Heinz Beckert

Heinz Eduard Beckert was born on 4 August 1910 in Eibenberg, Bezirk Chemnitz in Germany. Heinz had (at least) one child and was married with Käthe Obernitz. They lived together in Elsterberg, in Germany.

As profession Heinz was a clothing salesman. Heinz was a member of the Sturm-Abteilung (SA). He had received the SA sports medal and the national sports medal. He is wearing both on the right picture.

At the outbreak of the war in 1939, Heinz was or had already been in the German army and needed no furter training. Heinz was a Feldwebel (2st. Sergeant) and officier candidate at the time. He had to prove himself in the field to be accepted as officier. Heinz was put in the Panzer-Abwehr Kompanie of Infanterie-Regiment 476. This Regiment was part of the newly created 256. Infanterie-Division.

This Division was moved to the Protektorat Böhmen und Mähren (Czech) as occupying force. In November 1939 the Division was moved to Lippstadt as OKH-Reserve unit.

On 10 May 1940 it took part in the invasion of western europe under XXVI Corps. The Division advanced from the area of Kleve (Germany) to the Muse river in the area of Gennep (Holland). The Division advanced further into Holland and fought at the Peel/Raam line at Mill (town). Due to the fact that the Muse bridge at Gennep the only big one was that was not destroyed it took time to get all the troops of the Division on the other side of the Muse. Arriving units were trown in the battle at Mill part by part. Therefore heavy fighting ensued which lasted 2 days. This battle was one of the heaviest for the Dutch army during WWII. At Mill there was an important traffic junction. Due to logistical reasons the German army needed it.

Part of the Peer-Raam defensive line in Holland, 1940

After the battle at Mill the Division continued its advance through 's Hertogenbosch and Tilburg into the area south of Breda. Here they crossed the border into Belgium and advanced to Braschaat and Antwerp. From here they continued to the area of Nieuwpoort (Belgium) and fought in the Dunkirk (France) area between Nieuwpoort/Dunkirk and the Canal. After the battles were over here, the Division stayed in the area as occupying force. After the invasion of western Europe was over, the Division was moved to the Bretagne area in France as occupying force.

Remains of the British forces at Dunkirk, 1940

In February 1941 the Division moved to Northern Poland. In May they were stationed in the Suwalkizipfel area. From this area the Division took part, under Army group Mitte, in the invasion of Russia on 22 June 1941. The Division advanced and fought its way into the Polozk Area. Thereafter the Division advanced to the Newel river, crossed it and went towards Welikije Luki and beyond it. The Division took part in the drive towards Moscow and was able to reach the Kalinin area. The German forces were not able to reach Moscow itself. The advance was stopped by the Russians. By now the winter cold and snow had arrived.

General overview of Operation Barbarossa in 1941

At some time in the second half of 1941 Heinz was wounded. The exact date is not known to me, as that info is missing in the Soldbuch. He received the wound badge in black for his wound on 19 Oktober 1941.

Divisional signs of the 73. ID

After healing from his wound(s), in early or middle of 1942, Heinz was transferred to another unit. Heinz was placed in the 14.Kompanie (Panzer-Abwehr) of Infanterie-Regiment 170. This Regiment was part of the 73. Infanterie-Division. As Heinz did not receive the so called "Winterschlacht im Osten 1941/42" medal, he wasn't at the front during late 1941 and early 1942 (probably due to his wound).

In July 1942 Heinz's Division took part in the advance into the Caucasus. The Division fought its way to Rostow. There are allot of Nahkampftage (close combat) days noted in Heinz's Soldbuch. They only give the date, not the actual location of combat. With the help of the Kriegstagebuch (war diary) of the Division and other books i was able to see in what area the Regiment or Division fought at the specific days. But not for every day.

