Germany - Third Reich: The exceptional 1944 Lorraine Fighting Honour Roll Clasp to the Germany Army Group of Certificates, Documents and Photographs as awarded to Oberleutnant Josef Stiefenhofer, 13th (Mountain Field Gun) and 9th (Heavy) Companies, 99th Gibergsjager Regiment, 1st Mountain Division later 13th (Infantry Field Gun) Company, 1120th Grenadier Regiment, 553rd Volks-Grenadier Division, who as a Pre-War Soldier served from the outset, winning an Iron Cross in the Polish Campaign and an Iron Cross 1st Class on the Mius River in early 1942 as well as the Close Combat Bar in Bronze for fighting in the Kuban, before going on to fight on the Western Front against the American Army where he was eventually taken prisoner in November 1944 and subsequently awarded the Honour Roll Clasp to the German Army.
A remarkable and rare record of an individual’s life in peace and war, before WW2, during the war and during the post-war years. It consists of 9 award certificates, an official history of the 99th in Poland in 1939, 3 wartime documents, a mass of letters and documents which give much detail about his wartime service and his life after the war. There is a particular interesting group of documents included which record his wounding and treatment by both the German and American Medical Services.
- The Armed Services 4 Year Service Decoration awarded in Munich on 1st November 1938 as an Oberjager 13th (Mountain Field Gun)/99th Gebirgsjager Regiment. Signed by Kress as Oberstleutnant and Commanding Officer.
Kress was awarded the Knights Cross on 20.12.1941 as Oberst and Commanding Officer 99th Gebirgsjager Regiment. He died from wounds on 11.8.1943 as Generalleutnant and General Officer Commanding 4th Mountain Division.
- The 13th March 1938 Commemorative Medal for the Austrian Anschluss awarded in Berlin on 20th April 1939 as an Oberjager, 13th (Mountain Field Gun), 99th Gebirgsjager Regiment. Signed with a facsimile signature of Meissner as Minister of State and Chief of the Presidential Chancellery of the Fuhrer and Reichs Chancellor
- The 1st October 1938 Commemorative Medal for the Re-occupation of the Sudeteneland, awarded in Munich on 15th August 1939 as an Oberjager (13th Mountain Field Gun)/99th Gebirgsjager Regiment. Signed for correctness by Kress on behalf of the General Officer Commanding VII Army Corps and C-in-C Wehrkreis VII
- The Iron Cross 2nd Class, awarded for an act of bravery on 13th September 1939 at an unknown location as an Oberjager, 9/99th Gebirgsjager Regiment. Signed by Seitz as Major and Battalion Commander.
Seitz was awarded the Knights Cross on 5.8.1940 as Major and Commanding Officer II/99th Gebirgsjager Regiment.
The certificate is rare in that it includes the reasons for the award:
‘because he, on 13.9.1939 with the attack on Hill 374 near Lemberg, maintained contact between Platoon headquarters and both field guns despite heavy enemy Infantry fire and led the gun under enemy Infantry fire safely onto Hill 374 and with this act was the best example through his decisive conduct to the crew.’
- The Silver Infantry Assault Badge awarded on 24th October 1940 as an Oberjager, 9th(Heavy)/99th Gebirgsjager Regiment. Signed by Stettner, as Oberstleutnant and acting Commanding Officer.
Stettner was awarded the Knights Cross on 23.4.1943 as Oberst and Acting General Officer Commanding, 1st Mountain Division.
- The Iron Cross 1st Class awarded on 10th January 1942 as an Oberfeldwebel, 9th (Heavy), 99th Gebirgsjager Regiment. Signed by Lanz as Generalmajor and General Officer Commanding 1st Mountain Division.
Lanz was awarded the Knights Cross on 1.10.1940 as Oberst i.G. and Chief of Staff XVIII Army Corps and the 160th Oakleaves on 23.12.1940 as Generalleutnant and General Officer Commanding 1st Mountain Division.
- The Ostmedaille, awarded on 16th July 1942 as an Oberfeldwebel, 9th(Heavy)/99th Gebirgsjager Regiment. Signed for correctness by Feser as Hauptmann and Acting Battalion Commander.
Feser was awarded the German Cross in Gold on 28.7.1942 as an Oberleutnant in 2/99th Gebirgsjager Regiment
- The Croatian Ante Pavelic Small Silver Bravery Medal awarded in Zagreb on 10th June 1943 for ‘very brave conduct in the war against the renegades’ as an Oberfeldwebel. Facsimile signature of a Croatian Air Force general as Minister and Representative of Armed Comment. A RARE CERTIFICATE.
