Chapter 9: 3 I Got Lucky: Franz Blattenberger - Somehow I Survived: Eyewitness Accounts of World War II (2023)


UE Eras Simply you're lucky

Franz Blattenberger

I WAS BORN ON FEBRUARY 6, 1925, the eighth child in the family. Before me came three brothers and four sisters. My parents' house, Beim Bäcker, was the village bakery in Grünbach/Erding, at that time a village with 33 houses. He had already decided to make me an officer at the age of 12, but my father decided that he should first qualify for trade school. I entered one in 1939 and graduated with honors on February 10, 1943.

In February 1943, at my father's urging, I volunteered for the Luftwaffe because I was convinced that most of those born in 1925 would be conscripted into the Waffen-SS. I shared this belief. Almost no candidate had a chance to get into the air branch of the Luftwaffe, so I volunteered at the same time for the Luftwaffe Division.Hermann

In April 1943 I received a summons to report to the Reich Labor Service (RAD) at the Lechfeld camp. I had mixed feelings that they could send you directly to the front lines from there. My three brothers were already serving in the field. My brother-in-law, Gottfried, arranged for my summons to be deferred because I have a job booked in the family supply business. He doesn't say that I just graduated from business school and was therefore sent to the business vocational school in Wasserburg. In the same month I was still called up to the RAD and had to perform in Viktring near Klagenfurt. I only spent a few weeks there.

RAD training was purely military, with carbines and gas masks. One day, the RAD Group 361 Klagenfurt announced a writer. I immediately volunteered, scored top of the shorthand and typing tests, and was therefore selected.

The RAD headquarters in Klagenfurt was located in a spacious villa on Dr. death ring. It contained the offices of the personnel directors and task force leaders. The partisans became increasingly active in the border regions bordering Yugoslavia. There were several sawmills there and one night, in an organized operation, the guerrillas burned several of them. The RAD was tasked with clearing and rebuilding, which required sentries to be posted overnight to prevent repeat fires. One of the following nights, two RAD boys on duty were shot dead in Feistritz. We hear that these small sawmills made parts of the Wehrmacht barracks living quarters.

In July 1943 my time in Austria was drawing to a close and I declined the suggestion of my superiors to apply for an extension of my RAD service because I had volunteered for the Luftwaffe division.HermannOn the way home I had to change at Markt Schwaben to the connection to Erding. Here, to my surprise, I met my younger brother Martin, who had just been recruited by the RAD. He told me that my Wehrmacht summons papers were waiting for me at home. So in the middle of July 1943, after a short week's vacation, I had to report to the command of the military district in Munich.

Like almost all German families, we too were very affected by the war. My three older brothers have served in the field since the outbreak. My brother Pep died on July 25, 1943 in Stalino with the rank of corporal at the age of 29. My brother Hans was so badly injured at the end of 1943 that he was released from military service because he was unfit for service. He died from these injuries at the age of 39. Georg, my older brother, served as an Oberfeldwebel (Sergeant) in the 4th Platoon/Med Company, 21st Infantry Division, responsible for lice removal and decontamination.

My younger brother, Martin, joined the RAD Flak Batteries in 1943, the first year they were manned by RAD personnel. He studied electrical engineering, trained as a cathode ray tube technician at the Munich company Rhode & Schwarz and then worked as a rangefinder for an 8.8 cm air defense system in Bremen.

I took the train to Holland, where the reserve units of the division were.Hermann Goeringthey were stationed in different cities. They sent me to the artillery in Utrecht. The Krumhout barracks was an old building on the outskirts of the city. The training was hard. As a gunner in the light field howitzer (10.5 cm leFH 18), I always had trouble positioning the gun fast enough to report that it was ready for launch. The crew consisted of five men, including the gun driver. Of course we also had infantry training with carbines, MG 42 and pistols and hand grenades. For target practice we were taken to extensive shooting ranges in the wasteland.

Each room contained twenty men. One day one of us contracted diphtheria. Our room was immediately quarantined and a doctor ran tests. That meant eight days of comfortable inner life. We received our rations through the windows. Then they told me to report to the Order Office in combat gear, where the captain handed me a telegram saying that my brother Pep had died a hero at the front. They denied me the special license, but I had half a day off.

A few days later I was diagnosed with jaundice and admitted to the Air Force infirmary. I had no idea that this infectious disease is so dangerous. My eyes were really yellow and my body had never felt so tired. It was early December 1943 and the local Dutch women who took care of us organized a beautiful advent celebration and even presented us with gifts.

After I recovered, I was given a leave of absence and sent to the Luftwaffe convalescent home, Berg en Dal, in the Gelderland mountains, south-east of Nijmegen, for two weeks. It was a coveted hotel on a tram line. To look like a soldier, even on vacation, I had to carry an antique rifle almost as tall as I was, and I was embarrassed to walk the streets with this monster.

Part of our battery was used as coastal artillery at Scheveningen. I reported permission to find my colleagues in tropical uniforms awaiting transport to Italy. Eager to join them, I switched places with a soldier who was left behind. I immediately got my new uniform, packed my things, including eight daily rations, and was ready on time. The ride in the cattle car, non-stop to the Brenner Pass via Munich and Rosenheim, was unpleasant but interesting.

Just before Christmas we landed and were taken by truck to San Stefano, a town between La Spezia and Aulla, where we arrived to reinforce our battery. We are part of the 4th Panzer Artillery Regiment Panzer 2HermannI was appointed gunner in a LeFH 18. The battery had just received four new five-ton guns and towing machines from the Skoda factory. They gave us accommodation in a monastery. In front of the great church was a spacious public square where artillery exercises were held every day. My garnish could be ready in thirteen seconds now. It took much longer in action because the weapons had to be buried.

At approximately 10 pm on January 6, 1944, we saw red flares indicating dam. We thought there must be more Allied landings and all guns firing at an imaginary enemy for at least ten minutes until we found out that Vlasov's army was celebrating Christmas with a lot of alcohol and firing all available weapons into the air. The next day, the members of our unit returned from Monte Cassino and brought a good red wine. For the rest it was calm in our sector, almost relaxed. At night I went to a wine bar and met a beautiful Italian waitress who was just as starved for love as I was. I spent three wonderful months with her. During the day we build bunkers. I named it after Erna Dux, a girl from Erding with whom I have had a connection for a while.

