Since 1938, the German Army was using large number of captured equipment from handguns to tanks. During World War II, the German Army was equipped with large number of captured or produced under German supervision tanks. Beute Panzerkampfwagen (Booty Panzers) were gathered at special collection points, where they were examined and it was then decided if they can be of any use to its new owners. If possible, useful tanks were taken to factories where they were built (for example in France) and repaired, modified and painted in German colors and markings. Some of the foreign/captured tanks were put in the active service with special captured tank units (formed in May of 1940) of Panzer or Infantry Divisions in various roles such as reconnaissance. Interesting fact is that some units (e.g. Panzer Abteilung 216 in the Channel Islands) or even divisions (eg. 7th SS Freiwillingen Gebirgs Division "Prinz Eugen" in the Balkans) were totally equipped with captured equipment. Although most common practice was the conversion of foreign tanks into various weapon carriers. Some captured or foreign tanks were converted and armed with captured weapons such as Soviet 76.2mm ZIS-3 and F-22 guns (such as Marder series). Some number of tanks was converted into other supplementary vehicles such as artillery tractors. Some foreign tanks were used for training purposes, while some were used for internal policing duties in occupied territories (Polizei-Panzerkampfwagen). Many were briefly used by the Germans and were later on used for target practice or were handed over to the German Allies or even abandoned. Other captured tanks such as Soviet T-34‘s were pressed into service by Germans due to their superiority and simply because of the lack of tanks. Some examples of captured tanks were not pressed into service and were only used for tests (for example at Kummersdorf facility), target practice or were simply scraped.
DAK column on the move including captured American M3 Hafltracks, Jeeps and other captured Allied trucks and cars.
Generally, Germans did not always factory-modify-captured equipment, field modifications were very common and totally non-standard. The most common modification to tanks was the replacement of original cupola top with split hatch covers. German Army was also using large number of other foreign equipment such as armored cars, trucks, guns and etc. The interesting fact was that Soviet built ZIS-5 trucks were manufactured under the license of the Ford company, just as those produced by Germany and France (2-ton or 3-ton Ford truck). That fact allowed Germans who were already familiar with those vehicles to use as many as possible. The usage of captured tanks for training and security duties allowed Germans to transfer more German made tanks to combat units. DAK was the most notable user of all kinds of Allied equipment which was captured and it was reported that sometimes the inventory consisted of more captured equipment than the German made one. Overall, captured or foreign equipment was very important to the German war effort due to the shortages and losses of their own equipment.
In order to classify captured/foreign equipment, numerical block system was introduced and published as the Kennblatter Fremdengerat listing. All vehicle were divided into following categories.
200 – armored cars
300 – halftracked vehicles
400 – armored halftracked vehicles
600 – fully-tracked artillery tractors
630 – armored artillery tractors
700 – tanks
800 – gun carriers / self-propelled guns
In addition numbers were followed by letters. Letters were used to recognize the previous user (not a producer) of a certain piece of the equipment. For example: Panzerkampfwagen T-34 747(r).