The story of Hans-Hermann in many ways represents the the fate of German youth in the years 1933 – 1945. German youth was strongly represented on the front lines and the generation often paid the ultimate price in terms of mutilation or death. After the war, the hard-fought war generation had to adapt to an everyday life without national socialism and war. A weekday in a ruined Germany, which soon split between liberalism and communism. Hans-Hermann’s story gives the reader a unique insight into life as a child and young man in the Third Reich.
Hans-Hermann was born July 1924 in the village of Kransmoor located between Bremerhaven and Bremen. At the age of 9, Hans-Hermann joined the organization Jungvolk, which was a sub-organization of Hitlerjugend. The Jungvolk organization was for boys under the age of 14 while Hitler Youth was for boys aged 14 to 18.
Hans-Hermann was affiliated with Fähnlein Heise, which can best be translated into the Heise section. Hans-Hermann’s membership book from Jungvolk also shows that Fähnlein Heise was subject to Hitlerjugend Oberbann 3/7 in Hannover. Hans-Hermann’s membership number was 608251 and this membership number followed him when he was admitted to Hitlerjugend on January 30, 1938 at the age of just under 14. In Jungvolk, Hans-Hermann received monthly coupons over the years, which he could use as a means of payment.
Upon the move to Hitlerjugend, Hans-Hermann was awarded a certificate of his membership of Jungvolk, which showed that he held the rank of Hordenführer.
The front page of Hans-Hermann’s evidence from Jungvolk states:
“Before us lies Germany, In our march Germany, and behind us comes Germany! Adolf Hitler ”
In Jungvolk and Hitlerjugend, the young boys were trained in military and non-military skills along with a political schooling of national socialism, forming their world view from a national socialist point of perspective.
At the age of 18, Hans-Hermann was called to military service on 15 October 1942 at the Stammkompanie-Panzerjäger-Ersatz-Abteilung 20 in Bremen. A Soldbuch to Hans-Hermann which began with personal details about his education, his height of 168 cm. and his shoe size. Prior to his military service, Hans-Hermann had worked as a mechanic which his company commander noted in the Soldbuch.
After 8 weeks of basic training at the barracks in Hamburg, Hans-Hermann was transferred to the 1st Company with Panzerjäger-Abteilung 269, which in November 1942 had been transferred from the battle scene on the Wolchow River to the more peaceful Norway.
Some time after his arrival in Norway, Hans-Hermann was transferred to the 2nd Company with Panzerjäger-Abteilung 269, which was posted in the city of Arna near Bergen. The time in Arna was for the soldiers characterized by idyll and good accommodation and quiet surroundings, which was in stark contrast to the fighting on the Eastern Front a few months before. The time displaced the soldiers with letter writing, watch service and education.
During his time in Norway, Hans-Hermann took the picture below.
In August 1943, while still in Norway, Hans-Hermann was promoted to Gefreiter and by this time Hans-Hermann and the rest of the 2nd Company, Panzerjäger-Abteilung 269 had been transferred to Lake Mjøsa at Lillehammer. At Lake Mjøsa, the company underwent further training and was trained, for example, in the use of the Hafthohlladung magnetic mine, which was used for armor control.
Hans-Hermann was appointed Unteroffizier-Gefreiter on April 1, 1944, which can best be translated into a Lance Corporal. He was a Lance Coporal for two months until June 1, 1944, when he was promoted to Unteroffizier (Corporal). The promotion to Unteroffizier-Gefreiter was signed by the company commander of the second company, Hauptmann Tiedemann. With the promotion, the peaceful time in Norway ended when, in October 1944, the 269th Infantry Division was relocated to the Alsace region. In October 1944, Hans-Hermann was handed a compass and a pair of binoculars which were entered in his Soldbuch.
In Alsace, the 269th Infantry Division, including the Panzerjäger-Abteilung 269, took part in some very tough battles against the West Allied forces at Vogesen, La Bresse as well as the Bramont, Busang and Odern Pass.
Hans-Hermann probably fought in the second company Panzerjäger-Abteilung 269 until November 1944, when Panzerjäger-Abteilung 716 was set up in Alsace. When setting up Panzerjäger-Abteilung 716, the unit needed experienced personnel and since Hans-Hermann now had both rank and military experience, he was presumably transferred from Panzerjäger-Abteilung 269 sometime in November 1944. In Hans-Hermann’s Soldbuch, the 1st Company with Panzerjäger- Abteilung 716 introduced as the current Feldtruppenteil and Hans-Hermann probably served in this unit until the end of the war in 1945.
Hans-Hermann’s service during the time at Panzerjäger-Abteilung 716 are unknown, but he probably went in American captivity at Swabia with the remains of the 19th Army, which Panzerjäger-Abteilung 716 in 1945 was subject to.
Hans-Hermann survived the war and died in 2005.
You can view all of Hans-Hermanns IDs from Jungvolk, Hitlerjugend and the Wehrmacht here:
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Geschichte der 269. Infanterie-Division, H. Römhild, publisher Podzun-Verlag, Bad Nauheim (1967)