From: History of the Pomeranian 32nd Infantry Division 1935-1945
Chapter 14: Struggle over the Homeland
To the attack in the area Flatow
December 27, 1944 – February 4, 1945
The 32 Infantry Division had begun the war in the area of Flatow. In the same county the war would come back to get them. After troops collected in the villages to the south of Danzig and Oliva cities as of yet the area in which the occupation was taking place was unknown.
The division was supposed to be functioning as an army group reserve. The first thing they were supposed to do was to reach the area around Konitz. Their deployment in that direction was planned via rail and trucks. Before that happened the replacements came, even weapons and equipment were sent to them and the 32 artillery regiment was able to set up it’s 5th and 9th batteries. The Grenadier regiments finally were able to form again companies that were capable of fighting.
The last few weeks it was starting to thaw. From this type of weather we went again to real winter with snow and biting frost storms. In a few days the streets and paths were snowed in deeply and covered with drifts. The enemy planes used every pause in the snowstorms. They were all powerful and attacked the harbors and loading trainstations. Both the harbors and stations were attacked by whole bands of planes.
The Grenadier Regiment 4 which was the last regiment to be transported oversea was the first that was unloaded. It left together with the infantry and the Artillerie Regiment 32 left the gathering area on the 27th of Jan in the evening. The reinforced Grenadier Regiment 94 were supposed to follow one day later. This transporting was drawn out one additional day. And in the pause that ensued because of that, the regiment traded it’s heavy vehicles for light farm wagons and sleds. On the 28 of Jan. in addition to the reinforcements that were already sent there, junior officers and teams from the Regiment of Jutland were also sent in. And through that the banded together were able to reach almost their full fighting strength.
While the division was preparing itself for deployment, the Russian troops were pushing further against the Oder River. The attack points won in the last days of January Kustrin and Fürstenberg. They
drove the German population out of the Warthegau and rolled over numerous treks. The population of Hinterpommern still had a short grace-period to escape the enemy attack wave. It was up to the Gauleiter (County Leaders) of the regions and the local offices of the party to conduct the evacuation in a timely manner. However, the wide spread optimism that they would achieve their goal, clouded the clear vision. In spite of the horrible news coming from the Warthegau, it never got to the point of having any immediate well planned measures to take place. Everybody just hoped that it would be possible to hold the position of Pommern that had been achieved through such troublesome work. In the end, ahead of them the Russians had only planned invasions of counties Flatow, Deutsch Krone, Netzekreis, Friedeberg, Arnswalde, Pyritz and Greifenhagen. And the enemy troops who stepped over the Netze River on the 26th of January between Czarnikau and Usch eventually joined the push against the city of Kustrin.
On the 30th of Jan. as also the strengthed Grenadier Regiment 96 as they also in trains were rolling south, the division gave their defensive stand in Konitz. And they were given the order to start a new deployment. After a coming together in area around Konitz- Schlochau-Marienfelde-Cammin the regiments were supposed to proceed to the south in order to close the existing hole between Linde and Flatow.
The march through the deeply snowed in and drifted over streets was taxing. In addition to the physical exhaustion there was also the psychological burden that they had to push the refugees out of the one lane. Still on the 30th of Jan. the reinforced GR 94 which had arrived out of the town of Firchau and joined on the 31st of Jan at Marienfelde. At the same time the GR 4 attacked the place of Linde. In addition to the attacks that in which the Gr 96 which had in the meantime arrived from Bärenwalde and joined up with them in the last days of Jan. The division also moved from their defense stand in Preussisch Friedland, the same location in which they had begun their invasion into Poland.
In all places the attacking battalions came upon evidence that the Russian lead tanks had left behind them. Everywhere they also came upon rests of refugee streams who looked with an uncertain destiny to the frontline. Rarely in war have the soldiers of a division so clearly seen their assignment as they fought for their home area. They had to build a front and hold it in the protection of which, the civilian population could evacuate itself. Very few believed, despite the propaganda, that they could hold out for any significant amount of time.
On the first of Feb. Linde was taken back by the Germans, however, Russian tanks in a counterattack at night managed to break through to the railroad station of Linde, but the situation was cleaned up again the following night. The at first fairly successful attack of the division, hit from the first of Feb. onward, continuously increasing enemy pressure. Overwhelming enemy forces struck in the direction of Battrow. With changing success the GR 94 fought around the town. Despite missing ammuntion, the regiment could finally assert itself. It was no longer possible to think about any attacks with a wide ranging goal. For that the area of the division was too broad, and only at the edges there was a unification of artillery fire from three batteries. But off and on the fire of the artillery had to be stopped because it would have endangered the population that had been overrun by the enemy.
