Tyler Machalk

Document Grouping for Feldwebel Emil Strobel – 35 Infanterie Division: Infanterie Regiment 34, Füsilier Regiment 34.

Included in the document grouping are Emil Strobel’s pre-war-issued DAF membership book and Arbeitsbuch.

The DAF book was opened 1 Mar 38 and includes dues stamps from May 38-Sep 40.

The Arbeitsbuch was opened on 15 Jul 36. It shows that he started working at 13 as a cobbler’s apprentice. 

Without a doubt, Feldwebel Emil Strobel’s soldbuch is in one of the roughest conditions you will find – extremely tattered, water damaged, and the pages re-taped in place (even in the wrong order). It certainly gives you a feel for all of the adverse conditions Emil encountered in the field for the 4.5 years as an infantryman and 1.5 years as a POW.

Emil spent his entire military career with the 35 Infanterie Division (“Fish Division”). He was born in 1920 in Grantschen near Heilbronn. The soldbuch was opened on 10 Oct 40 right after Emil’s 20th birthday. His mustering unit was 3/Infanterie Ersatz Battaillon 34 which was, unsurprisingly, set up in Heilbronn.

While not owned by Emil, I also have a set of 13 postcards published by 35 Infanterie Division during the war that soldiers could purchase and use as feldpost home. 

No later than Feb 41, Emil’s was assigned to Infanterie Regiment 34 of the 35 Infanterie Division. The division was located in Northwest France where it was used for coastal protection. In addition, the division prepared for the invasion of England which, of course, never happened.

At the end of Apr 41 the division was moved to East Prussia – modern day Suwałki, Poland. While stationed here, Emil was promoted to Oberschützen on 9 May 41. The division took part in Operation Barbarosa on 22 Jun 41 and crossed the border fortifications and advanced to Bialystok and Dubroŭna, Belarus. Here, the division suffered heavy losses in the first Russian counter-attacks.

On 25 Jul 41, he was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class for bravery during the encirclement at Smolensk. The night before the award, his unit attacked the town of Kassplja just north of Smolensk. In conjunction with the medal, he was promoted to Gefretier on 7 Aug 41.

With Operation Typhoon, the Division advanced to Vyazma, Russia. Subsequently, the division continued its advance to the Volokolamsk area northwest of Moscow.

On 29 Sep 41, he was awarded the Infantry Assault Badge and then the Iron Cross 1st Class on 15 Nov 41 for actions on 11 Sep 41 when they defeated a series of Russian defenses on the approach to Moscow. This division broke through the outer perimeter and reached the Moscow Canal within the city limits. There the division met the Russian winter offensive which forced them to retreat to the city of Gagarin where it remained for all of 1942.

By 11 Jan 42, the regiment had only 368 men total available for duty – roughly 12% of its authorized strength. During the retreat, Emil suffered frostbite on his toes for which he was hospitalized 12-24 Mar 42. Emil and his comrades were without winter clothes and faced temperatures of -40 C according to the official division history.

On 27 Jun 42, Emil was wounded in combat although there is no entry on the hospital page for the wound. It either was not severe or it was simply not entered. He received the Wound Badge in Black for it on 4 Jul 42. He was promoted to Unteroffizier on 1 Oct 42. Infanterie Regiment 34 was renamed to Füsilier Regiment 34 on 9 Nov 42 indicating the prominence and fighting ability of the regiment within the division.

Finally, he was awarded the Ostmedaille on 21 Dec 42. 

With the evacuation of the front line at Rshew in the spring of 1943, the division was forced to retreat to the area east of Dorogobuzh.

Here, Emil was issued a MP40 and compass on 1 May 43 as well as a Wehrmacht wristwatch on 22 Jun. 

In these positions, Emil and his comrades fought some severe defensive battles until the end of Aug 43.

From Sep 43, the division joined the retreat of the Fourth Army across the Dnieper south of Smolensk.

After further defensive battles, the division was finally transferred to the Mogilev, Belarus area at the end of Oct 43, where it took part in the defense there until Jun 44.

While here, Emil went on leave and was given a führergeschenk on 8 Jan 44. 

Upon his return to the front, Emil was again wounded – this time a bullet wound which required him to convalesce 30 Apr - 26 Jun 44.

He returned to front line duty while his unit was in disarray due to the Russian Operation Bagration offensive that started on 22 Jun 44. The unit fought defensive battles while retreating to Babruysk, Belarus with heavy losses.

In the middle of Jul 44, it reached the Brest area. Here, the division was taken briefly off the front line for about a month for refitting and reequipping. In Sep 44, the Russians attacked Brest and the unit was again forced to retreat.

During this initial attack, Emil was again wounded by a bullet and he was sent to a hospital 7-26 Sep 44.

The wound appears to have been quite serious as he was place in a replacement unit (Grenadier Ersatz Bataillon 109) to further recover and then was sent on convalescent leave through 25 Oct 44.

By the time Emil rejoined his unit, they were in the Różan, Poland area. On 4 Nov 44, he was issued iron rations indicating counter offensive actions.

Emil was quite heroic during this action as he was awarded the German Cross in Gold on 23 Nov 44! On 28 Nov 44, he was issued a StG 44. 

Shortly afterwards he was promoted to Feldwebel on 1 Dec 44.

In Jan 45, the division had withdrawn to the Gdańsk area. It is unknown what the circumstances were, but apparently Emil got the “million dollar wound” as he was hospitalized 3-18 Jan and then transported to a hospital in Wietfeld in northern Germany where he stayed in Feb. This resulted in him avoiding the fate of his comrades who eventually surrendered to the Russians. It is likely he should have been awarded the Wound Badge in Gold although there is no mention of it in the soldbuch. 

He was transferred to his replacement unit Grenadier Ersatz Regiment 35 which was stationed in Ehingen near Stuttgart. He was released from military service on 26 Apr 45. He was held as a prisoner of war by the French in Strasbourg until 26 Dec 47. His POW number was 1.062.177.

Emil Stroble survived the war, of course, and lived until 2002 when died at the age of 81 in Ellhofen.

Emil’s Awards: Although his German Cross in Gold is very well documented, it does not appear in his soldbuch.

Additionally, he should have been awarded at least the Wound Badge in Silver (if not Gold), but it does not appear either.

All work above was put together and researched by Jason Karlen. Thank you for allowing your work to be shared on Freedom2collect.

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