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Die hier gezeigten Abzeichen sind zu edukativen Zwecken dargestellt, aus diesem Grund sind sie nicht abgedeckt. Weiterhin möchte ich auf den folgenden Discliamer aufmerksam machen:


Disclaimer: Die hier gezeigten Abbildungen aus der Zeit des "Dritten Reiches", u.a. mit dem damals obligatorischen "Hakenkreuz", dienen der Berichterstattung über Vorgänge des Zeitgeschehens, der staatsbürgerlichen Aufklärung sowie Forschung und Lehre (§ 86a, 86 StGB)


The wartime experience of Dieter Mueller-Dombois started before 1945, but I have called it "Dieter Müller 1945" simply because of Dieter´s role in operation Veritable, the battle of the Reichswald.

Dieter, who now lives in the USA, came over to visit the former battlefield where he once served as a Wehrmacht soldier in WW2. He first made contact with me through this website during research for the trip.

We got on really great and Dieter asked me if I would like to carry his wartime story on the bunker, I said I would be delighted and here it is. I have decided not to change it in any way and it is presented just as Dieter wrote it.

I have recently put Dieter Müller-Dombois in contact with another wartime veteran from the same battle, a British Army veteran named Richard, I hope these two older gentlemen will be e-mailing back and forth for a long time to come.

 



Prof.Dieter Müller-Dombois and Bill Medland. I am wearing WW2 British battle dress because I put on a small display of British wartime equipment later the same day.

My World War II Story  by Dieter Mueller-Dombois

1. Introduction

2. Pre-Military Training 1942 to 1943

3. Recruitment and Basic Training 1944

4. Thrown into Action September 1944 to January 1945

5. The Reichswald Battle February to March 1945

6. Inside the Ruhr Kessel March 1945

7. POW April to September 1945

8. Epilogue

1. INTRODUCTION

   WW II began in September 1939. I was with my father and my best friend, Heinz Waechter, on a summer holiday hike through the Thuringia forest along the Rennsteig, from Eisenach to Wunsiedel (Fichtelgebirge), when the announcement came via radio "Our Fuehrer Adolf Hitler has declaired war on Poland," all Military reserve units have to assemble at predetermined stations. We arrived in the town of Hof, where my father received a written order to immediately return home and join a military police unit in Guetersloh about 15 km from our home town Bethel. We took a train home and on the following day I witnessed the rapid assembly of the unit to which my father was ordered. Military uniforms were distributed including boots and belts, still of raw yellow leather that had to be blackened. There were a number of motorcycles that had been confiscated. A subdued mood prevailed among the reservists, whose tasks were to serve as backup and supply units behind the front troops and to function as the occupation force. My father was a German soldier in WWI and now a reserve officer at the rank of lieutenant. I admired him for his leadership task and mentioned to him my hope to also get involved. I just had turned 14, and my father responded by saying, "I hope, my son, that you will not become involved in this war." But it turned out otherwise.

2. PRE-MILITAIRY TRAINING 1942 to 1943

   It started with my activity in the Reiter-H. J. (Hitler Jugend) and my duty as a motorcycle messenger during air-raid warnings in 1942. During the summer-school holidays 1942, I participated in a forestry apprentice course in East Prussia (Warnicken), which was strictly organized on military principles. Subsequently, during the month of August, I was commissioned into pre-military training at the horse-riding academy Hoya/Weser. There we had North African Berber horses, several of them non-sterilized males. The one I got to ride often, named Mohamed, occasionally attacked other horses and riders with his front legs. He once bit me in my left shoulder, when I was brushing his left flank. I finished the training course with the German Riding Sports Medal (Deutsches Reiter Sport Abzeichen in Bronze). This involved certain tasks in dressage and hurdle jumping.

   In 1943, I was drafted into the RAD (Reichsarbeitsdienst) from May 16 to August 12. We received a few weeks of boot camp in Deutsch-Krone (Pommern) and then were put to work to build stonewalls against bomb splinters (Splitterschutzmauern) at certain factory buildings in West Germany (Duesseldorf). We also had to construct water-holding ponds for fire protection during air raids. Thereafter, I was allowed back to Highschool until end January 1944, when I was drafted into the German Army (Wehrmacht). During the night of January 10/11 1944, my home town Bielefeld, including Bethel, was bombed during an air-raid.




