Wir halten die Lampen beleuchtet hoch in den Bergen, bis unsere gefallenen Kameraden zurückgeben.The Edelweiss was the emblem adopted by the Gebirgsjager. The German Gebirgsjager (mountain infantry) of WW2 found its origins in the Alpenkorps of both the Royal Bavarian Army and the Austrian Alpenkorps of WWI, where they were used to defend the mountain passes from their Italian equivalent, Alpini. They were trained to operate in mountainous terrain and cold weather. The Austrians chose the edelweiss flower as their symbol in 1907 and this eventually became the universal emblem worn by all mountain troops. The flower only grows at higher altitudes and means "noble purity." Men from the Germanic tribes of pre-Christian Europe would bring these blossoms down from the mountains for their betrothed. That somewhat romantic notion endured through the political turbulence of the 1920’s and the Nazi dictatorship that followed. Both Austria and Germany chose to grow their mountain infantry units in the 1930’s. When Germany annexed Austria in 1938, the Deutsches Gebirgsjager Divisions were formed. There were 11 divisons of Das Heer (the regular army); some were mixed Austrian and German, some were exclusively German, and 8 divisons of Waffen SS— with the exception of the 6th SS Gebirgsjager Division Nord, the SS divisions were raised from the local populations of the Balkan countries and primarily assigned to anti-partisan, rear guard duty. Gebirgsjager divisions were used in virtually every theatre of WWII: including the invasions of Poland in 1939, Norway in 1940, Africa, Crete and the Balkans in 1941, and Soviet Russia in 1941. Throughout the war they were primarily concentrated in the mountainous areas on the Russian Front: in the Norwegian/Finnish/Lapland region to the north and the Caucusus region to the south. As the Allies forced Germany to withdraw from its conquered territory, Gebirgsjagers often fell into the same lines with regular infantry. In the final months of the war, when the quality of new conscripts was poor, Gebirgsjagers were often deployed at strategically critical areas. For this reason, it seems that they did not survive the war in great numbers.
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