The usage of the division had at least allowed the building up of a continous front which went roughly from Graudenz by way of Zempleburg – Märkisch Friedland through to Stargard. Especially in the endangered area north of Schneidemühl a noticeable stabalization was evident. In the third of Feb. a thaw start and made the quickly built up snow trenches useless. The second battalion Gr Jutland was given to the GR 94 on Feb. 4th. It tested it’s ability to be used with an attack on Hüttenbusch. Since the situation at the right wing of the division in the area of the GR 96 in the area of Lanken seemed more threatened GR Jutland was inserted there.
Changeover to the Defense
Feb. 5th – Feb 14th, 1945
Further attack operations were not possible to be carried out with the existing forces. The division changed over to the defense. Forward observers were positioned. Everywhere people were digging trenches. Again replacements arrived to close the newly created holes. On the 7th of Feb. it was a mourning for the 63 members of the division who had fallen in Linde and Grunau.
To improve the front, on the 8th of Feb. took the town of Baumgarten. In the process they succeeded in destroying 5 enemy tanks. The 9th of Feb. the regiment Jutland relieved GR 94 on the front lines. The pressure of the enemy once again reduced.
In the meantime the opponent who still at the end of January had reached the Frische Harbor in East Prussia by Tolkemit thereby cutting off East Prussia had turned with some of their forces toward the west. On the eastern front of the Pomeranian position, these enemy forces had reached breakthroughs where the fourth panzer division was located, which to the 11 of Feb. reached threatening proportions. GR 94 was taken out of the line and was held in readiness for use at that spot.
On the 12th of Feb. at 10 minutes after midnight, it received an alarm and and the order immediately to march off and to reach the area Wittkau-Grunau-Neu Grunau- Buchholz-Firchau. By 10:30 in the morning the order had been carried out. The regiment prepared for an attack on Görsdorf having been strengthened by the assault gun brigade 1032, by a platoon of heavy anti-tank guns and one 88 flak gun.(An anti aircraft and anti-tank gun. The 88 was intensely feared. It took many tanks to get through. The most effective anti- tank gun) They got themselves ready for an attack on Görsdorf. During a nightly attack the town of Görsdorf was taken and strong enemy movements from there to the north were successfully fought. The attack was then ordered to be stopped and the assault guns were again pulled out (basically tanks, but no turning turret.)
Meanwhile the battle for Schneidemühl was going to it’s end. The city that had been surrounded since the end of January had to capitualate on the 14th of Feb. On the remaining southern front in Hinterpommern, things stayed relatively quiet, however the enemy became more active on the eastern front between Elbing and Flatow. The enemy attacks were also aimed at the section of the 32nd infantry division. Because of those attacks, Augusthof was lost, however it could be won back by a counter attack by GR 96 again very ably supported by the Sturmgeschutz company 1032. In the neighboring sections the defensive battle was not as successful.
The second battalion of the GR Jutland was surrounded at Cammin and during the night had to fight it’s way back to the front. In the area of the 15th Latvian SS division one could notice signs of disillusion with the increasing enemy attacks. The Latvian volunteers were quite ready to defend their homeland against the Bolsheviks. But a battle far from Latvia seemed to be senseless to them. The higher leadership had to decide upon a front shortening in order to conserve forces.
The Retreat to Firchau and Schlochau
Feb. 15th – Feb 25th, 1945
In the night of the 14 & 15 Gr 96 was ordered on the right wing to retreat to Lanken in order to be picked up there for truck transport to reach Damnitz near Schlochau. The two other regiments retreated after that to the height of Lichtenhagen-Richnau. The Russians followed these retreats immediately and succeeded with an aggressive follow-up with break-ins in Firchau and Deutsch Briesen. Which were cleaned up in counter-attacks by GR 96 and 94. GR 94 was able to destroy the attack preparations of an enemy regiment aimed at Lichtenhagen. Unfortunately the counter-attack once again cost high losses.
