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Four brothers named Senft

Article about: I recently was able to acquire something that I think is fairly one of a kind: A grouping to four German brothers from Potsdam who all served in the Heer. As best I can tell, two of them sur

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    Default Four brothers named Senft

    I recently was able to acquire something that I think is fairly one of a kind: A grouping to four German brothers from Potsdam who all served in the Heer.

    As best I can tell, two of them survived the war (one for sure as you'll see) and two perished. One in the fighting at Stalingrad and the other seemingly in an accident at the base in Peenemünde (site of the V2 rocker program among others).

    I think to keep my presentation organized and clear, I will make a separate post for the parts of the grouping that apply to each brother. There is much depth I could go into with each of them, but I'll try to keep it to a bit of a concise overview.

    First post is a photo of the entire Nachlass and the portion that pertains to Feldwebel Gustav Senft .

    Gustav Senft served with the signals platoon of Aufklärungs-Abteilung 3 in the Afrika Korps. This was part of the 5th Light Division which drew A-A 3 and Panzer Regiment 5 both from the 3rd Panzer Division and sent them to constitute some of the earliest units of the Afrika Korps. Gustav won the EKII and it is signed by the commander of the 5th Light Division Johannes Streich who was later sacked by Rommel for failing to take Tobruk. Interestingly the back of his EKII certificate contains a narrative on how he earned the award. It reveals how he kept a communications network intact for 5 solid weeks of fighting even while under enemy artillery fire. It appears that Gustav avoided the fate of the Afrika Korps due to medical evacuation. His Wehrpass shows him authorized to wear the Afrika cuff title. He was assigned to Versuchskommando Nord in October of 1942. That was the (in)famous Peenemünde where Hitler's "miracle weapons" were developed. Appears that he was actually quartered in the neighboring village of Karlshagen. Unfortunately Gustav died as a result of an accident - details unclear as I cannot read what might be a couple key words - on 19 October, 1944.

    Four brothers named SenftFour brothers named SenftFour brothers named SenftFour brothers named SenftFour brothers named SenftFour brothers named SenftFour brothers named SenftFour brothers named SenftFour brothers named Senft
    Todd
    Former U.S. Army Tanker.
    "Best job I ever had."

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    Second brother was Obergefreiter Herbert Senft served with and Pionier-Btl. 123 (123rd Infantry Division) and later Panzer-Pionier-Btl.39 (3rd Panzer Division).

    The 123. Infanterie Division saw hard combat on the Ost Front and was one of the units encircled in the Demyansk pocket. After the battle of Demyansk he was assigned to training and replacement Pionier Battalion 3 and eventually to field training Pionier Battalion 153 before making his way to the 3rd Panzer Division (Panzer-Pionier-Btl.39) towards the end of the war. Luckily 3. PD surrendered to the Western Allies and we know Herbert survived the war because his post-war refugee identification card is present.

    Four brothers named SenftFour brothers named SenftFour brothers named SenftFour brothers named SenftFour brothers named SenftFour brothers named SenftFour brothers named SenftFour brothers named Senft
    Todd
    Former U.S. Army Tanker.
    "Best job I ever had."

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    The third brother is Oberfeldwebel Heinrich "Heinz" Senft. I know less about his service and his fate than the other brothers as there is no Wehrpass, Soldbuch, or even a photo of him in the grouping. He served in Infanterie (later Grenadier) Regiment 313 which was part of the 337. Infanterie Division The division saw heavy combat on the Eastern Front and was effectively destroyed in July of 1944. It is evident that he survived this event as there is a document for his promotion to Oberfeldwebel with a Fortress Infantry Battalion in October of 1944. My understanding of "Fortress" Infantry units is that they were often comprised of a mix of convalescing, partially disabled, chronically afflicted (like the ear and stomach battalions) or more elderly soldiers and were designated as such because they were viewed as capable of defense but hardly up to the standards of conducting offensive operations.

    There are some interesting papers in his grouping, however. It contains a certificate for a wound badge from May of 1940 so we can surmise he was wounded in the invasion of France and the Low Countries. It also contains documents permitting him to carry a pistol, a receipt for buying a radio from the army for personal use, and an interesting set of papers outlining a marksmanship/weapons training event that his company conducted, as well as certificate for participating in a youth competition in Potsdam in 1930 (presumably as a young boy).

    Four brothers named SenftFour brothers named SenftFour brothers named SenftFour brothers named SenftFour brothers named SenftFour brothers named SenftFour brothers named SenftFour brothers named Senft
    Todd
    Former U.S. Army Tanker.
    "Best job I ever had."

