Meet Lt. Manfred Rottenberg, born in Halle on 13th May 1920. He joined the Luftwaffe with his brother in law in 1940. Whilst his brother in law had a career with KG51 the young Manfred was assigned to Flak Ersatz Abteilung 6, this unit having been formed in August 1939 in Hamburg.
However, Manfred was destined to take part in Wacht am Rhien. Taking part in one of the well documented events of 1944 - supporting KG Peiper in his units attack on Honsfeld on December 16th 1944. Sadly the few veterans of FJD3 who are alive don't appear to recall Manfred. However his name does appear as Kompaniechef of 14./FJR8 from 30.11.44 taking over from Oberleutnant Barth who was listed as MIA in the Hürtgenwald on 29.11.44. FJR9 were still committed to the fighting in the Hurtgen forest until beginning of December, then being pulled out of the line and initially deployed to Duren before preparation for the Ardennes offensive.
FJR9 had suffered grievous losses in the forest fighting and for Wacht Am Rhien fielded the following:
I Battalion - 11 Officers and 513 men.
II Battalion - 13 Officers and 457 men.
III Battalion - 9 Officers and 389 men.
Manfred is believed to have been transferred to 9th Regiment on December 15th in order to take over a Kompanie in the II./FJR9 and was with them as the unit began their advance from Losheimergraben. Vincent Kuhlbach who was a Fw Fähnrich and Zugführer in 1./FJR9 thought he could recall Manfred when they started out towards the small border town of Lanzerath on 16th December. There is little doubt that Manfred Rottenberg was one of the FJR9 men with the vanguard of KG Peiper on 17th, either riding on the Panther tanks or perhaps on foot. There are several well known pictures of LW personnel from FJR9 taken in Honsfeld on or about 17th December 1944.
Below; Honsfeld, where once death and confusion reigned in 1944.
KG Peiper with its attendant Fallschirmjäger escort went through Honsfeld in quick order, surprising and killing many US 99th Infantry Div men as well as capturing all sorts of vehicles and stores. The attack on Honsfeld moved on and the KG attacked towards Büllingen. The Germans had not had everything their way. They had lost several armoured vehicles to AT and Bazooka fire in and around Honsfeld. FJR9 lost at least 38 soldiers in the battle for Honsfeld. Among those lying on the battlefield was Lt. Manfred Rottenberg, killed in the last great offensive of the last war. The war came to Honsfeld and by the spring it had passed by for good. The Germans did bury a good number of these fallen comrades in the cemetery at Honsfeld, there is no way of knowing whether Manfred was among those laid to rest by his comrades.
However, after the fighting the American graves registration teams got to work with the remaining local populace and the dead were gathered from where they had fallen. Initially Manfred was buried in Henri Chapelle, however in 1951 his remains were re-interred at the German soldiers cemetery at Lommel. The photographs and many letters from Manfred to his Mother were found just in time by an enthusiast who obtained a suitcase full of ephemera from the estate of Manfred's Mother in Oldenburg. If not for his timely intervention this story may well have been literally lost forever.
Today Lt. Manfred Rottenberg still lies at Lommel. It might be reassuring to know that he rests alongside fellow FJ whose date of death is the same as his own. Perhaps he was found and buried by fellow Germans at first and later found a decent resting place among comrades.
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