In mid-January we changed our tropical uniforms to field gray and repainted our vehicles from yellow to green. They had sent us to France. A group of us, led by Sergeant Hamm, drove to Alabrito to get wood for the loading docks. Around noon, a dispatcher arrived with the shocking news that the Allies had landed at Anzio. When we returned to the town we found that the artillerymen, radio operators and signals had fled and we had to continue with the field kitchen (Tross). Our column came under heavy air attacks along the way and suffered heavy losses in men and materiel. At this time I began to keep a small diary, from which these entries have survived:

23 January 1944

I moved in today with an ammunition truck and took control of gun #1. #3 as a gunner. We positioned ourselves in a small oak grove above Cisterna and fired live ammunition on the fifth and sixth shots.

24 January

We moved to a new position about four miles from the city and fired heavily. Finding no infantry in front of us, we had evidently gone too far. We kept running out of ammo and had to fire armored red shells at them. These shells are for anti-tank use only, but we didn't have anything else. Finally, we dig cover holes or bunkers. Not very deep though, due to rising groundwater. Overall, the tactic worked well for us because we didn't have to accept big losses. Air Force paratroopers also came from somewhere to help us disembark.

25 January

I have been a soldier for six months. Half a year ago my unforgettable brother Pep fell. My gun broke overnight. There was a big explosion; At first I thought he had been hit by an enemy bullet. The cause was probably sabotage: the shell's deceleration mechanism was disabled so that the shell would explode in the barrel. A shower of shrapnel exploded and spread everywhere. All were wounded, Sergeant (Cap) Engel was killed. I got off easier because I was right behind the shield and just hit a splinter on my thumb. Other splinters that did not hit me were: one went through both my pant legs, one hit my steel helmet, which I wore for the first time tonight on duty, and another went through my camouflage jacket, uniform shirt, and two sweaters for above. outside, on the belt at the waist! Everyone else had to go to the hospital. I stayed with Tross and I have to go to the doctor every two days to change the bandage. The howitzer, of course, was ruined due to internal damage to the barrel. Soon we will have replacements.

30 January

Today we had a great first class fight. The Americans broke through and captured virtually the entire 12th Battery, which, with its 15 cm SP, took the brunt of the first attack. Our battery fired directly at the enemy infantry with DO rocket launchers.

We had two rear guns, all flexible personnel, so the rear of the convoy had to help with Spiess Mehlhorn in defence. A Sherman tank was destroyed with the last eight shells. Our battery took 100 prisoners. At night, paratroopers came to our rescue. Great companions. Unfortunately, our Commander and Sergeant Riess are missing.

31 January 1 February

Four men were returning from the observation post. The rest are dead or captured. My thumb is better, or at least it doesn't hurt anymore. Our convoy is much further back because the US artillery is targeting our rear more often. Its air superiority is overwhelming. Now I have to walk six miles to see the doctor in the locker room. Americans often use matches, which is quite common. There is no more mail, and if it does arrive, there will never be anything for me.

3 February

The mail finally arrived today. For me, just a couple of newspapers and a letter from my aunt in Siggenberg with the rangers. rarities Otherwise nothing new. We welcome our former Head of Recruitment in Utrecht, Captain Trescher, as our new Commander.

6 February

I still have to go to the doctor every other day and I haven't received any more mail. I can finally write again and catch up on the backlog.

The battery now occupies position 4 north, closer to the mountains. Positions 3 and 4 are withdrawn. Here the fight boils. On the way to the doctor, I am shot by a low-flying plane. Tross's rear guard also has to retreat.

14 February

I had to go to the doctor again. My thumb is slowly healing.

Enemy air supremacy. Our fighters got up only once. I saw them shoot down two enemy four-engine bombers. Got mail and cigarettes from Martin. Our battery was in a wonderful position with closed bunkers. Now all of a sudden it shows a shift to the north sector, even though we're here for now. The new Artillery Observer position is already selected. Again very good time.

sixteen February

Today I returned to the shooting position. Now we are in the Aprilia area, our house has a deep cellar and a lot of wine. almost peaceful. The plan is for us to move to position 1, hold a truce for three days, then open fire. We're not making good progress towards rank 1, lots of anti-aircraft guns blocking the way. The seventy-two-ton Ferdinand tank proved its worth.

4 march

We were withdrawn at night after our battery had repeatedly come under concentrated fire from British naval guns. We had to wait until nightfall so as not to endanger the three-ton howitzer tractor. Lieutenant Treu was seriously wounded. He never protected. In a way, he is a total nutcase.

We left very slowly the first night and rested in Talamono on the third day. I took a short walk along the shore. The cities along the way were almost all bombed. Beautiful woman! Our journey ended provisionally in Monte Carlo, Tuscany, where we were housed by civilians. The alarm rang again two days later. We went to the coast (7 kilometers from Viareggio) and established a good location. Everything is still available in the city, but very expensive. A small bar of chocolate costs fifty lire on the black market, and a good wine costs 100 lire a bottle. There is a movie theater. First class women! I spent a pleasant evening with my people. We spend a lot of money that we save during surgeries.

13 march

General Conrath inspected our battery. Our people were praised, the officers and Sergeant Hamm were severely criticized. Very little mail passes through here, but that is not so noticeable because we have quite a few detours. We have city breaks every other night. The food is good. To my surprise, I received a premium package from Erna Dax on my birthday. I forgot to mention that they also gave me full battle supplies and sixty cigarettes. Of course I have lice. Almost my whole body itches. I finally have quarters and now I hope things get better. Since the last position change, I sleep in a different place every night or have never slept at all.

14 march

Beautiful blue sky. In general, our gun position is ready. I'm back to writing letters, my thumb is fine but I still can't bend it because the meat is too young. Fink was killed at the lookout. He was a dear companion who will be greatly missed. No enemy activity here so far, but plenty of reconnaissance. Viareggio is heavily bombed.

sixteen march

General Conrath surveyed the place again. All went well. He called Sergeant Hammfog('shit goat'). We continue to improve the position. The daily routine is good.

