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Stalingrad detective work

Some excellent detective work by Alex Skvorin has revealed that the photo of a German prisoner was taken in Stalingrad during the September fighting. A rare photo indeed. Alex wrote:

“The photo did not have any captions. But from the first photo everything seems to be clear. In the background, you can see a bit of the House of Specialists on the embankment of Stalingrad. I couldn’t solve the problem with the prisoner for a long time until I combined these two photos. Roofs of private houses, columns match precisely. Both photos were taken in Stalingrad, in the same place. As a result, a photo of a German prisoner of war (probably 71st infantry division) surrounded by our soldiers, still at the early stage of the battle. I think it’s September 1942.

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Heinrich Buschhoff, panzer officer at Stalingrad, passes away aged 100

24.10.1920 – 28.10.2020.
Heinrich Buschhoff, one of the last living panzer officers who served at Stalingrad, and one of the 6000-odd men of 6. Armee to survive captivity, passed away last week, just 4 days after reaching the 100 milestone. He lost his wife, aged 95, just a few months earlier.
When my friend Oliver visited the Buschhoff farm back in 2014, 94-year-old Heinrich was still working outdoors – physical work out in the fields – at the head of his family. Over the course of a 5-hour interview, various sons and grandchildren came in to listen to his stories. It was apparent they were a close-knit family.
Herr Buschhoff’s Stalingrad experiences with Panzer-Abteilung 103 were used in our book “Panzerkrieg Volume 1”.
To honour his fallen comrades, he requested that instead of flowers, donations be made to the Volksbund, the German equivalent of the War Graves Commission.
IBAN DE23 5204 0021 0322 2999 00
Spendenkonto Trauerfall Heinrich Buschhoff
As a young recruit.
A freshly baked officer.
Manning an AA post.
His Panzer III short-barrel in the Stalingrad pocket.
Heinrich and his wife Christel in 2014 during the interview.
Despite his age, Heinrich had excellent recall of events from 75 years ago and occasional witticisms that produced some laughs.
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Familiar face

When researching for a book, one often looks at the same photos dozens of times, and each time a new detail is discovered or certain faces become familiar. Although his name is not known (yet), the front-line service of this Obergefreiter from Aufklärungs-Abteilung 29 can be followed during the opening weeks of Barbarossa.
With access to casualty lists, this man could be identified. It will be a while before his name and ultimate fate is revealed.
Care-free hijinks in June 1941, a week or so before “the world held its breath” when Barbarossa began. At this point, these men did not know they were being sent into the Soviet Union. Our unknown protagonist is top right.
Here he is in late June 1941, rounding up Red Army prisoners on the Zelwa-Slonim highway.
Aufklärungs-Abteilung 29 suffered very heavy losses in the period 27-30 June, so they were granted almost a full weeks’ rest to recover.
Fate caught up with him in Smolensk on 21-22 July 1941. Despite thick dressings, his arm wound continues to bleed through. This is the last time he appears in this photo grouping. Hopefully his ultimate fate can be deduced once his name is uncovered.
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Serendipitous Then & Now comparison

A serendipitous then & now comparison, though not very exciting, I’m afraid.
While using Yandex maps to find/confirm the location of a series of photos, a modern photo uploaded by a Russian user showed almost the exact spot where this heavy MG was set up. Thanks to this otherwise unremarkable modern snap, the WW2 photos can now be accurately captioned. Also, by cross-checking with aerial photos and maps, we now know what the MG-34 was being lined up on: a creek on the opposite bank, where encircled Red Army troops may try to escape.
This is the Dniepr River in late July 1941 and the German troops are facing west (north-west, in the case of this gun).
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A Soldbuch is the key to identifying an officer

The importance of using every source to research and write a book cannot be stressed enough. Sometimes photos come with captions scrawled on the back, but most times they do not, so it is up to the researcher’s knowledge and ability to fill in the blanks. We recently had one such case.
A series of photos showed a Hauptmann leading the Panzerspäh (armoured recon) company of Auf.Abt.29 during the opening stages of Operation Typhoon, the advance upon Moscow, in mid-November 1941. A man by this rank commanding this company could not be found in any source, such as war diaries, transfer announcements, and promotion and casualty lists. The breakthrough came when a generous collector, Bill Brooks, provided scans of a Soldbuch to a man in the same unit. Each page was scoured to find a signature of this mysterious Hauptmann, and sure enough, there it was… It took a while to decipher, but it seemed to be “Kurzai”. A very unusual name.
Fortunately, a personnel file still existed and a copy soon came into our hands. It proved that the previously unidentified Hauptmann was indeed Erich Kurzai. His tenure with Auf.Abt.29 was so short that it did not even rate a mention in his main career highlights, but mention was found in one document. His photo and signature match perfectly.
Please remember that when you purchase one of our titles, a lot of time and effort has gone into determining the date and location, as well as who appears in it. One of the great pleasures in this kind of work is adding names to previously anonymous faces.
An unknown Hauptmann (middle) consults a map with the adjutant of Auf.Abt.29, Leutnant Dietrich (left), 21 November 1941. Who is he?
After much fruitless searching, the first major clue came from a Soldbuch. We felt certain this signature belonged to the mystery man. Expert opinion was that it read “Kurzai” and a man by that name and rank was found.
After obtaining his Personalakte (personnel file), a quick glance at the enclosed photo showed we had the right man.
However, Auf.Abt.29 is not mentioned in his career highlights.
Eventually, towards the end of the rather thick file, we found one mention of Auf.Abt.29, proving beyond doubt that Erich Kurzai was the unknown Hauptmann.
Comparison of the two pics:
Comparison of two signatures, one from his personnel file, the other from the Soldbuch:
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Are these fallen Red Army soldiers still buried here?

Is it possible these fallen Red Army soldiers are still buried here, under this asphalt road (Skhol’naya Ulitsa) in Pogreby, Bryansk Oblast?
Early on the morning of 12 October 1941, elements of the Soviet 282nd Rifle Division attempted to break out of the Bryansk pocket and ran into Aufklärungs-Abteilung 29, which had only taken up quarters in Pogreby the previous evening. Though they surprised the Germans, their escape attempt collapsed in heavy fire. In the aftermath of the brief battle, the Germans brought in 160 prisoners and counted 104 bodies. Local civilians buried the dead.