Germany – Third Reich: A remarkable Posthumous Knights Cross Winner’s Document Group to Oberleutnant Karl Renoldner, 8th (MG) and HQ Companies, 486th Infantry Regiment, 262nd Infantry Division subsequently 6th Company, 462nd Grenadier Regiment, 262nd Infantry in August 1943 ‘He gathered together a group of men on his own initiative as recognition came in a flash about a threatening situation., he broke through the 600 metre wide gap caused by the penetration and at the head of his men in swift forward assaults, massacred the infiltrated enemy infantry in close combat, established contact to the right and left again, made the neighbouring Company, which had become panicky through the loss of its commander and the enemy tanks operating in its rear, completely ready for defence.’ He had earlier seen service in France, and been awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class and Iron Cross 1st Class in the opening weeks of Operation Barbarossa as part of the advance on Kiev.
A remarkable, poignant and rare document group which relates to Karl Renoldner who was posthumously awarded the Knights Cross to the Iron Cross on 10th September 1943. The group consists of a Wehrpass, an award certificate, a photo, an official abridged copy of the recommendation for the posthumous award of the Knights Cross, 12 newspaper cuttings and 27 letters/documents.
The Silver Wound Badge awarded in the field on 7th August 1943 as an Oberleutnant, 5/462nd Grenadier Regiment. Signed by Weismuller as Hauptmann and II Battalion Commander.
Recommendation No. 2094 for the award of the Knights Cross to the Iron Cross:
This very rare document is an abridged copy of the above recommendation which was initiated on 17th August 1943 (the day after Karl Renoldner’s death) by the Commander of II Battalion in 462nd Grenadier Regiment – a Hauptmann Weismuller – and approved by Oberst Schmidhuber as CO 304th Panzer Grenadier Regiment in 2nd Panzer Division. It is evident that Karl Renoldner’s Battalion was detached at the time of the action from its parent unit. The copy was signed for correctness by Oberstleutnant Mehnert in the Linz Recruiting District HQ on 9th October 1943.
The chain of command for the staffing of the recommendation would have been:
CO II/462nd Grenadier Regiment – CO 304th Panzer Grenadier Regiment – General Officer Commanding 2nd Panzer Division – General Officer Commanding XII Army Corps – Commander-in-Chief 4th Army – Commander-in-Chief Army Group Centre – Army Personnel Office in the Army High Command for final approval by the Fuhrer.
This Wehrpass is in good condition with a good photo of Karl Renoldner. It was initiated on 25th July 1939 in Linz. It lists Renoldner’s personal details, Army units, decorations (less the Silver Wound Badge), promotions (less posthumous promotion to Hauptmann), his active service (an incomplete record) and the date when he was killed in action.
- Oberdonau Zeitung – No.240 of 31.8.1943
- Innsviertler Heimatblatt of 3.9.1943
- Tages-Post – No 205 of 31.8.1943
- Heimatblatt Wels – of 17.9.1943
- Wiene Beobachter – No 246 of 3.9.1943
- Ober Busbachter Wiene Ausgabe (Vienna Issue), Issue 246 of 3.9.1943
- Volkische Beobachter – Norddeutsche Ausgabe. Berlin, 17.12.1943; No 351/1943. Holder of the Knights Cross (6 photographs of members of the Armed Forces (1 Navy and 5 Army) who had been awarded the Knights Cross. There is one of Karl Renoldner).
Announcements of the Award of the Knights Cross to Oberleutnant Karl Renoldner.
- Oberdonau-Zeitung – No.284 – Linz, 14th October 1943 – Knights Cross for a Linz Officer -abridged version of Karl Renoldner’s act of bravery,
- Tages-Post – No.243 – Linz, 14th October 1943 – From the Home District of the Fuhrer; Knights Cross for an Officer Killed in Action – abridged version of Karl Renoldner’s act of bravery.
- Kleine Volks-Zeitung – No. 305, 4th November 1943. – Knights Cross for a Linz Man – brief version of Karl Renoldner’s act of bravery (this announcement lists names of 4 new holders (3 Army and 1 Luftwaffe) of the Knights Cross including that of Karl Renoldner.
- Volkisches Beobachter – 4th November 1943 – Oberleutnant from Linz decorated, new Knights Cross Holders – brief version of Karl Renoldner’s act of bravery. (this announcement lists names of 3 new Holders of the Knights Cross including that of Karl Renoldner.)
An announcement of award of the Iron Cross 1st and 2nd Class.
- Volksische – No.28, 28th February 1942 – Roll of Honour of the Oberdonau District – Decorations for Bravery in front of the Enemy. (Leutnant Karl Renoldner’s name is included in the listing).
