Beginning of August 1944: Eventual General der Flieger Werner Kreipe in conversation with Oberst Eckhard Christian. During his time at the Military College in Munich, Kreipe participated in Hitler’s march on the Feldherrnhalle, and therefore he wears the ribbon of 9 November 1923, the so-called Blood Order“ award, on his right breast pocket. Following the assassination attempt on 20 July 1944, from which Giinther Korten was critically wounded and died shortly afterwards, Kreipe was temporarily entrusted with the business of the Luftwaffe Chief of the General Staff.
Fotos aus dem Führerhauptquartier - Hermann Historica München
Major Willi Braun, the commander of Grenadier-Regiment 576 / 305.Infanterie-Division in the Battle of Stalingrad (1942-1943). He was an avid sportsman who excelled at swimming, skiing, marksmanship and horseriding, the latter bringing him to grief in May 1939 when a fall during a tournament put him out of action for two months. He was also a keen motor enthusiast and was one of the first in his home town of Hasenweiler to own a private car. He began his career as a police officer and it lasted for 13 years, until he was transferred over to the army in October 1935. Various postings followed until he was transferred in late November 1940 into the newly-forming 305. Infanterie-Division as commander of II./Infanterie-Regiment 576. And he had commanded that battalion ever since. The entire summer campaign had been difficult but it all paled into insignificance compared to the weeks in Stalingrad. When the regiment commander, Oberstleutnant Karl-Heinz Krüder, went on leave in October 1942, and the substitute commander Oberstleutnant Werner Gunkel was transferred in late October, Braun took temporary control of the regiment.
Source : "Island Of Fire: The Battle For the Barrikady Gun Factory In Stalingrad November 1942 - February 1943" by Jason D. Mark
Oberstleutnant Hans-Georg Brandt, the commander of Grenadier-Regiment 577 / 305.Infanterie-Division in the Battle of Stalingrad (1942-1943). He cared deeply for his men. One example will suffice. On 2 July 1942, Gefreiter Franz Winter, a messenger on the staff of 6. Kompanie in Brandt’s II. Battalion, witnessed a shocking event during a Soviet tank attack that would ultimately demonstrate how Brandt felt about his men: "We had a good view over the battlefield from our elevated position. What we saw happening there caused the blood to freeze in our veins: to the left of us, in the hollow of a valley, the third platoon of our fifth company was attacked. We saw how they surrendered and ran towards the tanks with their hands above their heads. These monsters circled around our comrades, opened fire and pulped them under their tracks". Winter’s unit was ordered to fall back and the situation gradually eased. It was then that Winter and his comrades saw Major Brandt: "Sitting in a roadside ditch, surrounded by officers, was our battalion commander, a beaten man. I had never seen a German officer in such a state. A person who was otherwise seen by us ordinary soldiers to be head and shoulders above us, in appearance and conduct, now sat there and we could see that he was also only a human, like us, how he was depressed and tormented by anxiety. He had observed the tragedy down below through binoculars. He probably also felt responsible for it". Brandt had commanded his battalion in Grenadier-Regiment 577 from the first day of its creation. In fact, it is probably correct to say he even commanded it before that because he led III./Infanterie-Regiment 520, the unit which was transferred en masse on 4 December 1940 to form II./Infanterie-Regiment 577. When regiment commander Oberst Max Voigt was transferred home at the end of September 1942 due to heart problems, Major Brandt took over as Regimentsführer and led the regiment in an exemplary manner. The fighting in Stalingrad-North had been a severe test but his superiors were impressed by his performance and he received a promotion to Oberstleutnant in November 1942.
"Island Of Fire: The Battle For the Barrikady Gun Factory In Stalingrad November 1942 - February 1943" by Jason D. Mark
Erich Riva (20 June 1888 - 4 March 1954) joined the Austrian Feldjäger Battalion 25 on 30 September 1905 as a one-year volunteer. On September 30, 1906, he was transferred to the Infantry Regiment 101 and promoted to 1st Lieutenant on 1 January 1907. Activated on November 1, 1909, he was appointed on April 1, 1911 to the bailiff-Akzessist and transferred to the military-building department of the VII Corps. At the same time he joined the military construction. On July 28, 1914 he was transferred to the military-building department of the XVI. Corps. On June 28, 1914 he came to the military construction department Mostar. On October 10, 1914, he returned to the army and served as train commander in the Austrian Infantry Regiment 101. On January 20, 1915 promoted to lieutenant, he came on 16 February 1915 as platoon and company commander in the Austrian infantry Regiment 26. On May 1, 1917, he was promoted to captain. At the end of the war, he joined in November 1918 in the Volkswehr Company in Eferding, until he was transferred to the March 1, 1919 in the reserve and discharged from military service. On May 1, 1921, he was reactivated in the Austrian army and transferred to the Alpine Hunters Regiment 8. On March 1, 1923, he was promoted to Chief of Staff and on October 17, 1923, transferred to the Alpine Hunters Regiment 7. He was promoted to Major on October 29, 1924. From July 1, 1926, he served as a teacher at the Army School Enns , From 1 September 1928 to 6 January 1930, he returned again to the Alpine Hunters Regiment 7, to teach again at the Army School Enns. From 1 September 1932 he was commander of the academician battalion at the Theresian Military Academy in Wiener-Neustadt. On December 18, 1934, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and transferred on April 1, 1937 in the staff of the Infantry Regiment 14. On September 16, 1937, he eventually became commander of the 1st Battalion of the Infantry Regiment 17. On March 15, 1938, he joined the German Air Force and became officer z.b.V. of the Reich Aviation Ministry and Commander in Chief of the Air Force. On July 1, 1938, a command to the airbase Aibling followed. In the same year he was promoted to airport area commander Wels and on 1 April 1919 to the colonel. In 1941 he was promoted to airport area commander 5 / CVII and on August 1, 1942 major general. On August 15, 1943, he was finally transferred to the Führerreserve of the OKL and released on July 31, 1944 from military service.