In the changing battles, of the 16th of Feb. Deutsch Briesen was lost. Firchau was only occupied by German troops at night because of the heavy enemy fire during the day it was no man’s land. GR Jutland in an attack took the village of Niesewanz. Despite continued enemy attacks, the main battle line could in the following days be held basically. Artillery regiment 32 had a significant part of this defensive success along with the assault gun company and that despite the fact that the artillery regiment was completely inadequately supplied with munitions could in these critical situations hold the danger with successful fire.
On the 18th of Feb. the 2 battalion GR 4 and the GR 94 started the new attack on Deutsch Briesen. They managed to get as far at the railroad station but had to again evacuate it since the enemy destroyed the newly won positions with overwhelming fire. The effect of the enemy artillery shells was heightened by the splintering on the hard frozen ground. The GR 94 weakened in the battles of Deutsch Briesen, was relieved by GR 4 during the night from 19th to the 20th of Feb. The handover of it’s section was done around 6:30. The same day, German aerial reconnaissance found a collection of between 900 to 1000 russian trucks, in the area of Zempelburg-Linde-Lanken. A new enemy attack was in preparation. On the 24th of Feb. a heavy artillery assault opened the new offensive. The 32nd infantry division could with it’s troops prevent breakthroughs, but in the area of the first battalion of GR Jutland, the enemy took Mossin. Again, the defensive battle had to be carried out against numerous enemy tanks. Just the assault gun company 1032 and the anti-aircraft group destroyed 11 tanks.
But even these positions on the railroad line Hammerstein-Konitz, where the division stood with it’s right wing GR 94 at railroad station Bärenhütte, and it’s left wing at GR 4 northwest of Deutsch Briesen could not be held anymore.
At the 25th of Feb. the order arrived to retreat to the line Pagelkau-Pollnitz. While the division with it’s hard battles in the area of Schlochau had held, the situation in the in hinter Pomeranian battle area had significantly continued to develop. The Russian lead positions had already quite some time ago, built bridgeheads over the ice of the river Oder.
In The beginning of Feb. the Russians had also crossed the Netze River between Landsberg and Kreuz. They threatened with an attack in the direction of and beyond Arnswalde to cut off the Hinter Pommern area. With that the capital of Pommern, Stettin was in danger. The whole front from Neutstettin to the Oder was being defended only with splintered troops whose leadership on the order of Himmler the SS Over Group Führer (Three star general) Steiner had taken over as commander of the 11th Panzer Army.
Despite the lack of forces that was felt everywhere, Hitler still was thinking of plans about destroying the Russian attack on the Oder with two of his old attack groups. One of them was supposed to come from the area of Guben-Glogau, the other from the area of Arnswalde. These Utopian thoughts were realized only with a very weak flank attack which started on the 16th of Feb at the front at Arnswalde. Long before the goal of Landsberg, it had to be stopped after some initial successes. The western wing of the attack group finally had to retreat to the line Greifenhagen-Arnswalde. This intermezzo, briefly put a nix through the intentions of the Soviet Marshall Zhukov. His attack army was prepared to break through by way of Neustettin to Kolberg and then split the Hinterpommern defensive area into two parts.
Retreat to the Bridgehead Danzig
Feb 26 – March 9, 1945
The enemy also pushed into the retreat movement that began on the night of the 26th of Feb. In the process the first Bat. GR 94 together with the 2nd Battery of Artillery Regiment 32 were pushed aside. It could finally only be brought back into the division west of the Gross Ziethener Lake after a long period of uncertainty and by Zawadda again found a connection with the infantry division 32. The retreat began in a notherly direction. With this pulling back, naturally the cohesion of the troops fighting in Hinter Pommern was supposed to be maintained. But the Russian breakthrough on the 26th of Feb. near Neustettin in the direction of the Baltic Sea ended these plans. The division was pushed off to the northeast. They had to seek a connection with the units that were fighting their way back out of West Prussia. After a somewhat quiet night, very heavy enemy attacks were held back from the height near Prechlau. The 7th division which was coming from the northwest to give some relief, was not able to get through. With difficulty GR 94 maintained itself near Prechlau. Gr 4 and 96 in roughly the area of the railroad line from Prechlau to Ulrichsdorf, in the postions of the field replacement battalion 32, south of Damerau, the enemy broke through. The battalion was not able to rebuild the situation. It had to retreat to Prechlau. The GR regiment Jutland which was still subordinated to infantry division 32, was able to hold Pagdanzig.