Dieter performed motorcycle messenger duties for the NSKK

   I was performing my duty as motorcycle messenger and landed in a bomb crater in the middle of the street (Guetersloher Strasse). I was not seriously injured, my motor cycle motor was still running, and I was helped out of the crater by Friedbert (Bonze) Grotz, one of my close Highschool friends, who was also on motorcycle duty during that night. He got killed near the end of the war in April 1945 doing his duty as military orderly (Sanitaeter) in the Ruhrkessel (the final stand of the remaining German West-Army under complete encirclement). That was 15 km south of where I ended up, but luckily as POW April 20, 1945.




Dieter in RAD uniform

3. RECRUITMENT AND BASIC TRAINING 1944

   A few months prior to my Highschool diploma (Abitur), I was drafted into the German Army (Wehrmacht) on January 28, 1944. My assigned unit was Artillery (horse-back and horse-drawn) in the 2nd Company ZBV (for special purposes). The unit was stationed at the Osnabrueck Military Barracks. Here I got my basic training (2nd bootcamp after the RAD). In the RAD I had acquired some useful skills, how to make my bed and to arrange my belongings in a personal locker. Satisfactory inspections resulted in some free Sunday afternoons where my girlfriend could come visiting. A street photographer took a snapshot of us.




March 44 Elisabeth & Dieter in Osnabrueck

   At a more advanced point aimed at passing certain skills in shooting with a gun, a pistol, and cannons involving triangulation, throwing hand-granades, and jumping on a fake Russian T34 tank to set magnetic explosives (Hafthohl-Ladungen), I got promoted from Recruit (GI) to Kanonier = Gunner (March 1944).  Thereafter, I was ordered to an officer’s training school in Koeln-Wahn for the period July 15 to November 15, 1944. Here we learned among other skills target practice with canons of different calibers, protecting ourselves in tank attacks, etc. On a broad military exercise field, a wide-open heath & bush savanna (Wahner Heide), we were given a small hand-shovel (to wear on our belts) in addition to our normal gear. From a distance, resembling the length of a football field, tanks (Panzers) were coming at us, and there was no way to escape except digging quickly a small narrow trench into which to disappear from the surface. The tank then would drive right over you while you were hiding in that trench. That exercise we had to repeat several times. But our training-time in Koeln-Wahn was cut short.




Kanonier Müller in Osnabrueck, July 1944

4. THROWN INTO ACTION SEPTEMBER 1944 TO JANUARY 1945

   The advancing Allied Forces disrupted our schooling. D-day had occurred on June 6, followed by the assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler July 20, 1944. The "Total War" was declared and our training course in Koeln-Wahn was cut short and ordered into action overnight in late August 1944. Our riding horses were put to draw cannons. After a few days they all got injured from pulling the overly heavy loads. The horses were not used to such inappropriate task. As a consequence, we had to exchange our riding horses with heavy Belgian-type draw-horses. This happened at the Dutch countryside near the town of Roermond. At one point, during our march westward, when my task was riding a big Belgian lead horse drawing our canon, I hung my rifle at the front side of the carrier vehicle during a brief pause. When I forgot to watch my gun hanging there during that pause, some other GI stole it. A soldier loosing his gun translates into a severe misdemeanor. For that I got punished with 3 days incarceration. But since this happened just behind the frontline, my punishment was changed to carrying ammunition deposited in a pile of 50 big bullets (each weighing about 30 kg) in a fruit-tree orchard from one place over a distance of about 40 yards to another place. This busy work took several hours during one night. The next day someone pointed out the guy who stole my rifle and I got into a hard fist-fight in our transient horse stables.