General der Flieger Erich Karl Alexander Petersen (25 August 1889 – 4 July 1963) was a German Luftwaffe general during the Second World War. Petersen served as commander of the 7. Flieger-Division (1 October 1941 - 31 October 1942), until being tapped for promotion to commanding general of the IV. Luftwaffe-Feldkorps (1 August 1943 - 18 November 1944). He also served as commanding general of the LXXXX Armeekorps (19 November 1944 - 8 May 1945). Following the war, he was tried and acquitted of war crimes in France. He was released on 18 January 1950.
A soldier from the Stabskompanie / SS-Panzer-Aufklärungs-Abteilung 1 / 1.SS-Panzer-Division "Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler" next to a M45 Quadmount "meat chopper" found at the US supply dump at Honsfeld on the 17th of December 1944 (photo by SS PK-Berichter Büschel). Members of the Stabskompanie - particularly from its Panzerspähzug (armoured recce platoon) and the Fahrradzug (bicycle platoon) which hitched a ride at the enginedecks of the armoured cars - were pictured at the abandoned American supply dump and later near Born.
Timo R. Worst collection
This picture was taken by Kriegsberichter Finke, with the original caption: "Auf dem wege zur Front" (On the way to the front). It shows a Gebirgsjäger ski troopers in a patrol through the forest and snow. The NCO at front wearing Narvik Shield in his arm.
German scharfschütze (sniper) at Kandalaksha Front. He is wearing his ski as a bipod for his Kar 98k Mauser rifle. He is also wearing a white smock for winter camouflage. This picture was taken by Kriegsberichter Strassl. In July 1941, during World War II, the town was the primary target of an
unsuccessful German-Finnish offensive which attempted to cut the
strategic Murman Railway.
In the course of the Russian campaign the Wehrmacht conquered large areas of southern Russia including the Crimea and the Taman Peninsula. The Soviet Black Sea fleet subsequently withdrew to ports in the Caucasus. The OKW was then faced with the problem of powerful Soviet naval forces intervening in land battles and posing a constant threat to supply lines and flanks. On the German side, however, there were no naval units with which to guard the Black Sea, which is greater in area than the Baltic. The OKW bad anticipated this threat before the attack on Russia. At a Fübrer conference on 18 March 1941, consideration was given to sending small submarines to Rumania, however nothing was done. The idea was revived by the naval command in December 1941 and, after a further delay, was made reality in spring 1942. Three Type II B boats (U-19, U-24 and U-9) were initially selected for service in the Black Sea. To conceal what was happening, the boats were taken out of training service and decommissioned. They were then partially disassembled and transported down the Kaiser-Wilbelm Canal to Hamburg and then on to Dresden. From there the boats were transported overland on large flatbed trailers to the port of Ingolstadt on the Danube. From Ingolstadt they were shipped on pontoons down the Danube to Galati, Rumania, where the boats were reassembled and placed back in service. The submarines made the last part of trip down the Danube to its mouth on the Black Sea near Sulina, and from there along the coast to their new base in Constanza, under their own power.
After the success of this first transport, Hitler authorized the transfer of three more Lype II B boats. One of these was the U-18. Taken out of service on 18 August 1942 and shipped, on 11 May 1943 it sailed into Constanza, becoming the 30th Submarine Flotilla’s fourth boat. The boat's captain was 38-year-old Oberleutnant zur See Karl Fleige. Having joined the navy in 1924, it was Fleige’s first command. In 1940-41 Fleige bad served on U-20 and U-123, both commanded by Kapitänleutnant Moeble, as senior helmsman. In August 1941, again under Moeble’s command, he assumed the position of flotilla helmsman with the 5th Submarine Flotilla in Kiel. Then in August 1942 he began commander training and finally on 6 May he commissioned the U-18. The veteran “canoe” now began its period of operations in the Black Sea. Like the other boats of the 30th Flotilla, the U-18 also received the typical Black Sea camouflage finish. This began at the base of the conning tower with a dark gray ring, extending upwards in ever lighter rings. Fleige adopted as the submarine’s emblem a Red Star struck by a TO, which was applied on the front of the conning tower.
U-18 began its first sortie (7th in total) in its new area of operations on 26 May 1943, however no success was achieved. A torpedo was fired at a steamer on 30 May, but it missed. Pursued by a minesweeper, the U-18 did not get another opportunity to shoot. The next day the submarine was fortunate to escape an attack by a Soviet SB bomber just as it rendezvoused with U-9. The Russian aircraft circled twice, but it apparently identified the U-19 as a Russian boat because of the red star on its conning tower. The bomber instead attacked U-9. The only “sinking” achieved on this patrol was a drift mine, which was exploded by machine-gun fire on 7 June. The U-18 achieved success on its 8th patrol (16 June — 22 July 1943). While it missed an opportunity to attack a Soviet submarine on 18 June, according to its war diary it subsequently sank two steamers and a lighter. Available records do not confirm the sinking of either steamer. The Leningrad (1,783 GRT), claimed sunk on 23 June 1943, bad been damaged by a German aircraft in October 1941 and during the period in question was in drydock in Batumi undergoing repair. The second ship claimed by U-18, the steamer Vorosbilov (3.906 GRT), had also been damaged by a German aircraft in May 1942, and in June 1943 was in dock in Suchimi.
Given what we know today, however, these sinkings appear doubtful. The first confirmed success came on the boat's 9th patrol (21 August - 24 September 1943), when it sank the 400-ton minesweeper trawler Dzhalita (1SC-11) on 29 August. The next evening U-18 shot up the small sub chaser SKA-0132 (56 GRIT) with its 20-mm anti-aircraft gun. However the attack had to be broken off when the boat was illuminated from ashore by a searchlight. After the 10th patrol (27 October — 24 November 1943), Oblt. Fleige claimed a 1,500-GRT steamer as sunk, but in fact the motor tanker Josif Stalin (7,745 GRT) was only damaged on 18 November. The submarine’s 5th patrol in the Black Sea (29 January - 29 February 1942) saw it make a night attack on the port of Batum on 16 February, however just one steamer was damaged.
