by Eric Tobey
interview was taken from the Die Neue Feldpost newsletter
& was done so with permission of the publisher.
We would like to thank him for his generosity as well
as thank all those who have contributed to this
article. It is with their efforts, we are able
to share this valuable research with the rest of you.
following excellent interview was conducted by Vince
Milano in June of 1993. The veteran, a
remarkable gentleman named Karl Wegner, is a former
member of Grenadier Regiment 914 of the 352nd
Division. Mr. Wegner is one of the few vets who
has managed to answer all of the infamous
"102 questions for German Vets", and his
answers comprise a veritable gold mine of information.
ever wear your HBT uniform in combat?
In Normandy we wore it all the time, though at
night it was very cold until the end of June. I had a
pair of baggy HBT trousers that were quite comfortable
and a tunic that was cut the same as my service one,
with the same insignia on it.
Why did some dogtags lack the blood type letter?
Was it tattooed on?
I'm not sure, but my blood type was stamped on my tag
when I was inducted, I do remember that. I never
had a tattoo like the SS but I did meet a fellow who
came in about a year after me who had his blood type
stamped on his tag and tattooed on his
foot. He said that they gave him the tattoo in
training and no one could walk for a couple of days
and infections were rampart. It could have been
an experiment, but if your foot was blown off it was
carry your Soldbuch in the field?
When we went on alert that first week of June they
took them away from us and gave us little KennKarten
(ID Cards) but within 2 days after the fighting began
we got them back because the clerks in the rear just
didn't have the time or gas to cart them around and a
lot of them were being pressed into the infantry.
What songs did you sing?
Well, we sang Lili Marlene, Westerwald, Argonnerwald,
Der Jager aus Kurplatz, and many others. My favorite
was Erika. We learned many dirty songs in both German
Describe how a squad was organized.
Our Gruppe were always of 9 men, Unteroffizier or
Obergefreiter in command, a MG team, and the rest of
the men. In combat you dwindled down to about 4 or 5
centered around the MG. If you lost your Gruppe's MG,
you would be used more in attacks & counter
attacks while those with the MGs were in support. We
never lost ours, I know because I was the number 1!
Well we could buy stuff from the Kantine or Krammer
(unit stores) but chose to buy stuff from the locals
in Normandy because we could trade or get better deals
and food. Since I didn't smoke I sent my issue
tobacco and what I could buy cheaply home to my father
but I kept some for use as money with the French and I
lived very nicely for just about nothing.
Describe the wear of Fußlappen vs. Socks.
I never got Fußlappen, just socks. Some of the older
men had these but I never could bother with the time
it took to put on a pair of boots when wearing them.
What did you have: Rucksack, Tornister, or A-Frame?
I had both a Rucksack and an A-Frame. The Rucksack was
a very nice large pack in which I could fit
everything. The A-Frame I wore all through the
fighting; it was comfortable and carried just what I
needed strapped to it or in the little pouch on it.
Did you put your name on any pieces of uniform or
Yes, I did. We had to do it in accordance to
regulations, with pen or pencil & paint I marked
everything I was issued.
throw away your gasmask?
Not until June 7, 1944. No one ever checked us for
them in the entire time of the fighting. (Note: it is
unclear if he meant just the gas mask or the canister
as well. For our impression we will assume he just
meant the mask itself, so please wear the canister if
you have one)
Well, that was a long time ago and has faded somewhat
in my memory unlike memories of the time of the
fighting. I seem to remember that we awoke about
5AM then they ran us ragged all day, with training
inspections and cleaning this or that. And in
Slany CSSR we still had to do occupation duties like
patrolling and guard duty in the town.
you get along with the other branches: Navy, Luft, SS?
We never had a problem with any of the other services
except those in the SS. They acted aloof, even
the damn privates sure they may have been better
trained & equipped and all, but that is no excuse
to push other soldiers aside because of your cocky
Describe your field rations.
