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Interview with a Wehrmacht veteran: Part 5

PK- So what do you think of Russia?

WG- I have great respect for the Russian people. They have suffered for hundreds and thousands of years, they’re still suffering. Right now it’s a horrible system there. Billionaires, and around the corner people are dying and starving….working for pennies. That I would like to emphasize, when we entered Russia the first day, June 22, from Romania. That was part of Ukraine, and Ukrainians received us like liberators, you know. There were tables of food along the highway. This was 1941, in June ‘41. They of course thought Hitler will give Ukraine an independent state. Hitler, this idiot, did not do this. He could have brought millions of Russians on the German side. You know, it was a racial strategy, the Germans were superior, and the Slavs will be the slaves of the Germans.

PK- I’ve read a book by a Russian officer that said that. He said if they were treated better they would have won them over because they hated communism.

WG- Yeah, I agree. It was horrible. I was very much afraid, you know, having studied history, I know for instance Napoleon, when he decided to attack Russia, Talleyrand, the secretary of State said “sir you are worse than a criminal, you are an idiot.” He was promptly fired. (laughs) He was right, yeah. And nobody could tell Hitler, it’s madness to attack.

PK- Cause he thought it was his destiny to win, right?

WG- Yeah, he was kind of…prophet you know.

PK- Do you think he was crazy?

WG- At the end, yes. Because the statement before he committed suicide, the Germans were not really worthy of me, I'm a great man, they disappointed me, not the other way.

PK- Some people say that fascism was a response to communism…

WG- In many ways they are similar, the dictatorship. How they treat the opposition. Stalin, the first thing he did was kill the Menshevik off. What did Hitler do? The night of the long knives. All of the ones who were opposed, even his own brown shirts, he played off the SS against the brown shirts. Röhm was killed, and many others. And former Generals, if they could not be killed, he made them retire. So a new generation….if you maybe are a colonel, ooh if you’re nice, if you click your heels, you can be a general. And then suddenly half of the generals were Nazis. The old ones were fired one after another.

PK- So what about Stalingrad? Were you there?

WG- I was fortunately (laughs) wounded at the right time…west of, 30 miles west of Stalingrad. But I was in the sixth army, and I was fortunately wounded, you know the over long extension, and Stalin’s army was very smart. They used the weakest spot, the Romanians and broke through the lines, and then in no time the division of our army was surrounded. They could have broke out, you know the 4th Panzer division was what, 20 miles away, but Hitler forbid them to break through, it was like from here to Saratoga, that’s nothing in a war.

PK- Wasn’t it Paulus that requested the break through? He thought he could still win.

WG- But the thing, Paulus was a big Nazi. So Hitler forbid of course, and he was rewarded, higher rank, Field Marshal, and then the Russians finally entered the city, and it was hopeless, although Goering promised to supply from the air, didn’t work at all. And it was 91,000 surrendered, 6,000 came back. In my company, I was one of the 6 who survived out of 200. I was very lucky. I was not severely wounded, the shrapnel here (points to side), it was funny (laughs) it was like a very hot piece of thin iron between my hips, I pulled it out. (laughs) Then it really started to bleed. It was fortunately not very deep in my body. So, the reaction of the defeat of Stalingrad, everybody in Germany said that’s the turning point, that’s the beginning of the end. Germany ran out of manpower after that, they ran out of ammunition, of food, of supplies. After January ’43 that was. And then, the German army was rebuilt, the same 6th army, and there it was in France in ’43, and, God, Germany ran out of people. The new soldiers were aged between 15 and 17, children. So many frightened, they heard about Stalingrad. They knew sooner or later, we go back, we will be shipped back to Russia. Awful situation, and we did. I was only lucky, I was sent in a relatively quiet corner of the Russian front, and I did not lose any of them, but I was out day and night to check it. And that was ’43, then the Russians broke through…you face death every day. Because I heard, you know the Russian machine gun, the sound was totally different than the German machine gun, here, there…again, we’re surrounded.