Balta, March 1944
On the thirteenth, the company was loaded after the burial of Baedke. Neff took command of the company, which was loaded in Nowo Ukrainka. The transport left at 2000 hours and traveled in the direction of Kriwoje Osero (Kryve Ozero). As the units ofTotenkopf approached the area of Balta, the unloading area was Sawronka. On the fourteenth, the transport carrying the Tiger company arrived in Pomoschnaja (Pomichna). The transport came under a Russian airstrike that wounded several soldiers. In Nowo Ukrainka, twelve trucks from the company began a road march. After some forty kilometers, some of the trucks got stuck. An 18t Zgkw driven by SS-Rottenführer Kurt Heller provided assistance by towing the trucks out of the mud. Later, Heller was rewarded for his efforts. The vehicle column was assembled in Perwomaisk (Pervomais’k). On the fifteenth, the company was diverted to Balta and was unloaded on the sixteenth.
On 18 March, the tank regiment assembled to the west of Balta. Some of the wheeled elements of Totenkopf had still not reached the area of Balta. On the nineteenth, SS-Panzer-Regiment 3 moved into the area of Pereima and was involved in a counterattack withSS-Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment 6 Eicke near Ljubomirka (Lyubomyrka). On the twenty-second, Russian troops attacked out of the area of Perwomaisk (Pervomais’k), forcing German forces to withdraw after crossing the Bug River. On the twenty-fourth, Russian forces attacked Lesnitschewka (Lesnychivka) and forced elements of Totenkopf back to the northern edge of Balta. Kampfgruppe Pitschellis, with two Tigers, provided cover for the withdrawal. The 26th Guards Rifle Corps claimed two SPW’s (armored half-tracks) and one self-propelled gun during the day’s fighting against Totenkopf. On the twenty-fifth, Kampfgruppe Pitschellis was covering the eastern edge of Balta and forced Russian troops to pull back to Bendsari (Bendzary) after launching a counterattack.
Also on the twenty-fifth, SS-Untersturmführer Neff ordered all non-essential company soldiers, Berge-Zug, the Instand-Staffel, and seven Tigers requiring maintenance to be transported by rail from Balta and sent to Romania. The transport moved south via Kotowsk and then passed through Wessely Kut (Novoborysivka) before coming to a halt in Rozdil’na. One other transport made it to Romania after leaving Wessely Kut at 1435 hours in the afternoon on 2 April. This transport had one Tiger, one Befehlspanzer III, and a Panzerbeobachterswagen III. Neff commanded the group of the remaining three Tigers; this unit was designated Panzergruppe Neff. The three Tigers were commanded by Neff, SS-Oberscharführer Weitner, and SS-Oberscharführer Tonges. The remaining twenty men later fought on as infantry along with units from the Wehrmacht. During the retreat from Balta, the company’s soldiers and other Totenkopf units had to withdraw via Kotowsk on the thirtieth.
On the twenty-sixth, the Russians attacked Balta on the southern edge of the town. This attack was beaten back. Another Russian attack was forced to pull back on the northwestern edge of Balta after a Kampfgruppe launched a counterattack from the northern edge of the town with 200 men and three Tigers at 1800 hours. This attack was repulsed by the 81st Guards Rifle Regiment/25th Guards Rifle Division, resulting in one Tiger being captured intact. Long columns of German vehicles were trying to leave Balta. The rail line leading to Kotowsk (Kotovs’k) had to be recaptured to allow rail transport to move after the Russians temporarily closed the rail corridor. The Russian 26th Guards Rifle Corps claimed one rail transport captured with three tanks on board and one SPWknocked out, while the 25th Guards Rifle Division claimed two tanks and two SPW’s knocked out.
On the twenty-seventh, the Russians managed to capture the main rail station in Balta town center and also captured a rail transport with five tanks and two Hummel self-propelled artillery guns from I/SS-Panzer-Artillerie-Regiment 3. In the northern suburbs of Balta, the Russians found four tanks and eight trucks abandoned because of lack of fuel. One Tiger was lost during the day due to Russian antitank gunfire. The two remaining Tigers, under the command of Neff and Weitner, pulled back to the southern area of Balta. On the twenty-eighth, more counterattacks were launched from Balta’s second rail station in the direction of Perelty (Perel’oty) and Possizely (Pasytely). No Tigers were involved. On the twenty-ninth, a counterattack was launched to the south of Balta. During the day the Russians took in a massive haul of German equipment, finding in and around Balta (and to the south of the town as well) twenty-one self-propelled guns (various types) and thirty tanks (none operational). This was reported by the 94th Guards Rifle Division and the 26th Guards Rifle Corps.
On the thirtieth, while the Red Army began clearing the southern suburbs of Balta, they found one Tiger tank abandoned due to lack of fuel. One kilometer south of Balta rail station, the Russians also found a rail transport (reported by the 94th Guards Rifle Division) with twenty-two tanks on board from II/SS-Panzer-Regiment 3. The tank group from SS-Panzer-Regiment 3 reached Kotowsk on the thirtieth and loaded onto rail transports. The direction of travel was Wessley Kut (Novoborysivka) and Rasdelnaja (Rozdil’na). Those crews without tanks followed the bulk of the division toward Dubossary (Dubasari). On the thirty-first, the Russians captured Kotowsk and found one rail transport loaded with three tanks and four assault guns at 0700 hours. Totenkopf, withdrawing to the southeast, formed a blocking position on both sides of the road near Jelissawetowka (Boch manivka). The bulk of Totenkopf withdrew to Dubossary (Dubasari) and then reassembled in Kishinev (Chisinau).
Between the thirtieth and thirty-first, the last three operational Panzer IV’s from II/SS-Panzer-Regiment 3 were lost. In Balta, 3. SS-Panzer-Division Totenkopf was forced to abandon around 1,000 wheeled vehicles. 9. Kompanie personnel without tanks arrived in Dubos sary (Dubasari) on 2 April and reached Kishinev (Chisinau) the next day. The company personnel spent five to six days in the town before moving on to Lapusna on the tenth. On the eleventh, they assembled in the area of Negresti. On the twelfth, Totenkopfassembled in the area of Husi-Vaslui-Krassna (Crasna) for rail transport to Bacau and Roman. The Romanian rail authorities were informed that transport was urgently required, but it was reported that they seemed slow in helping with German requests. Personnel from SS-Panzer-Regiment 3 assembled in Krassna (Crasna) on the twelfth for rail transportation. The first transport left on the thirteenth.
Bacau, April–June 1944
On 2 April 1944, the transport carrying seven Tigers from 9. Kompanie was brought to a halt in the town of Rozdil’na along with thirty other rail transports. The rail line leading to Tiraspol from Rozdil’na was a single line. A German Army officer of the General Staff walked from the Rozdil’na rail station and approached Neff and ordered him to blow up his remaining Tigers as the Russians were not far away. Eric Lehmkuhl remembers this event:
The remnants of the tank regiment were loaded on rail transports heading in the direction of Tiraspol when we came to a standstill along with thirty other rail transports. Because of the Russian rapid advance, we are ordered to blow up our remaining Tigers. We had hoped that our transport carrying the Tigers would have been given priority and forwarded onto Tiraspol. The crews had to provide themselves with supplies which were gathered from other transports.
We have to make our way westward on foot, but to add insult to injury, we are hit by a snow storm, so we have to sit down with packs, ammunition, and weapons. Slowly, the storm rolls westward. As we move along, we notice many vehicles stuck in the mud. Some of these have to blown up with hand grenades so the Russians cannot use them, but unfortunately, the crews have to get rid of certain items and carry the barest minimum. The crews always try to hitch a ride, but this rarely happens as operational vehicles are scarce.
At night we sleep in barns or haystacks, but we are always in fear of the advancing Russians. The next day, the column is scattered by a small group of Russian tanks. We reply with machine-gun fire. We manage to reach Tiraspol, where large groups of soldiers are gathered by the military police. These soldiers are formed into alarm groups for use in infantry Kampfgruppen. We are lucky—the field police let us by and pass through, and we find that 9. Kompanie had set up a reporting center for the company’s soldiers. The soldiers are assembled and transported by rail from Tiraspol to Kishinev (Chisinau), and from there we are transported to Bacau. I later found out that SS-Mann Werner from the Instand-Staffel was given fourteen days of hard labor for trying to sell his pistol for some rations.
