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Horst Swenssen'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.

Thanks to the efforts of one of the members of the recreated GR 980, we have obtained the Soldbuch of an original member of the 980th.  Kevin Harman has in his collection the Soldbuch of Horst Swenssen who was probably a signaler in the Second Battalion's HQ.  This article will highlight some of the information which is most interesting to our impression.

Horst was born on July 15, 1926 in Berlin-Lichtenberg to Fritz and Elisabeth Swenssen.  Horst's father was a salesman, and by 1944 the family lived in Petershagen which was a large railroad town of perhaps 7000 people, located about 10 km east of Berlin itself.  Horst was perhaps a typical young German recruit when he was inducted: 17 years old, 5 feet, 7 inches tall, dark blonde hair and blue eyes, of slight build and of the Protestant faith.  From his induction point (probably near Berlin) he was then taken to Tiborlager über Schwiebus for basic training in the Infanterie Nachrichten Ersatz Kompanie 208.  This unit trained signalers for a number of infantry units.  Horst's Soldbuch was issued to him by this unit on June 28th, 1944.

We know of three things which happened to Horst during his basic training.  We have a record of his first uniform and equipment issue, he had his picture taken for his Soldbuch, and his training unit was transferred.

On July 10th, (or about 2 weeks after induction) Horst was checked by Unteroffizier of Grenadier Ersatz Batl. 337 (Inf.Nachr.Ers.Kp.208 was too small to have its own clothing stores, so it was supplied by a larger unit which did have one and was stationed in the same place) and was found to possess the following items:
 

field cap tunics (2)
(one of which can be seen in the picture inside the cover: it is a converted M-43 with a bottle-green collar!)
HBT uniform
wool trousers
collar liners (2)
drawers (2 pr.) overcoat
shirts (2) socks (2 pr.)
low-quarter boots & gaiters sports clothing
steel helmet Tornister
belt & buckle blanket-roll straps (3)
breadbag canteen
one ammo pouch mess kit
hankerchiefs (2) trouser-suspenders

As for equipment, on July 9th he was noted as having the following items: One M38 Gasmask, numbered 435, one gas-sheet, 2 first-aid dressing, and one container of anti-gas skin salve.  The paymaster for GEB 337 (INEK 208 was too small to have its own paymaster, too!) noted that Horst was paid 5 Reichsmarks to purchase cleaning equipment.

The photograph of Horst inside the front cover of the book shows a serious-looking young man with big bags under his eyes; the photo gives added credibility to the veterans who told us that basic training was concentrated, strenuous, and tiring!  The tunic pictured, as noted above, is a late-war tunic with an added bottle-green collar.

There was also something glued lengthwise into the inside of the back cover which was torn out at some time.  If we can use other Soldbuchs of the same approximate time period as a guide, this missing sheet was perhaps a shooting record or an aerial recognition-panel table.

Sometime before that September, INEK 208 was moved to the vicinity of Crossen which was a small town on the Oder River.

With his training complete, Horst was given a 10-day leave to go home to Petershagen, and this leave began on September 16th.

On September 29th, or about four days after returning from his leave, Horst was checked by the Bekleidungs-Feldwebel of GEB 338 (This was the unit that Inf. Nachr. Ers. Kp. 208 was supplied by after the move to Crossen) and the previous list was voided with a red pencil and the following list entered:
 

field cap  tunic
HBT Uniform wool trousers
drawers (2 pr.) overcoat
shirts (2) sweater
toque gloves
socks (2 pr.) footwraps (2 pr.)
low-quarter boots running shoes
gaiters steel helmet
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)

The gasmask and other first-aid items listed on July 9th were not voided from the book, so we can assume that Horst retained these items through this September reissue.  And since the clothing items listed above were never voided, they probably represent the kit that Horst entered the field with.  Horst's ID disc was marked Inf. Nachr. Ers. Kp. 208, and bore the number 6000.

Horst was then transferred to the Stab of II./Gren. Regt. 980, where he was most likely a signaler in the Battalion's HQ.  One interesting thing noted in the book was the listing of Gren.Ers.Bn.398 as the responsible replacement unit for GR 980.  This is a change from Gren.Ers.Bn.348 which was the affiliated replacement unit during the Normandy campaign.  It appears as if the assigned replacement unit was changed when the 272nd Division was converted to "Volksgrenadier"!

One can only imagine the feelings of Horst the Brandenburger when he was transferred to a Lower-Saxon unit.  On the other hand, he was definitely not a lone Berliner in a mass of Saxons: what happened was that a Wehrkrise III Volksgrenadier Division, the 575th, was mixed together with the Normandy veterans of the 272nd Infantry (a Wehrkrise XI unit) to form the 272nd Volksgrenadiers.  Needless to say, the Brandenburg newcomers outnumbered the original Lower Saxons in the 980th due to the fact that only there were only about 250 survivors in the 980th when they arrived in Germany after the retreat through France.  At any rate, at least Horst was in the type of outfit he was trained for; many of the new recruits were "Ersatz Landser" - retreads from the Navy and Luftwaffe.

After the regiment set out for the Hürtgenwald in November, Horst was killed on 20.11.44 and his Soldbuch was souvenired by one of the members of the US 79th Division who brought it home.

All in all, this sparse Soldbuch conveys the urgency with which Germany was dispatching its young men in those final months of the war.  As with most of its kind, however, this Soldbuch serves as a simple and poignant memorial to one of those who has "gone before".

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