On 25 April 1944 during its 12th patrol, U-18's red star was almost its undoing. After attacking a Soviet submarine, a BV 138 flying boat opened fire on the “suspected Russian” despite the 18 recognition flares fired by U-18. U-18 was bit by gunfire and finally dove to safety. In the eyes of the flying boat crew the red star had too clearly identified the submarine as Russian!
Earlier on this patrol on 7 April the U-18 had sunk a small cargo ship with its deck gun. Two more operations followed in the summer of 1944 off the coast of the Caucasus. Both produced no results. On 18 July 1944 Oblt.z.S Fleige was decorated with the Knight's Cross for his success as commander of the U-18. He was the only Black Sea submarine commander to be so decorated.
The Red Army's advance and Rumania’s declaration of war on Germany ended German submarine operations in the Black Sea. The bases had to be evacuated. This also meant the end of U-18. Heavily damaged in an air raid on Constanza immediately after its 14th patrol, on 25 August 1944 it was scuttled by its crew off Constanza at position 43°47’ N/28°45 E.
by war Kriegsberichter Gerhard Garms while balanced on the railing of
the Wintergarten platform, U-18 returns to Constanza from its 3rd Black
Sea patrol on 21 September 1943. The boat sank two enemy ships on this
patrol. Note the new pedestal mount for the forward 20-mm anti-aircraft
gun. Of particular interest is the camera housing on the starboard side
of the conning tower for shooting newsreels.
An Oberfeldwebel and petty officers in front of U-18's conning tower, which bears the unusual emblem which confused friend and foe alike! In the foreground is the 20-mm anti-aircraft gun’s “pressure cooker”, which was later replaced with a standard pedestal mount.
On 22 July 1943 U-18 returned to base from its 2nd Black Sea patrol flying three sinking pennants. Note the multicolor banded camouflage on the conning tower. After this patrol the “Big Wintergarten” platform was installed on the boat.
Rough seas, not unusual in the Black Sea. Well bundled up, the bridge watch and captain Oblt.z.5. Fleige scan the horizon. Note the empty Naxos pedestal on the port side and war correspondent Garm's pressure-tight camera bousing on the starboard side.
Group photo with gladiolas in front of the police station in Constanza. After a safe return home, the captain of the U-18, Oblt.z.8. Fleige, poses with his Ist Watch Officer Lt.z.S. Rudolf Arendt (left) and his leading engineer Oblt. (Ing.) Fritz Deutschmann. Interestingly, Fleige is wearing a white neckerchief bearing the boat's emblem.
Studio photo of SS-Obersturmführer Rolf Schackert (Chef Stabskompanie / Indische Freiwilligen Legion der Waffen-SS), who wore his new SS uniform in lieu of the old Heer uniform. Note the use of a plain black collar on the left, which is intentionally left blank while awaiting for the arrival of the "Tiger's head" kragenspiegel, which is the official insignia of the this SS Regiment consisting of Indian volunteers. In Schackert's arm we can also see the shield of "Freies Indien" (Free India), which has been used by members of the Indian Legion from the time they were in the Heer. Like all other non-Reichsdeutsche (German descent within the Reich's territory) members of the Waffen-SS, Indian members of the Freiwilligen Legion der Waffen-SS were forbidden to wear "double flash" SS symbols on their collars. Instead, they are allowed to display unit symbols on their collars and arms. This photo itself is a private collection of Christopher Ailsby, author of the book "Waffen-SS: Hitler's Elite in Photographs"
SS-Hauptsturmführer Otto Günsche was born on 24 September 1917 in Jena. He was an early volunteer in the “Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler”, joining the regiment in 1934 at the age of 17. By 1936 he was serving in the Führer’s personal escort commando in which he would stay until the war started. He would then participate in all of the military campaigns of the “LSSAH” until 1942 when he was sent to a war time officer’s training class at the SS-Junkerschule “Tölz”. After becoming an SS-Untersturmführer, Günsche was posted to Adolf Hitler’s personal adjutant staff in January 1943, taking over the position of an adjutant who had fallen ill. He held that position for a few weeks before he was reassigned to the “Liebstandarte” and returned to front line service. After receiving, among other decorations, the Iron Cross, Ist Class, thus proving his “military” capabilities and courage, he returned to the Führer’s personal staff in February 1944. He would now remain Hitler’s personal adjutant until the end of the war. Günsche became probably most noted for having to cremate the bodies of Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun during the battle of Berlin. The now SS-Hauptsturmführer Günsche was captured by the Soviets in early May 1945 while trying to breakout of Berlin. He became a “prime” captive of the Reds and spent a number of years in the NKVD/KGB Lubiyanka Prison in Moscow undergoing numerous rounds of torture and interrogation. In 1956 he was released from Soviet captivity and turned over to the tender mercies of the East German communists who promptly jailed him again. After much effort and some diplomacy, he was finally allowed to immigrate to West Germany. Despite his horrible travails, Günsche was able to build a successful new life for himself. He remained active in Waffen-SS veteran’s affairs and due to his unique position as an “eyewitness to history” was constantly sought after by historians and history buffs, whom he graciously accomodated for the rest of his life. Otto Günsche passed away on 2 October 2003 at around 90 years of age.
My biography of SS-Hauptsturmführer Oskar Wolkerstorfer:
“I, Oskar Wolkerstorfer was born on 2.11.1919 in Linz, Austria as the 6th child of the unskilled worker Josef Wolkerstorfer and his wife Therese Wolkerstorfer, née Weinberger. I attended 4 classes of Volksschule and 4 classes of Hauptschule. On 10.9.33 I entered the Ebenhöchsche bookshop, Heinrich Korb Linz, as an apprentice. On 10.09.36 I was taken on as an employee and remained with this company until the day of my entry into the SS-VT. During my apprenticeship I completed 3 years of university study. In August 1933 I joined the Hitlerjugend and in July 1934 I transferred into the SA. On 1st January 1937 I joined the Allgemeine-SS and led a group there until my departure for the Reich. I was arrested for fourteen days on the occasion of the July 1934 coup in Austria. On June 30, 1937, I entered the SS-VT "N" Donau. On January 30, 1938 I left the Roman Catholic Church. I possess the basic sports certificate and the Reichssportabzeichen.”
