An Oak Leaves Nomination for SS Panzer Commander at Kursk Hugo Kraas
An Oak Leaves Nomination for SS Panzer Commander at Kursk Hugo Kraas Hugo Kraas Nomination for Oak Leaves to his Knight’s Cross; Translations Reads:1. SS-Pz.Div. “LSSAH” January 3rd, 1944; Hugo Kraas, born January 25th, 1911 in Witten/Ruhr, held the rank of SS-Obersturmbannfuhrer and served as Regiment Commander in the 2nd SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment “LSSAH”. On January 6th, 1944 Kraas suffered a shrapnel grenade wound to the right cheek and maxillary sinus and received medical attention. At the time, Kraas holds the rank of SS-Obersturmbannführer and is the regiment commander of the SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment 2 “Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler”. He was wounded on January 6, 1944, when he took a grenade splinter to the jaw. There is a detailed account of the mission that lead to the recommendation of the Oak Leaves. As part of the Operation Citadel, Kraas’s regiment was tasked with taking a strategically important hill near the town of Bykowka (Bykivka, Ukraine) on May 7, 1943. Kraas showed exemplary leadership and bravery, fighting in the first rows and personally blasting an anti-tank trench. On December 27, 1943, Kraas’s regiment was defending a position that was attacked by the Russians. Kraas managed to lead his troops in a way that thwarted the enemy attempt to empocket them. He then retreated successfully to a new defensive position without losing any of the heavy weaponry under his command. He then established the new defensive position and successfully held it against the determined Russian forces. A list of the destroyed or captured weapons of the enemy follows. For these reasons, Wisch recommends Kraas for the Oak Leaves. A note by SS-Obergruppenführer and Panzer General of the Waffen-SS Josef “Sepp” Dietrich (1892–1966) simply states: Agreed. A document, “The Knight’s Cross recipients of the Waffen-SS, chapter 5”. 4 pages, measuring 159x223mm, very fine condition with folding creases that have started to come apart. SS-Sturmbannführer Hugo Kraas is the first entry on page 4. A print of a photo of Kraas, measuring 107x136mm, showing him in the rank of SS-Standartenführer, wearing the Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves. Footnote: "During operation “Citadel” the 2nd SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment was ordered to smash through the stiffly defended, densely wired, mine littered, and firmly entrenched defenses south of Bykowka, and to capture the hills north of Bykowka. After the vanguard engaged the outlaying posts in the night from the 4th to the 5th of August, 1943, the regiment with two battalions came in for the attack at 0400 hours. The enemy defensive fire was extremely strong. The grenadiers were able the prise out the defending Russians meter by meter and break their solid defense only by use of tight assault groups and by destroying their machine gun nests, heavy grenade launchers, anti-tank guns in their trenches. During the extraordinarily hard battle there were heavy losses, and during the reordering of the squads there was a brief pause in the fighting for the trenches, which afforded the Russians time to strengthen their defences. This crisis was made up for by the decisive personal assault by Regiment Commander Kraas, when he himself banded together the assault forces at the front line of the panzer trenches, and because the company engineers were down, he personal exploded the trenches and created a way for the Panzers and Assault Guns. He then sent the Panzers with assault troops against the hill, and in a short time, with himself among the troops with shovel and grenades in hand, with his own heroic example got the assault rolling again. After the hill was captured, Kraas ordered the immediate continuation of the attack on Bykowka and the northern hills. Spurred on by the exemplary war-like spirit of their commander, the grenadiers renewed their attack, and despite bitter resistance they reached their objective. Even in this continued attack, Commander Kraas was the driving force. Still with a handful of men banded together hurrying towards the most difficult positions of the battle, they tore ahead and by 1600 hours was able to capture Bykowka and the surrounding hills. The exemplary bravery and decisive conduct of Commander Kraas is to thank, that the grenadiers continued the attack on the southern front of the divisional operation and met the objectives of their attack on the first day of battle. On December 27th, 1943, the 2nd SS Panzergrenadier Regiment, under the command of Kraas, at the left wing of the division was charged with the defence of a wide front to the north and east with attacking Russians with armour and infantry at the eastern edge of Starosselje, the eastern edge of Kotelnja to the north and the connecting rail line. After the Russians carried out daring recon from the north and east with tanks, they took to the offensive around 1300 hours with regimental strength with the support of 13 Assault Gun style T34s. The attack stayed in the defensive fire zone of the grenadiers of the 2nd SS Panzergrenadier Regiment and 3 T34s were destroyed. Because of the determined defence, the enemy decided that evening and in the late hours of December 27th, 1943, with