Germany - Third Reich: The important and rare Gebirgsjäger Fall of France 1940, Eastern Front 1941 to 1943 southern Russian, Caucasus to Kuban, Yugoslavia, Albania and Greece Anti-Partisan Operation Case Black and July 1943 German Cross in Gold and Hungary 1944 to 1945 Army Honour Roll Clasp winner’s group of award documents and effects to Feldwebel later Leutnant der Reserve Robert Maltry, 13th Company, 3rd Battalion, 98th Gebirgsjäger Regiment, 1st Mountain Division, who is believed to have fought in Poland in 1939, and was then wounded in ac
Germany - Third Reich: The important and rare Gebirgsjäger Fall of France 1940, Eastern Front 1941 to 1943 southern Russian, Caucasus to Kuban, Yugoslavia, Albania and Greece Anti-Partisan Operation Case Black and July 1943 German Cross in Gold and Hungary 1944 to 1945 Army Honour Roll Clasp winner’s group of award documents and effects to Feldwebel later Leutnant der Reserve Robert Maltry, 13th Company, 3rd Battalion, 98th Gebirgsjäger Regiment, 1st Mountain Division, who is believed to have fought in Poland in 1939, and was then wounded in action in France on 8th June 1940, being awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class. Serving in Yugoslavia in 1941, with the invasion of Russian he fought in the southern front in the advance towards Mius, being wounded in action for a second time on 6th November 1941, and awarded the Iron Cross 1st Class on 28th December 1941. During 1942 if fought on operations in the Caucasus, and his company, the 13th Company, had a commemorative medallion produced to commemorate its participation in five actions, namely at the Kluchorpass, Litschtal, Elbruspass, Canaikatal and Schemacho. Maltry as wounded in action for a third time on 27th August 1942, for a fourth time on 2nd October and for a fifth time on 6th October 1942, and was then awarded the Wound Badge in Gold on 21st January 1943. Having taken part in the retreat to Kuban, he was then moved with his division to Yugoslavia, where his regiment soon built a reputation for aggressive action against the Partisans, during a period when it committed a number of atrocities against civilians. The 98th Gebirgsjäger Regiment first took part in operations against the Partisans in Yugoslavia during the Case Black operation which lasted from 15th May to 16th June 1943. For the initial accumulative close combat operations against the Partisans, Maltry was awarded the Close Combat Clasp in Bronze on 27th June 1943. The man who signed the award of the Close Combat Clasp in Bronze to Maltry, as his Oberstleutnant and Commanding Officer, was Josef Salminger, the commander of the 3rd Battalion of which Maltry was a part, and who would build a reputation for his murderous activities against the local population, up till his death in an ambush by partisans on 1st October 1943. During this period, Maltry’s regiment was based in Ioannina, in Nazi occupied Greece and the start of its commitment of atrocities against civilians can be accurately put down to the day when the regiment was passing through Albania to regroup with the main forces in Greece. They entered the Albanian territory in the Korce region from the Macedonia part of Yugoslavia. Before they could cross into Greek territory they were attacked in two different places near the village of Borovë by Albanian partisans. After the battle, which lasted for several hours, the convoy was able to continue to its destination. The Partisans inflicted heavy losses on the Germans, destroying most of the vehicles and military equipment and killing more than 60 men. The regiment then launched a reprisal against the village of Borove on 6th July 1943. Among the 107 inhabitants killed were five entire families. The 98th Gebirgsjäger Regiment armed with flame throwers, set every house in the village on fire and massacred all the inhabitants of the village of Borovë that they could find on that day. Some of the victims were killed in place while many were grouped inside the village church and burned alive. Maltry’s award of the German Cross in Gold was made on 20th July 1943, and can be assumed to be for his actions during Operation Case Black during May to June 1943 and in response to the ambush of his regiment and the reprisal operations in early July 1943. Maltry was subsequently commissioned, and then became acting company commander of the 13th Company, and then fought in Hungary, and it was for his action in the area of Baranja on the battlefield near Cseto on 4th December 1944, when to the south of Lake Balaton, that Maltry won his final decoration, the Army Honour Roll Clasp awarded to him on 25th February 1945.