Despite standing at only 5ft 6” tall, Oskar Wolkerstorfer was clearly a man with a promising military career; being promoted from SS-Mann to SS-Junker on 12.04.39, and then shortly after to SS-Standartenjunker on 09.11.39.
Wolkerstorfer attended the SS-Junkerschule Braunschweig from 9.11.39 to 20.12.39 and was described on 20.12.39 as consistent, with very good soldierly knowledge, and “dashing and committed in service.” His performance as Zugführer, was rated “1” according to the following: ( 1 - good, 2 - mediocre, 3 - poor) with the following remarks: Suitable as a platoon commander. (Assault Squad Leader). Bizarrely, the comment regarding his special aptitude after the war described him as suitable for service in the SS-Sicherheitsdienst or Allgemeine-SS, presumably due to his university education. Wolkerstorfer graduated the SS-Junkerschule Braunschweig with the following grades and assessment:
1. In Ideological Education: sufficient.
2. In Tactical Instruction: pretty good.
3. In Topography and Cartography: sufficient.
4. In Military Service: good.
5. In Engineer's Training: sufficient.
6. In Signals Classes: ---
7. In Armoured Combat theory: sufficient.
8. In Aviation: ---
9. In General Practice Army Doctrine: sufficient.
10. In Orienteering: sufficient.
11. In military Affairs: quite good
12. In Infantry Combat theory: pretty good.
13. In Sport: sufficient.
14. In Riding: sufficient.
Wolkerstorfer was described as a sincere, helpful and reliable companion, with an easygoing disposition. His instructors described him as attentive, and a fast learner. While his Junkerschule assessment stated he had only an “elementary school education” despite his university term, Oskar was described as “one of the best in the auditorium” during the course. His superiors noted his “good soldierly attitude”, and clean and tidy appearance. They ascertained that Oskar Wolkertorfer was energetic, and was suitable to develop his skills as an SS-Officer.
On 24.12.39, Oskar Wolkerstorfer married his fiancée Hansi Klimstein.
On the 1.1.40, Wolkerstorfer was sent to the Unterfuhrerschule of the SS-Totenkopverbande at Breslau, and received his commission as SS-Untersturmführer on 20.4.40. Following his promotion, Wolkerstorfer was transferred to the 2./SS “Der Fuhrer” Regiment of the SS-Division “Reich” on 5.7.40. The details on his erkennungsmarke read “2./SS “DF” 130”.
An evaluation dated 7.10.40. during Wolkerstorfer's short time with 2./SS “DF”, stated “Wolkerstorfer is a fresh, safe and self-confident SS officer. He has a solid theoretical knowledge, but still lacks experience and practice. He has good teaching ability and good general education, who appears interested in aspect of his role. His open personality is respectable and balanced.” Deemed ideologically consolidated, Wolkerstorfer was complimented on performing his role as platoon leader well.
At around this time, the question surrounding Wolkerstorfer's lack of SS-number came again to the fore; on 14.10.40, Wolkerstorfer's wife wrote the following curt communication to the SS-Hauptamt-Ergänzungsamt in Berlin. “Subject: SS number. I ask you to give me the SS number of my husband. My husband joined the SS in Linz in 1936 and then on 15 June 1937 came to Dachau to the Nuremberg Standarte and was promoted to SS-Ustuf on 20 April 40. His name is Oskar Wolkerstorfer. At the moment he is with the “Der Fuhrer” Regiment, field post number 15807 C. I ask you to do this as soon as possible. HH. Hansi Wolkerstorfer. Linz. A/D, Ringstrasse 52.” Following this communication, and after much back and forth, Wolkerstorfer finally received his SS-number; 353112.
Shortly afterwards on 8.2.41 Wolkerstorfer was again transferred, to the 1./SS “Der Fuhrer” under the command of Vinzenz Kaiser. Wolkerstorfer distinguished himself in the Western campaign as platoon leader and later as the adjutant of the 1./SS "DF" with special personal bravery. For his actions he was awarded the EKII on 28.7.41. Due to his special achievements as a platoon commander in the 1./SS "DF" in the fighting of Operation “Barbarossa” he was awarded the EKI on 1.10.41.
Wolkerstorfer led the 15th /SS "DF" from September 1941, “and as company commander led his unit perfectly, and was not only a prudent leader but also an example of bravery and recklessness.”
On 23.9.41 the "DF" Regiment was in position in front of Sakunowo. The enemy had managed to maneuver strong forces into the rear of the II./SS "DF". The 15th company, as regimental reserve had to be deployed. In a surprisingly short time Wolkerstorfer, had penetrated his company into the village, and succeeded in destroying the surprised enemy. The company had to battle against Russian tanks which unexpectedly pushed into the area. One of these tanks was destroyed by Wolkerstorfer in close combat, while two more were destroyed by assault guns. The rest prudently withdrew. “Due to the special bravery of Wolkerstorfer and his prudent leadership, as well as the swift deployment of the 15th Company, the rear of the 2nd Battalion was cleared, and numerous prisoners and equipment were captured.” This action would mark Wolkerstorfer's first enemy tank destroyed in close combat.
On 8.10.41 Wolkerstorfer found out by reconnaissance in the direction of the motorway Misnk - Moscow that the enemy had brought large reserves at night from the direction of Moscow. In the dawn of the 9.10 Wolkerstorfer advanced with 2 SPW, 1 Motorcycle platoon, and PAK at the head of the II./SS "DF" and penetrated into Oreschewo. Before the opponent came to his senses, the motorcycle platoon had already taken the first positions and thus enabled the following 6th company to penetrate the defences of the bitterly defending, numerically superior opponent. Wolkerstorfer, in the decisive moments before the enemy units came to readiness, advanced at high speed with the help of two armoured cars and the motorcycle platoon, ensuring the capture of the position.
