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-   -   Poignant Grouping of a 58th & 338th I.D. Obergefreiter (Long Thread!) (http://www.wehrmacht-awards.com/forums/showthread.php?t=907679)

Paulus_Gun 04-07-2017 06:34 PM

Poignant Grouping of a 58th & 338th I.D. Obergefreiter (Long Thread!)
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Hello all,

Today I want to present a special grouping. This thread is going to tell the story of Obergefreiter Hans-Jürgen Dethlefs, who served in the 58th and 338th Infanterie Divisions. He joined the Wehrmacht in spring 1942. With the help of approximately 400 Feldpost letters almost exclusively written by himself to his parents, it was possible to create a very extensive story of what he experienced during World War Two, and how it affected not only him, but also his family at home. This thread is therefore not going into depth when it comes to analysing battles, but instead it will focus purely on Hans-Jürgen and how he, his family, and his friends endured the later years of the war. Of course it is impossible to show everything, but I have carefully picked some items and letters that might be interesting to present. Unfortunately the only items that are possible missing are his wartime photos (so if anyone owns them by any chance, contact me).

I have decided to write this extensive thread for several reasons. First, I want to share his unique account of many different aspects of the war; the battles, his awards, letter censorship, fear as the inevitable months of the war come closer; and of course the loss of friends and family. Second, I want to show how important it is to keep grouping intact if possible, as every single document is another part of the puzzle. Third, as the WAF is very accessible for historical enthusiasts, I figured this would be the best place (instead of a small booklet for example. Last, as I post this grouping, I am also hoping to gather some extra information from you all, to add another piece to the puzzle.

After purchasing parts of the existing grouping, the previous owner was able to track down Hans-Jürgen’s brother a few years ago, whom was by then in his mid-80s. He was very generous to give/sell him the remaining parts of Hans-Jürgen’s legacy, as there were no surviving (direct) family members besides him. Now I am very grateful, as a relatively young collector, to protect his legacy for the next 60-70 years (hopefully!).

Below you can see the entire grouping, and a map I made to show where he was during his service.

I also want to thank Ian Jewison, who helped me out with some of the units.

Enjoy this thread. And please note that I am not a writer and tried to write an objective piece.

Best regards,

Paulus_Gun 04-07-2017 06:35 PM

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1. Early life (1923 – October 1941)

Hans-Jürgen Dethlefs was born on April 7th 1923 in Janneby as the eldest of two sons of Johannes Dethlefs and Katharina Dethlefs (née Burmeister). He had a 5 year younger brother named Klaus.

Soon after Hans-Jürgen’s birth the family moved to Flensburg. His parents were married in May 1922. Prior to their marriage, his mother was a mailwoman. His father was a bank clerk. During World War One he was wounded twice: first time he was hit in his left forearm which left him partially paralyzed. The second time he was gravely wounded when he was hit in his neck, which also affected his lungs for the rest of his life.

After four years at a Volksschule, Hans-Jürgen went to the Flensburger Knabenmittelschule from Easter 1933 to Easter 1939. Afterwards he went to study as a salesman at Reederei Bernhard Howaldt (a shipping company). On April 25th 1941 he successfully became one after passing his exam. As a young child he was furthermore member of the Jungvolk and later the Hitlerjugend.

Paulus_Gun 04-07-2017 06:37 PM

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His time during the Jungvolk, for boys aged 10 to 14.

Paulus_Gun 04-07-2017 06:38 PM

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His time in the Hitlerjugend.

Paulus_Gun 04-07-2017 06:39 PM

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A photograph with his little brother Klaus & his Kennkarte.

Paulus_Gun 04-07-2017 06:41 PM

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2. Service in the Reichsarbeitsdienst (RAD) (October 1941 – March 1942)

On October 6th 1941 he was conscripted to the Reichsarbeitsdienst as part of his six mandatory months service before entering the Armed Forces. He was sent to the north-western seaside resort of Westerland on the island of Sylt next to the Danish border. There he was part of Reichsarbeitsdienst Abteilung 2/71. Two days later on October 8th he began writing his first letter. In his RAD-unit he was part of the ‘Hänschen-trio’ together with carpenter Hans Kraft and bank clerk Hans Schlichting. At the RAD he had to work on the seaside, possibly building bunkers and laying mines to protect the Danish coast from a possible allied invasion.

On December 5th he witnessed the war first hand as the war British planes flew around 30 metres above their camp. However, they only dropped Danish leaflets as part of their propaganda campaign. On December 21st his mother came to visit, as she was probably interested in what her first born son was up to. Shortly after, right before Christmas, they were informed that four out of six RAD Abteilungen would be transferred to Russia, though his Abteilung was not among them. Hans-Jürgen and the others of his Abteilung were disappointed because of that fact, as they wanted to see Russia badly. RAD units were often used in Russia for infrastructural projects behind the front, something that would be an exciting experience for the 18-year old. Their Abteilung leader tried to persuade his superior to send them anyway, but eventually he was not successful. Hans-Jürgen’s mother later heard from of his friends that he volunteered for the Russian front, therefore he had to correct her as this was not the case at all, as RAD units were not meant for front duty.

