What is a Penal Military Unit?

Introduction Penal military units, including penal battalions, penal companies, etc., are military formations consisting of convicts mobilised for military service. Such formations may contain soldiers convicted of offenses under military law, persons enrolled in the unit after being convicted in civilian courts or some combination of the two. Service in such units is typically considered… Read More


What was the 36th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS?

Introduction The 36th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (German: 36. Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS) – also known as the Dirlewanger Brigade, the SS-Sturmbrigade Dirlewanger (1944), or Black Hunters – was a unit of the Waffen-SS during World War II. The unit, named after its commander Oskar Dirlewanger, consisted of convicted criminals who were not expected… Read More

What was the 999th Light Afrika Division (Wehrmacht)?

Introduction The 999th Africa Brigade was a German Army unit created in October 1942 as a penal military unit. It was later expanded into the 999th Light Africa Division (999. leichte Afrika-Division) and began deploying to Tunisia in early 1943. However, this was interrupted by the surrender of Axis forces in that theatre. Those elements… Read More

What was a Strafbataillon?

Introduction Strafbataillon (English: “penal battalion”) is the generic term for penal units that were created from prisoners during the Second World War in all branches of the Wehrmacht. Soldiers, criminals and civilians sentenced to those units were generally poorly armed and required to undertake dangerous high-casualty missions. The Strafbataillon were operated and administered by the… Read More

What was Order No. 227?

Introduction Order No. 227 (Russian: Приказ № 227}, romanised: Prikaz No. 227) was an order issued on 28 July 1942 by Joseph Stalin, who was acting as the People’s Commissar of Defence. Refer to World War II, Shtrabats, Barrier Troops, and Strafbataillon. It is known for its line “Not a step back!” (Ни шагу назад!,… Read More

What were Shtrafbats?

Introduction Shtrafbats (Russian: штрафбат, штрафной батальон) were Soviet penal battalions that fought on the Eastern Front in World War II (refer to Barrier Troops). The shtrafbats were greatly increased in number by Joseph Stalin in July 1942 via Order No. 227 (Директива Ставки ВГК №227). Order No. 227 was a desperate effort to re-instil discipline… Read More