The German Army Soldbuch of World War II

Full anatomy of the German Army Soldbuch (paybook) of World War II based on my observations and collection of German Army paybooks from the Second World War.

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The Soldbuch was a paybook containing information about a soldier’s military service. When a man in the Third Reich turned 18 he would be summoned to session at the local recruiting office. After session he would receive a Wehrpass, military pass, which he would have until he was called into military service. Upon arriving to his unit, he would hand in his Wehrpass to the unit’s administration office and in exchange he received a Soldbuch.

You will find the descriptions above the images.

The cover

This cover is in my opinion the most common version found. Its a rough surfaced cardboard cover with reinforced backing – often reinforced with green tape. The backside would either have or not have a folder for inlays. Used throughout 1940-1945 by both the Heer and the Waffen-SS. Occasionally you will find the maker s name but this seems to have been abolished later on in the war (maybe for security reasons).

The Soldbuch regulation would often be printed on the inlay folder like below.

This cover was in use in 1940 and is a smooth surfaced cardboard cover with no reinforcing. It had no folder for inlays.

Page 1

The backside of the front cover would from early 1943 contain a profile photo of the Soldbuch holder with stamps from the unit that issued his Soldbuch and his personal signature. Page one would contain information about promotions, his dogtag (Erkennungsmarke), his blood type, gasmask size and Wehrnummer (draft number from the Wehrpass). The number at the very top would be the Soldbuch number handed out within the unit. If a soldier hadn’t served prior to entering the unit, from where his Soldbuch would be issued, the number would be identical to his soldier ID number found on the dogtag. Below we see that this Soldbuch was number 113 issued by Infanterie-Regiment 489 but since the ID number in the dogtag is 104, the soldier had served in other units before this Soldbuch was issued. In this case he had served with Infanterie-Regiment 65 from 1936-1938.

In the Soldbuch version with smooth cover, you will find the Soldbuch regulations on the backside of the front cover like seen below.
Here you see that the Soldbuch number and ID number are the same; 700.

Page 2 – 3

Page 2 would contain personal information about the soldier; from date and place of birth to height, shoe size, build, eye color and so forth. Marital informtion was not written down on this page. The information would be filled out by an administration clerk within the company and the entries would be signed by the company commander.

Page 3 would be used to write in updates made in the Soldbuch, including promotions.

Page 4 – 5

Page 4 would contain all information about units where the soldier had and was serving. When he was transferred to a new unit his old unit entry would be crossed out.
The page was divided into 4 sections; A, B, C and D.
– In section A you find the soldier’s home recruiting station.
– Section B contains information about the unit where the soldier was trained and from where he was sent to his field unit.
– In section C the field unit was entered. Field unit being a standing non-training army unit.
– In Section D the replacement unit associated to the field unit would be entered. Below you can see that the replacement unit for Festungs-Kompanie Hirtshals, part of 416. Infanterie-Division, was Grenadier-Ersatz und Ausbildungs-Bataillon 489 located in Oldenburg which was also the replacement unit for 269. Infanterie-Division.

Page 5 contained information about the soldier’s closest relatives – like e.g. parents or wife.

Page 6 – 7

As uniform and equipment was handed out to the soldier, these would be entered on pages 6 and 7 by the issuing depot. Sometimes the old entries would be crossed out but this was not always done.

The pages can be found in two different layouts; one like the first image below where the pages are divided into two sections and one, the second image, where the equipment list is foldable.

Page 8 – 8a

On page 8 special clothing like winter or camouflage clothing would be entered. Also medical garments, like seen below, would be entered on this page. In this case the soldier received one pair of soles, 1 pair of orthopaedic shoes, 1 hip supporter and 1 warmth belt/kidney belt (he had issues with his hip and back).

Weapons and weapons equipment was entered on page 8a. Also binoculars, spades and pioneer equipment was entered here. When the soldier received a new weapon as a replacement of his previous weapon, the old weapon was crossed out. Entries would be signed by the equipment responsible at the weapons depot.

