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The German Cholm Shield

The Cholm Shield (“Cholmschild”) was awarded to all members of the German army, police, navy and air force who were trapped in the small Russian town of Cholm from Jan. 21 to May 5, 1942. Only about 6,000 men qualified to receive it.

by Clement V. Kelly

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Generalmajor Scherer being invested with the Knight’s Cross,
during the siege, by the officers of his staff.
Ron Leverenz Doughboy Military

Cholm was a small Russian town, located at a Y, formed by the confluence of the Lowat and Kunja rivers. The German Army “Kampfgruppe” (combat group) Scherer, commanded by Generalmajor Scherer had become completely surrounded by the Red Army on Jan. 21, 1942.

The Germans held an area of approximately one square mile with about 4,000 army personnel and another 1,500 men of the air force, police and even some sailors from the navy. Here we have one of the rare occasions where the air force was able to sustain the besieged troops successfully by air. A small airstrip was located northwest of the town on the northern side of the river Lowat, on which the JU-52 transport aircraft landed.

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The reverse of the author’s Cholm Shield.
Ron Leverenz Doughboy Military

However, increasing Russian fire soon made the airstrip untenable, destroying landing aircraft. After this, supplies had to be dropped by parachute. The air force was able to drop food, munitions, medical supplies, mail, horse feed, schnapps (on Scherer’s orders the schnapps were to be given only to the wounded), and even three Knight’s Crosses to be awarded to the defenders. On Feb. 21, a radio message from Hitler’s headquarters informed Scherer that he had been awarded the Knight’s Cross and one was hung around his neck by officers of his staff. After the successful relief of the encircled troops, Hitler had Scherer report to his headquarters to receive the Oak leaves to the Knight’s Cross.

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The obverse of an authentic Cholm Shield in
the author’s collection.
Ron Leverenz Doughboy Military

In what was said to be the worst winter in 145 years, the Soviets mounted 128 assaults on the town with tanks and infantry, killing 1,550 Germans but were unable to overrun the defenders. On May 5, 1942, after an incredible siege of 105 days, the embattled “Kampfgruppe” was rescued as a “Sturmgeschiltz” (self-propelled gun) and Panzer Grenadier troops broke into the town, followed by the relieving German forces.

During the siege, police “Rottwachmeister” Schlimmer designed a shield as an award on the suggestion of General Scherer, which was made an official award by Hitler on 1 January 1942. The Cholm Shield (“Cholmschild”) was a white metal shield, 40mm wide and 62mm high, showing a huge eagle with drooping wings (which took up most of the shield), standing on an Iron Cross with an oversized swastika in the center. Below the Iron Cross, in two lines was CHOLM and 1942 in large letters and numbers. The shield was attached to a cloth backing. It was awarded to all members of the army, police, navy and air force who were trapped in the town from Jan. 21 to May 5, 1942. For air force personnel to be eligible they must have actually landed on the airstrip on supply missions. Flying over the area, dropping supplies by parachute did not qualify for the award. The slaleld was also given to the next-of-kin of those killed during the siege. A miniature of the shield was authorized to be worn on the left lapel of civilian clothes.

The Cholm Shield is rather scarce as only about 6,000 men qualified for the award and it was no longer awarded after 1 April 1943. In Warman’s World. War II Collectibles, compiler John F. Graff cited a Cholm Shield as having sold for $1,675, giving a clue as to its rarity and desirability.

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