Web writes: "Having served in military intelligence in Europe after WWII, I met many former German soldiers who had unusual stories to tell."
Heinrich snuggled up to a snowy mud bank.
Cool, somewhat refreshing and light
brown, it also was fluffy in places. It was, that is, until it suddenly began
spitting in a jarring surprise.
Now that thin, wet snow bank turned colorful -- somewhere between dirt brown and a bloody crimson.
Feldwebel Kristofer Von Horst went over to Heinrich to tell him that the upheaval came from Norwegian guns to the right of him.
However, when Kris got there he discovered that Heinrich had already been rudely appraised of the situation. He was dead.
The Germans were occupying Li Farmstead on a hilltop near the road to Dombas, Norway, an important rail junction between Oslo and Trondheim. A few days earlier, April 14, German paratroops (the Fallschirmer) -- a couple of companies - had dropped into the Dombas area. But the drop was scattered. The Germans had to assemble and march on foot to a defensible positions near Dombas, where they had hoped to stop retaliating allies from advancing.
However, after stumbling into a heavier armed Norwegian unit, a vicious firefight ensued and the German Fallschirmjaeger decided to pull back to to more defensible positions on the farm hilltop. However, two more Norwegian units plus a British howitzer unit, had joined the fight, and the situation had abruptly changed.
At first Kris was outraged at Heinrich’s death. The Norwegian attack, or defense -- depending on one’s point of view -- had been coming from the left and center, not the right where Heinrich was.
What the . . . ? Those Norske turds,” he said out loud.
‘Let me at ‘em, I’ll teach ‘em a thing or two,’ he thought in a fit of silent rage. ‘How dare they? What are they (Norwegian soldiers) doing over there on the right? Who are they? How’d they get there?’
About this moment, a deafening explosion jarred the stone farmhouse and the depression in which Kris’ platoon was entrenched. He turned and saw three more of his German comrades torn apart, bleeding scarlet billows into their ivory surrounding. They, too, were now dead.
Norwegian machine guns
sputtered, wounding still another three of four.
Von Horst was not quite panicking. Or was he? The feldwebel, 26 years old but in his first combat and far from his Bavarian village in the Bohemian Forest, tried to fend off gut-churning panic. Although older and a sergeant, he lacked the maturity of a combat veteran. However, most of the young Fallschirmer here were in the same situation, as the Norwegian campaign was one of the earliest expeditions of what was becoming a second world war.
Nervously, he took out his field glasses and surveyed the situation. Norwegians -- call them very unmilitary if you want – but they were formidable enough to be on three sides of the supposedly advanced German position. Kris’ unit had drifted into a trap. Better backtrack -- get out of there.
He turned to holler to Oberleutnant Herbert Schmidt, hoping Schmidt would issue an escape order, but he was already face down in the snow, wounded or dead.
Kris leap-frogged authority and managed to get at least two German platoons to fire and fall back. One platoon leader had either been immobilized by fear, or was severely or fatally wounded. So he, Feldwebel Von Horst, had taken over. He got two platoons retreating toward a more secure position, but halfway there the ground began to leap and jump.
The Germans dove and hugged the open ground, burrowing into the skiff of drift snow. Kris heard a machine gun and small arms fire. The ground was exploding all around. He heard cries of the wounded. He took out his binoculars again and at one glance noted that they were surrounded. Norwegians, bolstered by allies, were pushing to reclaim the high ground. The Norwegians had sprung the trap. There was no way out. Annihilation was certain.
There was only one thing to do -- shameful and humiliating as it might be -- surrender.
To say it was humiliating would be an understatement. Rather ‘twas a disaster. After all, Norway was inexperienced in warfare and up until a few days ago had been neutral. Germany, fearing the British and the French would soon violate the Norwegian neutrality, decided to abandon sensitivity and anger the entire world, by invading Norway.
Caught with a fledgling army, the Norwegians fought cleverly and heroically. But had to fall back on nearly all fronts . . .except (ahem) this one. The Norwegians, not only surrounding them but operating from the moral high ground, had halted this Nazi operation and now held the invaders by the short hairs.
