Geoff Walden


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Schweinfurt, Part 7

German Military in Schweinfurt - Barracks and Panzer Regiments 4 and 36

 

   Starting in 1936 the German Wehrmacht had a large presence in Schweinfurt, with three military barracks. The Adolf-Hitler-Kaserne, commonly called the Panzerkaserne, was built on the western edge of the city in 1936 for Panzer Regiment 4. Panzer Regiment 4 was an armor unit armed with the PanzerKampfwagen I tank, the first of a long line of German tank development which culminated in the famous Tiger tank. Panzer Regiment 4 officially arrived in the city in a grand parade through the downtown area to its new barracks on Niederwerrnerstraße (the Panzer Kaserne). Click here to go directly to the section on military barracks (below).

 

The Pzkw. I tanks of Panzer Regiment 4 parading through the Marktplatz upon their arrival in the city, 6 October 1936. Below, a command tank leads a column of motorized troops. A Panzer regiment in 1936 was a combined-arms unit, including tanks, motorized infantry, and light artillery and anti-tank guns.  (Stadtarchiv Schweinfurt)

 

The regimental staff had two command variants of the PzKw. I tank. These command tanks had no turret and lacked the machine guns of the basic tanks, and they also had a longer hull with a higher powered engine. Above, presumably the regimental commander Oberst (Colonel) Kühn with a bouquet of flowers. Below, the command tanks are parked in front of the Adler Apotheke (Eagle Pharmacy), the lighter building in the center of the photo. The Adler Apotheke still occupies the same location today.  (Stadtarchiv Schweinfurt)

 

These photos demonstrate the basic differences between the PzKw. I command tanks and the earlier version of the tank. Below, the command tanks (Befehlswagen) are parked in front of the basic tanks. These tanks, armed with two 7.92mm machine guns in their turrets, were the early Ausf. A version, with four roadwheels. The later Ausf. B version, like the command tanks, had an elongated hull with five roadwheels.  (Stadtarchiv Schweinfurt)

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Panzer Regiment 4 was welcomed to Schweinfurt by the city's Nazi leaders, including Oberbürgermeister (Lord Mayor) Ludwig Pösl, seen above speaking in front of the Rathaus (city hall). Below, Generalmajor Heinz Guderian, commander of the German armored forces, shakes Pösl's hand in front of the Rathaus. Pösl is wearing a black band over his swastika armband, perhaps a mourning band for someone who had died. Contrast the view below with a similar view of the damage from the 17 August 1943 bombing.  (Stadtarchiv Schweinfurt)

 

The new Pzkw. I tanks of Panzer Regiment 4 parked in the Marktplatz, facing the Rathaus and the gathered dignitaries (the vehicle on the right is the command variant).  (Stadtarchiv Schweinfurt)

 

At the conclusion of the ceremonies on the Marktplatz, the tanks paraded down Adolf-Hitler-Straße (now Spitalstraße), through the Albrecht-Dürer-Platz, and down Schultesstraße, on their way to the Panzer Kaserne. The buildings along Schultesstraße were badly damaged by the wartime bombing attacks, and most were rebuilt in a more modern style. The key to identifying this location is the wall of the old city cemetery, seen at the right of both photos below. The regiment's band can be seen standing on the wall in the period photo below.  (Stadtarchiv Schweinfurt)

 

Across Schultesstraße from the old cemetery  is the Heilig-Geist-Kirche (Church of the Holy Spirit). The dignitaries, including Oberbürgermeister Pösl and Generalmajor Guderian, stood in front of the church to review Panzer Regiment 4.  (Stadtarchiv Schweinfurt)

 

After Panzer Regiment 4 settled into their new quarters at the Panzer Kaserne, they started a regimen of training
in the local forests north of the city, which became a military training area (still used by the U.S. Army today).
Here, the crew of a PzKw. I Befehlswagen (command tank) pose during maneuvers.  (author's collection)

 

Soldiers of Panzer Regiment 4 in Schweinfurt.  (author's collection)

 

Although Panzer Regiment 4 left Schweinfurt in 1938 to be stationed in Austria, and was
constantly at the front with the 2nd Panzer Division from the beginning of World War II,
Schweinfurt was always its "home." The regiment's veterans placed a Gedenkstein
(memorial stone) in the old city cemetery in Schweinfurt.

 

Panzer Regiment 4 was replaced in Schweinfurt by Panzer Regiment 36. Following the invasion of Poland, Panzer Regiment 36 returned to a victory parade in Schweinfurt in October 1939. In the photos above, Pzkw. II and Pzkw. IV tanks of Panzer Regiment 36 parade along Schultesstraße as the regimental band plays in front of the old city cemetery. The distinctive Haus des Handwerks building across the street was unfortunately destroyed during the war.  (Stadtarchiv Schweinfurt, private collection)

 

Looking across Schultesstraße from the other side, a Pzkw. II tank of Panzer Regiment 36 passes in review during the October 1939 victory parade. The crosses on the tank turrets and hulls were used as recognition symbols during the invasion of Poland. The regimental band in the right background is playing in front of the Schweinfurt Kriegerdenkmal (military monument).  (Stadtarchiv Schweinfurt)

