German Custom Border Guard in Nowy Sącz

Dawid Golik

Undoubtedly, the most important role among the units existing for most part of the war outside the military and police structures was played in the border areas of the General Government by Zollgrenzschutz, i.e. the German custom and burder guard[1]. It was a formation functioning under the Ministry of Finance of the Third Reich. Its main tasks included guarding the German border, and later also the borders of the Reich’s conquered and dependent territories(including the GG). From autumn 1939, posts of the guard were also created on the border between the General Government and the territories directly incorporated into the Reich and on the Reich’s and the GG’s border with the Slovak Republic. Crossing the border in these areas required even the Germans or Slovaks, their allies to obtain a special pass, which was issued by the German or Slovak authorities[2].

In July 1944 the Zollgrenzschutz was brought under the control of the SS and its members formed battalions, used initially to supervise fortification works, and later also used in front fights[3]. Thus individual offices and posts were placed under the territorial structures of the SS and the security police. In GG, the takeover of the Zollgrenzschutz by Sipo was formalized by the directive of the Commander of the Security Police (BdS) from 18 September 1944[4] In the last days of the war, the formation was brought back into the structures of the Finance Ministry of the Reich.

Initially, individual guard posts located in occupied Poland were managed directly by the authorities of the Reich’s Ministry of Finance, but in 1941 a separate Command of the Custom and Border Guard in the General Government (Kommandostelle des Zollgrenzschutzes im Generalgouvernement) was created. It was in control of the Zollgrenzschutz Commands (Befehlsstelle des Zollgrenzschutzes) for the individual border sections, located in larger towns, and they in turn were in control of District Customs Commissariats (Bezirkszollkomissariat, BZKom) and its three types of facilities under them: border crossing points (Grenzübergangsstelle), border security posts (Grenzaufsichtsstelle, GASt) and the motorized border security posts (GaSt mot.).

The occupant located one of the Zollgrenzschutz Commands in Nowy Sącz[5]. Its headquarters was located at Jagiellońska 52 Str. (in the same building as the Tax Office). Until mid-1944 it was in command of the District Customs Commissariats in Krynica, Piwniczna and Szczawnica[6]. Befehlsstelle des Zollgrenzschutzes in Nowy Sącz was headed by Customs Counselor (Zollrat) Kurt Dörre until 1942, followed by Customs Counselor Anton Esser[7].

Figures on the commanders and the commissariats of the Nowy Sącz Befehlsstelle have been preserved. Based on them a conclusion can be made, that in the beginning of the occupation – before Germany launched their attack on the USSR – the personnel of the Zollgrenzschutz in the border areas of GG was relatively numerous and the command in Nowy Sącz maintained the level of more than 500 regular customs officers and reservists assigned to serve in the formation. Between July 1943 and October 1944, their number was at about 350 to 370 officers. It increased again only at the end of the war, when customs officers and guards evacuated from the east were assigned to individual commissariats. The number recorder on 15 January 1945 was 580 people (70 regular customs officials and 510 reservists)[8].

In September 1944, after the the Zollgrenzschutz was brought under the control of the GG security police, its organizational structure was also changed. The Komandostelle in Krakow was incorporated into the BdS on 20 September 1944 as an independent department of the office. The command in Nowy Sącz, along with its commissariats and outposts, was in turn brought under the control of the KdS in Kraków[9].

Also other commands of the Zollgrenzschutz, evacuated from the east, ended up in the Nowy Sącz district. Especially noteworthy is Befehlsstelle Stryj (commanded by Friedrich) – which located its new headquarters in Nawojowa, but its commissariats were also located in Nowy Sącz (commanded by Heeger), Rożnów and Tęgoborze. Another one worth mentioning was Befehlsstelle Czortków (commanded by Alfred Grunewald) – the unit at the time was part of the “Galizien” regiment of the customs and border guard formed in the former district of Galicia, with the designation of a 2nd battalion (II Bataillon Zollgrenzschutz-Regiment “Galizien”) or the “Grunewald” battalion from the name of its commander. The unit was also initially involved primarily in the protection of German fortifications on the line of the Dunajec river, and its command was headquartered in Bochnia[10]. However, at the turn of 1944 and 1945, the dislocation of the “Grunewald” battalion changed. At that time the 1st company of the battalion was moved to Nowy Sącz (probably Jagiellońska 52 Str.) and to the Nawojowa region. However, its size fluctuated greatly, most probably due to the officers being transferred between the various subdivisions of the battalion and more guards evacuated from the east being assigned to it. In October – November 1944, the company consisted of as many as 301 people (officers, sub-officers and regular guards), in December its size decreased to one officer and 53 regular guards and in January 1945 the number reached 8 officers (including 3 office workers), 44 sub-officers and 466 regular guards. At the same time, 110 members of the Zollgrenzschutz were also transferred under the command of the order police unit of major Maschlanka (Schuma 206)[11].