- The Close Combat Bar in Bronze awarded on 12th July 1943 as an Oberfeldwebel, 9th(Heavy)/99th Gebirgsjager Regiment. Signed by Remold as Oberstleutnant and Commanding Officer.
Remold was awarded the German Cross in Gold on 8.6.1944 as Oberst and Commanding Officer 99th Gebirgsjafer Regiment.
- The Honour Roll Clasp of the German Army, awarded on 15th February 1945 as a Leutnant, 13th (Infantry Field Gun)/1120th Grenadier Regiment.
The act of bravery which led to this award probably took place in the Vosges area in the North East of France whilst in combat with the Americans.
World War 2 Documents:
- An undated official history of the 99th Gebirgsjager Regiment in Poland 1939. It tells the story of this regiment’s participation in this campaign with photos and map diagrams.
- Billets, 28.8.1944. An A5 sized typed letter sent to Josef Stiefenhofer’s wife enclosing the certificate for the award of the Croatian Decoration ‘Small Silver Bravery Medal.’. The letter is signed by a Hauptfeldwebel Kriessmayr.
- Billets, 27.9.1944. An A5 size typed letter sent to Josef Stiefenhofer’s wife enclosing the Close Combat Bar in Bronze. The letter is signed by a Hauptfeldwebel Kriessmayr with a handwritten greetings from him at the bottom of the letter.
- A handwritten copy of Josef Stiefenhofer’s notification of his promotion from Leutnant to Oberleutnant with effect from 1.10.1944. It is signed for correctness on 18.11.1944 by Kopp as Major and Commanding Officer 1120th Grenadier Regiment.
Kopp was awarded the Knights Cross on 6.11.1942 as Hauptmann and Commanding Officer 1st/99th Gebirgsjager Regiment, 1st Mountain Division.
- Sepp Stiefenhofer’s post-war typed 10 page extract taken from the war diary of his Regiment covering the period from his return to his old company (9/99) on 2.7.1942 until 10.10.1942. It is a very good account of the way of his company in the Caucasus. It describes the fact that his mountain field gun was in position and in action at an amazing height of 4,200 metres on Mt Elbrus.
- The original German handwritten medical operation report dated 17.11.1944 by a Stabsarzt Dr Hahn concerning the operation on Josef Steiefenhofer as a result of his serious wounding near Blamont/Lorraine. A typed copy of this report is attached. Subject: A bullet hole in the left and forward upper side of the chest. Great difficulty in breathing, painful and tense abdomen.
- An American medical wallet which accompanied Stiefenhofer wherever he went in the medical chain of hospitals – it contains 8 documents. Information on the front cover of the wallet indicates that he was severely wounded and was to be treated as a lying case for any movement. It shows that he had been badly wounded in the left chest and stomach on 16.11.1944 near Blamont/Lorraine in France by a rifle bullet. There is a PW preliminary record with general details about Stiefenhofer including the fact that the was taken prisoner in Strasbourg on 23.11.1944. There are two copes of complete PW emergency evacuation tags. There is a small document which shows that he had been transferred from Strasbourg on his capture via the American 35th Station Hospital (APO 365 – Epinal) on 6.12.1944, 21st General Hospital (APO 362 – Mirecourt/France) on 13.12.1944, 43rd General Hospital (APO 420 – Southern France) on 1.1.1945 to finally the American PW Hospital 417 (APO 772) on 12.2.1945. There is finally a small medical certificate issued in Sonthofen/Allgau on 14.1.1946 classifying him with a Class 2 Disability.
- A W.D., PMG Form No 2-1 which gives the basic details about Stiefenhofer, his date/place of birth, NOK, PW number, date and place of capture, his physical dimensions and last German Army unit – 13 Company, 1120th Grenadier Regiment in 553 Volksgrenadier Division.
- A group of 8 documents – medical treatment / operation log sheets covering the period between 9.12.1944 and 17.4.1945. They are very instructive as to the recovery progress of Stiefenhofer. It is cleat that he was shot in the left side of the chest and suffered grenade shrapnel wounds to the left abdomen on 16.11.1944 and was operated on the following day at Loerchingen.
- An undated Military Government Questionnaire in which Stiefenhofer entered his personal details, education, trade examinations, complete record of military service/civil employment, membership of organisations (SA: May 33 – October 1934) and income/assets.
