Descriptions of 4300+ Knight's Cross actions now available online at TracesOfWar

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pintere
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Descriptions of 4300+ Knight's Cross actions now available online at TracesOfWar

Post by pintere » 15 Apr 2020 15:11

I am pleased to announce the completion of the first major stage of my ongoing Knight’s Cross Project. The military biographies website known as TracesOfWar.com is now host to freely accessible English-language summaries concerning the actions that led 4300 men to receive the Knight’s Cross and its higher grades. This represents an important milestone for a massive research project that has been in the making for a long time.

BACKGROUND

Several years ago I developed an interest in the famous WWII medal known as Das Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes, or the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross. More specifically, I was interested in the specific action(s) that led to the bestowal of this high award to the various recipients. Unfortunately, up until now the vast majority of such information has been all but impossible to obtain for the average Internet user. Unlike some other high military medals for bravery (e.g. the US Medal of Honour), there is no detailed listing of the official award justifications for each recipient of the medal. Instead, most information has remained very difficult for even serious academic historians to track down and read.

My own interest in the subject led me to decide upon resolving this gap in the existing literature. Thus, for the last several years I’ve been compiling, organizing and translating as much information on the various Knight’s Cross actions as possible. All sorts of sources have been utilized including divisional histories, newspaper articles, archival documents and of course the various extant literature about subsets of Knight’s Cross recipients. The editors at TracesOfWar.com graciously allowed me to publish the material I had translated onto their website, which is currently the location of where all my Knight’s Cross summaries can be found.

These summaries all share a common objective: to describe exactly why each Knight’s Cross (or one its higher grades) was awarded to its corresponding recipient. For each one I have tried my hardest to provide the most detailed account given the level of information that is available. This does of course vary tremendously, and the summaries range in length from single sentences all the way to multi-page narratives. In every case though I have attempted to provide at least the most basic details concerning the where, when and how of each associated Knight’s Cross action. For this reason I’ve also tried to avoid providing generic summaries that give no information that could not be merely guessed from a recipient’s basic award info (i.e. those that go along the lines of “awarded for especially distinguishing himself while commanding his unit”). Fortunately, in over 95% of cases I’ve succeeded in doing this. The quality of my written descriptions depend heavily on the nature of the source material available for each recipient, something that is probably helpful to explain at this point for those who are less familiar with the subject.

SOURCES

Unlike some other high medals for bravery, there was never any official citation that was printed alongside a bestowal of the Knight’s Cross. Instead, the primary written justification for this particular medal consisted of its award recommendation (Verleihungsvorschlag). Almost all Knight’s Cross recipients were initially recommended in a document by one of their superior officers, and this was passed up through the chain of command all the way up to the Army Personnel Office. This initial recommendation contained the most detailed and relevant description of what a soldier did to merit consideration for the Knight’s Cross, and was used as the basis for which he was assessed as worthy for the high award. As such, an original Verleihungsvorschlag is by far the most valuable document relating to each Knight’s Cross action.

Ideally I’d be able to translate from the Verleihungsvorschlag of every single recipient. Unfortunately, the vast majority of these have been lost. Almost all Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe Verleihungsvorschläge were destroyed near the end of the war, as were the majority of those for Heer recipients. Indeed, by some unholy twist of fate, the only branch for which almost all award recommendations still survive is the Waffen-SS ( 8O ). There are also two major batches of Heer Knight’s Cross recommendations that still exist. Most of the very late-war Heer recommendations seem to have survived, and are present in the Bundesarchiv. There is also a large collection of officer personnel files (Personalakten) that still are present in modern day archives, and some of these have a transcribed version of an officer’s Knight’s Cross recommendation.

Another important, related document was a Knight’s Cross recipient’s press notice (Pressenotiz). This was a redacted version of their Knight’s Cross recommendation was composed for use in official press releases. Although these documents also seem to have been lost, the various wartime newspapers that used them to write about Knight’s Cross recipients are still largely available to this day. These wartime newspapers thus contain some of the only surviving descriptions of Knight’s Cross actions for a large number of recipients. They are definitely not ideal sources, as they often omit information concerning the time and place of the actions they describe (not to mention being steeped in propaganda). But in general they seem to line up well with the actual award recommendations themselves, and I thus consider them to be valuable sources of information for this particular subject.

The last type of frequently encountered type of source material that is useful for this area of research are divisional orders of the day. Most German divisions issued these to honour new Knight’s Cross recipients of their division, and while not as detailed as actual award recommendations, they do provide ample descriptions of Knight’s Cross actions that also include information about dates and locations. Many of these have also not survived, but a large number have and therefore constitute another valuable pool of potential information relating to this subject.