 

The Schweinfurt Kriegerdenkmal (military monument) used to stand at the head of the steps leading into the old city cemetery. The monument was built in 1895 by Ignaz Taschner, but the bronze figure fell victim to a scrap metal drive during World War II and the base was removed as well. The flanking stone lions (also by Taschner) were returned to their guard positions on the entry wall during a cemetery restoration in 2011.  (1915 postcard)

 

During the October 1939 victory festivities the commander of Panzer Regiment 36, Oberst (Colonel) Hermann Breith, was photographed walking with Schweinfurt Oberbürgermeister (Lord Mayor) Ludwig Pösl. The group was walking from the Marktplatz down Adolf-Hitler-Straße (now Spitalstraße), and had just reached the Albrecht-Dürer-Platz, walking toward Schultesstraße. During World War II, Breith was to rise to the rank of General der Panzertruppe and command of the 3rd Panzerkorps, and was awarded the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords.  (private collection)

 

 Above, officers from Panzer Regiment 36 at a formation in the Marktplatz in December 1940. Below, Pzkw. IV tanks of Panzer Regiment 36 return from the campaign in France in the summer of 1940.  (private collection)

 


Schweinfurt Military Barracks

   The official name of the post built for Panzer Regiment 4 in 1935-36 was the Adolf-Hitler-Kaserne, but it was more usually called simply the Panzer Kaserne. The post was taken over by the U.S. Army in 1945 and was used as Ledward Barracks until it was closed in September 2014. This was the largest of three Wehrmacht posts built in Schweinfurt.

The regiment's name appears on the right gate post in the period photos above and below; the eagle on the building is still there today (minus its original swastika, and the head faces the opposite direction today).  Click here to visit Heinz Leitsch's page on the USAG Schweinfurt (in German - auf Deutsch).  (photos donated)

 

A Panzer soldier poses in front of the Panzer Kaserne headquarters building. He is wearing the distinctive early black "Panzer beret," which was a sort of padded crash helmet designed to provide some protection to the wearer's head while inside the tank. This somewhat clumsy headgear was replaced in 1941.  (author's collection)

 

This shield with an eagle and swastika above a PzKw. I tank can be seen above the main entrance doorway
to the headquarters building of the Panzerkaserne, in the photo sections above.  (courtesy Gerald Stephenson)
Note - the eagle was removed ca. 2010.

 

Above, a 1938 dated postcard showing the front of the Panzerkaserne, along Niederwerrner Straße. Below, a similar view from a photo taken in 1942 by a member of Sturmgeschutz Ersatz Abteilung 200 (Assault Gun Replacement Battalion 200 - one of the training units stationed here).  (author's collection)

 

An award document dated 1938 and bearing the stamp and the company commander's signature of the 2nd Kompanie
of Panzer Regiment 4 featured drawings of the Panzerkaserne and one of the unit's Pzkw. I tanks.
(courtesy the Deutsch-Amerikanisches Nachkriegsmuseum, Rütschenhausen)

 

The photo above shows one of the main streets on the east side of the Kaserne; for those familiar with Ledward Barracks, this view shows the end of post with the Clinic and Bldg. 215. This view is from a postcard sent home by a soldier in Panzer Ausbildungs Abteilung 25 (one of the wartime training units stationed here) - he labeled his barracks building "Unser Haus". This card was postmarked 16 August 1943, the day before the first bombing attack on Schweinfurt - during that attack, bombs would hit the buildings in the foreground of this photo.  (author's collection)

 

Panzer crewmen from Panzer Regiment 4 pose in the motor pool area of the Panzer Kaserne, proudly wearing their tank sharpshooter badges (shoulder cords). They are standing in front of a new PzKw. II tank - an older PzKw. I tank is in the background. The nearby motor pool buildings have been remodeled but the maintenance shop building in the distance remains the same.  (author's collection)

 

Above - Pzkw. I tanks of Panzer Regiment 4 stand ready for inspection in the motor pool. The motor pool buildings have changed very little and were still in use until the U.S. Army left in 2014. (The photo on the right below is supposed to show Panzer Regiment 4 in 1937, but the doors on the motor pool bays are different from those at the Schweinfurt Panzer Kaserne.)  (photos donated; below right - Bundesarchiv)

 

During much of the war, the Panzer Kaserne was used as a training center for Sturmgeschutz (assault gun) vehicles. In these 1943 photos, crews are training on chassis with the cannon removed, for driver training. The Sturmgeschutz training reached its height in 1944, when some 5000 crewmen were trained here. The label on the interior overhead concrete beam reads Rauchen verboten - No Smoking.  (photos donated)

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Unit standards were dedicated on the Panzer Kaserne parade field on 20 February 1939. Until the post closed in 2014, this area was a parking lot and motor pool.  (photo donated)

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The Großbatterie Panzerkaserne flak gun emplacement was located on the ridgeline behind
the Panzer Kaserne. This photo shows an exercise of the smoke screen apparatus on the ridgeline.
The building in the foreground is in one of the motor pools; the buildings seen in the left background
are the buildings seen in the standard dedication ceremony just above.  (Stadtarchiv Schweinfurt)