   Along the Maas River, the Allied push east had come to a halt there for several months as the Allies (Americans, British, and Canadian troops opposite us) used that time for a build-up in strength. They were aiming for the final push across the Maas and Rhine rivers into West Germany. For a while my task was to transport ammunition in a one-horse-drawn single-axle wooden cart at nights into the frontal artillery firing stations north of Roermond at the right side of the Maas River in Holland. This transport was organized in long lines of about 10-12 such carts. Then I got ordered north in Holland to the village of Siebengewald to work as Rechner (artillery-office-surveyor) in a Rechen-Trupp (surveyor-office-unit). Here it happened during one alcohol-happy evening that the staff-sergeant (a rather mean guy hating Highschool students as egg-heads) ordered me to drink schnapps on his command. At that time I had been promoted to the rank of Gefreiter (Army-Private) and of course was supposed to obey my superior’s command. Luckily, I was able to bypass that command without him noticing my trick of drink-disposal. From an earlier experience gained as a boy, I hated people being out of control under the influence.

   From Siebengewald, I had to convey several times messages on horseback to our frontline directly at the Maas River, a distance of about 9 km. My next task was that of a VB (Vorgeschobener Beobachter = artillery spy) at the frontline in the trench system with the infantry. Here I had assigned to me a telephone operator who had to convey the target places for artillery support to the survey office and command center in Siebengewald. One day, Allied tanks appeared at the Maas shore across from our trench system. I ordered some artillery shots from our battery, but the shots landed on our side close to the shore with some shots in the water. Lucklily, no one was injured.

    For a better overview of the frontal terrain, I was ordered to take my VB position in the nearby church tower in the village of Heijen. Soon after I took up the position in that church tower with my periscope, our combat troops destroyed during overnight missions, first the church tower of Beugen on the enemy side of the Maas River, and a few days later also the church tower of Boxmeer. Both are villages opposite of Heyen on the left side of the Maas. Now I knew I had it coming. And indeed, the next day, following the destruction of the Boxmeer church tower, a Sherman tank appeared at the Maas-shore landing in my survey area designated as artillery firing zone Suse. Immediately, the tank took aim at my tower, and the first shot hit one story below me in the church organ. I still can hear the sound of the dying organ. As indoctrinated by training, I unclipped my periscope and ran down-stairs. As soon as I jumped past the organ the next shot hit the tower in the spot, where I had my periscope. I got to the ground safely and then stood a few yards away from the tower in the shelter of the pastor’s vacated residence. Now the tower was hammered and perforated by numerous shots until it tipped over with the brass rooster’s head first and then it collapsed totally. No enemy crossing the river followed, and I was ordered back into the frontal trenches.



   

1.3.45 War Merit Medal for Dieter´s  actions in Bielefeld the year before

    One day, my telephone operator wanted to have more luxury in our niche at the frontal trench. So we carried each a carpet over the 200 yard stretch from the vacated pastor’s residence to the trenches during daylight. Apparently we were spotted by the enemy (at that time Canadian soldiers) in the open willow-bush meadow leading to the frontal trenches and immediately came under mortar fire. Shots rained down all around us detonating by hitting the slightest obstacle even above ground, and we took shelter under the carpets. It certainly helped, since I got only lightly wounded on my head and left arm by splinters. Nothing happened to my comrade. I was treated at the front dispensary and sent back to my job as VB in the frontal trenches.




Dieter is awarded a wound badge in black

5. THE REICHSWALD BATTLE FEBRUARY TO MARCH 1945

   A major enemy breakthrough was expected either at Roermond or in the north from Nijmegen through the Reichswald. Our Artillery Regiment 184 was one among several Grenadier Regiments in the Reichswald battle under General Fiebig as part of the Heeres-Festungs-Artillerie-Abteilung 1512. Paratroop General Alfred Schlemm had the overall field command. He expected the major Allied push from Nijmegen through Kranenburg to Kleve into the German territory on the west side of the Rhein Rriver. (I learned some of this background only recently from the Internet and the book of WWII historian Peter Elstob "Battle of the Reichswald")



  

     Christmas 1944 I spent in one of the frontal Westwall Pillboxes (Bunkers at the first Siegfriedline) near Wyler. From there we made night-raids into the area of Groesbeek in early January 1945. It was a bitter cold time of the year. Thereafter we fortified our artillery position at the northern Westwall near Nuetterden, about 10 km east of the German city of Cleve (Kleve). I became again a staff member in an artillery survey office in one of the bunkers close to our battery, now armed only with three Russian 12.5 cm Haubitzen (howitzer), which we had pulled into position with oxen. We had no more tractors or horses. The Allied front was still along the left side (i.e. west) of the Maas on February 7, 1945, except for a crossing mid-way between Nijmegen and Cleve.



