Keeping track of Hitler’s soldiers
by Chris Willaim
When Adolf Hitler and the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (N.S.D.A.P — Nazi party) came to power in 1933, the expansion of the Germanic territories, was uppermost on their agenda. With increased volunteers and the reintroduction of the military draft, Wehrpässe (singular = der Wehrpass; plural = die Wehrpässe) were issued. These detailed booklets contained the personal and service information about the conscripts. They were filled out and given to the registered parties to be used for identification and recording purposes.
When (and if) the individual was accepted into a branch of the military (Army, Navy, Air force or Waffen SS), then his Wehrpass was exchanged for a Soldbuch (a less-detailed identification book physically carried by active personnel). Wehrpässe were then kept and filed in unit headquarters, where they would be frequently updated to reflect the soldier’s ongoing military service, campaigns, promotions, and awards.
Three types of Wehrpässe were used: An early version (1934-1938) fronted by an army style eagle with downward wings and gothic script on the grey cover; a wartime version (1938 to the end of the war) with outstretched eagle’s wings and gothic cover script;and a late war version (used sporadically from 1942 to the end of the war) with outstretched eagle’s wings, but plain printed script on the cover. Besides the slight modifications to the covers, each of these three versions also varied in their interior page layouts and content.
The bottom of the cover of all three types often have the ink stamped or written words; Heer (Army), Kriegsmarine (Navy), Luftwaffe (air force), or Waffen SS (armed SS) to designate the bearer’s branch of service.On the top right corner, the soldier’s initials were sometimes written in a small box for ease of filing.
The first page of each version bears the owner’s name, his Kennkarte (civilian general id) numbers, his Arbeitsbuch (civilian employment work book) numbers, and, on the later versions, his Erkennungsmarke (identification tag) numbers.
The bottom of the page lists the location where the Wehrpass was originally filled out, the date, and the signature of the officer filling in the information.
Page 2 contains the owner’s double riveted and stamped photo with his signature below.
Pages 3 and 4 list his personal data such as his (1) Familien-Name (last name), (2) Vorname (first name), (3) Geburtstag (birthday), (4) Geburtsort (birthplace), (5) Staats Angehörigkeit (nationality),(6) Religion, (7) Familie-Stand (marital status), (8) Beruf (occupation), (9) Eltern (parents’ names and occupations’ a Cross and date written below a parent records their year of death), (10) Schulbildung (school training), (11) Kenntnisse in Fremdsprachen (foreign languages spoken), (12) Berufliche technische oder sportliche Befähigungsnachweise (occupational or athletic qualifications), and (13) Nachträge (additional notes).
Page 5 lists his date of registration, whether he was either a Freiwilliger (volunteer) or a Dienstpflichtiger (conscript), his place of registration, and his physical classification: Aktive dienende (active duty), A.V. (fit for army labor), K.V. (fit for combat), G.V (garrison duty), U.K. (job deferment), or Frontbrauchbar (front line duty).In addition, he would be classed as Reserve I (fully trained under 35 years old), Reserve II (partially trained under 35 years old), Ersatzreserve I (untrained, uncalled, under 35 years old), Ersatzreserve II (unfit under 35 years old), Landwehr I (trained, 35-45 years old) or Landwehr II (untrained 35-45 yearrs old).
Pages 6 and 7 contain information on the future soldier’s decision to bypass active participation in the Reichsarbeitsdienst (national labor service) and when, and to what, unit a conscript would enter the military.
Pages 8, 9, and 10 record his service, promotions, and release from the Labor Corps if he had first participated there before seeking military service entry.
Page 11 repeats his classifications, and lists his entrance date and place into the service that he had chosen.
Pages 12 through 15 list the man’s active service in either the Heer or Luftwaffe.Each line lists his unit, date and roster number.
Pages 16 and 17 list his active land duty if he was a member of the Kriegsmarine.
Pages 18 and 19 in the first version Wehrpass contain active ship board service information for a member of the Kriegsmarine. In the second and third versions, records of both Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe men serving on Kriegsmarine ships are recorded on these two pages.
Pages 20 and 21 contain information as to training a soldier received for weapons (20) and special military schools (21). Third version passes contain an additional skill section on the bottom of page 20, and information as to medic training for the soldier on the bottom of page 21.
Pages 22 and 23 in all three versions were reserved for promotions, while the first two versions differed by including awards and decorations on the bottom of page 23.
Pages 24 and 25 in the third version contained spaces for the soldier’s orders, decorations and honor roll appointments.
On the first two versions, page 24 contained a soldier’s date of discharge and details such as his final rank, and location of release, while page 25 contained information concerning his post service details, such as his occupation, etc. In addition, the bottom of 25 contained a warning that if he divulged military secrets he would incur harsh penalties.
Pages 26 and 27 of the first two versions contained space for additional notes about his military service. In the third version, pages 26 and 27 contained discharge data, and details on his post service occupation.
Pages 28 through 31 in the first two versions contained records of his special training and the maneuvers in which he participated. In the third version, page 28 contained a fulfillment of service section to be completed after 2 years of service, page 29 was for additional notations, while pages 30 to 33 listed the soldier’s battles and campaigns. Battles and campaigns (dates entered followed by locations) were listed on pages 32 and 33 in the first two versions of the Wehrpass .
Page 34 lists the soldier’s wounds and illnesses in all three versions.
Page 35 is for additional medical information pertaining to these. Descriptions here can contain the abbreviations: k.v. (fit for combat), g.v.F. (fit for limited field service), g.v.H. (fit for service behind lines), or tauglich (fit). If a soldier was killed in action, it was so noted and dated on these pages .
Page 36 in the first two versions lists the man’s reserve status with two supplementary classifications added in addition to those listed on page 5: Landsturm I (trained replacement over 45 years old) and Landsturm II” (untrained replacement over the age of 45).
Pages 37 and 38 provide additional space for promotions and appointments: the bottom of page 38 for additional awards not shown in the preceding pages. In the third version, pages 36 and 37 have spaces for the recording of the man’s reserve status, while pages 38 through 40 record the annual reserve assemblies.
These assemblies are recorded on pages 39 and 40 of the first two versions.
Pages 41 through 45 in all three versions show dates and stamps for the recruitment offices that the conscript was to report to.
Page 46 listed equipment given to the soldier such as Gasmaske (gas mask), Stahlhelm (steel helmet), Mütze (cap), Stiefel (boots), Brillengläser (eye glasses — added on third version) and his Blutgruppe (blood type). The bottom of the page could be used for additional notes, and sometimes additional awards.
Pages 47 to 51 (47 to 53 in the last version) were blank, leaving spaces for additional information about battles, equipment, or any other notes found to be pertinent for the soldier’s records.
After Germany surrendered to the Allies, de-nazified Wehrpässe (those having the swastikas blotted out on the cover and interior) continued to be used for identification purposes by the former warriors of the Third Reich until replacements identification documents became available. With the majority of their service records either destroyed or out of reach behind the Iron Curtain after hostilities ceased, many German veteran’s kept their Wehrpässe as proof of service in order to receive later benefits from their new government.
With the millions of volunteers and inductees to the armed forces of Nazi Germany, there are many Wehrpässe available on the collector’s market today. Every document bridges a gap across time and puts a face and history to each of the common Germans who once served a tyrannical regime, and werecounted as enemies of the free world we live in today.