- Linz, 21st April 1939 – Karl Renoldner’s Reich Civil Defence Association Card No 30201.
- Linz, 19th May 1939 – Karl Renoldner’s registration certificate for military service
- Linz/Donau, 30th September 1941 – Application for reduced travel for Alois Renoldner to visit his son Karl, who was in the Reserve Hospital Kattowitz/Silesia between 4th and 7th October 1941.
- Undated draft Karl Renoldner’s death announcement for publication in newspapers. Probably drafted in late August 1943 after Karl’s family received the news that he had been killed in action.
- An undated copy of a death commemorative card which begins with the words ‘In Memory of Oberleutnant Karl Walter Renoldner’… again most probably produced in late August 1943.
- Linz, 8th September 1943 – A copy of a typed letter from Alois Renoldner to Karl’s Commanding Officer, Oberst Widmann, thanking him for his letter about his son Karl’s death and his kind words. He reflects about Karl and his untimely death. He also asks for a photo of Karl’s grave and for information about his last days at the front. He also sends him a keepsake photo of Karl.
- Linz, 8th September 1943 – A letter of condolences from Ortsgruppenleiter Auer (NSDAP Ortsgruppe Volksgarten) to Alois Renoldner concerning the death of his son Karl.
- Billets, 10th September 1943 – (Field Post No. 02 231 = RHQ 468 Grenadier Regiment). An Oberleutnant Heitland is writing to Karl’s father concerning reimbursement payment for the personal possessions of Oberleutnant Karl Renoldner which were lost in a case in September 1941 – RM120 as compensation and RM90 as a grant.
- Vienna, 14th September 1943 – A letter of condolences from Gendarmerie General (Retired) Nusko to Alois Renoldner concerning the death of his son Karl.
- 462nd Grenadier Regiment, 16th September 1943 – Karl Renoldner’s Regimental Death Commemorative Certificate Signed by the Commanding Officer, Oberst von Lepel. The words of the certificate are as follows:
‘True to his oath of allegiance, Karl Renoldner, Oberleutnant and acting Company Commander in 462 Grenadier Regiment, died the Hero’s Death for Fuhrer, Nation and Fatherland in the Battle for the Freedom of Greater Germany.’
- Linz/Donau, 7th October 1943 – A letter to Karl Renoldner’s father, signed by Oberstleutnant Mehnert, asking permission for the Linz Recruiting District Commander to visit him on 9th October between 1130 and 1230 hours. He asks him to let him know if this proposal was inconvenient by passing a message via the deliverer of the letter.
- Linz, 12.10.1943 – A latter to Karl Renoldner’s father, Alois Renoldner, from Oberst Trimmel as Commander Linz Recruiting District enclosing an abridged copy of the recommendation which led to Karl Renoldner’s posthumous award of the Knights Cross of the Iron Cross.
- Linz, 14.10.1943 – The is a letter sent by Ortsgruppenleiter Auer (NSDAP Ortsgruppe Volksgarten) to Alois Renoldner saying that he has only just read about the posthumous award of the Knights Cross to his son and wished to congratulate Karl’s father on the award of this high decoration to his son.
- Linz/Donau, 15.10.1943 – A letter of condolences from Eigruber as the Gauleiter and Reichstatthalter in Oberdonau to Alois Renoldner on the death of his son and at the same time stating how pleased and proud he was about the posthumous award of the Knights Cross to his son Karl.
- Linz/Donau, 20.10.1943 – Alois Renoldner’s handwritten reply to Gaulieter Eigruber’s letter dated 15.10.1943 thanking him for his kind words of sympathy.
- Commander Field Post No. 22 149 (RHQ 689 Grenadier Regiment (246th Infantry Division)), 3rd November 1943 – A handwritten letter to Alois Renoldner from Karl Renoldner’s former Commanding Officer, Oberst Benedict Widmann. He thanks him for his two letters and says he is sorry he has not written earlier but he had not been receiving mail since he had to suddenly leave his Regiment. He states how pleased he was to hear of Karl’s posthumous award of the Knights Cross and thanks Karl’s father for the keepsake photo of Karl sent in his letter of 28.8.1943 (see serial 6) and hopes that they might meet when he is next on home leave.
- Billets (Field Post No. 02 231 = RHQ 468th Grenadier Regiment). An Oberleutnant Heitland is writing to Karl’s father in response to his letter of 25.10.1943 regarding the whereabouts of the personal possessions of Karl Renoldner. He states that Karl was a Company Commander before his death and had been assigned to another Battle Group and that he only found a case that had been left behind and nothing else. He was unable to make contact about this matter due to the physical separation from Karl’s unit but believed that Karl’s father might find more information through the Forwarding Point 15 at Warsaw Wilnaer Railway Station.