[1] Although the full name of the formation is „Zollgrenzschutz”, very often both Germans and Poles used its simplified version and called it “Grenzschutz”. This is also how many Polish authors writing about the second World War call it.

[2]Archiwum Głównej Komisji Ścigania Zbrodni przeciwko Narodowi Polskiemu Instytutu Pamięci Narodowej w Warszawie [later as: IPN GK], 196/281, Akta procesu Josefa Bühlera, Tätigkeitsbericht der Kreishauptmannschaft Neumarkt (Dunajec) vom 17. September bis 31. Mai 1941, pp. 129–130.

[3] The size of the Zollgrenzschutz at the time was close to 90 000 total personnel (active and reserve officers and auxiliary staff).

[4] IPN GK 196/239, Akta procesu Josefa Bühlera, Uzasadnienie, cz. I, pp. 49–50; IPN GK 196/258, Akta procesu Josefa Bühlera [later as: IPN GK 196/258], Vermerk. Unterstellung des Zollgrenzschutzes unter den Reichsführers SS, Krakau, 25.08.1944, p. 148; Ibidem, Übernahme des Zollgrenzschutzes in die Sicherheitspolizei, 18.09.1944, pp. 149–150. The directive’s goal, among other things, was to make the border formations join the police and SS units, and not be conscripted into the Wehrmacht units.

[5] In the beginning of the German occupation, commands of custom and border guard were operating in Nowy Targ and in Krosno, but over time the command in Nowy Sącz was formed, and the headquarters of the Nowy Targ command was moved to Zakopane. See: Bundesarchiv Berlin-Lichterfelde [later as: BArch], R 2/25253, Neueinrichtung von Zolldienststellen an der Grenze zu Litauen, der Sowjetunion und dem Generalgouvernement, Übersicht über die gem. Erl/ RFM v. 14. Dez. 1939 PD 480/39 GJZ im Bereich des Grenzabschnittskommandos Süd-Krakau einzurichenden Zollamter.

[6] BArch, R 110/63, BZKom Makow, Übersicht uber die Zollidienstellen im Innern und an den Grenzen des Generalgouvernement, 1 II 1941; Amtliches Fernsprechbuch für den Distrikt Krakau, Krakau 1942, p. 47 (here the information about the headquarters is different – probably incorrect – at Jagiellońska 62/2 Str. Cf.: L. Zakrzewski, Bierna obrona przeciwlotnicza ludności miasta Nowego Sącza w okresie okupacji [in:] Bierna obrona ludności cywilnej Nowego Sącza – zarys dziejów, ed. by L. Zakrzewski, Nowy Sącz 2017, s. 88.

[7] IPN GK 196/258, Organisationsübersicht der Dienststellen des Zollgrenzschutzes im Generalgouvernement, Stand September 1944, pp. 151–154; R 110/Anh./18, Befehlsstelle des Zollgrenzschutzes Neu-Sandez.

[8] BArch, R 110/10, BSt Neu-Sandez 1.9.42–15.1.45, Personalbestand der Befehlsstelle Neu-Sandez.

[9] IPN GK 196/258, Übernahme des Zollgrenzschutzes in die Sicherheitspolizei, 18.09.1944, pp. 149–150.

[10] Ibidem.

[11] Bundesarchiv-Militärarchiv Freiburg im Breisgau, BAMA, RH 53-23/47, Stärkemäßige Gliederung der Div.z.b.V. 601, Krakau, 3.01.1945, pp. 10–11; ibidem, RH 53-23/48, Karten der vorbereiteten Stellungen mit geplanter Besetzung 1944 – Januar 1945, Division z.b.V. 601 Kraftgliederung, 30.12.1944, p. 1; ibidem, Einsatz „Ziethen”, Div.z.b.V. 601 [stan na 6.01.1945], p. 2; RH 53-23/71, [Zestawienie sił niemieckich OFK 226/601 Div.z.b.V. stan na przełom października i listopada 1944 r.].