Report on the Commitment of the Panzer-Division Clausewitz
- Published: 04 December 2011 04 December 2011
- Last Updated: 07 April 2012 07 April 2012
(MS #B-350, 1947)
I. Preceding Events
On the one April 1945 I returned from the east and was appointed commander of the “Clausewitz” Pz division. The division was to be activated as soon as possible in the area around the city of SCHLESWIG (in the province of SCHLESWIG-HOLSTEIN), and the cadre was to be taken from the replacement Brigade of the “Gross Deutschland” division, which was sheltered near Schleswig. On about 5 April OKH altered the orders. Now the division was to be activated in the area of LAUNENBURG, and for this purpose it was subordinated to the 12 Army and the( General Der Pz Truppe Wenck,) which was being concentrated northeast of the HARZ.
The cadres were to be furnished by: the Pz school had PUTLOS, near LUBECK: tanks and armored vehicles. The “Gross Deutschland” Pz replacement Brigade stationed at the troop training grounds GRAFENWOEHR” (in Bavaria) Panzer Jaeger. The 233 Reserve Pz Div in Denmark: Pz grenadiers for two regiments.
The former “Feldhernnhalle” Pz division: two companies with reconnaissance car, and one company was to come from PUTLOS.
The “Blumentritt” Army: Artillery
I do not remember who was to furnish us with engineers.
The “Blumentritt” Army: supply troops.
The “Blumentritt” Army: antiaircraft guns, when needed.
The “Holstein” panzer division, destroyed in Pomerania in March 1945: division staff and armored Signal Battalion.
Numbers of the regiment were not fixed by the OKH, this was, however, to be done later on.
The division staff, about one half platoon of their radio company, and one half platoon of the telephone company, intended for the armored Signal Battalion, arrived in GUELZOW (at LAUENBURG), after having marched on foot from the area south of STETTIN.
Tanks, assault guns, reconnaissance cars, panzer grenadiers, and engineers arrived in LAUENBURG and in the area north thereof, partly by train, partly on foot.
Level of training:
Officers and men had had a good training, most of them possessed front experience. They had been retrained in the replacement army, after having recovered from their wounds.
The tank crews were excellent and experience, formally they had served at teachers of the armored forces at PUTALOS.
The equipment was very incomplete. The tanks and many of the reconnaissance cars were useless in the field. Owing to their technical deficiencies they had been used at the PUTALOS School only for training purposes. Further we received tanks of type “III”, “IV”, and even “V”.
The companies were not regularly equipped with the same type of tanks, which cause much trouble when the tanks had to be repaired on the battlefield, or one spare parts had to be brought up.
The tank ammunition, which they brought with them, was scanty.
The motor vehicles were very bad, and only about 20 percent of the authorized strength was reached. The reconnaissance companies had only 50%.
No guns are made available for the artillery.
Signal equipment: the signal Battalion had 25 percent of the authorized equipment, the other branches had nothing.
Food rations and the scanty supplies of ammunition was first of all allotted from Hamburg, but the bringing up was very difficult as the division had no supply troops available.
On about the 10 or 11 April the transfer of the division to the area hard north of UELZEN was ordered. It was subordinated to the “Blumentritt” army. At the onset at the outset the division was only to be kept in reserve, and should only be sent and cased the British troops broke through our defense line south of UELZEN. At the same time the activating had to be carried on with all means.
The command post of the division was placed in an arbeitsdienst camp at EMMENDORF, south of UELZEN.
Supply services: a.) Food rations: BIENENBEUTTEL, b.) ammunition: HITZACKER west of (DOENITZ).
Troops arriving by train were unloaded along the railroad LAUENBURG - UELZEN during the hours of darkness.
The situation on the 10 April:
From the southwest British troops carefully felt their way forward supported by tanks However-in the direction on UELZEN. As the army did not consider the troops and along remember the divisions and regiments hard south of UELZEN capable of resisting a strong enemy supported by tanks, and as UELZEN on the other hand, being a road and railroad center, had to be kept, on the 11 April the army or those elements of the Pz division which had already arrived to reinforce the defense south of UELZEN. About 20 tanks, 10 assault guns and a reconnaissance Battalion with about 70 to 80 reconnaissance cars were incorporated into the troops sent in the south of UELZEN.
The commander of the “Clausewitz” Pz division took over the command of the sector.