  

   In spite of our vulnerable position, I was ordered into another ROB course in Materborn (Feb. 7 to 27, 1945). The first day in the Officer’s training course in Materborn, I was asked to give a spontaneous presentation on the topic (drawn from a raffle) " Der Rhein, Deutschlands Fluss, nicht Deutschlands Grenze." I didn’t really know what to say on that topic except for a few propaganda phrases (implanted into us) that it was our task to stop the enemy from crossing the Rhine.

   During that night (Feb. 7 to 8) Cleve was attacked by a severe air raid. From our quarters, we ran out in various directions and flung ourselves into roadside ditches. I still remember the low dark and heavy rain clouds among which our anti aircraft guns FLAK (Flugabwehr Kanonen) search-lights detected numerous low-flying bombers. The bombs were landing randomly very close and far away from my wet ditch, but again, luckily, none of my close comrades (a group of about 10) and I got severely hurt. The next morning (February 8), we were released to our units. We hurried back along the 8 km forest road to our battery stands and bunkers. The following night (February 8 to 9), we were subjected to an Allied artillery barrage, described as "the largest artillery offensive since D-day and the heaviest barrage of WWII on the western front" (p. 68 in Peter Elstob book). According to that historic reference, the initial assault line was only 5 miles (8 km) wide from Wyler to Groesbeek. 50,000 troops were assembled there opposite us with 25,000 reserves and 500 tanks plus 500 specially adapted tracked vehicles dubbed by the British the "Funnies." Many of these were Churchill-type tanks equipped with flame throwers. In contrast, our side had only 8,000 men with 3,000 reserves guarding the German Right from Kranenburg to Donsbrueggen along the road to Cleve (see map p.82/83). We only had 36 anti-tank guns to oppose 500 Sherman tanks and the "Funnies".





   Early on February 9, the artillery barrage ceased, it suddenly became very quiet. But then all hell broke lose. Flame-throwers attacked and burned out the bunkers north of ours. We ran out of our bunker, hearing the hellish flame noise and screaming. Armin Hoevelmeyer and I took each one of the two bazookas (Panzerfausts) standing next to the bunker entrance and jumped into our trench system. Sitting there quietly for a while I heard breaking and slashing of trees at the south side of our bunker, and suddenly a Sherman tank stopped shortly in front of us. The lid was flung open and a hand-grenade with handle was thrown at me. It landed at the top margin to the right of my trench. I duck in expectation of an explosion, which did not come. Instead, I heard the tank’s motor accelerating and I automatically aimed my Panzerfaust at the tank now very close in front of me. The trigger was stuck, until I hammered on it with my right fist. It then shot its load hitting the tank at the front. The exhaust flame of my Panzerfaust burned my small supply bag (Brotbeutel) fastened on my belt. With that I lost the treasured photo of my Highschool girlfriend Elisabeth Knipping.




   The next reaction was to jump out of the trench and to run across the forest tracks in direction back towards Materborn, 7 to 8 comrades followed my lead. We stopped briefly at each forest track-crossing. Tracks ran in checkerboard fashion throughout that section of the young plantation forest. Allied tanks had moved into position at each of the tracks advancing slowly from the south. They were ready to shoot whenever soldiers where jumping across. I knew the way back to Materborn and my adrenalin ran high. I kept our small group hiding and shouted jump commands whenever I figured it was ok to jump. Repeatedly machine gun shots were fired just after we had jumped across. Luckily no one of us got hit by stray gun firing. The forest had protected us and it was raining. Visibility was poor. Fortunately, Armin Hoevelmeyer and I were totally familiar with the diagonally running track leading back to Materborn, and we escaped the advancing tanks, some of them seemed to have gotten stuck in the mud.

