Germany – Third Reich: A Remarkable Knights Cross Winner’s Battle of France assault on 'Panzerwerk 505’ Iron Cross 2nd Class, advance on Kiev Iron Cross 1st Class Document Group to Leutnant Walter Weber, 7th Company, 211st Infantry Regiment, 71st Infantry Division then 1st Company, 41st Jager Regiment, 21st Field Division, which includes the full recommendation for the award of his Knights Cross for his actions in the forests to the north of Kiev in early August 1941 and a superb photograph detailing his time in France and in Russia. He was eventually declared missing on 19th July 1944 during the fighting near Ostrov in northern Russia. It is unlikely he was seen again.
A truly remarkable and rare document grouping to Knights Cross Holder, which includes the details of his earlier awards of the Iron Cross 1st Class and Iron Cross 2nd Class. It contains 3 award certificates, 6 documents relating to his acts of bravery, 8 letters, and 3 other documents as well as a photograph album.
An Album of 149 photos. A fascinating pictorial record of Weber with many photos of him wearing his Knights Cross. Weber features throughout the album and you see him rise in rank from Schutze, Gefreiter, Obergefreiter, Unteroffizier, Feldwebel, Feldwebel Officer Aspirant to Leutnant. There are 3 fine large, head and shoulders photos of Weber wearing his Knights Cross as there are 13 photos of the Knights Cross presentation ceremony in Charleroi on 25th October 1941. There are photos from the French Campaign of 1940– in Villy, around Panzer Werk 505, Verdun and French Prisoners of War.
The album the moves to the Russian Campaign in 1941 where the route the Division took can be traced – The Niemerov tank battle (26.7.1941), Niemerov town after the battle, a KV1 in Lemberg, the Division’s cemetery in Pinshuki and on the advance on Kiev. You then switch to loading for Belgium, Belgium itself and then France – Paris. Various photos of a column of troops (Weber can be seen in the lead rank with the Knights Cross) marching down the Rue de Rivoli and down the Rue Royale from La Madeleine and the Arc De Triomphe, Versailles, socialising in a soldiers; home somewhere in Paris. There are a series of photos of Weber in hospital and during his recovery. There are some photos of Weber with Party dignitaries in Hannover – perhaps on a Public Relations exercise. There are a number of photos that show Weber with others in the Marseilles area. Finally there are 4 small photos of Weber as a Leutnant with 1/41st Jager Regiment to the south of Ostrov in North Russia.
Walter Weber was born on 23rd December 1908 in Hemstedt, a small village 5 kms north east of Gardelegen, Kreis Gardelegen, Gau Magdeberg. He was a member of the Volunteer Fire Brigade in Kreis Magdeburg and a Reservist whose military recruiting area was Stendal.
From the photo album we can see that Weber initially served with 5/66th Infantry Regiment, 13th Infantry Division, before joining 7/211th Infantry Regiment. He was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class for acts of bravery near Villy at Panzerwerk 505 and then Verdun on 5th July 1940. By 20th July 1940 he was awarded the Infantry Assault Badge in Silver for actions during the 1940 Campaign in France.
Weber subsequently moved to the east and took part in Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union as part of 71st Infantry Division and was awarded the Iron Cross 1st Class on 6th September 1941 as a result of an act of bravery on 30th July 1941 near Kiev. The 71st Infantry Division moved to Belgium on 15th October 1941 and Weber was awarded his Knights Cross shortly after this on the 29th October while the Division was stationed in Charleroi. The recommendation for this award was dated 30th August 1941 and was as follows:
‘Obergefreiter Weber was already a runner in the company detachment and has demonstrated a far above average courage and decisiveness in the violent battles on 18.5.1940 near Villy and around the 505 Panzerwerk which the Company and also the Battalion proved with heavy casualties, in which he for example on 18.5.1940 with the battle round the fortified village of Villy, as his Company with the attack is forced to remain lying down through extremely heavy artillery and Infantry fire, delivered the important report about the lay out of the enemy positions to the Battalion. Because of this the attack on the right wing of the Battalion could be carried forward with success and which created the prerequisites for the capture of Villy. After storming the 505 Panzerwerk by the Battalion, it was again Weber who voluntarily reported to a patrol in order to make contact to the left neighbouring unit (II/194 Infantry Regiment) in very heavy artillery and Infantry fire. Through making this contact is the Battalion for the first time informed about the course of the battle and front line as well as the relating defence measures against the immediate deploying French counter-attack. Weber continued to demonstrate his courage and decisiveness in the same manner in the further battles near Azannes, Douamont, Verdun and Nancy. Weber was decorated with the Iron Cross 2nd Class for this courageous, personal conduct.
