Photo Album of Fremdenlegionär Leutener Part 2

Here are some random comments on these great pictures.  I’ve downloaded each photograph from these two albums and here is the breakdown.

Album 1 (Fremdenlegion in Algerien 1930er Übersicht und Postkarten).  This album has 82 images and provides and overview of the album by pages and individual scans of several postcards.

(3) Front and back covers with leather pouch.
(54) Album pages (containing 382 photographs)
(25) Postcards

Album 2 (Fremdenlegion in Algerien 1930er).  This album has 382 images.  Each is a high resolution scan of the individual photographs found on the 54 interior pages of the album.  I roughly organized the photographs into the following main categories.

(18) Aerial Views
(53) Aviation
(53) Casernes, Bases & Forts
(28) Locals
(33) Scenery
(157) Soldiers (Legion, Aviation, Meharistes, and others)
(22) Vehicles
(17) German Army & Afrikakorps

Some Observations:  It will take a long time and some serious detective skills to add more context to these pictures.  Questions that I’m working on include what unit was Leutener assigned to during his time in the Foreign Legion, what are the names of the forts, nomenclature of the vehicles and airplanes and what bases are depicted in the aerial photographs.

     1. German Army Service.  If you viewed all the pictures in the album you will notice a sudden transition from the uniform of the French Foreign Legion to the uniform of the early WWII era German Army.  There are 17 pictures depicting soldiers in what appears to be mountain troop smocks and the uniform of the Deutsches Afrikakorps (DAK).  I suspect that Leutener left the Foreign Legion in late 1934 after his five years were up but was later drafted into the Wehrmacht for service in North Africa in 1940.  Perhaps he was selected for service in the 361st Reinforced Infantry Regiment which purposely selected former German legionnaires for their knowledge of the desert terrain of North Africa.  This regiment was part of the 90th Light Infantry Division which did have several specialized units trained for commando and mountain type operations.

   2. Unknown Insignia.  I noticed several pictures of men wearing a pocket insignia shaped in an upside down triangle.  I checked my references on Foreign Legion badges but could not find a match.  I suspect it might be a transportation company badge.


3. 1932 Train Crash.  There were two photographs related to the tragic train accident that occurred in 14 September 1932.  A train carrying 500 members of the 1st Regiment rolled down a hillside and killed 62 legionnaires.  The cause of the accident was heavy rains that weakened the track.

4.  Complete Mysteries.  There are some photographs that really need more explanation but unfortunately Legionnaire Leutener did not write much in the margins of the albums or on the photographs themselves.  The picture below stumps me completely.  It appears to be an assembly of prisoners of war but there are very few guards.  The uniform (greatcoat and garrison caps) does not look French but I think these men could be some of the survivors of the train crash noted above.  Also, 1934 is a bit early for the large Spanish influx of Legion recruits that occurred in 1939 so I don’t think these men are from that civil war.


About Jack Wagner

Retired Army.
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7 Responses to Photo Album of Fremdenlegionär Leutener Part 2

  1. Frans Janssen says:

    Photo Album of Fremdenlegionär Leutener.

    First thanks for posting this great material.
    Regarding the mystery I think you are about right that this could be the survivors of the train crash all new recruits. The men in front are dressed as new recruits, typically equipped with motley uniforms and wearing the “bonnet de police” instead of the kepi. The rough haircut from some of them points also in that direction and one of the men having a bandage against a head injury.
    Even more interesting is that I think in the back General Rollet is visibly. As such it seem like a kind of service to remember the victims. Photograph clearly taken in sidi Bel Abbes.



  2. Phil L says:

    Another possibility about his German army unit was the Afrika division 999. Ex-Foreign legionnaires were prohibited by law from serving in the Wehrmacht and the Division 999 was created to allow prohibited classes of Germans to serve as probationary soldiers including ex-convicts and politically undesirables to serve. Some further evidence for this is that in the photographs only the officer is wearing any decorations. Hardly definitive proof just a possibility.


  3. Erich Maser says:

    My late father (born in Basel) joined the Legion in 1936. In 1941 he was handed over to the Gestapo and spent time in Hinzert concentration camp together with many other Legionnaires, He was forced, under pain of death, to join 361 Afrika Regiment (later 90 Light) and captured at El Alamein. Spent the remainder of the war in Canada before coming to England.


    • Jack Wagner says:

      Thanks for sharing that information. The Nazi’s were arresting many German Legionnaires after the fall of France as likely spies for the Allies. I guess they realized the opportunity to form a unit of experienced desert fighters outweighed the stupidity of mass incarceration.


      • Erich Maser says:

        My father was a Swiss national, not German. What is more, there can be no justification for the treatment of the former Legionnaires. Go to and see if you still stand by your viewpoint.


      • Jack Wagner says:

        I think you misunderstood me and/or perhaps I didn’t write clearly. There was no possible justification for anything the Nazi’s did to your father and any of the millions of others like him. In a way his service in the Foreign Legion may have saved his life by getting him out of Hinzert. Of course he should never have been arrested in the first place and I was not implying he was a spy or that he was guilty of anything other than being a victim of Gestapo paranoia. But that’s just how sick the Nazis were. To the collectivist mindset, be it communist, fascist, or socialist, there are no individual rights or liberties. Everybody is subservient to the collective (the state, the nation, the people or whatever totalitarian concept they use) and your rights and freedoms and your very life are subject to the whims of petty, homicidal bureaucrats.


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