II/SS-Panzer-Regiment 3 and the regimental headquarters company arrived in Krassna (Crasna) on the twelfth and had to wait until the thirteenth for loading. They arrived in Bacau on the fourteenth. On the seventeenth, the army vehicle officer for Kishinev (Chisinau) informed Totenkopf that a new allocation of specialist tools for repairing Tigers had arrived by air and could be collected from the maintenance stores in Kishinev. The regiment had no tanks at all. During April 1944, it was planned that 9. Kompanieshould form the new 3. Kompanie/schwere SS-Panzer-Abteilung 102, but Hitler rescinded this order and instructed that the company remain with SS-Panzer-Regiment 3 (schwere SS-Panzer-Abteilung 102 was reinforced by personnel from schwere SS-Panzer-Abteilung 103 during May 1944).
On 14 April, 9. Kompanie personnel arrived in Bacau by rail from Krassna (Crasna) and were quartered at a hotel in the center of the town. On the thirtieth, a tank collection team of fifty men was organized under the command of SS-Untersturmführer Neff, and on 1 May, they were flown to Belgrade for rail transport to HZA Magdeburg by Ju-90. On the second, two transports were loaded with eight Tiger I’s. The first transport arrived with four Tigers on 6 May in Bacau but was ordered to be forwarded onto Roman. After unloading in Roman, this took two hours to complete. The four Tigers were deployed near Targu-Frumos until the tenth. Between the eighth and tenth, the Tigers would come under repeated air strikes from Russian ground-attack aircraft but suffered no losses or casualties. On the eleventh, the Tigers withdrew to a village for maintenance. On the twelfth, the Tigers moved into position along the Balatati-Jassy (Iasi) road. During the night of the thirteenth–fourteenth, the company claimed one Russian night-bomber shot down. The second transport was delayed because of severe bomb damage to the rail network in the region of Siebenburgen (Transylvania) and stayed in the village of Gross Schogen (Nagysajo). After successive RAF bombing raids on the nineteenth, the second transport arrived in Bacau, but was ordered to be moved onto Roman, where it unloaded on the twentieth.
Eric Lehmkuhl reports:
The transport took fourteen days; the Pentecostal festival was spent in a Volksdeutsche village of Gross Schogen (Nagysajo, about 250 kilometers west of Roman) because the railway had been bombed by the British. The rail line had to relayed. Upon arrival, the new Tigers were used around Iasi and Targol Frumos. Another collection commando takes fourteen days and returns with six new Tigers from Germany.
Until the end of June, the company command post is in Bacau. Because of the catastrophic situation, we are loaded onto rail transports in Roman on 7 July and head toward southern Poland, Radom, and Warsaw through the area of Brest and unload in Osowice and deploy for operations in the direction of Grodno.
On 31 May, SS-Panzer-Regiment 3 organized a quick-reaction force near Targu-Frumos, with twenty-four Panzer IV’s and two Tigers. On 7 June, the LVII. Panzer-Korps ordered the division to make ready a Panzergruppe for deployment along the road to Iasi. The group was commanded bySS-Sturmbannführer Laackmann and consisted of twelve Panzer IV’s and eight Tigers, with additional support from III/SS-Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment 5 Totenkopf. At 0200 hours, the Panzergruppe moved into the area near Podul-Iloaei and came under the command of 24. Panzer-Division on the eighth. The remaining tanks from SS-Panzer-Regiment 3, with thirteen tanks, were placed under the command of SS-Sturmbannführer Beiermeier and held in reserve.
On 8 June 1944, the Panzergruppe—with twenty tanks (twelve Panzer IV’s and eight Tigers)—and III/SS-Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment 5 Totenkopf saw action in the area of Hill 177.0 and along the heights northwest of Damian. This was repeated the next day. ThePanzergruppe helped secure Hill 176.0 on the tenth and remained there until the eleventh. The Tigers were recalled on 13 June. The Panzer IV’s eventually returned to divisional control on the fifteenth. During the fighting, the WerkStatt company for SS-Panzer-Regiment 3 was located in a wood five kilometers east of Roman.
On 15 May 1944, another tank collection team was organized with a strength of thirty men and departed for HZA Magdeburg and left Germany on 17 May with six Tigers (which ahd belonged to schwere SS-Panzer-Abteilung 103) and arrived in Bacau on the thirty-first. On 7 June, six Tigersarrived in Bacau. Two of the Tigers were taken over by 9. Kompanie, but on the eleventh, Army Group South ordered Totenkopf to hand over the two Tigers to Panzer-Regiment Großdeutschland. Totenkopf reported to Army Group South that the two Tigers in question had been handed over to a collection team from Panzer-Regiment Großdeutschland and loaded onto a rail transport on the same day. On the twenty-first, SS-Sturmmann Wolfgang Barth, Gunther Grimm, and Friedrich Schiechel attended the fourth SS-Panzer-Sonder-Lehrgang in Königsbruck bei Wien from 4 July to 11 November.
On 7 July, just as Totenkopf was being loaded for a major redeployment to Army Group Center, the last tank collection commando of twenty-five men under the command of SS-Hauptscharführer Berger drove from Romania to Germany to collect five Tigers. These five Tigers departed HZA Magdeburg on 26 July and arrived in Warsaw on the thirty-first, one day before the Polish Home Army uprising in the city. Originally, this transport should have unloaded in Lochow.
On 5 May 1944, SS-Untersturmführer Wenzal joined the company after being transferred from SS-Panzer-Ausbildungs-und-Ersatz-Regiment in Sennelager and took command of the 2nd Platoon. Wenzal had been promoted to Untersturmführer on 1 March while serving as an instructor at thePanzer-Truppen-Schule Putlos. The 1st Platoon was under the command of SS-Untersturmführer Hans Kriescher, who joined 9. Kompanie on 10 November 1943 after completing the first SS-Panzer-Junker-Sonder-Lehrgang from 16 August to 6 November 1943; he was promoted toUntersturmführer on 1 March 1944. The 3rd Platoon was commanded by SS-Untersturmführer Helmut Neff, who was also acting company commander at the time. He had originally enlisted in the Luftwaffe in 1937, and before he was transferred to the Waffen-SS, he had reached the rank ofFeldwebel. Neff was transferred to the Waffen-SS on 11 February 1943 and given the rank of Oberscharführer. Neff undertook a series of officer-cadet courses. He was promoted toUntersturmführer on 1 October and joined 9. Kompanie on 1 November.
SS-Hauptsturmführer Hans Fischer was nominated as the company commander on 20 March 1944 but wasn’t officially confirmed until the thirty-first. He eventually joined the company on 18 July. During March 1944, Fischer was acting commander of schwere SS-Panzer-Abteilung 102. In May 1944, he was in Vienna with his wife as they were expecting the birth of their first child; he was still in Vienna on 5 July.
During May 1944, the company support units remained in Bacau. The only major change to the organizational structure was the integration of the WerkStatt platoon from the company into the regiment’s WerkStatt company. The company’s support units still on strength were the Instand-Staffel(maintenance section), which was led by SS-Oberscharführer Henker; the Berge-Zug (recovery section) under SS-Oberscharführer Bauer; and the Nachschub Zug (supply platoon). SS-Untersturmführer Greisinger was posted to the regiment as the new TFK. On 10 May, Der Generalinspekteur der Panzertruppen 013/44 g.Kdos requested during a Führer Vortrag (leader conference) that 9. Kompanie have a strength of 125 men and, in another Führer Vortrag dated 11 May 1944 (019/44 g.Kdos) that 9. Kompanie was to be allocated ten new Tigers.
SS-Panzer-Regiment 3, April–July 1944
When II/SS-Panzer-Regiment 3 unloaded on 14 April in Bacau, the battalion had no tanks at all. On the fifteenth, the LVIII. Panzer-Korps ordered Totenkopf to provide fifteen tank crews to help train the Romanian tank crews on the Panzer IV belonging to the 1st Romanian Armored DivisionRomania Mare. These crews returned to SS-Panzer-Regiment 3 on the twenty-seventh. On the twentieth, the battalion commander, SS-Hauptsturmführer Beiermeier was promoted to Sturmbannführer. The first two Panzer IV’s were handed over by Panzer-Regiment Großdeutschland on the twenty-eighth and issued to 5. Kompanie as training tanks. On 2 May, rail transports carrying thirty-four new Panzer IV’s for 24. Panzer-Division and Panzer-grenadier-Division Großdeutschland unloaded in Roman. A collection team (6. and 7. Kompanien) from II/SS-Panzer-Regiment 3collected twenty-two Panzer IV’s from this delivery as an emergency issue. On 19 May, a new delivery of four Panzer IV’s arrived in Bacau. These tanks were meant for Panzer-Regiment Großdeutschland but were handed over to SS-Panzer-Regiment 3 on the twentieth.
