The Heer Soldbuch - Soldiers Details

 

The Front Cover
The front cover (shown on page 1 of this article) displayed a Third Reich eagle with spread wings, clutching the swastika and wreath in its talons, which was known as the Hoheitszeichen. Below this was printed the words ‘Pay Book together with Personal Identity Document’. It was common, but not necessary, for a soldiers surname to be written in part or in full, on the top right corner of the cover. This was usually done to assist finding it when it had been filed with other Soldbuchs. Where this does not appear could be an indication that the Soldbuch had never needed to be filed.

Photo page of the German SoldbuchInside the front cover was originally intended to blank, but by 1944 it was regulation to have a photo of the holder stapled or riveted as a security measure. The order for this had been made by 16th November 1943, which stated that photos for those in training units were to be in place by 1st April 1944 and for those in field units by 31st December 1944. Soldiers issued books prior to the introduction of this measure often won’t have a photo, but soldiers who received their books after this measure should all have their picture inside the cover. However, soldiers who had joined the army prior to this measure may have had a photo added later, which can sometimes be an indication that the cover had possibly been replaced at some point.

The photo would normally be fixed to the cover by staples or eyelets in the bottom left and top right, then rubber stamped with the round unit seal in the opposing corners. The soldier would then be required to sign his name in full below the photo.

The photo itself would be usually white bordered and sized approximately 45mm x 60mm, with the soldier turned slightly to the right, not necessarily looking at the camera but showing his left ear. This was because the Germans felt that the ear was an important aid to identification. The soldier would be presentable in appearance and usually be dressed in uniform but without head-dress. The photo should show the tunic down to the upper pockets, as it was intended that any awards recorded within the Soldbuch should be visible in the picture. Some pictures show the holder in parade uniform, others in field tunics which varied between having the collars open or closed. In practice it would appear that the regulations for photos were not strictly adhered to for men serving in field units and often serving soldiers who added a photo to an existing book often used any photo considered to be clear enough, rather than one specifically taken to meet regulations.

Due to the amount of time and the varied and harsh conditions facing soldiers, wear on the cover was inevitable. Some preferred to place their Soldbuch in a protective sleeve or wallet, but it was common for covers to be replaced. Units held limited stocks of replacement covers which were stapled to the existing interior pages, which saved replacing the entire document. New books were produced with the staples and spine covered by fabric tape to protect from wear. If the staples go through the fabric tape and can be clearly seen, it is another indication that the cover has been replaced at some point.

 

Page 1 of World War 2 German Army SoldbuchPage 1
The first page identifies the holder in his military capacity. At the top of the page is entered the serial number of the Soldbuch, according to the records of the issuing unit. This number for most soldiers would not necessarily be the same as that on their Erkennungsmarke (identification tag), but for soldiers mobilised at the beginning of the war or for soldiers inducted into the military into a newly formed training unit, it is possible that they would match. The reason for this is that Soldbuchs and Erkennungsmarke were issued virtually at the same time, with soldiers probably being issued their pre-stamped Erkennungsmarke first, as the details on it were recorded in the Soldbuch and therefore would have to be already on hand. The serial numbers of the Soldbuch and Erkennungsmarke were recorded separately, but on initial mobilization at the start of the war, they would have been issued to the soldiers by their unit in order and would have been the same. It would not take long however for the war to disrupt this system, when either form of identification became lost or damaged. As soon as a soldier required either of them to be replaced, it would throw the serial numbers of books and tags out of synchronisation. Once this happened, all subsequent issue numbers would not match and this degree of variation would gradually increase with time.

Unit strengths in 1939 would have varied somewhere between 150 to 180 men, depending on the type of unit it was. For pre-war soldiers issued with books and tags by their field unit at the time of the general mobilisation, the serial numbers for both would have matched, with numbers likely to be lower than 180. For soldiers who were inducted after the war had begun, they would not join a field unit directly. Their books and tags would have been issued by an Ersatz (training) unit and it is possible that the serial numbers for their tag and book could be high enough to have four digits and are unlikely to be the same as each other.