On the 28th of Feb. as parts of the division had already crossed the former border into West Prussia. There was a huge hole on both sides of Neutstetin through which Russian troops streamed to the north. From there to the right wing of the division, the situation was completely unclear. The GR 94 had to during further retreats, take over the protection of the flank. In order to do so, it retreated through the forest Bäreneiche westward over the Gross Lepezin Lake. East of the Lake regiment Jutland joined them. Further to the east followed GR 4 & 96. For the defense of the flanks the assault company 1032 was again subordinated to GR 94. In the course of the afternoon the enemy slowly felt it’s way behind them. They were able to infiltrate with infantry into the forest area and was pushing slowly to the north.
After a restless night without connection to anyone else, Infantry and Grenadier Regiment 94 by Eisenbrück had been partially bypassed by the enemy and had to retreat to Altbraa-Schneidemühl. Reg. 94 got two armored cars of the reconnaissance group 7, which were supposed to bring about the connection. In the morning around 7 o’clock with our own surprise attack, an enemy column was destroyed which marched behind Reg. 94 on the road to Briesen. The situation was dangerous because of the wide open hole to the right neighbor, so everybody was hoping for a coming through of the relieving attack from the northwest. Independent of that our GR was supposed to fight it’s way through to Briesen. Since the Reg. could not take up any connection to the 32nd Inf. Division, it joined the 7th Panzer division in Gross Peterkau to which it was subordinated.
With the removal of GR 94, the remaining Regiments of the division had retreated to the heights above the Gross Quesensee and eastward of that to the town of Kiedrau. In the middle of a snow storm the enemy attacked on March 2nd the positions there. The situation was mastered only with the last usage of munitions. On third of March the attack of the 7th Panzer division finally got through. The connection to GR 94 was again established and the regiment returned under the orders of it’s own division. The Russian attack army was with it’s push past Neustettin and Bublitz had already gotten through on the first of March to the Baltic Sea east of Köslin. A second Russian attack was aimed at the mouth of the Oder River.
The large trek roads were cut off. Columns of refugees were surprised by the Russians at Labes, Schivelbein, Kolberg, and Treptow. They were now standing by the sides of the road where they were pushed off facing an uncertain fate. Quite a few refugees had sought safety in Kolberg from the approaching enemy divisions. So that they were there with the defensive forces, 80,000 people who hoped to escape from being surrounded by way of the Baltic Sea.
After the deadly push to the Pomeranian East of the Baltic Sea coast the counties Rummelsburg, Bütow, Schlawe, Stolp, and Lauenburg were cut off. Since also here the planned evacutation had been held up by party offices, there were still large parts of the population in their home towns. For them there was only the flight path to the Baltic Sea harbors of Danzig, Gdingen and for a few of them still Stolpmuende was open. (Gdingen was the Polish naval base built up after WWI. The Germans called it Gotenhafen). Large treks had to turn around in the roads in order to march to the east. The Russian occupation moved forward without stop.
On the fifth of March the Russians were in Bütow, on the 8th, Stolp and Stolpmuende, and the 9th and 10th, Leba and Lauenburg. With the exception of Kolberg, which defended itself bravely, on the 10th of March all of east Pomerania was occupied.
The left wing of the German 2nd Army stood since the end of Feb. behind the Nogat River, ending on the Frische Harbor. In order to get away from the Russian encirclement now the complete right wing and with it the 32 inf. Div. Retreated to a front line that went, to the east of Rixhöft defended the entrance to the Hela Peninsula, and over the town of Neustadt went to the heights near Karthaus. Thus the army defended a bridgehead in which many hundred thousand refugees were crowded together. Their transport out over the Baltic Sea had to be defended by the soldiers. The retreating of the division was until the days of the 9th of March under continued enemy pressure that it had always gone according to plan. From the first northerly direction was the division first pushed to the NE of Buetow and even to the ENE to Karthaus. On the 9th of March the division reached the line along the planned large Danzig bridgehead, but to a basic defense it did not come anymore. The army had to be happy that it could defend a significantly smaller area.
A Kaytusha rocket launcher used by the Red Army, also called a Stalin Organ.
A German Soldier's Story - Italy
I was with the 76th Panzer Corps and fought the British and the American Forces in Italy until I was taken prisoner in early 1945. And yes, I still have nightmares.