   I learned later that General Schlemm had ordered the destruction of the river dams at the lower Rhine river to the north of the Reichswald and those at the right side of the Maas as well as those at the Niers near Gennep. Thaw-weather had set in and most of the terrain north of the Wyler to Cleve road was flooded as well as some areas west and south of the Reichswald. That gave us a tremendous strategic advantage, at least for slowing the Allied push towards the Rhine.

   Next I found myself in the Bedburg-Hau area SE of Cleve, where we had another trench system. After watch hours in the trenches one evening at dusk, getting orders from a young lieutenant for a proposed night raid planned for the next dawn, I was allowed to get to a farm building where our unit had a food supply. Coming back into the trenches, I heard that the young lieutenant had just been killed with his head severed. Comrades had already taken him away. I was shocked, since I had just met with him at that same spot where he was killed and we had there a discussion on the purposes of duty and life. Our night spying raid took place at dawn as planned. We hiked along a creek and saw enemy soldiers hovering at another farm building about 100 yards from us. But we returned to our trench system and no fire was exchanged.

    A few more days in the stationary position, it must have been around February 19 or so, I found myself in Goch, about 25 km south of Cleve. Here the story that I had shot a tank between Wolf and Hingst Berg had already been reported by eye witnesses. I was instantly promoted from private to corporal (Unteroffizier), received the Panzernahkampfabzeichen (close combat tank destroyer award) and the iron cross second class (EK II). At that same evening, a whole group of young gunners my age got killed by grenades smashing into their positions. I helped loading the bodies (at least a dozen) on a two-wheeled horse-drawn cart, the same type we used for transporting artillery ammunition in the Roermond area.



  

Gefreiter Dieter Müller at 9:30 a.m. on 9th February 1945, destroyed a Sherman tank at five yards distance with a panzerfaust. The tank burnt out.


Goch was well fortified by deep tank ditches, and we held Goch for at least another 2 weeks against the relentless onslaught of the Allied troops. I always was under the impression that our enemy troops were Canadians, but I learned from the book by Peter Elstob that they were British under the command of General Bryan Horrocks.



     The Canadians were north of us under General Crerar and the Americans a little further south under General Simpson [Insert photo scan of p.41]. The Allied high command was under Field-Marshal Montgomery and he again under supreme command of General Eisenhower. According to the Internet, the Reichswald battle lasted from February 8 to March 11, 1945 and the fighting there was known by the Allied troops as "Operation Veritable".

6. INSIDE THE RUHR KESSEL MARCH 1945

    Finally ordered to withdraw by mid-March from Goch and the left side of the Rhine, we crossed with the rest of our unit the Rhine River at Xanten. I remember the night-march through a dark narrow left-Rhine village road sloping down gently to the river among empty and destroyed houses. A pontoon bridge was there and our march continued the next day through the bombed city of Wesel. Thereafter, the remaining troops of our Army Group H under General Blaskowitz were more or less encircled in the Ruhr area (including the German cities of Duisburg, Essen, Duesseldorf, Dortmund) on the right side of the Rhine.




General Blaskowitz


    I was ordered once more as VB to stand watch and to call for artillery support, this time in a tall water-tower on the railroad tracks near the Mannesmann factories in the area of Muehlheim/Ruhr. It was again a relatively quiet time. Every day, a young girl came close to the base of my tower. We waved to each other, and I fell secretly in love with her. It remained a love on distant sight since we never even could shake hands.

    Soon after the VB watch from the water tower, I had to transfer to another artillery spy position in a private three-story villa in Bommern next to Witten (near Hagen) at the Ruhr River. I took up position in the attic of that villa, and remember the unwilling owners who shunned our last efforts as defenders. I began to understand the hopeless situation in spite of the constantly repeated propagated rumor about the Wunderwaffe (V3), likely an atomic bomb that would change everything and end the war. It was an awkward end-March to mid-April 1945, until finally on April 18 our unit got the message to dissolve with the order to make any effort to get through to the eastern front in small groups or as individuals to stop the Russians. There was even the rumor about negotiations currently underway that we could continue our fight against the Soviet Army together with the Allied troops.

