"Der Teufel Los"

    On 30 March 1945 the 507th Heavy Tank Breitkeil (wide front) Konigtiger Panzer Battalion, was attached to the SS--Regiment Holzer defending Hamborn and Paderborn with 15 of the King Tiger tanks of the 3rd Kompanie setting road blocks on both sides of the road in the west near Kuhlenberg. The Kompanie Kommander, Hauptman Wolfgang Koltermann, with five tanks of the 3rd Zug (platoon) was hidden in the woods in the high ground on the north side of the road defending the route to Kirchborchen and Hamborn Schloss. The 1st and 2nd Zugs with five tanks each were well hidden on the south side of the road blocking off the approach to Borchen.

    The 507th Headquarters Kompanie tank commanded by Wolf-Dietrich "Dieter" Jaehn was blocking the east end of the road to Dorenhagen and Eggeringhausen. The 2nd Kompanie, commanded by Hauptman Maximillian Wirsching was east at Busch and also hidden in the woods. It was comprised of nine King Tigers and 3 Feuerschutz Jagdpanthers (Tank Destroyers) blocking the road to Eggeringhausen. These three Kompanies set the ambush that totally destroyed the ill-fated assault on Hamborn by the US 3rd Armored Division's Task Force Welborn; which also resulted in the death of its Division Commander Major General Maurice Rose. See footnote #1

    The Tiger 88 main gun was deadly at 1,000 meters. The American column with "Big Six" (General Rose's code name) were less than 700-800 meters away and blindly approaching without sending out any reconnaissance patrols. They had no knowledge of their pending disaster about to occur. Koltermann could hardly believe his good fortune.

    The following German veterans were assigned to the 507th Battalion on 23 September 1943 and were sent to the Russian front in March of 1944. After being credited with over 600 Russian tank "kills," they were returned to Sennelager on 6 February 1945 to be refitted with Tiger IIs. Note those with the Ritterkreuz (Knight's Cross) decoration.

Major Fritz Shoeck, Ritterkreuz, Battalion CO, August 1944- May 1945
Hauptman Hannes Steinborn, Supply Officer
Hauptman Wolfgang Koltermann, Ritterkreuz,, CO 3rd Kompanie
Hauptman Maximillian Wirsching, Ritterkreuz, CO 2nd Kompanie
Hauptman Hannes Steinborn, Tank Commander 
Lieutenant Wolf-Dietrich Jaehn, Hqs, Tank Commander 
Lieutenant Heinrich Jahn, Tank Commander 
Lt. Eckart, Tank Commander 
Lt. Georg Reinhard, Tank Commander 
Lt. Peter Heesch, Tank Commander 
Lt. Woerner, Tank Commander 
Lt. Exler, Tank Commander 
Lt. Foerster, Tank Commander 
Lt. Gustav Stadler, Tank Commander 
Lt. Helmut Kuessner, Tank Commander 
Lt. Berhold, Tank Commander 
Lt. Bernard Pfeuffer, Tank Commander, Platoon Leader, 2nd Kompanie 
Lt. Eychmuller, Tank Commander 
Lt. Krahling, Supply Officer 
Oberfeldwebel Fritz Breitfeld, Tank Commander 
Oberfeldwebel H. Dietz, Tank Commander, Platoon Leader 
Oberfeldwebel Edmund Ratajczak, Ritterkreuz, Tank Commander 
Oberfeldwebel Zinke Tank Commander 
Stabsfeldwebel Voss, Tank Commander 
Feldwebel Willi Wolf, Tank Commander 
Feldwebel Fritz Ebner, Tank Commander

    After ambushing Task Force Welborn, with disastrous results for the 3rd Armored Division, the 507th Battalion CO, Major Fritz Shoeck, gave orders to withdraw to the area near Dorenhagen. It is believed that it was Koltermann's 3rd Zug (Platoon) 3rd Kompanie with orders to deploy and withdraw to Dorenhagen who confronted General Rose on the road. Attempting to escape eminent capture, Rose's jeep had passed two Tiger tanks going in the opposite direction in the dark on a narrow road when the third tank blocked his jeep. General Rose dismounted, surrendered and became a POW.

    The tank commander, of the third tank in road march formation who remains unidentified among the names listed above, had blocked Rose's jeep and was standing in his turret. After shouting unclear commands in German to General Rose, he aimed his M38 Schmeisser machine pistol, set on Dauerfeurer (full automatic) with the 32 round magazine, and without justification, fired repeatedly at General Rose, who had his hands raised in surrender; striking him fourteen (14) times, resulting in his instantaneous death.

    For the record, neither the 507th Headquarters Kompanie nor the 2nd Kompanie tanks were any where near the road location where Rose was machine gunned.

    After experiencing severe platoon leader prior losses on the Russian front due to having taken the lead tank position, a change of tactics was made to maintain platoon control; the Zug commander would now take the third position in an attack, following his two lead tanks, called the "Keil" formation. In a road march, the platoon leader would take a position in the middle (third) in the straight line formation called "Reihe." As the Kompanie CO and tank commander, Koltermann, in Tank #301, after decimating Welborn's column from the high ground and giving the orders to redeploy on his radio with the third platoon, as CO he would have been in the third tank in the road march deployment formation.

