|INSTAHLGEWITTERN-IN THE STORM OF STEEL||
Hauptsturmfuehrer Paul Augustin served as a Kriegsberichter with the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler from at least 1940 until March 1943, when he was killed in action. During that period, Augustin took many hundreds of photographs of his unit, and a collection of those photographs is maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration, an agency of the United States government, in Washington, D.C.
The photographs that appear in this post are from a contact sheet that is marked with the phrase "Augustin 1" which appears on the reverse side of the sheet. All but two of the pictures appearing on the sheet are depicted here. The two photographs not included are overexposed.
This and the immediately preceding photograph depict the same group of officers on what must have been a cold day during the Spring of 1940. The commander of the Leibstandarte was then SS Obergruppenfuehrer Josef "Sepp" Dietrich. Dietrich may be in the group of officers shown here, but it is difficult to determine this with any degree of certainty.
The Leibstandarte was formed in the barracks at Berlin-Lichterfelde on March 15, 1938. Its units were denominated "Sturmbann" (shortened to "Sturm"). Initially there were four companies of infantry, an Infantry Gun Sturm, an anti-tank Sturm, and a motorcycle Sturm. During the campaign in France the Leibstandarte included a signals unit, which would have disposed of several vehicles like the one depicted in the photo at left.
The Leibstandarte does not seem to have taken part in the campaign in Poland. The photographs in this collection, identified as Augustin's first effort in depicting the military exploits of Adolf Hitler's personal bodyguard at war, appear to have been taken during the unit's first involvement in combat, in the Netherlands and in France during the summer of 1940.
On the vehicle at left there are two markings of interest. Both are visible on the rear quarter. One is the divisional ensign, a shield with a skeleton key superimposed. The key (in German, "Dietrich") alludes to the Leibstandarte's long-time commander, then SS Obergruppenfuehrer Josef "Sepp" Dietrich. The other, more mundane image is the phrase "abstand 30m", loosely translated as "stay back 30 meters", which is akin to markings appearing on modern American commercial vehicles, such as "stay back 100 feet".
From these photographs it would appear that the photographer was assigned to the Leibstandarte's new Artillerie Abteilung, a conclusion strongly supported by the presence in many of the photographs of early model Sturmgeschutze III self-propelled guns. These vehicles, sometimes referred to as Sturmhaubitz, mounted a short-barrelled, low velocity 75mm gun, and were intended to provide a highly mobile gun platform for the support of infantry in their engagements with the enemy.