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.
January 30th, 1945. In the damp, chilly interior
of a bunker in the Siegfried Line, a 42 year-old
Hauptfeldwebel inventories the personal effects of
members of his Kompanie who were recently killed in
action. The twin rings of tress on his cuffs
shone dully in the candlelight as his hands move
across the table; checking items against a typewritten
sheet before signing his name at the bottom: soggy
photographs, sweat-stained wallets, pocketknives, a
string of rosary beads, a broken wristwatch with
powdered bits of bunker-concrete trapped under the
July 1993, and we can look at the legacy of this sad
inventory - a number of personal effects lists, all
signed by the Company's Hauptfeldwebel. The
Company was the 272nd Füsilier Kompanie, and
the man with the blue pencil was Hauptfeldwebel
Hermann Fuhrmeister. Who was this man,
who undoubtedly was a person of importance to the
other members of the 272nd Füsiliers? Lucky for
us, we have his Wehrpaß, and although it can't tell
us of things such as what it was like to be the
"Mother of the Company", it can give
us some information on his background and military
history. The following article has been put
together from entries and documents in his Wehrpaß.
born Hermann Karl Fuhrmeister on
December 4th, 1902 in Süpplingen to Emma and Hermann
Fuhrmeister; Hermann Sr. died in 1932. Hermann
Jr. took part in some SA competitions in the early
1930's, for he was awarded the SA's Sport Badge.
The 1936 Wehrpaß photo shows him as a fair
complexioned, blonde-haired, open-countenanced man of
30th, 1936, Hermann volunteered for the Army, and he
left his wife Ilse and his home in Hildesheim for 16.(Erg.)
Kompanie, Inf. Regt. 82 on January 4, 1937.
He took his soldier's oath seven days later on January
11th. During his basic training he trained with
the G98 rifle, MG13 machine gun, and the P,08 (Luger)
pistol. The three-month training course ended on
March 4, 1937, after which he was deemed qualified to
serve as an MG gunner. Also on March 4th, 1937,
he was selected as an UnterFührer-Anwärter,
or Gefreiter candidate.
then attended a 2-month UnterFührer-Anwärter school
in Hildesheim as part of 16.(E) Kompanie, I.R.17,
which he completed in October of 1937. This
qualified him to serve as a Gefreiter d. Reserve
and an Unteroffizier-Anwärter d. reserve.
After this training, he was discharged into the
28th, 1939, he was recalled to active duty and became
a member of 4. Kompanie, Infanterie Regiment 396
of the 216th Infantry Division, and almost immediately
on Sept. 3rd, he left for the Western border of
Germany with his unit.
of the Landwehr Divisions mobilized at the beginning
of the war, the 216th had a shortage of certain
specialists. In order to fill these gaps, the
various units held courses to retrain soldiers for the
desired technical jobs. Hermann attended one of
these courses: a three-month long class in radios and
telephone equipment conducted by the 396th's
Regimental Signals Platoon. On December 4th,
1939, Hermann was promoted to Unteroffizier.
February 18th, 1940, Hermann was transferred to the
Stab (HQ group) of the 2nd Battalion of I.R.396 was
dissolved in the fall of 1943. His first job a
member of this organization was as a Funk Trupp-Führer,
or radio team leader. It was in this capacity
that Hermann marched off on the invasion of France on
May 10th, 1940.
and his radio team participated in the attack on the
Lys River near Machelen in Belgium on May 26th, and
this was the first day recorded on his "Sturmtage"
which counted to the award of the Infantry Assault
badge. He probably also participated in the
invasion of the Channel Islands, and at some time
during his participation in this strenuous campaign,
Hermann earned himself the Iron Cross, Second Class.
during the occupation-service which the regiment found
itself performing after the French capitulation, the
decorated Unteroffizier received training to be a Nachrichtenstaffel-Führer,
or Battalion Signals group leader. The Battalion
Nachrichtenstaffel was a small unit composed of radio
and telephone teams which allowed the battalion staff
to communicate with its own companies and with
regimental HQ. This training probably culminated
with his promotion to Feldwebel on Christmas Eve of
1940, and his permanent assignment as the 2nd
summer of 1941, the Wehrmacht marched eastward, and
later that Fall the Landserof the 216th Division
boarded the trains which would carry them into the
cauldron they would call the Ostfront.
Like most of the German units that winter, they left
with winter clothing and equipment which would prove
to be woefully inadequate.
of battles that Heinrich participated in up to the
fall of 1943 is long and reads like a Russian train
schedule: town after town, rivers, regions, army
zones. During his time on the Eastern Front, he
racked up 5 more "assault days" (his assault
badge was awarded to him by Regt.348 on May 7, 1942),
and 5 days of "close combat" which would
count toward the receipt of a close-combat clasp.
In the summer of 1942, he was given the Medaille
"Winterschlacht im Osten" (Eastern Front
Medal), and sometime in September he was wounded.
He was awarded a black wound badge, and after he
recovered was promoted to Oberfeldwebel.
