Bender's Soldbuch Story
following was taken from the Die Neue Feldpost newsletter
& was done so with permission of the publisher.
We would like to thank him for his generosity as well
as thank all those who have contributed to this
article. It is with their efforts, we are able
to share this valuable research with the rest of you.
tragic. We know it is because the poets,
writers, veterans and victims are constantly telling
us so. But the meaning of "tragedy"
comes more into focus when we find it woven into the
history of something we research so much that we
become almost personally involved. For instance,
after reading about and researching the 272nd Division
for literally hundreds of man hours, we get a peek at
"tragedy" when we read about the slaughter
of two score of 272nd Landser in a bunker in the
Siegfried Line, and comprehend the description of the
carnage that clean-up crews found inside when it was
over. After all, these guys were from
"our" particular piece of WW2, so we may
feel a pang of regret when we read about the event as
a whole. However, it becomes almost painful
when you can put a name, face, and life story on one
of those lifeless bundles that were carried out into
the open on that winter day....
January of 1945 and the battle for Bunker 24 was over.
A destroyed American tank stood at the entrance of the
bunker as sort of a baleful honor guard as a party of
somber Feldgrau carry the bodies out of the
broken structure. One of these bodies is laid on
the ground and relieved of his Soldbuch and personal
effects. His dogtag is fished out from among
layers of clothing and is broken in half. This
little scene was carried out more times between 1939
and 1945 than we can count, but we know this
casualty, we know what he looked like when he
was alive and vital, and we know the name of
the person would mourn him when word of his fate
reached home. This soldier's name was Ernst
Bender, and the shock waves of the blast that
killed him would eventually carry all the way to Minna,
his wife, who was now another victim of World War Two.
This article is a translation of the information in
born on Oct. 14, 1907, and eventually found his wife
in the girl named Minna. They lived in a place
called Staufenberg. Despite a receding
hairline, Ernst was a rather handsome man with a
friendly face, 5'-5" tall, with black hair
graying at the temples and brown eyes.
February of 1941, Ernst was drafted into the German
Army, and his first post was the 390th Infantry
Replacement Battalion. He was issued a Soldbuch
and an aluminum dogtag with the inscription 3./Inf.Ers.Btl.390
"5017" (his tag number), and
"A" (his blood type). By March,
he was with 32./Landesschützen Bn. 411.
This unit supplied personnel for the POW facilities in
Wehrkrise V. Next he was transferred to the Bewach.-Komp.
of Mil.Stammlager 385, which meant that he was
probably a guard in Stalag 385.
of 1941, after 18 months of service, Ernst was
promoted to Oberschütze, and this was as high
as he would go. As a member of these "zone
of the interior" units, he was armed with a Czech
G24t, and then a French rifle.
fall of 1943, Stalag 385 was dissolved and its German
personnel transferred elsewhere. Ernst was
transferred to Landesshützen Bn. 917. which
was moved to the Ukraine to assist the German 6th Army
with rear-echelon duties such as guarding prisoners,
guarding railways, anti-partisan duties, etc..
Apparently, Obergrenadier (in 1943 all the
"Schützen" were renamed
"Grenadiers") Bender was not used to the
rigors of field service, for on April 27th, 1944, he
was admitted to Reserve Hospital VIIId in
Vienna with Bronchitis. It was almost a month
before he was deemed fit to return to duty. The
war was slowly coming to meet Ernst Bender of
recovering enough to leave the hospital, he got a
14-day convalescent leave. On his way home, he
received a "Führergeschenk" (a gift
parcel of foodstuffs scarce at home: coffee, sugar,
dried fruits, etc..) and 10 Reichmarks as a token of
his country's appreciation for his duty outside the
Reich. After returning from leave, he joined the
ranks of the Genesenden Kp. (convalescent)
company of Landesschützen Ers.u.Ausb.Bn.6
(Home defense replacement and training Bn. 6).
He was with this outfit only briefly, but long enough
to have his picture taken for his Soldbuch. The
photo shows him, smiling pleasantly, and dressed in
some non-standard wool tunic. From here, it was
back to 6th Army and the 917th Landesshützen
Battalion. The front had changed.
Aggressive new sweeping attacks by the Soviets were
now turning German zones of communications and supply
into battlefields. In August of 1944, Ernst's
unit was involved in heavy fighting around a Moldavian
city named Jassy as the Soviet 2nd and 3rd
Ukranian Fronts completed and encirclement of the
doomed 6th Army. Ernst was wounded in the head
by a shell splinter, and this landed him in the
hospital for the next month. Ernst Bender of
Staufenberg had just received war's warm greeting.
discharge from the hospital, Ernst was transferred to
the convalescent company of Grenadier
Ers.u.Ausb.Bn.306. This may have been a
cause for concern for Ernst because this unit was not
a replacement center for rear-echelon units; it
provided replacements for combat units.
It's also an indication of Germany's manpower shortage
to point out that a 37-year-old man who had previously
been restricted to guarding prisoners and rear-echelon
duty was now being culled for frontline combat.
He was with this unit until he was put in a transport
pool (Marsch-Kompanie 306) for transfer to the
front. Before leaving, he was given 15 days
leave to visit his family. This was in November
of 1944, and by that December, Ernst found himself in
the company of Füsilier Kompanie 272.
Obergrenadier Bender now became Oberfüsilier
Bender. After 4 years, Ernst Bender of
Staufenberg was now in war's full embrace.
this new member of Volksgrenadier Division 272 bring
with him as he joined his new comrades under the
mutter of the guns on the Westfront? In a small
document called a Ausbildungsnachweiß (or
"training record sheet", which was supposed
to be destroyed as soon as the soldier reached his
field unit, but seems often to have survived), the
306th Replacement and Training Bn. indicated that
Ernst was trained as a rifleman, and that his job in
the front lines should be the same. This same
unit also inventoried his clothing and equipment, with
the following results:
pr. low-quarter boots
He is also
recorded as having a Model 30 gasmask, a gas-sheet,
and one container of anti-gas skin salve.
No record of any weapon, so perhaps he was shipped to
the front without one, and received one from the 272nd
5th, 1945, the war loosened its embrace of Ernst
Bender of Staufenberg, and let the earth have him:
Ernst was killed by the blast effects of American
demolition on the bunker in which he was sheltered.
His wife Minna received the sad news on January 26,
1945. Sometime later, she would have received
something else: her husband's personal effects, sent
to her by the Company Hauptfeldwebel, Herman
Fuhrmeister. In the package would
have been "...photographs, one change
purse containing 45 Pfenning, and one lighter."
shares a grave with a young man named Erich Teumer in
the military cemetery at Gemünd. Ironically,
Ernst's date of death carved upon the stone is wrong:
instead of "5.1.45", it reads vaguely
"Dez.44". Of course, this is a
relatively insignificant error involving an
insignificant person from an insignificant battle, so
who will ever really care?