Rudolf Rahardt

Rudolf stayed in Reserve-Lazarett Zeithain from 26 February till 16 April 1943. According to page 8a of the Soldbuch Rudolf arrived without his weapons and most of his equipment, probably left behind at his unit. After Rudolf got healed he was granted a special healing leave. His leave started on 16 April and was probably for a few weeks. When it ended is unknown, as its not readable in the Soldbuch. But, like any other soldier, Rudolf had to get back to the army after his leave ended.

Rudolf went to his Ersatz (replacement) unit, Pionier-Ersatz-Bataillon 9 based in Aschaffenburg, Germany. This was normal for soldiers after being in a hospital. His Ersatz unit would do a medical check, give new equipment when needed and would look if Rudolf was to be send back to his old unit or another one. On 3 May 1943 Rudolf's Ersatz unit did a security check on Rudolf and his Soldbuch. This was noted on page 15 of the Soldbuch. On 5 May 1943 Rudolf got his medical check, after this he was granted another leave. This was from 7 May till 23 May 1943. During this leave Rudolf went to his girlfriend Ilse, they made 2 pictures of themselfs (see the 2 pictures below).

On the above 2 pictures you can clearly see Rudolf wearing his Eisernes-Kreuz I Klasse, Algemeine-Sturmabzeichen, Verwundeten-Abzeichen and a ribbon-bar for the Eisernes-Kreuz II Klasse and Winterschlacht im Osten medal.

When Rudolf got back from his leave, he went back to his Ersatz unit. This Ersatz unit wrote down the Verwundeten-Abzeichen in Schwarz award that Rudolf received on the 9th of November 1942 in his Soldbuch on page 22. They forgot to do that earlier. A day later, on the 25th, Rudolf was issued new equipment. How long Rudolf stayed with his Ersatz unit is not known to me. When he went back to his combat unit on the front isn't known to me either. Therefore i do not know if Rudolf was with Pionier-Bataillon 299 during the Kursk battle of 5 till 16 July.

In December 1943 Rudolf went to the "Pionier-Unterführerlehrgang" (Pionier NCO training course) in Thorn, Westpreussen. Here he got additional Pionier NCO training. On the 13th Rudolf was granted leave. He went on the 18th till the 6th of January. On the 28th of January he was granted another leave, from 30 January till 20 February 1944. At some time, most likely at the end of the course, Rudolf was promoted to Feldwebel (Sergeant first class), retroactive from 1-1-1944. With this rank Rudolf could act as Zugführer (Platoonleader), but if he did.. i don't know.

After Rudolf's leave he first went back to his Ersatz unit. Here he got his equipment checked. Later he went back to his combat unit, Pionier-Bataillon 299. Around this time the 299 Infanterie-Division fought along the Orscha-Witebsk road. The Division was part of the VI. Korps under the 3.Panzer-Armee which was under the command of Heeresgruppe Mitte.

On 21 June 1944 the Russians made small attacks on the positions of the 299. Infanterie-Division near Witebsk to test the German strenght in the area. On 22 June 1944 the big Russian summer offensive against the frontline of Heeresgruppe Mitte began. Heeresgruppe Mitte had 38 Divisons operational in the field, placed under 4 army's (3.Pz., 2, 4 and 9. Armee) with a total of 800.000 soldiers. The Russians used 185 Divisions with a total of 2.300.000 soldiers in the attack. These fast amounts of Russian troops were able to encircle and destroy most of Heeresgruppe Mitte. 3 of the 4 army's with 28 Divisions were destroyed. The Germans lost around 400.000 men and the Russians around 770.000 men (Wounded, captured or killed).

Russian soldier guards a group of captured German soldiers in Bobruisk, 1944

A large gap formed on the middle sector of the German frontline in the East. The Germans never succeded in fully repairing that gap. The 299. Infanterie-Division was destroyed, only parts survived.

According to the son of a soldier from Pionier-Bataillon 299, the Bataillon made a small night attack on the Russian possitions with a shocktroop to make prisoners on the evening before the Russian offensive. They were able to capture Russian(s) and obtained the information that a Russian attack was coming soon. The same evening a Kompanie of Gebirgsjägers (mountain troops) were added in the frontline as an extra re-enforcement. Due to this small addition it looks like they still had no idea how big the upcoming Russian offensive would be. Because the position of Pionier-Bataillon 299 was in a "hinterhangstellung" (reverse-slope position) they were able to retreat during the initial Russian attack and avoid direct destruction of the Bataillon. Although later on they had many losses.

Map of the Russian offensive from 22 June - 29 Augustus 1944

Later during the Russian offensive, on 21 July 1944, Rudolf got wounded. He was hit by bullet(s). This was noted into his Soldbuch on page 12-13 by the Truppenarzt of his Kompanie. Rudolf stayed with his unit. Meanwhile the survivors of his unit together with other units formed Korps-Abteilung G in early August 1944. The Russian offensive stopped on the 19th of August 1944. Rudolf survived the Russian attacks, he was granted leave on the 20th which started on the 22th and ended on 14 September 1944.
In 1944 Rudolf and his girlfriend Ilse married. This most likely happend during this leave. They made 2 pictures on that day (see them below).

During Rudolf's leave Korps-Abteilung G was used to re-create the 299. Infanterie-Division. after his leave, Rudolf got back with 2./Pionier-Bataillon 299. On 17 November 1944 Rudolf's equipment was checked by the Bataillon. On a later date he received winter clothing for the upcoming 1944-1945 winter.

In January 1945 the Russians launched a series of attack resulting on the 26th in the forming of the Heiligenbeil pocket. The 299. Infanterie-Division was one of the units surrounded in this pocket. A total of 150.000 German soldiers got surrounded (4.Armee). On 3 February 1945 Rudolf received a Belgian pistol. On the 6th of February 1945 Rudolf was hospitalized at Sanitäts-Kompanie 500, part of Panzer-Korps Grossdeutschland, with throat problems. 5 days later, on the 11th, Rudolf was released and went back to his unit. Around this time (February) Rudolf's unit, Pionier-Bataillon 299, was destroyed.

On 1 March 1945 Rudolf was hospitalized in Reserve-Lazarett Gotha with bullet wound(s). This Lazarett was in the middle of Germany, near Erfurt. Rudolf must have been wounded in February and escaped the pocket on one of the ferry-transports for wounded soldiers from the Heiligenbeil pocket to Germany.

Rudolf was lucky. After the Heiligenbeil pocket collapsed and ended on 29 March 1945, of the original 150.000 German troops, about 80.000 got killed and 50.000 captured. Only 20.000 soldiers got out of the pocket (including the wounded). Rudolf got relocated from Gotha to Reserve-Lazarett Ilmenau, which was about 40 Km. North-East from Gotha. Reserve-Lazarett Ilmenau was based in a Hotel named "Zur Tanne". Rudolf stayed in this Lazarett till the 30th of June, when he was healed and send to a POW camp. As this was Rudolf's third wound he should have been awarded the Verwundeten-Abzeichen in Silber (wound badge in silver), but this probably didn't happen because the war had ended.

Reserve-Lazarett Ilmenau located in Hotel "Zur Tanne", 1939

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