On the 12 April strong British forces launched an attack on UELZEN from the south. The attack was repelled and the British suffered losses. (PWs stated that the attacking British armored division had its first losses since the Battle of XANTEN). The British, therefore, stopped further attacks on UELZEN, and continued their thrust about 10 km west of UELZEN in the direction of BIENENBEUTTEL. I did know the exact dates.
On the 13 April tanks and reconnaissance car battalion or extracted from the defensive front, and the Pz division gave over the command to the local infantry Division in command. Two Pz Gren Battalions, which had been sent in on the April 12th, and 10 assault guns remain at the front and the command of the infantry division.
On the 12 April the staff of the 39 panzer corps (under General der Pz Truppe Decker) arrived the command post of the “Clausewitz” panzer division. The division had to motorized divisions, with which were being activated, (among them the “Schlageter” motorized division consisting of men from the Arbeitsdienst) were to be subordinated to the corps. The 39 Corps was placed immediately subordinated to the OKW.
The two motorized divisions mentioned above did not join the corps and will consequently not be mentioned in this report.
From the OKW the 39 Pz corps received the following motion signed by Hitler:
From the area around UELZEN the Pz corps was soon as possible thrust to the south past HELMSTEDT deep in the flank and rear of the American group of armies, further it will try to establish communication with the 11 Army, fighting in the HARZ. In case record rate movements of the American group of armies from the ELBE to the West should be ascertain, the PZ Corps will immediately turn to the West in the direction of the are you H R district, regardless of such movements.
The panzer corps submitted the sense of the order to the panzer division “Clausewitz”, stating our that for the time being it only needed to establish communication with the 11 Army in the HARZ after having crossed the WESER-ELBE canal.
Our reconnaissance showed the following: The LANGENBRUECKE-DUELZENBURG was only thinly or not all occupied. If certain gap in reconnaissance was observed with the enemy. And it appeared that the line of demarcation between the British and American army groups was here, as later confirmed.
The division resolved (the Pz corps agreed) to push past the line WITTINGEN-SALZWEDEL in the direction of FALLERSLEBEN, the ELM, and the HARZ -but not until the activating would be completed on about the 17th or April 18th.
The OKW considered this to light, and ordered the available forces of the division to march off immediately without waiting for the completion of the activating.
The British forces south of UELZEN (the American forces at the line of demarcation as far as SALZWEDEL were reported to be weak) threaten the right flank in the rear of our panzer division, advancing to the South; the panzer corps, therefore, ordered the division to attack the flank and rear of the enemy forces, located in the area south of HOLDENSTEDT, to annihilate them, and then turn to the south.
a. During the night of the 14 April a Pz group, commanded by Captain (about 20 tanks, 10 assault guns, 70-80 reconnaissance cars,) were assembled from UELZEN -OST, OSTERHOLZ, BOLLENSEN for the purpose of launching attacks through STADENSEN on HOLLENSTEDT.
About three hours they established contact with the enemy at NETTELKAMP. The amount the engagement lasted until dawn. The British Army troops, resting in the village, were shattered and about 40 tanks armored vehicles were put out of action.
Our own spearheads fall them as far as the road BRAUNSCHWEIG- UELZEN. After this engagement British attacks on UELZEN or in southern direction were unlikely. The Pz group, therefore, assembled at BOLLENSEN to get new supplies of motor fuel-what they had been almost used up as the OKW urgently want us to continue our advance to the south.
On the 15 April at about 1400 hours a Major took over the command of the panzer group as a substitute for the Captain, who had been wounded in the morning. At about 17.00 hours the continued their advance through BORGENTEICH, SCHMOLAU, and REDDIGAU to the south. The leader was given a free hand as regards the way, but the area 15 km west of GARDELEGEN was to be the first objective radio communication was to be limited to the most necessary. About one issue of motor fuel was handed out, they had food rations for about three days, later on the group was to get its food from the country.
On the 16 April at noon the Pz group reported both by radio and by special missions officer, who came by Volkswagen, that it had reached the road GIFHORN-SALZWEDEL (2 1/2 km northeast of BROME) in the morning and kept it blocked. The result of this was that had been able to destroy a few trucks and reconnaissance cars of the enemy.
There further intention was to continue their advance as soon as it grew dark in order to cross the WESER-ELBE canal between BUCHORST-CALVOERDE. The second objected of the Pz group would probably be the wooded terrain 10 km southwest of CALVOERDE. On the evening of the 16 April
The special missions officer who had returned, to within 10 tanks and assault guns, some reconnaissance cars, one Engineer Company, and one issue of motor fuel. About 24.00 hours, this small, Kampfguppe met the first one in the vicinity of BROME.
