Hans-Heinrich Burmester

Hans-Heinrich Burmester was born on 27 September 1912 in Mölln, Kreis Lauenburg in Germany. Hans was married to Lieset Burmester. Hans was a career officer and had attended the Heeres-Feuerwerkerschule (weapon/equipment) school.

As a career officer he was already in the German army before the war broke out. During the big mobilisation of the German army in 1939 Hans was in the staff of the 1.Panzer-Division. Hans was an Oberleutnant with a specialisation in (heavy)weapons/ammunition/explosives/equipment. From this Division he received his erkennungsmarke (army identity-disc) and Soldbuch (paybook).

With this Division Hans participated in the invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939. The Division started from the Oppeln area and attack through Poland via Tschentstochau, Gidle, Kamiensk to the Weichsel river. They arrived and crossed the river at Gora Kalwarja and attack into the northern direction. On the 18th of September the battles ended for the Division and the units went back to their barracks in Germany. The costs for the Division in the invasion of Poland were 203 death's, 412 wounded and 38 soldiers missing.

German Panzer units fight their way into Poland, 1939

In November 1939 the Division assembled at Dortmund and early March 1940 in the South-Eifel area. On the 10th of May 1940 the Division participated in the invasion of western Europe. They crossed the border of luxembourg and drove into Belgium, after which they went to France and broke through the French defences. The Panzer-Division drove through France towards Dunkirk.

1.Panzer-Division units cross the Maas river. French POW's are being escorted back with German guards

Strong French forces were hiding in the Boulogne forrest, behind the German frontline. When the Ib of the Division, Hauptmann i.G. Graf von Kielmansegg, drove away from Cremarest he encountered enemy forces at Alincthun. The vehicle they were in was shot at. Graf von Kielmansegg and one of his aides, Unteroffizier Cernik, became wounded. His other aide, Feldwebel Probst, died at the scene. When other supply/staff units tried to retrieve the wounded they also received a hail of fire from the village. Heavy fighting commenced at the village. Even with the help of 2 anti-aircraft guns from 2./Fla.59 they did not succeed. In this battle Hans became wounded. Hans was hit with shrapnell and hospitalized for 5 days at motorized Feldlazarett 623. With the help of combat units of the 10.Panzer-Division (which were behind the 1.Panzer-Division) the enemy resistance was broken and the village captured. It turned out to be an entire French Bataillon. The Germans were able to capture 12 French officers and more then 360 soldiers. The Staff and supply units of Hans's Division that tried to retrieve the wounded had suffered 4 deaths and 14 wounded.

After recovering from his wound Hans went back to the 1.Panzer-Division and continued his duty. Hans received the Eisernes-Kreuz II Klasse for his actions in May and the Verwundetenabzeichen in Schwarz for his combat-wound. Both awards are written down in his Soldbuch on page 22. The Division continued fighting till 22 June 1940. The costs for the Division in this invasion were 421 death's, 1244 wounded and 130 missing soldiers. After these battles the Division stayed in France as an occupation force for about 2 and a half months. In early September 1940 the Division was moved towards Eastprussia. Around this time Hans left this Division.

In Oktober 1940 the 20.Panzer-Division was created in Erfurt, Germany. Hans went to this new Division and was put in the staff again. In May 1941 the Division was send to east-Prussia and on 22 June 1941 it participated in the invasion of the Sovjet-Union. The Division fought towards Minsk. Around that area they were able to surround a large Sovjet army force. Later the Division drove towards Witebsk and after heavy battles captured it. In late July 1941 the Division was north of Smolensk. After some battles the Division got a small rest and in the middle of August they continued their drive North. After more battles the Division was moved to the middle section of the Eastern-front, in the Roslawl area. Untill now the losses of the Division in Russia were as follow: 929 death's, 2420 wounded and 50 soldiers missing.