The next entry on page one gives the holders rank at the time the book was issued to him. For pre-war soldiers this would be whatever their rank was at the time of the general mobilisation.This is most often going to be some form of private. For soldiers inducted before the end of 1942, the term Schützen is more common, but after this date Grenadier is more likely. Another late war entry which was slightly less common is Füsilier. The term Soldaten was very often used throughout the entire war. For soldiers joining other arms there are terms such as Pionier, Funker, Fahrer, Kraftfahrer, Jäger or Kanonier. Books showing the rank to be higher than private, but issued after the outbreak of war are likely to be for soldiers who have needed to have a new book issued, due to loss or damage of the original.

The rank entry is followed by a box where subsequent promotions, or sometimes new appointments, were recorded along with the date that this became effective, usually dated to the 1st day of a particular month. Any entries recorded here should also be recorded on page 3.

Below the promotions box the soldiers name is written in full and in its natural order. Middle names were not very common, but for those having one, the name the soldier was to be addressed by would be underlined.

This is then followed by the details shown on the soldiers Erkennungsmarke. This would usually be the unit who issued the tag, abbreviated into its military form and the tag number (see above for serial number explanation). Pre-war soldiers would have a tag showing a field unit. Soldiers inducted after the mobilisation in 1939 would have shown an Ersatz unit, unless they had lost their tag and had it replaced, where it would show the unit the soldier was serving with at the time of the replacement tag being issued. In the case of a replacement tag being issued the original entry would be crossed out with the new tag details being recorded later in the book on page 3.

The next line shows the blood group of the soldier, either A, B, O or AB, written in red pencil. At this period in time the Rh factor was not understood, so there was no + or – to go with the blood group, as we have now.

The gasmask size was recorded next. There were three different sizes – I (large), II (medium) or III (small). This number can be written as I, II, III or 1, 2, 3.

The last entry on this page is for the bearers military number, a number totally unique to him from the point that he was inducted into the army. This number is made up of five parts as follows:

1. The name of the Wehrbezirkskommando (Armed Forces Sub-District Recruiting Headquarters) where the soldier registered for service.
2. The last two digits of the year the soldier was born.
3. The Police District number where the soldier registered for service
4. The serial number of the induction sheet on which the soldier was registered.
5. The line on the induction sheet on which the soldier was registered (1-10 or A-J).

 

Apart from the information that would be written in the promotions box, all of the information on page 1 would have been entered by the first official.

At times soldiers would loose their Soldbuch or it could become damaged or destroyed and an entire replacement book would need to be issued. When this happened, the top of page 1 would have the word Zweitschrift (copy or literally second writing). Another term that could be written for this could be Ersatzausfertigung (replacement issue) or Ersatz for short.


Page 2 of World War 2 German Army SoldbuchPage 2
The second page recorded some personal details and a description of the bearer, starting with the date and place of birth and then the soldiers religion and civilian occupation. Concerning the religion there are a number of abbreviations that were commonly used:

r.k. / r.kath Römisch-Katholisch Roman Catholic
ev Evangelische Evangelical (Lutharian), a form of Protestant faith
gttls / % Gottlos Atheist or non-religious
gttgl Gottglaubig accepts god exists but does not follow a religion

The personal description, moving down the page, gave details which would be given as:

Height Given in either centimetres or metres
Build Schlank (slim), mittel (medium), groß (big), klein (small), kraftig (strong)
Face shape Oval (oval), rund (round), schmal (thin), voll (fat), länglich (long)
Hair Blonde (blonde), braun (brown), dunkel (dark), schwarz (black), rot (red), grau (grey) – dunkel could be added to the other colours too
Beard Klein or % (none) – most soldiers would be clean shaven
Eyes Blau (blue), braun (brown), grün (green), grau (grey)

Next it noted any distinguishing features, such as wearing glasses (brillenträger), the location of a scar (narbe), burn scar (brandnarbe) or describes a tattoo (tätowierung).

This is then followed by the shoe size, which in typical military form usually comes as a length and a width. The length is often given in centimetres, so measure your feet as there are various sizing systems (UK, US or European). It is likely to be ranged 25-31. The width is graded 1-5, with 1 being narrow and 5 being wide.