17 march

Colonel Oring inspected us today. Every day someone discovers new flaws. Our commander is present almost every day. We deactivated the artillery for the bombardment areas.

18 march

Today we went to Monte Cabini to delouse. The warm water was wonderful. In the afternoon correspondence from Josef Dax and Thera Kerner, our accountant. I definitely have to reply in the next few days. I met another Italian friend, lively and frank. Very exciting. For the rest, nothing new to report. Good weather.

20 march

Unexpectedly, I was sent to the non-commissioned officer course, where I got new pants and boots. Twenty men of the battalion, true veterans, and I are the only candidates who have not yet reached the rank of Gefreiter (private first class).

23 march

Another man has joined the course today, coming from the battery at headquarters. Sergeant Hamm is one of the instructors. I'm his batman. The training is quite rigorous. My gun was criticized at the parade. Otherwise, all is well. I wrote a letter home, I'm waiting for the mail. I watched an Italian woman brush her teeth, gargle, then spit the water into her hands and wash her face with it. Yuck!

25 march

Shooting practice in Viareggio with live ammunition, pistols and carbines. Today I have been a soldier for eight months, so my brother Pep died exactly eight months ago. I always think of him and feel that he helps me in every difficult situation. This afternoon they put us to the test. It doesn't matter! I hope to pass the Non-Commissioned Officer course with good grades. I received mail from Maier and from home. I will write tonight. The first week of the course is over and I have to do it for the next fortnight.

1 April

Today I was unexpectedly promoted to private. This is not an April Fool's joke! I am very happy and I will do everything possible to recover.

7 April

The course lasted eight days. Shit! Shooting training again tomorrow in Viareggio. We were supposed to have our drum night tonight. They told us and that's why it was postponed.

10 April

Duty free yesterday and today. I did my correspondence, including a long letter to dad. On Saturday we have a "Brotherhood Night". All right! Each man gets four pieces of cake to celebrate. Wonderful time. It's almost too hot in the sun. I wrote to my brother Georg and congratulated him on his award of the War Service Cross First Class (KVKI). He will always be an example for me. I also wrote to Maria Esterl and thanked her for the letter.

sixteen April

I went back to the battery early in the morning. The farewell night was wonderful. He was totally paralyzed! I bathed in hot water today. Awesome. Of course I passed the course, I knew it from the first lesson. I hope I can recover now from the courses. I got an email lately, I'll write you home tonight.

So much for my journal entries. He was now a corporal with the rank of corporal, captain-at-arms and wore the black wounded insignia. We had a coast guard; The position was very close to Monte Rosa (Riviera di Levante). Vlasov's army, consisting of volunteer Russian POWs who fought on our side, occupied the beach.

In Viareggio we set up an observation post in the tower of a hotel. From there we fired the cannons at the fire control areas. Often they sent me to the hotel with two radio operators. Through the minefield a corridor was marked through which we could pass to reach the sea to bathe. As for the food, we were not served: almost every day a different variety of cauliflower.

During sergeant's training he had scouted a pen in the mountains. One night I took my weapons team to organize a sheep (the Wehrmacht term for any kind of robbery is "organize"). After breaking the padlock on the gate and temporarily incapacitating the two dogs, we took a sheep and headed down the mountain, difficult work on a pitch-dark night, each of us taking turns carrying the protesting animal. To top it off, there was a mock alarm at the firing position and we could hear the tugs fleeing with the artillery. My weapon was left alone. One of my men, Schier, a butcher by trade, slaughtered the sheep and we presented the best cuts to Sergeant Hamm and the battery officer, so they wouldn't report us upstairs as absent.

Three days later the Italian prefect arrived with the farmer who needed to look for our lodging. There was no sign of the sheep, save for the aroma of roast lamb. The Italians in this area were still our allies and therefore we could not oppose their pursuit. We didn't care anyway, we weren't hungry anymore.

I learned that my brother Georg would receive a marriage certificate in June 1944. He has been away from home for a long time, serving in the Volkhov region near Leningrad. Captain Trescher, our commander, came to the observation post from time to time to see how the three occupants were doing. As I have known him since Utrecht, I personally asked him if it would be possible for me to leave the front. I met several mostly older men who had local licenses in this quiet place. He was very accommodating and said that he could have the permit pass but not the passenger rail pass.

On June 1, 1944, I set out with my vacation pass in my pocket. From there he went to the next small town, where the dispatcher picked up the mail. When I got there, soldiers were getting off buses in the market square. When I asked, one of the drivers told me that the bus convoy was going to Bologna to pick up the remaining infantrymen from the unit. The driver was Jockey in Riem and we hit it off right away. He understood what he was doing. In Bologna, I stayed behind a boarding pass to dodge the controls and he threw my backpack behind me with a shout of "Hello!"

I found the partisan train and huddled in a corner under some hanging coats. The compartment was less than half full and it seemed like an eternity before the train finally left. After about ten kilometers, the field workers went up, but luckily for me they only did a count without checking the documents. Around midnight, the train stopped at Brenner Pass, where all the soldiers had to get off to exchange money and get their vacation passes and marching orders stamped. I went down the other side and got into the caboose of a freight train. From there I was able to see the review of the document and see how the process was going. When the passengers boarded again, I slipped through them without being seen. The train arrived in Rosenheim at four or five in the morning. I was going with a crowd but I fell behind on the platform. A soldier at the ticket office yelled, "Why don't you go to the waiting room to get out of the cold?" He was an old stormtrooper looking for a conversation. I told him that I had to catch the first train to Wasserburg and that I was worried that I would oversleep and miss it. I gave him a couple of cigarettes, which made him forget to check my papers.

The first train took me to Ramerberg, from where I happily ran to Lehen to surprise my sister Leni and brother-in-law Gottfried, their family and the bakery staff with my completely unexpected arrival. In Lehen we spend happy and sociable hours away from the war. After a week I went to Munich, from where I called Grünbach to tell him I was leaving and would be home for the night. When I took off my backpack to make the phone, my carabiner caught in my back pocket, opening a twenty-inch rip. This had to be fixed immediately before anyone noticed. Two sisters I knew who worked at a milk store sewed my uniform right away. Then I took the tram to the Erding station.

