Karl-Heinz Kracht was a 19 year old German corporal, who first saw action during the Battle of Arnhem. He was the loader of a Panzer III tank, which took part in the attacks on the British positions at the north end of the Rhine bridge at Arnhem.
Karl-Heinz Kracht joined the Wehrmacht on 3 September 1943, after he had served one year in the Reichsarbeitsdienst (Reich Labour Service). In March 1944, after a failed attempt to become an officer, he was transferred to a tank training program at Bielefeld.
On 17 September 1944 Allied paratroopers landed in the Netherlands during Operation Market Garden. Kracht and his unit with 15 tanks were loaded onto a train and set off to the front. They arrived in Zevenaar on 18 September and became part of the Kampfgruppe Knaust, an improvised unit that was quickly set up to help with the fighting. The tanks reached Arnhem from the east, ready to fight.
Karl-Heinz’s unit suffered heavy losses while it supported the German infantry attacking British positions on the north end of the Rhine bridge. He fought as a loader in a Panzer III tank, the exact same one he had trained on in Bielefeld. He was shocked by the destruction in the city and the many dead bodies lying around and feared the British anti-tank guns.
After the Battle of Arnhem and more intense fighting at Elst, Karl-Heinz was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class for his actions. At Easter 1945, he was captured by American troops in the Ruhr pocket and became a prisoner of war. Released in 1946, he became a dentist and moved to Sweden. In 1973 he returned to Germany where he died in Flensburg in 1999.