Germany – Third Reich: The Exceptional Polish Campaign Iron Cross 2nd Class, Stalin Line Breakthrough Iron Cross 1st Class, Stalingrad Counter-Offensive Defensive Fighting German Cross in Gold and East Prussia 1945 Gold Wound Badge Document Group to Oberstleutnant Heinz-Eberhard Opitz, 28th Infantry Regiment, 8th Infantry Division; 525th and 527th Infantry/Grenadier Regiment, 298th Infantry Division; 767th Grenadier Regiment, 176th Infantry Division; 911th and 913th Grenadier Regiment, 349th Infantry Division, who finished as the Commanding Officer of Grenadier Regiment Opitz, who was awarded the Knights Cross of the Iron Cross as a result of the defensive fighting in East Prussia in response to the start of the Soviet Vistula-Oder Offensive that began in January 1945.
A rare and very interesting document group which relates to a Holder of the Knights Cross of the Iron Cross and German Cross in Gold who was a career soldier. The group consists of 6 award certificates, documents, 2 post-war copies of wartime photos and 49 documents which cover Heinz-Eberhard Opitz’s life from 1933, his career from the moment he enlisted on 2nd April 1935 until he was discharged on 11th July 1945. The group includes a number of post war documents, two of which deal with his request for a copy of his Knights Cross certificate which had been lost through enemy action at the end of the war and the reply that there was no official record as at 23.4.1952 of this award.
- The Armed Forces 4 Years Service Medal awarded at Troppau on 31st March 1939 as a Leutnant, 28th Infantry Regiment. Signed for correctness by Hohne as Oberst and Commanding Officer.
Hohne was awarded the Knights Cross on 30.6.1941 as Generalmajor and General Officer Commanding 8th Jager Division and the 238th Oakleaves on 17.5.1943 as Generalleutnant and General Officer Corps ‘Laux’
- The 1st October 1938 Commemorative Medal awarded at Breslau on 22nd August 1939 as an Oberleutnant, 1/28th Infantry Regiment. Signed by Pancke as Oberstleutnant and Battalion Commander.
Pancke was awarded the German Cross in Gold on 9.6.1943 as Oberst and Commanding Officer 350th Grenadier Regiment (221st Security Division)
- An A4 preliminary award certificate for The Iron Cross 2nd Class awarded by Divisional HQ on 18th October 1939, as an Oberleutnant, 1/28th Infantry Regiment. Signed by Koch-Erpach as Generalleutnant and General Officer Commanding 8th Infantry Division.
Koch-Erpach was awarded the Knights Cross on 24.6.1940 as Generalleutnant and General Officer Commanding 8th Infantry Division and the German Cross in Silver on 24.11.1944 as General of Cavalry and Commander in Chief Wehrkreis VIII.
- The Iron Cross 1st Class awarded by Divisional HQ on 13th August 1941 as an Oberleutnant, HQ 525th Infantry Regiment. Signed by Graesssner as Generalmajor and General Officer Commanding 298th Infantry Division.
Graesnner was awarded the Knights Cross on 27.10.1941 as Generalleutnant and General Officer Commanding 298th Infantry Division; died on 16.7.1943 in the Reserve Hospital Troppau (Silesia) as General of Infantry and General Officer Commanding XII Army Corps.
- The Ostmedaille awarded on 15th July 1942 as a Hauptmann, 527th Grenadier Regiment. Signed for correctness by Reich as Oberleutnant and Adjutant 911 Grenadier Regiment.
The 911th Grenadier Regiment stamp on the certificate indicates that this medal was presented to Opitz when he was Commanding Officer of the 911th sometime in 1944
- A small preliminary award certificate of The German Cross in Gold awarded by HQ Army High Command on 9th April 1943 as a Hauptmann, Commanding Officer II/527th Grenadier Regiment. Facsimile signature of Generalfeldmarschall Keitel.
Record of Service:
- An undated post war copy of a Statement for the Completion of a Pension application sent to the Munich Pension Officer by Opitz. There are 10 questions which he answers, four of which are clarified by enclosures which give the following details about:
a) The units/formations he served in with dates and his ranks
b) The areas of Operations (Poland, France, Russia, East Prussia and West Germany), with dates and his appointments.
c) His six woundings, their dates and areas where they were sustained
d) The locations of first aid posts and hospitals where he was treated.
