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Erhard Steiniger was born on 8 April 1920 in the Sudetenland. He joined his Wehrmacht unit on 12 October 1940 as a radio operator and saw action across the Eastern Front, ending the war as an Obergefreiter (lance-corporal). During the war, he was awarded the Iron Cross II Class, Wound Badge in Black, Infantry Assault Badge and Ostmedaille. In May 1945, he fell into Russian hands and spent four-and-a-half years as a prisoner in Siberia.