12, 1943, the Nachrichtenstaffel leader was awarded
the Iron Cross First Class by Divisonal HQ.
fall of 1943, the Lower-Saxon 216th Division was so
battered that a decision was made to completely
rebuild it to the standards of a Infanterie
Division 43 neuer Art (New type Infantry Division
43). Most of the survivors of the old Division
were sent back to Belgium to reform within the
framework of Infanterie Division 272, and the 2nd
Battalion of Regt. 396 was renamed Füsilier
Battalion 272. Hermann now found himself in
the Second Company of this unit.
Füsiliers were training and doing occupation duty in
the south of France, Oberfeldwebel Fuhrmeister was
appointed to a special post in his Company: that of
the Spieß, or Hauptfeldwebel. In
the American Army, this would be approximately
equivalent to a rank of Company First Sergeant,
although in the German Army this is not really a rank
at all. The organization of a German Infantry
Company had sort of a "dual monarchy".
The Company Commander was responsible for the
execution of operational orders received by his unit
and the direction of the Company in action. The
Hauptfeldwebel was concerned with the internal
workings of the outfit - the "human" side.
One German vet has aptly put it: "The
Hauptmann, he is the father, the one who takes care of
outside business. The Spieß, he is the mother.
He takes care of the family". Although
still an Oberfeldwebel in rank, Hermann would have
added the two Kolbenringe of tress to each cuff
of his tunic, stuck the Company duty-book in the front
of his tunic, and assumed a myriad of
responsibilities: organizing details, managing the
company supplies, arranging transportation of supplies
to the line units, managing the company's field
kitchen, handling enlisted men's records, etc..
came next, and it was a broken and bloodied Division
which marched out of the smoke of Caen and Lisieux.
For the second time, Hermann marched back towards his
Fatherland with a decimated unit which was ordered to
rebuild; this time it was back to the Berlin area to
be rebuilt within the framework of Volksgrenadier
initial tables of organization of the VG Divisions had
reduced the Füsilier Battalion of the 43nA Division
to a single Füsilier Kompanie, and the veterans of Füsilier
Battalion 272 were collected and placed into Füsilier
Kompanie 272. Fuhrmeister was chosen to be
their Spieß: he was the first man on the rolls of the
new unit - his Stammrollenummer was 1/44 (the
"1" was his numerical order of entry with
the unit, and the "44" was his year of
entry). As ex-members of former companies of the
defunct Füsilier Battalion were integrated into the
new Kompanie, there were letters written between
Fuhrmeister and the other Hauptfeldwebels of the old
battalion. These letters usually dealt with
Hermann's attempts to get up-to-date data on the men
of his new unit, for instance, who was really at which
battles (towards earning an assault badge or
close-combat clasp), and so forth.
November of 1944, the Kompanie was in combat in the
Monschau Corridor area of the Hürtgen Forest Region.
At the beginning of December, the Company CO, Oberleutnant
Kolb, informed the Spieß of his responsibilities as
the keeper of records in a mobile unit (since the Füsiliers
had bicycles, they were considered mobile troops) and
Hermann signed the document which informed him of the
seriousness of said duties:
that Hermann was still with the Kompanie in the early
part of 1945, for there are company records from this
period which bear his distinctive signature. We
don't know for certain what happened to him, but since
only his Wehrpaß was found amongst the papers of the
company (the KIAs were represented in the records by
their Soldbuchs and dogtag-halves), it is hoped that
he survived and returned to his wife in Lower Saxony.
If he did make it home, then he would have been one of
the very few Landser who marched into one end of the
war and out the other.
of Spieß did Fuhrmeister make? Again, with the
limited data we have available that is almost
impossible to say for sure, but we can make some
veterans and pertinent literature informs us that
Hauptfeldwebels came in all levels of competence and
character; from the strict and feared, the kind and
lovable, to the lazy and corrupt. One Spieß
could be constantly found at the front, fighting with
the troops, while another would be found drunk in a
cellar. How did Hermann rate?
know that he did not spend as much time at the front
as some other Hauptfeldwebels. For example, the
records of Willi Kumpka, who was the Spieß of
5./G.R.1120, lists thirteen "close combat
days" for 1944. Likewise, Fuhrmeister's
unit recorded literally dozens of close-combat and
assault days for its soldiers in Normandy, and yet
more after reorganization and commitment to the
Siegfried Line actions. Not one day of either
close combat or assault is listed for Hermann as an
individual after his appointment to Hauptfeldwebel.
On January 5th, 1945, the majority of the Füs. Kp.
was either killed in Bunker 24 or wounded in the
earlier attacks launched against US positions; among
the slain was Oberleutnant Kolb. Again, Hermann
was untouched and apparently not involved.
other hand, the records of Füsilier Kompanie 272 show
an amazing degree of accuracy and attention to detail
which was uncommon at this chaotic stage of the war.
Records on the burial of casualties were kept
up-to-date, personnel lists were accurately kept, and
memos regarding supply issues filed. While
Hermann may not have been among the most combative of
Hauptfeldwebels, he apparently took his administrative
duties very seriously.
taking some time to acquaint myself with this man
through his paperwork, and having seen the pictures
and read the records of many other men from this
company whose lives ended before the war did, I find
myself sincerely hoping that Hermann eventually
graduated from Hauptfeldwebel to Großvater.