This website is ‘Armor Central’ for those interested in WWII tanks, German military vehicles & the history of the Second World War
This website is dedicated to the "Tigerfibel", and its authentic English translation, as first published in 1997. You can find out more about the various Tigerfibel editions, and buy the book now available again in full-size 11 x 8.5” format.
What does the name of this book mean – and what does this book actually represent? The original was of course published in German, by the Chief of Staff of the Tank Corps “Generalinspekteur der Panzertruppen”*) Col. General Heinz Guderian, on August 1, 1943, to be precise.
This official publication date falls right in the middle of the on-going “Unternehmen Zitadelle”, the formal German Wehrmacht designation used for a large-scale offensive operation on the Eastern Front during the second half of the fighting season in 1943. This operation included the infamous Battle of Kursk – known as the greatest tank battle in history. Operation “Zitadelle” officially lasted for an entire 48 days, from 5 July 1943 – 23 August 1943, and included not only the well-known Kursk Battle, but the equally significant Battle of Prokhorovka.
*) German word for “Inspector General” means de facto what Americans call “Chief of Staff” in this context.
Much hope had been placed in deployment of the Tiger I tank (together with the Panther medium battle tank, and Ferdinand tank destroyer), in achieving decisive victory at Kursk. A success was desperately needed before the weather, autumn drawing near, would make large-scale agile mobile warfare impossible once more.
It is plausable to assume that lessons learned during the first days of Tiger I tank deployment seen in operation “Zitadelle” were incorporated post-haste into the actual authoring process of the original German Tiger Tank Manual.
This assumption appears even more realistic when considering the high number of tanks known to have been taken out of action during this offensive – not by enemy fire, but by mechanical defect. Indeed, sensible minds would try to make sure that any mechanical failure remains rooted only in material defect – not operator error.
Much of this book is dedicated to ensuring basic operation of the tank, not merely how to deploy it effectively against the enemy.
The German word “Fibel” is a traditional term for “school book”, or “class text book” now no longer in widespread use. It is understood to be a smaller book, of compact format, containing only the essence of what one needs to know – for example, basic grammar rules. In some cases, the term is also used to decribe a “song book”, to help memorize the text for various songs.
The meaning of “Fibel” is actually not quite the same as “manual”, e.g. in “operator manual” – a book understood to contain extensive, detailed instructions. The English translation “primer” (a term likewise no longer in widespread use) would in fact be more accurate.
That is exactly why the authors of this book, Lieutenant Josef von Glatter-Goetz assisted by illustrators PFC Gessinger and Non-Com. Officer Wagner chose to coin this title.
This makes sense, because indeed the “Tigerfibel” as written boils things down to the very essence of what armormen driving, manning, and commanding the Tiger I tank would need to know. In fact, the men destined to use this book were often of such a young age, they were bound to have vivid memory of holding an actual school text book in hand ... practically exchanging it against this basic instruction manual for operating the Tiger I tank, before going off to war.
The Tiger tank manual, “die Tigerfibel”, came about not by explicit order from military administrators, but because the soldiers involved in training Tiger tank crews realized the need for a simple, straightforward training manual. Published in the middle of 1943, well-nigh a year after first commissioning of the Tiger I main battle tank, actual front line experience gathered in using this machine on the Eastern Front served to provide essential content for writing the original German book. The Tiger tank had been rushed into service already in August 1942, a full year prior to publication of this compact instruction manual.
The officer in charge was Lieutenant Colonel Hans Christern, an experienced commander formerly with the 2nd Battalion of the 31st Panzer-Regiment – notably not a Waffen-SS unit. He served under the Chief of Staff of the Tank Corps “Generalinspekteur der Panzertruppen” Col. General Heinz Guderian in 1943.
Col. HANS CHRISTERN | Image credit: © "Binz Film - Foto - Verlag"
Lt.Col. Christern took initiative and contacted his subordinates, asking them to draft a concept for an effective written and illustrated training aid, and he also passed that request on to his friend, Lieutenant Josef von Glatter-Goetz.
Rather than devising a mere outline to be handed down for implementation, Lt. von Glatter-Goetz went right ahead and started writing the actual manual page by page. Well aware that time was of the essence, he took it upon himself to do the entire job, from start to finish. The title “Tigerfibel” was actually his creation, as was the overall concept of using colloquial language, poetry, and generally making use of a common soldier's intuition rather than dry book knowledge. The official designation of this publication was “D656/27”.
All cartoons and illustrations were done by PFC Gessinger and Non-Com. Officer Wagner. Von Glatter-Goetz was in touch with the manufacturers and suppliers of the Tiger I tank and its components and equipment to obtain further illustrations *).
*) This information was derived from:
TIGER - Egon Kleine/Volkmar Kuehn, Motorbuch Verlag, 1976 - their bibliography in turn lists "Die Tigerfibel - Entstehung" by GRAF SEHER-TOSS (in manuscript form) as the original source.
A list of booklets, posters, instructions and other publications was enclosed. This demonstrates clearly, that the “Tigerfibel” was not intended as the sole repository of information and guidance on training for Tiger tank crews.
But the information found in this primer booklet was likely the only study material available to many a young armor man sitting in crowded train compartments, traveling for days on end to the Eastern Front. Lacking the required level of intensive training or maneuvers held at their home base, they had to compensate for this, and catch up as best they could, by gleaning information from this manual. A thorough understanding of its contents would soon become a matter of life and death for them.
Find out about the authentic ENGLISH TRANSLATION of the original Tiger Tank Manual.
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