Page 8b – 8c

Pages 8b – 8c are are continuation of the issued weapons and weapons equipment list as well as items such as glasses, vaseline, anti-gas powder, gas cap and spades. Page 8c would be left with blank spaces to be filled in by the unit should the other boxes for e.g. cleaning kits for the rifle, be filled already.

Page 8d – 9

Page 8d was a continuation of page 8c.

Page 9 was used to keep track of the different vaccines given to the soldier during his service. There were 5 standard vaccines given to the soldiers depending on the front they where going to.

Page 10 – 11

Pages 10 and 1 1 were used in case the soldier used glasses. They contained information about his eyesight and the type of glasses he was using.

Page 12 – 13

These pages are in my opinion some of the most interesting pages, except for page 4 obviously, found in the Soldbuch. All medical records and hospital visits during service time were entered on these pages and they often give you an insight in the more private side of the soldier’s service time.

Each time a soldier would be treated at a field hospital, an entry would be made in his Soldbuch.
The first column “Lazarett” contains the name and place of the field hospital (or hospital). Second and third coloumns contain the date and year on which the soldier was admitted for treatment. The fourth column “Krankheit” contained information about the disease or reason for being admitted. Now, here’s where it gets interesting.

The German military had in 1896 implemented the use of wound codes to standardize the entries made in the Soldbücher. The codes were renewed and in use during the following periods:

1896-1905 (Heer)
1905-1914 (Heer)
1914-1919 (Heer)
1907-1921 (Marine)
1922-1930 (Reichswehr)
1931-1934 (wehrmacht)
1939-1945 (Wehrmacht + Marine)

In 1953 the German Federal Ministry of Labour released book containing complete overview and translations of the codes used from 1896 to 1945. According to this book code 31 (seen below) was used for “wounded through enemy actions” which could be gunshots or shrapnel.
The columns on page 13 contains information about the person who attended him and the date where he was released from hospital or sent to a new hospital.

Page 1 4 – 15

Page 14 and 15 were originally intended to be used for keeping track on whatever valuables or equipment the soldier was given whilst being hospitalized.
This seems to have been changed in January 1943 when page 15 was used to confirm which Kriegsstammrollen number (number of his unit roster) he was belonging to. This number seems to be have been changed twice in 1943 (spring/winter) and then again in September 1944. This assumption is based on records found 9 Soldbücher from various units who had all at some point been stationed in Denmark. Below is an example.

Page 16 – 17

Page 16 was intended to keep track on the soldier’s dental records whilst being in service. It was fairly common not to fill out this page.

Page 17 was a continuation of page 4.

Below an example of a completed page 16.

Page 18 – 19

These pages were used to keep track on the soldier’s pay group and some times also used to fill in other pay supplements whilst serving.

The German Wehrmacht used a numerized pay group system to standardize and simplify the pay system.

In total there were 16 groups:

1: Generaloberst and above
2: General
3: Generalleutnant
4: Generalmajor
5: Oberst
6: Oberstleutnant
7: Major
8: Hauptmann
9: Oberleutnant
10: Leutnant
11: Oberfeldwebel + Stabsfeldwebel
12: Feldwebel
13: Unterfeldwebel
14: Unteroffizier
15: Gefreiter (all Gefreiter ranks)
16: Schütze, Panzergrenadier (private ranks)

Below you see that the soldier’s first pay group was nr. 15 (Gefreiter ranks) and later he, as he was promoted to Unteroffizier, he went up to pay group 14.

Page 20 – 21

Pages 20 and 21 were intended for keeping track of pay supplements.

Page 22 – 23

When a soldier was honored with an award during his military service it would be noted on page 22 by his company commander.
Early on in the war, the layout of page 22 was different but later on the layout was change to the below where at the top you read “Auszeichnungen” (Distinctions)

This was the first layout for page 22 – sometimes “Auszeichnungen” would be written in hand at the top like the last image:

Page 23 was used to keep track on the leave passes granted.

Page 24

The final page in the German Soldbuch was page 24 and it was also used to keep track on the leave passes granted.