Jäger Kopold Title

Unternehmen "Barbarossa"
The campaign against the Soviet Union 

With effect of 1st June 1941 Gabriel Kopold became a Oberjäger, which in the Gebirgstruppe is the equivalent rank to Unteroffizier. 

After the brief campaign into Yugoslavia the 1. and the 4. Gebirgsdivision were moved again into the German occupied part of Poland. On the morning of 22nd June 1941 Gebirgs-Jäger-Regiment 98 was positioned around the little village of Dzikow in the southern part of what was Poland until September / October 1939. 

Gabriel Kopold and his comrades were sure that some new action was under preparation, but what was told to them this night by their Kompaniechefs (Company Commanders) was really a surprise if not a shock to them. They were told that Germany needs „Lebensraum im Osten" (Living space in the East) and that the Führer (Adolf Hitler) therefore had decided that the German Wehrmacht was to attack the Soviet Union at dawn of this very morning. They also had been told that this campaign would be quite different from those they had fought during the last two years, since this in the first place would be a crusade against Bolshevism-Communism. Gabriel Kopold and most of his comrades didn't know very much about Bolshevism-Communism or  the „Führers" great visions. But what they did know this morning, as Gabriel Kopold later told, was that this would be the start of a long march with an uncertain end.

At 03:15 in the morning  Gebirgsjäger-Regiment 98 advanced across the German-Soviet demarcation line which had been established in October 1939. Their first objective was the Polish town of Lemberg (L’vov) which the 1. Gebirgs-Division in September 1938 already had taken but what afterwards ,due to the Hitler-Stalin-Pact, had to be handed over to their then new „ally" the Soviets. 

That the war had turned into a horrible dimension became obvious to the Gebirgsjäger when they entered Lemberg and found  piles of corpses of Poles, Ukrainians and ethnic Germans that had been tortured, mutilated and killed by Soviet NKWD-Units prior to their retreat. When all the prisons of the town had been inspected it was estimated that about 4000 civilians had been murdered by the NKWD. Gabriel Kopold later told with disgust  what they had seen in Lemberg in June 1941. But he also told what he experienced about a year later in October 1942 when, because of illness he had to stay for some months in a Wehrmachts-Hospital in Lemberg. 

On one evening he was ordered to escort 3 young concentration camp inmates, who during the day had to work in the hospital, back to a Lager (Camp) outside the town. Since it was rather a distance to march and they also had to take a tram, there was plenty of time to hear from them quite a lot about the horrors of a concentration camp. Though, when they crossed a rather crowded place in the town Gabriel Kopold made a quick decision and gave them a sign to run. When he reported their escape  to the camp guards he was told it wouldn't matter, they would get them anyway.

The 1. Gebirgs-Division and the 4. Gebirgs-Division together with 125. Infanterie-Division, 97. leichte Division and a Slowakian Brigade formed the XXXXIX. (Gebirgs) Armee-Korps and advanced into Russia. Commanding General of this Army Corps was General Ludwig Kübler, the „Father" of the German Gebirgstruppe. Command of the 1. Gebirgs-Divison in the meantime had changed from General Kübler to Generalmajor Lanz. Oberst Schörner the former commanding officer of Gabriel Kopolds Gebirgs-Jäger-Regiment 98 had become commander of the 6. Gebirgs-Division while the Regiment was now  commanded by Oberst Picker. The commanding officer of the III. Bataillon in which Gabriel Kopold fought, was Major Salminger.

After the campaign into France the 3rd Regiment (Gebirgs-Jäger-Regiment 100) of the 1. Gebirgs-Division was used as the „nucleus" to form the 3. Gebirgs-Division. Thus, the 1. Gebirgs-Divison had to go into battle in the East with only two Jäger-Regiments, the 98th and the 99th. 

For the advance into Russia those two regiments, which represented the backbone of the division, were reinforced by detachments from the divisional artillery (Gebirgs-Artillerie-Regiment 79) and by some further divisional troops. Both reinforced regiments formed so called Gefechtsgruppen (Battle Groups) that where named after the respective regimental commanders „Gefechtsgruppe Picker" and „Gefechtsgruppe Kreß". A third  „Gefechtsgruppe Lang", was named after the Commander of the Gebirgs-Panzerabwehr-Abteilung 44 (Divisional Anti-Tank Battalion). This Gefechtsgruppe acted as an advance group.

The remaining units of the division formed the divisional staff, an Artillery Group „Artillerie Gruppe Winkler" and a divisional Reserve Group „Gefechtsgruppe Feld-Ers.Btl." Also attached to the division from other Heeres-units were some Sturmgeschütze (Self propelled assault guns) and some 8,8 cm Flak (Anti-Aircraft Artillery).

