Germany – Third Reich: The Excellent Defence of East Prussia German Cross in Gold, Rzhev Salient Iron Cross 2nd Class and Operation Kutozov Iron Cross 1st Class Document and Photograph Grouping to Oberwachtmeister Hermann Dietz, 9th Battery, III (heavy) Battalion, 116th Panzer Artillery Regiment, 5th Panzer Division. Wounded at the Relief of Kovel in April 1944, he played the leading role in defeating Russian attacks in the East Prussian Border area at Jogsten, he also was involved in the fighting around the infamous massacre site at Nemmersdorf, an event widely used by Nazi Propaganda to spur the German people on to a last ditch defence against the Red Army’s advance to the German Homeland.
A fine and rare document group consisting of 6 award certificates, 4 documents and 26 photos which includes the small preliminary award certificate the German Cross in Gold.
There is a nice small mounted group of 26 photos that came with the group. A general description is as follows: 3 of Dietz as a Wachtmeister – by an entrance to a bunker (summer 1943) holding a pet dog in front of a Russian wood cabin and standing outside a snow covered bunker (wearing the EK2 and the General Assault Badge – 1942-43), 2 of a Hauptmann (EK1) an equipment trials course at Weimar in 1942 – 2 of a group in front of a barrack building and 4 of trials what appears to be new optical range finding equipment; 15 other general photos including one of a Panje horse with sledge, soldiers in snow, a small military band giving a concert and Willi Muller (a comrade) wearing a heavy sheep skin overcoat and standing in snow.
It is unclear at which point Hermann Dietz joined the armed forces or whether he served in the west in 1940, although this would have been entirely possible, as would his potential involvement in the Balkan Campaign of 1941 given his rank in 1942.
What we do know however is that Dietz served as part of Heavy Battalion of a Panzer Artillery Regiment on the Eastern Front between 1941 and 1944, his unit operating towed 150mm guns.
The first we see of Dietz is on 16th August 1942 when he was awarded an Iron Cross 2nd Class this would have been for an act of gallantry in the hotly contested Rzhev salient that had been created as a result of the Red Army’s winter counteroffensive that began in December 1941. His involvement in the previous winter’s fighting is confirmed by the presence of an Ostmedaille that hwas awarded to him on 28th July 1942. Later, on 23rd November 1942, whilst still fighting in the Rzhev salient Dietz was awarded the General Assault Badge, these assault’s most likely would have taken place during the fighting in the Rzhev salient that continued to take place throughout 1942.
In March 1943 the Rzhev salient was abandoned, and the 5th Panzer Division pulled back into the Orel Salient, where it would have been caught up in Operation Kutozov the Red Army’s response to Operation Citadel in late July 1943, it would have been during the heavy defensive fighting in this period that Dietz was awarded the Iron Cross 1st Class. Over the following six months the 5th Panzer Division was gradually forced west, via the Gomel area and in the Pripyet Marshes, before ending up near Bobruisk in March.
In April 1944 the 5th Division took part in the relief of Kovel and it was at the end of these battles that Dietz was wounded on 30th April being awarded the Black Wound Badge which he was to receive on 22nd August 1944.
By late August the Division was fighting on the East Prussia border area, the Division counterattacking against Red Army forces, and was involved in the heavy fighting around Nemmersdorf, the site of the infamous massacre of German civilians, publicised liberally by the German Propaganda Ministry. It was in late December 1944 that Dietz was awarded the German Cross in Gold, which in part was for his fighting in East Prussia in mid-late October 1944. This was covered by the Divisional Order of the Day on 31st October 1944:
‘Oberwachtmeister Dietz (forward observer, 9/116th Panzer Artillery Regiment) has distinguished himself on 11.10 through particular bravery. The Russians attempted to crush our main battle line to the south of Jogsten with heavy artillery, anti-tank gun and mortar fire supported by ground attack aircraft and tanks. Only surrounded by an Infantry section which lay as combat outposts about 600 metres in front of the main battle line. Oberwachtmeister Dietz drove off the Russian attack 6 times through well and flexibly directed fire, although he was outflanked 2 times by Russian Infantry mounted on tanks. It is only thanks to his cool-headedness and steadfastness that our own line was held.’
The Division went on to fight in the Defence of Konigsberg and on the Samland Peninsula, the Division ended up surrendering to the Red Army at Hela after fighting along the Frische Nehrung.