Click here to see a photo of Willi Maul in uniform


By Edmund Maul

I had always felt a strong presence of his spirit and truly believe that this spirit lead me to search, find and write about him. This is what I call ‘echoes’ from the past.

I deeply regret that I did not know Willi, so I cannot write about what his dreams of the future were, his talents, or his sweetheart. His fate was sealed in a war. While marching along with his comrades, did he think of his Liebchen at home, maybe Dorothea or Erika? At quiet times did he listen to the radio broadcasts from home and to the song ‘Lilli and Marlene’.

Johannes Maul’s daughter, Katherine, bore a son Wilhelm in Erlangen (not to far Nu:rnberg) on 20 October 1920. Wilhelm or “Willi” was my cousin. On 2 November 1938, two weeks after his 18 birthday, Willi registered in the RAD (ReichsArbeitsDienst) the State Labor Service. In order to give some background of the RAD, I included a description of this organization taken from Rudolph Kahl’s book, “Uniforms and Badges of the Third Reich.

Origin and historical development of the RAD

The Labor Service found its origin in the,”Freiwilliger Arbeitsdienst—FAD” (Voluntary Labor Service) by “Emergency regulation” of June 5th, 1931, at the time of the Republic of Weimar, for the benefit of the unemployed. This service was under the supervision of the State Institution for Employment and Unemployment Insurance.

Nature and purpose of the RAD

The duties and purpose of the RAD were physical training and education through work, drill, sports, a regulated way of living and general care were principle points. Another important aspect was indoctrination in national-socialism, corporate spirit and fraternal equality. An extensive (Nazi) political education was, of course, essential. A further duty was the supply of personnel for work on the farms and to cultivate fallow land, as rescue organization in the case of catastrophes and during the war, mainly as reserve auxiliary corps for the armed forces.

The main features of the RAD, which were also characteristic for the other Nazi organizations, were: a soldier-like bearing, a bond with the (German) soil, a community-spirit, in short, the sacrifice of the individual to the service of the “Fuhrer” and of the German Nation. The participation in the RAD was a compulsory post of honor (therefore without pay) due to the general worship of manual labor. In 1933, service in the RAD became compulsory for all prospective students;on the 26th of June 1935 general compulsory labor service became law. All Germans between the age of 18 and 25 therefore had to serve in the RAD. For men it became a preparation for service in the army. The RAD gave ranks to the members much like the military would do. It started with the rank of Private (Arbeitsman or Laborer). In 1939 more than 340,000 men wore the RAD uniforms.


According to the registration record of, 1 February 1939, Willi was assigned by the ReichArbeitsdienst, RAD-department 7/319, Rottbitze. Whether he was assigned to Rottbitze or that this was just the location of the RAD Headquarters is not known. On 26 August 1939 he was registered with Construction Battalion 310. Again, we do not know whether this construction battalion was at Rottbitze or some other location. There was no date given as to when he left the RAD, however, service in RAD was generally for six months.

Willi entered the army on 2 October 1941, and was assigned to the 1. /National Guard Reserve Battalion 11. I believe the National Guard Reserve Battalion was a training battalion. From here he was assigned and I believe remained in Regiment 73. His regiment was transferred to different larger units that were indicated by the first number that could stand for army corps or infantry division. As conditions at the battlefronts changed units were shifted as fighting dictated. Six months later on 6 April 1942, he was assigned to the 7./ Infantry Regiment 73, where he remained for eight months, until his assignment on 18 December 1942 to the 6./Infantry Regiment 73. Sometime between 18 December 1942 and 6 August 1943 his regiment became part of 5. /Panzer Grenadier Regiment 73.

In August 1943 the 5./Panzer Grenadier Regiment 73, was fighting, in Kustowoje near Belgorod that was about 50 kilometers north of the city of Kharkov (Charkiv). I do not know whether the 5./Panzer Grenadier Regiment 73 was part of Army Detachment Kempf or the Fourth Panzer Army To set the stage, I have excerpted from Field Marshal Erich von Manstein’s book “Lost Victories.” This is his description of the situation on the Russian Front.


In July Hitler ordered the last offensive battle in the East at the Kursk salient or bulge in the German front.. After committing his armies to this offensive known as “Operation Citadel” on July 17th he called it off much to the dismay of his Field Marshals and Generals.


Field Marshal Manstein is speaking. Having thus succeeded in restoring the situation in Sixth Army’s sector, we were still left with the festering wound on the First Panzer Army’s Donetz front. It could no longer be cauterized because of the storm brewing over the Army Group’s northern wing.

From the moment when Army Detachment Kempf and Fourth Panzer Army were withdrawn to their pre-‘Citadel’ positions, the enemy had been putting them under steady pressure. Around the turn of the month our radio monitoring and air reconnaissance showed him to be assembling a strong concentration of armor in the Kursk salient, obviously by bringing fresh forces from the center of the Eastern Front. Other offensive preparations were also noticed in the Donetz bend south- east of Kharkov.

On 2nd August O.K.H. (German Army Headquarters) was expecting an immediate offensive against the Army Group’s northern front west of Belgorod. This, I thought would be supplemented by an attack south- east of Kharkov with the aim of taking out forces round the town in a pincer movement and opening the enemy’s way to the Dnieper. I asked for the return of the two armored divisions that had been handed over to Central Army Group and for permission to retain the SS Panzer Corps for use on our northern wing. Apart from this, I directed that 3 Panzer Corps and 3 Panzer Division be lifted back from the Donetz area to Kharkov.