That is simple: whatever we could scrounge up
or whatever the cooks found dead on the road to feed
us, ha ha ha. But the food was bad, that's one of the
reasons we ate at night so we didn't have to look at
decorations did you receive?
I was told that I qualified for the Infantry Assault
Badge & the Close Combat Clasp. I never got
them, but Mr. Milano has directed me to the proper
authorities to get them now.
Where did you put your field cap when you were not
We tucked them into our belts, lower tunic pockets,
breadbag, and anywhere else that was convenient at the
What was the "Putz und Flickstunde"?
That was cleaning the barracks. I had the honor
of cleaning the latrines.
What did they check during an Appell (Inspection)?
Naturally that everyone was present and accounted for.
Also, our uniforms had to be in proper shape, no loose
buttons or dirt, that our gear was aligned properly,
like the center of the belt buckle in line with the
line of tunic buttons, etc...
Were there differences between troops from the
various regions of Germany?
Well, dialect for one thing. Sometimes I
couldn't understand those guys from Hunsruck &
they didn't understand me either. Berliners were
aloof, Bavarians loud and fun-loving, city men were
not as nice as country people and so on. But
pretty much, we got along.
How were you paid? What kind of currency?
About every 14 days we got Gestalt, which was
spending money paid in occupation money and not just
French, but Belgian, Dutch, Norwegian, and so on.
It was all good to the troops, but the people would
only take French or Belgain. The rest of our pay
either went home to dependants or into a government
account for single men.
What types of camouflage did you use in the field?
Our Zeltbahns, and then rubber bands and leather
straps to hold nets and foliage onto our helmets. Some
men painted them in nice patterns, these were very
Describe a typical roll-call.
This all depended on where you were. While
manning the coastal positions, we were accounted for
only by our Zugfeldwebel. While in garrison
status we were liable to company Appell by the Spieß
was pretty mad. And these varied in timing while
in Normandie but in Germany we had them in the morning
Describe the worst place you were in.
Again, that's hard to say, but I would have to choose
the attempt we made to get through St. Lo at the very
end. I lost my closest friend that day.
Do you remember any Army slang?
You mean stuff like Warmer Bruder (Gay man),
Offizierdecke (prostitute), Barrackepferde (barrack
stallions), and so on. We had many of these.
Do you have any funny stories?
Well, I remember that while in training we had this
Feldwebel who treated us really bad. Not in the
Army training way, but just because he was sadistic.
Some of us decided to get even and snuck into his
room. We cut every button off from his uniforms,
tunic and trousers, and then we...well...we relieved
ourselves into his boots. When he didn't show up
for Appell with us the Spieß was pretty mad. I
don't know whatever happened to him because we were
shipping out to France that very morning. this
was one of the reasons we did it then!
Describe your cold-weather clothing.
Never having to fight in the winter (Wegner was
captured in Normandy), all I ever got was a greatcoat
and wool gloves.
Did you ever get a Führer Geschenk?
I never got one because I never left the front,
except as a prisoner, and for the leave after basic
training we didn't rate one.
Describe a Biwak (Bivouac).
I guess you mean Zeltbahn tents lined up in
rows of three by three or four by each platoon.
It wasn't so bad because the close quarters helped
keep us warm.
Was card playing popular?
We played Skat a lot and won and lost many a Mark.
Some real gamblers would bet watches and rings and so
Do you have any memories regarding Chaplains?
Yes, we did have them and they came up to the front
during the fighting. They had a lot of ground to
cover and we didn't see them that often, but they did
minister to us and the captured Amis too. Often
they stayed and helped the doctors at the Hauptverbandplatz.
have any memories regarding your Medics?
Our Sannis were real dedicated guys, I'm
talking about the ones who were right up front with
you. They crawled out under fire and got guys.
They put their lives on the line every day. But
back at the Verbandplatz and Feldlazerett you
were just hunks of meat to those guys and they would
rob you blind if they could!