On 25 June, before the division reached Lemberg, Gabriel Kopold’s III. Bataillon near Jazow Stary, was encountered by heavy Russian tanks (KW-1 and KW-2)for the first time and also by the well armoured and agile T-34’s. Gabriel later often told how they had been attacked by a number of T-34’s which came upon them through a large corn field showing only their turrets. Again the German anti-tank guns (3,7 cm) weren't able to stop them. This formidable weapon soon was nicknamed by the Landsers „Heeresanklopfgerät", which could be translated as „The army’s door-knocking device". Thus, quite a number of the tanks were attacked by the Jägers by means of makeshift demolition charges - bundled hand grenades. 

One of the Jägers, the prewar Ski World Champion Feldwebel Gustl Berauer (See Photo), from the 13./III. Bataillon stopped 3 of the T-34’s with his squad. One was stopped by Berauer by placing hand grenades into the muzzle of the gun. Another one was finished off by Berauer by lobbing a hand grenade into the open commanders hatch. This day a total number of 28 tanks were killed in close combat by the Jägers of Gebirgs-Jäger-Regiment 98. 

Luckily there were also some 88 mm anti-aircraft guns on the spot who engaged some of the T-34’s. Gabriel Kopold told how the Acht-Acht one by one shot off the turrets of the Russian tanks. He recalled that while watching this, they had the impression these turrets flew as if they were blown away like hats in a strong breeze.

Some actual combat photos of this actions can be found in Alex Buchners pictorial history of „Die Deutsche Gebirgstruppe".
Berau Group
Berau Note
15th / 16th July 1941

The 1. Gebirgs-Division managed to break through the „Stalin-Linie", a well prepared Russian line of bunkers, field fortifications and anti-tank ditches.

The breakthrough of the „Stalin-Linie“ cost the 1. Gebirgs-Division 105 casualties in the two days of combat:
- 5 officers dead, 4 wounded
- 26 Oberjäger (NCO’s) and Jäger dead, 70 wounded.

About 1000 Russian soldiers lost their lives and 286 were captured during the defense of the „Staline-Linie“ against the 1. Gebirgs-Division. 100 machine guns, 8 artillery pieces, 1 tank and 3 aircraft were captured by the „Edelweissdivision“.

Against the heavy resistance of the retreating Russians the 1. Gebirgs-Division reached the river Bug at the town of Winniza. When Oberjäger Kopold’s Gebirgs-Jäger-Regiment 98 arrived at the Bug on 18th July both bridges across the river were already destroyed. One bridge was blown up by the retreating Red Army and the second was heavily damaged when the already placed Russian demolition charges unfortunately went off by a direct hit from German artillery fire. The Gebirgsjäger were not in a position to prevent the escape of the bulk of the retreating Russian forces across the river at a point north of Winniza.

The reinforcements Generalmajor Lanz (the commander of the 1. Gebirgs-Division) had asked for and which had been promised by General Kübler (the commanding officer of the XXXXIX. Gebirgs-Armee-Korps), never arrived. This left the defense of a 43 km front-line to the 1. Gebirgs-Division with its only two Gebirgsjäger-Regiments and the other regimental units. Thus, about 30,000 Russian soldiers got their chance to escape across the river while only about 10,000 were captured. In the pursuit of the retreating Russian forces were the XXXXIX. Gebirgs-Armee-Korps with the 1. and 4. Gebirgs-Division and its other subordinated units. 

Not until 7th August 1941 did they manage to encircle, defeat and finally capture about 100,000 Russians in a pocket near Uman. During the two weeks (roughly) of their pursuit of the Russian forces and the ensuing battle near Uman the 1. Gebirgs-Division had to face a loss of 759 dead or wounded (28 officers and 731 Oberjäger and Jäger). But their „Sister-Division“ the 4. Gebirgs-Division had to sustain even higher losses during the same time (1778 casualties: 52 Officers and 1726 Oberjäger and Jäger). The following figures shall give an impression about the high rate of attrition during the recent weeks of combat against the totally underestimated opponent forces. 

The total strength of the 1. Gebirgs-Division alarmingly dropped:

- from 437   officers    to 264,
- from 79   civil servants   to 4,
- from 2,402  Oberjäger (NCO’s)  to 1,778,
- from 14,883  Jäger to 11,590.

and last but not least:

- from 6,487 horses and mules  to 5,945.

Due to Hitler's orders, prior to the seizure of Moskau, the first priority objective for Army Group South were to take the industrial area of the Donez-district. Next objective of Army Group South was the Caucasus and the oil field around Baku at the Caspian Sea. 

For his merits during these first months of the campaign in Russia Gabriel Kopold was awarded the Eiserne Kreuz 2. Klasse. (Iron Cross 2nd Class) and the Infanterie-Sturmabzeichen in Silber (Infantry Assault Badge in Silver).

Graves of 8 Jägers
Grave of 8 Gebirgsjägers who were killed in action on 20/07/41 near Winniza. Picture is from Gabriel's photo album.
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