Comprising in order of award:
1) Infantry Assault Badge in Silver Award Certificate, issued to: ‘Oberfgefreiten Robert Maltry, 13./Gebirgs-Jäger-Regiment 98’, date 25th July 1941, signed in pencil ‘Picker’ for Egbert Martin Picker as Oberst and Commanding Officer, later Generalleutnant and recipient of the Knight’s Cross on 18th November 1941.
2) Iron Cross 1st Class Award Certificate, issued to: ‘Obj. Robert Maltry, 13./G.J.R.98’, dated 28th December 1941, signed in ink ‘Kress’ for Hermann Kreß as Oberst and GOC 1st Mountain Division, recipient of the Knight’s Cross on 20th December 1941, killed in action on 18th November 1943.
3) Wound Badge in Silver Award Certificate, issued to: ‘Oberjäger Robert Maltry, 13./Gebirgs-Jäger-Regiment 98’, dated 4th October 1942, for three wounds received on 8th June 1940, 6th November 1941, and 27th August 1942. Signed in pencil ‘Klebe’ as Hauptmann and Battalion Commander, recipient of the German Cross in Gold on 3rd November 1943.
4) Wound Badge in Gold Award Certificate, issued to: ‘Feldwebel Robert Maltry, 13./Gebirgs-Jäger-Regiment 98’, dated 21st January 1943, for five wounds received on 8th June 1940, 6th November 1941, 27th August 1942, 2nd October 1942 and 6th October 1942. Signed in pencil ‘Klebe’ as Hauptmann, recipient of the German Cross in Gold on 3rd November 1943.
5) Close Combat Clasp in Bronze Award Certificate, issued to: ‘Feldwebel Robert Maltry, 13./Gebirgs-Jäger-Regiment 98’, dated 27th June 1943, signed in pencil ‘Salminger’ for Josef Salminger
as Oberstleutnant and Commanding Officer, recipient of the Knight’s Cross on 31st August 1941 and the German Cross in Gold on 9th October 1942, and killed in action on 1st October 1943.
6) German Cross in Gold Award Certificate, issued to: ‘Feldwebel Maltry, 13./Geb/.Jg.Rgt.98’, dated 20th July 1943, facsimile signature of Generalfeldmarschall Keitel.
Together with the following:
7) Gebirgsjäger Commemorative Medallion for the 13th Company 98th Gebirgsjäger Regiment for actions in the Caucasus in 1942, zinc metal, complete with original leather loop, it lists five actions on the reverse - namely Kluchorpass, Litschtal, Elbruspass, Canaikatal and Schemacho, and was only issued to the men of the 13th Company of the 98th Gebirgsjäger Regiment. Extremely Rare.
8) Wartime photograph of the recipient in uniform, when serving as a Jäger, wearing the recently awarded Iron Cross 2nd Class and the Wound Badge in Black. Printed for use as a postcard, the reverse is inscribed in pencil ‘Maltry’.
9) Three wartime postcards for the Gebirgsjäger, one specifically printed for the 98th Gebirgsjäger Regiment.
10) Gebirgsjäger cloth Edelweiss sleeve badge. Wartime issued example.
11) A wartime book titled ‘The 98th Gebirgsjäger Regiment in the Polish Campaign September 1939’, 83 pages, card covers, 16 photos, 2 map diagrams of the Lemburg area, a map of Lemburg, and a map illustrating the victorious route of the 1st Mountain Division in Poland between 1st and 22nd September 1939. List of all personnel killed in action, this book was printed exclusively for personnel of the 98th Regiment, and the families of the fallen - it was forbidden to produce copies of the book from the printed original.
Robert Maltry was born on 8th November 1911 in Hettenleidheim in the Rhineland, and went on to become a very highly decorated member of the elite Gebirgsjäger - the Mountain Troops, and would appear to have seen service with the same company throughout the war. He may well have taken part in the Polish campaign, with his regiment, the 98th Gebirgsjäger Regiment, which in peacetime, was located at Mittenwald, having been originally formed on 12th October 1937. As a Jäger with the 13th Company in the 3rd Battalion of his regiment in the 1st Mountain Division, it is assumed that he took part in the Polish campaign due to the published regimental history which is including amongst the surviving documentation. His regiment went on to take part in the campaign in France in 1940, and Maltry was wounded in action during this campaign on 8th June 1940, and is also believed to have been award the Iron Cross 2nd Class in this period.
