Archive for July, 2010

Soviet Advance Into Silesia

Posted: July 31, 2010 in World War 2

Fortress Breslau

On Saturday, January 20th, 1945, the authorities took hurried measures for the defense of the city. Everywhere members of the Volkssturm could be seen manning the anti-tank guns, & there were rumors that the east bank of the Oder was about to be evacuated. For days, miserable columns of refugees had been marching through the town. With cart & horse, handcarts & prams, they & their families trudged in the icy cold. Bartheln had become the new front line. We were told that Bischofswalde had to be evacuated, & that at 9:30am on Monday, all those not doing essential work would have to be at the tram depot. I decided to ignore the official order, & made up my mind to stay behind. Every night, as we went to bed, we knew that our house might collapse about us.

From the diary of Emil Heinze, January 1945

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“Help Us! Help Us!”

Suddenly figures loom up in front of us. Are they Russians? I cannot tell for sure. I push my sub-machine gun forward, release the safety catch &, in the snowstorm, peer at the s now-covered column. Now they are only ten yards away. I recognize women & children among them. I jump up & shout “This way!” – Weeping girls with pale, timid faces fall around my neck. “Help us, please help us.” Children whimper “Mummy, mummy.” All the men & women stand round silently, their faces white with cold, their clothes sodden with snow. I am aghast & hold up a young girl who is about to collapse. From their expression I can see the misery, the hardships & the terrible suffering of these dispossessed & unprotected East Prussians. Slowly, I walk on ahead of them. There are about thirty people. Many have no coats, & some of the men walk barefoot. The Russians had taken their boots off them.

Report by Corporal Rehfeld, January 13th, 1945

“Most of us were killed…”

We asked him how it was that he was fighting when he was only 13 years old. He pointed to his comrades, many of them from Oranienburg, “The district leader, Hauptbannfuehrer Frischefsky, had all of us fetched from our homes by policemen & ordered us to report to SS barracks & on the Castle Square. Then we were divided up into separate squads & attached to various SS & Volkssturm units. We were detailed to fight north & east of the town. Most of us were killed by rifle fire, when we were ordered to attack across an open field. Later the fighting shifted to the center of the town. For two days. During these two days & nights, Oranienburg changed hands four times. Nearly all of us died. Then the Russians started to hammer us with their Stalin Organs. & when we called it a day & made for home, we were stopped & had to go along to Eden, across the canal. My Youth Group-Leader, who refused, was hanged on the nearest tree by a few SS men & one SA man. He was fifteen. Then the rest of our squad – 8 of the original 120 – decided to do as we were told. Soon afterwards, the bridge across the canal was blown up, & they left us in peace. I met a few schoolmates who told me that the Hauptbannfuehrer himself, his girlfriend & Hitler Youth Leader Schiller of the Aerotechnical School had made off to the west two days earlier on bicycles. I then walked to Velten & tried to make for Henningsdorf, where I have an aunt. But just before I got there, I was picked up. Then I had to fight in Reinickendorf, on the Spandau road. Then we pulled out. This morning we were picked up again & ordered to fight right here.”

“… Won’t you please give me a cigarette,” he begged. I pressed the box into his hand.

From H. Altner: Totentaz Berlin (Dance macabre in Berlin)

Hope Is Fading

Posted: July 30, 2010 in World War 2
May 1st: Shell crater after shell crater all around us. The streets are steaming. The smell of the dead is unbearable at times. Last night, on the floor above us, police officers & soldiers celebrated their farewell to life, in spite of the heavy shelling. This morning men & women were lying on the stairs, drunk & in tight embrace. Rumor has it that Hitler is dead. Our hopes are fading.

May 2nd: Surrender leaflets in the afternoon. Soviet loud speakers scream out Weidling’s alleged or real call to lay down our arms.

May 3rd: At dawn, attack on the bridge across the Havel at Spandau. The bridge is captured. It can only be crossed by jumping. But desperation drives a vast mass of refugees of all ages on to it. They drop off in whole rows. The last serviceable tanks & lorries pave a grisly path through confused heaps of human bodies. The bridge is swimming in blood.

May 4th: At dawn, isolated columns reach Döeberitz Parade Ground. Here we are met by vastly superior Russian Forces. Our ammunition is running out. Bitter fighting for hours. We are completely scattered. We try to get through in tiny groups. We reach Lake Beetz & hide in the reeds, hoping to continue at night.

From the Diary of an Officer with the 57th Panzer Division, May 1945

“Then he gave one of the most inhumane orders…”

When we arrived for the talk, Hitler rose & we followed him into the conference room. Though no encouraging message from Wenck had been received, Hitler continued to clutch at that straw. Regardless of the fate of the starving, thirsting & dying population, he was determined to postpone the inevitable & even further. & then he gave one of the most inhumane of all his orders: because the Russians had repeatedly thrown back the German lines by advancing through the underground & other railway tunnels to attack the German forces from the rear, he now detailed special units to open the locks of the river Spree, thus flooding the railway tunnels south of The Reich Chancellery. These tunnels were crammed with civilians & thousands of wounded. They were no longer of interest to him. His insane order cost the lives of many people.

Boldt, Die Letzten Tage der Reichskanzlei (The Last Days of the Reich Chancellery), April 26-27th, 1945

Murder Of Albrecht Haushofer

Posted: July 27, 2010 in World War 2

The Murder of Albrecht Haushofer & 13 Other Political Prisoners

During the last night of Nazi rule, fourteen inmates of Lehrterstrasse St. Prison in Berlin were fetched from their cells & told that they were being released, subject to confirmation by Prinz Albrecht Strasse (Gestapo H.Q.) When the fourteen passed the prison gate, they were joined by an equal number of guards in black uniform. The prisoners had barely taken a few steps into the spring night – hearing the liberators’ gunfire at close quarters – before they were all felled by shots in the neck. When the dead were discovered, one of them was still clasping a bundle of poems in his hand. He was Albrecht Haus-hofer. The man who lifted him up was his own brother, just released from prison himself. The verses he took from the dead man’s hand bore the title Moabiter Sonette (Sonnets From Moabit Prison).

From R. Hilderbrandt’s epilogue to the sonnets, Berlin 1946


XXII Comrades

When into reveries I dully sank,
I saw the heroes’ host file in,
Yorck, Moltke, Schulenberg, Schwerin,
‘side Hassel, Popitz, Helfferich & Planck

Not one who quivered like a reed,
not one who, ruling in his tower,
with glorious strength, did in the fatal hour,
forget his people or their need.

Those borne away nourish our hope,
all men of noble rank and fame,
who paced these cells, yet felt no shame-

& so they waited for the rope.
Times are when madness rules the land.
Then noblest heads roll in the sand.

By Albrecht Haushofer, April 23rd, 1945

The Class of 1929 Called Up

Posted: July 26, 2010 in World War 2

“Hundreds of thousands of lads like him…”

A 12-year-old German boy approached a Canadian soldier & begged him for chocolate in broken English. I can just imagine the soldier replying: “Hallo boy, here, chocolate, chocolate.” & according to the Reuter, the foolish Canadian began to rummage in his pockets. At this moment, the boy drew a pistol & shot the Canadian in the stomach. That, they claimed, was all you can expect of Germany’s youth. Demoralized & wild. All I can say is: give us hundreds of thousands of lads like him, and we shall win the war!

From a speech by Secretary of State Werner Naumann on March 23rd, 1945 in Munich, Germany