Tyler Machalk

Soldbuch for Unteroffiziere Walter Fruth – Infanterie/Grenadier Regiment 253 (34th Infanterie Division) 

Unteroffiziere Walter Fruth spent his entire career with Infanterie Regiment 253 of the 34 Infanterie Division. Unfortunately, the photo was removed sometime during the war so we do not know what he looks like; he was 5’10”, thin, oval face, dark blonde hair, and had gray-brown eyes. He was born in 1920 in Eppstein which is near Frankfurt. The soldbuch was opened on 4 Oct 40 right after Walter’s 20th birthday. Before joining the Wehrmacht, he worked as a construction worker according to page 2 but his POW release documents say he was a mason and then another POW document says he was a factory worker. 

He was assigned to the Infanterie Regiment 253 which was part of the 34th Infanterie Division. Since Sep 40, they were stationed on the French coast for the coastal protection. The award is not dated in his soldbuch, but Walter received the West Wall Medal for his service here.

At the end of May 41, the unit was transported by rail to Poland and placed in front of Brest-Litovsk in modern-day Belarus for the Russian campaign. On 22 Jun 41, the division crossed the border south of Brest-Litovsk and then advanced across the Beresina to the Dnieper south of Mogilev. Subsequently, the division advanced to the north of Bryansk in Sep. On 10 Sep 41, Walter was promoted to Oberschutzen.

From Oct 41 onwards, the division participated in the advance of Moscow and the occupation of Bryansk. There followed the advance to the Maloyaroslavets area. Here, the division met the Russian counterattack, so that under heavy defences it had to retreat to the Shanja position west of Medyn.

As with most of the Wehrmacht, Walter apparently was not equipped for the brutal Russian winter and developed pneumonia which required him to be hospitalized 26 Nov–15 Dec 41. 

Upon his return to the unit, they had to retreat westward from Yukhnovw to the Ugra River. The division held this defensive position all the way to Jan 43. While here, Walter received the Infantry Assault Badge on 12 Apr 42.

He was also promoted twice: to Gefreiter on 1 Sep 42 and then to Obergefreiter on 1 Dec 42.

Additionally, his regiment was renamed to Grenadier Regiment 253 on 15 Oct 42.

At the end of Jan 43, the division moved to the defensive positions at Mtsensk. With the start of the Russian summer offensive in mid-Jul 43 in the Orel area, the division had to withdraw from Mtsensk viaKarachev to Bryansk. It was here that Walther received the Iron Cross Second Class on 4 Aug 43.

He was also promoted to Unteroffizier on 1 Sep 43.

In Sep 43, the division was transferred due south to Poltava. It was here that Walter received his first combat wound when he was shot in the left middle finger on 21 Sep.

He was in the hospital for the wound through 22 Oct 43 and was awarded the Wound Badge Black 4 Nov 41. After being released by he hospital, he was briefly sent to Feld Ersatz Bataillon 34 to recuperate. As a footnote, his POW release document mentions a scar on his left middle finger as well.

By the time Walter rejoined his unit, they were in the Cherkassy area and then they retreated to Uman.

On 18 Dec 43, Walter had accumulated the 15 close combat days required to be awarded the Close Combat Clasp in Bronze.

The division was smashed by the Soviet offensive and retreated to Chisinau, Moldova. During this operation, Walter was again shot on 29 Jan 44. He was in the hospital in Soest for this wound through 22 Apr 44 and was awarded the Wound Badge in Silver 29 Mar 44. By the time he rejoined the unit, they had been pulled back to Nowa Kuźnia, Poland for rest and refitting.

Unfortunately for Walter, he contracted pneumonia again and was hospitalized 31 May–9 Jun 44. 

Walter rejoined his unit just in time for it to be moved to the Genoa coast on 11 Jun 44. Walter couldn’t catch a break with the warmer climate, however, and was hospitalized in Turin for malaria 25 Jul–30 Sep. 

When Walter rejoined his unit, they were being attacked by US forces and were eventually driven back to Como north of Milan. It was here that he and his comrades went into American captivity in Apr 45.

Obviously, Walter and his comrades saw a lot of combat and he performed with valor as evidenced by his awards. 

Walter was a POW until 12 Dec 46. Below are his POW documents – interestingly there are stamps in German, French, and English. One of the POW documents allowed him to travel by bicycle. 

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

comments powered by Disqus