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Harald Nehring's Soldbuch Story
By Eric Tobey, revised by Jonathan Bocek


The 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.

Some papers of the 272nd Volksgrenadier Division were discovered recently in the Harz mountains in Germany, and among them were documents which once belonged to Füsilier Kompanie 272.  A Soldbuch was part of these records, and this book has an almost unbelievable relationship to the book that was featured in Die Neue Feldpost #2 which belonged to a Grenadier of the 980th named Horst Swenssen.

As related in Issue #2, Horst was issued his Soldbuch from Inf. Nachr. Ers. Kp. 208 on June 28, 1944.  If we can imagine the line of recruits receiving their Soldbuchs, then the fourth man in front of Horst was a young man named Harald Nehring.  Harald's Soldbuch was number 1961, Horst's was 1965.  Probably that same day, and possibly in that same line, they received their dog tags; Harald's was #5996, Horst's was #6000.  Given the small size of a Nachrichten Ersatz Kompanie and the general similarities between the two men, it would not be too great a leap of the imagination to see them as acquaintances or even friends.  At any rate, this is Harald's story as gleaned from his Soldbuch; any further conjecture must be left up to the reader!

Harald was born on January 27th, 1926 in Oldenburg to a salesman named Rudi Nehring and his wife Marthe.  By 1944, the family lived in Jüterbog which was a small city of between 5,00 and 10,000 people located about 50 km south of Berlin.  On June 28th, 1944, Harald was inducted into the Wehrmacht and was described as a "student" who was about 5' 7" tall, of stout build with blonde hair and blue eyes.  At the time of enlistment he would have been 17 years old.

Most of the entries in the book concerning Harald's training period in INEK 208 are the same as that recorded in Horst Swenssen's book, and can be found here: Horst Swenssen's SoldbuchIn fact, the handwriting for the various entries is the same!  One notable difference is the uniform worn by Harald in his Soldbuch photo; whereas Horst was wearing a modified M43 with dark-green collar, Harald is wearing what appears to be either an M43 or M40 with the earlier pattern (grey on dark green) breast eagle.  Another interesting fact is that both men were photographed in open collars, with their collar liners plainly visible!

Inside this Soldbuch were also several additional papers which were missing from Horst's book.  Harald's shooting record lists four seperate rifle shoots: one on July 15, 1944 when he shot a 29 in shooting class II, the second shoot was on July 29, when he shot a 25 in shooting class I, the third on August 20 for a score of 32 in class II, and the last was on September 3 when he shot a 24 in shooting class 99.

On September 16th, which probably marked the end of his training period, Harald was given a 10-day leave to visit his home in Jüterbog.  On September 28, shortly after returning to INEK 208, he was issued a small document called a Laufzettel.  The purpose of this small sheet was to insure that Harald was processed by every one of the specialized sections which would prepare him for his transfer to a field unit:  clothing stores, weapons locker, records office, training unit commander, chemical warfare section, etc...  As he was processed by each of these sections, the responsible NCO or officer would initial the appropriate blank.  On September 29th he visited the clothing and equipment stores (his visit was serialized as number 6266, and Horst's was number 6265; the two men probably went together!) of GEB 338 and was found to possess the following items:
 

field cap tunic
steel helmet wool trousers
drawers overcoat
shirts sweater
toque gloves
socks (2 pr.) footwraps (2 pr.)
low-quarter boots gaiters
lard container Zeltbahn
(without any pins or poles)
belt & buckle
breadbag canteen
one ammo pouch mess kit
hand towel hankerchiefs (2)
trousers-suspenders rucksack
Zwieback bag blankets (2)

On September 29th, he visited the Chemical Warfare NCO and underwent a Gasraumprobe or Gas-room test.  He is also noted as having one M38 Gasmask numbered 428, 1 Gas-sheet, 2 first-aid dressings, and one container of anti-gas skin salve.  These had been issued on July 9th.