21.10.41 found Wolkerstorfer advancing in the direction of Borrisovo. Borrisovo was occupied by strong enemy forces and was taken under attack by the "DF" regiment. Wolkerstorfer covered the left flank of "DF" regiment, which later penetrated into the rear of the enemy positions at Borrisowo, but was repelled by enemy counterattacks.
Wolkerstorfer and his unit were crucial in the actions around the capture of the bridge at Borrisovo, as exposed to enemy fire, with the help of anti-tank and machine guns his unit managed to keep the bridge covered until the II./SS "DF" managed to reach it.
On 24.11.41 the 15./SS "DF" received the order to advance in the direction of Istra. With a subordinated assault gun Wolkerstorfer made a surprise advance on Istra, and destroyed the enemy outposts in the positions on the height before Istra. With supporting fire from the assault gun, Pz.Sp.Wg and anti-tank guns the enemy lost the strength of several companies. Pursuing the fleeing Russians, Wolkerstorfer, and his company reached the Istra bridge with some men before it could be blown up, despite heavy losses due to the strong defensive fire of tanks and artillery from the heights. During the attempt to remove the explosive charges, Wolkerstorfer was severely wounded at close range by a bullet. He remained with his company until they had succeeded in forming a small bridgehead, allowing the following III./SS "DF" to enter Istra and occupy the heights behind.
Due to his conduct at Istra, SS-Brigadeführer Wilhelm Bittrich sent the following communication on 5.12.41 to the SS-FHA. “Promotion due to bravery before the enemy. The division submits a promotion proposal to SS-Obersturmführer for SS-Untersturmführer Wolkerstorfer, Company Commander 15./SS "DF". The division asks to announce the promotion because of bravery before the enemy. Wolkerstorfer was particularly brave in forming the Istra bridgehead. In the leadership of his company, he proved himself through bravery and operational readiness, as well as clear and exemplary leadership. SS-Untersturmführer Wolkerstorfer was severely wounded during the fighting at Istra.”
Heavily wounded, on 26.1.42 Wolkerstorfer was admitted to the Heidelberg Military Hospital. The following report details Wolkerstorfer's diagnosis and convalescence:
“27.1.42: Single shrapnel wound in the groin or in the middle of the buttock healed without irritation. In the area of the right hand there is a distinct pulsating pre-curvature.
29.1.42: Arteriography: percutaneous arteriography of the femoral artery in an aneurysm in the area of the flexure of the leisten. The femoral artery is located at the upper end of the contrasting column. Somewhat below the hip joint one sees a cherry-sized dilated site. The arteriography should be repeated.
30.1.42: The patient goes on holiday.
10.2.42: The patient is back from vacation.
23.2.42: The aneurysm did not increase significantly during the treatment.
25.2.42: Arteriography shows the aneurysm spurium of the femoral artery, the size of a bonnet, a little above the bend of the ridge.
2.3.42: The patient is presented again to Prof. Dr. Kirschner, who does not consider an operation of the small aneurysm to be necessary at the moment. A new check in a 1/4 year is necessary.
9.3.42: Dismissal. Summary: Wolkerstorfer was wounded by a bullet in the right hand. The wounds healed well. However, an aneurysm of the femoral artery formed in the area of the flexure of the shoulder. The arteriography shows that it is an aneurysm spurium of the femoral artery. Since the small aneurysm did not increase in size during an observation period of several weeks, the consultant surgeon, Prof. Kirschner, recommended that the operation not be performed for the time being. Should the operation ultimately become necessary at a later date, the prognosis for the operation would be more favourable due to better development of the collateral circulation. Wolkerstofer is discharged for 1/4 year convalescence. This period of convalescence is absolutely necessary.”
Whilst in hospital, Wolkerstorfer was awarded three Tank Destruction Badges, for the first action, and two further tanks destroyed during the fighting near Moscow on 1.12.41. The awards were presented on 20.2.42 when he also received the Wound Badge in Silver for his wounds sustained at Istria.
Following his convalescence, Wolkerstorfer returned to the front; On 4.2.43 the regiment was positioned on the east-west axis in the area of Woltschansk. The 15th Company was ordered to reconnoitre the enemy positions in Jefremowka and then to establish itself south of Jefremowka for defence. Ostuf Wolkerstorfer led the reconnaissance himself and brought back the best results in the shortest time. On 5.2.43 he advanced from Jefremowka against Malaya-Volchia, against the enemy, and destroyed numerous heavy weapons and anti-tank guns, and brought back documents and strength reports about the enemy.
Until 16.2.43 the regiment was in position northwest of Bereka when the order was received to detach from the enemy. During that period the Russians pressed hard and it was not possible to disguise the withdrawal. The 15th Company was ordered to secure the release of the 2nd Battalion east of Ochochaje. As soon as the 2nd battalion had marched through Ochochaje to the west, the Russians attacked with strong cavalry against the 15th company. Obersturmführer Wolkerstorfer himself led counter-attacks and his company repulsed the Russian attacks, laying minefields at critical locations favourable for an enemy advance. When the remaining elements of the regiment had disengaged, Wolkerstorfer and his company withdrew.
On 20.2.43 the 15th company was ordered to reconnoitre in front of the regiment in the direction of Novomoskovsk. At Goshoffka the 15th Company encountered the enemy. In order to throw back the Russians Wolkerstorfer deployed the company and advanced into the village with his first platoon. After the initial advance it became clear that the enemy had occupied the village with strong forces and tanks. Wolkerstorfer and his company immediately attacked. After hours of fighting, they had managed to push the enemy out of the essential parts of the village. With two 5cm PAK the 15th company destroyed two Russian tanks. The following II. Battalion occupied and secured the village.