Beneath all of this the soldier would sign his name in full to confirm the details. This in turn would be witnessed and the information above verified by the issuing officer. The first two lines here show the Soldbuch issue date and the unit responsible for issuing it. Below this it was signed by the officer, who then gave his rank and position. Some of these lines can be stamped or written in. The unit seal was then stamped to the left of this section and sometimes the unit location may have been stamped above the unit seal.
Apart from the authorisation details in the bottom section, all of the information on page 2 would have been entered by the first official.


Page 3 of World War 2 German Army SoldbuchPage 3
Any alterations to the information shown on the first two pages were recorded and certified here in the table on page 3. These would sometimes be changes to correct mistakes overlooked in the original information, but most often are for updates in information as the soldier progressed through his military service.

The first column was used to simply assign a serial number to each recorded change, starting with ‘1’ for the first and increasing numerically in order as further changes were added.

The second column recorded the type of amendment being made. The two most common entries were Beforderung (promotion) and Ernennung (appointment). The difference between the two terms is whether the change is actually a change in rank or simply an increase in grade between ranks. An example of this would be moving from Schütze to Oberschütze, which is not actually a promotion in rank, so should be recorded as Ernennung. Moving from Oberschütze up to Gefreiter is however classed as a promotion, so should be recorded as Beforderung. It was not uncommon for Ernennung to be incorrectly recorded as Beforderung and very often either term would not be used, with the word Dienstgrad (service rank) being used or the actual rank itself being written instead. Other changes sometimes recorded in this column would be for the issue of new identification tag. The term could be written as EK, E-marke or Erkennungsmarke.

Column three showed the page upon which the change had been made (1 or 2) and column four showed the date that the change was recorded. The following column recorded the relevant unit with which the soldier was serving at the time the change was made, often in its abbreviated form. On occasion the unit itself was not recorded, but the Feldpost number that was assigned to the unit. The last two columns were for the person who was certifying the change to sign in one and record their rank and position in the other.
These changes could be entered by various officials, any of which may enter more than one change, dependent upon the unit or date it was recorded. If changes were made while the soldier was in the same unit as when a previous change was made and these changes were made within a few months of each other, it is probable that the same official would enter it. If the units are not the same or the dates are far apart, the entries would almost certainly be made by different officials.

 

Page 4 of World War 2 German Army SoldbuchPage 4
Page 4 recorded the history of all of the units that the soldiers had served in through his military career. It was split into four different sections, A, B, C and D.

Section A – This showed the soldiers last point of conscription or his district recruiting office, known as the Wehrmeldeamt (W.M.A.) or sub-district recruiting HQ, known as the Wehrbezirkskommando (W.B.K.). This in most cases would be in the town that the soldier was living in at the time he joined the Army. It would therefore be likely to be the same as the location listed in the first part of the Wehrnummer shown on page 1. An example of how it would be filled in would be ‘WMA – Münster’. This information would have been entered by the first official.

Section B – This showed the Ersatz (Replacement) Unit where the soldier went through his basic military training. It also showed the relevant company and the soldier’s Truppenstammrolle number (the number within that unit as recorded on their nominal role). The unit would also likely to be the one which then sent him forward to his Field Unit. Where more than one unit appears here, it shows that the soldier had at some point had been required to return to basic training, possibly as a result of recovering from injuries, before going back to a Field Unit. Other reasons for having multiple units in this section would be if the soldier had been transferred to a training unit as an instructor, or if the soldier was sent to the front as part of a Marschkompanie, that unit could also be listed here.
Section C – The Field Units in which the soldier had served would be shown here. It also showed the relevant company and the soldier’s Kriegstammrolle number (the same as the Truppenstammrolle number, but for a Field Unit). Regulations stated that if the soldier received further specialist training at an Ausbildungs (Training) Unit, it should be listed in this section, even though Ausbildungs Units were technically part of the Ersatzheer (Reserve Army).