Promoted to Oberjäger, he then went on to see service out on the Eastern Front during 1941 to 1943. In 1941 his regiment was present on operations in Yugoslavia, and with invasion of Russia, on operations in south Russia at Uman, Stalino and Mius. Maltry was awarded the Infantry Assault Badge in Silver on 25th July 1941, and then wounded in action for a second time on 6th November 1941, being awarded the Iron Cross 1st Class on 28th December 1941.
With the onset of 1942, his regiment fought on in southern Russia in action at Mius, Kharkov, and then in the Caucasus. During this year, his company, the 13th Company, fought in all five actions in the Caucasus, namely at the Kluchorpass, Litschtal, Elbruspass, Canaikatal and Schemacho. He was wounded in action for a third time on 27th August 1942, and awarded the Wound Badge in Silver on 4th October 1942, around which time he had been wounded in action a further two times on 2nd October and 6th October 1942, and was then awarded the Wound Badge in Gold on 21st January 1943, by which time he had been promoted to Feldwebel.
During 1943 he took part in the retreat from the Caucasus to the Kuban, before being evacuated in March to Yugoslavia, where the 98th Gebirgsjäger Regiment went on to see extensive operations against the Partisans in Albania and Greece for the remainder of 1943 and would earn a bad reputation for its actions during this period.
It first took part in operations against the Partisans during the Case Black operation which lasted from 15th May to 16th June 1943, when the division and other units committed crimes against prisoners of war and civilians. In the after-battle report for Case Black written on 10th July, the division reported that it took 498 prisoners, 411 of whom were shot. It was however for the subsequent anti-partisan operations in the aftermath of Case Black that led to the 98th Gebirgsjäger Regiment gaining an infamous reputation.
For the initial accumulative close combat operations against the Partisans, Maltry was awarded the Close Combat Clasp in Bronze on 27th June 1943. The man who signed the award of the Close Combat Clasp in Bronze to Maltry, as his Oberstleutnant and Commanding Officer, was Josef Salminger, the commander of the 3rd Battalion of which Maltry was a part, and it is safe to assume that Maltry had been involved in the attack on the village of Borove in Albania on 6th July 1943, but not in the subsequent attack by the 12th Company of his battalion on the village of Kommeno on 16th August 1943, when the 12th Company was responsible for the death of 317 civilians. Maltry was serving with the 13th Company.
In July 1943 Albania was still under Italian occupation. The German forces of the 98th Gebirgsjäger Regiment of the first Alpine Division which was based in Ioannina, in Nazi occupied Greece were passing through Albania to regroup with the main forces in Greece. They entered the Albanian territory in the Korce region from the Macedonia part of Yugoslavi. Before they could cross into Greek territory they were attacked in two different places near the village of Borovë by Albanian partisans of the Albanian National Liberation Movement, led by Riza Kodheli. After the battle, which lasted for several hours, the convoy was able to continue to its destination. The Partisans inflicted heavy losses on the Germans, destroying most of the vehicles and military equipment and killing more than 60 men.
The date of Maltry’s subsequent award of the German Cross in Gold would for certain indicate that he would have played a part almost certainly in the defence of the convoy after the ambush on the regiment as it was passing through the Korce region of Albania at the beginning of July, and was almost certainly decorated in part for the reprisal against the village of Borove on 6th July 1943 when 107 civilians were killed. All of the houses and buildings were completely burned or otherwise destroyed. Among the 107 inhabitants killed were five entire families. The youngest victim was aged four months, and the oldest 73. The civilians were killed as a reprisal for a partisan attack on a German convoy of the 98th Gebirgsjäger Regiment in the village of Barmash a couple of days earlier. During the reprisal the German forces, armed with flame throwers, set every house in the village on fire. The 98th Gebirgsjäger Regiment massacred all the inhabitants of the village of Borovë that they could find on that day. Some of the victims were killed in place while many were grouped inside the village church and burned alive.