Heinz had 6 close combat days noted in his Soldbuch for July 1942.
On the 25th his Regiment crossed the Don river 10km West of Rostow. On the 27th the Regiment fought at Bataisk. On the 28th the Regiment fought at Nowobataisk and on the 29th at Alexejewka. On 3 August 1942 Heinz's Bataillon (III Btl.) fought at Kusslekowska. The III. Bataillon suffered 9 deaths and 30 wounded. Nowo Platinowskaja was captured on the 6th and Medwedowskaja on the 7th.
Soon after the Regiment and other parts of the Division reached Krasnodar.

The German advance into the Caucasus area, 1 August 1942

On the 9th of August Heinz Bataillon was formed into Kampfgruppe Hopf (Hauptmann Hopf) and stormed the trainstation of the city Krasnodar. The following days the Division kept fighting in the city untill they captured it on the 13th. On the 15th the Division crossed the Kuban river. The Division fought well into the Kuban area and went South towards the coastal city Noworossijsk (Noworossisk/Novorossiysk). At this time the Division had covered more then 300 Km. in just 16 days under terrible heat and high enemy resistance.

Krasny was captured on the 16th and Mingrelskaja on the 17th. On the 18th the Division had heavy fights with the 103.Sovjet-Rifle-Brigade. On the 19th Krimskaja was captured. The Division continued via Nishne Bakanskaja further into the Caucasus. Heavy fights ensued at hills 462,2 and 520,6 and when 2 Sovjet Brigades did counter-attacks. The Division reached the coastal city Noworossijsk. On the 20th Heinz was awarded the Iron Cross 1st class. On the 31th a direct artillery hit caused 1 death and 8 wounded in the staff of Heinz's Regiment.

On 3 September 1942 the Division attacked Noworossijsk. Heinz's Regiment was on the left wing and stormed through the Atakajskaja ravine and reached the hill and the there situated workerhouses. The attacks of the Division on Noworossijsk continued. Heinz's Regiment Held their positions against heavy counter-attacks. On the 5th Heinz's Bataillon stormed hill 531,3 and fought in severe close combat for it. They were able to capture it. Later on the day the Division was able to capture most of the city. On the 6th Heinz fought at the hills around Noworossijsk. Fighting in the hills at Noworossijsk continued till at least the 7th. The Division was able to capture the city together with other units. After capturing the city the Division stayed as occupying force and set up defences. The Russians wanted the city back. On 17 September 1942 Heinz was promoted to Leutnant, retroactive from 1 August. Heinz was probably wounded in the battles. On 20 Oktober 1942 Heinz was awarded the Assault badge in Silver, for participating in earlier storm attacks on the enemy.

German soldiers fight on the streets of Noworossijsk, 1942

On 20 January 1943 a sniper shot and killed the commander of Infanterie-Regiment 213, Oberstleutnant Marbach. Heinz's Kompanie (14./) did the honorguard of Marbach in Noworossijsk.

In the port city Noworossijsk the Germans build up their defences. In fear of Russian attacks via the sea they put units along the coastline. Heinz was given his own front-part. Named Abschnitt Beckert, and together with Abschnitt Braun and Abteilung Glatz they were part of Gruppe Naske (Oberleutnant Naske). Gruppe Naske was part of Kampfgruppe Noworossijsk. Abteilung Glatz, the reserve unit for Gruppe Naske, was actualy Feldstrafgefangenen-Abteilung 10. This prisoner unit consisted of convicted Wehrmacht soldiers that had to prove themself on the front to be rehabilitated. Usually they would get dangerous jobs like clearing mines or storming difficult enemy strongpoints.

Russian soldiers fire their cannons into Noworossijsk

The Germans were right, the Russians planned an invasion of Noworossijsk by sea.
The battles are described in the war-diary of the Division.

On 3 February 1943 at 22:45 hours Russian planes trew bombs on Noworossijsk. 15 minutes later heavy Russian artillery fire starts and hits the entire coastline and innercity of Noworossijsk. From the sea multiple Russian ships join the fire. Mostlikly 1 cruiser and a few gun-boats. The bombardmend endures for about 25 minutes. Communication lines from commandpost Naske to the front are cut-off.

At 23:15 hours the Russians cross the see in many small boats and sail to the German front.
The Germans from Abschnitt Beckert and Braun fire at them with MG fire and PAK cannons.