- Sonthofen dated 21.1.1946. The Allgauer Kraftwerk Firm’s rejection of his application for work.
- Augsburg dated 18.2.1946. The German National Railways rejection of his application for work.
- Weilheim dated 23.6.1946. A typed letter from a former comrade, Ernst Tweer, to Steifenhofer which talks about the present and hopes for the future.
- Sonthofen dated 8.7.1946. A police instruction concerning the moving of the Stiefenhofer family from one dwelling to another in Sonthofen (S-Blaichach to S-Rieden) which must take place by 1st August 1946. Any complaints must be lodged with the Sonthofen Administration within 3 days.
- Sonthofen dated 22.11.1946. Stiefenhofer’s handwritten CV covering his life and career up to his discharge from the German army on 18.12.1945 and his period of employment since 20.3.1946 as a storeman with Ottmer Herz in Sonthofen.
- Sonthofen/Rieden dated 23.11.1946. Stiefenhofer’s typed letter to the Sonthofen Administration applying for employment as a telex operator with the Sonthofen Border Police Office.
- Sonthofen dated 4.12.1946. A typed copy of Stiefenhofer’s letter applying for employment with Sonthofen Marktgemeinde (Market Town) Administration
- Munich dated 2.1.1947. A letter from the Ministry of Interior Border Police Office’s in reply to Stiefenhofer’s letter dated 23.11.1946 rejecting his application because of the large number of applicants for this post.
- Moscow dated 4.2.1947. A small handwritten card sent by Hans Vogel in Russian captivity to his wife in Fussen. Apart from few words about his family, he informs her that a Franz Stiefenhofer (Josef Stiefenhofer’s elder brother) has died from Pneumonia.
- Sonthofen dated 14.5.1947. Stiefenhofer’s typed letter to the German Department for the Notification of the Next of Kin of the Fallen of the former German Armed Forces. Subject: Death of Franz Stiefenhofer in Russian Captivity. He states that his brother was captured by the Americans who handed him over to the Russians. He had heard from him twice – last time in December 1946. Vogel was with him the same hospital near the Black Sea when Franz Stiefenhofer died. He requested that a death certificate be issued so that his family can get a pension.
- Munich dated 23.6.1947. A letter from the Ministry of the Interior Bavarian Border Police to Stiefenhofer asking him to attend an employment exam to be held on 2.7.1947 in the Munich Police Headquarters at 1300 hours.
- Sonthofen dated 2.7.1947. A further letter from Stiefenhofer to the German Department for the Notification of the NOK of the Fallen of the former German Armed Forces concerning the death of his brother. He has enclosed three enclosures in the hope that they produce sufficient evidence for the issue of an official death certificate.
- Berlin-Frohnau dated 12.9.1947. This is an official typed reply on the reverse of the above letter dated 2.7.1947 to Stiefenhofer stating the need for a date and location of his brother when he died. It states that without this information it is not possible to issue a death certificate. They await Stiefenhofer’s reply and upon receipt will issue a death certificate without delay.
- Sonthofen dated 17.1.1948. Stiefenhofer’s typed letter to the Schwabian Regional Insurance Company in Augsburg concerning a change of net income and pension. He states that he has been working in the registration officer of Sonthofen Market Town since 1.1.1948.
- Sonthofen dated 4.12.1948. Affirmation of a Solemn Declaration by Stiefenhofer who is trying to obtain compensation for the loss of his camera whilst being transferred as a PW on 31.12.1944 to the South of France to 43 General Hospital. (APO 420).
- Sonthofen dated 4.12.1948. A note from the Garrison Expenses Office Sonthofen confirming that the former PW Josef Stiefenhofer lives in Sonthofen-Rieden, Illerweg 14.
- Sonthofen/Allgau dated 7.3.1949. The Garrison Expenses Office Sonthofen’s reply to Stiefenhofer’s letter dated 4.12.1948 concerning compensation for the loss of his camera – the claim is rejected.
- Sonthofen dated 13.1.1950. A Giro Form for Statistical Recording signed and complete by Stiefenhofer. It covers his Armed Forces Service and present employment.
- Sonthofen dated 12.3.1951. A typed note confirm Stiefenhofer’s powers of vision without glasses.
- Sonthofen dated 18.8.1951. A short typed medical certificate for presentation to the pension office in Augsburg.