7. POW APRIL TO SEPTEMBER 1945

    We departed from Bommern and dispersed immediately. A number of our comrades were from the Ruhr area and tried to get home at once. I left with a small group of six, including my close friend, Armin Hoevelmeyer. We hiked away from roads seeking the protection of forest groves wherever possible. Soon we were only two, the others had disappeared. On the paved roads we saw American trucks filled with German soldiers on transfer to prison camps. Walking among agricultural fields and forest openings we came upon foreign laborers who were now free and on marauding sprees. One group we met was drunk and threatening to kill us. But we managed with luck to escape them.

   We came across an abandoned barn. Armin found civilian clothes and put them on over his uniform. I was not yet ready for that. But we disposed of our guns and picked up each a rake and shovel and continued our walk by avoiding paved roads and crossing them quickly, wherever necessary, to get to the shore of the Ruhr. On the second evening we arrived at the shore and just contemplated swimming across when two American soldiers stopped us from behind. They were surprisingly gentle and took us as Prisoners of War (POWs). We then were shown our way to one of those transfer trucks and hauled into a temporary holding area surrounded by several rolls of barbed wire.

   Inside this holding area an American GI wanted to strip off the few war decorations from my uniform (Verwundetenabzeichen, EK II, and Panzernahkampfabzeichen), but I gave him freely my iron cross (EK II). He was satisfied and allowed me to keep the rest, which I then hid in my pockets. This first small camp was a jolly place. There was a pile of cans with conserved food. We could take what we wanted and for once ate to our hearts delight. I took a kilogram can with liverwurst from the pile and hid it in a small pack sack attached to my belt. After two days we were transferred to a huge open field near Rheinberg, one of three infamous American WWII prison camps wherein at least 30,000 war prisoners were held under open sky for months on end, referred to as the Rheinwiesenlager in the book "Die Gefangenen "(by Carell & Boeddeker p.147 & 162 ). It was now getting towards end of April. The weather was cold and rainy and it became freezing with snow falling intermittently that turned to slush on the ground.

   One day I met Guenter Wiemann, a Highschool class mate, and we decided to stand together with Armin warming each other under our soggy army coats. I had a piece of tarp that we shared with two other comrades sitting in a dugout hole over night, feet in icy cold water over the ankles. In fact, I froze my front feet during that process. A spoon full from my can with liverwurst-fat shared once or twice a day kept us from getting sick. Older people were dying each day in these self-dug holes, often after the holes collapsed from the weight of the moisture-drenched soil overburden. Each morning, dusk began with a big shouting game to always bring 100 people together in so-called "Hundertschaften". Without being assembled in a Hundertschaft, the Americans guards would not provide any food. When assembled, which sometimes took hours, we were marched to the entrance gate and given one raw potato and a spoon full of milk powder, when lucky.

   Water was carried by 2 people assigned at random from the Hundertschaft in wash basins, and the distribution was usually chaotic, sometimes with people falling into the water tub or fighting over it in the mud and spilling most of the precious water. The Rheinberg Camp was simply hell on earth. Fortunately, I was wounded and could prove it to the Americans. One day wounded prisoners were called to gather at the gate. It was May 6, 1945. With Armin I was allowed to pass through the gate in long single file and we were loaded onto a freight train. After a long wait, the train started moving and we passed through villages and cities in Belgium and then Nancy (France). Everywhere people had gathered at the railroad tracks. They were throwing stones and other items at our train and cursed us as we passed by.

   Eventually, we were unloaded in a more quiet and spring-green open landscape near Paris, the American POW Camp Attichy (p.166 ff in Die Gefangenen). Here we were housed at last in tents. These were long structures holding at least 60-80 people in opposite rows. We were lying on straw and had tarps as covers. Food supply was minimal, a small can of watery soup/person/day, a cup of coffee and a loaf of white, spongy bread. The latter had to be divided among always seven people. I was asked to portion the bread in seven equal portions since the older guys trusted me as the young innocent Highschool student.