At 23:50 hours, Heinz reports that his unit was able to destroy 2 boats near his command post but that others had landed near the fishery. From the fishery came loud infantry sounds.

At 00:15 hours Gruppe Naske ordered a 50 men strong alarm unit under command of Leutnant Pendzich to assault along the coastline towards the fishery and make contact with Leutnant (Heinz) Beckert.

At 00:30 hours, 2nd Kompanie of Abteilung Glatz arrives at Gruppe Naske and is also ordered to fight itszelf towards Abschnitt Beckert.

Gruppe Naske is not able to make contact with Abschnitt Beckert. Soldiers send to repair the communication lines are being shot at.

At 01:10 hours, Heinz reports to Gruppe Naske that the Russians had landed with about 6 to 8 boats at the fishery. After most of Heinz's PAK cannons and an MG received direct hits and were out of action, Heinz's unit continues fighting as infantry.

More and more Russian boats try to land at the coastline. A larger 15-20 meter long Russian boat is sunk.

At 02:45 hours Heinz reports that the fishery is captured by the Russians, that Pendzich's unit has heavy house to house combat in the North-east part of South-Stanitschka. Heinz's commandpost is making an 360 degree defence.

At 04:00 hours it is reported that Pendzich's unit together with other alarm units were not able to reach Heinz. They stall in heavy house to house combat.

At 04:15 hours, Heinz reports that he cannot hold his positions much longer, he is completly surrounded by the Russians. He estimates the Russians at about 300-400 men. Heinz orders his remaining men to escape through the Russian lines and make up a new defence line at the North-edge of South-Stanitschka.

At 05:00 hours, the Germans succeed in halting the Russian attack and make a new frontline.
At 06:00 hours, aditional German troops arrive and reinforce the frontline next to Heinz's unit.

Russian soldiers storm into Noworossijsk from boats, 1943

Later that morning more troops arrive and try to push back the Russians, but they don't succeed. The following days fighting in Noworossijsk at Stanitschka continued. Later on, 4 close-combat days were recorded in Heinz's Soldbuch (4, 5, 7 and 8 February). On 10 February Gruppe Naske had 6 officers, 49 NCO's and 243 men and 24 Russian helpers. In total Kampfgruppe Noworossijsk had about 2000 men.

The front on 5 and 6 February 1943

Overview of Noworossijsk in 2016

In these days Heinz was probably wounded, because in early March 1943 he received the Wound badge in Silver (as this badge is for 3 normal wounds, it is likely that he was wounded around September 1942 as well). And Heinz went on leave from 28 April till 25 May 1943. The close combat days list also stops untill Oktober 1943.

The fighting in and arround the city Noworossijsk continues for month's. In September 1943 the German forces retreat out of the area. In Oktober the Division moved back and South of Melitopol while fighting Heinz's Regiment crossed the Dnjepr river and went towards Melowoje. At what date Heinz was back with his Regiment is unknown to me. But on 12 Oktober 1943 the close combat list starts again, so at least in Oktober Heinz was back. On 27 Oktober 1943 the Regiment had just 170 combat ready men left. On 1 December 1943 the Regiment did a mandatory periodic security check and wrote this in Heinz Soldbuch at page 15. Heinz received the Close Combat clasp in Bronze for participating in 15 close combat fights on the 12th and went on another leave from 13 December till 10 January 1944.

In early 1944 the Division went to the Krim peninsula. It moved to the Kertsch peninsula and defended it. The Division participated in a fighting retreat back to the Krim, towards Sewastopol. Here the Division was destroyed in early May 1944. It is unknown to me what Heinz did and if he was present.

Remains of the Division were moved to east-Hungary in June 1944 to rebuild the Division. Heinz was with his unit at that time, as he received a new Soldbuch. The one pictured in this article. What happend to the old Soldbuch is unknown to me, this is the reason why i miss allot of information. At this time Heinz was part of the staff units of his Regiment. Heinz was also promoted to Oberleutnant. Heinz had been wounded again, for the 4th time. But i do not know when. It had to be in late 1943 or early 1944.

