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Old 10-19-2008, 09:55 PM   #31
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3.12

Das Deutsche Kreuz in Gold


The last few months ordeal had left Erwin emotionally and physically hurt and he needed time with his family to heal those wounds, but the pain of losing his son never went away…
During his 6 months convalescence, he was assigned to Inf. Ersatz battalion 76, in Hamburg.

*********

For multiple deeds of exceptional bravery and outstanding merits in combat leadership, Erwin Koopmann was awarded the German Cross in Gold on January 19th 1942, and promoted to Hauptmann in May.

Preliminary award certificate
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Old 10-19-2008, 09:57 PM   #32
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3.13

Formal award document


The preliminary certificate was signed by Bodewin Keitel, and the formal Urkunde by his older brother Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel.
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Old 10-19-2008, 09:59 PM   #33
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3.14

Erwin koopmann’s battle worn German Cross in Gold
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Old 10-19-2008, 10:01 PM   #34
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3.15

DKIG…


A replacement (or second example) of his DKIG was possibly acquired by Erwin in July 1943 while on a trip back to Germany, or it may have been presented to his family in 1944.
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Old 10-19-2008, 10:03 PM   #35
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3.16

Spiritual Father


A letter of congratulations from his friend and former employer, Der Reichspostminister Karl Wilhelm Ohnesorge;


****************************************
Berlin, May 15th 1942

Oberleutnant
Erwin Koopmann

Postal protection school Besenhorst

My dear comrade!

I have already been able to send you my congratulations because of your decoration with
the Iron Cross 1st class. But I am especially happy that you have again shown your
valour in the field, so that the Führer has now decorated you with the German Cross in
Gold. All my warmest congratulations for this high decoration. I am proud that there are
comrades in my following who are a bright example in the battle for Germany’s honour
and liberty.
Because of your heroic efforts, I will take into consideration whether you can be
promoted – e.g. for use in the occupied eastern territories, after you have returned from
military service. Should you have certain wishes in this connection, you may contact me
any time.
I am wishing you to recover fairly soon and completely from your wounds.

Heil Hitler!

Ohnesorge

**********

Karl Wilhelm Ohnesorge first met Hitler sometime in 1920, and they became good friends. Shortly after this, he joined the Nazi Party (Party Membership Nr. 42), founding its first branch outside Bavaria, at Dortmund. By the year 1929, he had become the president of the Central Office of the Reichspost, Germany's central postal service. With the Nazi takeover in 1933 Ohnesorge was named State Secretary, and he de facto supervised the Reichspost, particularly engaging himself for the propagation of the Nazi Party and their goals through the Post. From 1937, he assumed the duties of Minister of the Reichspost. During the denazification after the war, as a leading member of the Party, charges were brought against him. However, for unknown reasons, these charges were later revoked, and Ohnesorge was not penalised for his involvement with the Nazis. His life post-war remains undocumented. Ohnesorge died at the age of 89 on February 1st 1962, in Munich.
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Old 10-19-2008, 10:05 PM   #36
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3.17

The Demyansk pocket


The Wehrmacht had taken Demyansk (located on the western edge of the Valdai Hills, south of Leningrad) in September 1941. The Russians launched their Winter Counteroffensive in this region on January 12th. One month later, the Soviets succeeded in pocketing the 2nd Army Corps and elements of the 10th Corps, both part of the German 16th Army, as well as the 3rd SS Panzer Division Totenkopf. About 90,000 German troops and around 10,000 auxiliaries were trapped inside the pocket, Hitler ordered that the surrounded divisions hold their positions until relieved. Facing only weak Soviet fighter defences and blessed with relatively good flying weather, the Luftwaffe managed to keep the trapped divisions resupplied. It did require all of its transport and most of its bomber assets in the region, it was this success that contributed to the foolish attempt to repeat it on a larger scale at Stalingrad.
At the end of April 1942, a relief attack from inside and a counter-attack from within the pocket re-established the connection with the main German line on the Lovat River, over the next several weeks this corridor was widened. The Soviet High Command grew increasingly desperate to wipe out the pocket, and over the winter and spring launched a number of assaults on the "Ramushevo corridor" that formed the tenuous link between Demyansk and Staraya Russa and were repeatedly repulsed. (Fighting in the area continued until February 1943. The Soviets would not liberate Demyansk until March 1st, 1943 with the retreat of the German troops.)