- Sonthofen dated 23.8.1951. A typed certificate confirming Stiefenhofer’s treatment for stomach illness from 1947 until 25.6.1949. This information is taken from his former deceased Doctor’s medical records and certified as being correct by his widow, Frau Margit Legl
- A green file cover entitled ‘Documents for Statute in Section 131GG’ containing two groups of 23 and 7 documents – it starts with a short typed note by Stiefenhofer dated 14.1.1983 – ‘The documents in this file have been overtaken and are no longer needed. They can be destroyed after the demise of the undersigned.’ And signed by Stiefenhofer on 14.1.1983. A summary of the document groups which relate to ‘The care of former professional members of the Armed Forces’ is as follows:
a) Sonthofen dated 7.8.1951. A short letter from the Sonthofen Marktgemeinde (Market Town) to the German Officer for the Notification of the NO of the fallen of the former requesting information about Stiefenhofer’s service in the German Army.
b) Berlin-Wittenau date 24.10.1951. The official reply to Sonthofen Marktgemeinde’s letter dated 7.8.1951 saying that there were no details available about Stiefenhofer’s military service but gives information about his ID number, unit and some hospital treatments. (jaundice – 23.1.1942)
c) A confirmatory document dated 4.11.1953 about a registration list concerning Stiefenhofer.
d) A stapled pack of documents consisting of a typed letter from Stiefenhofer (he refers to two letters dated 19.11.1953 & 16.12.1953) to the Senior Tax Administration Munich – Subject: Care of former professional members of the Armed Forces in accordance with the statute book article 131GG with enclosures as follows: 4 solemn declarations by former comrades of Stiefenhofer (Volpert, Baumgartner, Gschwilm & Kopp (his former CO)) concerning Stiefenhofer’s military peace/war service; the original 19.11.1953 and 16.12.1953 letters; August Baumgartner’s letter dated 19.1.1954 with confirmation about Steifenhofer’s military service; certified true copies of the 24.10.1951 letter, Iron Cross 1st Class award certificate, confirmation of Stiefenhofer’s employment with Ottmar Herz G.m.b.H. (20.3.1946-29.3.1947) promotion to Oberleutnant, award of the 4 year military service decoration; discharge certificate from the German Army; letter recognising the extent of his wartime wounds; letter confirming that there is no longer any concern over his former membership of the SA; marriage certificate; details employment from 1.4.47 until post 1.4.1952; Marktgemeinderat Sonthofen’s confirmation of his marriage; a further three solemn declarations about Stiefenhofer’s military service (Stiefenhofer (2) & Kriessmayr)
e) a group of 7 letters/documents concerning his pension – calculation of and arrangement of – details of pension payments (initial and amendment) – dated 11.8.1955, 17.7.1956, 25.1.1963 and 2.8.1976.
- This is an interesting album with 146 photos which cover the post-war period between 1949 and 1964. It is very much a personal photographic record of Josef and Lotte Stiefenhofer. The first photo is of Josef with his friend Walter Kopp (his last wartime commanding officer and a Knights Cross Holder) in 1949. The record portrays their home and friends, their gatherings (At home and away), walks in mountain valleys and in the countryside, weddings and christenings etc. There is a nice series of photos of his small home in Burgsiedlung 5 (Sonthofen)
- A pre war postcard sized photo of Josef Stiefenhofer in uniform climbing a near vertical rock face – mountain climbing?
- A family photo taken in Stolpe 1944 – Lotti Stiefenhofer’s family?
- An undated WW2 Postcard sized photog of Franz Stiefenhofer (Josef’s elder brother) and his wife – he is uniform wearing his decorations which include an EK2 ribbon.
- A photo of Feldwebel Franz Stiefenhofer in a death notelet issued in commemoration of his death in February 1947 whilst in Russian captivity.
- There is also a small framed photo of his elder brother, Franz Stiefenhofer, in uniform as Gebirgsjager Feldwebel who died in Russian captivity in February 1947.
- A page taken from an out of date post-war passport with good ID photos of Josef and Lotte Stiefenhofer.
- A very fine PC size photo of an Erich Kopp who was not only a personal friend of Stiefenhofer but also his last commanding officer in WW2. Kopp is wearing his Bundeswehr uniform in the rank of Oberst with his post-war medal ribbon bar which includes the one for a Ritterkreuz which he was awarded on 6.11.1942 as Hauptmann and Commanding Officer I/99th Gebirgsjager Regiment, 1st Mountain Divisoin. There is a dedication on the reverse with a date of 14.4.1990.