What kind of Troop-entertainment did you receive?
We got movie passes for the local theaters and the
army provided us with entertainment of every form you
could imagine. But always there was never enough
of it or sufficient time at it.
What were your relationships with the local
They were pretty good to us, but some did keep there
distance, more afraid of their own people's
retribution than they were of us kids.
How were your weapons stored in barracks?
We had rifle racks and so on. In training the Waffenmeister
kept them in an armoury because these were just
weapons we trained with.
What were your feelings at the end of the war?
I didn't care who won, after what I had been through I
was just glad it was over.
What were hair styles like? Do you remember
Our hair was sort of long, able to be combed on the
top but the sides were short in the Prussian fashion.
Some men had short hair all around, like a crew cut.
The guys used a lot of hair oil to keep the longer
stuff in place. The older guys had mustaches but this
was not common until later in the war.
Did anyone in your unit ever have lice?
No, absolutely never!
How were your uniforms laundered in the field?
In France we had them cleaned by by the local
families for extra pay. It was cheap and they
did a good job, plus you got to meet their daughters.
It was better than doing it ourselves.
Did you ever use captured equipment?
Yes. We used grenades and flares from the Amis, really
anything useful, especially vehicles and food, not so
much for souvenirs.
What were your feelings toward your enemies?
The Americans were good fighters and good men. Their
treatment of us was fair most of the time. I have no
real complaint except against those Jabo pilots!
Did you have contact with non-German soldiers in
Sure, lots of them. We had Poles and Alsatians and
many Russians. Basically, by themselves they were good
troops and followed orders but when in groups they
Did you regularly send and receive mail?
Before the invasion we got it and sent it regularly.
But afterwards I did not get any mail until I was a
Did you have any special celebration on Christmas?
We had some sort of party for the guys not going home.
The cooks made us something special and so on. A
lot of drinking and a lot of hangovers the next day.
What were the regulations and requirements to get a
Well, if you ever got one, you reported to the UvD
(Unteroffizier von Dienst, or duty NCO). He
inspected you and made sure all was in proper order
basically so the Kettenhund (German MPs)
wouldn't bother you. Then when he said you
looked OK he gave you the pass and you could go for
the time specified on the pass.
Did you have an Esbit cooker?
No, I never had one.
Were rules for personal appearance enforced in the
No, not generally after the first day or so, but when
a rest from combat was given, all had to be cleaned
and repaired as best as you could. However, personal
hygiene in regards to lice and so on was enforced. We
washed when we were near a stream or river.
type of combat course did you get in basic training?
For me, during the period of the war in which I
was inducted, we had only a general reference for
combat. We had a rifle course, bayonet course, a
basic tactics course: you know, how to crawl, dig a
hole, and so on. I got nothing in detail until I
got to the 352. Detailed combat training was to
be done by the unit we would be assigned to.
you remember about train transport?
Well this is interesting! An enlisted man while
on official leave or pass traveled in coach with the
normal passengers, but while being transported in
groups while on duty it was the boxcars and cattle
cars. This was so the Bahnhof Kommandateuer
could easily distinguish between the two. They
would take the ones on duty first in case of
Did you ever get a leave?
Just after my initial training. I went home to
see my family, nothing very exciting.
Were you ever issued web gear?
The stuff from Africa? Oh sure, we had lots of it!
My frog for the bayonet was (webbing), like my canteen
strap. Many men had whole outfits of the stuff, you
know, belts, Y-straps, and all!
Where were your packs kept when you went into
These were kept at battalion in our platoon's
wagon. Each unit had a wagon in the baggage train, you
Did you get reading material in the field?
Yes, stuff like "Signal," "Die
Wehrmacht," and newspapers, but the best stuff
was the French magazines which we were not supposed to
have. Some of them were real raunch. Nevertheless, the
Amis always took them from us for themselves.
What were your defenses against Jabos?
