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.
was a mortal one, and the staff of Medical Company 246
knew it. There was nothing remarkable about this
particular casualty, really, because dying
soldiers had become sadly common over the previous 5
years, and this field hospital was full of other
maimed and hurt Landser. The dying man, who was
undoubtedly aware of his fate after he was hit, was
now probably drowsing under the influence of morphine
-- this was a good thing, because it blocked not only
his physical pain but also the mental anguish that
would have come as he faced his own mortality.
The wounded man had surely been acquainted with the
usual result of serious stomach wounds, for he had
seen the effects of bullets before -- both in another
hospital in 1942 and on the battlefields of France and
that evening, 2 months short of his 30th birthday.
carried his body out to the sprawling cemetery near
the dressing station, some other member of the Medical
Company gathered his personal effects and sat down to
perform the necessary paperwork:
let's see here... Max Groner. Not even from our
division, says here that he's one of that bunch from
the 272nd. Tough luck for you, Groner, to get it
now. I mean, surely the war cannot last much
was born on March 4, 1915 as part of a new generation,
destined to inherit a Germany from their fathers who
were being slaughtered elsewhere at that very minute.
He was raised in the quaint Upper Bavarian city of Regensburg.
a field-gray suit for the first time in the mid- to
late 1930's when he fulfilled his compulsory 1-year
military obligation, after which he was discharged
into the Landwehr (Reserves) as a Gefreiter.
He then returned to Regensburg and took up his
father's occupation as a painter.
old Adolf was doing his martial rain-dance, and the
war-clouds were gathering obediently in response.
Angry declarations were shouted and countries were
annexed or occupied without any fighting, but in
August of 1939, the German reserves were mobilized in
preparation for something much bigger. Max was
not called up just yet. In September, the
Wehrmacht marched on Poland. Unlike the earlier
bloodless conquests, more than one Landser was blasted
out of his jackboots this time, for the Poles were
possessed by a fierce national pride, and were not
defenseless even if they were outclassed. Like
most of the German units involved, the 10th Infantry
Division had to send a message back to its replacement
centers in Upper Bavaria: "We need more
replacement center housed the Infanterie
Nachrichten Ersatz Kompanie 10 (Infantry Signals
Replacement Co. 10), located in Regensburg. They
in turn sent out letters to bring in new conscripts
and area reservists. One of these letters was
delivered to Max Groner, ordering him to forsake his
paintbrush and report to the barracks at the beginning
of October. On October 3, 1939, he was issued a
dogtag (stamped I.N.E.Kp.10 #57) and a Soldbuch.
Incidentally, the number of his Soldbuch and dogtag
were the same (#57), and while this was uncommon later
in the war, it was more frequent in early- or pre-war
issues (for explanation of why this happened, see the
article on German
Infanterie Dogtags). He also retained
his old rank of Gefreiter.
purpose of an INEK training unit was to supply
infantry regiments with trained communications
specialists. These soldiers would have worn a
white blitz (lightning bolt) on their sleeve
and the white-piped shoulder boards of the infantry.
Unlike the yellow-piped signal troops who were
organized in specialized units and who received
comprehensive and diversified training on
communication techniques, these "infantry
signalers" were only trained in the specific
methods used at infantry regiment and below:
telephones, infantry radio gear, and messenger
small units, too small in fact to have their own
paymaster, sick bay, or clothing and equipment stores.
For these services, an INEK depended on a larger
training formation which was stationed in the same
place; in this case, the larger unit was Infanterie
Ersatz Btl. 20.
know what Max's function was in INEK 10. These
units normally also provided "boot camp" for
new recruits, but since Max was prior service, it is
doubtful that he underwent basic training a second
time. He may have been part of the training cadré,
or he may have attended a "refresher
course". What probably happened, however,
was that Max was part of an army-wide program to
supply itself with certain types of specialists.
For some reason, during the 1939 mobilization it
appears that the Army experienced a severe
shortage of infantry signalers, and a variety of
methods were used to correct it. Herman
Fuhrmeister, for example, was a former
rifleman who found himself in a divisional signals
school for retraining. Max probably represented
a second method of quickly producing signalers:
retraining of reservists by the replacement centers.
the circumstances, Max would seem to have been more
suited to climbing a painter's scaffold than lugging
50 pounds of telephone wire over rough terrain.
He was described as being 5' 6" tall and of
slight build. He also had dark blonde hair, gray
eyes, and was of the catholic faith.
year or early in 1940, Max was transferred to Infantry
Regiment 20 (of the 10th Division) which was
recuperating in Marburg after the Polish campaign.
Max was assigned to the HQ group of one of the
battalions, which was the normal location for
battalion-level communications personnel.
