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Fritz Schulz's Soldbuch Story
By Eric Tobey


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.

We are varying our normal routine of featuring the documents of a member of the 272nd Division.  So far, we have not analyzed any officer's career, and given the interest directed at "things with shoulder straps", we have decided to pick out an interesting set of documents from a Westfront officer and run them through our "HDEM" (Historical Details Extraction Mill).  The following article was constructed from information found in this individual's Soldbuch and other assorted papers.

It was early April of 1941, and Artillerie Ersatz Abteilung 227 was processing new recruits, and there was one among them who undoubtedly stood out: Fritz Schulz was 29 years-old, a slender 6-feet tall, blond-haired, and gray eyed.  He wore glasses and had a liver spot on the left side of his forehead.  His occupation was listed as a sales manager and his religion was that ambiguous term "gottglaubig".  This last word was peculiar to Nazi Germany and was used to describe someone who believed in the Christian God but did not subscribe to any of the organized religions; it was the "politically correct"  religion of the time.  He was married to a woman who was 4 years older than he was and from a aristocratic family: his wife's maiden name was Antonie von Rüden.  He called her Tonie.  Now, clearly this was no ordinary woman; it should be remembered that the proportion of the German population that was entitled to add the aristocratic "von" to their name amounted to less than 1% of the population.  Tonie obviously came from a family that was well-placed.  Fritz and Tonie had been married since Feb. 17, 1940, and had lived in Herne in Westphalia.

Three months after he was married, on May 24th, 1940, he began service in Nachrichten Ersatz Batterie 12 (Artillery Signals Replacement Company 12) in Posen.  It's not really clear what he was doing with this unit, for he had no rank, no Soldbuch or dogtag, and his date of entry into the Wehrmacht was not actually recognized until April 1, 1941.  On Sept. 2, 1940, he was "discharged" during his "Zwischenzeit" and apparently went home.  Was he already marked as a potential officer and was this some sort of typical process?

On April 3, 1941 he was inducted into Artilleries Ersatz Abteilung 227, located in Bonn.  On April 9th, 1941, Fritz was issued his Soldbuch and dogtag, and like other early-war sets, both of them bore the same serial number.  The full inscription on his tag was: 1./A.E.A.227 Nr. 1259.

May 1st must have been a busy day.  Equipment was checked; among other things, Fritz was found to possess a gas mask, a pair of Maskenbrille (glasses meant to be worn with the gas mask because they had tapes instead of regular bows which would break the seal of the mask against the temples), and a pair of regular Dienstbrille (service glasses).  He was also found to have a pair of Wehrmacht-issue orthopedic arch-supports!  On the same day, AEA 227 ceased to exist.  Sent to Osnabrück and combined with batteries from two other training units, it became part of Artillerie Abteilung 656 (Artillery detachment 656).  Fritz was now a member of the 2nd Battery of this unit, and he even listed the Feldpost number on a seperate sheet of paper: 43415a.  This unit was sent to France as part of the 716th Infantry Division (Static) and became part of the occupation forces stationed on the coast of Normandy.

Fritz went to Normandy with his unit, and in August of 1941 he was promoted to Oberkanonier, (he had been in the Army for 17 months).  He got his first regular 10-day leave at the end of October, during which he went home to Tonie in Herne.  While he was gone, a change had been made in his unit.  Fritz's battery, the 2nd, was temporarily transferred to Artillery Regiment 319 (and became the 3rd battery of that unit), which was stationed on the Channel Islands.  retroactive to Dec. 1st, he was also promoted to Gefreiter, now as a member of Artillery Regiment 319.  On Dec. 20th, he was hospitalized for an inflammation of the stomach or intestinal tract in a hospital until the day after Christmas.  On February 6, 1942, he was back on his was home for a two-week convalescent leave.

After another reorganization in April of 1942, Fritz's battery resumed its old title of 2nd battery, Artillerie Abt. 656 with its old Feldpost number.  Although he was soon to depart this group, Art. Bn. 656 was eventually renamed Artillery Regiment 1716, and was still stationed in Normandy when the Allies landed two years later.  But that's another story.

It was during this summer (or possibly before) that Fritz was recognized as having "officer potential".  On Sept. 1, 1942, two things happened: he was promoted to Unteroffizier, and then transferred back to Osnabrück and placed in Nachrichten Ersatz Batterie 6, under whose jurisdiction he remained for two weeks, until Sept. 15.  In reality, he wasn't actually with this unit during this time, for he was given a leave which lasted from the 2nd to the 13th.  NEB 6 was the replacement-army unit affiliated with the signalers of Art.Abt.656 and was therefore responsible for him during this time, even if he was not actually in their barracks.  This was standard operating procedure for the entire German Wehrmacht.  Assuming he returned from leave on time, he waited in the barracks of NEB 6 for just two days before being sent to Infantry Replacement Battalion 37 for Offizier Anwärter Vorbereitung (Officer Candidate Preparation).  This lasted for almost a full month, from Sept. 16 to October 10.