    To date, in spite of repeated requests, the 507th survivors have refused to identify the specific 3rd Kompanie platoon leaders; although the name and tank number of every tank commander in each of the 507th Kompanies were recorded during this encounter on 30 March 1945 defending Paderborn.

    Four decades had passed and almost to the day when the Sennelager-Paderborn Battle Field Walk Through was conducted by Major Philip Halford Mac-Leod of the British Army in the British Zone of Occupation of Germany on March 28, 1985; six veterans from the 507th participated. Present were Koltermann, Jaehn, Jahn, Eychmuller, Reinhard and Stadler; with Helmet Schneider as the recorder. This small group verbally recreated the Chronik (History) 507th from memory, without notes or journals; later it was published (edited) by Helmut Schneider.

    It was at this meeting in late March, 1985, on the fortieth anniversary of Passover/Good Friday of 1945 that this small group of 507th survivors met at Dieter Jaehn's home in Goettingen as his house guests.

    During this meeting when the details leading to Rose's indefensible death were being discussed when Koltermann made the following startling explanation, "Der Teufel los!" (The Devil was loose!). Was this a repeat of Macbeth's Banquo's ghost who disrupts a banquet? Was this exclamation a mea culpa with these chilling words or an epiphany that caused Koltermann to recall this night of terror and General Rose's killing without justification or cause? Was he seeking absolution in an act of contrition -- or disavowing any personal involvement and complicity? One can only speculate. Koltermann was an old man also facing the specter of death in the few years he had remaining. He died not long after, still denying knowing the name of Rose's killer or giving the name of third tank commander's name. Koltermann knew the name of each of his fifteen tank commanders in his 1st, 2nd and 3rd platoons; and moreover, after the road mop up, by radio check he knew where each tank was located when he gave the redeployment order of "Tigers march!"

    I have had several letters of correspondence with Dieter Jaehn, who is fluent in English. In being cooperative, he telephoned me on 22 August 1999 from his summer home in Nova Scotia, Canada to respond to my interview and answer my many questions. In addition, at my request, he obtained the photo of Wolf Koltermann from Widow Frau Koltermann and received her permission to use her husband's photo in our biography of General Maurice Rose. Frau Koltermann moved from Augsburg to Nurenberg after the death of her husband. Jaehn also sent me photographs standing next to his Tiger Tank with two fellow crew members.

    Sebastian Hupfl, a Bessarabien-German from Romania, known as Wastl to friends, served in the 507th Tiger Panzer Battalion in the 2nd Kompanie, in Tiger Tank # (203), 1st Zug (Platoon) under the command of Zug (Platoon) Ladeschtz (Leader) Lt. Pfeuffer. Hupfl was the tank Richtschuetze (main gunner targeting the 88 mm) with Fahrer (driver) Walter Ertl, Funker (radio) Werner Schurig. The tank #202 commander was Stabsfeldwebel (Sergeant) Voss. Tank #203 was commanded by Feldwebel Fritz Ebner. Tank number #204 was commanded by Feldwebel Willi Wolf with Richtschtze (gunner) Jodl, Faher (driver) Helmet Gunther, and Funker (radio) Hans Prager. In action the next day, 31 March 1945, near Altenbeken, 3 of the 507th Tiger tanks were knocked out in an ambush; Ebner, Ertl and Schurig were killed; Voss was injured and hospitalized; Hupfl was wounded and sent to hospital at Bad Driburg and was captured there. See footnote #2

    While a Prisoner of War in November 1945, Hupfl requested and was granted permission from the British Army POW Camp Commander to walk 20 kilometers to bury his dead comrades whose remains were still in the destroyed hulls of their tanks. After burying their remains at Boedekkeen with the assistance of a priest from Kirchborchen and marking their grave sites, he returned to the POW Camp as promised. He escaped in the spring of 1946 - stopping to visit the widow of Ertl, only to learn that she had left town with an American soldier. He then returned to Freiburg where he made his home.

    Sebastian Hupfl sent me a copy of the Chronik 507 (History) along with his personal comments and notations in the margins; plus extensive file copies including maps from the German Army Freiburg archives on the history of the 507th from conception to the end of April 1945 when it ceased functioning as a tactical unit due to its loss of tanks and men.

    Footnote #1. The Germans (unsubstantiated) claim is that 100 young Waffen--SS prisoners were shot and killed by the US 3rd Armored Division the next day in retaliation for General Rose's death. Quoted from "Das Kriegsende 1945 im ehemaligen Hochstift Paderborn" Page 19 by Waldemar Becker. 

    Footnote #2. See Chronik (History) 507 pages 237-255 - especially page 250 for KIA. Page 250 Hupfl buries Ebner, Ertl and Schurig.

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