On the second, the Panzer IV’s, after being collected, were deployed under the leadership of SS-Sturmbannführer Beiermeier near Helestieni in support of II/SS-Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment 6 Eicke. Also attached was a single battery from StuG Brigade 325. On the third, the Panzer IV group engaged a Russian tank force two kilometers south of Ruginoasa, knocking out four Russian tanks. On the fourth, the group was still supporting II/SS-Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment 6 Eicke near Ruginoasa.
SS-Sturmgeschütze-Abteilung 3 was quartered in the village of Parincea on 15 April for refitting under the command of SS-Sturmbannführer Pitschellis. The battalion still possessed two StuG’s and two PaK (Sfl) on strength, but on the twenty-eighth, it received eightStuG’s from Sturmgeschütze-Brigade 228 of the German Army. A further seventeen StuG’s were handed over to SS-Sturmgeschütze-Abteilung 3 on the fifth. It received nine StuG’s plus another eight on the sixth from Sturmgeschutze-Brigade 228. A new delivery of sixth StuG’s was unloaded on the eighth in Roman, and three were taken over from 46. Infanterie-Division on 10 June. On the eighteenth, one more StuG was delivered to the battalion. On the fourteenth, the battalion rejoined the front line. On 1 July, the battalion was ordered to hand over seventeen StuG’s to II/SS-Panzer-Regiment 3, which formed the basis of the new 8. Kompanie. SS-Sturmgeschütze-Abteilung 3 was redesignated SS-Panzerjäger-Abteilung 3, with thirty StuG III’s (two in the headquarters company, fourteen each in 2. and 3. Kompanien), two schwere PaK Sfl, and four heavy antitank guns in the 1. Kompanie.
On 12 May, SS-Sturmgeschütze-Abteilung 3 deployed a single company under SS-Obersturmbannführer Muller toward Oboroceni. On the twenty-sixth, it relieved elements of Sturmgeschütze-Brigade 228 assigned to the Romanian Brigade Opris. Another StuGcompany with eight StuG’s was deployed on 23 June and attached to the Romanian Guards Brigade and returned to divisional control on 1 July.
On 1 July, SS-Panzer-Regiment 3 could field twenty-eight Panzer IV’s, seventeen StuG III’s, and fifteen Tigers. A further seventeen Panzer IV’s and two Panzerbeobachterswagen IV’s, five Tigers, and four StuG’s had been allocated as a new issue. During July 1944,I/SS-Panzer-Regiment 3 was completing its refurbishment and issued with seventy-eight Panther tanks, along with four replacement Panthers, which arrived on the thirty-first. The Panzerjager-Abteilung’s 1. Kompanie was transported from Poland on 6 August for conversion to the Panzerjäger IV. On 5 September, 1. Kompanie/SS-Panzerjäger-Abteilung 3 was issued twenty-one Jagdpanzer IV’s at Troop Training Grounds Mielau and rejoined the division on the fifteenth.
On 6 July, 3. SS-Panzer-Division Totenkopf received orders for reallocation from Romania to Poland. Army Group Center had been the subject of a huge Russian offensive launched on 22 June—Operation Bagration involving the 1st Baltic, 1st Byelorussian, 2nd Byelorussian, and 3rd Byelorussian Fronts. 9. Kompanie loaded in Roman on the seventh on two transports and traveled through Warsaw and unloaded in Osowice on the sixteenth. Totenkopf came under the command of A.O.K. 4. 9. Kompanie, after unloading, assembled in Mieleskowcze, southwest of Kuznica.
On 17 July, 9. Kompanie was assigned to Kampfgruppe Kuhn, which, with another Kampfgruppe, was to stop a Russian advance. III/SS-Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment 6 Eicke advanced toward Adamowicze, supported by 9. Kompanie. Two kilometers north, near the village of Mickiewicz, I/SS-Polizei-Regiment 34 was deployed. Both units were to try to eliminate the Russian bridgehead near Zarzyczach. Throughout the day, both Kampfgruppen were making gains. III/SS-Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment 6 Eicke, with the Tigersfrom 9. Kompanie, was involved in fighting for Adamowicze. The Tiger of SS-Untersturmführer Wenzel was hit and immobilized. Russian troops dragged the crew out and executed them, sparing the radio operator, SS-Rottenführer Heinz Rudolf, who was taken as a prisoner of war. But Wenzel, SS-Unterscharführer Siebenaler (driver), SS-Sturmann Lau (gunner), and SS-Sturmmann Metzger (loader) were all executed. During the evening, I/SS-Polizei-Regiment 34 entered Mickiewicz.
On 18 July, Russian forces were trying to assault Hill 67 near Adamowicze. Due to the situation, III/SS-Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment 6 Eicke had to withdraw in coordination with Korps von Gottberg. Kampfgruppe Kuhn sent elements to support I/SS-Polizei-Regiment 34 in order to try to retake Adamowicze. The Tigers provided covering fire near Kilbaski, while I/SS-Polizei-Regiment 34 (supported by fifteen StuG’s) and Kampfgruppe Kuhn attacked Adamowicze. It was during this operation that the company commander, SS-Hauptsturmführer Fischer was fatally wounded. A Tigercommanded by SS-Unterscharführer Schulz requested assistance because of technical damage. Fischer arrived and hooked up Schulz’s Tiger and towed it back to German lines. As they moved along the road, an antitank gun from SS-Polizei-Regiment 34 fired at Fischer’s Tiger and wounded Fischer (fatally) and the driver, SS-Unterscharführer Aage Skjodt. When the gun commander found out, he was shocked. Fischer died on the twentieth in Lojki. SS-Hauptsturmführer Neidhardt took over the company; he was transferred from 7. Kompanie.
On 19 July 1944, 9. Kompanie, along with 3. Kompanie/SS-Panzer-Aufklarungs-Abteilung 3, advanced on Sopockinie. This was met with strong Russian defensive fire, and the attack was made in conjunction with SS-Kampfgruppe Pitschellis (Pitschellis was commander of SS-Panzerjager-Abteilung 3). During the day, SS-Sturmann Heinz Bartl (vehicle diver) was killed and Josef Hodap from the maintenance section was wounded during a Russian air strike; SS-Untersturmführer Kriescher was lightly wounded. On the twentieth, 9. Kompanie was still attached to III/SS-Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment 6 Eicke and fighting near Kilbaski. During the day, the Tiger of SS-Untersturmführer Wenzel was destroyed in Adamowicze after German forces launched a limited counterattack and seized temporary control of the Tiger; petrol was poured inside and outside the Tiger, which was then set on fire.
On 21 July 1944, 9. Kompanie fought off a Russian armored attack using SU-85 self-propelled guns. The company knocked out several of these guns in the course of a Russian attack on Mankowiec. Next, the Tigers had to support II/SS-Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment 6 Eicke in defending against a Russian attack near Sylwanowicz, but the Russians were putting pressure along SS-Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment 6 Eicke’s front line from Wasilewicz-Nowosady with three strong attacks. The grenadiers were supported by 9. Kompanie. In the evening and the early hours of the twenty-second,9. Kompanie, in support of I and II/SS-Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment 6 Eicke, launched a counterattack trying to restore the regimental front line. Despite some limited success, Totenkopf had to withdraw.
On 23 July, Neff had to report to divisional headquarters and receive movement orders for rail transfer from A.O.K. 4 to A.O.K. 2 for redeployment in the Siedlce area. Despite these orders, 9. Kompanie was still committed. Four Tigers were sent to Osowiec on the twenty-fifth for loading, but only three rail flat cars were available to carry the Tigers. The remaining Tiger had to wait until 3 August before it could be transported. The Tiger was unloaded in Warsaw-Praga on the fifth. The three Tigers loaded in Osowiec and arrived in Sokolow in the evening. One Tiger entered Siedlce at 1950 hours; the other two left Sokolow at 2205. On the twenty-sixth, five Tigers were still in action five kilometers east of Dabrowa, attached to III/SS-Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment 6 Eicke at 2000 hours. These were eventually released for transport on the twenty-seventh, being ordered to move from Dabrowa to Zamborow. The transfer to Siedlce began on the twenty-eighth with one transport carrying the WerkStatt company, loading two damaged Tigers. SS-Panzer-Regiment 3 required fifteen flat cars to take all of its damaged tanks and StuG’s. This transport left Osowiec at 1515 hours.