*********

During the last week of June 1942, Hauptmann Erwin Koopmann now in good health, was assigned to “Führer Reserve Heeresgruppe Nord” (a pool or temporary parking area for Officers between assignments). On July 1st, he rejoined his division on the Russian Front, near Lake Ilmen. From August 3rd to the 21st, due to increased fighting in the nearby Demyansk pocket corridor, he was sent along with I./I.R.76 on a temporary assignment to the pocket land bridge.
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Old 10-19-2008, 10:07 PM   #37
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3.18

Field of fire


On August 9th, at the village of Ramushevo, Erwin was hit to the back by a shell splinter and later awarded the Wound Badge in Silver for having suffered a third wound.
On August 20th, and barely recovered from his injury, he was given interim command of his division’s reconnaissance battalion; KS30/PzAA120, for a period of one month. The battalion had just lost two commanders in less than a week!
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Old 10-19-2008, 10:09 PM   #38
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3.19

The Battle of Velikiye Luki


When the front line in the northern sector of the Eastern Front had stabilized in the spring of 1942, the Germans were left in control of the town of Velikiye Luki, which provided them with a bridgehead over the Lovat River. In view of its strategic significance, the Germans fortified the city heavily over the course of 1942. A major Soviet offensive to retake the city did indeed develop in mid-November, In the wet snows of late November, the Soviet army struck at the thinly manned German front lines north and south of the city on the river, surrounding the vital supply center and trapping its garrison while threatening to cut off and encircle an entire German army group.

The encirclement of Velikiye Luki bore a strong resemblance to the well-known debacle that was unfolding at the same time at Stalingrad. From the start, the Germans realized that the Soviet offensive was stronger than anticipated. Hitler's headquarters, though, was in chaos trying to deal with the growing fiasco at Stalingrad, and scant attention was being paid to the threat to the German center. Hitler ordered Velikiye Luki held at all costs, hopefully until it was relieved, but held all the same. The Germans scraped together what units they could, the 8th Panzer Division was ordered south from Leningrad with orders to fight through to Velikiye Luki (already understrength, the division's panzer regiment had only 32 operational tanks!). In addition, the 20th Motorized Infantry Division, which was already scheduled for transfer from Leningrad, was sent south to Velikiye Luki. The 291st and 205th Infantry divisions were also committed to action.
The relief attacks under Group Wöhler never quite had the necessary strength to break through the encircling Russians, On January 15th, the last radio messages came from the besieged garrison; "We cannot break out. You must immediately break through to us." And one hour later, came the last intelligible communication; "Urgently request artillery fire." After that there was nothing. Velikiye Luki was officially declared lost on January 16th 1943, the garrison defenders either deads or taken prisoners.
Fighting continued along the new line west of the city for several more days as each side tried to straighten the line in its favour. The German front had finally held, though its position had been badly eroded. It was estimated that the Soviet casualties amounted to more than 30,000 killed and thousands wounded during the battle. The German losses totalled 17,000 officers and men killed. While 5000 fell in Velikiye Luki, a staggering 12,000 were killed in the relief attempts.
The 20th Motorized had to endure horrendous losses, I.R.76 hardly recovered from the very heavy casualties suffered near the city. On January 30th, Hauptmann Erwin Koopmann was transferred from I./I.R.90 to the depleted Infantry Battalion I./I.R.76 and promoted to Major and battalion commander.

