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Replacement Soldbuch for Unteroffizier Friedrich Brey – 1/Pionier Bataillon 12 (12 Infanterie Division/12 Volksgrenadier Divsion) 

Unteroffizier Friedrich Brey’s replacement soldbuch was opened on 23 Jun 43. Even though it is a replacement, there are several entries transferred to it from his prior service. Evidence including his Erkennungsmarke entry shows that he continuously served with Pionier Bataillon 12 prewar and for the entirety of the conflict. Friedrich was born on 22 Jan 17 in Tribsees which is in northern Germany east of Rostock.

Before his military service, he worked as a confectioner (“konditor”).

Unfortunately, the photo was removed from the book sometime after the war. 

The earliest entry in the soldbuch are for immunizations on 12 Dec 38 so it’s likely that his military service started in that timeframe. With Pionier Bataillon 12, he was stationed in Schwerin and they were attached to the 12 Infanterie Division.

On 12 Jul 39, Friedrich and his comrades boarded ships and were moved to Pillau (modern day Baltiysk, Russia). With the attack on Poland on 1 Sep 39, his unit fought Polish border positions east of Mlakowo. They reached the Narew between Ostroleka and Rozan after six days.

Subsequently, the division marched to Siedlce and then east past Warsaw to the area north of Garwolin.

After the end of the Polish campaign, Friedrich served as an occupation troop in Poland. In Dec 39, they were moved back to Siegkries southeast of Koln.

On 1 Feb 40, Friedrich was promoted to Oberpionier although this rank is not shown on page 1 due to it being a replacement book.

In preparation for the attack on France, Friedrich and his comrades were moved to Prüm near the Luxembourg border. They attacked through this country, through Belgium, and crossed the Meuse in France. They broke through the Maginot Line in the Trélon - Ohain area. Then they pursued the French into the area around Arras - Monchy. During the second phase of the campaign, the division marched all the way to Nantes. After the ceasefire, the division remained in western France as a garrison troop. 

At the end of May 41 the division moved to East Prussia. 

In June 1941 the division joined Operation Barbarossa under Army Group North as an element of the 16th Army. It took part in Army Group North's capture of the Latvian city of Daugavpils, sweeping northeastward to Leningrad where it was finally stopped in its tracks at the outskirts of Leningrad. Friedrich demonstrated heroism during this advance and was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class on 28 Oct 41 by the 12 Infanterie Division.

In Jan 42, the Soviets counterattacked trying to relieve the siege of Leningrad. During this time, Friedrich had 4 close combat days recorded: 18, 22, 23, and 29 Jan. 

During the early months of 1942, the II Army Corps was subject to a Soviet counteroffensive to relieve Leningrad, resulting in five army divisions (the 12th, included) and the SS-Totenkopf division being encircled along with several other elements of the 16th Army in the Demjansk Pocket. There were about 90000 German soldiers and 10000 auxiliaries trapped in this pocket. Planes containing supplies were flown in to aid the divisions while they were in the pocket for some 81 days between 8 Feb-20 Mar. There were roughly 64000 German casualties in the pocket before they were relieved and over 200 aircraft were lost in the operation. While liberated, the 12 Infanterie Division left the pocket in a much-weakened state.

During Friedrich’s time in the pocket, he had a bout of appendicitis. He was hospitalized for it within the pocket (Kriegslazarett 2/608) between 28 Feb-23 Mar 42. 

Not surprisingly, Friedrich was awarded the Ostmedaille on 23 Jul 42.

Friedrich and his comrades continued to hold the Demjansk area until mid-Mar 43 when they abandoned it to the Soviets. He continued to distinguish himself on the battlefield and was awarded the Iron Cross 1st Class by Pionier Battailon 12 on 25 Aug 42. Shortly afterwards he went on leave from 30 Sep-21 Oct 42.

From Demjansk, they fought south of Staraya Russa. Here the division remained until the autumn of 43, when it was relocated to Nevel. Interestingly, on 10 Jul 43 Friedrich had a dental examination which indicates he had 10 replaced teeth(!).

From 3-24 Aug 43, he again went on leave.

1 Dec 43 was a substantial day for Friedrich as he was promoted to Stabsgefreiter and was awarded the Demjanskschild.

At the end of December 1943, his unit was moved to the Belorussian city of Vitebsk where they suffered heavy losses. Here he was wounded by shrapnel and hospitalized in succession Siedice, Poland and then to Rothenburg ob der Tauber from 19 Jan-7 May.

Once again, Friedrich was rewarded for his bravery and was promoted to Unteroffizier on 1 Feb 44.

On 16 Mar 44, he was given a Führergeschenk and on 30 Mar he was awarded the Wound Badge in Black. 

After his hospital stay, he went on convalescent leave from 6 May–5 Jun 44. Before he could return to his unit, he was again hospitalized 1-7 Jul in Schwedt on der Oder for mumps. This event was a real blessing as his unit was completely destroyed during Operation Bagration. 

In Aug and Sep 44, the division was reconstituted and renamed the 12 Volksgrenadier Division. It had a strength of 12,800 men. With Allied forces approaching the Siegfried Line, they were relocated to Aachen to stem the advance. In the area Stolberg east of Aachen there were heavy defensive battles.

On 20 Oct 44, Friedrich was issued an MP40 for the duration of the war. 

As shown on the Close Combat days cited above, Friedrich had his 5th recorded on 15 Nov 44 at Weisweiler which is between Aachen and Düren.

Additionally, the soldbuch lists Friedrich’s qualifications for the General Assault Badge.

On 25 Nov 44, he recorded his 3rd Assault Day and he was awarded the badge on 12 Dec 44. 

Shortly afterwards, Friedrich was in the attack during the Battle of Bulge on 16 Dec 44. He was on the far right wing of the 5th Panzer Army and protected the flank of the leading on Malmédy. After the abortion of the offensive and the subsequent retreat battles to the west wall, the 12th Volksgrenadier Division was used under the command of the 7th Army on the Rhine, in Aachen and the Eifel. 

From 21 Jan-3 Feb 45, Friedrich was again hospitalized – this time for scabies in Feldlazarett 2/562.

After American troops broke through at Remagen, The entire Army Group B was outflanked in the triangle Dortmund - Dusseldorf - Cologne and included in the Ruhrkessel. On 12 Apr 45, the division capitulated in the Siegen area.

Friedrich’s POW number is recorded on page 1 of the soldbuch – 791752. He was released from imprisonment on 16 Dec 45. Included with the soldbuch is his discharge paper. 

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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