- A carbon copy of information extracted from Opitz’s Soldbuch giving details of his promotions with dates, his ID Number, Blood Group etc, some further information about hospitals in which he had been treated and finally dates of the award of the Black, Silver and Gold Wound Badges.
- Berlin, 14th September 1933 – Certificate No.9076 for the award of the German Horseman’s Badge Class in Bronze. Opitz was a student at the time of this award and was living in Breslau
- Halle, 24th October 1934 – a confirmation of the details of Opitz’s birth taken from the Halle birth register (Halle Saale, 17th July 1912). He was born on 13th July 1912 in his parent’s house in Halle Salle. He was the son of Engineer Hubert Wilhelm Hermann Opitz and Elisabeth Margarete Johanna Opitz (nee Gothe).
- 30th October 1934 – SA Sports Badge Achievement Book with a good photo of Opitz in civilian dress on the inside cover. There is an entry on page 14 stating that he had been awarded the Silver Class on 21.2.1935
- Schweidnitz, 2nd April 1935 – Opitz’s enlistment certificate into the Infantry Regiment Schweidnitz for a period of two years until 31st March 1937.
- Schweidnitz, 16th April 1935 – Opitz’s soldier’s identification card Number 17. It covers the years 1935 to 1937 and includes details of his promotions from Shutze to Leutnant. There is a good photo of him as a Schutze in the 7th Infantry Regiment.
- 19th November 1935 – Award certificate for the German Sports Badge in Bronze. There is a good photo of Opitz as a Schutze in the 7th Infantry Regiment (10th Company)
- HQ Munich War School – 1936 Tour information. This is an A5 size 40 page pamphlet produced by the War School in support of two tours (29.6-9.7.1936 and then 20-30.7.1936) of a number of German towns/cities by course students. It gives the students a summary about each place to be visited.
- Munich, 30th September 1936 – A certificate of military commitment for service until further notice in the German Army. This certificate is signed by Opitz as a Fahnrich in 7 Infantry Regiment and the Oberst and Course Leader of Course B at the Munich War School.
- Munich, 23rd October 1936 (Course B, Munich War School) – a certificate stating that Fahnrich Opitz (I.R.7.) is promoted to Oberfahnrich with effect from 1st October 1936.
- Munich, 23rd October 1936 (Course B, Munich War School) – a Leaving certificate of the Munich War School stating that Fahnrich Opitz (I.R.7) has passed the officer examination (21-24.9.1936) with the grading of ‘GOOD’.Signed by the Oberst and Course Leader.
- Munich, 27th October 1936 (Course B, Munich War School) – a certificate stating that Fahnrich Opitz (I.R.7) has passed the Officer Examination (21-24.9.1936) with the grading of ‘GOOD’. Signed by the Oberst and Course Leader.
- Doberitz-Elsgrund, 2nd February 1937. A spectacles prescription issued for Oberfahnrich Opitz whilst he was at the Infantry School Doberitz-Elsgrund.
- Schweidnitz, 18th February 1937. A formal letter from the Commanding Officer of the 7th Infantry Regiment to Oberfahnrich Opitz at the Doberitz Infantry School stating his regret that he was not returning to his old Regiment and wishing him all the best for the future and also hoping that he will settle down well with his new Regiment (28th Infantry Regiment – see serial 15).
- Okasin, 23rd March 1937. An Order for the Action of the ‘so called Oder’ Engineers with the attack on 23.3.1937 between 1500 and 2000 hours. This is a carbon copy of what appears to be an Order for an Exercise which probably took place whilst Opitz was a student at the Infantry School Doberitz-Elsgrund.
- Berlin, 20th April 1937 – Oberfahnrich Heinz-Eberhard Opitz’s appointment as a Leutnant with the effect of 1st April 1937 (Seniority Number 121) in the 28th Infantry Regiment. The Certificate is personally signed by Blomberg as War Minister.
- Four undated pages taken from a small note book and message pad:
a) Two in Opitz’s handwriting (pencil) with details of seniority numbers of newly commissioned officers. One with just numbers whilst the other has names, seniority number and Regiment (Infantry and Artillery).
b) Another page from a message pad with names, ranks and sub-units of a number of officers in Opitz’s handwriting. There is no indication as to which Regiment they belonged.
c) One in Opitz’s handwriting (ink) which appears to be a list of dates from 20.9-24.10.1937 concerning visits to units/formations and training exercises.
- A NSDAP Registration Certificate dated 25.4.1935 – previous registration with the Breslau local branch cancelled on 25.4.1935. Reasons for this action appear to be a change of address.
- An undated green certificate issued (probably sometime in 1937) to Leutnant Opitz – membership No.37903 of the Army Clothing Bank.
- Oppeln, 18th December 1937 – Court of the 8th Division – Leutnant Heinz Opitz (15(E)Company, 28th Infantry Regiment). A punishment order of 3 days confinement to quarters for Opitz for endangering life when officer in charge of a live hand-grenade throwing practice on 1.12.1937.
- Oppeln, 12th April 1938 – A handwritten note to Opitz sending him and his bride-to-be the heartiest of congratulations – it is has 15 signatures which are probably those belonging to his II Battalion fellow officers in the 28th Infantry Regiment.
- Troppau, 15th August 1938. Examination Result No.338 certifying that Leutnant Opitz (HQ I/28 Infantry Regiment) has passed the Class 1 Vehicle Commander’s Test.
- 21st September 1939. A newspaper cutting with an Armed Forces High Command report about the final phase of the 1939 Campaign against Poland.
- HQ 8th Division, 7th November 1939. This is a copy of a signal from the Army High Command Personnel Officer to HQ VIII Army Corps giving permission for Oberleutnant Opitz to marry Ruth, Dragoni Edle von Rabenhorst and another officer in 28th Observation Battalion to marry as well. This Division informed both individuals by telephone.
- RHQ 527th Grenadier Regiment, 17th January 1943. A carbon copy of a typed Regimental March Order for 17.1.1943. It states that 298th Infantry Division will resume the march on 17.1.1943 to the West and reach Yevsug (on the road to Starobelsk). Commanding Officer 527th Grenadier Regiment (Oberst Sauer) is in charge of Group C.
- Breslau, 9th April 1943. A short typed letter from HQ Wehrkreis VIII to Hauptmann Opitz in Breslau stating that with effect of 7.4.1943 he is being transferred to 376th Infantry Division for employment as a Battalion Commander – he will move via the Rhine/Westphalia Forward Directing Centre.
- Divisional HQ, 1st May 1943. A short typed letter sent by HQ 389th Infantry Division to Major Opitz in Haar near Munich enclosing his German Cross in Gold and a copy of a telex from Army Detachment Kempf dated 13.4.1943 to 389th Infantry Division informing it that the award of the German Cross in Gold to Hauptmann Opitz (earlier 29th Infantry Division) had been announced and that the decoration was following via the chain of command (the copy of the telex is still attached to the typed letter.)
- 17th September 1943 – a handwritten letter to Opitz from his former Commanding Officer, Oberst Sauer, who was writing to him from the Breslau Reserve Hospital I. Oberst Sauer had been the Oberstleutnant Opitz – continued.
‘Commanding Officer 527th Grenadier Regiment (298th Infantry Division) when Opitz commanded II Battalion of that Regiment (July 1942 – March 1943). It is a nice personal letter which talks about the old Regiment, officers etc and came with its original envelope date stamped Breslau on 20.9.1943.’
- Stablack Troop Training Area, 5th September 1944. A handwritten letter from a Fritz Riehl congratulating him on his promotion to Oberstleutnant. It is obvious that Riehl is in a replacement Army unit and recovering from wounds. He talks about the old Regiment and personalities – he was under Opitz’s command.
- Stablack, 13th September 1943 – (346th Grenadier Replacement Battalion). A further handwritten letter from Fritz Riehl to Opitz. He is seeking help in his wish to rejoin his old Regiment, the 911th.
- Four small undated pages as follows:
a) handwritten list of field post numbers of units/formations in which Opitz served between October 1943 and March 1944:
01408 – HQ 525th Infantry Regiment
00730 – HQ 298th Infantry Regiment
19 625A – II/527th Grenadier Regiment
26 489A – III/767 = II/913rd Grenadier Regiment
b) a handwritten list recording the names of the ‘Feldwebels of the Battalion’ in HQ II/913rd Grenadier Regiment, 5, 6,7 and 8th Companies
c) A list (probable period April 1944 to January 1945) handwritten in pencil by Opitz listing the names of the officers filling the posts in RHQ 911 Grenadier Regiment, HQ Company, Signals and Engineer Platoons, 13 (Infantry Field Gun) and 14th (Anti-Tank) Companies, I and II Battalions etc.
d) Another list handwritten in pencil by Opitz which lists a number of names with his own name at the top of the list. There is a notation against each name but it is unclear what are the reasons behind the listing
- A remnant of an officer establishment list with names for 911 Grenadier Regiment as at 11 April 1944. Opitz is top of the list as a Major and acting Commanding Officer.