On 25.2.43 the regiment advanced from Pawlograd in the direction of Losawaja. The 15th Company had been sent ahead of the advance. South of Yurievka, the 15th Company encountered the enemy's rearguards, who had settled in positions along the railway line. The reconnaissance result of the 15th company allowed the possibility of destroying the enemy by surprise. Wolkerstorfer attacked with his company, penetrated the field positions and engaged the enemy. After the fighting, over 110 Russian dead remained, 10 heavy mortars, one 4.7 PAK, 3 Pz.Büchsen and a heavy MG were captured.
Regimental commander SS-Obersturmbannführer Otto Kumm wrote in Wolkerstorfer's recommendation for the German Cross in Gold “In addition to these bravery acts and examples of an impeccable and exemplary leadership, Wolkerstorfer has shown a long series of outstanding performances. He has always stood with his man where the going was tough in all previous campaigns. Every task, no matter how difficult it may seem, was handled without hesitation and thus essential successes were achieved. In spite of this, Wolkerstorfer is still a daredevil, and yet one of the bravest soldiers. Wolkerstorfer has earned the German Cross in Gold not only because of his outstanding one-time achievements, but also because of his constant 100 percent commitment.”
20.4.43 saw Wolkerstorfer's fourth and final award of the Tank Destruction Badge, and his last award as SS-Obersturmführer.
For his achievements, the following note dated 5.10.43 regarding Wolkersorfer's impending promotion to SS-Hauptsturmführer stated; “Wolkerstorfer is a proven SS officer; he has proven himselfiin the field and especially in the hard offensive and defensive actions in February and March. Additionally, as a result of his character and personality he is considered worthy of promotion.
On 1.10.43 Wolkerstorfer was transferred to the Balkans to the newly formed V.SS-Gebirgs-Korps.
17.3.44 would see Wolkerstorfer awarded the Close Combat Clasp in Silver, commanding 1./SS AA 105.
A V. SS-Gebirgs-Korps assessment dated 15.7.44 stated of Haupsturmführer Wolkerstorfer:
Personality evaluation, strength of character, weaknesses, inclinations: Decent, but not always of transparent character and tends slightly towards boastfulness. Good soldierly performance, but always requires exaggerated recognition, especially for awards and promotions that he is fully deserving of.
Mental and physical disposition, official services and knowledge: Very agile mentally with good achievements, has good tactical, skill at arms and technical knowledge.
Appearance and behaviour towards superiors, comrades and subordinates; off-duty behaviour: Of good appearance, but often falls back on immature, moody ideals. Prefers his subordinates to treat him with a certain blind adoration, which alienates some of his subordinates. In this area, maturity must be developed.
Ideological orientation: Convinced national socialist and old fighter, good ideological teacher. In his present role as company commander his performance is excellent. He fulfils his current position as deputy Battalion commander. Old Eastern Front veteran. His current aptitude and suitability is for the time being as commander of a Reconnaissance battalion.
Shortly afterwards, a V. SS-Gebirgs-Korps report on 20.10.44 when Wolkerstorfer was the commander of SS Aufklärungsabteilung 505 described him as a “tactful, sincere, and extremely active SS officer, an excellent soldier, enthusiastic about life with excellent organizational skills and personal readiness for action.” Regarding his aforementioned character traits, a cautionary note described Wolkerstorfer as “extremely capable of development; however, a strong leading hand is often necessary, as Wolkerstofer is sometimes still jumpy, with juvenile exuberance.”
On 19.3.45 Wolkerstorfer was nominated for the Knight's Cross, but the award was never ratified. His final decoration was the Wound Badge in Gold, which he received on 13.2.45 after being wounded for the sixth time.
Oskar Wolkerstorfer died in Linz, Austria on 11 January 1971.
Infantry Assault Badge in Bronze (1942)
Wound Badge in Black (1941)
Wound Badge in Silver (1942)
Wound Badge in Gold (1945)
German Cross in Gold on 9 April 1943 as SS-Obersturmfuhrer in the 15./SS-Panzergrenadier-Regiment "Der Fuhrer"
Iron Cross 2nd Class (1941)
Iron Cross 1st Class (1941)
3 x Tank Destruction Badge in Silver (1942)
1 x Tank Destruction Badge in Silver (1943)
Panzer Badge in Silver (1942)
Close Combat Clasp in Silver (1944)
Sudetenland Medal (1939)
Anschluss Medal (1939)
SS-Honour Ring (1942)
Eastern Front Medal (1942)
Croatian Order of the Crown of King Zvonimir, 3rd Class with Swords (1944)
Major Eugen Rettenmeier (9 December 1891 - 7 January 1965) is a commander of II.Bataillon / Grenadier-Regiment 578 - and then the regiment itself - during the Battle of Stalingrad (1942-1943). His unit were part of 305.Infanterie-Division. Rettenmeier was one of the oldest men in the division, and certainly the most senior combat commander. Born in the tiny village of Wört, his life began ordinarily enough as an elementary school teacher. In 1912, he entered the service in Grenadier-Regiment 119 and was made a Feldwebel shortly before the First World War began. As a young Leutnant he experienced the Great War from the very first day, received both grades of the Iron Cross and was wounded five times. Despite his wounds, he only returned home after the war. He married in 1919, returned to his teaching profession, and had five children – four sons and a daughter. All four sons would serve in the army during the war. On the very first day of the Second World War, 1 September 1939, Rettenmaier was recalled to the military. In 1941, he became a company commander in 305. Infanterie-Division, and later a battalion commander. In May 1942, he received the terrible news that his eldest son, Ottokar, had been killed on the Eastern Front. In a small note, his division commander sent him a personal message: "My dear Rettenmaier! I have just heard of the heroic death of your eldest son. I know you are suffering from so heavy a loss. My special sympathy belongs to you, the courageous soldier, who is now taking part in the second war in the front-line. Your pain, however, must be borne like a soldier. In comradely solidarity. Your division commander [signed Oppenländer]". As can be imagined, the loss affected Rettenmaier, and it rammed home with razor sharp clarity the fact that every one of his men was someone’s son or father. He genuinely cared for his men. Rettenmaier led his battalion throughout the entire summer campaign of 1942 and saw many of his officers and men killed. After leading a successful assault against the Serafimovich bridgehead, Rettenmaier headed home for some well deserved furlough, only to return to Stalingrad and find his division had been bled white. He felt guilty that he had been enjoying himself back in the homeland while his comrades were being killed and mutilated in Stalingrad.
