Schulz'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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
bearer owns a pistol, Model 27 caliber 7.65
serial number 62768"
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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..
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.
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.
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
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.
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%.
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.
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
"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 --
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
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!
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.
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/
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
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)
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