Weber also stormed forward, always in the most forward line, with the battles in the East on 22.6.1941 near Cieszanow and on 24.6.1941 with the tank battle near Niemerov and raised the combat strength of the Company as a bold, daredevil individual. As the battalion deployed anew to the attack on 30.7.1941 near Pinshuki, 7 Company was established in front of a strongly fortified position after a 7 hour battle with a numerically far superior motorised enemy which in the main used MGs and automatic weapons. Reinforcements, which the enemy continually brought forward, momentarily outstripped the Company on its right and open flank in order to almost completely surround it. |there was no more contact with the Battalion. Weber volunteered to deliver the report to the battalion about the ill-disposed situation of the Company, even though there was little chance of getting through over the open ground covered by well-aimed enemy fire. Nevertheless the risk succeeded. Weber returned to his Company on the same route with the report about the ordered relief. The Company, which had already suffered 17 dead and 46 wounded through the encircling enemy, has been proved its worth through the courageous dispatch rider Obergefreiter Weber before its complete destruction. Weber has at the time been recommended for the Iron Cross 1st Class for this courageous act.
The Company Commander Oberleutnant Westphal fell shortly after the start of the attack through the city forest to the south of Kiev on 8.8.1941. After the hero’s death of Oberleutnant Westphal, Weber, who was near to him, quickly destroyed by hand the Russian MG section (5 men) lying on the forest edge which had caused the loss of his Company Commander. Through this he created the prerequisite for the further advance of his Company, whose command he had taken over on his own initiative without particular orders, over an open space, which in addition was mined. Here it was again that Weber who led his Company by his example through the minefield even though a soldier who belonged to the Battalion stepped on a ine in front of his eyes. Weber had simply known as Company detachment commander that the Company in the formation of the Battalion was to reach the north edge of the city forest of Kiev. In the correct knowledge that the ordered attack objective could only then be reached if the Battalion fought through the forest closed up especially as a result of the previous battering of the Battalion. There was no contact on either side, he issued the appropriate orders to the individual sections. It is alone to the great credit of Obergefreiter Weber that the task of 7th Company, a complete combing out of the very thick forest without also ignoring a single enemy nest of resistance as well as ensuring the flank cover of the Battalion, was carried out. Weber himself stormed each time to the focal point of the battle and urged the individual sections forward through his personal example. The difficulty of the task involved the fact that the Company not only had to fend off frontal attacks but also counterattacks from the right, suspended flank since contact did not exist to the right neighbour. The Battalion Ordonnaz Officer, Leutnant Pastor, who was tasked with the command of the Company during the further attacks, fell however half an hour later after he had taken over command. Again it was Weber who immediately took over command of the leaderless Company on his own initiative. A fortified and occupied collective farm blocked the advance of the Company in the course of further attacks. It is assumed with certainty that the enemy had recognised the gaps between II and III Battalions of 211th Infantry Regiment, his counterattack deployed immediately into the open flank of 7 Company. On his own initiative, Obergefreiter Weber turned a part of the Company to the right and the rest of the Company to an extensive attack against the new enemy. He again was at the focal point of the battle and it is thanks to his courageous daredevil approach that the threatening outflanking of the Battalion was eliminated without the knowledge of the Battalion. After the elimination of this flanking movement he established the compass direction in the confusing forest and energetically led the Company up to the ordered attack objective although contact to the right could still not be made. There he recovered the right flank of the battalion, organised patrols which finally made contact with the right neighbour after many hours and maintained the reached line despite numerous enemy counterattacks against the front and flanks.
The importance of the independent, voluntary decision of Weber lies in that he guaranteed the complete forcing through of the Battalion’s attack. Without this decisive act at the right moment and without his exemplary daredevil approach with which he dragged the very exhausted Company with himself, the Battalion could not have bene able to reach its attack objective. Further he correctly recognised the importance and consequence of a flank cover of the Battalion and the need to make contact with the neighbouring unit in a manner way above the requirements of his rank as Obergefreiter and carried out these task, otherwise the Battalion would have been denied the attainment of the day’s objective 0 the north edge of the city forest of Kiev’.
The recommendation was signed by Corduan (German Cross in Gold winner) as Major and Battalion Commanding Officer of 7th Battalion, 211th Infantry Regiment.
The Divisional History goes into details about the fighting in the incident of 8th August 1941:
On 8.8.1941 starting at 1000 hours the Division was to reach the north edge of the city forest of Kiev, in the framework of a complete attack of the Corps, in order to later on influence Kiev city and fortress. The south edge of the city forest is established during the morning by patrol activity as being free of the enemy so that the Division gives the order to 191st Infantry Regiment for an early start. The centre and left Regiments (211 and 194 Infantry Regiments) follows this advance as from 1000 hours.
191st Infantry Regiment comes forward well in the city forest and reaches the group of houses at the ponds in the north part of the city forest by 1700 hours and then bumps into a strong enemy. The forward deployed III Battalion, on its own initiative, attacks the projecting hills to the north of the western pond and throws out the enemy in an exemplary attack command without any artillery support. With this the Regiment has secured such a favourable position on the high ground that it is able to successfully fend off several Russian counter-attacks during the day.
