German Skijäger’s of the 1st Ski Division
The photograph above shows a well equipped squad of German Skijäger’s armed with new StG-44s and a G43. Formed during the late 1940s they were elite troops trained to operate in winter and alpine conditions, equipped with the best weapons available to the Wehrmacht. The division was made up of 2 regiments of Skijägers , with 3 battalions each and a battalion of Ski Fusiliers as well as artillery and armoured units. The Skijäger battalions each had 3 company’s of two Strum (or storm) platoons entirely equipped with new StG-44s and G43 semi-automatic rifles.
The men in the photograph are using their ski poles as shooting sticks a technique long used by ski troops dating back to the 19th century. The harsh winter conditions of the Eastern Front meant there was an increased need for specially equipped and trained troops to operate efficiently in the snow. The Finns had used ski troops to great effect during Winter War demonstrating their effectiveness. The 1st Ski Division, along with Army Group Centre fought a long fighting retreat from western Russia through Slovakia and Poland before surrendering in May 1945.