Just a flesh wound?

This Gefreiter has lost his right arm, but the war isn’t over for him. Soldiers who became partial invalids were often retrained and put in non-combat positions. The loss of an eye, a hand or even a whole arm wasn’t deemed reason enough for discharge. The most famous crippled soldier was probably Stuka ace Colonel Hans-Ulrich Rudel, “Panzerknacker“, who flew the last 1½ months of the war with a prosthetic leg, claiming a further 26 enemy tanks for a total score of 519. Another famous colonel was Claus Schenck von Stauffenberg, who had lost his left eye, right arm and two fingers on his left hand in North Africa. His handicap made it hard for him to ready the second charge in the briefcase that held the bomb intended to kill Hitler, so he went with just one, which proved to be not enough…

Disabled soldiers, NCOs and officers could serve in other capacities, like clerks, telephone operators, instructors, staff personnel, etc. In the second half of 1942 there were 10,000 men in retraining programs (Sonderlehrgänge für Kriegsversehrte). In 1953 there were about 2,000,000 disabled veterans in Western Germany alone (out of a total population of  51 million), of whom 1.5 million had more than 25% disability. The soldier in the photo would eventually receive the Wound Badge in silver, and if he survived the war, he would be entitled to a job suitable for a disabled veteran.


Thanks to Christoph Awender on Axis History Forum for additional information.


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