Josef Stiefenhofer was born in Hopferau on 3rd May 1916 as the second son of his father (Benedikt) who was a master carpenter. His elder brother Franz was born on 11.6.1914 and died in February 1947 in Russian Captivity from Pneumonia. Steifenhofer was a Catholic and married Lotte Genzmer (who was born on 27.11.1917 in Stolpe – who worked as a shop assistant) on 29th April 1942. They had no children. He attended Elementary School 1921-27 and a further education school between 1927 and 1930. On leaving school he worked for his father and then worked as a huntsman in 1933/34 and then as a builder in 1934-35 until discharged due to a shortage of work. He was a member of the SA between May 1933 and October 1934. In the spring of 1934 he reported to the Reichswehr and was called up for military service to Kempten in November 1934 where he signed on for 12 years.
He saw active service in the 99th Gebirgsjager Regiment in Poland 1939 (Awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class) as part of Army Group South, the Division was involved in the fighting in the Carpathians and at Lvov, it also took part in the round up of Jewish Civilians from Przemysl for forced labour and photos of this were printed in newspapers.
Taking part in the Battle of France 1940 and was part of the force that was planned to take place in Operation Sea Lion (the invasion of the United Kingdom) and Operation Felix (The invasion of Gibraltar).
After the two cancelled operations of 1940 the Division took part in the Operation against Yugoslavia in April 1941, the Division was noted to have committed war crimes during this campaign reporting that it took 498 prisoners, 411 of whom were subsequently shot.
During Operation Barbarossa the Division was involved in fighting in Southern Russia, working its way through the Stalin Line defences, in the Second Battle of Kharkov in May 1942 and then through Southern Russia into the Caucasus, where members of a detachment of the division managed to raise the German Flag on Mt Elbrus, the highest mountain in Europe. After the Russian counteroffensives in the Southern sector during the winter of 1942 the Division gradually withdrew into the Kuban bridgehead. During the fighting in early 1943 Stiefenhofer was awarded the Iron Cross 1st Class for an act of bravery during the fighting at the Mius River.
After the fighting in the Caucasus and Kuban the Division was moved to Yugoslavia and took part in Operation Black, an offensive comprising 127,000 troops of various nations that sought to destroy the main Partisan forces in Yugoslavia. The Division was involved in various crimes during the period July-October 1943, on 6th July 1943 members of the division attacked the village of Borove in Albania, it burned or destroyed all the houses and buildings in the village killing all 107 inhabitants including five entire families, the victims ranging from 4 months to 73 years old. On 25th July 1943, soldiers attacked the village of Mousiotitsa in Greece after a cache of weapons was found nearby killing 153 civilians. On 16th August 1943 the village of Kommeno was attacked on the orders of Oberstleutnant Josef Salminger, the commander of Gebirgsjager Regiment 98. A total of 317 civilians were killed.
In September 1943, Divisional Soldiers took part in the murder of thousands of Italians on the Greek island of Cefalonia after Italy had surrendered. It killed over 30 officers and around 100 soldiers from the Italian 151st Perugia Infantry Divisio in Albania immediately after the Italian Surrender.
Greek partisans killed Oberstleutnant Josef Salminger by Greek partisans, the commander of 22nd Mountain Army Corps, General der Gebirgstruppe Hubert Lanz ordered on 1st October a ruthless retaliatory action in a 20km area around the location that Salminger was killed, in the village of Lyngiades 92 of its 96 residents were executed.
Stiefenhofer then moved in France (Nancy, Vosges & Lower Alsace) between July and November 1944 when he was badly wounded in the left chest and stomach on 16.11.1944 near Blamont/Lorraine by a rifle bullet/shrapnel. It was during the period prior to his wounding that an outstanding act of bravery led to his award of the Honour Roll Clasp of the German Army on 15.2.1945. He was taken prisoner by the Americans whilst in a Strasbourg hospital on 23.11.1944. He was discharged from the Army on 18.12.1945. Josef Stiefenhofer had risen through the ranks to obtain a wartime commission with a final rank of Oberleutnant. He had been a Section and Platoon Commander, a Headquarters Clerk and finally a Company Commander – all his combat appointments were involved with Mountain/Infantry Field Gun Platoons/Company.
Josef Stiefenhofer settled down with his wife in Sonthofen after the war. It is evident that he found it hard to find work after WW2 like many other ex-servicemen. He eventually found employment with the Sonthofen Marktgemeinde (Market Town) Administration. There is an interesting album with 146 photos which cover the post-war period between 1949 and 1964. It is very much a personal photographic record of Josef and Lotte Stiefenhofer during this period of their lives