*********

On January 17th, Generalleutnant Erich Jaschke took over command of Group Wöhler and Oberst Georg Jauer was delegated with the leadership of the division. Jaschke is posing here prior to his departure alongside his old comrade Hauptmann Koopmann.
Erwin was promoted to Major a few days later, shown below are his shoulder boards and tunic breast eagle.
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Old 10-19-2008, 10:12 PM   #39
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3.20


The White Rose


From April 18th to June 10th 1943, Erwin served as acting Regimental Führer with the neighbouring 205th Infantry Division, which had fought alongside the 20th Motorized during the battle of Velikiye Luki. He then attended the regimental leaders course for armoured troops at Wünsdorf, Germany. (On May 29th 1943, Erwin’s division was designated the 20. PanzerGrenadier-Division)
At the end of July, Erwin was finally able to travel home to Geesthacht and enjoy a few days leave with his family. Among Erwin’s personal documents, there's a British propaganda leaflet that he picked up in the Hamburg region, it reports the story of a non-violent resistance group of university students. Official policy was that any German finding an Allied leaflet was supposed to write across it the word "Fiendpropaganda" ("Enemy Propaganda") and hand it to the authorities, but Erwin chose to secretly keep it. Being a University graduate student and now a well decorated Heer Officer with a sworn oath of loyalty to Hitler, was he torn between two political ideologies?

*********

Consisting of five students from the University of Munich and their professor of philosophy Kurt Huber, a group named the "WHITE ROSE" distributed leaflets calling for the German people to oppose Nazi oppression. When she was seen by a custodian dropping leaflets from a top floor at the university, Sophie Scholl was arrested and taken into Gestapo custody. Hans and Sophie Scholls along with C. Probst were the first to stand trial on February 22nd 1943, all were found guilty of treason and sentenced to death by guillotine. A. Schmorell and K. Huber were beheaded on July 13th, and W. Graf on October 12th.
The students would have the last word, however, when their last and sixth leaflet was smuggled to Allied forces. Written by Kurt Huber and titled ‘Manifest der Münchner Studenten’ (Manifesto of the Munich Students), it contained some of the most powerful prose ever penned on behalf of liberty and peace. The Allied forces used it to create a propaganda leaflet (G.39); it included an introduction text along with the integral transcript of the White Rose’s sixth leaflet. Over 5 millions copies were airdropped into Western Germany from July 3rd to July 28th, hundreds of thousands over the Hamburg/Oldenburg region.

Below is the translation of the G.39 leaflet, "Ein deutsches Flugblatt";

________________________________________

A GERMAN LEAFLET


This is the text of a German Leaflet, a copy of which has reached
England. Students from Munich University wrote it in February this
year and distributed it at the University. Six of them have been execut-
ed for this, others have been imprisoned, others sent to the front as a
punishment. Since then the students have been ‘screened’ at all other
German universities too. So, the leaflet evidently represents the opin-
ions of a considerable proportion of the German students.
But it is not only students. There are Germans from all social classes
who have realised Germany’s true situation; Goebbels contemptuously
calls them ‘the objective people’. If Germany is still to do something
itself to avoid its fate, these people must find each other and act.
Goebbels knows this, and that is why he desperately claims that ‘this
type of people are of no importance numerically’. He does not want
them to know how many of them there are.
We are going to win the war anyway. But we do not see why the sen-
sible and decent people in Germany should not have their say. That is
why, together with their bombs, the airmen of the RAF are now drop-
ping over Germany millions of copies of this leaflet, for which six
young Germans have died and which the Gestapo of course immedi-
ately confiscated.

Manifesto of the Munich students


"Shaken and broken, our people behold the loss of the men of Stalingrad. 330,000 German
men have been senselessly and irresponsibly driven to death and destruction by the inspired
strategy of our World War I Corporal. Führer, we thank you!

The German people are in ferment. Will we continue to entrust the fate of our armies to a
dabbler? Do we want to sacrifice the rest of German youth to the base ambitions of a Party
clique? No, never! The day of reckoning has come - the reckoning of German youth with the
most abominable tyrant our people have ever been forced to endure. In the name of German
youth we demand restitution by Adolf Hitler's state of our personal freedom, the most
precious treasure we have, out of which he has swindled us in the most miserable way.

