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"Identification of German Prisoners" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following report on identification of German prisoners of war is taken from Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 19, February 25, 1943.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department publication Tactical and Technical Trends. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]


Attention is called to the several ways by which German PWs may be identified by the examination of records found on their person.

a. Identity Disks

These are of three types, viz.--

(1) Those showing the man's present unit (comparatively rare);

(2) Those showing the man's Ersatz (replacement training) unit (most common;

(3) Those bearing the number, but not the APO number. This is a new kind of disk of which, the report states, nothing more is yet known.

The soldier is issued his identity disk by the unit to which he is first assigned. This accounts for the preponderant number of disks showing an Ersatz unit, for the majority of men called up since the first stage of the war would be untrained, and would therefore be assigned to a depot unit for training.

On the other hand, the trained reservists mobilized on the outbreak of war, or previously, would normally be assigned direct to a field unit, whose designation would therefore appear on the identity disk issued to them.

b. Mobilization Regulations Concerning Identity Disks

"Every member of the Army will be issued an identity disk by the unit to which he belongs, or to which he is assigned on the first day of mobilization, or to which he may be sent during the course of the war."

Members of the Frontier Guard (Grenzwacht), home security units* (Sicherheitsbesatzung), and the militarized personnel of the semi-military construction corps (Todt Organization) were issued an identity disk before the war. It bore the Roman number of the Corps Area (Wehrkreis) and a serial number.

c. Replacement of Lost Disks

It is worth noting that a soldier who has lost his original disk is issued a new one, which is stamped with the designation of the new issuing unit and sub-unit.

d. Pay-book (Soldbuch) and Identity Certificate (Truppenausweis)

The German pay-book contains so much information, especially about the soldier's present unit and previous units, that pay-books may be withdrawn from soldiers engaged in specific operations. Flying personnel are not allowed to carry their pay-book on war flights. During the operations at Bardia, Sollum, and Halfaya, the example of the German Air Force was followed generally, and pay-books were withdrawn from the army personnel engaged and kept with the company records together with the Wehrpass (a book containing the permanent military history of the individual). Instead of the pay-book a temporary certificate of identity was carried, giving the following particulars:

Vorlaufiger Personal-Ausweis

(Provisional Personal Identification Certificate)

(A) Inhaber ist der (Bearer is)

          Dienstgrad, Name, Zuname.
          (rank, first name, surname)

(B) Geb. am (Date of birth)

(C) Wohnhaft in (Home address)

(D) Am _ _ _ _ _ auf afrikanischem Boden eingetroffen (Arrived on African soil on - [date])

(Official stamp)
  _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

The certificate was signed by the company commander and was stamped with the APO number. Identification was therefore possible in most cases. The certificate was typed on any piece of paper. When folded it was much the same size as the pay-book.

*Such as police, Gestapo, etc.


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