At Erding Station, signs called for all Air Force supporters to report to the airfield. I wanted to do that anyway because I had to write the beginning of my vacation on my vacation ticket. At the airfield, a guard directed me to the orderly station. I noticed that those who were fired tended to be very careless on the record. Spiess wanted to know exactly where he was posted. I told him and then asked him to confirm the start of my vacation. His response was that he had never experienced anything like this: I had no stamp showing where I crossed the border into Germany. Deciding that a half-truth would help clarify my situation, I told him that I had crossed the border in a Todt Organization truck. They didn't wake me up, so I crossed the border without registering the start of my driver's license there.

He offered me a glass and a bottle of martini. When I said that I wanted to go to Grünbach, the sergeant softened. He said that he knew the Förster inn there and the good light beer from the brewery. He finally explained, “You won't be here until tomorrow. Don't let anyone see you today. In half an hour the Erdinger Tor guards will be exchanged and you will be able to ride with them in their car. I said goodbye grateful because he had given me an extra day of rest. My parents welcomed me with great joy, but the death of my brother Pep in the war last July overshadowed everything. My mother yelled: 'If Pep could come back'. We are waiting for my brother Georg, who celebrated his marriage to Marille on June 24. The reception took place at the Gasthof Förster.

On June 6, 1944, the Allies landed in Normandy. Almost all the partisans, especially those on the Western Front, were forced to interrupt their vacation and return to the unit. The two from Grünbach, Anderl and I, who were stationed in Italy, still had some time before we left. I drove to the Munich train station the day before and surveyed the situation. The trains were overcrowded and anyone who couldn't board one had to get his ID stamped at a front-line control center and return the next day. I consciously have two stamps. On the third try I stayed in a school with several others and the next day we were the first passengers back to Italy.

The train for all members of the division stopped at a small station on the outskirts of Bologna.Hermann GoeringSalt. I crashed too, but as it turned out later, it was a mistake. Several hundred of us were loaded into waiting trucks and taken to a town about twenty kilometers away, where we stayed in a gym. The next day we were informed that a new infantry unit had been formed and that we would receive special training in new weapons and explosives.

After several discussions, specialists such as tankers, artillery scouts and gun captains were brought together and we hoped that this meant that our former units had requested our return. This was not the case, as the division had meanwhile been transferred to the Eastern Front. Only one rear artillery guard remained in Italy. For a whole week, "experts" had to be brought in every morning to find out that the division did not have such an order. We ended up being sent to the infantry training unit and they gave us a tough drill.

My luck continued when I was assigned to a heavy (12 cm) mortar unit as a forward observer, a role for which I had already received artillery training. Our train conductor was a Sudeten German whom we called Danny. He was a little older than me and made an unforgettable impression with his beautiful red hair and hundreds of freckles.

At the beginning of August we were ordered this and put on a train that took us to Salzburg, Regensburg, Aussig, Dresden, Bautzen, Gorlitz, Breslau, Ostrava and Litzmannstadt (Lodz). On August 8, the trip was interrupted when the guerrillas destroyed a section of road in an open field. The posts were immediately reinforced and the train was diverted again. We passed through the pilgrimage city of Częstochowa, famous for its Black Madonna, and the city of Kielce, where my brother Pep served during the invasion of Poland.

We were offloaded on August 10 at the front control center in Radom, where I was transferred to a battery of 12cm mortars. By chance I met our Oberleutnant Walter, who also ended up in this infantry unit. He told me that Danny stayed in Italy with another unit. We were about 150 kilometers behind the main front, training every day followed by night exercises. I often couldn't sleep. Little by little we became grenadiers.

On August 31, 1944, to my surprise, I was called up to my cadre unit in the artillery regiment and even to my old battery. My joy at being there was greater than that of my former comrades. I had to take command of the firing squad at firing points or cannon no. 1. So I went back to being a weapons commander. Walter Geissendörfer had gun number 2.

On August 1, the Polish Home Army Uprising began in Warsaw. The insurgents quickly took over the center of the city, and only after weeks of fighting and horrific atrocities against Polish civilians was the situation brought under control. The hopes of the Poles for the support of the Red Army were bitterly dashed. The Soviets established themselves in Prague on the other side of the Vistula and waited in silence until the Germans crushed the Home Army, which surrendered on October 2. The survivors were taken as prisoners of war.

Our mission in September 1944 took place at the Warka bridgehead on the Vistula. The division fought a defensive action east of the river between Warsaw and Modlin. At the beginning of October, the division was merged with another renamed Fallschirm-Panzer-Korps and was sent to East Prussia by rail transport. The Russians had invaded Angerapp and Nemmersdorf near Gumbinnen and committed the most appalling atrocities against the civilian population.

A very excited dispatcher came up to us and reported that he had seen Russians raping several women on a nearby farm before murdering them and their husbands. We immediately headed there on motorcycles and as we approached I was shocked to see the bodies of two women and three men nailed to a barn door. The women were raped before being shot. We crushed the five bodies, but we couldn't dig the graves because the ground was frozen. Finally, in the cellar of the half-ruined barn, we found some boxes of potatoes fit for coffins, and covered the corpses with straw. The crucified bodies were a spectacle that I could never forget and remember as if it were yesterday. The estate was abandoned, the villagers fled, and only these five remained, paying the price with their lives so barbarically for their incredible decision. They were probably influenced by warnings that the Russians had attacked refugee columns or that the ice could not support the weight of the horse and cart.

In fierce and bloody battles, our units managed to prevent the Russians from entering Konigsberg and forced them to retreat behind the Rominter moors and forests. After the end of the fighting on the East Prussian borders, our corps remained southeast of Gumbinnen, near Königsberg, from November 1944 to January 1945. Our gun location was near the large Altwusterwitz estate in the area of Gumbinen. It was a good position and we built huge bunkers for our safety. It was not easy in the bitter cold.

The weapon no. Geissendörfer's No. 2 zeroed in about two kilometers from her position as the so-called "working gun" at the bombardment range. The collected data was then processed using battery power. When the Russians launched their big offensive along the entire front on January 13, 1945 with hours of artillery bombardment, little reached us, but they seemed obsessed with the working gun, which got most of their attention. However, Geissendörfer managed to return the gun to the main position.

