Rudolf Rahardt

Rudolf Rahardt was born on 26-10-1919 in Grossengottern, which is
near the city of Mühlhausen in Thüringen, Germany.
Rudolf was unmarried, and as profession he was a mason.

I don´t know for how long, but in 1939 Rudolf was in the RAD.
That is the Reichsarbeitsdienst, the German labour-service.
Rudolf was in the RAD unit 2/234, located in the Thüringen area.
His RAD service would be about 6 months. Because of the war that
officially started in 1939 and the mobilisation of the army, Rudolf was
automatically conscripted in the German army after his RAD service.

In the 2 photo´s below you can see Rudolf in happier times during his
RAD service. You can see that he even made some rank promotion(s).

I do not know exacty when Rudolf joined the German army, but he arrived at his training unit around January 1940. His training unit was Pionier-Ersatz-Bataillon 29, he was in the first Kompanie.
This Bataillon was based in the Kurhessen-Kaserne in the town Hannoversch Münden, near Kassel in Germany. Here Rudolf got his basic army and Pionier specialisation training.

After his training Rudolf was send to a combat unit, this was the 2. Kompanie of Pionier-Bataillon 299. This Bataillon was part of the newly created 299. Infanterie-Division, based in Ohrdruf, Erfurt.

On the photo on the right you can see Rudolf with a buddy getting ready to go from their training unit to their new unit in Ohrdruf. This was on 5 or 10 april.

On the left 2 tradition symbols (truppenkennzeichen) as used by the 299. Infanterie-Division.

Rudolf took part in the invasion of western Europe with 2./Pionier-Bataillon 299. His Division was first placed as OKH-Reserve behind the Westwall. During the invasion the Division moved into Luxembourg behind the frontline Divisions, still as reserve. Later, in the second phase of the invasion, the Division was placed under the 16. Armee of General der Infanterie Busch and attacked from south-Luxembourg into France to the area south of Sedan. After that the Division moved in the direction of Verdun, through the Argonne forrest. Thereafter the Division crossed the Maas River at St. Mihiel and Commercy in the region west of Toul. Rudolf was promoted to Gefreiter (private first class) on 2 June 1940. On 22 June, an armistice was signed between France and Germany, going into effect on 25 June.
The battle for the low countries was over. Germany celebrated their spectaculair victory.

Now the Division functioned as occupation force in France, during which every soldier got home-leave to see his family. Rudolf got his home-leave on 23 July which lasted untill 11 August 1940.

Around September 1940 the Division was transferred to eastern Germany for another task, Operation Barbarossa, the upcoming German invasion of Soviet Russia. How the route for Pionier-Bataillon 299 went is unclear to me, but i think they left on 5 September 1940. Some parts of the Division travalled trough Belgium and Holland with trains. On the left picture you can see Anton, Walter, Werner and Rudolf before they left to east Germany on 5 September 1940.

I don´t know when, but sometime during this time Rudolf was with some fellow soldiers in the town of
Hastiere in Belgium. Below are 3 pictures of this. It might be during the transportation to east Germany, or maybe during the occupation duty.

From east Germany, the Division transferred to Poland. While in east Germany and Poland the Division conducted allot of training for all troops for the upcomming Invasion of Soviet Russia. The infanterie for example trained extra in how to cross rivers. Also preperations were being made to improve the efficiency of the supply chain in delivering goods to the frontline troops. Extra horse-drawn carts where added to troops in the Division.

On the photo on the right you can see Obergefeiter Grelamke?, Feldwebel Grunendahl, Unteroffizier Teuss and Gefreiter Rudolf near a watersupply in Krakau, Poland, on 15 April 1941.

The Division was now part of the XXIX. Armeekorps under the
6. Armee of Heeresgruppe Süd (southern part of the upcoming invasion front).

Rudolf got another home-leave, beginning on 18 February and ending on 11 March 1941. During this leave, Rudolf visited a world war one memorial with his girlfriend Ilse and another soldier named Anton.

On the photo on the left you can see a picture of Rudolf's visit to the world war one memorial. Rudolf is dressed in a walking-out uniform (Waffenrock) with a visor cap for low ranking soldiers. Both are piped with a black fabric along the edges (waffenfarbe), black was the tradition color for Pionier units. Rudolf is wearing a parade bayonet instead of his standart issued combat bayonet. The other soldier, Anton, is wearing a standart M36 model army uniform with sidecap.

You can also see that the belt buckle from Rudolf has a better shine on it then Antons, its probably also a private bought parade version. Maybe Rudolf wanted to impress his girlfriend? Rudolf also has something pinned on his left breast pocket.
But i cannot see what that pin or badge could be.

Rudolf's leave could not last forever, after it ended on the 11th of March he went back to his unit. Rudolf was issued a MP40, new bayonet and a compass on 21 April 1941, suggesting that he had some sort of (lower)leading function (see photo below, extra inserted weapon/equipment page in Soldbuch). Arround this time, Rudolf was promoted to Unteroffizier (Sergeant), going into effect on 1 July 1941. With this new rank and previous issued equipment and weapon Rudolf was most likely a Gruppenführer (Squad leader).

On 22 June 1941 the German invasion of Soviet Russia began.
The 299. Infanterie-Division took part in it from the beginning. Starting with the crossing of the Bug river, which was the current Polish-Russian border, in the early hours of the 22th. The Division was on the left wing of Heeresgruppe Süd, with the 111. Infanterie-Division as their right neighbour. The target for the Division was Shitomir, about 370 Km. into Soviet Russia (Ukraine).

Early July 1941, the Division was engaged in attacking the Stalin-Linie near the river Slucz and the town of Zwiahel. On 9 July, between 05:00-05:30 hour, Infanterie units of the Division were able to cross the river Slucz without much difficulties. After that they continued in the direction of Zwiahel. First capturing the heights east of the Slucz river in the afternoon (4km north-east of Zwiahel). The next day, the Division was able to capture around 400 Soviet soldiers during the fighting. After Zwiahel was captured the Division moved further into Russia, in the direction of Shitomir.

German soldiers in Zwiahel, 1941.

On 21 July 1941 the Division got a small break from the fighting and some time to rest. This wasn't for long, as they had to go back into action on the 25th of July. On 28 July, the Division marched trough the conquered city of Shitomir. The Division continued its advance in the direction of the Dnieper river. At Zhulyany they crossed the river and participated in the attack on Kiev. The battle for Kiew took place between August 1941 and 26 September 1941. After the battle, the German army had captured around 665.000 Soviet soldiers, 884 tanks, 418 Anti-tank guns and 3018 Artillery guns. The Soviet Southwestern-Front was destroyed.

On 15 November 1941 Rudolf was awarded the Eisernes-Kreuz II Klasse (Iron Cross second class). On 21 November 1941 Rudolf was awarded the Allgemeine-Sturmabzeichen, the assault badge for miscellaneous troops. Normal infantery would receive the Infanterie-Sturmabzeichen, but as Rudolf was a Pionier he received the "Allgemeine" version. To be able to qualify for the Infanterie or Allgemeine sturmabzeichen, you had to participate in at least 3 separate assaults on the enemy, or to have been wounded in one. Both awards were written in his Soldbuch on page 22.

In 1942, the Division was in the Liwny-Woronesch area, mostly dug-in and not much moving. Defending and attacking. In June 1942 the Division had its HQ (Gefechtsstand) in Fedorowka, Russia. The Division´s right neighbour was the 45. Infanterie-Division and the left neighbour was the 262. Infanterie-Division.

In this month, Rudolf´s unit had a tent encampment near a town called Mochowoje. He also made 3 pictures here. On the right you can see the II.zug (platoon) of his 2.Kompanie making frames near the water (Stegebau). On the 2 pictures below you can see the village itself.

On the 15th of Juli 1942, Rudolf was part of a so called "Brandkommission" (fire-control-team) during a house-fire in the town of Zuino. During this incident they made a picture of themselfs (see the picture on the left). You can see Rudolf standing on the right side of the picture. In the background you can see some Russian civilians. The fire must be on the left (not seen in the picture).

You can also see Rudolf wearing his Allgemeine-Sturmabzeichen and the ribbon for his Iron cross second class on his uniform jacket.

On the small picture on the right you can see a tent encampment. with Rudolf in the left forground. Date and location unknown.

On the 8th of August 1942, Rudolf had some happy times as can be seen on the pictures below. Rudolf can be seen playing on a guitar while smiling. All of the pictures are taken in or near a town called Nepotschatan. In the background of the top 2 pictures you can see the local army "Verpflegungsraum" (supply room). In the lower left picture you can see Rudolf in front of a wood-earth bunker.

On 20 August 1942 Rudolf was awarded the "Winterslacht im Osten 1941-1942" medal. This medal was for soldiers who served in Russia during the harse 1941-1942 winter. To qualify, you had to have been in combat for at least 14 days, receive a combat wound or be active near the front for at least 60 days (even if not engaged in actual combat).

On 8 September 1942, Rudolf was granted leave from 13 September till 7 Oktober 1942.
Some time in late 1942 Rudolf received special winter clothing for the 1942-1943 winter. This equipment was noted down on page 7 of the Soldbuch.
On 9 November 1942 Rudolf was awarded the Verwundeten-Abzeichen in Schwarz (black wound-badge) by the staff of his unit. Rudolf must have received a combat wound. It probably wasn't a big wound, as there is no hospital data written on page 12-13 in the Soldbuch for this date. Rudolf probably stayed with his unit.

On the 6th of December 1942, Rudolf was awarded the Eisernes-Kreuz I Klasse (Iron Cross first class).

In February 1943 Rudolf got freezing related disorders and was pulled away from the front. On the 26th he was hospitalized in Reserve-Lazarett Zeithain. Zeithain is located in eastern Germany.

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