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Interview with a Wehrmacht Veteran: Part 4

PK- Well I guess we’ll go backwards here. Could you just tell me where you’re from? Maybe a little bit of your childhood?

WG- I’m from Berlin. That’s why I was more informed, and knew more, and saw more than everybody who grew up in the backwoods and the country. All my relatives were officers, you know, but very sad stories. My father was a judge. All my friends were officers. We were six very close friends, five died, okay? One of my uncles was taken prisoner by the Russians, but before they took him, he shot himself, he killed himself. Because that was the most horrible thing. You were not taken prisoner by the Russians, they automatically shot all officers. So I had a handgun, officers had a very good handgun. That before they kill me, I kill myself. It’s easy to say but hard to do. I was fortunately never in that situation, yeah.

PK- So you were captured by……

WG- Captured? No, I was third time wounded in Galicia during the winter of ’44, and sent to hospital in Germany…and in the very end was defending the Teutonic forest. That’s in the western part of Germany. It was almost a comedy. Because Germany had run out of rifles, so I had a company, maybe ten French privates, 15 Dutch, and no ammunition. We were high up in the woods and there came the English forces, and then the American forces. I gave an order, if you shoot now, it will be the end of you. You will be killed here. So I give an order, nobody shoot. Okay, let them pass, then so okay, the war’s over, go home, but watch and be very, very careful. In no man’s land, is many times the SS. And if they catch you, they shoot you right away. And the bad thing, I didn’t know where to go, my parents were killed in Berlin. I didn’t want to go back to Berlin. Because the Russians took every able-bodied man back to Russia, at first, in 1945. You know….

PK- And they weren’t very nice to the civilians either….they raped and murdered...

WG- Awful, awful, awful…yeah. Two of my aunts…we’ll never know…were killed. They were in the basement and they lived upstairs, and they (inaudible) the Russians started to loot….(inaudible) shoot, and I don’t know, did they go upstairs? At least they were killed.

PK- OK, so you were never actually captured then?

WG- Never by the Russians, no.

PK- By the Allies?

WG- Then came…yeah. So, I did not know where to go. But I had always very good just….guardian angels, a good friend, a fellow officer said, “I live on the Rhine river. We have 3 apartments, my parents, my in-laws, and I…and one should not have been destroyed so come with me.” Yeah, but now, from the center Northern part to the Rhine river…there were (inaubible) forces, there were English forces, to avoid them, I fortunately had already kind of civilian suit, but I had the officer’s boots. (laughs) That’s how they caught me. (laughs) And of course my age…..I was in my mid twenties….everybody was a soldier. They didn’t believe that I was a student (inaudible), nobody was allowed to take any course at University, most of them were destroyed. And…then……thousands of German prisoners were on the Rhine meadows, Eisenhower, very bad. No tents, no food, for about two weeks, after one week people start to, to die. At first the younger ones, I was mid twenties, the ones that say between 15-20, then the old. Then we came to France, was not much better. 40 soldiers, like cattle in one wagon. It was a man, a big factory hall, no beds, no blankets, we slept on the cement floor, ok, a little bit to eat, about 20, 30 people died every day. So, those stories….you hardly read those, you know? I survived because I could speak French. I was always very interested in French culture, French history, my parents spoke fluently French, my father had studied in, Paris and the Sorbonne. My mother had attended finishing school in Switzerland and learned French. And they encouraged me. So, and then I ended up, I survived because I was interpreter. Yeah, so, I don’t have any resentment against French people, because they also suffered. And bad thing I came back after the war, to face the blockade in Berlin. I have to….it was one of the hardest days of my life, when I was finally released from prisoner of war, I had no home, I had no job, I had nothing to eat. (inaudible) I couldn’t trade anything in to the American soldiers, I did….some of my, decorations (laughs). Cigarettes, you could exchange, to a bakery and get a hard roll. And that was very bad in Berlin, the blockade, because we were afraid that the Russians would enter any minute. But, uh, Roosevelt, uh Truman rather, saw the danger and there was a great American General Lucius Clay, who was the commander of American forces in Germany, could persuade Truman not to give up Berlin. If we do this, it will be the first step of defeat, the Russians will take second and third steps.

PK- I believe it was General Patton who wanted to fight the Russians right then and there.

WG- Very true. He was at the gate of Prague! He was deep in East Germany, Leipzig and Dresden, and missed the chance to get a free road to Berlin. Well, it’s easy to judge later.