"Island Of Fire: The Battle For the Barrikady Gun Factory In Stalingrad November 1942 - February 1943" by Jason D. Mark
Hugo Jörg, (exact birthdate unknown), joined the SS-Pioniersturmbann (SS-VT Engineer Battalion) in Leisnig in January 1935. He would later serve in the 3rd Company of the SS Engineer Battalion of the SS-VT until December 1940, seeing action in the French campaign of that year. He then became a combat engineer platoon leader with the Armored Recce Detachment of the 5.SS Panzer Division “Wiking” serving in this capacity until 1943 when he attended an officer’s training course at the SS Pioneer Schule “Hradischko” near Prague. Following completion of the course and promotion to SS-Untersturmführer he stayed on at the school as a platoon and company commander in an SS Engineer Training Battalion. In January 1945, with the rank of SS-Obersturmführer, Jörg was sent to the 23. SS-Frewilligen Panzergrenadier Division “Nederland”, which had just returned to Germany from the Kurland Front in Latvia and had begun a hasty reformation process. Hugo Jörg was assigned to command one of the combat engineer companies in SS-Engineer Battalion 54/23. SS-Frw. Pz.Gr.Div. “Nederland” He would remain at this post until the end of the war. During his wartime service he received many decorations including both classes of the Iron Cross. After the war, Hugo Jörg became very active in the “search service” and “comradeship” of the Waffen-SS combat engineer veterans known as the “Pioneerkameradschaft Dresden”, since Dresden had been the site of the original SS engineer unit. He was also a prominent amateur athlete and he was awarded the German Federal Sports Badge more than 30 times. This was given to people who could pass a government certified “fitness”/sports test. It was after a long workout at a sports field on 8 May 1998, in an effort to get yet another Sports Badge, that Hugo Jörg died suddenly of a heart attack. Being one of the older vets in the “comradeship” he was certainly well in his 80's at the time!
Karl Weyand was born on 31 July 1914 in Dillengen, Saar. From November 1935 until March 1938 he served with the SS-VT Standarte “Deutschland” in Ellwangen. In May 1938 he became a company clerk in the SS-VT Standarte “Der Führer” at the Radetzky Barracks in Vienna. From the beginning of the war until at least January 1944 he participated in all of the combat actions of the “DF” Regiment on the Western and Eastern Fronts. The next few months are a blank but by November 1944 he was again stationed at the Radetzky Barracks in Vienna. On the 21st of February 1945, SS-Hstuf. Weyand was transferred to the 36th SS Grenadier Division, (formerly the “probationary” SS-Sturmbrigade “Dirlewanger”). It is not known if this was a legitimate posting or done for “punishment” purposes, although at this time plenty of “normal” (i.e. not convict) personnel were now being added to strengthen the new division. Weyand’s last letter home was posted from Senftenberg / Niederlausitz on 23 March 1945. In April 1945, the 36th SS Division was caught up in fierce retrograde fighting and ended up in the so-called “Halbe” Pocket. It is presumed that SS-Hstuf. Weyand was killed during this time, although he remains missing-in-action.
Jacques Leroy, on the left of the photo, after having lost his right arm and right eye in the battle for the Cherkassy Pocket (he wears a glass eye). On the right is his younger brother Claude Leroy, then 17, who would also join the Waffen-SS “Wallonien” Division and be killed in action, along with hundreds of other European volunteers, in March 1945 in the fighting for the Oder River Bridgehead
Jacques Leroy was born on 10 September 1924 in Binden, Belgium. In 1943 he joined the 5.SS-Sturmbrigade “Wallonie” to battle communism on the Eastern Front. His two brothers would follow suit in the next year for the same reason. They saw the Soviet Red Terror as the greatest threat to Western Civilization. After completing an officer’s training course, SS-Untersturmführer Jacques Leroy arrived on the southern part of the Eastern Front with the “Wallonie” Assault Brigade in November 1944. During the difficult battle to escape from the encirclement around Cherkassy in February 1944, SS-Ustuf. Leroy was severely wounded, losing both his right arm and right eye. Fortunately his comrades were able to assist him out to safety.
Following an extensive convalescence, Leroy returned to his old unit, which was now the 28th SS Freiwilligen Panzergrenadier Division “Wallonien” and in early 1945 he accompanied the “Wallonien” battlegroup, (SS Regiments 69 and 70 and SS Artillery Detachment 28) to the Pomeranian front where he was to serve as a liaison officer between the headquarters staff and the combat elements and was not supposed to see action. However after the I. Battalion of SS Grenadier Reg. 69 lost its commander and sustained heavy losses, the now SS-Obersturmfürer Leroy assumed command of the unit and personally led it in several fierce close-combat engagements.
In March 1945, with a task force of 40 surviving members of the battalion, Jacques Leroy led them in the defense of Altdamm at the mouth of the Oder River. For three days and nights this band of Walloon volunteers held off sizable enemy assaults, even turning back an attack by 19 Red tanks on 17 March 1945, destroying many of them in the process. When they were finally relieved, only 8 of the defenders were still alive; 32 of them had been killed in action, including Jacques Leroy’s younger brother Claude. His other brother, a platoon leader, would fall in defense of the Finkenwalde railroad station, three days before the Soviet offensive on the Oder sector temporarily halted.
