Germany 1918 - 1945
Wachtmeister Siegfried Freyer - Award Document to the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross
Wachtmeister Siegfried Freyer (February 11, 1917 – May 10, 2014)
Freyer, who came from the cavalry to the armored troops, belonged to the 24th Panzer Regiment, the only tank regiment of the 24th Panzer Division under Lieutenant General Bruno Ritter von Hauenschild , which was set up on December 3, 1941 at the Stablack military training area in Military District I. On July 7, 1941, on the Eastern Front, Freyer, commander of a Panzer IV with a long-barreled gun (F2 version) and the number "434", had his first major test. The division's Panzergrenadiers had orders to clear Voronezh of the enemy. Freyer received the order to protect the infantry from enemy tanks. In the garden next to a house and behind a high wooden fence he had his tank put into position in the morning, his crew consisted of: Driver Unteroffizier Wilhelm Schmidt (Born June 13, 1915 in Riedermören; missing in Stalingrad since January 1943), Gunner Unteroffizier Alfons Fischer (Born December 24, 1915 in Reichenberg), Loder Private Arnold Groll (Born June 13, 1921 in Oberhausen) and Funker Gefreiter Heinrich Müller (Born May 24, 1921 in Kätalingen, Anhalt; missing in Stalingrad since January 1943) After the tank was well camouflaged and the entrance and exit roads were clearly visible, the men observed the grenadiers' house-to-house combat, but were also ready with hand weapons to defend the tank from Russians or partisan that could approach on foot. It was a long, hot day filled with dust and mosquitoes. Then it happened: At 8 p.m., a T-34 emerged from a side street to the left of Freyer's position. The enemy tank tried to escape at high speed, followed by more than 30 other tanks from a Russian tank brigade. Freyer acted quickly and took steps to prevent the outbreak, albeit alone. Three shots and three hits, the first three T-34s were on fire. The gunner then reported that a shell casing had blocked the barrel. As Freyer later reported, the gun that had been delivered shortly before had still „Zahnungsprobleme”. Freyer and driver Schmidt jumped off, assembled the equipment and cleaned the gun barrel. The Russians noticed the pause and started firing wildly. The Panzer IV received no hits, however, but loader Groll was severely wounded in the head by shrapnel. He was pulled out of the tank and Funker Müller now became the loader. The fence in front of the tank was shredded, but Freyer's tank survived and became even more deadly. Eight other enemy tanks were destroyed in about 20 minutes, five T-34s and three T-60s. The remaining tanks fled in all directions, now being pursued by the German regiment, which had become aware of the battle because of the burning tanks. More tanks from Freyer's company appeared and escorted the heroes, who were now without ammunition, to Wilfried von Winterfeld and the regimental commander, Colonel Gustav-Adolf Riebel. Most of the Russian tanks were later taken by the regiment and destroyed, and Voronezh was in German hands that night. For the act of bravery, Freyer was awarded the Knight's Cross and all other crew members were awarded the Iron Cross, 1st class. The Knight's Cross award ceremony took place at the beginning of August 1942 during a break in the fighting at the regiment's command post. Only Arnold Groll, who was still in the hospital, could not take part in the ceremony. (From metapedia)
Knights Cross of the Iron Cross formal award document issued to Wachtmeister Siegfried Freyer on parchment with an integral blank front leaf, Führerhauptquartier, July 23, 1942. The ornately lettered document is executed in India ink and gold with a hand-inked signature of Adolf Hitler at the bottom. The parchment is just the slightest bit wavy, as is very common in such documents, but otherwise fine condition. Award documents for the Knight’s Cross are rare, even though Hitler granted over 7,000 of them. A severe backlog soon developed and, in the end, very few recipients of the award ever received their large formal award documents.
The document is part of a veteran bring-back that we proudly offer here for the very first time. The GI opted to bring 9 single formal documents in one red presentation leather folder (Mappe) which will be auctioned with Ratisbon’s through a couple of auctions.
Knights Cross of the Order of the Iron Cross
DATE OF INSTITUTION
1. September 1939 as the third and new grade of the re-instituted Order of the Iron Cross
The Knights Cross of the Iron Cross was awarded for exceptional bravery in the face of the enemy and for outstanding merit in troop leadership. The awarding required the previous awarding of the two lower grades. The Knights Cross was solely awarded by the Führer upon the proposal of the soldiers unit and issued by the Heerespersonalamt. The Knights Crosses were stored at the Ordenskanzlei in Berlin, to be sent to the awardee after approval. There were no Knights Crosses stored at any level of the Wehrmacht before the end of April 1945.
The Knights Cross of the Iron Cross was produced by seven manufacturers, not including variations amongst the individual companies. The Knights Crosses can be found either unmarked (early Juncker and 3/4 Ring), with a silver content mark, with an LDO number (L/12 and L/52), and later on with the company’s Präsidialkanzlei number (2, 20, 65, and 4). Private sales were forbidden after October 1941.
Accurate numbers are not known but the closest estimation is around 7,200, and most likely another couple of hundred on stock at the Präsidialkanzlei.
The awardee received a preliminary document in A5 format and issued in the name of the Führer by the responsible personnel offices of the three branches of the Wehrmacht. The formal document (Große Mappe) was issued later and only until date of late 1942 / early 1943 due to the huge backlog.
The Knights Cross was worn around the neck on a wider red white and black ribbon which came within the black award case of the Knights Cross.