The structure of the Parachute Tank Corps at that time was:

Panzer-Granadier-Divisiongreat germany

21st Infantry Division

61st Infantry Division

349. Volksgrenadier-Division

549. Volksgrenadier-Division.

I found out after the war.

The three winter months saw only trench warfare. The Soviets withdrew their armies to rest and reinforce after their heavy losses on the battlefield. The German plan at the time was to launch an artillery-supported attack to straighten a curve in the front line. I was sent forward with two radio operators to report to the infantry as an artillery scout. To my surprise, an army observer arrived at the same time, and while we were talking I learned that he was from the 21st Infantry Division, stationed in Elbląg on the Baltic. My brother Georg had been called to Elbing from his bakery in Düsseldorf, and I knew that he was in the 4th Platoon of the 21st Division Medical Company. This department was headquartered in Leningrad, but was recently transferred to East Prussia. Their main training post was on a large property just twenty kilometers behind our firing position.

When I was relieved on November 28, 1944, I went there immediately. Georg was put up in a caretaker's house. It was a totally unexpected and happy reunion. I had a hot shower, new underwear, and free cigarettes and alcohol. Of course, we also had a lot to talk about. I noted in my journal that this was "the happiest day of my military career." I divided the gifts among my team. On Christmas day my brother visited me at our shooting range and we had a great time.

When the Red Army began its long-awaited major offensive along the entire Eastern Front on January 13, 1945, the remaining parts of the Parachute Panzer Corps in East Prussia and the army divisions attached to it were engaged in heavy and bloody fighting. We had to withdraw in stages via Insterburg, Wehlau, Heilsberg, Landsberg, Kreuzberg, Zinten and Braunsberg to Heiligenbeil. Here thisHermann GoeringThe body was largely surrounded and disposed of.

In the first days of April 1945, the remains were evacuated through the Vistula Lagoon. Having destroyed all usable guns with demolition charges at Balga, we were sent to the upstream point of land with the Siebel shuttle. If we hadn't brought our wounded, they probably wouldn't have taken us in.

I will never forget the sight of streams of refugees crossing the ice, often attacked from the air. We marched to Pillau and, after a long wait, we boarded the freighter that sailed under the German flag. She was so overloaded with the wounded and refugees that, despite the cold, we had to set out on deck. All personnel of the 21st Division were on board. We have arrived safely in Swinoujscie.

on your next tripBOCAIt had more than 7,000 people on board when it was torpedoed and sunk by a Russian submarine. The ship sank in seven minutes and only 334 people could be saved. So my incredible luck lasted once more when I made my way across the Baltic Sea on her penultimate westerly sail. My brother Georg was on board the hospital ship.monte rosaswith the medical company and many injured. The ship has arrived safely in Denmark.

Of the 24,000 men who served in the Panzer Parachute CorpsHermann Goeringsince the beginning of the winter offensive on March 1, 1945, only 6,000 had survived the siege of Heiligenbeil. From Swinemünde they took us to Berlin-Reinickendorf, where the old division headquarters was.Hermann Goeringwas located. Here he was refitted with reserves and other recruits and sent to the next combat area in Saxony.

Berlin had been badly damaged by constant air raids and I was surprised that anything was still working. However, I even saw a theatrical performance in a bomb bunker.

One day, soldiers who had proven themselves at the front were ordered to visit them with medals from Reich Marshal Hermann Goering. I was with them when our Commanding Officer walked through the ranks and had a few words with some of the men. He didn't speak to me; Other than the Injury Badge, I only used the first and second class Iron Cross.

Our battery was replenished with weapons and we were transferred to Hoyerswerda-Bautzen, where on May 3 the entire Parachute Panzer Corps was stationed.Hermann Goeringwent on the attack. We stopped Russian and Polish units and destroyed several tanks that ventured too close. Red tank shells penetrated the interior of the tank, where the intense heat killed the crew. One time an enemy tank crew tried to escape after we covered them and damaged an airstrip, but they landed on our infantry.

It was these defensive actions as a gunnery captain that earned me the Iron Cross, 1st Class, at the end of the war. On May 5th our attack failed and we had to take a position north of Dresden. We held the enemy at bay for a while, but on May 7 the Red Army advanced northwest along the Elbe and attacked Dresden from the east, threatening to cut off the German troops there.

The bridges over the Elbe were secured with all available forces to keep the road to the Ore Mountains open, and at Wehlen we reached the other side of the Elbe via a bridge built by the pioneers. On May 8, we received the order: “As of 8:00 p.m., cease fire. Unconditional surrender. Stop the movements.

Weapons and ammunition were rendered unusable. Some elements managed to fight their way southwest through Czech territory and thus reached the American lines. Most of the paratroop tank corps had to surrender to the Soviets and were sentenced to 25 years of hard labor for belonging to an elite unit. However, the last survivors returned in 1949, including my good comrade Geißendörfer.

Our battalion was dispersed near Wehlen. Most of the infantrymen wanted to go west, as far as possible from the Russians. We didn't know it at the time, but we were flanked by enemy armored units. A large group, including me, drove away in a confiscated empty ammunition truck. A paramedic took pity on a refugee mother with three children, her youngest in a pram, after he begged us to take her and her family. Our objective was to cross Czech territory via Dux and Brüx to Karlovy Vary (former capital of the Sudetenland) and from there to Bavaria. There was a lot of traffic on the roads, even the Russian columns were going in the same direction. We had not gone far when we were stopped and forced to dismount. A Russian got into the driver's seat and simply drove away, still leaving the angry paramedic and the car in the back seat. After the paramedic pounded the rear of the taxi with his fists, the truck came to a stop and the Russian driver helped turn off the car. I hid my map case in the taxi and couldn't get it back. Now we had to continue on foot. We had to avoid small towns and cities, but that wasn't always possible. We stayed in small groups so as not to attract attention and ate what was left of our iron rations.

The following days were not easy. We had to be constantly on the move, especially on Czech territory; perhaps we should have avoided it altogether. As we passed through inhabited places, the militiamen mistreated or harassed us and beat us several times because we did not unpack our miserable belongings to inspect them. Many times we were stopped and forced to show our crossing documents, which we obviously did not have, and then asked to return to the last town we left to inform the authorities. We obviously didn't want to do that, and as soon as we were out of sight we headed into the woods and fields to avoid roadblocks.

