The Wartime Memories Project - Germany



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World War 2 Two II WW2 WWII

A part of my Memories: After Germany surrendered Walter and I passed many road blocks. The last time British soldiers. They made us get off and locked us in room in a nearby house. Because we were SS they told the us “we would be shot in the morning”. Needless to say, we did not sleep much that night.

The next morning, instead getting shot, we were put on a truck and taken to a Prisoner of War transit camp The Waffen SS were the the elite of the Third Reich. They wore the death's head badge and had a type of warriors spirit, the like of which has never been surpassed on the battlefield, and were generally contemptuous of death. They swore undying loyalty to their Fuhrer, and at his bidding they fought and died in their thousands - they were the soldiers of the Waffen-SS. AND I AM PROUD TO HAVE BEEN ONE OF THEM

In my experience, my commanding officers were honourable men and we did not mistreat prisoners or civilians. When we surrendered we did in full uniform and expected to be treated as Prisoners of War and released at wars end. What a mistake that was, we were repeatedly beaten and robbed of personal property and kept behind barbed wire for years. Before entering the camp, we were interrogated and had the living daylights beaten out of us.

I was literally thrown into the camp, I never saw Walter again. He was a good man and I hope that he survived too. The transit camp was just a big square in an open field without any shelter surrounded with barbed wire . The food consisted 0f 1/2 pack of hard Biscuits and a small lump of Corned Beef per day. There we were told, by order of General Eisenhower we had no longer “Prisoner of War status”, instead we became “Disarmed Enemy Forces”. As such, not entitled to Red Cross support or covered by Geneva Conventions.

I was interrogated several more times by men speaking perfect fluent German and told "as a member of the SS I could expect a hard time"

About a week later we were loaded into cattle cars, so many we could not lay down. We were on this train for almost two days, without food or water or means of sanitation. Then we arrived someplace in Belgium. At each door of the train stood 2 soldiers with sticks, shouting “schnell” and hitting us as we stumbled off.

After a short ride on trucks we entered a Prisoner of War camp. At least we had tents to sleep in, 12 men per tent. We had very little to eat but all together it was not too bad as we all were hoping to be released and going home in the near future. This hope did not last long. Again we were trucked to a train and under the same conditions as before we were taken to some other place in Belgium, I am not sure but I believe that was camp 2228.

The camp consisted of 20 compounds with about 2000 prisoners in each compound. Unlike the other camp we were 14 men per tent. The tent was over a hole in the ground. We slept on the bare ground even in snowy , icy weather with only one blanket per man. We had to be on parade every morning at 5:00 AM for the head count which sometimes took till noon. Every supper time we each received a pint of a thin watery soup and 1 loaf of bread, 2 cans of Sardines or a similar amount of canned meat, our daily ration for 14 men. In the morning, after parade, we would get a pail of coffee, no sugar or milk. A big problem with the coffee and soup, very often there was so much Diesel oil in it a lot of men, due to stomach cramps fainted during morning parade. They made the soup and coffee in big kettles heated by burning Diesel oil and dripping water, that’s how the taste got in and often Diesel oil too.

When you are hungry you eat anything, needless to say we were always hungry. The only thing plentiful was toilet paper and tooth powder. We were not allowed in the tents before supper and just kept walking around and around.

The few of us who had pencils were writing Dairies and would you believe it, RECIPES. All on the toilet paper. There was a big tent in the centre of the compound used for lectures. If anyone gave a approved lecture or a religious service they received a pint of soup for it. Needless to say, we had many lectures and countless services.

The outside fence of the camp consisted of 2 barbed wire fences with a gangway in between, which was patrolled at night by soldiers with dogs. At the corners and every 100 yards or so was a tower with search lights and a machine gun. About 10 yards in front of the inside fence was a single wire 2 feet above the ground, if you crossed this wire they would open fire. Twice, at night I wormed through the fences and pulled several beets (fodder beets I guess) in a nearby field and returned to the camp. Somebody else tried it and was shot when returning. After that they increased the patrols.

One day while walking, miles away in my mind, I passed a English officer and gave him the Nazi salute. Remember in the SS we did not have the Wehrmacht salute, outstretched hand to the hat. The Nazi salute came automatic, especially as I was in deep thought. He screamed like a stuck pig for help and I got a beating and 14 days chained in a deep hole. We dug those holes to be used for latrines.

At one time for some reason we did not get the usual rations instead we were given 3 boxes of C rations per tent. Each box containing a days food for two men. In those boxes was a can filled with a mixture of tea, powdered milk and sugar. As we did not have hot water we shared this mixture as we did everything else and promptly ate it. That night not many in the camp slept we were all busy going to the latrine and several died with what we thought, heart attacks. As we became more and more malnourished anybody getting sick simply died, there was no medical help.

All hope had vanished and we were just getting resigned. Every now and then someone would cross the wire, not to escape just a way of committing suicide. Eventually Dysentery broke out. Anybody affected was taken to a cleared compound. The only treatment there, we could stay in the tent all day, did not have to go to morning parade and had our daily rations brought to the tent. We had 3 men die in our tent and did not report it so we could share their rations.

They bulldozed 2 cleared compounds, I can guess why. Finally, I assume the death rate rose too high.

Some of us, including me were taken to a British Military hospital. I was not ill but faked being sick and figured anything would be better then that hell-hole. In the hospital we thought this was heaven, a bed with sheets, warm water and food. It did not last long.

After about a week, a Polish doctor came to see us and checked if anyone had a blood group tattoo under their arm (all SS-men had this mark). Of course my A was there. He told the nurse to throw me out and said “ I will poison you before giving you medicine”. He did not know it but he probably saved my life.

I was sent to a transit camp and joined a shipment of POWs to go to England. This was almost 2 years after wars end. Before disembarking in England, we had a medical inspection. The medics and the new camp commandant were shocked when they saw what condition we were in. They called in doctors to give us all a further medical examination and had us weighed. All of us were in poor shape, my weight was 89 lb..

We heard and this was only a rumour, the staff of our last POW camp was court martialled for misappropriating food and supplies. I found out later, all camps were equally as bad. Then we were trucked to Aldershot to a Army barrack. We were taken after dark in closed trucks so people could not see us and the condition we were in. On arriving we received plenty of blankets also needed clothing. To top it off, sufficient food, medical attention available and no guards.

In 1948 at the age of 22 I was released from the German armed forces and prison camp. I was 7 years old when Hitler came to power, 14 when the war broke out and 17 when joining the Waffen SS. All my family lived in Dresden until Feb. 13 or 14 in 1945

Gerhard





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