One transport was loaded on the twenty-ninth at 0530 with five Tigers in Osowiec and arrived in Sokolow at 1725 hours on the thirtieth. Another three Tigers were loaded and left Osowiec at 2230 hours, but due to the combat situation, the transport was diverted from Sokolow to Warsaw and arrived at 2315 hours on the thirty-first. The transport with five new Tigers from HZA Magdeburg arrived in Warsaw-Praga on the thirty-first. The new Tigers, under the command of SS-Hauptscharführer Berger, were directed by SS-Obersturmbannführer Wolf to proceed to the StaufferKasserne. On the twenty-fourth, I/SS-Panzer-Regiment 3 returned with seventy-eight Panthers; five of these were command versions commanded by Knight’s Cross and Oak Leaves winner SS-SturmbannführerMeierdress.
Eric Lehmkuhl reported:
On 18 July 1944, we receive the order from the new company commander, SS-Hauptsturmführer Fischer, to move toward the Niemen bridgehead. The village of Kilbaski is being attacked on three sides by the Russians, and so we have to secure the village. To the north, the Tiger of SS-Unterscharführer Schulz has engine trouble, and Schulz is requesting help—he is stuck in the middle of the village surrounded by burning thatched houses. We go directly to his aid, attach tow cables, and head west. Suddenly, we are hit from the front by antitank fire. The first shot hits the main gun of Schulz’s Tiger, and we immediately close the hatches, but SS-Hauptsturmführer Fischer is not so lucky—he is killed while trying to close the com mander’s hatch as another round hits ourTiger. Our driver, Sepp, fires a flare signal; the antitank gun quickly recognizes us and stops firing. The antitank gun belongs to an SS-Polizei-Regiment. We drive along the road toward a road block; the antitank crew is naturally horrified by their mistake. However, a properly trained gun commander would never have made this mistake.
A Tiger commander recorded the following about Siedlce on 31 July 1944: “Our Tiger turns on the spot and fires toward the end of the street. On our right is a rail embankment and behind that is the road leading to Chodow. The cannon fires an 88cm shell from the barrel. The turret is full of smoke, so we leave the hatches open to allow the fumes to ventilate. Behind me is SS-Unterscharführer Holtorf, who hits a third Russian tank with a single shot. It catches fire. The crew bail out.”
During the withdrawal from Siedlce, the Panther battalion and 9. Kompanie pulled back to the west and then headed north to Chodow along the road to Kopcie and eventually assembled in the area of Suchdol. On 3 August, two Tigers supported I/SS-Panzer-Regiment 3 near Banachowizna, just east of Nadbiel, defending against the Russian III Tank Corps. The Panther battalion launched a counterattack along the Kolno-Zambraniec road. Two Tigers were involved in a counterattack on Stawiska. On the fourth, threeTigers were supporting I/SS-Panzer-Regiment 3 during the fighting near Okuniew. A single Panther company from I/SS-Panzer-Regiment 3 supported SS-Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment Germania from 5. SS-Panzer-Division Wiking during the fighting in the area of Chobota and Mrowiaska.
On the fifth, 9. Kompanie saw defensive actions near Lesnogora, about twenty-five kilomters east of Stanislawow, supporting II and III/SS-Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment 6 Eicke. Three Russian T-34 tanks were knocked out, and one Tiger sustained battle damage which required maintenance. Between the sixth and seventh, the company was able to enjoy a quiet period before being recommitted on the eighth to the west of Gozdiowka.
On the nineteenth, 9. Kompanie and elements of I/SS-Panzer-Regiment 3 were involved in a series of counterattacks near Krusze during the day. At the start in the morning, the task was to clear a Russian antitank gun front in the area of east of Wola-Roszczep. 9. Kompanie had the support of 1. Kompanie. The antitank gun front was breached, but one Panther required repairs to the main gun after it was hit by Russian anti-tank gunfire. Later, Russian tanks were reported in the woods 1.5 kilometers southeast of Krusze. 1. Kompanie and 9. Kompanie were tasked again with clearing the area. 1. Kompanie, with seven operational Panthers, and 9. Kompanie, with four Tigers, advanced across the open terrain. At a range of 1,000 meters, JS-2 tanks (based on the KV chassis and mounting a massive 12.2cm main gun) from the 62nd Heavy Guards Tank Regiment opened fire. OnePanther from 1. Kompanie was immediately knocked out. A second Panther (SS-Obersturmbannführer Schramm’s) took hits to the track, wheels, and hull and needed to be recovered and towed away. Two Tigers were also knocked out (trophy numbers 123 and 124), and a third Tiger was so badly damaged that the crew bailed out and abandoned the Tiger. The Tigers were commanded by SS-Untersturmführer Neff, SS-Unterscharführer Sandler, and SS-Oberscharführer Weitner. Weitner was killed along with SS-Sturmmann Schmidt (radio operator) and SS-Sturmmann Meier (driver).
In the afternoon, another counterattack was ordered, with better results. The Tigers knocked out one JS-2 tank and immobilized two other JS-2’s. The tanks of SS-Panzer-Regiment 5 launched an attack on Kozly which brought some relief to SS-Panzer-Regiment 3near Krusze. At the end of the day, the IV. SS-Panzer-Korps claimed twenty-one Russian tanks and self-propelled guns as destroyed, while the Russian claimed two Tigers and eighteen Panthers as destroyed. The Russian 8th Guards Tank Corps on the nineteenth lost two M4 Sherman tanks and a single SU-76 SPG; another nine Shermans and two SU-76 SPG’s required repairs due to battle damage during the fighting for Krusze. On the twentieth, the 62nd Heavy Guards Tank Regiment managed to gain control of the left side of Krusze, but on the twenty-second, the Tigers from 9. Kompanie knocked out four Sherman tanks.
Eric Lehmkuhl recalled:
The Tiger of SS-Oberscharführer Weitner is knocked out. All his crew are killed. The Tiger of SS-Untersturmführer Neff is hit, sustains severe damage, and the crew bail out. The company carries out several counterattacks in the area of Radzymin and Pustelnik; we suffer some Tiger losses. Loader Boxleitner is killed by friendly fire. The Russians constantly attack us with artillery fire. Sleep is hard to come by, and life is to a degree unbearable. Currently, our armor is located in the area of Radzymin. SS-Obersturmbannführer Neidhardt is surveying the terrain with binoculars when a grenade explodes nearby, wounding him and killing his dog. The company is taken over by Neff. SS-Untersturmführer Kriescher is slightly wounded, and SS-Sturmmann Berg is wounded.
The front line has to be pulled back to the area of Jozefow. There are some dominant heights in the area. In the late afternoon, we receive orders to support the StuG battalion and take Hill 104 near Rembelszczyzna. The Russians have occupied the hill; we quickly advance up it and knock out a T-34 that is blocking our way at a range of fifty meters. In the morning the Russians open fire on us with artillery from the direction of Solchew. I’ve never seen anything like this. Thank God for a small ravine in which we take cover. Fountains of earth and trees are thrown through the air. To our front there is a loud bang, and we see a StuG get thrown into the air.
The Tiger is shaken for about thirty minutes. The Russians laid artillery fire that fell behind us before masses of Russian infantry came toward us. Our own infantry are happy as we open fire with our 8.8cm and MG. This brings the Russians to a standstill. There is hardly any cover for them, but the pressure is so intense from the Russians that we have to fall back from the hill. Soon our own artillery and Nebelwerfer units shell the Russians, and then we roll forward back up the hill and try to reach a ravine which leads into a wood. The wood is just a sea of tree stumps and rubble, shot-up guns, and destroyed vehicles—amongst all this carnage are dead bodies from both sides.