infantry and tanks in roughly the strength of a corps against the salient at the left flank of the 2nd SS Panzergrenadier Regiment, to smash through the defensive line, to reach and barricade the taxiway of Shitomir-Berditschew and to attack Berditschew to the north-west. This massive attack began on December 28th, 1943 with a forward attack by 15 T34s with infantry mounted in the left flank of the regiment from Turowez. A counter attack from the Regiment’s Panzer Group repelled the attack. Roughly one hour later, a further attack by 35 Panzers with mounted infantry succeeded against the left wing of the regiment and their combat post in Wolossowo. The Panzer group of the regiment and their anti-tank weapons, along with close quarters troops destroyed 19 T34 and was able to deny the attack and inflict heavy losses on the enemy. Against the right wing of the infantry seated on enemy tanks, Commander Kraas personally led the men of his Regiment staff in a counter attack and destroyed much of the enemy infantry.After this failed and costly attack the enemy panzers withdrew to the rail line, and renewed their preparations at 12:30 in the area north of the rail embankment and south of Iwniza with a force of 2 regiments with 40 Panzers, and 2 regiments and 20 panzers from the north and the east from the area of Schubarowka-Turowez-Jusofowka to attack Staraja Kotelnja. Even though back-tracking the regiment to the southern bank of the Guiva was appropriate because of the terrain, Commander Kraas was able to halt the attack by way of constructing a new main front line. By this decision, his personal engagement with the construction of the main battle line and his participation in the defence of that attack, Kraas had prevented the encirclement of his unit and their heavy weapons. In the meantime the Russians managed a breakthrough on the left wing of the regiment. In the counter attack, Kraas along with the men in his regiment staff along with a few Panzers were able to destroy 7 enemy tanks. After successful defence against the infantry attack, the Russians with a mass of tanks retreated to the north-west. Carrying out the orders received in the meantime to the division to move to a defensive line south of the Guiva became difficult because the way that was prepared for the heavy weapons of the regiment was destroyed. In spite of the steadily increasing pressure from the enemy, the strong enemy tank and grenade fire from the east and the north against the exit routes, Commander Kraas managed to move the heavy weapons accompanied by Panthers, going parallel to the Russian line, over the farther route. During this retreat, it was the decisive leadership of Kraas, who was the last to cross the bridge, to thank that the fighting squadrons and vehicles with heavy weapons did not land in enemy hands or were destroyed. In the night of December 29th, 1943 the enemy succeeded in winning bridgeheads over the Guiva before the new main battle line could be manned with infantry and Panzers. From these strong bridgeheads over the course of the afternoon the Russians launched multiple attacks with infantry and 20 tanks against the positions of the 2nd SS Panzergrenadier Regiment. By way of the low terrain to the northwest of Woroshino the enemy came hard with tanks, while the first group of enemy infantry punched into the north eastern section of the position. A crisis arose when a part of the 1st battalion withdrew following the death of their commander and nearly all junior leaders, all the while the enemy charged southwards. In this critical situation, Commander Kraas banded together all available men from around the position; writers, radio operators, communications specialists, drivers, and medical staff, and led them, himself with a sub machinegun in hand, in a counter-attack along the rows of houses towards the north and north-west, threw back the enemy, and there re-established a new main battle line at the perimeter of their new location. All following enemy attacks were beaten away, and thereby an orderly retreat was made possible for the rest of the regiment under the cover of darkness. By holding this position, and what constituted for the enemy a terrible day of losses the previous day, the 2nd SS Panzergrenadier Regiment bore the brunt of the Russian Tank Army’s spearhead, and made possible the evacuation of the entire division, and the manning of the new battle line north-east of Berditschew and the orderly relocation of the division thereto. Under the leadership of Commander Kraas, the 2nd SS Panzergrenadier Regiment destroyed or captured in total: 91 enemy tanks, almost all of them T34, of those 29 were destroyed in close combat 63 anti-tank guns, 15 cannons, 36 trucks, 49 anti-tank rifles, 118 machine guns, 31 grenade launchers, 3 aircraft, 6 field kitchens, 29 trailers, 3200 killed. 900 captured, Commander Kraas had proven himself as a true warrior and leader. His personal courage, his decisiveness, and his prudence are extraordinary and serve as a brilliant example to his men. Because of his exceptional leadership, his bravery, and well as his exceptional personal daring and fearlessness, I hold Commander Kraas as worthy of receiving the Oak Leaves to the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross, and beseech you to award him this honour. Signed Wisch; SS Oberfuhrer and Division Commander.