Section D – This section recorded the different Ersatz (Replacement) Units which were responsible for the soldier through his military career and the location of that unit. Every Field Unit had its own Ersatz Unit which was responsible for supplying their respective Field Unit with fresh trained recruits, for issuing of replacement equipment and also acted as a route for soldiers who were going home on leave or reporting back for duty. If a soldier was hospitalised, he may have to report to his Ersatz Unit upon being declared fit for duty once more, before being returned to his Field Unit. They would ensure he was properly prepared and equipped to be returned to action. If the soldier moved to a different unit he would then also have to change to the Ersatz Unit that was responsible for the unit he moved to. Also, if a soldier stayed within his regiment, but moved from a normal infantry company to a specialist support company within that regiment, such as Pioneers, they would likely change to a new Ersatz Unit which was relevant to this specialised field of training. A note at the bottom of this section states that this is where the soldier should report to after returning from the field unit or a military hospital if he required replacement clothing or equipment.

The difference between the Ersatz units entered into section B and those in section D is that section B refers more to a soldiers training history and is specific to company level within that Ersatz unit, whereas section D is aimed more towards ensuring a soldier is ready to be transferred to his Field Unit, whether this be as a new soldier or a returning soldier and is only specific to the Ersatz unit itself as a whole.

Any of the units shown anywhere on this page could be entered with either a unit stamp or be hand written. When written by hand the Wehrmeldeamt shown in section A would be entered by the first official. It is possible that chronologically the first entry in either section B or section C would have also been made by the first official, but any subsequent entries in these sections would be made by different officials. The first Ersatz Unit in section D would be the relevant one for the first chronological unit entered in either section B or section C, which again could be entered by the first official. Some later changes entered in sections B or C could have the same Ersatz Unit for section D, whereas other changes entered in sections B or C could result in new Ersatz units being entered in section D. As the war progressed units were more often entered by stamps, but hand written entries were still made as well.

Truppenstammrolle and Kriegstammrolle numbers were made up of two parts separated by a forward slash. The first part of the number is from a roster sheet which formed the nominal role for a given unit. When a soldier joined a unit, his details would be entered into the next available line on the roster sheet. The second part of the number is the last two digits of the year that the entry onto the roster sheet was made. Therefore the 186th man to join a given unit in 1941 would have a Truppenstammrolle or Kriegstammrolle number of 186/41.

If a unit changed name or designation, but the structure and men in the unit remained the same, sections B and C would record the new unit name, but the soldiers Truppenstammrolle or Kriegstammrolle number would be the same as the previous unit. An example of this would be when the Groβdeutschland Motorcycle Battalion changed name to the Groβdeutschland Reconnaissance Battalion in January 1943, but the battalion itself did not change structure.

There are two foot-notes at the bottom of the page. The first is for section B, to ‘Enter the Replacement Unit from which the Paybook owner is posted to the Field Army’. The second states that any changes made as a result of ‘transfers from one unit to another are to be amended in a manner so that the old entries are crossed out but remain legible’. This would leave only the current unit and respective Ersatz Unit showing in sections B, C and D.

A final note shows that if the page is full, there is further space to continue entries on page 17, where sections B, C and D can be continued.

Page 5 of World War 2 German Army SoldbuchPage 5
Information regarding the next of kin for the Paybook holder is recorded on page 5. At the top of the page are entered the fore and surname of the soldier who owned the Paybook. After this, follows three sections, numbered simply as 1, 2 and 3.

Section 1 is for the details of the soldier’s wife. The details required are her forename, maiden name, place of residence, and street name with house number. Between the wife’s forename and maiden name, is the term ‘geb.’, which is short for geborene (born as). If the soldier was not married the term ‘ledig’ or abbreviation ‘led.’ was entered, meaning ‘single’.

Section 2 is for the details of the soldiers parents. The details required are the fathers fore and surname, his occupation, the mother’s forename and maiden name, their place of residence, and street name with house number. If the father had already died by the time the entry was made, the term ‘gestorben’ (died) would be written along with the year of death, after the name.

Section 3 is for the details of another of the soldier’s relatives or his fiancée. The details required are this persons relationship to the soldier, their fore and surname, their occupation, their place of residence, and street name with house number.