The hill is once again back in our hands. On the left is another Tiger, and on our right are two StuG’s. There is a silence, and then we begin to hear the moaning of the wounded. There is a frenzied banging on my hatch. SS-Untersturmführer Neff and his gunner had bailed out after his Tiger was hit. Loader Mauser, driver Lucht, and radio operator Laux have all been killed. Eventually, things begin to settle down. The Russians don’t press us, but on another morning, the third battle begins. There is no cover, no trees—we have to move back with the turret at the sixo’clock position. We have a probation infantry battalion (a penal unit) assigned to us. We are ordered to attack back up the hill under the heaviest fire; in fact, the Russians are so demoralized that they don’t even return fire, so we are back on top of the hill. The probation infantry battalion did nothing of note and hid from the Russians. Suddenly, it’s midnight.
Then came a radio signal to pull back, so we move to the foot of the hill where there is a wood. Here we find time to catch up on some needed sleep. We sleep inside the Tiger. I awake at about noon due to one of my friends snoring loudly, but standing before us is a group of Russians who are shouting at us and at the same time admiring our Tiger. I shout at my fellow comrades to wake up. Very quickly, we fire our MG at them, but we get hit from the right by antitank fire, but nothing happens. We are asking ourselves where the gun is. We fire at the closest proximity with our main gun and drive at full gas down the road and reach our nearest infantry, which is still positioned on Hill 104. This was one of the closest experiences I had during the war.
October comes—we have built bunkers in the area of Jozefow. During an artillery raid, I fall over and break my arm. I’m taken to a field hospital in Modlin. On 9 October, I return to the company to recover. Since the tenth, the Russians had started another offensive with 1,000 guns along a five-kilometer front in our divisional sector. Like an earthquake, the barrage reaches Jozefow, and the Russians break through several sectors of our front line, but later in the day, our former front-line positions are restored. On the twelfth, I returned to the company commander’s Tiger and the crew of SS-Untersturmführer Neff. We see action in the area of Legionowo-Jablonna in the so-called wet triangle near the Vistula River. SS-Unterscharführer Probst and SS-Rottenführer Hodap are both killed near Jablonna. One of our cooks is killed on a farm near Jablonna by a mortar round.
In November, the division is pulled out of the line and sent to rest. On 24 December, we celebrate in a school house. By 2200 hours, we continue in our quarters. I set up a radio and try to get the nighttime broadcasts. Suddenly, a comrade comes in saying that the division is to load on transports immediately and is being sent to Hungary. That night we packed all our equipment. I pack our radio sets and my personal possessions and store them inside the tank, including ammunition.
On 25 August, 9. Kompanie was on the defensive near Klembow, then Kraszew and Zawada, three kilometers northeast of Radzymin. On the twenty-sixth, the Tiger of SS-Unterscharführer Kronmuller was hit by Russian antitank gunfire near Klembow, eight kilometers east of Radzymin. Kronmuller and the radio operator, SS-Rottenführer von Berg, were both killed. 9. Kompanie was taken over by SS-Untersturmführer Neff because SS-Hauptsturmführer Neidhardt took command of 5. Kompanie of II/SS-Panzer-Regiment 3. Between the thirtieth and thirty-first, 9. Kompaniesaw defensive actions in the area of Wiktorow and Marianow. During August 1944, Gunther Schulz arrived. SS-Oberscharführer Wendt, SS-Rottenführer Of, and SS-Rottenführer Schulz-Berge all did limited time in the Bewahrungs Zug (probationary platoon) for breaches of discipline. On 1 September, 9. Kompanie pulled back to the area of Hill 104 and the villages of Struga and Nadma. Former company commande Neidhardt was killed while leading 5. Kompanie.
9. Kompanie’s manpower strength on 1 September 1944 was three officers, nineteen NCO’s, and sixty-six other ranks, for a total of eighty-eight.
On 2 August, the Tigers of 9. Kompanie were fighting in the woods northwest of Nadma. Some Tigers in Warsaw crossed Pontiatowski Bridge after conducting maintenance en route to Struga. On the sixth, the company was involved in security and defensive duties in the area of Wolka-Radzyminska. Between the twelfth and thirteenth, 9. Kompanie was supporting grenadiers launching attacks around Hill 104. The Russians would later capture the hill, forcing the German front line. On the thirteenth, the Tiger of SS-Unterscharführer Probst was destroyed by Russian artillery fire on Hill 104, one kilomter west of Slupno. Probst was killed.
Walter Weber of 5. Kompanie reported:
Afternoon in Radzymin and our positions on the outskirts of town, there is a 2,000-meter strip ahead of us near a wood where the Russians are deploying tanks. We watch the trees and bushes move. We listen in to the Russian radio traffic—mind you, we don’t know what they are saying. In support of us are three Tigers from the heavy company.
We pulled back farther inside the town. Alongside use are two Tigers that were involved with skirmishes with JS-2 heavy tanks. The two Tigers left the town. We wanted to pull back as well, but we received orders by radio to stay put, so we strengthened our positions, and—lo and behold—Russian JS-2 heavy tanks appear.
After losing Hill 104, 9. Kompanie, along with other Totenkopf divisional units, pulled back to a new front line during the night of 14–15 September into the area of Jozefow. On the fifteenth, 9. Kompanie was attached to SS-Panzerjäger-Abteilung 3. On 16 September 1944, 9. Kompanie, along with grenadiers of III/SS-Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment 6 Eicke and 2./SS-Panzerjäger-Abteilung 3, was sent to the area of Rem belszczyzna and Tomaszow to support Hungarian forces that were coming under increasing Russian pressure. The Tigers and Totenkopf grenadiers launch a counterattack on Hill 103, two kilometers south of Rembelszczyzna. During this attack, the Tiger of SS-Untersturmführer Neff is hit by Russian artillery fire, destroying the Tiger. Neff managed to bail out, butSS-Rottenführer Kowalski (gunner), SS-Sturmmann Lucht (driver), and SS-Sturmmann Laux (radio operator) were all killed. In a separate engagement, SS-Sturmmann Weber was killed by Russian infantry fire. Neff had to hand over command of 9. Kompanie to SS-Untersturmführer Kriescher as he had been lightly wounded. Neff recovered at the divisional hospital. Counterattacks were launched on the seventeenth and eighteenth, but on the eighteenth, the Tigers came under heavy Russian artillery fire. On the nineteenth, a partially successful attack on Hill 103 was made, but on the twentieth, the Russians made an all-out effort and took the hill. During the attack, the Tigers of 9. Kompanie found themselves exposed and had to reorient themselves in order to make a successful withdrawal.
9. Kompanie’s manpower strength on 20 September was 2 officers, 25 NCO’s, and 87 other ranks—a total of 114. On 1 October, it was 2 officers, 25 NCO’s, and 90 other ranks—a total of 117 (of this total, 3 NCO’s and 8 other ranks were sick or wounded).
At the start of October, the company personnel built bunkers in the area of Legionowo using wood as roof beams. The support units were based in Jablonna, and the combat elements were in the area of Jozefow.
On 10 October, the Tigers were involved in heavy fighting for Hill 101, west of Jozefow, along with II/SS-Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment 6 Eicke, during the day. SS-Sturmmann Kautz (cook), SS-Rottenführer Koppen (gunner), and SS-Oberscharführer Wendt (tank commander) were killed when their Tiger was hit, causing heavy damage, and SS-Rottenführer Preisendanz (truck driver) was seriously wounded and died from those wounds on the twenty-fourth. All of this occurred in the area of Jablonna. Wounded during the day as well were Karl Schade (Kübelwagen driver), Christian Schuard, and Loidold (company cook).
On the eleventh, former 9. Kompanie commander, SS-Sturmbannführer Biermeier, was seriously wounded while commanding II/SS-Panzer-Regiment 3. He was visiting the command post of 2. Kompanie/SS-Panzer-Pionier-Bataillon 3. On the eleventh, six Tigersbroke up a Russian attack, which resulted in four Tigers being seriously damaged near Michalow-Grabina. On the twelfth, SS-Untersturmführer Neff returned to 9. Kompanie after recovering from his wound and resumed command of the company. SS-Untersturmführer Kriescher was transferred to the regiment’s headquarters company. SS-Untersturmführer Kriescher would later contract pneumonia and had to be hospitalized on 9 December at the SS-Hospital in Modlin. On the twenty-third, he was transferred to the SS-Panzer-Ausbildungs-und-Ersatz-Regiment in Sennelager. On 7 February, he was transferred to a specialist in Vienna for further treatment.