Maltry’s award of the German Cross in Gold was made on 20th July 1943, showing him as a Feldwebel with the 13th Company, 98th Gebirgsjäger Regiment, and his award bears the facsimile signature of Wilhelm Keitel, Generalfeldmarshall and Chief of the Armed Forces High Command.
On 25th July 1943, soldiers from the 1st Mountain Division attacked the village of Mousiotitsa in Greece after a cache of weapons was found nearby, killing 153 civilians. The accounts state that there were SS troops, however there were non in the division, so it may quite possibly have also been the men of the 98th Gebirgsjäger Regiment.
On 16th August 1943, the village of Kommeno was attacked on the orders of Oberstleutnant Josef Salminger, the commander of the 98th Gebirgsjäger Regiment. A total of 317 civilians were killed.
Kommeno is a village in western Greece near Arta. It is located on the east bank of the Arachthos river, north of the Gulf of Ambracia. According to the 1940 census, it had 776 inhabitants engaged in agriculture and fishing. By the summer of 1943, Greek partisan organizations such as ELAS and EDES had assembled strong armed bands which frequently attacked the Axis occupation forces. As the partisans relied upon civilians for food and intelligence, the Wehrmacht applied collective responsibility to entire communities and systematically used mass reprisals to intimidate the population. The massacre of Kommeno is a typical example of this policy. On 12th August 1943 a small food requisitioning detachment of partisans reached Kommeno. While collecting food, a two-man Wehrmacht reconnaissance team drove into the village and upon seeing the partisans, made a U-turn and drove away. Fearing reprisals, the locals spent the night in the fields and sent a delegation to the Italian commander in Arta to explain the situation. Being reassured that there wouldn't be any consequences, they returned to their homes and prepared to celebrate the Assumption on the 15th. On the evening of 15th August, a marriage had taken place in Kommeno and many people from the village and the surrounding area stayed up late celebrating.
At dawn on 16 August, 120 men of the 12th Company of the 98th Gebirgsjäger Regiment of the 1st Mountain Division under the command of Leutnant Willibald Röser drove to Kommeno on lorries. On the previous night, the regiment commander Oberst Josef Salminger had given them a short, fierce speech alleging that they were going to wipe out a partisan nest and ordering them to spare no one. Most of the men had been fighting in the Eastern Front and they were accustomed to carrying out similar reprisals against the local population. The soldiers surrounded the village from three directions, leaving unattended only the access to the Arachthos river. Houses were first attacked with grenades and as villagers awoke and tried to flee, they were indiscriminately shot at. Many women, children and elderly fell victims. Among the first casualties was the village priest, who was killed by Röser as he begged him to spare his church fold. Several eyewitness reports described women being raped, people beaten and corpses humiliated. Around forty of the marriage guests that were still awake celebrating were also murdered. The only escape route lay across the river and many villagers managed to cross it, either swimming or onboard small boats. After seizing livestock and looting valuables, the Germans set the village ablaze.
The official list of casualties includes 317 victims, among which 73 children aged under ten, 20 entire families and the newlyweds. A monument commemorating the massacre has been erected in the main square. This atrocity was committed by the men of the 12th Company of the 98th Gebirgsjäger Regiment, hence it would be safe to assume to Maltry was not involved in this incident.
The official Wehrmacht reports about the events in Kommeno falsely claimed that the village was in partisan hands who opened heavy fire against the Germans. It also claimed that 150 "partisans" were killed as a result.
Divisional soldiers then further darkened their images when they took part in the murder of thousands of Italians from the 33rd Acqui Infantry Division in September 1943 on the Greek island of Cefalonia after the Italian surrender. Divisional soldiers also killed 32 officers and an estimated 100 soldiers from the Italian 151st Perugia Infantry Division in Albani after the Italian surrender.
Maltry’s battalion commander, Josef Salminger was killed in an ambush by partisans on 1st October 1943. In reprisal, German forces of the 1st Mountain Division perpetrated the Lyngiades massacre at the village of Lyngiades in Ioannina in Greece on 3rd October 1943, in which 92 of its 96 residents were executed. The village of Lygiades could not be clearly linked with any resistance activity by German intelligence. One of the reasons it was chosen as a target might be the fact that the village was visible from the nearby regional capital of Ioannina, thus its destruction would likely spread fear among the local population.
