German invalids trained for battle
3rd June 1943: The Wehrmacht's insatiable demand for men means that thousands of injured have to be patched up and sent back to the front line
Oion Barbarossa and the following campaigns in Soviet Russia had resulted in far higher casualties than the Wehrmacht had ever contemplated. They had inflicted appalling losses on the Red Army but had suffered terribly themselves in doing so. This had been the case long before Stalingrad. But now they were engaged in a war of attrition as never before.
I wore the black Badge of the Wounded with some pride on my uniform jacket, but there were several squaddies among us who had already received the silver or even the golden Badge of the Wounded, signifying that they had been wounded on several occasions. This was no longer the young, healthy and dynamic gang as it was the year before prior to our first deployment.
The Wehrmacht needed men - and they were in limited supply. In Russia, some two million men came of age and went into military training yearly. In Germany, the numbers were far less. After enlarging the cohort eligible for conscription and reducing the number of protected occupations, they still needed men.
The troops who had had the ‘luck’ to suffer a 'Heimatschuss' earlier in the war were to discover that it was only a temporary reprieve.
Arno Sauer1 had been extremely lucky to survive a serious wound to the thigh and a night lying out on the battlefield in late 1942. Now he was being prepared to be sent back: