The Ottre Massacre – Pz Aufkl Abt 9

Chapter 13. Panzer Aufklarungsabteilung 9.
During the years it was very hard to find out who was on the defensive line on that ridge. Below you can read what little information I found.

On January 1 1945 the frontline was occupied by the following elements of four divisions:
– The 9th SS Panzer Division “Hohenstaufen”.
– 560th Volksgrenadier Division.
– 89th Volksgrenadier Regiment of the 12thVGD.
– And according to the Judge Advocate General’s Office: the 12e Infantrie Division and 326e ID.

There is not much known about the German troops that occupied the hills outside of Ottré.
In a report by General der Artillerie Walter Lucht  (LXVI Corps/ 3-15 January 1945) you can find the following:
On 8 January: “…a reconnaissance platoon (Aufklärungsabteilung; BK) of the 9th SS Panzer Division was brought up to the 12 Volks Grenadier Division to Ottré so as to increase its fighting strength. After very heavy fighting, Joubieval and Ottré were lost in the evening.
On 9 January: On this day the enemy pressure is not so strong, so that in general, the line hitherto existng could be held. The weather was getting colder and there were snowfalls.
10 January: At the front of the 12 Volksgrenadiers Division and in the sector adjacent to the right, violent fighting blazed up. North of Langlire the enemy was repelled at the 12 Volks Grenadier Division, but Bihain and Petite Tailles were lost after wavering fighting.”

In a report about the 560thVGD and the 12thVGD I found: “On Jan 10 45 the enemy activity in attack was on the whole slighter than during the previous days, however there was more than on 9 Jan 45. More violent fighting was raging on the right of 12 Volks Gren Div and South of Provedroux, between Ottré and Petite LanglireFor the evening of 10 Jan 45 the Division ordered a withdrawal movement to the following line: Course of the Ronce stream east of Petite Langlire – northern edge of Langlire – Langlire stream—Pisserotte. This line was to be defended on 11 Jan 45. During the night of 10 Jan 45 600 men replacements, mostly elderly, inexperienced in fighting, were brought up and thrown into the fighting line.”

German crosses at the school of Langlire
German crosses at the school of Langlire

In Wilhelm Tieke’s book “In feuersturm letzter Kriegsjahre”,  about the 9th SS “Hohenstaufen” and 10th SS “Frundsberg”, we found the following:
On January 7, 1945, Hitler ordered a retreat to the line from Dochamps (10 km northeast of La Roche) -Longchamps (5 km northwest of Bastogne). With this the Ardennes offensive is finally written off, the general withdrawal to the starting positions is initiated. On January 9th, the 1st Army’s offensive in Oberersass was judged to have failed. In the course of the withdrawal from the Ardennes, the 1st SS Panzer Corps should first be drawn out and refreshed. The detachment of the combat group begins on January 5 (the divisions can no longer be reached otherwise). 1st SS Panzer Division and first part of the 9th SS Panzer Division near Bastogne moved through the 26th Infantry Division and the 340 Volksgrenadier Division.
On January 6th, the replacement of the 12th SS Panzer Division began. Pressure from the 3rd US Army is increasing on both sides of Bastogne.
It is also getting critical in the north. On January 8th, the 1st US Army tore apart the German front at Baraque de Fraiture. The SS Pz AA 9 (Aufklärungsabteilung 9)  is used to close a gap on the heights west of Ottré.

Deze afbeelding heeft een leeg alt-attribuut; de bestandsnaam is POW-German-january-1945-Ottre.jpg
German POW’s in Ottré, Janaury 1945

On the evening of January 9, 1945, the withdrawal movement began from the promontory northwest of Bastogne. In the north, the 1st US Army reached Vielsalm and advanced on Salmchateau. The SS panzer grenadier regiment 20 is quickly brought up and used to block the Salm valley on both sides of Provedroux.
The battalions and combat groups must now assume the function of a “fire brigade” everywhere on critical front positions. The command post of the 9th. SS Panzer Division is relocated to Beho.
On January 10, 1945, the Americans attacked the Salm valley. SS panzer grenadier regiment 20 positioned on both sides of Provedroux repulsed the attack with the support of the II / SS Panzer artillery regiment 9. The 20th regiment also withstood other enemy attacks. There is no getting through here for the Americans.
Further to the west is the SS Pz. AA 9 on the heights near Ottré with bent left wings up to the heights near Langlire.
The course of January 10, 1945, is described by the Unterscharfuhrer Hax, group leader of 3.(squadron)/SS-PzAA 9:
The Americans are targeting the hilltop between Ottré and Langlir. At the top of the hill is Unterscharfuhrer Meitinger with his group. At the ravine there is an 88 and further back, behind a farmstead, two panthers have taken a lurking position.
The Americans attack with tank support. Our guns speak. They run up three times, three times they are sent back down into the valley, until they finally realize that they cannot get through here. Three enemy tanks are on fire.
In the meantime me and my reinforced group have taken up positions on the right side of the road at the farm. Then the enemy artillery began to drum and covered the snowy landscape with black craters. The strong artillery fire continued all day. My group is miraculously getting away with no failures. A tank kill goes to my group’s account; Meciak shot him down with a bazooka in the morning mist. (the US tanks showed up after 13.00hrs; BK
) Around 20:00 p.m. I am ordered to the Kp.Gef. Booth in Langlir, house number 65. The place has been completely shot, life takes place in the cellar. I am instructed in the new situation, the department is supposed to move a few hundred meters to the Ronce brook during the night. The stream rises south of Baraque de Fraiture and flows into the Salm at Provedroux. So this is the new line of defense that is supposed to withstand the pressure of the 1st US Army from the north.” […]
I am moving along the village street with two companions. The moon shines pale and there is now an eerie silence. A man is lying at the bend in the street, slurring “Americans” in a barely audible voice. I believe that it is a wounded man on his own who could not yet be recovered, but at the same moment I see a group of soldiers on the other side of the street in the shadow of the moon of a house and believe that it’s the vanguard. I take a few steps towards them and call them. From over there I heard the call: “Hands Up!” And I ran away at lightning speed. Shots tear the silence and I feel that I am hit. I collapse exhausted in a cellar. Contrary to all expectations, the Americans carried out a night attack, in which they unfortunately drove into our withdrawal movement. […] My left upper arm has been shot, a bone splinter is sticking out of the wound. My left thigh looks the same: I can no longer walk.”

Although I know who was on the ridge, our witness Unterscharfuhrer Hax of the 3rd squad left the scene to report what was going on and can not tell us from German perspective what happened after he left.

© Bob Konings

Chapter 14: 10 January 1945 >>>>>

13 January 1945, elements of the 3rd Armored Division in Langlire