On 3rd August the first enemy attack broke loose against Fourth Panzer Army and Army detachment Kempf’s front west of Belgorod. The enemy managed to effect a breakthrough on the inter-army boundary, and in the next few days he extended it considerably in breadth and depth. Fourth Panzer Army was pushed back to the West and Army Detachment Kempf in a southerly direction towards Kharkov. Somewhere in this action Infantryman/Tank Division, Wilhelm Maul, was killed in action, on 6 August 1943, near Kustowoje (area of Belgorod).

The following two letters reported his death to his mother. The early one was from the battlefield and the second from the army. Compare the two letters. The one from the Sargeant at the battle front is compassionate in its tone, the other from the government, totally unfeeling of her loss, but only revelling in its propaganda of dying for the Fatherland. What follows is the English translation of these two letters.

Office of Field Command Post Nr.17 251 E In the Field, 14 August 1943

In the Field, 9 Oct. 1943 Mrs.Kathe Maul Representing the wounded Sergeant-Major Dierssen I would like to answer your question regarding the death in action of your dear Willi.

During the withdrawal maneuvers in the area of Belgorod, which your son participated in with his Company, he manned the anti-tank guns. While engaging an enemy tank, a shell splinter hit your son in the back, which caused his immediate death. He was unable to leave any last words. Due to the nature of withdrawal maneuvers, your son could not be buried immediately , but was put on a vehicle. Sometime during the day, that vehicle was destroyed by a direct bomb hit and therefore it was not possible for the Company to lay their comrade to rest.

Dear Mrs. Maul, I would like to thank you in the name of the comrades of your son for your packages. They also return your greetings that you sent in your letter of 8 September.

There are no members of the Company here who are from around Nu”rnberg. But if one should travel there, we will be glad to call on you.

We greet you with respect and pride as brave mother of a soldier! Heil Hitler! signed: Ehrenberg Sergeant

No fellow soldiers would sing at his grave, ”Ich Hatt’ Einen Kameraden”(I Had a Comrade) His body was now part of the soil of Russia like so many other fine German men who had fallen.

This second letter from the army was probably a typical letter of condolence to a grieving family.

Field Command Post Nr. 17 251 E Miss Katharina Maul Nurnberg Tetzelgasse 53/II

Dear Miss Maul!

During heavy fighting in the area of Belgorod, your son, Wilhelm Maul, infantryman in the tank division, was killed in action on 6 August 1943. He died in loyal and exemplary fulfillment of duty to the Fuhrer and Nation.

The Company stands in deep sorrow at the grave of your brave son,and shares with you in sincere sympathy the burden of sacrifice which you and your family had to bring in the battle against Bolshevism. Although we feel with you the grave loss of your son,we are also proud that he, as one of the best,was part our Company.

His fearless, courageous manner in view of the enemy earned him the full respect of his superiors. Your son’s helpful and cheerful manner made him a trustworthy and faithful comrade.

Let me assure you,dear Miss Maul, that the Company will always hold your son’s memory in deep respect. May the knowledge, that your son gave his life as a brave soldier for the greatness and future of our Nation, be of consolation to you in your grief.

With sincere and deep sympathy greet you with Heil Hitler! Nu”rnberg, 8 September 1943 (on behalf of signed signature) Sergeant-Major


By 8th August, there was a gaping hole 35 miles wide between the two armies in the area north-west of the town. The irony is the outcome could have been different had the troops that were available prior to “Operation Citadel” been released to von Manstein. This would have increased the strength of the forces fighting in the Belgorod area. But the troops were not where they were needed. Thus the enemy was free to drive through to Poltava and onwards to the Dnieper, which they did do.By the end of March 1944, the German Armies were back to the Polish frontier.

FOR ETERNITY: Is there a German soldiers Cross somewhere in heaven with the name Wilhelm Maul?

                      “Ich Hatt’ einen Kameraden”

Ich hatt’ einen Kameraden, einen bessern findst du nit. Die trommel schlug zum Streite, er ging an meiner Seite im gleichen Schritt und Tritt, im gleichen Schritt und Tritt. Eine Kugel kam geflogen; gilt’s mir oder gilt es dir? Ihn hat es weggerissen, er liegt vor meinen Fuessen, als waer’s ein Stueck von mir, als waer’s ein Stueck von mir.

Will mir Hand noch reichen, derweil ich eben lad”: Kann dir die Hand nicht geben. Bleib du im ew’gen leben mein guter Kamerad!”

“Once I Had A Comrade”

Once I had a comrade, a better one you could not find. The drum beat for this fighter, who e’er walked with me side by side, who e’er walked with me side by side. A bullet came, a bullet flew;aimed at me or aimed at you? It him who lays at my feet, as if a very piece of me, as if a very piece of me.

Your hand still wants to reach me, while I just had to carry on: I can not give my hand to you. Rest e’er in peace my comrade true! In peace my comrade true!”

Source: The information on the RAD units and army units was supplied by the Deutsche Dienststelle(WASt), Eichborndamm 179,13403 Berlin.and Letters from the Maul family. Field Marshal Manstein's Book“Lost Victories”.

Please address any comments to the author:
Edmund G. Maul


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