- Munich, 10th March 1945. A copy of a telex stating that Opitz, with the effect from 1.3.1945 was no longer under the control of Commander Wehrkreis VIII but under Commander Wehrkreis VII. This information was forwarded by the Deputy Commander VII Army Corps to Oberstleutnant Opitz (Munich-Haar, Munchnerstrasse 10b, 517th Grenadier Replacement Regiment, 467th Division with the following statement ‘Oberstleutnant Opitz is assigned to 517th Grenadier Replacement Regiment for service and care.
- 1945, undated copy of Opitz’s Certificate of Discharge from the German Army. He was discharged on 11th July 1945. It states that he was married with 2 children with his home address as Munich-Haar. Medical remarks were ‘scars right side of chest, scar in the face, scar on both arms – suffering from a lung wound (right side).
- Kronach, 6th August 1945 – brief medical report by the Reserve Hospital Kronach. Personal details noted as ‘Oberstleutnant Hienz-Eberhard Opitz, Grenadier Regiment ‘Opitz’. Clinical diagnosis ‘shot wound to the lung’. X-ray results ‘An almost two palm size coarse ‘Verschwartung’ on the right side of the breast. No discharge seen anymore. There is still about a pea-size bullet above the diaphragm more to the rear. No indication of a discharge.’
- Munich, 17th December 1945. A Specialist Diagnosis Certificate – a short summary report written up by a Dr. Babioch as the Section Doctor of the Surgical Department in the Red Cross Hospital in Munich. There are a number of medical terms which are connected to a condition resulting from Opitz’s lung wound.
- Munich, 12th April 1946. A carbon copy of a seven page defence against an indictment concerning August Maria Dragona Edler von Rabonhorst’s (Electrical Engineer and Opitz’s Father in Law) membership of various 3rd Reich political organisations including the NSDAP.
- Munich, 1st March 1947. An atonement ruling was issued by the Munich Town Hall on 26th February 1946 in which August Maria Dragoni Edler von Rabenhorst (Electrical Engineer and Opitz’s Father-in-Law) appears to be called upon to not only bear the costs of the court but also pay a certain amount of atonement monies as a result of having been a member of the NSDAP for 8 years as well as being a member of other 3rd Reich Political Organisations.
- Munich, 28th February 1952. A typed letter from Opitz to the Marital Status Archive at Kornelmunster near Aachen requesting proof of promotions as a former career officer. He gives details about his date of birth, when he entered the German Army and dates of promotion. He states that he allegedly promoted to Oberst in April 1945 but never received confirmation as he was in captivity at the time. Finally he asks for a certificate about the Knights Cross awarded to him in March 1945 since the original award certificate had been lost with the battles in East Prussia.
- Kornelmunster, 23rd April 1952. The Marital Status Archive of the North Rhine – Westphalia typed reply (original and carbon copy) to Opitz’s letter of 28.2.1952 which gives the details of his promotions to Leutnant, Hauptmann, and Major. These are the only records that the archive had and it also stated that award lists for the Knights Cross are not available for the period February to May 1945.
There are two very good post war copies of a photograph of Opitz with and without his Knights Cross – both are signed ‘Heinz-Eberhard Opitz’:
- The first is of Opitz in his summer uniform wearing the cloth version of the German Cross in Gold with the rank of Major (probably Summer 1943 – promoted to Major on 1.3.1943 and awarded the German Cross in Gold on 9.4.1943)
- The second is of him wearing a Knights Cross (Awarded this high decoration on 11.3.1945) with the cloth version of the German Cross in Gold in the rank of Oberstleutnant (promoted 1.6.1944)
It is obvious that the basic photo is the same in each case with the only difference being that the second photo has the Knights Cross superimposed as well as the gilt pips denoting the rank of Oberstleutnant.
Heinz-Eberhard Opitz was born at home in Halle on 13th July 1913, the son of Engineer Hubert Opitz and his wife Elisabeth (nee Goethe). He studied Jurisprudence at the Silesian Freidrich-Wilhelm’s University in Breslau (now Wroclaw/Poland) and became a member of Corps Marcomannia (a student association) in Breslau in 1932. Opitz enlisted into the German Army on 2nd April 1935 for an initial period of 2 years in the Infantry Regiment Schweidnitz. His period in the Army was evidently extended, as in 1937 he transferred to the 28th Infantry Regiment, being appointed as a Leutnant with effect from 1st April 1937. In December 1937 it appears Opitz found himself in some trouble, being confined to quarters for three days for endangering life in a live hand-grenade throwing practice on 1st December 1937! Opitz appears to have got engaged in April 1938 with the other Officers in his Regiment offering him their congratulations.