THE RECIPIENTS & THE INFO AVAILABLE FOR THEM

In all cases I have tried to directly quote primary source material when writing my summaries. As anyone who has played a game of telephone knows, it is very easy to distort passages via repeated paraphrasing, and this is something that ought to be avoided. Whenever I quote from an actual Knight’s Cross Verleihungsvorschlag I explicitly use the term “recommendation” to signify it. Usually I only quote the initial recommendation given the relatively basic nature of the endorsements from the higher chains of command, but I do include these if they add new levels of detail concerning the action in question. When quoting other primary source material I describe the type of material and (if possible) the date it was written before actually quoting it.

I have not kept adequate internal records concerning the nature of the source material for each recipient, but my best guess is that I’ve translated and published abut 400-450 Knight’s Cross recommendations. I’ve also managed to directly quote other assorted primary sources for about 700 or so Knight’s Cross recipients.

As already mentioned, information on the Knight’s Cross actions for a total of ~4300 recipients (out of ~7300) is currently online. This means that most Knight’s Cross recipients currently have a summary of one sort or another available on TracesOfWar. It also means that, to the best of my knowledge, this is the single largest collection of info on Knight’s Cross award justifications available today in any form. This total includes the vast majority of recipients from the Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine and Waffen-SS. All recipients of the Oakleaves and higher grades of Knight’s Cross are accounted for. Another noteworthy trend is that much of the information is heavily skewed towards recipients whose last names hang closer to the start of the alphabet, a by-product of the large number of uncompleted Knight’s Cross book projects. Thus, the majority of recipients for whom information is not currently available come from non-Oakleaves holding Heer recipients from the last two-thirds of the alphabet.

There is a pdf attached to this posting that should be available to download. It is a list of all Knight’s Cross recipients that I’ve published summaries for in one form or another. I confess to have chosen a poor formatting scheme for such an important guide document, a mistake that will later be corrected. But for now it should serve as a fairly accurate listing that also indicates when it’s been possible to quote primary source material for a given recipient. This does not, however, mean that the other names listed do not have detailed summaries of information available. It just means that they’ve had to be paraphrased in one form or another.

NOTES FOR READING SUMMARIES

I started learning German a few years back in order to be able to actually complete this project as planned, a process that continues to this day. Right now my reading/comprehension skills in this field are rather good, but this wasn’t always the case and at first I had to rely heavily on Google translate to help understand the text. This means that there are probably a few cases where my translation has not been entirely accurate. However I’ve done my best to be thorough with the work, and I’m pretty confident that any such errors are minimal.

One of the omnipresent challenges of translation is trying to decide where to strike a balance between either a literal translation or a more natural interpretation of the text that better delivers the intended meaning. For the purposes of this project I’ve decided to err more on the side of literality in order to be as faithful to the original text as possible. The only situation where I’m often more liberal in my interpretation of the text is when translating the more laudatory passages that talk about how much of an übermensch person x is. This is because such segments are usually very drawn out, difficult to translate succinctly and frankly just boring to read. Fortunately, I think most readers that are interested in serious historical research will not be too put off by this.

In order to keep the summaries down to a reasonable length, I’ve also had to assume a fairly high level of contextual knowledge for potential readers. Most of it should be fairly easy to look up, although trying to pin down the exact location of the obscure villages mentioned throughout various documents will probably be a challenge for many. In such a case my best advice would be to look up either AxisHistory.com or lexikon-der-wehrmacht.de in order to get a rough approximation of where a particular unit was fighting at a given point in time.

I have tried to be as consistent as possible with terminology. In most cases, I use the original German terms when describing German army ranks, units and special equipment types. Knowledge of German unit notation is a must for serious potential readers. A capitalized reference to “the Regiment” or “the Division” usually refers to the parent unit to which a particular soldier belongs. When referring to place names, I have tried to use English transliterations as opposed to German ones whenever possible (e.g. Kharkov instead of Charkow). However German transliterations of place names have had to be used for the majority of small villages.

It should also be mentioned that I’ve been forced to sacrifice proofreading the summaries in order to get this stage of the project finished on time. A lot of the written material will therefore be somewhat clunky to read, my earlier translations in particular. But none of this should hinder an understanding of the essential information, and I’ll be working to proofread, update and streamline all written summaries over the next year or so.

FUTURE PLANS

The ultimate goal of this project is publish an accurately translated, English-language summary of the Knight’s Cross actions for every single one of the 7364 official and unofficial Knight’s Cross recipients. Each summary will ideally draw upon the most detailed extant description of each corresponding action. It is a lofty goal that will undoubtedly take decades to realize. But the good news is that such information does still seem to be available for the vast majority of recipients, and I believe that it should be possible to achieve such an aim for at least 90% of Knight’s Cross recipients. One day I hope to release a multi-volume work on the subject once this threshold has been crossed, but for now this information will continued to be published on TracesOfWar in digital format as it becomes available.