We grew up in a state in which all free expression of opinion is unscrupulously suppressed.
The Hitler Youth, the SA, the SS have tried to drug us, to revolutionise us, to regiment us in
the most promising young years of our lives. "Philosophical training" is the name given to the
despicable method by which our budding intellectual development is muffled in a fog of empty
phrases. A system of selection of leaders at once unimaginably devilish and narrow-minded
trains up its future party bigwigs in the "Castles of the Knightly Order" to become Godless,
impudent, and conscienceless exploiters and executioners - blind, stupid hangers-on of the
Führer. We "Intellectual Workers" are the ones who should put obstacles in the path of this
caste of overlords. Soldiers at the front are regimented like schoolboys by student leaders
and trainees for the post of Gauleiter, and the lewd jokes of the Gauleiters insult the honour
of the women students. German women students at the university in Munich have given a
dignified reply to the besmirching of their honour, and German students have defended the
women in the universities and have stood firm.... That is a beginning of the struggle for our
free self-determination - without which intellectual and spiritual values cannot be created. We
thank the brave comrades, both men and women, who have set us brilliant examples.

For us there is but one slogan: fight against the party! Get out of the party organisation,
which are used to keep our mouths sealed and hold us in political bondage! Get out of the
lecture rooms of the SS corporals and sergeants and the party bootlickers! We want genuine
learning and real freedom of opinion. No threat can terrorise us, not even the shutting down of
the institutions of higher learning. This is the struggle of each and every one of us for our
future, our freedom, and our honour under a regime conscious of its moral responsibility.

Freedom and honour! For ten long years Hitler and his confederates have manhandled, squeezed,
twisted, and debased these two splendid German words to the point of nausea, as only
dilettantes can, casting the highest values of a nation before swine. They have sufficiently
demonstrated in the ten years of destruction of all material and intellectual freedom, of all
moral substance among the German people, what they understand by freedom and honour.
The frightful bloodbath has opened the eyes of even the stupidest German - it is a slaughter
which they arranged in the name of "freedom and honour of the German nation" throughout
Europe, and which they daily start anew. The name of Germany is dishonoured for all time if
German youth does not finally rise, take revenge, and atone, smash its tormentors, and set up
a new Europe of the spirit. Students! The German people look to us. As in 1813 the people
expected us to shake off the Napoleonic yoke, so in 1943 they look to us to break the National
Socialist terror through the power of the spirit. Beresina and Stalingrad are burning in the East.
The dead of Stalingrad implore us to take action. "Up, up, my people, let smoke and flame be
our sign!"

Our people stand ready to rebel against the National Socialist enslavement of Europe in a
fervent new breakthrough of freedom and honour!"



*********

Erwin Koopmann's true Germany wasn’t in Berlin or Munich, it was on the battlefield. He put aside the leaflet and went back to fight the enemies of the Reich with even more fortitude.
On the eastern front, the German offensive against the Kursk salient had been suspended because of a major Soviet threat in the Orel salient. Very strong defences had to be assembled in the “Orel Bulge”, the newly upgraded 20th Panzer Grenadier Division was one of the units called upon to join the 2nd Panzer Army with the task to slow down the soviet drive and stop their attempt to encircle the German forces. A strategic decision was made to abandon Orel (retaken by the Red Army on August 5th) and conduct an orderly fighting retreat to the “Hagen Line” in front of Bryansk, which was completed by August 17/18th.
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Old 10-19-2008, 10:14 PM   #40
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4. Between the darkness and the light


4.0

THE SECOND BATTLE OF SMOLENSK


The Second Battle of Smolensk was a major Red Army operation in the wake of the failed German offensive at Kursk and staged almost simultaneously with the Battle of the Lower Dnieper. The two months offensive led by Generals Andrei Yeremenko “Kalinin Front” and Vasily Sokolovsky “West Front” was aimed at clearing the German presence from the Smolensk and Bryansk regions. Smolensk had been under German occupation since the first battle in 1941. Despite an impressive German defence setup, the Red Army was able to stage several breakthroughs, the operation was accomplished in three stages: August 7–20, August 21–September 6, and September 7–October 2, 1943.