My brother is still missing in action since January 1945 near Radom. He was a lieutenant on the Eastern front, just 20 years old. My brother was a year older than I was. We both joined the German Wehrmacht at age 17. My brother in 1941, and I in 1942. We were still children when they gave us a rifle and told us to kill people.
The shape of the Italian peninsula and the mountainous terrain did not favor conventional warfare, i.e. divisions are not too flexible when it comes to sudden changes necessitated by
a) Allied landings in our back (at Salerno, the beachhead Anzio- Nettuno, and the Allied landings along the Riviera),
b) the unexpected surrender of Italy to the Allied Forces, which left gaping holes all along our front,
c) the civilian partisans in Northern Italy, some of whom wore German uniforms,
d) replacements to bring our units up to strength were almost nil, while urgent requirements of troops for the Russian front resulted in further reductions of our manpower,
e) shortage of gasoline, diesel, supplies, and equipment. Considering all this, our morale was "unexpectedly" high. And quite often one heard the words: "Geniesst den Krieg, der Friede
wird schrecklich!" (Enjoy the war, the peace will be terrible!)
Re: LXXVI. Panzer Korps:
The name is misleading, and the assigned divisions and/or combat groups changed depending on prevailing circumstances. In Summer of 1944 the Heeresgruppe (C, Sued) of Feldmarschall KESSELRING consisted of 2 armies, the 10th and the 14th. Two Korps were assigned to each army. The 10th Army
consisted of the LI.Gebirgskorps and the LXXVI. PanzerKorps.
The 14th Army consisted of XIV. Panzer Korps and the I.
Fallschirmjaeger-Korps. The following divisions were assigned to the 4 Korps:
(ON PAPER, I must admit that it sounds impressive!)
At age 18, they would have drafted us (my brother and me) anyway, and by volunteering ahead of time you could choose your unit. And in as much as most guys were needed on the Eastern front as foot soldiers, most highschool students volunteered, thus avoiding the Russian front. Later, when we (my brother and I) were asked if we were interested in becoming officers I declined, but my brother accepted and was promptly shoved into the infantry and ended up on the Eastern front.
After a few weeks of basic training we were sent to France as occupation army pending further decisions. Shortly thereafter we shipped out to southern Italy (Calabria). My initial impression of the British Army was very good. They are fair fighters, and believe in "sportsmanship". And the Americans did not have to take a backseat, either! The Gurkhas (4th and 8th Indian Divisions) with their kukri knives were professional fighters, but the French colonial troops from Africa were something else. Just last year I finally heard some American spokesman admit that for a while these troops were paid by the enemy ears theycut off. But that did not last long. There was never any fear that the British or the Americans would mistreat us or put us in a labor camp when being caught. There even had been "private" truces between friend and foe to take care of the wounded ocasionally.
After we crossed the river PO, where most of our vehicles were left behind, we never had a so-called front line any more. The boys in BERLIN called it the GOTEN-LINIE (the Gothic Line), but that was a joke. At least in my opinion. Further up north we found out (through one of our wireless receiver sets) that in Austria there are still some German troops fighting, and we tried to break through to them. Not knowing the Alps and the few passes that lead north, we ran into a German motorcycle MP (military police), which volunteered to guide us through the mountains. In the middle of the mountain pass, our MP stepped on the gas and disappeared, while we were showered with
rocks and boulders from the top of the mountain walls that went straight up into the sky. We were trapped, and without any heavy weapons left, we climbed over the boulders and rocks back to where we came from. We tried to get back to some German unit, but ran into the spearhead of an American outfit instead. Half of us wanted to keep on fighting, the other half wanted to surrender.
Our highest-ranking officer, in view of our wounded who needed attention, and because we only had five shells left in our carbines, decided that any further resistance would be wholesale slaughter, and inasmuch as the war was practically over anyhow, we surrendered.
One last thing: Most GERMAN soldiers I knew did not like the idea to fight a war that "private" Hitler of AUSTRIA got us into, especially since he did not listen to his own generals. - And I cannot speak for the Russian front, but in Italy we respected our enemies, and considering everything, it was a fair fight.