   At first in Attichy, I could hardly walk because the front of half of both my feet were still frozen from the time in the Rheinberg Wiesenlager. Then my eyes went black when I got up from my straw bed on the ground. I had to hold myself up on the tent pole to regain balance, and then I was walking like an old man to the toilet. This was a series of long single poles mounted over a trench. One had to be careful not to fall in. But the low food supply eliminated my need to go there for two weeks on ends. The hunger was so great that the prisoners boiled left-over coffee grinds and grass for having something to chew on and get into their stomachs. Once we got salted herring. It was so salty that there was no other taste than salt. It created only thirst that could hardly be squelched.

   Certain days we were marched out in groups for work. This work consisted of pulling grass simply as an exercise. Black American soldiers were guarding us sitting on their heels with their guns across their knees. We came into talking and learned that they felt similar to us, disrespected and captive. They told us that they only got the lowest jobs and were discriminated against by the white soldiers in the American army.

   One day a German guardsman from the so-called Stamm Personal (hated by most POWs as traitors) spotted me as a student from the same Highschool. It was Kurt Linnenbroeger from Bielefeld, a student one school-class below me. He got me out of my barbed-wire camp one day into the kitchen. I got to eat there some thick good-tasting soup prepared for the Stamm Personal and American guard soldiers. Afterwards I had the most terrible diarrhea, but survived it in a few days of fasting.

   Another big surprise was to meet my closest friend Heinz Waechter, who was in the officer’s camp right across from our common soldier’s camp. The camps were separated only by a raised walkway for the guards to patrol between barbed wire fences. But Heinz and I could talk with one another with raised voices and exchange experiences and hopes. Heinz Waechter was mentioned already at the beginning as my friend on the trip through the Thueringian forest with my father in summer of 1939.

   An older fatherly tent companion taught me how to make footwear out of tent material. I accomplished that well, sowed several pairs also for tent companions on request, and could walk on my new pair more lightly through the camp without the worn-out leather boots (known as Knobelbecher in military parlance). I was asked by a protestant chaplain in our camp to call out Sunday services a few times, a task I fulfilled around my 20th birthday, July 26, 1945. I did not particularly like that job. Instead I rather preferred to play chess (=Schach), which I learned in the Attichy Camp.

   One day in early September we were inspected for health problems, and I came to the lineup in front of the military doctor. I told him of my head and arm wounding and said that I believe I still have splinters in my lower arm that seem to migrate. He just smiled at this, and noted my comments into a form.

   A week later, I was called out of the camp for a transport back to Belgium. There, in Ter Hulpen, British Soldiers coming to our freight train with German Shepherds unloaded us. Under loud barking we were led to a transfer camp where we got sufficient and good food for once. Next day, we were transferred to Uelzen in Germany and from there I was brought back with others by train to a final camp in Kuensebeck/Senne near my home in Bethel near Bielefeld. It was most exciting, and with a friendly reception for the first time.

    The release to home came soon thereafter. I was lucky to catch a ride on a truck by hitchhiking to near my home town and walked the last few kilometers from the Guetersloher Strasse to Bethel. At home, Brigitte Dombois, the young wife of my uncle Reinhold, who with her two young sons, had successfully escaped the Russians in East Prussia, opened the door. My dad was also there giving me a great welcome home, and he told me that my mother and my three younger brothers were near the Kuensebeck transfer camp collecting mushrooms. My father let warm water into the bathtub for me, and when I was sitting in there, my mother and brothers returned. Joyful screaming ensued with great happiness. I had come home alive. It was end September 1945 and the beginning of a new life phase.

8. EPILOGUE

   I found out later that my Highschool buddy Kurt Linnenbroeger had managed my early release. He knew the American doctor who wrote the note for my release for health reasons. My good friend Armin Hoevelmeyer had to spend another whole year in Attichy. He visited me after his release in the fall of 1946. Unfortunately, we lost contact over the following years.

Draft, August 12, 2008.



 
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