Germany – Third Reich: The Fine and Interesting Knights Cross and German Cross in Gold Winners Document Group to Major of the Reserve Hermann Kremer, 9th Artillery Regiment, 9th Infantry Division then 129th Artillery Regiment, 129th Infantry Division, who having been awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class in France in 1940, went on to be awarded the Iron Cross 1st Class during the Moscow Winter Counteroffensive, the German Cross in Gold for the defensive fighting during the post Kursk Operation Kutozov, and finally the Knights Cross of the Iron Cross for the fighting in East Prussia, before surrendering to the Red Army there in April 1945.
A Fascinating Small and Rare Award Document group relating to a former Reserve Officer in the Artillery of the German Army. It comprises the small and large German Cross in Gold award certificates (Awarded on 8th October 1943), 4 others, and 33 photos. Kremer went on to be awarded the Knights Cross on 23rd March 1945!
A History of The 129th Artillery Regiment.
A fascinating and very interesting story of Hermann Kremer’s Regiment from the time it was deployed in 1940 until its end in 1945 in East Prussia. It is an A4 size photo copy of a typed manuscript privately produced in Bremen in 1962. There are 333 pages with 39 map diagrams of various sizes. The Regiment’s combat record on the Eastern Front is written up with much detail. There is information about names of officers, personalities in the Regiment and casualties. The narrative not only tells the story of 129th Artillery Regiment but also that of the Division – you are able to follow the path of the Regiment. The information is based on extracts from Regimental and Divisional war diaries notes from diaries of individuals and other Divisional units, particularly 129th Anti-tank Battalion and articles from former members. Kremer features in the story particularly from the time he became Officer Commanding 4th Battery until he is taken prisoner on 16th April 1945 in East Prussia as Commanding Officer II Battalion.
A small group of 33 photos came with the group. There is a photo of Hermann Kremer (as an Oberleutnant and wearing his Iron Cross 1st Class – mid-1942) sitting alongside a fellow officer in a wood which he has signed after the war – now as Dr Hermann Kremer. There are also 7 other photos which clearly show him with the troops. You see him in the rank of Leutnant (on a firing range 1940, briefing Senior NCOs on the side of a road, as a Hauptmann in Winter 1943-44 presenting decorations to members of his II Battalion, and Leutnant standing in the ranks at a burial. He is a slim and quite a tall individual with darkish hair who wears glasses. The photos record an Artillery unit on the march, passing a column of Russian prisoners of war, pausing during a march, field kitchens, Russian tanks and a field gun in position.
Harold Kremer was born on 28th September 1914 in Budingen, Oberhessen. His civil occupation was noted as a trainee Civil Servant. Since he was a Reserve Army Officer it is most probable that he enlisted at some time in the 1930s, been commissioned as a Leutnant and was discharged into the Army Reserve of Officers. With mobilisation he was called up to serve with 9th Artillery Regiment, 9th Infantry Division in which he saw active service with 2nd Battery in 1940 France and was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class on 24th October 1940. He was then transferred with his Battery to help form 129th Artillery Regiment on its deployment on 31.10.1940. He saw continuous active service with this Artillery Regiment on the Eastern Front from June 1941 onwards, he was awarded the Iron Cross 1st Class on 5th January 1942 for an act of gallantry in the Rzhev area during the early parts of the retreat from Moscow during the Russian winter counter-offensives. The Division was involved in the very heavy fighting in the Rzhev salient during the whole of 1942, being wounded there on 25th August 1942 and subsequently being awarded the Black Wound Badge. The action in which he was wounded is covered in a personal account by an anti-tank gunner in the same unit:
‘Tank after tank followed by the Infantry rolled into the Vekshino ravine, first wave of about 30-50 tanks. I was anti-tank field gun in front of Stroyenki, nothing to the front of me. I immediately reported the concentration of the tanks to Battalion. It did not last much longer since the tanks started to attack with the Infantry behind them. Our Stukas came at the last moment. Those tanks that were still mobile withdrew into the Vekshino ravine. The largest number remained behind in the ground to the front of the main battle line. A second attack likewise failed because the Stukas came again. But the Russians continuously rolled new tanks and infantry into the Vekshino ravine. A third attack of the Russians rolled up to within 300 metres in front of my field gun, the Stukas only then came. I myself had knocked out 2 tanks with my field gun. We then ourselves received a direct hit. With this Gefreiters Schussen and Schilling were killed. Ivan continued to fire on my destroyed field gun with tanks, Stalin Organs and artillery fire. I lay the whole time, almost buried, close by in my foxhole.’
The Rzhev area was the scene of several major Soviet attacks, all defeated by the German 9th Army, the casualties on both sides in the area were so heavy, that it earned the nickname the ‘Rzhev meat-grinder’.
The 129th Infantry Division withdrew from the Rzhev salient alongside the other units there when the Germans abandoned the salient in order to shorten it’s line and free up Divisions for elsewhere in March 1943. During the summer of 1943 the Division was fighting in the area around Bryansk before it was forced back to the Mogilev area in early October. It was fighting during this period that Kremer was awarded the German Cross in Gold, this being awarded to Kremer on 10th October 1943, the certificate having been issued on the 8th. Unfortunately there is no further information available as to this award or the circumstances of it.
Kremer continued to fight with the same unit throughout the next 18 months, seeing fighting in the Vitebsk area, and then the Bobruisk region at the outset of the Russian summer offensive that led to the destruction of Army Group Centre. On 12th September 1944 the Division was mentioned in the Armed Forces Report.
‘The Hess-Thuringian 129th Infantry Division under command of Generalmajor von Larisch and the Wurttemberg 5th Jager Division under command of Generalleutnant Sixt have particularly distinguished themselves in the battle at the lower Narew through steadfastness and attack elan.’
In Late November 1944 Kremer was awarded the General Assault Badge indicating his involvement in numerous front-line actions. Involved in the retreat back into East Prussia in February-April 1945, Kremer would have seen ferocious defensive fighting as the German Army tried to prevent the Russians from making their way into Germany. It was on 23rd March 1945 that Kremer was awarded the Knights Cross of the Iron Cross for an act of gallantry in this defensive fighting. Unfortunately with the chaos at this period in time, the Certificate for this award was either not issued, or appears to have been lost, possibly in the days before or after his capture by the Red Army on 16th April 1945. Once taken by the Russians he was sentenced to 10 years in prison in part for a hunger strike, after 5 years in Marinsk Gulag, Siberia he was released in May 1950, he went on to return to Germany and passed away on 24th December 1988 in Koblenz, Germany.
A Good Set of Documents to a highly decorated German Artillery Officer.