If we had sufficient ammunition, we could set a trap
as I once explained to you. Otherwise, we had to get
into the best cover possible when they came and we
were on the move. Sometimes if we could, we would set
off the same color smoke grenades as the Amis. This
marked their lines and the Jabos wouldn't shoot at
them. If we had the same smoke, they wouldn't shoot
How & when were you reissued clothing in the
Before the invasion, you had to prove that your stuff
was unrepairable by the company craftsman and only
then could you get it replaced. After the invasion, we
had to strip the dead and wounded because supplies
were just not getting to us, only a trickle of
munitions and food.
Were you issued candles for the field (sparlampe)?
Yes, little kerosene soaked ones. They burned
pretty well, too!
Where did you carry your overcoat when you weren't
Rolled and strapped to my rucksack back on the platoon
What are your memories of the Zapfenstreich?
This was like what the Americans would call
retreat at night, from what my sons tell me, and only
really occurred while in the Kaserne for us. I
don't remember it while on the coast.
are your memories of your Haupfeldwebel: der Spieß
Our company Spieß was named Thiessen.
When this guy spoke, even your hair stood at
attention. He was tough as nails and always at
the front with us. I don't think he liked all
that clerk stuff. He was wounded just before St.
Do you remember seeing the rifle grenade launcher?
Sure, every Gruppe had one. I wasn't very
good at hitting things with it. But when a guy
mastered it, he could put a grenade down the chimney
of a house!
have cleaning brushes and a sewing kit?
I had a clothes brush and a shoe brush, both very
stiff and well made. My sewing kit was a little
leather folder filled with thread, needles, and extra
buttons. It tied closed. My father gave
that to me.
train with anti-tank weapons: magnetic mines, smoke
When we got to France we were trained with those
weapons, and were those Panzerfausts ever effective!
I saw a lot of that stuff used but as an MG Nr. 1, I
never had to use them in combat because I was giving
were German barracks laid out?
I recall it as a block of four barracks, each a
company arranged around a barrack parade ground like a
ever have a trench knife?
No, just a bayonet. Those knives were issued so
many to a company and then you had to be lucky enough
to get one or you could buy one at the Kantine.
you trained in night combat?
Yes, again, when we got to Normandie.
Were you issued Iron rations?
Only in the beginning. The meat was this ground pork,
it was seasoned and tasted pretty good and we had what
you would call "Hardtack" crackers. We ate
them all the time when we had them.
you remember of the Feldgenarmerie: the Kettenhund?
Those bastards delighted in giving us a hard time,
no matter what we were doing! But when the first
shots rang out, I never saw them again.
What do you remember as pastimes?
I just read and slept when I could. When we did have
spare time to do anything, we went to a show and tried
to go to the Field Brothel or pick up the local girls.
your first days in the Army.
This was a time of rushing all over the place to
get all of the needed things done. We got our Soldbuch
and Erkennungsmarke (dogtag) first, then were
issued our equipment and then got our medical shots.
All very fast and confusing when I look back at it.
Did you have a watch?
I had a wristwatch, from my father.
Did you wear suspenders?
Of course, if I didn't, those trousers would have been
down to my ankles every other step!
you answer a telephone?
I just remember that when we answered the phone we had
to say something like this: "W.N.77, Hier
sort of punishments do you remember?
Most of the time it was fairly harsh extra duty but if
you really screwed up, you went east with a Penal
Battalion. I was always a good soldier and never
had any trouble.
have a soldier's handbook?
Yes I did, we had to buy it. It was only a few
Marks. I don't know what happened to it.
have a camera?
These guys were so eager to help and lick our boots
clean, it made one disgusted sometimes, but they tried
and we had lots of them in various jobs.
ever see female HIWIS?
Why yes, we had these Russian women in the field
kitchens! Many of the units in our division had
them. I never knew their fate after the fighting
Did you ever have a pocket torch?
Yes, I did. Great little thing, buttoned right to your
tunic and left your hands free to work or write.