- Vienna I, 24th November 1943 – A letter from the Armed Forces Welfare office in Vienna to Karl’s father about ‘Your application for Parent’s Benefit after your Son, Knights Cross Holder Oberleutnant Karl Renoldner, was killed in action on 16.8.1943’. The office asks for copies of Karl’s birth certificate; letters about notification of the hero’s death of Karl; Alois Renoldner’s first and second marriage certificate and the death certificate of Alois Renoldner’s first wife (mother of Karl).
- Billets, 12.1.1944 – A letter to Karl’s father from a Hauptmann in Fd Post No 07 469A (HQ 462 Regiment Group) in reply to his letter of 10.12.1943. He states that according to a statement of the Hauptfeldwebel Karl’s personal possessions were forwarding to Linz Recruiting District Headquarters by the Clerk since the unit did not know the home address. As far as he knew the possessions were as follows: a forage cap, a Silver Wound Badge, an Iron Cross 1st Class, a purse and various photos. He also thanks him for the copy of Karl’s death announcement which he had passed to his former comrades.
- Linz/Donau, 21.1.1944 – A short note from the Linz Recruiting District Headquarters, signed by an Oberstleutnant Mehnert, to Karl’s father enclosing Karl’s Wehrpass.
- Billets, 25th January 1944 – A letter to Karl’s father from the Commanding Officer of 462 Grenadier Regiment, Oberst von Lepel, enclosing a Regimental Death Commemorative Certificate dated 16.9.1943 concerning his son. He also wrote the following words ‘The Memory of your son will live on with the Tradition of the glorious Regiment.’ The following handwritten text has bene written at the top of the letter ‘Dienststelle 35 759’ which is the field post number for RHQ 989 Grenadier Regiment (277th Infantry Division) – this HQ was formed from RHQ 462 and was stationed at this time in the south of France.
- Konigsberg (East Prussia) 3rd February 1944 – A letter written to Oberleutnant Karl Renoldner, Knights Cross Holder, by the East Prussia Gau Archivist Schmidt asking him to send a signed photograph for inclusion in the Gau War Archive special collection of all the Knights Cross Holder and in addition the inclusion of an action report. Schmidt wishes Karl the best of luck and a safe journey home. Little did Schmidt realise that Karl had been dead for almost 6 months. Schmidt had already tried to contact him in November 1943.
- Linz/Donau, 18th February 1944 – An official letter to Karl’s father from the Linz Registrar requesting that Karl’s birth certificate (with details of his parents) and his marriage certificate plus answers to 6 queries on the reverse of the letter should be delivered to the Registrar’s Office in Linz so that a death certificate could be issued for his son, Karl Renoldner.
- Linz/Donau, 1st March 1944 – Karl Renoldner’s Death Certificate issued by the Linz Registrar’s Office and signed on behalf of the Registrar by Schmied.
- In the field, 14th March 1944 – A letter from a Leutnant and acting Company Commander of field post number 07 469C (2nd Company, 462nd Regiment Group) Karl’s father in reply to his letter of 10.2.1944 to RHQ 462 Regiment Group concerning his son’s personal possessions. It details the items (enclosed with the letter) which were found with 1st Company, 462nd Regiment Group which was disbanded on 28.8.1943. These possessions apparently could not be forwarded since the Company did not have any documentation relating to Karl Renoldner and it was only when the letter was distributed among the various companies that former Clerk of 1/462nd Grenadier Regiment came forward with Karl’s possessions.
- The Personnel Officer in the Army High command, 24.4.1944 – the abridged copy of Karl Renoldner’s promotion certificate to the posthumous rank of Hauptmann with effect from 1.8.1943 and with a seniority backdated to 1.7.1943 (23). The copy was signed for correctness on 25.5.1944 by an Oberstleutnant Veith.
- Vienna I, 25.5.1944 – A formal letter from the Deputy Commander XVII Army Corps and Commander-in-Chief Wehrkreis XVII, General of Infantry Schubert, to Karl’s father informing him of his son’s posthumous promotion to Hauptmann. The letter also enclosed an abridged copy of the promotion certificate.
Karl Renoldner was born on 10th May 1920 in Linz, Austria, the son of Maria Anna and Alois Renoldner. He was single, a catholic, and had three brothers in Alois, Hans and Hubert as well as three sisters, Marianne, Sigrid and Martha. He was called up for service on 18th September 1939 having finished school, and thus missed any action in the Polish Campaign of September 1939.