On a large remote farm, we ask for bread. The owners were of German origin and feared the Czechs. It was illegal to provide shelter or support for German soldiers. Shortly after we received bread and were allowed to fill our canteens with water, a militia vehicle pulled up. The farmer's wife opened the kitchen door for us to walk behind a barn. We reach it by following a dense hedge. They looked at each other, but luckily they didn't have a dog and we escaped detection.

The farmer left about half an hour later. He said that we should have been informed and advised us to avoid any inhabited areas in the future: the Russians generally rounded up all German soldiers to send them east as prisoners of war. What he said was confirmed the next day when, from a safe distance, we saw them being led away in long columns. Now we have become much more careful, even if we had to traverse difficult terrain to do so.

One day, early in the afternoon, we saw a village in the valley through binoculars. Halfway between the town and our position there was a small house. A man sat on a bench in front of the house and smoked a pipe. An older gentleman came out and we approached hoping to get some food there. When I looked through the binoculars now, I got a big surprise. The man had red hair. The wind was favorable to our progress, and when I saw the freckled face there was no room for doubt. I yelled "Danny!" and we exchange glances and hug each other. He was at home two days after the armistice was signed in Italy before the general. Maybe he ran away earlier, but I didn't ask.

She called her father and now she had to explain where she came from and where she wanted to go. I first mentioned that he was dating four ex-soldiers who were hiding out in the woods. After dark everyone was served ham, bread and sausages. Danny's father has arranged to welcome his starving son home. We slept in the little stables and held a "council of war" the next morning. Danny knew that there were no occupation troops in Vogtland and he advised us to go to Plauen. Unfortunately, I couldn't find out later how Danny and his father fared afterwards.

Rested and refreshed, we took the next step and soon fell victim to carelessness. In a village off the main road in the former Sudetenland, we thought we were safe and decided to order food again. Turning a corner, we find a platoon of Russian soldiers resting. His officer, eating a chicken thigh, called out to us. His soldiers swirled around us and we thought for certain that our luck had finally run out. He suddenly noticed the binoculars around my neck and said in broken German: "The war is over. Go home. The wife and child cannot see." I immediately understood what he wanted and handed him the binoculars. He smiled, cut a piece of chicken and handed it to me, repeating twice, "Go home, go home," and he waved us over. to get out, and we got out as fast as we could, continuing until we reached an area where residents confirmed that neither Russians nor Americans had been seen before.

Now we started to find groups of German soldiers who wanted to reach out to Americans like us. In front of Auerbach in Vogtland, signs were posted in German that only certain roads were to be used. This automatically led us to a huge US transit camp that had been set up in the open as a makeshift measure. The German infantry kept coming, and from what we could see they were masses of German soldiers who, like us, had managed to evade capture by the Soviets.

They paraded us several times and warned us not to leave the camp; Anyone who tried to escape was shot. There were no wire fences or boundary markers, just US troops driving around in jeeps. At first there was nothing to eat and after borrowing a pot we made dandelion soup. The next day cookies were distributed: "One cookie for every two men."

The Americans were completely overwhelmed with numbers and I decided to plan my escape. The next day I discussed my own escape with trusted friends, first, of course, with men from our old units. Elderly homeowners with children understandably did not want to take that risk, so the four homeless people plus our former garage employee, who was married but childless, began a close reconnaissance of the field, meandering discreetly in the agreed upon direction. in the path. leaves the camp.

At night, the Americans increased their patrols. When a large gap appeared between their vehicles, we scrambled up and ran 100 yards to the cover we had seen during the day. After making sure that he hadn't noticed our escape, we continued our journey back home. In a clearing on a forest road we find a small cabin where the ranger lives, an old gentleman with a gray beard. He was very upset that they woke him up but other than that he was very helpful in every way. He gave us a 1:100,000 scale map of the Fichtelgebirge and the Franconian Forest which we found very helpful. I keep it as a souvenir to this day.

Three of our party have now left us as they were at home in the northern regions; The two of us drove, as before, avoiding the big cities, more or less in the direction of Hof, then Schwarzenbach, Münchberg, Gefrees and Bayreuth. We always found shelter for the night, and there were always people on earth who saw our hunger and fed us.

Checks by US soldiers were not a problem. I spoke some English, chatted with them and stole cigarettes. I was alone when I got to the motorway at Lanzendorf/Himmelkron. The traffic consisted mainly of American vehicles, but also many refugees with suitcases and luggage, most of them pushing wheelbarrows and, of course, ex-Wehrmacht members with whom you could exchange experiences and information, especially about where to expect checkpoints. . These points should be avoided, even if it means a long detour.

I heard that the Americans have created spawning grounds near Erding and Bad Aibling. Only later did I learn of the Yalta Conference in February 1945, at which Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin, among others, agreed that Wehrmacht soldiers who had been on the Eastern Front would be handed over to the Soviets. That happened in the big transit camps in Vogtland, where I still didn't feel safe. The architect Franz Willer from Rosenheim, whom I knew well, was in one of these camps in Auerbach at the time. He returned from captivity in Russia in 1949 and recounted how one night the American captors were freed by the Russians and the next morning the grueling journey east to captivity through most of Siberia began for many thousands.

At the Potsdam Conference of the Allied Powers in July and August 1945, an agreement was reached on the future of Germany, which was to be divided into four occupation zones governed by the Allied Control Commission. Northeast Prussia fell to the Soviets, and the rest of East Germany east of the Oder-Neisse line came under Polish administration. The deportation of the German population from these areas was also agreed upon and approved.

One day, on my long drive home, I discovered three Wehrmacht trucks in a parking lot on the Autobahn. It appears that uniformed German soldiers were resting there. As I approached the group, I saw the black letters "PW" on the back of their jackets. I asked what they meant and where they were going, to which they replied that they were prisoners of war on their way to Nuremberg. When I asked if I could ride with them for a bit, they pointed to the American escort standing with two jeeps at the head of the column. I spoke to the Americans, but they ignored me and yelled: 'Come on!'

