Helmut Kraus, who bore the adoptive name of Schweger, was born January 23rd, 1919, in Braunschweig, Germany. In 1939 he voluntarily joined the Fallschirmjäger (Paratroopers) and was sent immediately to Stendal as a recruit. After having received his Fallschirmschützabzeichen (Parachute wings), he was assigned to 1 Company (Kompanie) of Parachute Regiment 1 (Fallschirmjäger Regiment, FJR ) commanded by Hauptmann Walter Koch who was already training for a new form of warfare: to land with heavy gliders. In November 1939, 1 Kompanie Fallschirmjäger Regiment 1 (FJR) joined Pionier Zug (Engineers Platoon) of II/FJR 1 (Oberleutnant Rudolf Witzig) together with 17 Staffel/Kampfgruppe zur besondere Verwendung 5 (KGzbV, group with special task, Oberleutnant Walter Kiess) to form Versuchsabteilung (Experimental Unit) Friedrichshafen. Soon after, the unit was renamed after its commander Sturmabteilung (Assault Unit) Koch.
During that time, Kraus rose from Gefreiter (October 19th, 1939) to Obergefreiter (May 1st, 1940). May 10th, 1940, he participated in the attack on the fortified Belgian positions at Fort Eben-Emäel and the bridges on the Albert Canal and the River Meuse near Veldwezelt, Vroenhoven and Canne. Commanded by Oberleutnant Gustav Altmann, Kraus landed with Sturmgruppe (Assault group) Stahl in the Veldwezelt area. Their primary objective was the capture of the steel bridge on the Albert Canal. For this action Kraus was awarded the Iron Cross 2 Class (Eisernes Kreuz 2 Kl.) May 13th and the Iron Cross 1 Class May 16th 1940.
After the succesfull campaign in the west, Sturmabteilung Koch was incorporated into the newly established Luftlande Sturm Regiment (Airborne Assault Regiment) commanded by Oberst Eugen Meindl in the fall of 1940. The unit was based at Hildesheim and Obergefreiter Kraus was assigned to 2 Company commanded by Hauptmann Gustav Altmann.
May 20th, 1941, Kraus participated in Operation Mercury, the airborne invasion of Crete. He landed his DFS 230 glider near Hill 107 instead of near the airport of Maleme. Subsequently, Kraus took part in the attack on Hill 107. May 27th, near Chania, he sustained a leg injury from an exploding grenade. He was evacuated to a hospital in Thessaloniki where he remained until June 13th, 1941.
After Hitler had launched Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22nd, 1941, following the succesfull and spectacular drive by the Germans, the regiments, batallions and sections of 7th Airborne Division (Flieger Division) were independantly deployed as elite ground forces against Soviet counterattacks and other daring operations from September 1941 onwards. Helmut Kraus, along with 1 Batallion/Luftlande Sturm Regiment (Airborne Assault Regiment) was stationed near Schaikowka airbase.
In April 1942, due to their losses in the Soviet Union, the Fallschirmjäger were withdrawn to France for rest and recuperation. June 1st, 1942, Helmut Kraus was promoted to Oberjäger. October 1942, I/LSR was sent back to Russia where it was deployed at the Smolensk Front until April 1943. March 20th, 1943, Kraus was injured again, he was evacuated from the front and arrived in France again in April 1943. During the summer, his unit was transferred to the Avignon area in the south of France.
October 1943, in Perugia, Italy, 4 Fallschirm Division was established, commanded by Generalleutnant (Lieutenant-general) Heinrich Trettner. In November, FJR 12 was established, commanded by Major Erich Timm. Oberjäger Kraus was transferred to 6/II/FJR 12. After five months of heavy fighting at Anzio and Monte Cassino, the situation turned desperate for Germany. It was the beginning of the retreat of the German forces from Italy. May 25th, 1944, I and II Bat/FJR took up positions in the vineyards of Velletri as the Allies launched an assault on May 26th. The next day, Kraus was injured by an exploding handgrenade. June 1st, 1944, as the Allies were about to enter Rome, Kraus was promoted to Feldwebel. He subsequently fought at La Futa Pass, one of the highest peaks in the Apennine Mountains and in the defence of Bolgna.
After a harsh winter, the Allies started warming up again in 1945 and fought their way through the plains of the River Po. Feldwebel Kraus commanded an assault group in the Boudrio area between April 19th and 25th. For his actions during these engagements and for those on the Anzio-Nettuno front, he was officially awarded the German Cross in Gold (Deutsches Kreuz in Gold) on May 1st, 1945. In the course of the month he was taken prisoner near the Brenner Pass. He remained in Egyptian captivity until 1948 when he was released.
Helmut Kraus died October 5th, 1999.
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