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    The fourth brother is the most interesting to me. Not only was he a Panzermann, but he was also killed during some of the initial fighting in Stalingrad. Paul Senft was at the time a tank platoon leader in 2nd company of Panzer-Regiment 36, which was the Panzer Regiment of the 14. Panzer Division. He had also previously been the Hauptfeldwebel or "Spiess" of the 1st company, but was later given command of a tank platoon in 2nd company. The most poignant document that came with his grouping is a letter from his company commander to the Senft parents describing the entire circumstances of his death as well as photos of his grave in Stalino, Ukraine (at the time, now Donetsk). His father died in January of 1943 and Paul is commemorated on his father's headstone so that the family would have a place to mourn him back home.

    Roughly translated: That evening of 12 September (1942) the 2. Kompanie pulled back to an assembly area in terrain that they thought was clear of the enemy. As it grew dark, tank platoon leader Oberfeldwebel Paul Senft climbed out of his Panzer III to retrieve his flare pistol. He wanted to light up the area so his men could see if any of the enemy were approaching. He climbed back into the tank, but as he stuck his arm outside the turret and shot a flare into the sky a Soviet soldier fired at him and hit him in the right upper arm. His upper arm bone was broken and the wound bled profusely. His crew immediately applied first aid and tried to stop the bleeding. He was evacuated from the assembly area to the aid station by armored ambulance and shipped further back to a field hospital in Stalino (Donetsk).

    My observation: It must have been by plane or train as that was very far back. Despite the best efforts of the hospital staff, Paul Senft died of his wound on 14 September in the field hospital. He was buried in the Heldenfriedhof at Stalino, Ukraine (now Donetsk).

    Note: Paul is the only one of the brothers that I could find in the Volksbund registry, despite knowing that Gustav also died. Perhaps Gustav dying in the homeland or the fact it was a non-battle death have something to do with him not being listed. I know Herbert survived for sure due to his refugee (displaced person's) I.D. booklet. I do not know abut Heinz, but he is not listed in the Volksbund site so he may have survived.

    Four brothers named SenftFour brothers named SenftFour brothers named SenftFour brothers named SenftFour brothers named SenftFour brothers named SenftFour brothers named SenftFour brothers named SenftFour brothers named SenftFour brothers named Senft
    Todd
    Former U.S. Army Tanker.
    "Best job I ever had."

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    I had left out one very interesting detail. I was juggling a ton of information in my mind, deciding how much of it to post, and I forgot to post the fact that Paul and Gustav were twins. A member on another forum noticed it and said so - I was impressed that he paid that much attention to what I posted but it made me realized I forgot to mention it.



    A quick and sloppy crop putting their two photos side by side:
    Four brothers named Senft
    Todd
    Former U.S. Army Tanker.
    "Best job I ever had."

  7. #6

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    Very cool items Todd. Yes, the first thing i noticed was the similarities of the two brothers - you can definitely tell they are the same family.
    The brother that died in Stalingrad - well, if you are going to get it there then better in September than December or January. It really was a grim place to be by then.

    Nick

  8. #7

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    Hi Todd
    Today I found your thread.
    A great story of these four brothers that you have told us.
    It is an excellent job. Thank you for your effort to upload these posts.
    Santi

    Postscript!
    By the way, although it is obvious: what a great set of portraits, photographs, documents and military awards!

  9. #8

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    Thank you for sharing this Todd, I admire your research & presentation.
    Regards
    Paul

  10. #9

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    I too have just come across this thread Todd and have thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Such a tragic tale but just one of many from the war. I’ve learnt a lot just from this one thread and as others have commented the information and your research is impressive. I do think perhaps Paul may have survived the injury had he been closer to better medical assistance but being where he was the odds were always going to go against him - very sad.

    Andrew

  11. #10
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    Thanks for taking the time to read all of my verbiage gentlemen. It took a while to piece it together and write it up, so I am cheered that you enjoyed it.

    Andrew, I agree. Not long ago I read through a OKH report on wounds and mortality rates on the Ost Front and the large majority of men who were hit in a limb survived. Head wounds (obviously) and stomach/abdominal wounds had very high mortality. I can only guess that in Paul's case it was sepsis or a blood clot or some complication that they could not counter that made his wound fatal.

    Reading the letter (not pictured) from the company commander to his parents brought a lump to my throat as I imagined them reading it for the first time. His father passed away only three and a half months later. His mother must have been in an awful state by that time. One son dead, husband passed away, and three more sons at the Front (with one of those three to die in an accident in October 1944).
    Todd
    Former U.S. Army Tanker.
    "Best job I ever had."

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