On the 17 April the Kampfguppe reported by radio that they had not succeeded in crossing the WESER-ELBE canal, and that their advance was a slow one going to contact with the enemy.
On the 18 April division received the last radio report from the conference but, according to which the enemy had forced the group to take in eastern direction. It had apparently reached the area north of GARDELEGEN, and it still had good leaders.
After that time no communication could be established with the Kampfguppe.
b. On the 18 April a third, Kampfguppe was to move forward. It consisted of 12 tanks and assault guns (they had come from the repair shops and were still engaged at UELZEN), one company of the reconnaissance Battalion,
Two Pz gren battalions (until then engaged at UE LZEN), two light anti-aircraft battalions, one heavy anti-aircraft battalion instead of Artillery, elements of the division Signal Battalion, division staff, and Corps staff.
The assembly had to take place in the area BONS-DAHRE-HENNINGEN-DAHRENDORF, as, on the April 17th, the British troops had pushed their line of security west of the road UELZEN-WITTIGEN as far forward as the general line UELZEN-EMMERN-SCHMOLAU.
On the 18 April, after having been relieved during the night, the two Pz Gren Battalions were in the area south of UELZEN on their way to the assembly points. But at the same time the British troops attacked from the area of LEHMKE in the direction of SCHLIECKAU, broke through the week lines of security of our infantry Division, sent in there, and compelled the two marching Pz Gren Battalions to fight at SCHLIECKAU. These, including 10 local “Hetzers”, were unable to take part in the thrust of the 3rd conference room but on the evening of the 18 April, and, as the fourth Kampfgruppe, were to move in the general direction of BROME-FALLERSLEBEN on the evening of the 19 April.
Further, owing to the penetration of the British troops in to our lines of security, the artillery and anti-aircraft artillery, promised a third, a Kampfguppe, could not be made available.
Again the OKW urged the third Kampfguppe to move forward, also with the Pz Gren Battalions, the artillery, in the antiaircraft artillery. On the 18 April about 20.00 hours the Kampfguppe left the area of Assembly, under the command of Major Benningsen. It consisted of 10-15 tanks and assault guns, 1/2 reconnaissance Battalion, one Engineer Company, 1/3 division Signal Battalion, division and corps staff. The first objective was MALLOH, a ranger’s house in the wood 15 km south of WITTINGEN.
Routs(sic) envisioned: BOMS, DUELZEBERG, HOEDDELSEN, East of BERGMOOR, LINDHOF, HASELHORST, OHRDORF, POINT 104 in the wood 15 km south of WITTIGEN.
On the 19 April about zero 3.00 hours off communication with the tank spearheads in the wood and south of BERGMOOR was cut off. The head of the march column, therefore, ended in a blind alley and, after having reconnoitered the roads, they had to turn, and now they drove by LINDHOF in the direction of HASELHORST with only one tank as spearhead. HASELHORST was occupied by American troops with antitank guns. Our leading Tank was knocked out, and the column followed in close formation to LINDHOF. The rear of the column, nevertheless, turned to the west through SUEDERWITTINGEN and reach their destination in the same morning. Among them were the staff of the corps and the G3 of the Pz Div “Clausewitz”.
Meanwhile it dawned, and in LINDHOF I turned the four most part of the March column into the woods south of LINDHOF. Independently and without informing me the missing tanks spearheads attacked HASELHORST, and after the fall of this village they assembled in the woods south of BERGMOOR -again independently.
At 0800 hours an American airplane turned up and directed the fire of the medium American battery in the vicinity of BORNSEN (east of LINDHOF) and one in the vicinity of OHRDORF (west of LINDHOF). With great precision they hit the March column, which try to find cover in the small woods south of LINDHOF. In a very short time 30 to 40 men and many vehicles were put out of action.
Our reconnaissance reported that OHRDORF, HANUM, and JUEBAR were occupied by the enemy. I, therefore, ordered by troops to advance on the woods north of LINDHOF by echelons. Elements lost their way on the roads leading from the northern outskirts of LINDHOF to DIESDORF and were taken prisoner. Other portions and the main bulk of the division staff
Were taken prisoner in the woods south of LINDHOF by American troops, which seem to advance from HANUM, and thus the four most part of the former march column of the third Kampfgruppe was rather small. During daylight hours we were several times attacked by fighter-bombers and suffered losses.