After the start of 211 and 194 Infantry Regiments in following 191st Infantry Regiment., the two Regiments only come forward somewhat slowly. 211st Infantry Regiment becomes tangled up in the west part of the city forest in individual battles and lost contact with 191st Infantry Regiment on the right and above all with 194th Infantry Regiment on its left. On these grounds the right(III) Battalion of 194thInfantry Regiment remains at the road fork to the north of Novossjolki because of the intense flanking fire from the west edge of the city forest and is helped along by the Division with an Assault Gun Battery which was subordinated for the day. By 1700 hours III/194th Infantry Regiment reached the north edge of the group of houses on the road to the west of the city forest along the Rollbahn to Kiev with the outstanding support of the Assault Gun Battery. Closed up on the left II/194th Infantry Regiment has advanced on the same hills and has made contact with 299th Infantry Division at the east edge of Sehlnaii.
A gap always still exists with 211th Infantry Regiment since the left wing of the Regiment is not near to the road to Kiev. The Regiment has to overcome strong enemy resistance in the west part of the city forest with seemingly weakened forces from the previous battles. In this connection the Company Detachment Commander of 7/211 Infantry Regiment, Obergefreiter Weber, distinguished himself through particular coolness and prudence by taking over command of the Company two times after both Company Commanders fell one after each other and fighting at the head reached the attack objective with the Company, He is later decorated by the Fuhrer and Commander in Chief with the Knights Cross of the Iron Cross. 211th Infantry Regiment reached its attack objective – the north edge of the city forest – in the early hours of the afternoon after heavy battles, as a Russian counterattack, prepared by aircraft and artillery, is deployed in the gap between 211th and 194th Infantry Regiments. The right flank of 194th Infantry Regiment is badly threatened. The counterattack is stopped with the last reserves thanks to the outstanding personal action of the Commander of III Battalion of 194th Infantry Regiment (Major Barnbeck). The situation was again completely restored by 2000 hours and finally contact regained with 211th Infantry Regiment.
The Division stays in the evening of this day with the three Regiments in the most forward line close in front of the edge of Kiev city after heavy and violent battles. Freshly brought up forces had made the penetration into Kiev possible on the same day. The Division was however not in the position to further advance in the same breadth of the previous attack boundaries with the forces available to it.
The attack is not continued on 9.8.1941 after a Corps decision and the Division is given the task to completely comb out and clear the city forest of Kiev.’
At sometime after this Weber became very ill, and required a long period of recuperation, this led to him remaining in the area when the Division moved back to the East and was caught up in the Stalingrad catastrophe over the winter of 1942-43, and thus Weber missed death or imprisonment when members of the Division surrendered at the end of January 1943.
After recovering from his illness it seems that Weber joined the 338th Infantry Division, which was stationed in the Rhone Delta in the Marseille area, before he was commissioned in France and then posted to 1/41st Jager Regiment in Northern Russia. (a photo indicates he was there on 20.4.1944). where he was reported as missing in action Since 19th July 1944 to the south of Ostrove. There is no evidence of whether he returned to Germany but this would seem very unlikely.
Hauptmann Klos, a Knights Cross and German Cross in Gold Winner and commander of Weber’s Battalion (41st Luftwaffe Jager Regiment, 21st Luftwaffe Field Division) at the time of his death, wrote to his mother on 9th August 1944:
‘I am so very sorry for having to tell you and your family the sad news that your husband, Leutnant Walter Weber has been reported missing since 19th July after the battle to the south of Ostrov.
On the 18th and 19th July we were confronted and outnumbered by well organised Russians, a greater number than expected. Your husband, always an example to all of us in bravery and help during operations, held his position with his soldiers until the very end, true to his oath.
I am profoundly sorry to tell you, dear Mrs Weber, this dreadful news. We fellow officers had a very good understanding and were very good comrades. The death of your husband has left a deep gap among us. All of us, officers and soldiers, can hardly believe that your husband has gone from our midst.
We can only hope that with the time you can come to terms with this tragic news. I am herewith sending you condolences from all of us, officers and soldiers.’
There is a further letter from an Oberleutnant Seibold as Battalion Adjutant on 4th September 1944 to Mrs Weber:
‘Today I received your letter of 22nd August 1944 via the unit 45 559B (1/41st Jager Regiment, Luftwaffe). It is still today incomprehensible for the Battalion to have lost one such capable an officer. His courage, his daredevil approach will live on in the Battalion and in particular in his Company. I can unfortunately tell you very little, dear Mrs Weber, about the tragic fate which overtook your dear husband, our comrade Leutnant Walter Weber.
Many comrades cover the foreign earth after heavy battles.
What I was able to find out from soldiers about your husband the Knights Cross Holder Leutnant Walter Weber was that Leutnant Weber despite an apparent minor wound to his left lower arm stormed forward across a cornfield against the enemy. Leutnant Weber was not seen anymore since this time and is missing with the assembling and reorganisation of the Companies. I hope that these details are of help to you and can provide some comfort to you.
May your dear husband be restored to you, dear Mrs Weber, one day after the victory of the German just cause. In this time of distress of our nation I hope that you will be given the awareness that each sacrifice must be born in this war and the strength be given to you to carry this burden.’
An extraordinary set of certificates, documents, letters and photographs to a recipient of Germany’s highest award, The Knights Cross of the Iron Cross.