On 6 July 1944 Heinz received a new drivers licence. Later in July the Division was rushed to the front at Warschau as an emergency. The Division arrived at Warschau around 20 to 22 July and was placed 40 Km. east in the Line Garwolin-Parysow-Latowicz. Grenadier-Regiment 170 (Heinz's unit) was placed at Garwolin, Grenadier-Regiment 70 at Parysow and Grenadier-Regiment 186 at Latowicz. The Division was in combat North of the Weichsel river under the IV.Waffen-SS-Panzerkorps. On 1 August 1944 the rebellion in Warschau started. The Division continued fighting in the area of the Weichsel river untill they got pushed back. The Division suffered heavy casualties.

In September 1944 Heinz received another mandatory periodic security check, written on page 15. Heinz's close combat list stops in September 1944, it wasn't updated after that. In Oktober 1944 the Regiment was able to receive some reinforcements. Heinz received the Close Combat clasp in Silver for participating in 30 close combat fights.

On 15 January 1945 the Russians mounted a big attack against the German front. Heinz's Division suffered heavily. Heinz's Regiment had luck and suffered not as much as the other units within the Division. Remains of the Division did a fighting retreat and went towards Thorn (Torun) in west-Prussia. The Division arrived at Thorn on 25 January 1945, Thorn was just encircled and the Division fought its way into the city. The circle around Thorn closed again and the Division was now part of the so called "Fortress Thorn". Hitler ordered all troops within Thorn to fight to the last men. After a few days of hard battle the order came to break out of the encirclement. This was planned for the evening/night of 30 January. It was planned to break out towards Kulm-Schwetz. This was to be a very difficult undertaking, as it was very cold and the snow very high.

Oberstleutnant Hofmann

When the outbreak started Heinz's Regiment, under command of Oberstleutnant Hofmann, was at the tip of the attack. Major Bader of II.Bataillon became wounded early in the attack. In the morning of the following day, the 31th, they succeeded in breaking out.

In the night Heinz's Regiment was in Cichoradz. On 1 February 1945 the attack towards the German lines continued, Heinz's Regiment was at point again. Heavy fights started in the forrest North of Cichoradz, but they were able to overcome that. On the next day they continued, the Regiment was in the lead with 1st Kompanie on point. On the 3rd of February the Regiment with the remains of the Division crossed the Weichsel river. The units continued fighting in the direction of Schwetz. They reached the German lines at Schwetz and heavy fighting ensued to break through the Russian lines.

After hard fighting the remains of the Division managed to reach the German lines. The 3 Grenadier (Infantry) Regiments within the Division each had about 150 men left. The soldiers were worn out and tired.

The units did not get much rest as the Russians continued their attacks. The next day, on the 4th, the Russians made a breakthrough. The remains of Heinz Division were able to fight back but with trouble. In the afternoon on the 5th, a direct artillery (Stalinorgel) hit killed the commander of Heinz's Regiment, Oberstleutnant Hofmann. On the same day they captured the town Andreashof and Heinz was wounded again, this was the 5th time. Heinz was hit by artillery. Heinz might have been together with Hofmann?

The wound probably wasn't very severe as Heinz stayed with his troops. On the 19th Heinz received the Wound badge in Gold from his new Regiment commander, for being wounded 5 times. At a later date Heinz was transported to the Reserve-Lazarett in Rinteln, Germany. He arrived there on 29 March 1945. At some time in March Heinz was promoted to Hauptmann (Captain). On 3 April 1945 Heinz was transported to another hospital. But the hospital name wasn't written down in his Soldbuch.

Heinz was lucky. The Division staff and some remaining troops were to be shipped from Prussia to Germany in April 1945. They were on a ship named Goya. This ship was attacked by a Russian submarine and sunk on 16 April 1945, shortly before midnight. Only a few survived in the dark ice cold water. More then 7000 people, soldiers and civilians, died. The Division was gone.

Heinz probably stayed in the hospital till the end of the war.
It is unknown to me what happend with Heinz after the war.