Over the next year or so I plan on visiting several archives and research libraries in order to pursue some promising avenues of new information. Assuming that this trip goes as expected, it should be possible to bring the total number of Knight’s Cross recipients with summaries to over 5000 by this time next year. Aside from that, I plan to revise my existing summaries in a way that is more streamlined, consistent and user-friendly. I’ll also work to compose an Excel spreadsheet that will eventually replace the existing pdf as a guide to those Knight’s Cross recipients I’ve managed to write summaries for.

If all goes as hoped, then beyond 2021 the only major source of untapped information will reside in the various newspaper archives throughout Germany. The scattered nature of this source type means that recovering information on new Knight’s Cross recipients at this stage will be very difficult to do. But, with enough time and effort, it should be possible to gradually fill in the bulk of the remaining gaps that still exist.

All of this will of course be greatly facilitated if those who have any relevant information are willing to share it. It is for this reason that I invite anyone who possesses information on Knight’s Cross recipients that are not yet on the list to pass along what material they have. It would be much appreciated, as any additional help brings the project one step closer to a satisfactory stage of completion.

CONCLUDING REMARKS

Throughout this project I have relied almost exclusively upon German sources, and cannot vouch for the historical accuracy of much of what has been written. Just because a document says person x destroyed x amount of materiel does not guarantee that this was actually the case in real-life, and the portrayal of combat events in a document often portrays a very misleading picture of the overall course of the battle (a great example is Peiper’s Swords recommendation). As such I advise taking the claims made in any of the summaries with an appropriately skeptical grain of salt.

It is likewise worth mentioning that the scope of my project solely concerns the actions that directly led to the awarding of the Knight’s Cross. This means that those who wish to find info on other kinds of information related to Knight’s Cross recipients (including photos, biographical info, promotions, etc) will probably be disappointed. I would instead redirect these sorts of people to the abundance of existing literature on Knight’s Cross recipients, for which a large amount of helpful information is available within other threads on AHF.

I’d also like to use this moment to express my appreciation for all who’ve helped me throughout the course of this project. My thanks goes out to Rik van Velzen, Veit Scherzer, Ingo Möbius, Peter Mooney, Klaus Richter, Daniel Feldmann, Jason Mark, Peter Imberger and everyone else who’s assistance has made the realization of this project a possibility.

Finally, it must be made clear that my intentions throughout this project have been purely historical. I’ve tried very hard to stick to the facts and avoid any unnecessary lionization of the men who were awarded the Knight’s Cross. The opinions and language within the documents I’ve quoted do not in any way represent my own. Nor do I endorse the actions of the men I have written about. These soldiers were honoured for furthering the aims of one of the cruellest regimes to have blighted the history of our species, and many were active participants in the brutality that the Nazi regime inflicted throughout the course of its brief history. To consider them heroes of any sort is a fallacy of the highest order. Even so, it cannot be denied that their actions on the battlefield were both brave and frequently decisive within a military context, and I believe that information of this nature ought to be preserved for the sake of a more complete historical record.

It is my hope that this project can serve as a helpful contribution for the ongoing study of WWII.
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Re: Descriptions of 4300+ Knight's Cross actions now available online at TracesOfWar

Post by krichter33 » 16 Apr 2020 10:45

:thumbsup: :thumbsup: :thumbsup:

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Re: Descriptions of 4300+ Knight's Cross actions now available online at TracesOfWar

Post by krichter33 » 16 Apr 2020 10:57


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Re: Descriptions of 4300+ Knight's Cross actions now available online at TracesOfWar

Post by Cult Icon » 16 Apr 2020 13:42

Very impressive project Pintere, so you've kept yourself busy.

My first search is for Jacob Fick, commander of KG Fick at Mortain and SS-Panzergrenadier Regiment 37

https://www.tracesofwar.com/persons/8703/Fick-Jacob.htm

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Re: Descriptions of 4300+ Knight's Cross actions now available online at TracesOfWar

Post by Griffin brigade » 16 Apr 2020 20:37

An incredible project , well done .

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Re: Descriptions of 4300+ Knight's Cross actions now available online at TracesOfWar

Post by Xavier » 16 Apr 2020 20:46

a big enterprise, thanks for sharing!

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Re: Descriptions of 4300+ Knight's Cross actions now available online at TracesOfWar

Post by pintere » 24 Jan 2021 18:58

Quite a lot has changed since the introductory post, so it's probably time for an update.

