Swenssen'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.
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
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.
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
(one of which can be seen in
the picture inside the cover: it
is a converted M-43 with a
boots & gaiters
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
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.
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
before that September, INEK 208 was moved to the
vicinity of Crossen which was a small town on the Oder
training complete, Horst was given a 10-day leave to
go home to Petershagen, and this leave began 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:
(without any pins or poles)
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.
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"!
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, 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