It appears that Opitz took part of the occupation of the Sudetenland in October 1938 with him receiving the official certificate for this award on 22nd August 1939. On the outbreak of war, 28th Infantry Regiment found itself taking part in the invasion of Poland, Opitz was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class on 18th October 1939 for an act of gallantry during that campaign. Shortly after the end of that campaign Opitz was given permission to marry Ruth Dragoni Edle von Rabenhorst, with whom he was to go on to have two children.
After the Polish Campaign it is almost certain that Opitz would have gone on to serve in the France Campaign in May 1940, in what role or Regiment though is unclear as he did not receive any awards during this period.
In 1941, he was serving as an Oberleutnant in the HQ Company, 525th Infantry Regiment of the 298th Infantry Division. This unit served as Army Group South in the Ukraine from the beginning of the invasion, fighting on the northern flank of this Army Group South up to the giant encirclement battles to the East of Kiev. Opitz’s Iron Cross 1st Class awarded to him on 13th August 1941, was most likely for an action whilst trying to breach the Stalin Line or shortly afterwards. After the fighting around Kiev, the Division went on to fight on to fight on the Dessna.
The majority of the winter of 1941-42 was spent fighting defensive battles in the Kharkov area, before switching to the offensive and engaging in an encirclement battle there in May 1942 in answer to an early Russian Offensive in the region. For his role in the winter fighting Opitz was awarded the Ostmedaille on 15th July 1942. At the outset of Fall Blau (Operation Blue), the German Summer Offensive of 1942, the Division drove eastwards to Rostov, before being attached to the 1st Romanian Army and the finally the Italian 8th Army in October. This was one of the flank armies that were crushed in the ensuing Soviet Counter-Offensive at Stalingrad, and which then pursued the German forces west across the Don during December 1942, during the pursuit Opitz was wounded firstly on 5th January 1943 being awarded the Black Wound Badge and on 9th January 1943 being awarded the Silver Wound Badge, he continues to serve on the front line for a little while longer, before being posted to the Reserve Hospital in Breslau between 23rd March and 15th April 1943, for a fever he had picked up in the fighting that led back to Tscherkowo area. On 9th April 1943, the Army High Command awarded Opitz the German Cross in Gold for his part in the heavy fighting over the winter of 1942-43.
From April 1943 he saw service as a Battalion Commander in the 767th Grenadier Regiment, 376th Infantry Division, with whom he served as part of the Occupation force in the Netherlands, by October 1943 he had transferred again, this time to the 913th Grenadier Regiment, 349th Infantry Division, he remained with this unit until March 1944 serving as part of the occupation force in France.
In April 1944 he moved to the Galicia region as a Major, and then latterly an Oberstleutnant in 911th Grenadier Regiment, 349th Infantry Division. With this unit he was very lucky to escape the fighting in the Brody pocket which led to the unit’s destruction on 5th August 1944. The Division then moved back into the Latvia/East Prussia border region which saw heavy fighting through the late autumn and early winter of 1944-45 as the Soviet forces attempted to cut off the German Army Group North.
On 15th January 1945 Opitz suffered another wounding from a grenade splinter that led him being awarded the Gold Wound Badge. He was latterly awarded the Knights Cross of the Iron Cross on 11th March 1945, this most likely for his role in the fighting in the early stages of the fighting in East Prussia during the major Russian Vistula-Oder offensive that began on 12th January 1945, these battles led to the encirclement and eventual destruction of the division in the Heiligenbeil Pocket.
It appears that Opitz’s wound meant he escaped this encirclement, and he appears as Commander of Grenadier Regiment Opitz in April 1945 which was serving in the West. He was wounded for a sixth and final time on 11th April 1945 suffering a Grenade Splinter to the right lung to the north of Erfurt.
After the war Opitz became a Presiding Judge at the District Court Munich as well as being a Reserve Officer in the Bundeswehr with the rank of Oberstleutnant of the Reserve.
An extremely detailed grouping of a highly decorated Regimental Commander in the German Army in WW2. The Knights Cross Certificate appearing to no longer exist according to the post war documentation with the group.