In ref to my treatment while in prison camp in Italy here are some details:
I was in several different prison camps, and I remember cage # 5d and cage # 6a. It was in the RIMINI/RICCIONE area on the Adriatic coast. The large one was # 6a, I believe. Our Italian money was taken away from us, and I received a receipt from the British 21.Panzer Brigade that 2,700 Italian Lire had been taken away from me, and that it would be returned to me in German or Austrian money at a later date. That was 55 years ago. I still have the receipt, but I never did get my money back. I can only assume that a few Allied soldiers became millionaires over night. And I recall a black Allied soldier, who had German wrist watches on both arms all the way up to the elbows.We slept in large British tents, 16 bunks to a tent. Our treatment varied. It was better than I had expected. I do not think we had any American units guarding us, at least I do not recall ever seeing any GI's. Throughout the Italian campaign there was a mutual respect between German soldiers and British soldiers from England, Ireland, and Scotland. And we were treated accordingly. The Polish soldiers treated us not quite as "well", but it was within established Red Cross regulations. In the beginning food was plentyful, as we were given the remaining food supplies from the German supply depots. Later we were given K- and C-Rations, which we liked very much. However, there was a real shortage of food. This, in my opinion, was brought about by the sudden and unexpected high number of German prisoners (350,000?), for which the Allied Forces were not prepared. At my own request I was employed as English, Italian, and French interpreter from the time of July 15, 1945 until March 20, 1946. I lived with the English soldiers of Detachment 3 (West Lancs.) Coy.1 L of Signals (Captain MIDDLEMAS, Lieutenant ROACHE) in the same Italian house in RICCIONE and had my own room. I was under the "honor system" code. I was in charge of the Diesel, Kerosene, and Gasoline supplies for the English unit, and I was given a pass when I had to go somewhere on business by myself. Daily we (I myself and a British guard) picked up one or two truckloads of German prisoners from the camp, whose job it was to repair the telephone communication lines between the various Allied commands in the area. Upon my request in late March 1946 to go home to Germany, I was returned to the prison camp and was returmed to my hometown HAMBURG on April 9, 1946.
I had already been back home in Hamburg for almost half a year, when on September 30, 1946, my mother received a preprinted postcard from the International Red Cross that according to a report dated April 8, 1945 (Nineteen Hundred and Forty-Five !!!) the following German soldier was in British captivity:
Region Bellaria Rimini
c/o "A.J. POW Camp"
In April 1946 the British released me from prison camp, and I came home to find that our house was no longer there, destroyed during one of the hundreds of air raids on Hamburg. And when I came "home" in 1946, I was an old man. And it took me a long time to realize that we were robbed of our childhood, that we never had a chance to grow up. That's why thousands of returning German soldiers (especially the ones whose homes were east of the Oder-Neisse line) after the war signed up for the French Foreign Legion to fight and die in Indochina. I signed up, too, but the British Military Government in my hometown Hamburg did no longer permit that in their zone of occupation. So I went to America. Luckily I had an aunt in Chicago. It took me 5 years to get a visa.
British heavy bombers launched one of the most massive air raids on my hometown HAMBURG July 24/25, 1943 (after 137 previous air attacks). It was the greatest fire in the history of the world. And there was no escape. Even the asphalt in the streets had turned into a blistering dough. I was in Italy at that time with the LXXVI. Panzer Korps. I was given a special leave of absence to search for my parents. In the dark (at midday!) I stumbled through what once were streets, and every now and then I heard some knocking from people who were still buried alive. But there was nobody to help them. And I saw corpses that had shrunk to the size of a doll from the heat. In some areas the temperature in downtown HAMBURG exceeded 1200 degrees. And nobody will ever know how many people perished !! But it was more than 100,000. That was operation GOMORRAH !! My parents were alive, but we had lost everything we ever owned..
A Dutchman in Mossin
Intro: Here is a letter from a man in Holland, Onno H. His uncle from Leeuwarden, Holland fought with the Germans in WWII. Various nationalities who were very much against Communism joined the German effort to fight against the Soviet Union. His uncle wrote letters home from 1941 up to his death on the 8th of May 1945 in Luckenwalde a town just south of Berlin. He is buried in Halbe. The history of the letters goes through the whole of Europe. Jan fought in Poland, Arys in East Prussia, Leningrad, the Baltic countries, Grafenwohr, Wurzburg, Graz Austria, Krapina Croatia, Leewarden, Stettin, Schlochau, Berlin, and Halbe just southeast of Berlin. From the period of Schlochau, there is just one letter. His Aunt (the wife) still lives and is 86 years old. The letter from Schlochau did not have a picture with it. The situation was precarious, the Russians were too close. This letter, sent to his sister (Onno's mother), was the last one he sent.