On February 8th 1942 he asked his mother if he could borrow her camera for his service, as he was collecting photographs for his Erinnerungsalbum and wanted to shoot some himself. He also sent some postcard size photographs of himself to his mother, which were taken earlier by a professional photographer in the camp. Furthermore he requested his private jacket, as his Czech clothing was not good enough for the current winter. Also at the RAD they were doing shooting practise at a distance of 50 metres. Hans-Jürgen proved himself to have a small talent, as he was the second or third best of his entire Zug. Out of 30 men, only seven succeeded at hitting the minimum of 24 points with three shots, while Hans-Jürgen managed to hit 29 points. On February 13th he unfortunately had to inform his parents that his release from the RAD was delayed from February 22nd to March 31st, and that he would therefore be home much later. Late February the camp was regularly visited by allied planes, for which the men had to hide in their bunkers for the first time since mid-December. And not only his camp, but also his parental town of Flensburg was regularly visited by the uninvited guests.

Hans-Jürgen disliked guard duty, and unfortunately for him some people in his unit were excused from guard duty, which they had to do in groups of four. Out of his unit of thirteen men, there were two stokers/firemen (for the steam engines), two Auslandsdeutsche and one assistant of the camp doctor. This meant that they had to do daily guard duty with eight men. By early March Hans-Jürgen was still hoping that they could leave sooner, but much to his frustration the soonest date possible was March 20th. On March 20th he finally heard that they were to leave on the 28th, unfortunately a few days late for his little brother’s 14th birthday. Still he was able to buy him a book which he would give to him upon his return. Due to delays, he got there on the 31st after all like the earlier planned schedule.

Paulus_Gun 04-07-2017 06:42 PM

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Another photo in the RAD.

Paulus_Gun 04-07-2017 06:44 PM

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3. Basic training in Ringsted, Denmark (April 1942 – July 1942)

During his time at home in Flensberg he began preparing for his Wehrmacht service. At this time, the war was not going according to plan, but there were so far no real worries. He was sent to a Nachrichten Abteilung, starting with basic training in Ringsted, Denmark. On April 17th his unit was stationed in the Horst-Wessel-Schule in Flensburg, waiting for its departure to Denmark the week after where he would be part of Infanterie-Nachrichten-Ersatz-Kompanie 58. Next day he was moved to the Duburg-Kaserne where he received his first military uniform.

On April 27th he arrived at his camp in Denmark. During basic training he was used to having three to four hours a day of basic infantry training. Furthermore he spent the rest of his time on his specialisation. In the case of Hans-Jürgen this meant studying the communication devices which he found very interesting. On the 1st of May he marched his first 30 kilometres, with some parts being under fire by his senior comrades. On May 5th he swore his oath to his people, Führer and Fatherland. On May 8th he marched another 30 kilometres after which he did some target practise. Hans-Jürgen was quite disappointed that it did not go as well as during his time at the RAD a few months earlier, hitting only 25 points this time. By mid-May he proved himself to be most qualified as a telecommunicator.

During this time he also started practising with his communication devices in the field. On May 22nd he was sent to the city in groups of four at 3:00 and had to march to his destination outside of the city, using only a compass, reaching his destination at 4:30. By 7:00 he had already marched twelve to thirteen kilometres. In the night of May 27th to the 28th there was a major exercise for the Nachrichten troops from 22:00 to 6:00. It was harder than he had expected because of the weight of the communication devices. Also he found it quite difficult to cover his device using only two Zeltbahnen as they were in groups of two. Zeltbahn was needed as Nachrichten troops were supposed not to show any lights at night. One day later there was target practise again, this time standing up instead of lying down. To his own surprise, Hans-Jürgen managed to score 27 points with three shots, more than he scored lying down earlier. On June 13th he bought his personal photo camera with some of his last Danish Kroner as his basic training was slowly coming to an end, therefore he had to get rid of his foreign currency. By mid-June they increased the intensity of the marches, with 40 kilometres on the 12th and 20 kilometres on the 17th with all his communication devices. By now the companies and battalions were split between the regular troops and the Nachrichten troops, with Hans-Jürgen of course being part of the latter. In late June the troops were leaving Denmark. However, for Hans-Jürgen it was fine if he could stay longer, perhaps by training the new troops. He enjoyed the facilities far too much and already expected the future to be much less comfortable. By June 30th most troops were already gone, but his Zug was still there, and there were no march orders yet. On July 5th he finally got the green light to leave his camp and move towards Russia. There he would become part of the II./Infanterie-Regiment 154.

On July 11th he arrived in Pasewalk, which is the same town were Hitler was being treated the moment the armistice was signed during World War One. The next day he arrived in Deutsch Eylau (now Iława in Poland).

Paulus_Gun 04-07-2017 06:45 PM

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Soldbuch pages 2-5

Paulus_Gun 04-07-2017 06:47 PM

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Soldbuch pages 6-7

Paulus_Gun 04-07-2017 06:48 PM

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Soldbuch pages 8-8c

Paulus_Gun 04-07-2017 06:49 PM

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Soldbuch pages 8d-11

Paulus_Gun 04-07-2017 06:50 PM

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Soldbuch pages 12-15

Paulus_Gun 04-07-2017 06:52 PM

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Soldbuch pages 18-21 (16 & 17 are empty)

Paulus_Gun 04-07-2017 06:52 PM

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Soldbuch pages 22-23

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