Operation Schneesturm

snow storm

This was a German, Croat and Bulgarian successor to ‘Kugelblitz’ (ii) against the partisan forces of Marshal Josip Broz Tito operating in the Bosnia region of German-occupied Yugoslavia (21/29 December 1943).

This was one of a trio of concerted operations, together with ‘Kugelblitz’ (ii) and ‘Herbstgewitter’ (i), which became known in Yugoslavia as the Sixth Enemy Offensive.

The operation was an Axis attempt to trap and destroy the partisan forces (the 5th ‘Krajiski’ Division and the 17th and 27th Divisions of the III Corps) which had escaped ‘Kugelblitz’ (ii) and reached the region of eastern Bosnia bounded by Maglaj, Tuzla, Vlasenica and Visoko. ‘Kugelblitz’ (ii) had been undertaken by SS-Obergruppenführer und General der Waffen-SS Artur Phleps’s V SS Gebirgskorps with the object of destroying the partisan units in eastern Bosnia, but the German forces had lacked the strength to sweep the operational area thoroughly, and the main strength of the partisan forces had slipped through their net. The partisan forces nonetheless suffered some 9,000 casualties in the course of ‘Kugelblitz’ (ii), and were immediately pursued in ‘Schneesturm’.

The operation was undertaken by some 70,000 Axis troops including a German contribution of Generalleutnant Walter Stettner Ritter von Grabenhofen’s 1st Gebirgsdivision, SS-Brigadeführer und Generalmajor der Waffen-SS Karl Reichsritter von Oberkamp’s 7th SS Gebirgsdivision ‘Prinz Eugen’, elements of Generalleutnant Walter Stettner Ritter von Grabenhofen’s 369th Division (kroatisch), elements of Generalleutnant Josef Brauner von Haydringen’s 42nd Jägerdivision, 1st Reserve-Jägerregiment, 92nd Grenadierregiment (mot.), 901st Panzergrenadier-Lehr-Regiment, 2nd Regiment ‘Brandenburg’ of Generalmajor Alexander von Pfuhlstein’s Division ‘Brandenburg’ attached to the 1st Gebirgsdivision, and police and security units as a blocking force; there was also a force of Četnik auxiliaries from Sandjak, and elements of General Major Simeon Simov’s Bulgarian 24th Division.

‘Schneesturm’ was based on twin drives to the west and north-west. Ending late in December, ‘Schneesturm’ cost the partisan forces another 2,000 men. Although they had been badly mauled in these two operations, the major partisan formations nonetheless retained their cohesion and the Yugoslav Army of National Liberation was thus still an effective fighting force.