Everyone who could not escape was dragged by the German soldiers to the central square of the village. After the dwellings were extensively searched and looted, all civilians were divided into small groups and driven into the cellars of various dwellings. There they were shot down by machine guns. Apart from the church and the village school, all the buildings in the village were set on fire. The vast majority of the 92 victims were children, infants, women and elderly. Five civilians managed to survive: two adults and three children. They pretended to be dead among the corpses and then escaped from the burning buildings by ascending from the fireplace. Most of the local adults were not in the village at the time of the attack because they were working in adjacent villages, and thus they escaped death. On 7th March 2014, German President Joachim Gauck visited Lyngiades together with his Greek counterpart, Karolos Papoulias. Gauck became the first official representative of Germany to visit the site, and expressed his apologies for the atrocities committed by the Wehrmacht troops. He stated: “With shame and pain I ask in the name of Germany the families of the victims for forgiveness... I bow in front of the victims for this monstrous crime.”
The 1st Mountain Division's war crimes are described in H. F. Meyer's book Bloodstained Edelweiss: The 1st Mountain Division in the Second World War.
For his part, Maltry went on to be commissioned as a Leutnant der Reserve and was then appointed acting officer commanding his old company, the 13th Company, 98th Gebirgsjäger Regiment. The exact date of his commission is not known, but it believed to have occurred in late 1943 to early 1944.
Meanwhile his battalion as part of the 1st Mountain Division, returned to Yugoslavia in November 1943, where it took part in operations Operation Kugelblitz, Schneesturm and Waldrausch. Operation Kugelblitz was a major German anti-artisan offensive directed against Josip Tito’s partisan forces in the eastern part of the Independent State of Croatia in an attempt to encircle and destroy thereby preventing the Partisans from entering the Territory of the Military Commander in Serbia. Operation Kugelblitz was followed up immediately by Operation Schneesturm (Blizzard) which sought to capitalise on the initial success of Operation Kugelblitz. Both operations are associated with the Sixth Enemy Offensive.
Operation Kugelblitz, the first of the offensives, was executed by the 5th SS Mountain Corps The purpose of this operation was to destroy the Partisan units in eastern Bosnia. But the plan was overly ambitious. The German troops committed to this action were tasked with covering too large an area. The bulk of the Partisan force slipped through the large gaps in the narrowing ring. However, the cost of Kugelblitz to the Partisans was claimed at approximately 9,000 casualties. Operation Schneesturm followed immediately upon the completion of Operation Kugelblitz. This operation included twin drives from the Bosnia area. One drive went to the west and to the coast. The other drive went to the northwest and towards the border with Italy. While this operation ended late in December and the Partisans once again survived, the cost was high. The Partisans suffered about 2,000 additional casualties. Though badly battered, the majority of the Partisan units retained their cohesion. Tito's army could still be considered an effective fighting force.
In March 1944, the division was engaged in the Operation Margerethe, the German occupation of Hungary. After Operation Rübezahl in Yugoslavia in August 1944, the division took part in defensive fighting against the Red Army in the Belgrade Offensive which lasted from the 28th September to 20th October 1944, and suffered severe losses. During the operation, the division commander, General Stettner, was killed in the battle on 17th October on Avala mountain near Belgrade.
In late November the division was transferred to Baranja, the most endangered spot of the German defence of Hungary. It was whilst involved in action in the area of Baranja on the battlefield near Cseto on 4th December 1944, some 30 kilometres south of Kaposvar and to the south of Lake Balaton in southern Hungary, that Maltry won his final decoration, the Army Honour Roll Clasp awarded to him on 25th February 1945.
By this stage his division was retitled at the beginning of March 1945 as the 1st Volks-Gebirgs-Division, and was then involved in the fighting in and around Lake Balaton against the Soviet 3rd Ukrainian Front. The division was then involved in the last major German offensive of the war, known as Operation Spring Awakening, which lasted from 6th to 16th March 1945, it being also known in German as the Plattensee Offensive, which translates as the Lake Balaton Offensive. The area around Lake Balaton included some of the last oil reserves still available to the Axis. After severe fighting the offensive failed, and the Soviet’s then counterattacked, with their counteroffensive resulting in the taking of Vienna on 15th April 1945.