Second stage(August 21–September 6).

The Yelnya region (situated on the Desna River, 82 km from Smolensk.) was considered the "key" to Smolensk, and therefore Wehrmacht troops created a massive fortified defense position around the city. Swampy areas on the Desna and Ugra rivers were mined and heavy guns set up on hills overlooking the city. In mid-August, after the evacuation of the Orel salient, the 20th Panzer Grenadier Division was repositioned against the Soviet “West Front”. Aware of the Wehrmacht preparations, the Soviet armies were reinforced with tanks and artillery during the week from August 20th to August 27th. The "Yelnya-Dorogobuzh offensive operation" was finally commenced on August 28th by four soviet armies covering a front of only 36 kilometers, creating a very high concentration of troops. However, they lacked fuel and supplies, with enough provisions for only one or two weeks.
After an intense shelling that lasted 90 minutes, Soviet troops moved forward. The artillery bombardment as well as ground attack aircrafts had significantly damaged the Wehrmacht lines, allowing the Red Army to execute a breakthrough on a 25 km sector front and advance 6 to 8 km by the end of the day. In the heat of battle, on August 28th, Grenadier Regiment 76 commander Oberstleutnant Friedrich Karl Barner was gravely wounded and replaced by Major Erwin Koopmann (F.K. Barner was awarded the DKIG for his brave deeds). The next day, Soviet rifle divisions advanced further, creating a salient 30 km wide and 12 to 15 km deep. In order to exploit the breakthrough, the 2nd Guards Tank Corps was thrown into the battle. In one day, its troops advanced by 30 km and reached the outskirts of Yelnya. Leaving Wehrmacht troops no time to regroup their forces, Red Army troops attacked the city and started to form an encirclement. On August 30th, the German front was torn between the 2nd and the 9th Army! Now the Army Group Command had to order the retreat of both armies to a line Putivl-Krovelets-Desna-Briansk. The enemy was too strong, and German losses totaled 9,000 men in the past five days.
At the southwest of Wjasma, during the fighting withdrawal along the Desna River, Major Koopmann endured another wound when he got shot through a shoulder. On that day, August 31st, it had been two years since his son Kurt was killed in action and Erwin battled hard, ignoring the unbearable agony of his wound in memory of his sacrifice.

*********

For having distinguished himself on the field of battle through exemplary bravery, his name was mentioned in the “EHRENBLATT DES DEUTSCHEN HEERES” (Honor Roll of the German Army)
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Old 10-19-2008, 10:16 PM   #41
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4.1

ROLL OF HONOR


With the Honor Roll list, came a personalized award document with printed details regarding the location of the battle for which the Honor Roll was bestowed.

(An Honor Roll Clasp designed to be worn on the ribbon of the Iron Cross Second Class as a visible recognition for having been on the list, was instituted in January 1944 by Adolf Hitler.)
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Old 10-19-2008, 10:18 PM   #42
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4.2

ACROSS THE DNIEPER



Following the Battle of Kursk, the OKH was no longer in a position to mount large-scale offensives against the Red Army in the east. During the long retreat after Kursk, the Wehrmacht had managed to cross the Dnieper River to the West and re-established defence along the Wotan fortified line. The crossing of the Dnieper was accomplished by thousands of German soldiers in small rafts, boats and the few serviceable bridges, while under continuous air and ground attacks by pursuing Soviet forces. Fortifications were erected along the length of the Dnieper, concentrated in areas where Soviet assault-crossing were most likely to be attempted.
In the evening of September 22nd, forward Russian units of the 40th Army and 3rd Guards Tank Army using means at hand, crossed with some guns to the western bank of the Dnieper (Southeast of Kiev), near Rzhishchev and Velikiy Bukrin and were holding a bridgehead that was later called the Bukrin bend bridgehead. The main forces were not expected to come to the Dnieper before September 29th.