On 20 April 1945, SS-Ostuf. Jacques Leroy was decorated with the Knight’s Cross to the Iron Cross for his personal heroism and the performance of his command at the Altdamm Bridgehead in March 1945. At the end of the war he went into British captivity and was soon transported back to Belgium to face a long imprisonment and much ill-treatment at the hands of the new leftist Belgian authorities. Deprived of his basic rights in Belgium, Leroy moved as soon as he could to Bavaria and became a German citizen.
The after effects of his severe war wounds would plague him for the rest of his life. In 1992 he had to seek the assistance of state provided medical care. It was soon obvious that the doctor sent to him was actually more interested in making a “political statement” than in helping him. This individual immediately accused him of “fighting against his country”, to which Leroy replied: “That was not the case, I only fought against Bolshevism!” The physician responded by saying: “I hope you are now as much an anti-Nazi as you were an anti-Bolshevik.” Jacques Leroy was too astounded to respond to this as he only sought medical help and not a political confrontation from an expert “care giver”. In any event he always remained true to his comrades and was always proud of his service in the Waffen-SS.
Some 60,000 ethnic Germans from Romania would eventually be incorporated into the Waffen-SS, serving in nearly every SS division. From June 1941 until May 1945, 15,000 of them would be killed or missing-in-action. One of he first of these Romanian German soldiers to really distinguish himself was SS-Rottenführer Arthur Christian who became the first one to receive the Close Combat Clasp in Gold in November 1943. Christian had been born in Ulmbach, the Banat (German) Region of Romania on 4 August 1922. After Germany made arrangements to have Romanian ethnic Germans (who were otherwise Romanian citizens) do their required military service in the German Armed Forces (again almost all in the Waffen-SS), contingents of them began traveling to Germany in 1941.
Arthur Christian was among the first 600 Romanian ethnic German volunteers. This group was given a festive send-off in the Banat and then sent to Vienna to begin basic military training. After completing this, Christian was assigned to the “Der Führer” SS Panzergrenadier Regiment of the 2nd SS Panzer Division “Das Reich” which was heavily engaged on the Russian Front. On 28 January 1942, he received his first battle wounds in the front lines near Rzhev when he received splinters from an exploding artillery shell in his face and also suffered burns from a fuel “flash” explosion. Despite this he refused to be evacuated from his machine-gun post until the combat situation stabilized.
For his deeds at this time, Arthur Christian would receive the Iron Cross, 2nd Class, the Wound Badge in Black, the Infantry Assault Badge in Bronze and later the “Ost” medal or “Eastern Front” medal given to everyone who survived the brutal winter of 1941/1942 in Russia. After having participated in 50 battlefield engagements, he was awarded the Close Combat Clasp in Gold on 25 November 1943, receiving it personally from the “DF” Regimental CO, SS-Obersturmbanniführer Sylvester Stadler. He would soon also be decorated with the Iron Cross, 1st Class and receive a promotion to SS-Unterscharführer (Sergeant.).
Later on, fighting on the Western Front with the “Das Reich” Division, Arthur Christian would again be severely wounded and was decorated with the Golden Wound Badge during his lengthy convalescence. In fact the war ended while he was still a patient at a Waffen-SS military hospital in Vienna. Following his release from post-war captivity, Christian remained in Austria and trained to become a master mechanic. He then lived and worked in the Upper Austrian town of Waizenkirchen where he died prematurely (probably due to effects from his war wounds), on 5 December 1966 at the age of 44.
Besides being one of the first Romanian ethnic-Germans to be highly decorated, Arthur Christian had served in and survived some of the most brutal battles in history on both the Eastern and Western Fronts. He would be remembered by surviving veterans as a “good comrade, who was always prepared to help out as needed”.
Four young Zugführer (Platoon Commanders) from Pionier-Bataillon 25, pictured in the summer of 1942. From left to right: Leutnant Emil Gräf (1. Kompanie), Leutnant Anton Locherer (2. Kompanie), Leutnant Fritz Molfenter (2. Kompanie), and Leutnant Karl Vögele (2. Kompanie). The battalion was an excellent blend of experience and youth. Most of the officers had been soldiers or NCOs in the battalion during the Polish or French campaigns: the battalion was one of the fortunate few where men would spend their entire careers. If they were wounded, retrained or promoted, chances were very good that they would return to their beloved Pionier-Bataillon 45.
"Island Of Fire: The Battle For the Barrikady Gun Factory In Stalingrad November 1942 - February 1943" by Jason D. Mark
Men of Pionier-Bataillon 45 pose atop one of the many Soviet tanks that littered the vast battlefield west of Kalach, summer of 1942. “We passed through the steppe near Kalach and saw the results of a clash between 6. Armee and a Russian tank army”, recalls Gefreiter Karl Krauss from 2. Kompanie, “about one thousand shot up and derelict Russian tanks – from T-34s up to the 152mm equipped KV2s – covered the battleground, and amongst all these were countless quantities of guns and other materiel. Did Ivan still have the power to resist?”
"Island Of Fire: The Battle For the Barrikady Gun Factory In Stalingrad November 1942 - February 1943" by Jason D. Mark
Oberst Herbert Selle (Armeepionierführer 6. Armee in Stalingrad) is a colorful and very interesting character (see also his Wikipedia entry): Police officer, Stahlhelm official, early but short-term NSDAP member, involved in the Braunschweig power struggle of March 1933, Holocaust witness, prominent figure of the Stalingrad battle, afterwards critical of Hitler and the Wehrmacht leadership, arrested and prosecuted for "staatsfeindliche Äußerungen" (along with his 17-year-old daughter) in 1943, cleared because of "Unzurechnungsfähigkeit" and returned to service in 1944, after the war honorary member of the Bund der Pioniere and longtime leader of the Deutscher Jagdschutzverband (the german hunting association). Recommendations from Paulus, Schulz and Schörner for promotion to Generalmajor were never acted upon (for obvious reasons).
"Island Of Fire: The Battle For the Barrikady Gun Factory In Stalingrad November 1942 - February 1943" by Jason D. Mark