The Germans could expect harsh treatment -- if they were to survive at all. The Norwegians, thus holding the moral high ground, would be eager to humiliate and inflict grievous brutality on the invaders. Kris was frightened and depressed.
As he was re-pocketing his field glasses, he felt woozy and began to shake. Huh? He looked over himself. A bullet or some shrapnel had taken a chunk of flesh from his right arm and had torn open his left leg. He was bleeding and apparently was going into shock. He was sick at his stomach.
Wonderful. Should he opt for suicide? Would the Norwegians torture and kill him anyway? Certainly the Norwegians would not treat him or others well.
He was aware of a German movement on his right-front. It was Oberleutnant Schmidt and a couple of other officers. Bearing a white flag as they approached the Norwegian position, they had their hands on their heads.
Surrender perhaps it was. Kris agreed with the decision, but was sick with shame and fear.
It wasn’t long before they were ordered to drop arms, put their hands in the air and remain exactly where they were. They were now prisoners of the Norwegians.
The enemy arrived almost immediately, grabbing German weapons, plucking, and pilfering German uniform pockets. No brutality. No visible anger. Just perfunctory efficiency, as if the Norwegians did this almost daily.
Norwegian army medics bandaged Kris, as well as the five other wounded Germans. They were marched to the rear to a barbed-wire enclosure, two or three kilometers away.
There they were shoved around a little, hollered at, and given prisoner-of-war garments Although the prisoner clothing was thin and not fully winter worthy, Kris was pleasantly surprised. He had expected harsh treatment of the first water.
Kris, you see was a Christian. He had been born and raised in the peaceful village of Koetzting in the Bohemian Forest. His father, a second-generation glassmaker and “a priest’s orderly,” had raised Kris morally straight and sensitive to others’ suffering and outrage. If the Norwegians were vengeful, he could understand it.
Dizzy and sick to his stomach, Kris was braced for the worst.
Most of the Germans were taken to a hastily erected prisoner-of-war camp at Averoy hard by Kristiansund. However, Kris and the other five wounded were taken to a military hospital at Alesund. Expecting only minimal care, if any at all, Kris’ heart warmed to the good care he received. He almost fell in love with the kind, tall nurse, Magge, who was his attendant. Later, he plunged into depression when he learned that she was killed in a bombing raid the day before Norway capitulated on May 4.
A day later, Kris and the other five
wounded, were “liberated” by Germany’s General Goering Regiment, and evacuated
back to Germany.
During his convalescence in Magdeburg, he made plans to return to Norway. Five years later he flew to Oslo, and then took a train to Lillehammer. After a week’s visit with a distant relative there, he took a short bus ride to Alesund.
It didn’t take him long to find the hospital. He entered and a man in the office he vaguely remembered greeted him.
Early in the conversation, the 37-year-old former paratrooper said, “I want to thank you for the good treatment you gave me and the other wounded Germans while we were briefly prisoners of war here. It was truly remarkable considering that we were invading your country and not behaving very well.”
The doctor-administrator, in a white waist coat, looked at Kris and asked, “Why were you people so mean?”
“I don’t know . . .I didn’t favor of the invasion,” Kris said. “Germany truly lives in shame. So do I. Could you find it in your heart to forgive me? It would mean an awful a lot to me and some fellow Christians.”
The doctor-administrator stared at Kris for a about 15 seconds. Finally, he broke into a slight grin and extended his hand. As he shook the proffered hand, an electric current coursed through Kris’ arm. He was buzzed.
The Norwegian administrator said he was a Christian. “We are all God’s children, but we all have sinned. I seek God’s forgiveness of MY sin. And when I think about it I am reminded of one of my favorite Bible verses -- Matthew 6:14 -- ‘For if you forgive men when they sin against you, our heavenly Father will also forgive you.’
“And I am happy in the word.”
(© 2012 Web Ruble – All rights reserved. Written material may not be duplicated without permission.)