After this course, from October 11 until November 8, 1942, he was on the staff of the 3rd Training Company of Infantry Replacement Battalion 37, possibly as an instructor or other staff member of some sort, to give him something to do while he waited for the next class to begin.

The next training program was an Umschulungs Lehrgang (Retraining Course), and he was transferred to the 5th Company of a school in Wahn on November 9th; this course lasted until December 22.  Then, as happened once before, he was given leave and simultaneously transferred back to the affiliated replacement unit.  This time he was given a Sonderurlaunb (special leave) to the place of his birth, Berlin, and this leave lasted from Dec. 22 until Jan. 5, 1943.  The replacement unit this time was the Stamm-Kompanie of Grenadier Ersatz Battalion (the "Infanterie" units has since been renamed "Grenadier") 37.  He came back from leave, waited a week, and was then transferred to Schule VI für O.A.d.Inf. (School number 6 for Officer Candidates of the Infantry), located in Beerverloo, Belgium.  This course lasted almost 3 months, until April 7th.  Midway through this course, on March 1, he was promoted to Feldwebel u. ROA.  ROA stood for Reserve Offizier Anwärter or 'Reserve Officer Candidate'.  On April 1st, the following notation was made in his book:
 

"The bearer owns a pistol, Model 27 caliber 7.65 serial number 62768"

Another, more important event happened on the same day: Fritz was promoted to Leutnant d. Reserve.  Rather than have the rank written in the correct place on page 1 of the Soldbuch, this important notation was put in by rubber stamp.  Because officers were responsible for providing their own uniforms and clothing, upon being commissioned Fritz received a "clothing allowance" of 350 Marks (Einkl. Beihilfe), and no further entries were ever made in the "clothing and equipment issuance" pages of his Soldbuch, since he was not issued anything more from government stores.

When he finished this course and was commissioned a Leutnant, he was once again transferred to a replacement unit and given leave.  The unit was once again GEB 37 in Osnabrück, and the leave was called a two-week lehrgangsurlaub and was probably meant as sort of a "graduation leave".  He went home to Herne, came back on April 20, waited a week, and was then sent to another officer's course in Wahn which lasted roughly one month, until May 31st.

The process that Fritz underwent is unusual in at least one respect.  Most sources tell us that the common procedure was to promote new officers only after they had performed some combat duty.  In Fritz's case, however, he appears to have been promoted without seeing any actual fighting.  Whether this was some sort of special program, or standard procedure for reserve officers, we don't know.

At any rate, school was over as of May 31st.  He was then transferred to a combat unit, this one still in the process of formation, and stationed in Brittany in France.

The unit to which Fritz was posted for his first field assignment was the 371st Infantry Division.  When Fritz arrived, it would have still been only a Kampfgruppe in size.  A previous division with the same name had perished in Stalingrad, and this new one was to ready by the fall.  Fritz's job was that of Communications Officer for Grenadier Regiment 670, and he was issued one interesting piece of gear about this time: a notation in his Soldbuch records the issuance of a Dienst-Armbanduhr (Service Wristwatch), serial number D14823.

On or before October 29th, 1943, less than a month before the 371st set out for Italy, Fritz was injured and evacuated.  The injury was listed as a "contusion to the knee".  His wristwatch was taken from him by his unit (they must have been short on issue watches, so they wanted it back right away.  It couldn't have been that they didn't trust the guys back in the hospital!) and he was evacuated to the "Cortina" Hospital in Brünn-Bohonitz (near present-day Brno), Czechoslovakia.  Whatever this 'contusion' was, it was fairly serious, for he remained in this hospital until January 12, 1944.

Where would he have gone after discharge from the hospital?  You guessed it: back to an Ersatz unit, this time to Infantry Signals Replacement Company 416 in Osnabrück.  He was with this unit for about one month, until Feb. 18, when he was transferred to the 84th Infantry Division.  Along with this new assignment, he was given a two week Einsatzurlaub (deployment leave) before leaving for the 84th.