German prisoners boarded the vehicles. One of the trucks had a trailer and at the last moment I grabbed on and was pushed inside by two men. When they realized that I was not one of them, they showed their displeasure and promised to get out as soon as possible. That was easier said than done. The train arrived in the city center of Nuremberg and stopped at Plärrer, one of the main squares of the city. Here a large number of civilians gathered around a podium. It was interesting to see that city councilors, US officials and a uniformed US film crew were waiting for us. The vehicles were parked in a dead end and no one could leave them. I stood against the inside wall of the trailer and watched as a US officer collected the documents and handed them over to a civilian. At the microphones, this person greeted the prisoners on behalf of the city administration.

Each prisoner was then individually called to receive their release papers. The purpose of this procedure was to show the humanity with which the Americans treated their prisoners of war, since the entire ceremony was filmed. How the US Army actually treated German prisoners was not widely known until much later. Perhaps one should use it to prepare for the Nuremberg trials.

Spectators rushed to the front and when a well-known athlete was called, they couldn't contain their excitement and cheered loudly. It was an opportune moment to leave the trailer and disappear into the crowd. I asked a passerby what was the fastest way to get to the Munich motorway, to which he replied: "You drive from here via Splittertorgraben and then." I didn't know Nuremberg, but hearing the name of this street electrified me, because house number 17 was Dr. Förg's address, and I was friends with his daughter Helga! An almost unbelievable coincidence!

There have always been farm apprentices in Gut Grünbach, which is why Helga Förg came to our village, where she became friends with my sister Lisbeth. So I got her address in Nuremberg and a photo of this beautiful girl. I had corresponded with her in the performance of my duties and was standing unexpectedly in front of the house where she lived. On the street side, the façade was badly damaged by a bomb explosion. A notice said that visitors were to use the back entrance. Still, he wanted to get off the road quickly because he could see several military patrol cars in the distance and he was still wearing full Air Force uniform.

In the backyard I found an old woman clearing up the rubble and I asked her if she knew where I could find Helga Förg. She looked at my face and to my astonishment she replied: 'Oh, you're Franzi!' She was Helga's aunt and she had seen my picture on Helga's nightstand. I was speechless.

Doctor Förg had been an SA paramedic and, like many people, had been interned in the party offices on the former Nazi party concentration grounds. There Helga visited him with her mother. The aunt knew that they had to go home before the curfew, and she invited me to wait at home. One can imagine her great surprise when I greeted them on their return. They would have liked to offer me a meal, but the pantry was empty, so we had to make do with tea and bread, to which I added a small box of soft cheeses that I had exchanged on the way. They offered me the surgery to sleep, but I preferred the bathroom because I was infested with lice. That was in all probability also the reason why Helga refrained from hugging me when we first met...

The next day, through the windows, I could see an intersection where soldiers were checking uniformed German soldiers and other poorly dressed men. If they did not show discharge papers, they were arrested. So I decided on a plan to leave Nuremberg, mainly because I didn't want to be a burden to my hosts, who already had enough problems. I asked Helga where the nearest milk depot was and she knew that a truck came in from outside every day. It quickly became clear that this milk transport came from Eichstätt and she visited several places on the way to Nuremberg before returning to her Eichstätt depot.

At seven the next morning, Helga led me through the maze of alleyways to the relatively large milk distribution center, and soon the truck arrived with its load of milk cans. The elderly driver said he was prohibited from transporting people, but he continues to transport refugees and other people every day in solidarity with his plight in the absence of public transport.

After a brief goodbye, the truck started and I made myself available to the driver, since I was familiar with the operation of the mixers. The driver took some refugees on board, but he told everyone that we had to leave before reaching a checkpoint on the highway. He would be waiting for us out of sight. We bypassed the checkpoint and were grateful that the truck was waiting a few miles up the road. The driver pretended to repair the wood gas system. I got out of the truck before reaching Eichstätt and thanked the driver for his help; He told me that he was looking forward to the safe return of his son and he wished me well.

Once again I set out on foot and crossed the Danube with others near Ingolstadt on a dam, the locals helping me with a boat. The way to Freising was well marked through Holledau, 2,400 square kilometers of hop fields in central Bavaria. Near town he was hitchhiking in a farmer's horse-drawn wagon. He told me that a bridge support over the Isar had collapsed and that German auxiliary policemen and American soldiers were occupying the emergency landing site. He led me to the bridge hidden under a horse blanket.

I was so tired from this endless walk that I risked crossing the bridge. The farmer assured me that the German police were on the right, which was true. They asked me for my identification documents and I presented my payment book. The adjutant, with a North German accent, wanted to see my US discharge certificate. I told him I was going to the Erding prison camp, which was very close to my house. The conversation went on for some time and finally caught the attention of one of the three soldiers from the opposite side who was walking towards us. At that point, the orderly said, "Step aside immediately." I didn't need a warning and set off at a brisk pace, slowing my pace to the wooden pier and then quickly across the bridge.

Now I could feel reasonably safe and excited I went to Niederding, where Uncle Georg, my mother's brother, had a farm. He had been a soldier for the Kaiser in World War I and I immediately told him that he had lice. We put my uniform and all the clothes in the oven, and after a thorough cleaning, my uncle dressed me from his closet and even lent me a civilian suit. Meanwhile, my dear aunt and her three daughters prepared me a wonderful meal and, after telling them of my adventures, they let me sleep.

The next morning at breakfast my uncle told me that the bridges over the Isar channel had been blown up. Prisoners from the Emling camp in Erding were used for the repairs. US soldiers at the emergency bridge carried out checks, and any soldiers or civilians unable to present valid identification documents were brought to the camp overnight. My uncle had fields on the Erdinger side and was allowed through without any problems. I think he had an ID issued by the City. He met a soldier who spoke German well and gave him a piece of black bread when he asked for it. My uncle used to ride his bicycle to the bridge every day to see the soldier, and after three or four days he came back quickly and said that we had to leave immediately: Today his soldier was on duty at the bridge. Uncle Georg gave me a hat to wear and told the soldier that I was a refugee from bombed Munich and that he had to appear before the military governor for his identification. This story helped me and I knew the rest of my trip by heart. I avoided Erding; My next visit was to Maier's large estate in Unterstrogen, where my mother had come from. The whole family welcomed me with joy. I did not stay there long; my own family hasn't heard from me since East Prussia, so now I've completed the last few kilometers of the 500 kilometer journey from Hecken to Grünbach.

