History

DateKey events
26th August 1939Designated Commander of Reserve Troops III and served as the training division and administrative body for recruits from Wehrkreis III (Berlin)
12th December 1939Change of name to Division No. 153 but continues previous function as Commander of Reserve Troops IIIComprises Infantry Reserve Regiment 23 ‘Potsdam’Infantry Reserve Regiment 76 ‘Brandenburg’ Infantry Reserve Regiment 218 ‘Berlin-Spandau’ Motorized Infantry Reserve Regiment 83 ‘Eberswalde’and others
11th September 1942Redesignated 153rd Reserve Division (Still stationed in Wehrkreis III up until this point)Replacements were sent to 463rd DivisionFighting units transferred to the Ukraine and those stationed in the Crimea to 258th Infantry DivisionThe remainder were merged to become 153rd Field Training Division to train recruits for other Divisions on the Eastern Front on 15th January 1943.
October 1943Assigned to 49th Mountain Corps under the 17th Army
March 1944Destroyed by the Red army
April 1944Redeployed under its second iteration with surviving staff under 29th Corp as part of the 6th Army
May 1944Transferred to 72nd Corps – Third Romanian Army
20th August 1944Effectively destroyed in Romania after the under-equipped had been forced into action and being called up from the Army Group Reserves to fill gaps left by retreating Romanian units.
Deployed west of the Seret River along with 13th Panzer Division (which had no tanks at this point), 10th Panzergrenadier Division and Panzerverband Braun.
At this point the 153rd had been reduced in size to less than a Regiment sized force.Trapped along with the rest of the 6th Army remnants between Prut and Dneister.
October 1944Third iteration formed
14th December 1944Division refitted for frontline combat in Hungary and comprised of:715th Grenadier Regt716th Grenadier Regt.717th Grenadier Regt.453rd Artillery Regt. (Only 1 Battalion) 153rd Fusilier Battalion153rd Engineer Battalion153rd Support (Versorgung) Regiment.Trapped alongside 1st and 23rd Panzer Divisions between Danube and Lake Balaton then overrun at Székesfehérvár on December 24th and only parts of the Division escaped.
February 1945Remnants (Battlegroup of Regimental size) renamed 153 Grenadier Division and engaged in combat in the Deutsch-Brod pocket until the end of the War
8th May 1945153rd Grenadier Division captured by the Soviets.

References:

 Mitcham, Samuel W. (2007). “153rd Field Training (later Grenadier) Division”. German Order of Battle: 1st-290th Infantry divisions in World War II. Stackpole Books. ISBN 9780811734165.

The story of Otto Vitus Ostermeier

Otto Vitus Ostermeier(born 9th April 1907 in Pilsting) was a Obergefreiter Kradmelder (Motorcycle dispatch rider) who served in Division Nr. 153. Serving in Poland and France with Division Nr. 153, he was wounded whilst on duty and transported to the Kremenshug War Hospital, Ukraine on 20th April 1942. He then carried on to serve in Stalingrad, and the retreat across Crimea, Kuban and the following fight into Romania. On the 23rd April 1944 he was captured in Romania during the retreat from Besserabia, and was held in the Buzau Prisoner of War Camp, Romania, with his last appearance being seen by his comrades on the 28th August of the same year. He was still being held as a PoW on 6th September 1949 when the inmates of Buzau Camp were released; sadly Otto never made it home, presumed dead inside the PoW camp. Whilst serving in Division Nr. 153 Otto received the Iron Cross. The image below, kindly provided by Marianne Ostermeier, his daughter-in-law, shows Otto (right), relaxing with his comrades.

Image may contain: 5 people, people sitting

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