February 1940, Max was promoted to Obergefreiter
and about two weeks later got a routine 1-week leave.
the German Army marched again, this time its
traditional foe - France. The 20th Regiment
waited in reserve until June, then served in the Aisne
sector until the end of the campaign. By late
August, they were back in Germany at the Grafenwöhr
training grounds. Meanwhile, the army had
decided to convert the 10th Infantry into a motorized
division, and this initiated a number of changes.
In a regular infantry regiment, the Nachrichten
Staffel (communications group) was equipped with
horse-drawn wagons. Of course, in the motorized
units they used cars and light trucks, all of which
required drivers. Max attended a driving school
and was issued a Class I military drivers license in
September. According to a statement on the gray
oilcloth document, it was "only valid in
conjunction with the Soldbuch". Staple rust
marks show it to have been carried inside the front
cover of the Soldbuch.
he got a 20-day Zustehender Urlaub (routine leave).
By the time he returned, the method of divisional
transition from foot to tire had changed. Rather
than retraining and re-equipping all of the different
horse-drawn elements, they would all be transferred
out and replaced with trained motorized personnel from
the replacement centers. The horse-drawn
elements were sent to the brand-new 134th Infantry
Division which was in the process of forming at
Grafenwöhr. Max was assigned to the HQ group of
III./IR 439 (3rd Bn., Inf. Regt. 439). Rather
than looking over a truck's hood, he would continue to
view the backside of a horse. The 134th
organized and trained at Grafenwöhr until March 1941
when it was moved to eastern Germany.
In June of
that summer, the 134th joined the field-gray tide
moving east. They fought their way across
Russia, steadily losing men and energy until they
dragged themselves, utterly exhausted, to a place
called Jelez at the beginning of December. It
was unfortunate timing: the worn out, disorganized,
ill-equipped German division, grinding to a halt right
in front of a concealed steamroller of Siberian
assault troops poised to start a large-scale
December 6th, the Soviets unleashed their famous
winter offensive and Regt. 439 was almost immediately
cut off and surrounded. Brutal fighting erupted
as the regiment battled Ivan and the cold to regain
the German lines.
armies produce bravery on an individual basis as well.
On Dec. 10, 1941, Obergefreiter Groner did something
during that fighting retreat which earned him an Iron
Cross, Second Class.
of 1942, the lines were beginning to stabilize and the
439th was back on the attack by the end of the month
as it advanced through a forest near Orel.
During a brief rest on February 4th, Max was
field-promoted to Unteroffizier and awarded his Iron
Cross Second Class. It was a time-honored
practice in armies of all ages: after a debilitating
battle, fill some vacancies with field promotions and
hand out some awards to buck up morale.
February 12th, the small remnant of the 439th had
reached the edge of the woods. Its next mission
was to fight its way across the open fields beyond,
cross a river, and on to the next town. Their
ranks were thinned out even more in the process of
accomplishing this. Among the Landser who were
struck down was the brand-new Unteroffizier; he was
wounded and evacuated to a hospital in Warsaw.
transferred from one hospital to the next. At
Reserve Hospital 26 in Vienna, he underwent an audit
of his uniform and equipment. One can only
imagine the reaction of the war-weary, frosbit,
bleeding soldier as some hospital clerk made the
official notation in his Soldbuch: "ist nicht
im Besitz einer Gasmaske!" (is not in
possession of a gas mask!).
remained in hospitals for a total of about 4 months
until June 2, 1942, when he was transferred to the Genesenden
Kompanie (Convalescent Co.) of the replacement
unit associated with Inf. Regt. 439 which happened to
be Infanterie Ersatz Bn. 440 in Zittau.
He was then immediately given a 2-week Genesendenurlaub
performing the typical light duties assigned the
soldiers of a convalescent company, Max was reassigned
to the Marsch Kompanie of IEB 440.
Another common part of training battalions, these
companies were filled up with trained recruits at the
replacement facility, then transported to the front
where the rookies were transferred to units in the
field regiment. The Marsch Kompanie
"Cadre", which consisted of command and
administration personnel just like any other company,
then returned to the training camp to begin reforming.
Max was probably one of these "cadre"
soldiers who escorted the recruits to the front.
He definitely looked the part of the veteran now, for
he had received a black wound badge for his previous
suffering and the Eastern Front Winter Campaign medal,
better known to the soldiers as the Gefreierfleischorden
(order of the frozen meat).
passed with little change. In October of 1942,
the Zittau dental station gave Max a new dental plate
(!). He got a wide variety of furloughs,
including a Wochenendurlaub (weekend leave) for
the 1943 new year, a couple of 4-day Kurzurlaub
(short leaves), and a Festtagsurlaub (holiday
leave) for New Year 1944. He got a Sonderurlaub
(special leave) in August 14, 1943, and would have
been in Regensburg during the big US bombing raid on
August 17. Max received a total of 86 days
of leave time between the time he left the hospital
and March of 1944.