Onno H: My uncle, near the end the war, was billeted/quartered some months with the family Hackert in Mossin. He told about it in his letter home. His name was Jan Faber, a volunteer fighting with the Germans against Russia, in Leningrad. On the way back at the end 1944 was he wasin the Schlochau area where his wife (Annie), and child (Aaltje) joined him. Also they were welcomed by the farm family Hackert. The child became sick and died because of diptheria. She is buried in Mossin. She was one and a half years old.
I have from the 30 letters, from my uncle. The whole history can be
reconstructed because he wrote interesting and sometimes beautiful letters written to his family and about his ideas about the world.
In the beginning of this letter he, my uncle, speaks about his family and the sad information that his daughter has died. His wife and daughter have escaped from Holland, because there was a Crazy Thursday. All the people which have connection or are collaborating with the Germans have to leave Holland, becaus everybody thought that the Germans had lost the war at that time. So Annie (the wife) and Aaltje (the daughter) left Holland and went to the Eastern front in the neigborhood of Schlochau at that time. By train they went to that region, but on the train everybody was getting sick, because the train has to stop for two days while the RAF was bombing everything.
"Dear Father, Aunt (stepmother), children (his sisters) from the field Nov. 24, 1944
Thank God that I may keep my wife, she was also very ill from diptheria and her neck was even thick as her head. On Sunday I took her from the hospital home. Thursday morning our little honey died. And Wednesday morning I must bring Annie to the hospital and back home I have to come back immediately, because the situation was critical. Never before have I driven so fast. When I arrived, we were both very anxious that we will be divorced forever, it was very hard that moment. I stayed awake the whole night at her bed. It is a wonder that she escaped, because there were two moments when she could not breath anymore. She also had heart problems.
And the day after that horrible night I had to bury our dear little girl alone. Soldiers made her grave at the graveyard of Mossin. Three Dutch comrades carried the little coffin and after them I walked with the wreath from Annie and me. On the ribbon was written: Our beloved only daughter with the last greetings, mother and father. And on the other : The pride of the father, the joy of the mother you were, and also our only hapiness There will be our big grief, behind you only the black fate.
There were also three garlands: from the family Hackert, where we are billeting, from my brigade of volunteers and from a woman. When the coffin goes ito the grave the soldiers bring the Deutschland greetings and the women strew flowers. The vicar spook some words and I spoke too. The ceremony at home, with the Hackerts, which was very solemn, candles are burning and the vicar spoke about 2nd Corinthians 5 verse 1, (For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.) the same as the vicar at home when mother died.
The women were singing songs. Ali, who was so beautiful, a little smile on her face, was buried in a white coffin with a cross of flowers on the cover. That was a very heavy day, but thank God I still may keep my wife Annie, and that was for me a big consolation in those days of sorrow. It was all decided by God and so I am glad that I can help my wife in those days. God sent her to me with our daughter. We could be together when she left. It is very hard to lose a child, we don’t no why, but may be our little pride is saved from a lot of war problems.
We are in home by a good family. We have eggs, butter, sausage, etc.
I stay in Germany, but after some time we will be fighting again. Our first wish is now to fight against the English and Americans but it will be sure against the Russians. Annie will stay in Germany when I go to the front, she has here better days than in Holland.”
Onno: Annie lives again in Holland at the age of 86. She told me that the family Hackert was very kind. Frau Hackert had told to her at Christmas that she saw that she was pregnant again. Annie went in February from Schlochau by train to Berlin with several problems and bombings and then to Hamburg. In April she reached Holland.
In September a second girl was born, named Tjittie. She is now 57 and lives in Holland. Annie told me that when she fled to Berlin the family Hackert with children fled to the North of Germany. Jan never knew that Annie was pregnant. He died in the fight for Berlin near Halbe. There he is re-buried, after a first grave in Luckenwalde.
We don’t know the exact reason for his death, except that he was wounded in the fight. He was 30 years old when he died and the most sympathic brother of my mother. He has a lot of friends and was very popular even with his jewish friends. You can say that he was politically on the wrong road and very principled. The story I made from his life in the war has a big impact in the family because his life was hidden behind the wall. You doesn’t speak about him because he was wrong. But after all he was my uncle and a human being and now we accept his life, not his choices.