Germany – Third Reich: The Exceptional German Cross in Gold Winners Document Grouping to Oberfeldwebel Josef Przybilski, 3rd Company, 66th Machine-Gun Battalion, Army Troops, then 3rd Company, 66th Air Defence Battalion, Army Troops and finally 10th Air Defence Company, 11th Panzergrenadier Regiment, 9th Panzer Division, who was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class for actions in France, an Iron Cross 1st Class for fighting in the Voronezh area. Wounded five times during the course of the war, he was awarded the Gold Wound Badge. Przybilski was also the recipient of a number of other awards including in the Close Combat Bar in Bronze and in Silver as well as a Driver’s Badge of Merit In Bronze.
A rare and very interesting award document group consisting of the German Cross in Gold and 10 other award certificates, a typed letter and a colour copy of his Soldbuch which belonged to a former Warrant Officer who served in light air defence units throughout WW2.
A typed letter dated 18.11.1943 sent to Josef Przybilski at the Reserve Hospital in Unna/Westphalia from his Company Commander, Oberleutnant Fritz Frost, congratulating him on becoming the first member of the Company to be awarded not only the German Cross in Gold but also the Close Combat Bar in Silver. He states the first high decoration was awarded for his continuous action on the Eastern Front in 1942-43 and should be worn with pride. He also wishes him a speedy recovery and all the best for the future.
Information from colour photocopied Soldbuch:
Born on 28th March in 1915 in Bochum-Langendreick; Catholic; Civil Occupation – lathe operator. Married to Maria Stasiak – there home address was in Witten near Bochum. His father, Franz Przybilsky, was a factory worker who lived in Bochum-Werne. It also notes his entitlement to the Ostmedaille in addition to the award certificates listed above. The soldbuch also lists his promotions, the final one being to Oberfeldwebel on 1st August 1943. It states that he was wounded on 20th August 1943 with a wound to the stomach which led to him being treated for 18 months afterwards.
Josef Przybilski was born in Bochum on 28th March 1915. A Catholic, he was married to Maria Stasiak and he was living in Witten near Bochum. His civil occupation was noted as a lathe operator, with his father being a factory worker.
It is probable that Przybilski had joined the Germany Army before WW2, initially seeing service in the west in the winter of 1939-40, he would have not seen any combat action before the invasion of France in 1940, where as part of the 66th Air Defence Battalion he would have seen action on the drive to the Somme River, he would have been awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class for an act of gallantry during the latter stages of the Battle of France.
His unit then moved west in preparation for the invasion of the Soviet Union, at some point in this period his unit became attached to 28th Infantry Division which began the campaign as part of Army Group Centre which drove towards Moscow, on 9th August 1941 he was awarded the General Assault Badge for a number of actions including in the early days of Operation Barbarossa. On 21st June 1942 his Przybilski’s unit was transferred to the 10th Air Defence Company, 11th Panzergrenadier Regiment, 9th Panzer Division, where he served throughout the remainder of his front line service.
In July and early August 1942 9th Panzer Division was involved in the ferocious fighting in the Voronezh area, it was for an act of gallantry in these actions that Przybilski was awarded the Iron Cross 1st Class on 14th July 1942. On 3rd August the Division was disengaged and moved to the Kursk area where it took part in Operation Whirlwind, a local operation that sought to take Suchinichi, this attack was unsuccessful and was broken off on 22nd August, three days after Przybilski’s after initially wounding.
The Division continued to fight in local actions throughout the winter of 1942-43, many of which saw fierce fighting as the Red Army sought to take advantage of its major victory at Stalingrad to open a wide ranging offensive across the entire front. By March 1943 the Division was fighting between the Shisdra and Desna rivers, Przybilski was wounded three times in quick succession during this fighting, firstly received the Silver Wound Badge for his third wounding on 7th March 1943 and then the Gold Wound Badge for his fifth wounding on 19th March 1943. It is likely that these wounds were not severe enough to keep him away from the front lines for long.
It is almost certain that he took part in Operation Citadel in July 1943 as part of the northern pincer. The northern pincer failed to make much process quickly bogging down in the extensive Red Army defensive positions that had been set up in anticipation of the attack there. It was during the Red Army’s post Kursk counter attack that Przybilski received his most severe wound, one to the stomach which led him being moved to the rear area, and spending the majority of the remainder of the war recuperating in various hospitals.
After leaving the front lines, he was firstly awarded the Close Combat Bar in Bronze on 26th September 1943 and then the Close Combat Bar in Silver on 14th November 1943, which would indicate a minimum of 30 days close combat action, attesting to the ferocity of the fighting he had been involved in, and Przybilski’s valour.
Przybilski’s most notable decoration however, was the award on 11th November 1943 of the German Cross in Gold, which according to the letter sent to him in hospital by his Company Commander was a reward for his continuous action on the Eastern Front during the winter of 1942-43. He had been the first member of the company to be awarded the German Cross in Gold and also the Close Combat Bar in Silver.
Przybilski was moved to the Replacement Army upon his recovery, before being finally posted to 2 Company, II Battalion, 1309 Grenadier Field Training Regiment which was deployed in the Central Rhine area in March 1945. Przybilski survived the war.
An excellent grouping to a highly decorated and brave Warrant Officer who had served in both France and in the Soviet Union.