On Feb. 5,
1943, he was examined and found fit for "tropical
service", but the subsequent demise of the Afrika
Korps probably eliminated the need for more
"tropical service" men so Max stayed on the
of 1944 almost destroyed the Wehrmacht. The
Russians had flattened an entire Army Group and France
had been lost along with many of its defenders.
By Autumn, hostile soldiers pressed in on almost every
border of the Reich, and the surviving Landser were
fighting desperately for time as the German Armed
Forces attempted a miracle recovery. This
eleventh-hour comeback was accomplished as recruits
were hurriedly trained and the whole Wehrmacht was
scoured for surplus men to be used in reforming the
combat divisions. Max Groner was netted in this
search, given his marching papers and pointed towards
receiving his orders, he was given the customary Einsatzurlaub
(deployment leave), which for him lasted from November
18 to December 3, 1944. On December 4, he went
to the clothing and equipment depot of Grenadier
Ersatz Bn. 440 and left with the following items as he
prepared to leave for the front:
pr. lace-up boots
photgraph in the Soldbuch was probably taken earlier
that year, but his appearance would have been the same
at this time: he wore a new M43 tunic with subdued
tress, and his two ribbons are worn through a
buttonhole. The collar liner listed above is
just visible above his tunic-collar.
"transportation unit" organized for this
group of replacements from many sources was called Marsch
Btl. z.b.V. 800 (transport battalion for special
employment 800), and Max was put in the 1st Company.
battalion headed for the Western Front, and Max was
deposited at the billets of Füsilier Kompanie 272
sometime in December, and became the 213th man placed
on the rolls.
company was being used as a "fire brigade"
on the 272nd Division's sector of the Siegfried Line,
being rushed from danger point to danger point.
On January 4th, they were given the mission of
recapturing Bunker 27 just west of Simmerath.
What they didn't know, however, was that elements of
the American 78th Division (including some tanks) were
given a similar mission to eliminate German positions
in the very same area. The two attacks collided,
but the GIs had the "bigger gun" and the
result was predictable: the German attacks were
bloodily repulsed and the Füsiliers were eventually
overwhelmed by the American assault which followed.
battle, as the Germans attempted to storm Bunker 27
for the second time in the early morning hours of
January 5th, a sub-machinegun bullet caught Max in the
stomach and passed clear through the body. He
was probably carried back to the
Truppenverbandplatz (battalion aid station) of the
1st Bn. of Grenadier Regiment 689, which was a unit of
the 246th Volksgrenadier Division. Another
member of the company named Kurt Siegmund, also
wounded in the stomach, had been brought there too.
Max was then evacuated to the 246th Division's Hauptverbandplatz
(divisional aid station), but Kurt died before he
could be moved.
in the HVP at 8:45 that evening. His personal
effects (or at least whatever was left; some members
of the German Medical Service were infamous for
pilfering their patient's belongings) and a letter
from the surgeon in charge were sent straight to his
family, and his Soldbuch and a copy of the letter was
sent back to Füs. Kp. 272. The letter, which is
probably full of comforting half-truths (as many such
letters are), reads as follows:
It is with sadness
that I must bring a painful message to you.
Your son, Unteroffizier Max Groner, was
seriously wounded in the stomach on Jan. 5
at 3 AM during combat over positions in the
Eifel. He was immediately brought to
our main dressing station where he died at
8:45 PM despite undergoing an operation
performed by specialists. Your son was
not aware of the severity of his condition
and like every casualty in this situation,
he hoped to recover and see his loved ones
Dear family Groner,
I can sympathize with you, and I know what
the hero's death of your son means to you
and how hard this news must be for you.
You can be assured that my staff and myself
did everything possible to save his life.
He paid the supreme sacrifice in the
ultimate fulfillment of his oath. The
importance of his mission for a high purpose
can also be a consolation to you. We
buried your son in the military cemetery in
Sauermühle, 10 km west of Gemund in the
Eifel. The possessions which your son
had when he came to us will be sent to you
shortly, and his possessions which remain at
his company will be sent to you from there.
With sympathy in
Stabsarzt u. Kompaniechef
Max was buried in the dressing-station's cemetery
along the main road in Sauermühle, 10 kilometers from
where he was wounded. All 120 of these graves
were moved after the war to a permanent war cemetery
dragged on for 5 months after Max was killed, and
Germany was left to rebuild. The bomb craters
were filled, the rubble cleared, and the bunkers which
were once so vital that men died for them were left to
weather amid grazing dairy cattle. Today, there
are few people who even remember who Max Groner was,
or know anything about him. Besides the details
already covered in this story, we also know one other
thing about him though, concerning a certain passion
of his. He was a collector of sorts, for still
pressed between the pages of his Soldbuch are a dozen
four-leaf clovers. It is truly amazing to note
the things that people put their faith in: while Max
Groner was finding some hope in a clover patch, his
country was entrusting its future to a man in Berlin.
In the end, neither one seems to have been a sound