US Army Historical Division's ETHINT document MS-B-632:
Kurt GERBER Neustadt, Camp Steimbel, 29 July 1947
OKH/Chef H Rüst/BdE/AHA/Ia I
The Numbering System for Divisions of the German Army
The Numbering system for Divisions of the German Army.
1. Office in charge of number assignment.
The office in charge of assignment of numbers and designations for the divisions and units of the
German Army was:
OKH/Chef H R2st/BdE/AHA/Ic, Berlin.
2. Basic principles:
The basic principle for the assignment of numbers stated that any one number must not be used a
second time for a unit of the same or a similar type.
This basic principle applied to infantry divisions, security divisions, light infantry divisions, field
training divisions, reserve divisions, Volksgrenadier divisions. Individual number systems were used for mountain divisions, armored and motorized divisions (Panzer und Panzer Gren.Div.), air forces field divisions, SS- and other special units.
3. Cancellation of numbers.
Whenever any organization (Verband) was smashed, the original units were either reconstituted under their former numbers, or that number was cancelled and not assigned again.
Whenever reorganization occurred, the organizations usually retained their old numbers and were distinguished by special designations. (for instance, 25.Inf.Div. no designation, changed to 25.Inf.Div.(mot.), later on to 25.motorized division (Panzer Gren.Div.).
At times, during reorganization the units would be assigned numbers similar to those of old organizations of the same type just assumed by the units. (for instance several divisions in the 700 series were reorganized as light infantry divisions and were given numbers of the 100 series.
5. Volksgrenadier divisions.
The basic principles as under No. 2 applied also and to its full extent to Volksgrenadier divisions.
Because of the speed with which they were organized, and because of the variance in their origins, erroneous designations of them occurred even in orders issued by higher command authorities, a fact which now is probably the cause for difficulties in gaining a clear picture.
a. The first Volksgrenadier divisions (VGD) were formed from the 29.Welle, which originally had been organized as an infantry rifle division (May 1944).
Shortly after their formation, the names of the divisions of the 29.Welle were changed from infantry riflemen divisions to VGD (July 1944). The number affected were:
542, 561, 562, 549, 551, 544, 548, 553, 558, 559, 541, 545, 547.
These divisions were no longer existing as infantry divisions.
b. The next wave in the formation of VGD was the 30th wave (August 1944). It consisted of the newly organized 560th and 563rd VGD, as well as of the old, completely smashed and now reorganized
12th, 16th, 19th, 36th VGD.
These divisions were no longer existing as infantry divisions. Therefore, the numbers cannot appear twice, provided the units are given their correct designations.
c. The 32.Welle may be considered the last wave of VGD organized systematically (Oct/Nov 1944). These were divisions which originally had been organized with numbers of the 500 series, and which, during the formation, received numbers of completely or partially smashed units, whose personnel was also incorporated into them later on.
571st VGD name changed to 18th VGD
582nd VGD name changed to 26th VGD
577th VGD name changed to 47th VGD
583rd VGD name changed to 62nd VGD
585th VGD name changed to 167th VGD
564th VGD name changed to 183rd VGD
568th VGD name changed to 256th VGD
576th VGD name changed to 271st VGD
575th VGD name changed to 272nd VGD
580th VGD name changed to 276th VGD
574th VGD name changed to 277th VGD
579th VGD name changed to 326th VGD
570th VGD name changed to 337th VGD
572nd VGD name changed to 340th VGD
567th VGD name changed to 349th VGD
581st VGD name changed to 352nd VGD
569th VGD name changed to 361st VGD
566th VGD name changed to 363rd VGD
573rd VGD name changed to 708th VGD
584th VGD name changed to 9th VGD
586th VGD name changed to 79th VGD
587th VGD name changed to 257th VGD
588th VGD name changed to 320th VGD
d. During February 1945 those divisions of the field army who had particularly distinguished themselves were given the opportunity to apply for a change in designation into VGD. However, the writer has not learned of any instances where such a change has become effective on the basis of this regulation.
Because of the incompleteness of available documentation the above list may contain small errors.
On the basis of documentation available here it will be easier to answer concrete questions regarding the correct designations of individual units whenever there arises any doubt in this connection within the Historical Division, than to provide a basic description of the numbering system and the designations of German units.
The wording in the German original is somewhat ambiguous. Oberstleutnant Müller has explained to me as follows:
Units of a similar type such as Infantry, security, light infantry, field training, reserve divisions and Volksgrenadier divisions were numbered consecutively in individual number groups, care being taken that no number occurred twice. Thus, if there were a 25th Infantry Division there could never be a 25th Security Division, or a 25th Light Infantry Division, or a 25th Volksgrenadier Division, etc.
On the other hand, Gebirgs, Panzer, Panzergrenadier, Luftwaffenfeld, SS and other special divisions each had their own serial system. Thus there could be a 25th Gebirgs Division, a 25th Panzer Division, a 25th SS Division, etc.
(signed by the translator, signature unreadable)