Over the past half year or so I've managed to acquire a considerable number of new documents (including many original Verleihungsvorschläge from the Bundesarchiv) as well as update my existing summaries on ToW. By now the information for the vast majority of recipients that I've submitted info for should read quite smoothly for the average reader.

The planned Knight's Cross Spreadsheet is now also complete. It contains the basic award info for all official and unofficial Knight's Cross holders as well as the level of detail for each that is present on ToW. In order to complete the spreadsheet in a timely fashion it was however necessary to delay the translation of a lot of the new documents, and so some translations may not yet be on ToW even though the spreadsheet says they should. I'll be working on this over the course of the next few months however, and so eventually the spreadsheet should correspond to the information actually present on ToW.

The Dropbox link to the spreadsheet can be found here:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/pmd3qb9flgpct ... .xlsx?dl=0

A quick check at the bottom row indicates that ToW will soon have 771 fully translated Verleihungsvorschläge for the Knight's Cross and its higher grades, in addition to about 1300 other translated documents. This means that by now the ToW website is probably the single most comprehensive information source concerning Knight's Cross related actions.

Due to the pandemic I was unable to do much in-person travelling to various archives this past year. With luck however it should once again be possible to travel once the summer concludes, so by next year there should be a lot of new materiel found and published.

As always, I'm exceptionally grateful to all who've assisted with this project so far and hope it will continue to be a valuable research aid for those interested in the people and events of WWII.

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Re: Descriptions of 4300+ Knight's Cross actions now available online at TracesOfWar

Post by Jan-Hendrik » 24 Jan 2021 19:10

Cult Icon wrote:
16 Apr 2020 13:42
Very impressive project Pintere, so you've kept yourself busy.

My first search is for Jacob Fick, commander of KG Fick at Mortain and SS-Panzergrenadier Regiment 37

https://www.tracesofwar.com/persons/8703/Fick-Jacob.htm
Hehe... :D

The one who arrived at the Front and his superior Fritz von Scholz only said if he did not drop his brown party uniform he sent his Ordonnaces To get him out of it :milwink:


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Re: Descriptions of 4300+ Knight's Cross actions now available online at TracesOfWar

Post by Cult Icon » 22 Feb 2021 00:10

Jan-Hendrik wrote:
24 Jan 2021 19:10
The one who arrived at the Front and his superior Fritz von Scholz only said if he did not drop his brown party uniform he sent his Ordonnaces To get him out of it :milwink:
When doing a search on him over here a long time ago I found rumors that he shot his own men (to prevent retreat). This happened when he was commanding 37.SS regiment.

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Re: Descriptions of 4300+ Knight's Cross actions now available online at TracesOfWar

Post by Cult Icon » 22 Feb 2021 00:12

Pintere I used the site to search all Heer PzD, Heer PzG and Waffen SS units that fought on the West front. The Waffen SS entries were very complete but many of the Heer ones were empty. Still, fantastic work and saves a lot of $ buying expensive books.

I presume that when I search Luftwaffe RK in the West it should be more complete.

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Re: Descriptions of 4300+ Knight's Cross actions now available online at TracesOfWar

Post by pintere » 25 Feb 2021 18:51

Cult Icon wrote:
22 Feb 2021 00:12
Pintere I used the site to search all Heer PzD, Heer PzG and Waffen SS units that fought on the West front. The Waffen SS entries were very complete but many of the Heer ones were empty. Still, fantastic work and saves a lot of $ buying expensive books.

I presume that when I search Luftwaffe RK in the West it should be more complete.
Yeah, I'm still trying to track down a lot of the late-war Heer recipients. The only way that's going to change is when it is once again possible to do research trips to find the newspaper articles and other primary documents which still have that sort of info. So probably not for a year or so at least unfortunately.

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Re: Descriptions of 4300+ Knight's Cross actions now available online at TracesOfWar

Post by Sheldrake » 25 Feb 2021 19:53

Great work

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Re: Descriptions of 4300+ Knight's Cross actions now available online at TracesOfWar

Post by Cult Icon » 27 Feb 2021 15:23

pintere wrote:
25 Feb 2021 18:51

Yeah, I'm still trying to track down a lot of the late-war Heer recipients. The only way that's going to change is when it is once again possible to do research trips to find the newspaper articles and other primary documents which still have that sort of info. So probably not for a year or so at least unfortunately.
I have a list of 130 RK recipients of the Fallschirmjager. I will search these individuals next.

Hans Malkomes was posted on AHF. He won the RK for a counterattack (2./SS-Panzer regiment 1) to retake Soliers during Operation Goodwood.

https://www.tracesofwar.com/persons/136 ... s-Hans.htm

viewtopic.php?f=47&t=237174&p=2158488&h ... s#p2158488

viewtopic.php?t=126710

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