 

This aerial view of the Panzer Kaserne taken during the bombing attack of 14 October 1943
shows the surrounding area (as well as bomb craters from the earlier attack on 17 August).
1 - Panzer Kaserne parade field, 2 - Panzer Abwehr Kaserne (see below), 3 - Officers Kasino (see below),
4 - support buildings, 5 - Willy Sachs Stadium, 6 - two 6-gun positions of the Großbatterie Panzerkaserne.
(U.S. National Archives, RG 342FH-3A22426)

 

Several buildings of the former Panzer Kaserne feature period sculpted artwork. Above, left to right - an ancient Greek warrior, Hercules wrestles a lion, a medieval knight, a figure that may represent maintenance personnel; below, left to right - grenadiers with hand grenades, infantry soldiers, and two figures from the Napoleonic period.

 

The Panzer Kaserne was heavily damaged during the bombing attack of 14 October 1943 ("Black Thursday"). These photos show some of the damaged buildings after the attack. One building was so badly damaged that it was torn down and never rebuilt (where the Ledward Barracks Crafts Studio was located).  (Stadtarchiv Schweinfurt)

 

These photos show damage to the motor pool buildings. The buildings seen at the left below are those seen in the photos of the standard dedication and smoke screen above. In the rubble on the right below was a turret for a Pzkw. 38(t) tank, blown upside-down.  (Stadtarchiv Schweinfurt)

 


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Adjacent to the Panzer Kaserne, to the east, was the Panzerabwehrkaserne, built in 1936 for Panzerjäger Abteilung 38 (38th Anti-Tank Battalion). This post was also sometimes called the Hindenburg-Kaserne. These buildings can be seen in the aerial bombing photo above (labeled #2), across the street from the Panzer Kaserne east gate. Only three of these buildings exist now (the two furthest buildings and the center building in the period view above), behind the small park across from the Ledward Barracks east gate. The center building now serves as a Youth Center (Franz-Josef-Straße 26), and the two other buildings are part of the Schweinfurt City Services complex.  (period postcards)  (MapQuest Map Link)

 

The period postcard above shows the Panzerabwehrkaserne in 1937. This monument near the east gate of the former Ledward Barracks honors the dead of Panzerjäger Abteilung 38 (38th Anti-Tank Battalion), which was stationed at the Panzerabwehrkaserne and served in the 2nd Panzer Division.  (author's collection)

 

The barracks Kasino (Officers Club) was located across Niederwerrner Straße from the Panzer Kaserne. In 1947 it served as the Post Exchange and Shopping Center for the American military community in the Army of Occupation (above left).  (photo donated)

 


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A short distance west of Schweinfurt was the Flugplatz, a grass airfield that was used to train pilots for the Ju-87 Stuka dive-bomber (used by the U.S. Army as Conn Barracks until closed in September 2014). A Luftwaffe eagle is still visible at the main entry gate. Another reminder of the original owners is a series of woodwork carvings of curved swastikas, Iron Crosses, eagles, and lions on the ceiling of one of the Flugplatz buildings.

 

This view taken during one of the bombing attacks in February 1944 shows the Schweinfurt Flugplatz, visible through the smoke near the top of the photo. The close-up shows the barracks buildings in an arc at the right side, with the open grass airfield to the left.  (U.S. National Archives, RG 342FH-3A22448)

 

This underground structure in the back section of the post is said to have been an air raid shelter, but it was more likely a munitions storage bunker. This bunker had entrances at both ends, with right-angle entry into the interior, much like the design of munitions bunkers at the nearby Rottershausen flak ammunition storage area. One bunker entrance features a Luftwaffe eagle over the doorway, while the other has the curious inscription "Urlaubsbunker."  (MapQuest Map Link)

 

The trainee Ju-87 Stuka pilots flew from the Schweinfurt Flugplatz to a small bombing range near Sulzheim, southeast of Schweinfurt. Here they practiced their dive-bombing techniques with both live explosive bombs and concrete practice bombs. The remains of many of these concrete bombs can still be seen at the site today.  (MapQuest Map Link)

 

   The concrete practice bombs used at Sulzheim looked like this before they were dropped. The concrete was cast around an inner framework of steel tubing, and metal fins were attached to the back (these tail fins and steel framework are the twisted rusting objects seen in the bomb photos above). This original practice bomb is on display today at the Museum Stammheim am Main.

 

This building at the Sulzheim bombing range was apparently a bunker for observation of the bombing practice (the structure on the right side is a postwar addition). It has thick reinforced concrete walls with protected observation slits. On the right is a view from one of these slits, looking toward a pile of the concrete practice bombs.

 

I wish to acknowledge the kind assistance provided by the staff of the Stadtarchiv Schweinfurt during my photo research 


See also the subpage on the Luftwaffe Munitions Depot at Rottershausen, north of Schweinfurt.

Click here for a list of suggested readings on the battles for Schweinfurt.

Click here for a link to a MapQuest map of Schweinfurt.

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