Between the twelfth and thirteenth, the front line of Totenkopf came under heavy Russian artillery fire, causing the deaths of SS-Rottenführer Hodap in Legionowo and SS-Sturmmann Priess (both from the maintenance section), near Jablonna during a Russian airstrike. On the fourteenth, theTigers from 9. Kompanie took part in defensive fighting around Hill 97 and Lapigrosz. On the fifteenth, SS-Untersturmführer Neff was promoted to SS-Obersturmführer. Tigers attached to I/SS-Panzer-Regiment 3 fought near Jozefow and knocked out six Russian tanks (three claimed by thePanther battalion and three by 9. Kompanie). On the sixteenth, the Russians halted all their attacks trying to break through to the Vistula River. On the nineteenth, another attempt was made but again the attack was beaten back by German defensive fire. On the twenty-second, SS-Panzer-Regiment 3 reassembled in the area of Jablonna-Legionowo. 9. Kompanie regrouped as well, with a total strength of thirteen Tigers still on hand. Elements attached to SS-Panzerjäger-Abteilung 3 rejoined the company, and the other elements of the company had been attached to I/SS-Panzer-Regiment 3 during mid-October 1944.
On the twenty-sixth, five new replacements joined 9. Kompanie; these men had been transferred from the Luftwaffe and reenlisted into the Waffen-SS. Totenkopf had the following replacements from the Luftwaffe: 12 officers, 944 NCO’s, and 3,360 other ranks. Of these, 2,086 men had already been assigned to divisional units, 1,277 were still undergoing training behind the front line, and 950 were with SS-Feld-Ersatz-Bataillon 3.
On the same day, the Russians began a heavy artillery barrage along the front line of the Totenkopf. On the twenty-seventh, SS-Panzer-Regiment 3 withdrew over the Brodnowski Canal near Lajsk. On the twenty-eighth, the Russians captured Legionowo. On the thirty-first, the Russians tried to capture Nowy Dwor (Bugmunde), but well-hidden German antitank guns and StuG’s forced the Russians back after heavy fighting near the village of Derlacz. The Russians had to withdraw back to their start positions after a successful counterattack by grenadiers and StuG’s from Totenkopf.
From 5 November, A.O.K. 9 used I/SS-Panzer-Regiment 3, with fourteen Panthers, as well as I (gep) and II/SS-Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment 5 Totenkopf, as a reserve south of Modlin. On the sixth, SS-Panzer-Regiment 3 assembled in Lomna Niemicki. On the eighth, SS-Untersturmführer Heinz Vesterling joined 9. Kompanie as a platoon leader after completing the third SS-Panzer-Junker-Sonder-Lehrgang in Fallingbostal. He had joined the Waffen-SS on 15 May 1942, and he was promoted to SS-Untersturmführer on 20 October 1944. I/SS-Panzer Regiment 3 was still south of Modlin on the twelfth, with twelve operational Panthers along with I/SS-Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment 5 Totenkopf (gep) acting as A.O.K. 9 reserve.
A sketch from memory of the moment when SS-Hauptsturmführer Ther had to abandon his Tiger on 17 March 45, about 200 meters east of the farmstead Felso Major. KUNO THER / DIETRICH WOLF
Tiger 931, SS-Untersturmführer Rathsack, July 1943
Tiger 901, SS-Hauptsturmführer Baedke, January 1944
Tiger 913, SS-Oberscharführer Wimmer, May 1944
Tiger Cutaway, View 1
Tiger Cutaway, View 2
Before the eighteenth, II/SS-Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment 5 Totenkopf was released from A.O.K. 9 reserve and rejoined its parent division. During mid-November, the rains brought road movement almost to a halt; the use of horse-drawn wagons and sledges was generally the only way to get about. On the seventeenth, SS-Standartenoberjunker (SS-Hauptscharführer as of 9 November) Rudiger Blau joined 9. Kompanie after completing the fourth SS-Panzer-Junker-Sonder-Lehrgang at Königsbruck bei Wien from 1 July to 9 November 1944. He had joined the Waffen-SS on 15 September 1942 after completing his RAD (Reichsarbeitsdienst, or Reich Labor Service). He served with the Tiger company in SS-Panzer-Regiment 2 as an SS-Panzer-Schütze. He was wounded near Walki on 10 March 1943 and was initially treated by 2. Kompanie/SS-Sanitäts-Abteilung Leibstandarte.
On the twenty-third, Totenkopf had to repel another Russian attack near Jablonna. On the twenty-fourth, the divisional front line came under strong artillery and mortar fire. A local counterattack, with the support of StuG’s, cleared a bunker system. On the same day, Army Group Center ordered that Totenkopf be released from A.O.K. 9 control and assigned to A.O.K. 2. On the twenty-fifth, elements of Totenkopf were involved in defensive actions south of Jablonna and Nowe Dwor. On the twenty-sixth, SS-Panzer-Regiment 3 moved into the area of Nowe Miasto (Neustadt). On the twenty-seventh, Totenkopf reported to A.O.K. 2. On 2 December, I/SS-Panzer-Regiment 3 and I (gep)/SS-Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment 5 Totenkopf were released from A.O.K. 9 and rejoined their parent division.
On 2 December, SS-Obersturmbannführer Neff went on home leave, and SS-Obersturmbannführer Wenke took over 9. Kompanie. At 2000 hours on the third, Totenkopf was assembled in the following areas: Nowe Miasto–Borkowo–Cegelinia–Psucka–Krzycki–Rebkowo–Swiercze and Koty. On the ninth, former 9. Kompanie officer SS-Untersturmführer Hans Kriescher had to be treated in the SS-Hospital in Modlin for pneumonia. On the twenty-third, he was transferred to SS-Panzer-Ausbildungs-und-Ersatz-Regiment in Paderborn for further treatment.
During December 1944, SS-Rottenführer Ruediger Bernhardt and SS-Unterscharführer Dieter Thomas were sent to attend the SS-Junkerschule back in Germany.
During the night of 25 December, the Tigers of 9. Kompanie moved to Nasielsk for loading in readiness for departure to Hungary. Loading commenced on the twenty-sixth, and they departed the same day. The route was Bydgoszcz–Poznan–Wroclaw–Wien, and they arrived in Komarom on 30 December 1944. After unloading, the Tigers moved through the center of the town and were quartered in an old cavalry barracks. The company still had thirteen Tigers on hand, of which eleven were operational, with two Tigers in repair. On the thirty-first, the Tigers were coated with whitewash for use as winter camouflage. During the afternoon, SS-Obersturmbannführer Laackmann issued orders for the up and coming relief operation on Budapest. That evening the company had a New Year’s party.
On 31 July, Tigers from 9. Kompanie, after being unloaded, were used to secure the major road heading east in the direction of Milosna Street. The five new Tigers under the command of SS-Hauptscharführer Berger unloaded in Warsaw Praga on the thrity-first and were directed by SS-Obersturmbannführer Wolf, the transport officer, to proceed to the Stauffer Kaserne on Rakowiecka Street.
On the morning of 1 August, the Tigers underwent technical maintenance and took on a new load of fuel and ammunition. The Tigers, along with five Panzer IV’s, set off and crossed Paniatowska Bridge, which spanned the Vistula River, moving along Pankiewcza Street and then turning onto Marszalkowska Street. Along the way the Tigers came under intense fire and bombardment from Molotov cocktails and petrol canisters. The Tiger of SS-Unterscharführer Sandler was hit by a captured Panzerfaust fired from a cellar. The radio operator, SS-Sturmann Steinau, was killed. TheTiger of SS-Unterscharführer Kronmuller was hit, and the driver, SS-Unterscharführer Munch, was seriously wounded. Another Tiger on the corner of Marszalkowska Street and Koszilkowa Street was set on fire and abandoned by the crew. Another Tiger broke down due to technical trouble and had to be recovered.
Another group of Tigers provided support to the Narbuta Kaserne, which is not far from the Stauffer Kaserne, at around 1700 hours. The streets were blocked with steel rails and tram cars. The Tigers fired at these street barricades and the surrounding residential buildings, which were occupied by members of the Polish Home Army. The Tigers were pelted by homemade bombs.