What were your feelings toward your commanders?
General Kraiss and Oberst Heyna were good leaders.
They did their best for us and they came up to the
front a lot. I still remember Kraiss, he was very
small, with his helmet and MP40. He would even send
some shots off against the AMis. But as for GROFAZ
(Hitler) and the rest, I hope they are rotting in
Who were you required to salute?
We saluted officers and "Unteroffizer mit
Portepee", that is above the rank of
What was the correct form of address for the
Anybody Unteroffizer or above was always
"Herr," but Gefreiters and Obergefreiters
rated this in parade formations. Most of the time, we
just used a Gefreiter's name; we were all close at
regarding the NSFO (Nazi commisar):
Once a week during training before the invasion we got
a lecture from those guys. It was pretty boring
but you had to go. When the fighting started, we
never saw those Barrackepferde and if we did
I'm sure the men on our side would have shot at them.
Where did you carry your wallet?
In my trouser pocket.
you see as the biggest mistakes in Hollywood's
portrayal of German soldiers?
Other than the uniforms and the way they are worn, the
German is always an unthinking dummy who runs out and
dies under a hail of GI machine gun fire. NOT
TRUE. We were good soldiers and fought well.
Just once I would like to see this in a Hollywood
was the call-up and induction process?
In my time, you reported for duty the day after your
17th birthday, then were given a medical examination
and sent to the replacement unit. My replacement
unit was the 171st in Hannover.
What were the common things you kept in your
Wallet, pocketknife, crust of bread, little books like
the bible and my French dictionary. All this sort of
have a pocketknife?
Yes, a gift from my father. It wasn't an army
one but much better. I hope the Ami who took it
from me got good use from it.
ever get beer?
This would come up with the food rations, but in
Normandie we hardly ever got any.
wear the Gamaschen?
First I had those damn things and the ankle boots.
I wasn't happy. Then my older brother, an
artillery Feldwebel, sent me an old pair of his
Marschstiefel. All well kept and resoled.
Those were the best boots I ever had, of course I had
to keep my ankle boots but never wore them again.
a field latrine.
In actual fighting, it was just go find somewhere to
go and do it. We never really had time to make a
proper one. On the coast we had very good ones
in the underground bunkers.
Memories regarding bicycles.
A lot of them were around with our units. I just
remember the sight of hundreds of them strewn about
the road when this Jabo attacked a bicycle unit. (Int.
note: this was the 30th Schnell Brigade).
How uniform was your unit? Did everyone look the
Interesting! When we left the Ausbildungs Abt.
(training unit), we were all the same but after
dispersion into the 352 with the older men and
volksdeutch there was a wide disparity among uniforms,
the color, type, and so on.
regarding Urban warfare:
Nasty business and very deadly in defense or
attacking. The worst thing was that even in the
building you were a bigger target for the artillery or
jabos. I prefered my hole in the hedgerows.
What enemy weapons did you fear the most?
How did you wear your dogtag?
In a leather pouch around my neck.
Describe your field cap and how you wore it.
I had the kind like the mountain troopers. It was
stylish. We put the regulation pinch in the front and
wore it to one side. In the field we put it on our
heads any old way!
That all came up at night and it was just extra duty
for us so we hated to do it. It did mean a
little extra food, though.
were you treated by your own people after the war?
It wasn't bad by those who had sons that had fought or
died but the new government treated you terrible;
repayment for their treatment during the Hitler times.
Final comments from Wegner:
I also want to say I am glad to be able to speak of my
Service time after so many years of silence. I began
to believe that I had been some sort of monster thanks
to television and Hollywood. Even my children were
ashamed of my service. I now know that there are good
people like yourselves that understand that we were
young men fighting for our country. Yes, it was an
evil government, but we had known no other. I am again
proud to say that I was a Grenadier. I will not go to
my grave a "monster" from Hollywood. Thank
you for letting an old man speak of his youth and
thump his chest like a warrior once again.