21. November 1941
At night we suddenly start up, awakened by a hard, tearing blow. More impacts follow, very close to our quarters. Then it’s quiet again and we go back to sleep. It was the usual harassing fire with which the Russian covers the village from time to time. The next morning we inspect the area around the house. A shell has shattered the garden fence and torn a small funnel into the ground. The young Ukrainian curses and shakes his fists at the east. Then he indignantly tells us that a Soviet patrol has set fire to a couple of houses in the deserted village my machine-gun squads see lying below in the Donets valley. The Reds had stuffed pillows under the rafters and set them alight, with the thatched roofs immediately ablaze.  How he knows this? A few refugees from the abandoned village have probably found shelter here in Tikhotsky and sneak over from time to time to check on things.
I go into the kitchen. From here you can see my mortar positions. At the window stands a young woman - probably a relative of our proprietors. She is standing bent over, her elbows resting on the window sill, looking out, because there is a fire raid by Soviet mortars pelting the path that leads to my positions. I step very close behind her and look out as well. The Ivan seems to know or to suspect that there is a path and my mortar positions.
Our village is divided into two parts by a meadow through which a stream flows. Our village is the smaller part. The other part of the village is bigger and - I think - also has its own name (Ssuchaja-Kamenka?). The school of this village is currently being shelled by a Russian infantry gun because it is occupied by Germans. I watch everything from my living room window. As the first hit smashes into the upper storey of the front, the Landser below dash out of the back exit for cover. I have rarely seen anyone run so fast. It looked uproariously funny.
Our line of defence on the Donets is very thin. Due to the surprising onset of winter, the emplacements and bases are often insufficiently strengthened. Moreover, they are often several hundred metres apart, sometimes even kilometres. The Russians soon realised this and begin to slot themselves in. For example, on the broad ridge north of us lie both German and Soviet positions, of course at a respectful distance and sometimes unseen from each other. They only fire in the opposite direction. A truly grotesque state!
Since our long-range reconnaissance had - allegedly - reported that there are no longer any major Soviet troop formations between the Donets and the Don, it is assumed that the bulk of the Soviet armies has retreated behind the Don, leaving only security units on the Donets. From these, however, no major offensive operations are to be feared, especially since winter has set in with all its severity. And so the German army command (or Hitler) probably believed they could get by with a minimum of defensive forces. At any rate, that is the assumption here. I believe that our divisions have already been weakened in terms of personnel by the losses they have suffered so far, so that there are not enough soldiers left at all for a denser occupation of the positions. In any case, it was therefore possible for the Bolsheviks, whose patrol activity is very brisk, to establish themselves in many places between our thin lines. This is all the easier because the terrain here in the Donets region is mountainous, hilly, full of ravines and difficult to overlook.
So the Russians had by no means gone back behind the Donets everywhere. In our battalion section alone they were sitting in several places on this side of the river in confusing terrain, and even - as already described - directly between our positions. Where they find it possible, they even try to advance. On the heights north of the village, where Sasse is also lying with his machine gun, they have even quite cheekily built a Pak (anti-tank gun) position - within sight! - and begin to plaster the village with direct fire. But this is getting too stupid for the battalion. It is decided to "iron out" these incursions. Probably Lieutenant Herzog offered to carry out this enterprise with our company, because we subordinate commanders were called to a meeting. According to the plan, one company, reinforced by my heavy mortar platoon, was to climb the broad slope on the Donets and clear out the Russian positions there. In wide-open order we go up the slope. Lieutenant Herzog runs far ahead. There we get fire from behind! The Pak on the northern slope can seize us in direct fire from behind. We see the position, see every shot, see the tracer grenade fly straight at us and burst near us. It is completely useless to try to evade. Before you know where they’ll hit, they’re already there. Fortunately, the first shots usually don’t hit immediately until they are adjusted to the right distance and direction. That’s when we observe the Pak coming under fire from one of our infantry gun positions. After a few shots, the red Pak emplacement is destroyed by a direct hit, and the rest of the strongpoint crew - we count 13 men - flees to the rear. Now we have our backs free, reach the heights on our slope and are met by enemy infantry fire. I take up position with my mortars in a balka (loess gorge), but before I can get a shot off, the attack is called off. Ivan could be forced out of some positions, but a complete clearing of our front line has not been achieved. A reinforced company is too weak for such a task in this terrain. At least we have peace for a few weeks, because since our attack Ivan has been quiet.
Instead, he surprises our battalion in another place. A little further downstream is a small village on a flat slope a few hundred metres from the Donets. Behind the village, dense forest began. I think it was Krasni Jar. The landsers called it Winkeldorf. The hamlet was occupied by a rifle company of our battalion, to which another platoon of our machine gun company was subordinated. A comrade from our machine gun platoon later told us about the event. One night the Russians had come unnoticed over the ice of the Donets, surrounded the village and attacked and stormed it at dawn. At noon, however, they were thrown out again by our men in a counterattack.
In the meantime, however, the Iwans had appropriated everything the Germans had left behind when they left the village. The villagers said that immediately after the storm the Russians came across the ice in Panje carts and hastily loaded and drove away all the equipment, knapsacks, laundry bags, haversacks, blankets, shelter halves, mess kits and other stuff. A farmer who tried to prevent the Red Army soldiers from taking a wounded German with them was slapped in the face. After the recapture, our men were back in their quarters, but their belongings were all gone.
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- ↑ Deutsche Heereskarte Osteuropa 1:300.000 sheet Z50 Isjum at MAPSTER
- ↑ Ssenitscheno, for sure
- ↑ Similar notes in KTB 257. I.D., NARA T-315 Roll 1804 Frame 000322, for 25. Nov. The basis was Stavka order No. 428 of 17.11.1941.
- ↑ The status report of the 257th I.D. dated 15 Nov 1941 (KTB 257th I.D., NARA T-315 Roll 1804 Frame 000173/74) reports a shortfall of over 4,000 men. “The fighting strength of the troops is so reduced by the losses that in infantry only about 60% of the heavy weapons can be manned.”
- ↑ KTB 257th I.D., NARA T-315 Roll 1804 Frame 000181
- ↑ At that time, the author was leading a reinforced heavy machine gun platoon, at other times, a heavy mortar platoon.
- ↑ KTB 257. I.D., NARA T-315 Roll 1804 Frame 000181 notes on 21.11.1941: "About 1400 hours a powerful enemy patrol advanced from the Donets into Longinowa area with heavy machine gun and mortar support against our protection force [or (Frame 000320) "on our own protection forces II/477 at Longinowa till Kamenka"]. Enemy repulsed but keeps on south bank of the Donets." Longinowa is the northern neighbouring village of Tichotzki.
- ↑ Krasni Jar no longer exists; but it can be found, for example, on the Map Russland 1:100000, sheet M-37-99
- ↑ (angle-village) in KTB 257. I.D. (NARA T-315 Roll 1804 Frame 000207) “Winkelhausen (angle-ham)”
- ↑ On 23.11.1941, KTB 257. I.D. (NARA T-315 Roll 1804 Frame 000190) records an attack and counterattack “northwest of Bogoroditschnoje” where Krasni Jar lies; however, it is not shown on the map used by the division staff at that time, Russland 1:100000 sheet M-37-XIII Ost Kramatorskaja.