Haas, Josef

Date of birth:
September 24th, 1897 (Amberg, Germany)
Date of death:
May 22nd, 1944 (Aschkowo, Soviet Union)
Nationality:
German (1933-1945, German Reich)

Biography

Josef Haas died of his wonds on 22nd May 1944 at the Hauptverbandsplatz Sanitätskompanie 2/263, Aschkowo and was buried at Tolkatschewo/Sebesh.

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Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank:
Oberstleutnant
Unit:
Infanterie-Bataillon 540 (Heerestruppe)
Awarded on:
August 8th, 1942
Deutsches Kreuz in Gold
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank:
Oberst (Colonel)
Unit:
Kommandeur Grenadier-Regiment 485
Awarded on:
November 14th, 1943
Starting on the 06.10.1943 Kampfgruppe Haas was involved in heavy defensive combat southwest of Velikie Luka. Haas’s regiment had to secure its right flank, adjacent to a deep Soviet penetration, so as to enable the creation of another defensive line further back. Initially Haas’s Kampfgruppe only had hastily assembled alarm units. It was up against a well equipped enemy that was trying to advance northwards to cut off the retreat route of 2 German Divisions (with various minor Heer units) that were located between a chain of lakes and the Russian frontline. Kampfgruppe Haas would hold off the enemy during the day and slowly pull back to the new line at night.

On the night of the 06./07.10.1944 Kampfgruppe Haas received resupply as well as reinforcements in the shape of the Pionier-Bataillon 263 and a few Sturmgeschütze. The next morning a further Russian attack managed to capture a village and an important height along the road to Velikie Luki, however an immediate counterattack by Pioniere and Sturmgeschütze retook both the village and the northern slope of the hill. However both soon had to be given up again due to a shortage of ammunition.

By the evening the Kampfgruppe had occupied a new line, and had to parry new enemy attacks the next morning. It was forced to pull back again in the early afternoon, but did succeed in preventing an enemy breakthrough.

That night (08./09.10.1944) the Kampfgruppe began moving to the last blocking line in the kilometre wide isthmus between the Malij Ivan Lake and the Balasdyn Lake, located southwest of Opuchliki. Here the Pioniere were taken away from the Kampfgruppe (the Sturmgeschütze had similarly been dispatched elsewhere the previous day). Now the Kampfgruppe was comprised merely of regular Infanterie-Kompanie commanded by Leutnant Bogenschütz as well as various alarm units, altogether about 220 men.

At around 03:00 the Kampfgruppe reached the isthmus and set up for defense along the 1.2 km frontline, which faced towards the south. Oberst Haas personally assigned garrisons to the battle positions and strongpoints (some of which had been previously built up), and kept Bogenschütz’s Kompanie as a reserve.

While visiting a bunker at the southern tip of Balasdyn Lake, Haas heard strong machine-pistol fire nearby and ordered the reserve Kompanie to deploy. It was alerted by an orderly officer and sent to the probable enemy break-in site at the so-called Bahndamm-Dreieck. Just before reaching the plateau there enemy soldiers were spotted and fired upon. Ammunition soon began to run low, however an unoccupied battle position was found with an MG-34 and 7 boxes of ammunition. With these the opponent was halted in their tracks with heavy losses. By this Oberst Haas had sealed off the enemy penetration, and in the meantime a reserve Kompanie and a Sturmgeschütz arrived as reinforcements.

These new reinforcements launched a counterattack that eliminated the enemy penetration and recaptured the old fighting positions. Munitions and supplies were then brought up and the wounded taken care of.

After setting up his command post in a concrete battle position, Oberst Haas was visited by an Oberleutnant. He had brought with him a radio troop along with the message that his heavy howitzer was in position along the road south of Spassbalasdyn, and had over 120 shots available. Haas filled him in on the situation and ordered him to fire on the enemy assembly areas. This effective preemptive fire ensured a relative quiet along the frontline until about 17:30. Then the Soviets attacked again, supported by mortars. However they were repulsed without friendly losses.

On the next day, the 10.10.1944, the Oberst could report his mission as being carried out. He relinquished control of his Kampfgruppe and returned to his Regiment in the new frontline, the construction of which he had guaranteed by his actions. For completing his mission in such an outstanding fashion Haas would be awarded the Knights’ Cross.
Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes

Sources

  • - Die Ordensträger der Deutschen Wehrmacht (CD), VMD-Verlag GmbH, Osnabrück, 2002
    - Fellgiebel W.P., Elite of the Third Reich, The recipients of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939-1945: A Reference, Helion & Company Limited, Solihull, 2003, ISBN 1-874622-46-9
    - Patzwall K., Scherzer V., Das Deutsche Kreuz 1941-1945, Geschichte und Inhaber Band II, Verlag Klaus D. Patzwall, Norderstedt, 2001, ISBN 3-931533-45-X
    - Ritterkreuz Archiv II/2009, Veit Scherzer, Ranis, Juni 2009, ISSN 1866-4709
    - Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939-1945
    - ritterkreuztraeger-1939-45.de