Das Reich panzers played a key role in the Kharkov campaign in early 1943. At the end of January, the division entered combat southwest of that city. Included in its armor strength on February 1st were 66 Panzer III's, 60 Pz. IV's, and 4 Tigers. The panzer regiment's commander was Standartenfuehrer (Staf.) Herbert-Ernst Vahl, its Ist Battalion c/o was Sturmbannfuehrer (Stubaf.) Albin von Reitzenstein, its IInd Battalion c.o was Stubaf. Christian Tychsen. Reitzenstein took over command of the regiment on Feb. 1st when Vahl c/o of the division. In mid-Feb. Hstuf. Grader was killed, and briefly Hstuf. Herbert Kuhlmannm then Hstuf. Fritz Herzig took over the Tiger company.
On the 19th, 33 Pz. III's were combat fit. Just after 9:15 a.m. on the 22nd, 150 km south of Kharkov, Hauptscharfuehrer (Hscha.) Karl Kloskowski in Pz. III #431 seized a bridge across the Woltschia River on the western outskirts of Pavlograd, in the process destroying three T-34s and a number of anti-tank guns. Soon, assisted by Unterscharfuehrer (Uscha.) Paul Egger's Tiger, the two panzers held the bridge until reinforcements arrived, allowing Das Reich panzergrenadiers to secure the town less than 2 hours later. Kloskowski was awarded the Knight's Cross in July, 1943 for this action.
Eleven Pz. III's remained combat fit on March 4th. At 2:00 p.m. on March 14th, Hscha. Karl-Heinz Worthmann in Pz. IV #631 raced ahead of Kampfgruppe Harmel to storm Hill 209.3 near Wossyschtschewo, 13 km southeast of Kharkov. He destroyed 27 heavy anti-tank guns, 2 artillery pieces, and numerous MG nests, driving the Russians from a strongpoint that was preventing the encirclement of the city. After Kharkov fell to the SS Panzer Korps, Das Reich tanks were involved in the seizing of Belgorod during the third week in March. The division knocked out a total of 292 tanks and SU's in the Kharkov-Belgorod campaign, and lost 77 tanks and assault guns.
For his brilliant leadership of its IInd Battalion during this period, Stubaf. Tychsen received the K.C. on the 31st, as did Karl-Heinz Worthmann. In April, Ostuf. Karl-Heinz Lorenz, winner of the German Cross in Gold as c/o of the 2nd Pz. Company, joined the IInd Pz.Abt. staff, while Hstuf. Herbert Zimmermann took over the Tiger Company. Worthmann was promoted to Untersturmfuehrer (Ustuf.) and became c/o of the 6th Pz. Company. Klowkowski transferred to the 7th panzer company, becoming its 3rd Platoon leader. The majority of the Ist Battalion's personnel travelled west to train on the new Panther tanks, and didn't return to Russia until after Operation Citadel. Thus to bolster Das Reich's lone remaining panzer battalion for Kursk, the IInd, captured T34 tanks were formed into a company (its 9th). The 5th and 6th companies had Pz. IV's for the upcoming battle, but the former's strength had to be filled out by a platoon of Pz. III's, most left over from the Kharkov battles.
Updated January 29, 2022