The 84th Infantry Division was in the process of forming at the time, and was responsible for defending a sector of the Channel Coast in the north of France.  It was one of the peculiar "two regiment" divisions; instead of having three infantry regiments (with two battalions), it had only two (but each with three battalions).  These particular divisions were an odd sort of organizational compromise: not as limited in resources as the 700-series static divisions, but not as flexible and mobile as the regular three-regiment "attack" infantry divisions.  Fritz's first assignment in this division was as the personal aide-de-camp (Ordonnanz Offizier) to the commander of the II. Battalion of Grenadier Regiment 1052.  This "Ordonnanz" position is often mis-translated by American researchers as "ordnance" officer; the correct translation is "orderly" officer, or "personal aide".  The duties of such an officer would include arranging meetings, organizing the headquarters, carrying orders to subordinate units, conducting reconnaissance, etc..

Maybe he didn't get along with his boss, however, for he was transferred again, probably before the invasion, to the truck company of the Feldersatzbatallion (field replacement battalion) of the same division.

The theoretical use of the FEB was to serve as a ready pool of replacements for the division.  In reality, due to problems with even tactical battlefield movements and the effects of local emergencies, the FEB was often used as a divisional reserve.  It was organized more or less along the lines of a reinforced battalion and had a complement of heavy weapons and machine guns, so it was capable of independent action.

June 6, 1944 - the Allies landed in Normandy.  As the units embattled there were slowly being ground to dust, Hitler continued to believe that another, larger invasion was going to land in the Pas-de-Calais area where a large number of German units, including the 84th, were stationed.  One of the first units destroyed in the fight for the beach-head was Fritz's old crowd from the 716th Infantry Division.  Slowly, it became apparent that the Normandy invasion was the invasion and additional forces were moved into the fighting from their positions elsewhere in France, but too late.  The 84th was moved in against the British and was caught up in the disastrous fighting around Falaise.

In the battle of what became known as the "Falaise Pocket", the Allies trapped and virtually annihilated most of the German 7th Army.  The zebra-striped Allied aircraft strafed, rocketed, and bombed the target-rich terrain in the pocket at will.  When the battle finally ended, the Allies marched a long column of prisoners out of a region where the roads were clogged for miles with destroyed German rolling stock and the roadsides and fields were literally carpeted with animal and human dead.

The 84th was totally destroyed in this battle, even its commanding general was among the captured.  Almost all of the division's heavy equipment was lost. and only about 1,000 men evaded death or capture.  Among the lucky few who somehow managed to escape the pocket was Leutnant Fritz Schulz.  He was one fo the lucky 10%.

The normal routine for treatment of fragmented divisions was to remove them to a safe area and rebuild them with recruits and new weapons.  In the late summer of 1944, however, the Reich was threatened with a crisis of huge proportions: the front in France was not merely retreating, it had dissolved, and the Allied Armies were racing for the Rhine.  Rather than methodical rebuilding, many surviving units were hastily reinforced with whatever manpower could be found: Landesschutzen (home defense) units, Luftwaffe Festungs- (fortress) units, NCO schools, Ersatz units, etc..  This is what happened to the 84th as it was hurried into a sector of the Siegfried line in the Eifel mountains near the Huertgen Forest for a brief period at the end of August.  The Feldersatzbatallion was long gone by this time (it disappeared in the early part of the division's employment in Normandy), so presumably Fritz was performing some other duty, perhaps as the leader of some ad-hoc infantry group.  Officers were in short supply and even medical officers were sometimes found leading combat elements, so the likelihood of Fritz avoiding line duty during this period was remote.

Early in September, the division was moved to Venlo in Holland for planned rebuilding, and then to a site on the German-Dutch border to the north.  As fate would have it, this second area was just south-east of a town called Nijmegen.  The small remnants of the 84th were still awaiting rebuilding when "Operation Market-Garden" was launched on September 17.  After battling the US 82nd Airborne Division until it almost ceased to exist, the 84th was pulled back into Germany to the Kleve area and began to receive the long awaited reinforcements in October.  Now stationed inside Germany, it was time for the legal arm of the Wehrmacht to educate its members against some of the consequences of fighting in one's own homeland: a notation in Fritz's Soldbuch dated October 21 states that he was educated about "Plundering".  This "education" probably contained much the same material as found in a small pamphlet put out by the Army High Command in September:  in short, the soldiers were told --

"Taking stuff from civilians has always been unworthy of a German soldier, but up to now it has always been in an occupied country.  Now you are in Germany, and if we catch you plundering here, we're going to shoot you."

It was also at this time that Fritz received his last permanent assignment, this time to Füsilier Batallion 84.  This unit had been rebuilt from personnel assigned to the same facility that trained Fritz to be an officer: the instructors, staff, and students of the Wahn school were first converted into an infantry regiment called 'Regiment Wahn',  and the First Battalion of this outfit eventually became the Füsilier Battalion in the 84th Division.  It could have been the stuff from which novels are made: a sadistic senior NCO who was an instructor for the future officers at Wahn winds up in Fritz's company.  Or worse yet, an officer ex-instructor who was a pain in the ass at the school winds up as Fritz's CO!