Despite the problems encountered in the paratroop operation at Vyazma in 1942, the Soviets attempted a second night drop of an entire airborne corps on September 24th-25th 1943, to seize the bridgehead at the Bukrin bend and to prepare the ground for a rapid taking of the Ukrainian capital. Although the concept was excellent, the planning, timing, and execution of the operation produced results similar to those in 1942. The landing of the first two brigades, scheduled for the night of the twenty-third, had to be delayed a full day because of bad weather and the failure of all military transports to arrive at the three designated airfields. Although 4,575 paratroops were airborne the next night, a full 30 percent of the two brigades remained behind because of aircraft that never arrived, refuelling problems, and the insistence of the pilots on carrying smaller lifts than the corps staff had planned. The pilots were inadequately trained, despite exercises held late that summer along the Moskva River, on terrain similar to the Dnieper. Nor were the pilots prepared for the strong antiaircraft resistance they encountered once the operation began. As a result, the two brigades were spread over a much wider zone than intended, landing between Rzishchev and Cherkassy. Some landed over friendly positions on the Russian-held side of the river; some landed in the river itself; worse, the main body landed on the positions of three German divisions moving through the area. The Germans shot at the parachutists while they were still in the air, thus forcing them to begin fighting before they hit the ground.

Once on the ground, the paratroops (and what equipment they had not left behind) were so scattered that they were forced to operate in approximately thirty-five small groups. Their mission of seizing a bridgehead and holding a line 110 km long and about twenty-six km deep was no longer feasible, if indeed it ever had been. Instead, Soviet airborne troops once again assumed the role of guerrillas, hiding in forests by day and moving and fighting with partisan groups in the area by night. Because their radio gear was scattered over a wide area, they could not communicate with other Soviet forces. Plans to drop a third brigade were cancelled long before communications were re-established on October 6th. Gradually, small groups of paratroops began to merge into a corps unit, and an estimated 1,000 or more finally linked up with the advancing forces of the Second Ukrainian Front in mid-November. The Soviets had gambled in conducting this operation at a time when bad weather precluded aerial reconnaissance of the target area. The result was a fiasco, which led Stalin to prohibit similar night operations.

The German command was alarmed by the operation. It could not believe that the Russians would stop at their first attempt, they feared further landings and that the Soviets would try at all costs to gain a strategic bridgehead in order to deploy strong armoured forces on the right bank. Because of those fears, the Hamburg 20th Panzer Grenadier Division was ordered to join Army Group South (XXXXVIII Panzer Corps, 8th Army) before the end of the month to fill the gap in front of the Russian Army at the Dnieper River bend, and the task to contain strong Soviet attacks during the next three weeks.
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Old 10-19-2008, 10:22 PM   #43
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4.3


A UNIQUE KIND OF VALOUR


In October, unsuccessful attempts by the 27th & 40th Armies and the 3rd Guards Tank Army to generate a victorious offensive from the Bukrin bend bridgehead toward the old Ukrainian capital, Kiev, frustrated the Soviet leadership. Stalin continued to pump reinforcements into the region with blind determination, though days of fighting produced no results. The Germans in an excellent defensive position had the opposing Soviet forces squeezed in, the Red Army stayed bottled up with little to show for their efforts but growing casualty lists. On October 16th, General Nikolai Vatutin launched a 4-day breakout attempt from the bridgehead; the heavy attacks on the 20th Panzer Grenadier and Erwin’s regiment were bloodily repulsed.

For his acts of ultimate bravery in the face of the enemy and the successful command of a battle, Major Erwin Koopmann was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross.