A foot note at the bottom of the page states that section 3 was only to be filled out if there were no entries for sections 1 or 2.
In most cases only one of the first two sections were filled out by the first official, so if he was married at the time the book was issued, only his wife’s details would be entered. If he was not married at this time, obviously only the parent’s details could be entered. If both sections were completed, it was usually an indication that the soldier had married at some point after he was issued the Paybook, in which case the new details are likely to have been added by a different administration official.

When a person listed on this page died, the name was either crossed through or accompanied with a small ‘x’. In either case the year of death was added too.

When a person’s address details were entered they were often accompanied with a circle containing a number. This was the Gau Nummer, used to identify areas of Germany. For administrative purposes the country had been divided into 32 regions which would be similar to a British post-code or US zip code. The circle and number could be written by hand, stamped or sometimes have a stamped circle with a handwritten number. A list of where these numbers refer to is shown in the table below:

1. Gau Berlin
2. Gau Mark Brandenburg and from Gau Pommern, urban areas of Schniedemühl and parts of Arnswalde, Friedeberg (Neum.) and Netzekreis
3. Gau Mecklenberg
4. Gau Pommern
5a. Gau Danzig-Westpreußen
5b. Gau Ostpreußen
5c. Reichskommisariat
6. Gau Wartheland
7a. Generalgouvernment (Poland)
7b. Reichskommisariat Ukraine
8. Gau Niederschlesien and from Gau Sudetenland (Ost), the area of Grulich
9a. Gau Oberschlesien
9b. Gau Sudetenland (Ost)
10. Gau Sachsen, Gau Halle-Merseburg and the region of Altenburg from Gau Thüringen
11a. Gau Sudetenland (West)
11b. Protektorat Böhmen and Mähren
12a. Gau Wien, Gau Niederdonau, Gau Steiermark
12b. Gau Kärnten, Gau Oberdonau, Gau Salzburg, Gau Tirol-Vorarlberg
13a. Gau Bayreuth, Gau Franken, Gau Mainfranken
13b. Gau München-Oberbayern, Gau Schwaben and the district of Niederbayern from Gau Bayreuth
14. Gau Württemberg-Hohenzollern
15. Gau Thüringen
16. Gau Hessen-Nassau, Gau Kurhessen
17a. Gau Baden
17b. Parts of Gau Baden: Elsaß (Alsace)
18. Gau Westmark
19. Gau Magdeburg-Anhalt
20. Gau Osthannover, Gau Südhannover-Braunschweig
21. Gau Westfalen-Nord, Gau Westfalen-Sud
22. Gau Düsseldorf, Gau Essen, Gau Köln-Aachen, Gau Moselland
23. Gau Bayreuth, Gau Franken, Gau Mainfranken Gau Weser-Ems and the regions of Bremervörde, Wesermünde, Verden (Aller), Rotenburg (Hannover) from Gau Osthannover and Osterholz-Scharmbeck as well as the regions of Graffschaft, Hoya, and Diepholz from Gau Südhannover-Braunschweig
24 Gau Hamburg, Gau Schleswig-Holstein and the regions of Land Hadeln, Stade, Lüneburg, and Harburg from Gau Osthannover and the city of Cuxhaven

Quite what year this list is from is unsure, but looking at the list it would appear that initially there were only 24 Gau numbers. The list was probably added to with time as Germany expanded its borders, so where numbers are followed with a, b or c these are mostly areas which were taken over as Germany gradually grew bigger throughout the 1930’s and into the 1940’s, e.g. number 17b for Alsace

t is possible that as time went by the number of Gau regions increased further, as a system of 43 numbered Gau has been suggested. However this system of 43 Gau does not mirror or expand upon the system of 32 Gau listed above, with further additions made where necessary. More over it ranges from 1 to 43 with the Gau regions listed in alphabetical order, which would have required a total restructuring of the Gau number system. The details of Soldbuchs studied all appear to follow the system of 32 Gau shown. None appear to follow the suggested alphabetical system of 43 Gau, so it is best to treat this later system with some scepticism.

 

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