After being somewhat rebuilt, the division was back on the line west of the Reichswald, opposing the British and Canadians who were advancing in that region.  In November, Fritz was awarded the Kriegsverdienstkreuz mit Schwerten, II Klasse (War Merits Cross with Swords, Second Class).  Fritz carried the small card-stock award document, folded the placed in the back of his Soldbuch.  Fritz received his award from divisional headquarters, and not the battalion itself; the document was signed by the divisional adjutant who was a Major.  This was not the normal procedure for this level of that award, so we can presume that whatever Fritz did to earn it, he probably did it at battalion HQ level or as part of communications or liason.

In February of 1945, the division bore the brunt of another one of Monty's attacks, this one called "Operation Veritable."  It has since become known as the "Battle of the Reichswald":  and has become a byword for destructive battles in the British Army.  Using the newest offensive tactics and overwhelming amounts of support firepower, Montgomery launched an attack which was ultimately hampered by the weather and mauled by unexpectedly heavy German resistance.  The focal point of this attack happened to be the sector guarded by the 84th.  The division was decimated in this battle, and the 1051st Grenadier Regiment and the Füsilier Battalion were recorded as the divisional units most heavily engaged.  The division finished this battle this battle at battlegroup strength, attached to the 116th Panzer Division.  As the survivors marched south, they probably wondered if the Allies didn't have a grudge against their particular division;  first Falaise, then paratroopers in their laps at Nijmegen, now this brutal British offensive/

By early March, there were barely 1,500 troops left in the 84th as they look up new positions west of Wesel on the Rhine.  On March 5, 1945, Fritz was adlitted to Reserve Lazarette D (Reserve Hospital D) in Lütgendortmund for an unspecific injury due to accident or self-infliction (Soldbuch medical code #34)  Since there is no record of him being tried for court martial, we can assume he was injured in an accident, perhaps his knee was bothering him again.  Whatever its nature, this injury earned him a convalescent leave which lasted from March 6 to March 17, 1945.  Its too bad he didn't stay home: within a few days of his return to his unit, another Allied attack was launched.  The 84th was in positions north of Wesel, facing west.  To their front was the Rhine river, behind them was a large forest.  On March 24th, the allies began their assault across the Rhine in the Wesel sector.  The Landser of the 84th probably looked on with dreaded anticipation as British troops made an amphibious crossing across the river, after which masses of paratroops were dropped in the woods behind them.  The tired division was trapped and finally destroyed: the command staff, most of the men, and even the command staff of the corps to which the division was attached were all captured.  It seems that this unit was always in the wrong place at the wrong time!  The remnants of the division were disbanded after this disaster.  Ironically, this whole thing happened only 20 miles or so from Fritz's home: Herne is just about that far to the east.  It is most likely that Fritz ended his Wehrmacht career with this battle too, for the last entries in his Soldbuch date from this period.  The researcher is then left with the nagging question: what actually did happen to Fritz?  Was his book lifted from his corpse, or was he taken prisoner and his book kept as a souvenir?  There was none of the typical allied prisoner numbers written in the book, so the first scenario was a definite possibility.

In an effort to find out what happened to this man, the collector who owned these papers decided to do some research in May of 1991.  The normal procedure for doing this is actually quite simple:  a letter is drafted stating that the researcher has the Soldbuch of a former soldier, and that information is desired on his fate or, if possible, contact with the veteran himself or his family.  Basic information gleaned from the Soldbuch is included, such as the man's full name, birthdate, address, etc... The letter is sent to the Einwonermeldeamt  of the town which is listed in the man's Soldbuch as his hometown.  Germans rarely moved away from their hometowns, especially in western Germany, so Einwohneramt will know where they went, because accurate records on the whereabouts are kept on every citizen.  In Germany, the local residential office keeps records on everyone in its jurisdiction.  If a person moves to another place, he registers out, and gives his new address.  When babies are born or people move into an area, they are registered in, giving their old address (except in the case of newborns, all of whom would share a common previous address: Womb)

In the case of Fritz Schulze, a letter was received from the Oberstadtdirekto of Einwohnermeldeamt Herne stating that Fritz had "registered out" in 1958, and that his new address was in the industrial metropolis of Essen.  If we would write to the Einwohnermeldeamt in Essen, they would be able to tell us if he was still there, has since died, or if he moved again.  But, with our initial anxiety and curiousity satisfied, further digging doesn't seem necessary.  It appears that Herr Schulze survived after all, and perhaps even prospered, probably taking up a profession in the growing industrial sector of postwar Germany.

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