Renoldner’s first action was during the campaign in France and the low countries that began on 10th May 1940, where in June, his unit as part of 262nd Infantry Division attacked the Maginot Line, his unit remained in France on occupation duty until September, when it moved to Poland in the east.
Initially serving as part of Army Group South, his Division advanced via Brody and Zhitomir before being involved in the capture of Kiev during August and September, and the mass encirclement of several Soviet armies to the east of Kiev, which at the time was the largest successful encirclement in military history, and involved the capture of two thirds of a million Red Army soldiers. It would appear that during these operations Karl was wounded, and was evacuated to Austria, where he recuperated in a Reserve Hospital before joining the Reserve Army. Karl had received two awards during the opening months of the campaign, The Iron Cross 2nd Class on 24th June 1941, and the Iron Cross 1st Class on 29th July 1941, both for acts of gallantry in the border area between Poland and Ukraine.
Upon the conclusion of the operations near Kiev, 262nd Infantry Division joined Army Group Centre, and took part in Operation Typhoon, the German attempt to capture Moscow before winter. This attempt was ultimately unsuccessful and the Red Army launched a major counterattack in early December pushing the Germans back from the gates of the city.
On returning to his unit as part of the HQ company, 486th Infantry Regiment, Karl saw service in the region around Orel, where he remained for the greater part of a year, as the German Army pushed east further south in the great offensive that sought to capture the Caucasus oilfields and the city of Stalingrad. It was not until 26th July 1943 over a year after his return to his unit that he was transferred to serve in the 2nd Battalion, 462nd Grenadier Regiment, where he served initially in the 5th Company being wounded on the first day with his unit, and thus being awarded the Silver Wound Badge, before finally commanding the 6th Company, he had earlier on 30th April 1943 been awarded the Silver Infantry Combat Badge on 30th April 1943 for his participation in close fighting during the campaign in Russia.
It was for an outstanding act of gallantry whilst leading the 6th Company that Karl was put forward for the Knights Cross, a posthumous award as he had been killed leading the second counter attack of the day during the night of 16th-17th August 1943. The recommendation for the award was as follows:
‘Oberleutnant Renoldner was in heavy defence combat on 16.8.1943 with his Company in the Liadzo sector. The enemy had approached in the attack to within 100 metres in front of his sector. In this situation he recognised that an armoured penetration had taken place with the Company to his left. He gathered together a group of men on his own initiative as recognition came in a flash about a threatening situation., he broke through the 600 metre wide gap caused by the penetration and at the head of his men in swift forward assaults, massacred the infiltrated enemy infantry in close combat, established contact to the right and left again, made the neighbouring Company, which had become panicky through the loss of its commander and the enemy tanks operating in its rear, completely ready for defence.
After the defence of heavier daytime attacks on 16.8.1943, an Infantry penetration again took place during the night of 16-17.8.1943 at the boundary between his Company and that of the Company to his right. Oberleutnant Renoldner, always himself in the trenches spurring on his badly stretched men to being even more prepared for defence, put himself – once again on his own initiative – at the head of his group of men and cleared up this penetration point in an immediate counter-attack. The enemy, who had broken in, were destroyed up to the last man in close combat. Oberleutnant Renoldner fell at the head of his men with this action.
It is the decisive of this exemplary brave and always action prepared officer that the penetration points were immediately cleared up, a follow up of the attacking enemy into the break in points was prevented and with this the position of the Battalion was able to be held in a critical situation against superior enemy forces. A widening of the penetrations would have had inevitable serious consequences for the planned withdrawal movements.
The decoration with the Knights Cross would bring the well deserved recognition to the contribution of this dashing young officer even after his death.’
Signed by Weissmuller, Hauptmann and Battalion Commander… the recommendation was then further added to as follows:
‘The recommendation is approved.
Oberleutnant Renoldner has through his personal dashing action succeeded in ensuring that the decisive position of the Regiment near Liadzo could be held despite very heavy enemy attacks. There were no reserves whatsoever available behind the weakly occupied forward lines, a penetration of the enemy at this point would probably have forced the evacuation of the important location of Liadzo.’
This addition signed by Schmidhuber as Oberst and Regimental Commander.
Posthumously promoted to the rank of Hauptmann with effect from 1st August 1943 with seniority back dated to 1st July 1943, Renoldner’s Knights Cross was presented to his father Alois on Saturday 9th October 1943 by Oberst Trimmel, the Linz Recruiting District Commander.