In the evening of the 19 April remnants continued their march through SUEDERWITTINGEN into the woods 15 km south of WITTINGEN and on the 20 April the met other elements of the, Kampfgruppe in the “WOLFSKEHLE”, 5 km south east of MALLOH, the ranger’s house.
On the 20 April, when darkness came, the advance was continued under the command of Major Von Benningsen. The destination was the ELM.
The group now consisted of 10 to 12 tanks and assault guns, weak elements of the reconnaissance Battalion, a few reconnaissance cars, and about 20 trucks, and the remnants of the division and corps staffs. When we reached the road SALZWEDEL- FALLERSLEBEN north of EHRA we switched on the lights in all shooting was prohibited. We did not pay any attention to small American columns or individual vehicles. Our reconnaissance reported that the bridge across the WESER-ELBE canal, north of FALLERSLEBEN, was occupied by the enemy, and that the noise from tanks could be heard at FALLERSLEBEN. We repeated our reconnaissance. At about 02. Zero hours the march, proceeded from the area 3 km north of the bridge. A short fire duel developed at the bridge and we lost two tanks and a few armored vehicles. At the southeastern exit of the FALLERSLEBEN and we had another fired Duel and lost two tanks.
The leading tanks lost their way and MOERSE and reached the Elbe south of BORNUM, and I was informed later on. I myself reached to the ELM
Southeast of ABBENRODE at about 0 6.30 hours, together with two reconnaissance cars and three Volkswagen's. The rest of the march, had been retained by engagements at FALLERSLEBEN and did not reach the area east of BORNUM until later on.
I was unable to establish radio communication because I had found cover a few hundred meter from American Meteorological radio station. I did not know where the Pz corps was and I did not receive any radio message although we had special codes and emergency waves.
During the day to American batteries covered the northwestern part of the ELM with harassing fire. One was in place northeast of ELM, the other one west of same. The elements located east of BORNUM were especially hit. But also elements south of BORNUM suffered heavy losses. The tanks were not ready to start, they had no gasoline in some of them were damaged, and during the day we had to demolish them.
At about 18.00 hours and American will land (sic) speaker spoke from the vicinity of APPENRODE. I was called upon to surrender and to come out of the wood before it grew dark. In all there about 10 officers and 50-60-man and the ELM. They were divided into 10 small groups in order to fight their way back to the east across the ELBE and report to the 12 Army east of the ELBE. I drove in a Volkswagen by POINT 313 in the direction of SCHOEPPENSTEDT, passed an American patrol at the ranger’s house at RHODE and, further south American machine gun detachment. From there I proceeded on foot or bicycle until the 24 April when I was taken prisoner by an American armored reconnaissance patrol. This happened at ROXFOERD. (LETZLINGERHEIDE) at about 14.00 hours.
According to the statements made by the inhabitants of the American army group employed 2-3 armored divisions for the annihilating of the Pz Div “Clausewitz”. They came from the area around MAGDEBURG and were sent in on the 20 April. I have not been able to verify this statement.
The air forces of the Allies harassed the formation of the division in the area of LAUENBURG. The troop movements in railroad transportation could only be carried out during the hours of darkness.
Our own Luftwaffe did not turn up at all from the 10-12 April.
As far as I was able to observe, the American artillery fire was directed by aircraft on 19 and 21 April. The fire it accurately, but the American artillery was also left completely undisturbed.
During our Vance the weather was dry, rather warm considering this season, sunshine.
The American army group was located along the ELBE north and south east of MAGDEBURG, the British army group was advancing on HAMBURG when the Pz Div “Clausewitz” was ordered to launch its thrust. I did not know of the annihilation of the armies in the RUHR and HARZ. All the deficiencies of the Pz Div “Clausewitz” had been pointed out by the division and the Corps, the OKW, nevertheless, demanded the thrust to be carried out as soon as possible and strictly according to orders in order to relieve the overall situation. The containing of enemy forces. Leadership in men acted according to orders and did their best to relieve the situation.
Note: this report is based on my memory, as no war diaries are available some of the dates may be wrong.
It is desirable that an Order of battle and diagram of positions occupied be attached.
The mood of the troops? The attitude to the people?
As to order of battle see supplements. I no longer remember who occupied the positions.
So far as the mood the troops and the people concerned I think the less said the better.
The 8. Febr./ UNREIN
Checked by the Central Europe Campaign Review board.
Completed as far as possible.
Dr. Benicke. 8./2.