Most of the Tigers unloaded in Warsaw left the city and headed northeast between the first and the eighth. On the same day, Panzer-Kompanie Totenkopf was formed under the command of SS-Obersturmbannführer Wolf. The company was made up of new replacement tanks. On the second, two Tigers were tasked with providing an escort for a convoy of wounded soldiers to Okecie air field.
At the Stauffer Kaserne, 9. Kompanie had four Tigers under short-term repair and one Tiger in long-term repair. The Tiger that was left behind in Osowiec from 24 July was finally unloaded in Warsaw on 7 August (and was still there at the station on the twelfth). On the same day, four Tigerswere attached to Kampfgruppe Geibel. At the Stauffer Kaserne, two Tigers were still undergoing short-term repair. On the third, Panzer-Kompanie Totenkopf, with mounted grenadiers, assisted in a clean-up operation in the southwestern part of the city. They returned to the Stauffer Kaserne in the evening.
One of the Tigers attached to Kampfgruppe Geibel was immobilized by a Panzerfaust along Jerozolimskie Street near the main rail station and had to be towed away. On the eighth, 9. Kompanie had three Tigers operational within the areas of Jerozolimiskie and Mokotow. On the tenth, the operational Tigers in Warsaw were planned for use in an operation in the Omina area. This task was to be completed on the twelfth. On the same day, 9. Kompanie had one Tiger at the Warsaw Praga rail station and six Tigers withKampfgruppe Reinfarth.
On the fourteenth, six Tigers from the Stauffer Kaserne were attached to Kampfgruppe Patz, commanded by SS-Obersturmbannführer Patz, which was under the command of SS-Obergruppenführer von dem Bach-Zelewski. On the sixteenth, Panzer-Kompanie Totenkopf, commanded by SS-Obersturmbannführer Wolf, still had two Tigers on strength, along with nine Panzer IV’s and a single Panther. Most of the Tigers by this date had already returned to the tank regiment. On the seventeenth, Panzer-Kompanie Totenkopfwas placed under the command of the Wehrmacht. On the twenty-second, Panzer-Kompanie Totenkopf, along with two Tigers, was assigned to Kampfgruppe Rohr. Panzer-Kompanie Totenkopf conducted maintenance on the twenty-ninth at the Stauffer Kaserne; the day itself was relatively quiet. Between the seventeenth and the twenty-fourth, twoTigers would remain in Warsaw with Panzer-Kompanie Totenkopf before returning to the tank regiment along with the remaining Panzer IV’s.
SS-Rottenführer Riebow, who served with SS-Feld-Ersatz-Bataillon 3 in Warsaw, wrote: “At the eastern end of Milosna Street, our Tigers drive up to the northeastern end near the woods where the Russian tanks have broken through and open fire with their 88cm shells. The Russian tanks go up in flames. More enemy tanks push forward only to be destroyed and set on fire. Afterward, the Tigers pull back and move along Milosna Street, bypassing dead horses and destroyed vehicles lying alongside the edge of the road. TheTigers return to the barracks.”
Eric Lehmkuhl recalled his experience in Warsaw:
Until the end of July, we were in the Werkstatt company. On the twenty-fifth, we were loaded onto rail transports. The division was to reassemble in the area of Siedlce. On the thirty-first, we are part of the company that arrived in Warsaw-Praga. We carry out repairs in the rail station after unloading. It was a beautiful Sunday as we drove over the Vistula Bridge; we felt we were all in a different world.
On the next morning, we are based at the Stauffer Barracks carrying out technical service and weapons maintenance, and we have a full tank. At 1700 hours on 1 August, shots suddenly ring out from the buildings next to the camp—it’s the Polish Home Army taking shots at us. Several comrades are killed and wounded. We immediately jump into our tank and close the hatches. The commander for the city center appears and orders us to return fire at the buildings. We drive out onto the main road and shoot at the windows and basements, but the Poles throw grenades and satchel charges at us.
We remain on the main road, and after shooting at the buildings, we fire at street blockades that have been built from tram cars and furniture. We are to secure the main road so it can remain at our disposal. The next day we have to escort a convoy of wounded soldiers to an airfield. We have to face more barricades made from iron rails and other materials. These barricades are soaked in petrol. The Poles also use Molotov cocktails. We have made a makeshift fire extinguisher so that we can put out fire on the vehicle.
Our Tiger suffers from countershaft damage, and we need towing. One other Tiger is hit by a Panzerfaust, fired from a basement. The radio operator, SS-Sturmann Steinau, is seriously wounded. We repair our Tiger along with two others. We return to the company because we are of more use in the field as opposed to the conditions in Warsaw—it’s just too risky. On the fourteenth, I am back in the commander’s tank. The company is now led by SS-Obersturmbannführer Neidhardt. We follow the newly arrivedPanther battalion, commanded by SS-Sturmbannführer Meierdress, during a counterattack near Radzymin.
SS-Oberführer Geibel commented on the use of Tigers in Warsaw as follows: “It soon turned out to us that the Tiger could not be used in these intense street battles. Some of the roads and streets were too narrow.” Geibel was the SS-und-Polizei-Führer Warschaufrom 31 March 1944 to 1 February 1945.
A report made by the 1st Byelorussian Front during 1944 showing the destruction of three Tigers near Krusze on 19 August 1944. The Tigers are listed at the bottom of the page as trophy numbers 123 and 124; the third Tiger is unnumbered since it was blown up by the crew. TSAMO
Part of the same report, this one showing where Tigers 123 and 124 were hit by antitank rounds. TSAMO
From the left: Wagner, Schuard, Frank, and Krause. Winter 1943–44.
The crew of the Tiger commanded by SS-Untersturmführer Neff, sitting on the barrel of the main gun, February 1944.
The maintenance section in Kishinev/Chisinau during early April 1944. From the left: Alex Wurst, Fritz Hitz, Krummel, Karl Schulze-Berge.
Tiger tank crews and mechanics pose for the camera during May 1944.
SS-Unterscharführer Lachner getting his hair cut, Kishinev/Chisinau, early April 1944.
Deciding which goose to cook, August 1944.
Photograph taken by Fritz Hitz during August 1944 of an unknown Tiger crew. HITZ
Two Kompanie personnel pose after an award ceremony during February 1944.
Two NCO’s standing in front of a supply truck, June 1944. The NCO on the left is SS-Hauptscharführer Drabing.
Two mechanics from the maintenance section in front of an Sd.Kfz. 11 (three-ton towing capacity) prime mover, May 1944.
9. Kompanie personnel gather around a workshop truck in Romania, June 1944. BENEKE
From the left: Kneip, Pfeile, unknown, Barth, and unknown, May 1944.
A group of officers and soldiers standing next to the rail transport taking 9. Kompanie from Nowo Ukrainkia to Balta, 12 March 1944. BENEKE
SS-Sturmmann Werdehausen, May 1944. WERDEHAUSEN
SS-Unterscharführer Weitner, 1944. FRAU WEITNER
SS-Sturmmann Ernst Rosengart, April 1944. KLINGENBECK
Personnel from 9. Kompanie loaded onto carriages awaiting departure to Balta, March 1944.
Departure to Balta, 12 March 1944. Contrary to standard practice, the Tigers are fitted with their standard tracks, not the narrower transport type.
Standing on the rail flat car from the left: Lachner, Weiler, Gansera, Wendt. Sitting down is SS-Rottenführer Adamiak.
Standing in front of the rail flat car, from the left: SS-Unterscharführer Hofmann, driver; SS-Rottenführer Weiler, unknown. Fourth from left is Blatmann, loader. Standing behind Blatmann is SS-Unterscharführer Godecke, driver. Standing next to Blatmann with a pipe in his mouth is Pavlu. Next to Pavlu is SS-Untersturmführer Neff. Next to him is Lachner, Panzer commander. Standing second from Lachner is Theo Richts. Last is SS-Rottenführer Adamiak.
Despite the desperate times, some humor still prevails.
The crew of Tiger 922 during January 1944. The Tiger is an initial-production model from 1942.
The Kompanie commander’s Befehls tiger and crew, 11 January 1944. From the left: SS-Oberscharführer Munch, driver; SS-Sturmmann Heinz Rudolf, loader; Wolfgang Barth, gunner; SS-Sturmmann Lehmkuhl, radio operator; Kuepper.