In the middle of a field between Unterstrogen and hedgerows I saw a quadruple anti-aircraft gun in a heap. Out of curiosity, I sat in the gunner's seat, pressed the pedal to fire, and to my horror, a few salvoes were fired. I ran away immediately. In Kirchmeir, in Hecken, I met a worker filling tank rails and asked him sarcastically if the war wasn't over yet. Of course he heard the shots, but he didn't connect me to it. "Americans are often loud here," he replied.

My sister Resi, who later became head of the music faculty at the Angerkloster Monastery in Munich, described my return in her manuscript "School Sister Candidate in the Third Reich" as follows:

May 20 was Pentecost Sunday. After the sad events of the last few weeks, there was no real celebration. We had not yet heard from any of our three brothers, not even the youngest from Bad Wörishofen. The following week I helped in the store because Mom wanted to work in the garden. It was a wonderful day, the best weather for the hay harvest. Uncle Peter came to our mother in Strogen with a bag of flour from the farm and asked us to make bread from it. Then he wanted to talk to mom and I sent him to the garden.

As I was wondering why the hell he was coming at us with that order in broad daylight in the middle of the hay harvest, the doorbell rang again. I opened the door to a young man in a smart suit, hat pulled low over his forehead. He was about to ask what was going on when he took off his hat and the words caught in my throat. It was my brother Franz. With a cry of joy we embraced. Then Uncle Peter arrived with his mother. His own son was too young for military service and he wanted to experience his return home, hence the "flour sack theater".

We were very happy that our brother Franz came home. He was depressed when he found out that neither Georg nor Martin had returned and that we hadn't heard from either of them or our sister Betty's fiancé.

Realizing that I needed a US discharge certificate, I decided to go to Emling with a neighbor who had also been a Wehrmacht. Double sentinels were posted at the gates of the camp. The departing American officer spoke perfect German and we told our stories to his satisfaction.

The unloading company had 100 soldiers and we were the 101st and 102nd German soldiers to be discharged in two days. Each of us must throw his payment book into a barrel under supervision. I tore a few pages to keep as a keepsake.

On May 26, 1945, I received my release certificate and thus I recovered my freedom. My mother was crying and hugged me, but the loss of my brother Pep was a huge blow to our family and my mother never got over it.

My brother Georg finally came home in August 1945, followed by my younger brother Martin on December 23, 1945. My mother cried with joy again, although Pep's death still weighed heavily on her. The British released Martin early, but the younger soldiers were taken from the train at Bebra, where there was a prison camp for staff officers; Martin had been selected to serve as a valet to one of these gentlemen.

The next obstacle we had to face was the so-called denazification, which was supposed to remove all National Socialist influences from public life. As a member of the Hitler Youth, like all my colleagues born in 1925, I received an NSDAP membership card from the RAD. We were especially amused by the attached letter, which exempts us from party contributions during RAD and military service. However, we were all registered as full members of the NSDAP, and therefore we had to appear in court. On April 2, 1947, it was decided that I did not belong to the group of major war criminals and the amnesty for minors was applied to me.

Chapter 9: 3 I Got Lucky: Franz Blattenberger - Somehow I Survived: Eyewitness Accounts of World War II (1)

Franz Blattenberger in 2019.

Chapter 9: 3 I Got Lucky: Franz Blattenberger - Somehow I Survived: Eyewitness Accounts of World War II (2)

Franz Blattenberger as author and secretary, RAD Group South, Klagenfurt.

Chapter 9: 3 I Got Lucky: Franz Blattenberger - Somehow I Survived: Eyewitness Accounts of World War II (3)

Blattenberger (centre defender) at the RAD headquarters, Klagenfurt.

Chapter 9: 3 I Got Lucky: Franz Blattenberger - Somehow I Survived: Eyewitness Accounts of World War II (4)

After an action at Monte Cassino in December 1943, maintenance on the 10.5 cm 18 light field howitzer at San Stefano near Frosinone, Italy.

Chapter 9: 3 I Got Lucky: Franz Blattenberger - Somehow I Survived: Eyewitness Accounts of World War II (5)

A bunker in Anzio-Nettuno named 'Erna' after a friend.

Chapter 9: 3 I Got Lucky: Franz Blattenberger - Somehow I Survived: Eyewitness Accounts of World War II (6)

Franz Blattenberger as gun commander, guns no. 3rd, 2nd Battery, 4th Armored Parachute Artillery RegimentHermann Goeringen Anzio-Neptuno.

Chapter 9: 3 I Got Lucky: Franz Blattenberger - Somehow I Survived: Eyewitness Accounts of World War II (7)

Trench guard in Italy.

Chapter 9: 3 I Got Lucky: Franz Blattenberger - Somehow I Survived: Eyewitness Accounts of World War II (8)

Shooting training in Italy.

Chapter 9: 3 I Got Lucky: Franz Blattenberger - Somehow I Survived: Eyewitness Accounts of World War II (9)

Easter greetings from Italy, 1944. Note the title on the cuff and the Luftwaffe insignia on the right breast of the tunic.

Chapter 9: 3 I Got Lucky: Franz Blattenberger - Somehow I Survived: Eyewitness Accounts of World War II (10)

At the Weiden station, Oberpfalz, on the way to Poland, July 1944.

Chapter 9: 3 I Got Lucky: Franz Blattenberger - Somehow I Survived: Eyewitness Accounts of World War II (11)

Transfer of Peri, Northern Italy to the Eastern Front.

Chapter 9: 3 I Got Lucky: Franz Blattenberger - Somehow I Survived: Eyewitness Accounts of World War II (12)

Waiting for the night crossing of the Po, July 1944.

Chapter 9: 3 I Got Lucky: Franz Blattenberger - Somehow I Survived: Eyewitness Accounts of World War II (13)

Camouflaged firing positions at the Warka bridgehead on the Vistula, August and September 1944.


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