It is most likely that Harald, Horst, and several others were sent to Volksgrenadier Division 272 immediately after these preparations were complete.  Horst was assigned to Grenadier Regt. 980, and Harald was assigned to Füsilier Kompanie 272, where he was the 165th man place on this unit's rolls.  On October 5th, 1944, he underwent another clothing and equipment audit which was basically the same as the one above, with the following changes: one extra pair of drawers, an HBT uniform, one extra shirt, and an extra pair of low-quarter boots.

On October 26th, he was issued the following pieces of gear:
 

K98, serial number 446,
bayonet, number 1382
entrenching tool

The chemical warfare and first-aid items listed before were not deleted, so these items were also part of his kit.  Thus equipped, he left for the Hürtgen forest with his unit in mid-November.

Harald distinguished himself in action during an Allied attack on Dec. 13th.  Among the papers is an order which reads:
 

     Füsilier Nehring was detailed as a HQ platoon runner.  During an attack on Dec. 13 west of Zweifallkammer on Giesenheck, he was entrusted with carrying messages to the line platoons.  On his way back, he unexpectedly came upon an enemy position which was not yet dug out.  This he disposed of with a hand grenade.  One American was wounded, the other gave himself up...Füs. Nehring is worthy of receiving the Iron Cross Second Class.

It was probably during this action or shortly after that Harald was slightly wounded by shrapnel, for his Soldbuch records his admission to Kriegslazarett 2/612 on Dec. 15.  He was sent back to his unit on Dec. 20th.

On Christmas Eve, an order was signed by the Company Commander (Oberleutnant Kolb) which promoted Harald to Gefreiter.  This order was retroactive to Dec. 1, and the promotion was noted in Harald's Soldbuch on Christmas Day, 1944.

On Dec. 29, Oberleutnant Kolb noted the award of the EK II in Harald's Soldbuch.

Despite the modest success which Harald experienced during his brief career as a soldier, it all came to naught on January 5th, 1945.  It was on this date during some fierce fighting over some bunkers in the Westwall (or "Siegfried Line") that Harald lost his life.  The casualty sheet for him listed the cause of death as "burning", and it appears that he may have been among the 20 or so men who were caught inside bunker #24 when it was assaulted and destroyed by the Americans.  German records state that phosphorous was used in addition to demolition charges in the assault on this bunker, and the incendiary material was probably the agent which killed Gefreiter Nehring.  On Jan. 20, a letter was written to his father which read:
 

Dear Mr. Nehring

     It is my sad duty to inform you that your son, Gefreiter Harald Nehring, was killed in action, true to his oath to Führer, People, and Fatherland, on January 5, 1945 near Simmerath about 15 km west of Gemünd in the Eifel region.  
     The enemy counterattacked the positions which the Company had won, and in the close combat which resulted, your son found his death.
     It may be a comfort in your grief to know that your son did his utmost and best in the fight for the preservation of the German Reich and People.
     Burial was carried out in the Divisional cemetary in Gemünd.  You have my sincere condolences.

Heil Hitler!       
G.            
Hauptmann u. Kp. Chef

The bottom half of Harald's dogtag was broken off and paper-clipped to the inside of the front cover of his Soldbuch (see illustration), and on Jan. 29th, the Spieß (Hauptfeldwebel) of the Kompanie recorded his personal effects:
 

1 EK II with award document
1 mirror
1 notebook
1 pair scissors in case
1 billfold
1 change purse
1 pipe

These items were to be sent home to Harald's father in Jüterbog.  Harald was buried in row 18, grave 2 in the previously-mentioned cemetary in Gemünd.

Finding research material like this provides a curious blend of conflicting emotions.  While being happy over finding such a treasure trove of information, a person is simultaneously saddened with the realization of the tragedy of war.  When you look at Harald's picture, you eventually realize that there is no chance that this person is now some gentle old pensioner puttering in his garden and recounting his days with nostalgia; in fact, the young face you look at had less than a year to live.  And this is just one of many...

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