From the Roslawl area the Panzer-Division started their offensive towards Moscow in early Oktober 1941. In late Oktober 1941 Hans received the Kriegsverdienstkreuz I Klasse from the Oberkommando des Heeres for his service on the front so far. The mission of capturing Moscow failed, the German army wasn't able to reach it. The Russian winter with its snow and very low tempatures made things even worse. The Germany army wasn't prepaired enough for a harsh winter. Equipment failed, soldiers froze to death.. it was terrible. The German army, including Hans's Division had to retreat on several area's. This gave the Sovjet forces time to re-assemle their forces. The Division went into the defensive and became static instead of their normal mobile role. The winter weather prevented that. In February 1942 Hans was promoted to Hauptmann (Capatain) by the Division. The melting snow created a new problem: endless mud!

In June 1942 the static battles ended for the Division and the Division was send to the Rshew area were they continued to fight. At some time in the middle of 1942 Hans was send back to Germany. Hans was send to Heeres-Abnahmeinspizient XIII. This was an Army Acceptance Inspectorat. In these facilities they tested (newly) made equipment and weapons before being delivered to the Army. Hans was mostlikly an technical Inspector. In 1942 Hans received the Easternfront medal for his service on the eastfront during the 1941-1942 winter. On his Soldbuch picture you can also see his 4 year army service medal. This medal was not written down in his Soldbuch so i do not know when Hans received it. Hans stayed with this testing facility for a long time, even into 1945.

In March 1945, as both the eastern- and westernfront were already on German soil, every man was needed for the front. This also included Hans. With an order from the Chef of the Army-staff, Rüst, Hans was to be part of one of the Panzer-Vernichtungs-kommandos (Panzer-destroy units) of Oberstleutnant Below. One of these Panzer-Vernichtings units was Kampfgruppe Borttscheller, also known as Sperrverband Bortscheller (blocking unit Bortscheller). Hans was put in this unit. I do not know what Hans's position in this unit was. I do know that this unit was created in Hannover. This unit was equipt with Panzerfaust (anti-tank rockets) and anti-tank cannons. It was Bataillon sized, concisting of 3 company's and a staff. Due to Hans's rank and frontline experience it is mostlikely that he was a company leader.

Kampfgruppe Borttscheller was send to the Harz mountain area, to stop the US-army advance. Upon arrival in the first days of April Hans's unit was put next to SS-Panzer-Brigade "Westfalen". This SS-Panzer-Brigade consisted of 2 infantry Regiments; SS-Regiment "Meyer" and SS-Regiment "Holzer" and 2 panzer elements: Schwere-Panzer-Abteilung 507 and SS-Panzer-Abteilung 26. Hans's unit was put at the Reinhards forest and received the order to make obstacles and stop any American attack here. This task was to big for such a small unit, but there was no one else to do it.

German anti-tank cannon in action, location and date unknown

On the 4th of April 1945 the US-army caught up with the frontline. By the evening, contact with the enemy was reported from everywhere. This included Hans's unit. Hans was hit by bullets this day, but was not hospitalized. Probably due to the fighting he had to stay with his unit. The next day the fighting continued. On the 6th the fighting increased at the Reinhards forest. In the afternoon the US-army forces managed to break through the defences in the forrest with a surprise attack. Most of Sperrverband Bortscheller was destroyed. Only small parts and the staff managed the escape. A gap in the front formed.

Hans was one of the "lucky" ones and escaped. He continued to fight against the US-army forces. On 10 April part of Hans's equipment/clothing was lost/destroyed due to the enemy, this was noted in his Soldbuch. Two days later, on the 12th of April, Hans received the Eisernes-Kreuz I Klasse (iron-cross 1st class) from the LXVI army-corps for his actions on the front.

US-Army forces attack in a forest near Fürstenberg, Harz

On the 15th of April Hans was able to go to the medical dressing station of the "Meyer" SS-Regiment, SS-Truppenverbandplatz "Meyer", and get medical aid. After this Hans went back to his unit and continued fighting. At some time during late April or early Mai 1945 Hans was captured by the Allied forces. Hans was registered as P.O.W. on the 31th of Mai 1945 and put in a P.O.W. camp.

German POW's in 1945