An Oldenburg’s citizen won the Knight’s cross. The Führer's headquarters, December 21st.

"The Führer conferred the Knight’s cross to Major Erwin Koopmann, leader of a grenadier
regiment. Major Koopmann was born in Oldenburg on January 1st 1900, as the son of an
administrative official. He was in charge of a mission that was responsible for the failure of
a powerful breakthrough attempt by the enemy south-eastern of Kiev. When the Soviets
invaded the German lines with strong forces, he confronted them with only a few of his
Hamburg Grenadier. In a counterblow, he destroyed several broken through forces and
repulsed all further mass attacks of the Bolsheviks.”
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Old 10-19-2008, 10:24 PM   #44
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4.4

Das Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes


Erwin Koopmann or his family never received the larger formal document or “URKUNDE” to the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross, only the preliminary certificate. It is believed that due to the high quality of the workmanship involved in its manufacture, a large backlog of orders for the formal documents was created and the intention was to catch at the end of the war...

Preliminary award certificate for the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross
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Old 10-19-2008, 10:26 PM   #45
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4.5

Red storm


The Red Army general staff finally realized that the Bukrin bridgehead was a lost cause and decided to shift the effort to the Lyutezh bridgehead, north of Kiev. In the last week of October, the Soviet Third Guards Army quietly moved northward from the Bukrin bend, moving at night to keep the Germans in the dark. Strict radio silence was observed, with the radio operators left in their original positions to continue their chatter as if an entire army were still there. Dummy tanks were set up in the old positions as well. The rains continued, further helping to conceal the transfer of troops and equipment. The German Fourth Panzer Army situation maps had shown some troop movements going north of Kiev, and once again the 20th Panzer Grenadier Division was relocated, and was now in the Lyutezh region with Hoth’s 4th Panzer Army (VII Corps).
The Soviet commander Vatutin loaded up the Lyutezh bridgehead with troops and armor, backed up by 2,000 guns and mortars along with 500 Katyusha rocket launchers. The Germans were hit by a thunderous bombardment at dawn on November 3rd, followed 40 minutes later by the advance of six infantry divisions of the Thirty-Eighth Army and a tank corps of the Fifth Guards Army. Aiming for Kiev, Fastov, Zhitomir and Korosten, the Russians quickly gain ground. Major Koopmann’s 20th Panzer Grenadier is one of the divisions, which are immediately thrown in counter-attacks, but the Russians cannot be stopped.

*********


“Colonel-General Hoth rushed his Hamburg 20th Panzer Grenadier Division under
General Jauer, as well as parts of the Brandenburg 8th Panzer Division, to oppose the
Soviet formations which had broken through. In vain. The offensive momentum of six
rifle divisions and one tank corps could not be halted.
By the time the men from Hamburg reached their assigned interception line the infantry
battle was already in full swing there. The Russians had reached the spot before them.
Furiously and grimly the Grenadier regiments resisted. They mounted counter-attacks.
They made evasive moves. They charged again. They attacked jointly with combat
groups of the Thuringian 7th Panzer Division. They even gained some ground.
Just then Vatutin opened the second act of his offensive. In the evening of 4th November
he set in motion the armoured brigades of General Rybalko's Third Guards Tank Army.
They thrust through the breach opened up by the Thirty-Eight Army. They overtook their
own infantry and kept driving on.
Darkness fell. And then something happened which the Germans, who had meanwhile re-
formed for defence, had never experienced before. The battlefield was lit up as bright as
day and an infernal noise filled the air: Rybalko's tanks were driving up against the
German positions with headlights full on and with sirens howling. Without stopping they
fired shell after shell from their cannon. On top of their tanks sat the infantrymen of two
rifle divisions, the 167th and 136th. On this steamroller of fire they were riding deep into
the German front. Rybalko hoped that the searchlights would create panic. He had also
remembered the effects of the “Jericho device” which the German Stukas had used
against the Soviet infantrymen."

Paul Carell (SCORCHED EARTH)
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