Crew of Tiger 901, this time in February 1944. From the left: Lehmkuhl, Rudolf, Barth, and Kuepper. The youth of the crew is evident. WAGNER
Loipolt and Gunther Schulze with a milking cow, Struga, August 1944. Supplementing rations with produce from local sources was essential. WAGNER
Gocht, Keller, and Schuard photographed in the area of Height 109, August 1944. WAGNER
From the left, Hans Kautz, Gunther Schulze, Schwade, Wagner, Schuard, and female assistants, Struga, August 1944. WAGNER
The crew of Tiger 923 cleaning onboard weapons, August 1944: Lachner, Heimbruch, Holzner, Weiler, and Schilling. The Tiger had one 7.92mm MG 34 in the hull front and another coaxial with the main gun. There was also a 9mm MP 40 machine-pistol for close-in defense and personal weapons such as the P 08 Luger and P 38 Walther.
Another ration collection from the supply truck, September 1944. WERDEHAUSEN
In the area of Height 104, September 1944. From the left: Volz, Schulze, Heinkel, and Dietz. WAGNER
SS-Sturmmann Schuard in what seems good company, Radzymin, September 1944.
9. Kompanie personnel pose with a Romanian family, June 1944. The Romanians were allied with Germany until 23 August 1944, when they surrendered and changed sides. BENEKE
SS-Rottenführer Georg Preisendanz outside the Kompanie command post, October 1944. WAGNER
After collecting their rations, it is time to sit down and eat. September 1944. BENEKE
Tiger 902 towing Tiger 913 on 11 March 1944. It was strictly prohibited for a Tiger to tow another due to the strain on the mechanical components, particularly the engine and transmission. However, in emergency situations, this directive was often ignored.
Tiger and crew in Bolschaja (Bolshaya) Wyska on 5 March 1944.
The barrel of a Tiger overlooks a street corner in Balta, 27 March 1944.
Another group photograph taken in May 1944. From the right: Knut, Kronmuller, and Tiger commander SS-Unterscharführer Blasé.
Rail transport to Balta, March 1944. WENDT
A Tiger takes up a defensive position near Balta, March 1944.
Amongst this group standing at the back of a Tiger is Krippl (died November 2011), Tassler, Pawlu, and Neff. The Tiger was a thirsty tank, and supplementary “Jerry cans” and even large drums of fuel were often carried when the Tigers were moving from one location to another. In combat situations, the fuel was, of course, dumped.
A Tiger stands in readiness, February 1944. The crewmembers appear to have smeared a coating of mud on the tank as camouflage. WERDEHAUSEN
Tiger 921 coated in winter camouflage near Balta, March 1944.
Another photograph of 9. Kompanie moving by rail to Balta.
A Tiger in a covering position near Balta, March 1944. The remaining operational Tigers in Balta were known as Panzergruppe Neff.
Two StuG III assault guns from SS-Sturmgeschütze-Abteilung 3 in Balta, March 1944.
After the fighting in Balta was over, the Kompanie personnel ended up in Kishinev/Chisinau during the first few days of April 1944.
Another queue for rations, April 1944.
The maintenance section in Kishinev/Chisinau, April 1944.
Barth after receiving the Iron Cross, Second Class, 20 April 1944.
From the left: Barth, Lehmkuhl, and Schulze in Bacau on 20 April 1944 after being awarded the Iron Cross, Second Class.
Tiger crewmembers show off their new camouflage uniforms, May 1944. From the left: unknown, Schulze, unknown, and Seiler (fourth from the left). Seiler originally came from Austria.
SS-Unterscharführer Berger in April 1944.
Officers and men from 9. Kompanie gather to celebrate Mother’s Day in Bacau on 14 April 1944. The man in the center holding the bouquet of flowers is Beneke, Kompanie Spieß (roughly equivalent to master sergeant).
People of Bacau on the move, April 1944.
The Romanian countryside as the train carrying Totenkopf personnel approaches Bacau station.
SS-Totenkopf personnel unload from the train in Romania, April 1944.
9. Kompanie personnel assemble outside the rail station in Bacau, April 1944. Standing on the steps in field-grey uniform at the bottom of the steps is the Kompanie Spieß, with Beneke next to him. Also in field-grey uniform is the Werkstatt Zug leader, Herderer. Sitting along the wall, third from the left, is the Kompanie cook, Leutholdt. Sitting behind the officer leaning against the step wall is SS-Unterscharführer Hans Holzner, who originally came from Argentina.
The maintenance section poses with its new Sd.Kfz. 11 prime mover, May 1944.
The Kompanie in another group photograph, taken in May 1944. BENEKE
Tiger 913 under the command of SS-Unterscharführer Wimmer, May 1944. WERDEHAUSEN
Another 9. Kompanie group photograph, May 1944. BENEKE
Lining up for rations, Romania, May 1944. BENEKE
Radio operator at his post in a new Tiger, May 1944.
The Kompanie cook stands in front of his Gulaschkanone (field kitchen), Radzymin, August 1944. WAGNER
Mother’s Day celebrations, April 1944.
9. Kompanie personnel in Kishinev/Chisinau, April 1944. BENEKE
A Kompanie stores issue point, September 1944. BENEKE
On 1 May 1944, SS-Untersturmführer Neff and fifty men were flown back to Germany and landed in Ravensburg. These Tigers originally belonged to schwere SS-Panzer-Abteilung 103, which returned them for re-issue (probably the Tiger II King Tiger).
Already set for the return journey from Magdeburg to Poland on 26 July 1944. Standing on the rail flat car next to the Tiger is SS-Unterscharführer Sandler, Panzer commander. Sitting in the front row, third from the left, is SS-Rottenführer Weiler. Standing behind the woman’s right shoulder is SS-Hauptscharführer Berger, commander of the 4th Platoon. The Tiger on the flatcar is a late-production model with steel-tired roadwheels.
Another photograph taken in Magdeburg on 26 July 1944.
View of the Polish countryside during the fighting, July 1944. In the background some buildings are on fire.
A Polish village on fire, July 1944.
Barth poses with fellow soldiers and the flight crew of a Junkers Ju 52 transport aircraft on 1 August 1944. Barth was to begin a four-month officer-cadet course, which saw him promoted to SS-Untersturmführer der Reserve on 30 January 1945.
Standing from the left: unknown, Schneider, Pavlu, Barth, and Shieshel, outside Rogan rail station.
Barth, as an officer-cadet, competing in a swimming competition, Königsbrück, 12 August 1944.
A communications report from XXIX. Armee Korps to A.O.K. 6 dated 2 April 1944.
SS-Junker Barth, 22 December 1944.
SS-Oberscharführer Arthur Privatski in 1944. On his upper left arm, he wears the Demjansk Shield, which was instituted on 25 April 1943 for those soldiers who had fought in the Demjansk Pocket in the winter of 1941–42.
Befehls tiger 901 in full winter camouflage, January 1944. This Tiger was delivered in early October 1943 and blown up on 2 April 1944 while still loaded on a rail transport.
9. Kompanie personnel eating rations during September 1944 in Poland. Lachner is sitting on the right, wearing his black Panzer uniform. At the back, wearing an M43 field cap, is SS-Untersturmführer Neff.
Just visible in the background is a Tiger loaded onto a rail transport alongside an armored train, March 1944. Armored trains were used extensively by both the Germans and the Soviets.
9. Kompanie personnel gather outside Bacau rail station just after arriving in the town, 14 April 1944.
Two soldiers from 9. Kompanie in Bacau, May 1944.
Lachner and another comrade sampling Polish wine during August 1944.
The company cook, SS-Unterscharführer Johannes Loidold, during the autumn of 1944 in Poland.
Tiger 911 of 1st Platoon, commanded by SS-Untersturmführer Hans Kriescher, August 1944. Kriescher commanded the platoon between May and October 1944.
Tiger 902, commanded by SS-Oberscharführer Tonges, undergoes track repairs during late July 1944. This tank is from the final production series (production of the Tiger I ceased in August 1944).
Tigers and support vehicles assemble in Nowo Ukrainka (today known as Novo Ukrainka) prior to loading and transport to Balta.
Lachner and a comrade relaxing in Bacau during May 1944.
More 9. Kompanie personnel arrive in Bacau on 14 April 1944 looking rather dishevelled and tired.
Franz Sklenzky wearing the two-piece camouflage Panzer uniform, May 1944.
The Junkers Ju 90 transport aircraft that took the Neff collection group to Belgrade on 1 May 1944.