Germany - Third Reich: An interesting and scarce Operation Barbarossa June to July 1941 double Iron Cross and casualty group of award documents to Feldwebel Josef Skatulla, 3rd Company, 403rd Bicycle Battalion, 291st Infantry Division, formerly and then later 14th Company, 138th Gebirgsjäger Regiment, 3rd Mountain Division, of Loebschütz in Upper Silesia, who having taken part in the invasion of Poland in 1939 and then the invasion of France and the Low Countries in 1940, went on to be twice decorated in quick succession during Operation Barbarossa - the invasion of Russia, being awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class on 3rd July 1941, and then the Iron Cross 1st Class on 18th July 1941, having also been wounded in action by shrapnel in the thigh on 12th July 1941, he was awarded the General Assault Badge on 5th November 1941. During the first Russian Winter of 1941 to 1942 his regiment served in the Baltic States and Leningrad area, and was then disbanded in the east in the winter of 1942 to 1943. Having certainly reverted to his old regiment, the 138th Gebirgsjäger Regiment, he must have seen service with another regiment, when he surrendered to the Americans in 1945.
Comprising in order of award:
1) Iron Cross 2nd Class Award Certificate, issued to: ‘Feldw. Skatulla 3./403’, dated 3rd July 1941, signed in ink: ‘Herzog’ for Kurt Herzog, Generalleutnant and GOC 291st Infantry Division, recipient of the Knight’s Cross on 18th October 1941, and the Oakleaves to the Knight’s Cross on 12th January 1945, who died in Soviet captivity on 8th May 1948.
2) Iron Cross 1st Class Award Certificate, issued to: ‘Feldwebel Josef Skatulla’, dated 18th July 1941, signed in ink: ‘Wodrig’ for Albert Wodrig, General of Artillery and GOC XXVI Army Corps, recipient of the Knight’s Cross on 19th July 1940.
3) General Assault Badge Award Certificate, issued to: ‘Feldwebel Josef Skatulla, 3./Radfahr-Batl.403’, dated 5th November 1941, signed in ink: ‘von Chappuis’ for Friedrich-Wilhelm von Chappuis, General of the Infantry and GOC 15th Infantry Division, recipient of the Knight’s Cross on 15th August 1940, who committed suicide on 27th August 1942.
4) Wound Badge in Black Award Certificate, issued to: ‘Feldwebel Josef Skatulla, 3./Radf.Abt.403’, dated 10th July 1942 for a wound received on 12th July 1941, signed in ink ’Schönbeck’ as Major and Battalion Commander.
Together with the following additional documentation:
5) German Sports Badge for Men Booklet, issued to Josef Skatulla who was awarded the German Sports Badge in Bronze on 19th November 1935 whilst serving as a Grenadier with the 6th Company, Infantry Regiment ‘Döberitz” - which regiment was redesigned the 48th Infantry Regiment on 15th October 1935. There is a good photo within the booklet of Skatulla as a young Grenadier in the uniform with the number ‘6’ on his shoulder straps.
6) An A5 size certificate issue by the Neubrandenburg Police at Neubrandenburg on 13th March 1937, stating that the holder, Painter Josef Skatulla, has no criminal record from 30th April 1934 to 29th October 1934, and from 15th October 1935.
7) An A4 size certificate issue by the Police on behalf of the Loebschütz Bürgermeister, issued at Loebschütz on 23rd March 1937, and stating that the holder, Journeyman Painter Josef Skatulla, has no criminal record from 25th April 1916 to 12th April 1925, and from 1st April 1930 to 23rd March 1934.
8) A Certificate No.250512 issued at Hellmonsödt on 14th June 1945, stating when translated that: “Josef Skatulla is permitted to use his bicycle for official business. The bicycle is registered with police. Do not confiscate!”.
9) A Bicycle Registration Card No.4715 issued to Josef Skatulla by the Chief of German Police in Kreis Mergentheim, issued at Markelsheim, dated 2nd February 1946.
10) A signed an dated A5 size return giving details of Membership of the NSDAP if applicable which in the case of Josef Skatulla with a Nil Return. He also states that he was a Catholic and not a career soldier whose rank was Feldwebel. Issued by the Lauda Local Authority on 4th March 1946.
11) A preliminary Refugee Identity Card, issued “On the grounds of his submitted identity papers, it is confirmed that Josef Skatulla, both 25.4.16 in Loebschütz, is a German citizen form his last address in Loebschütz/Upper Silesia with his family.” Issue by the Lauda Refugee Centre on 22nd March 1946.
12) A small document stating that Josef Skatulla was not affected by the Law for the Absolving of National Socialism and Military, dated 5th March 1946, as a result of details supplied by his completed Questionnaire, issued at Tauberbischofsheim, dated 25th March 1947.
13) A Post-War Military Government of Germany Questionnaire - undated but from March 1947. Josef Skatulla has completed and signed this document and Annex No.1 in ink giving information about himself whilst at the Lauda Refugee Centre in Kreis Tauberbischofsheim.
Josef Skatulla was born on 25th April 1916 in Loebschütz in Upper Silesia, where he was educated firstly at a local elementary school from 1922 to 1930, and followed by a career school from 1930 to 1933 where he learnt the trade as a Journeyman Painter. Having passed the Trade Exam on 30th September 1933, he initially worked in Loebschütz before moving on to Neubrandenburg before being called up for military service from 31st October 1934 to 30th September 1935 with the 48th Infantry Regiment. As a Grenadier with the 6th Company, Infantry Regiment ‘Döberitz” - which regiment was redesigned the 48th Infantry Regiment on 15th October 1935, he was awarded the German Sports Badge in Bronze on 19th November 1935.
Skatulla then returned to his work in Neubrandenburg before moving on to work in Berlin-Steglitz until he was mobilised just prior to the outbreak of the Second World War. Called up for service with the 14th Company, 138th Gebirgsjäger Regiment, part of the 3rd Mountain Division, and he then saw service during the invasion of Poland in 1939 and then returned to Germany, when he transferred to the 3rd Company, 403rd Bicycle Battalion, and then saw service with this unit during the invasion of France and the Low Countries in 1940.
With Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of Russia on 22nd June 1941, he crossed over the border, as a Feldwebel with his unit, the 3rd Company, 403rd Bicycle Battalion forming a part of the 291st Infantry Division. Skatulla was twice decorated in quick succession, being awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class on 3rd July 1941, and then the Iron Cross 1st Class on 18th July 1941, both awards for the early days of Operation Barbarossa.
Skatulla who was in fact wounded in action on 12th July 1941 having been hit by shrapnel in the thigh, most probably in the incident which led to his award of the Iron Cross 1st Class, then went on to be awarded the General Assault Badge on 5th November 1941, and his award of the Wound Badge in Black, despite being gained on 12th July 1941, would not be awarded to him till 10th July 1942.
The 403rd Bicycle Battalion saw service throughout the first Russian Winter of 1941 to 1942 in the Baltic States and Leningrad area, but was then disbanded out on the Eastern Front during the winter of 1942 to 1943. Skatulla appears to have then reverted to his old regiment, the 138th Gebirgsjäger Regiment, which he served in for the rest of the war, though it is probable that he transferred to another unfortunately unknown unit just prior to his being taken prisoner by the Americans, as his old regiment surrendered to the Russians, and for Skatulla this was not the case. Skatulla, who was not a member of the NSDAP, appears to have been looked upon as a refugee immediately after the war since his home town of Loebschütz in Upper Silesia was no longer a part of Germany but by then a part of Poland and under Soviet control. He appears to have settled in the town of Tauberbischofsheim in the north-east of Baden-Württemberg on the river Tauber.