Web writes: "I am a former soldier, mill worker and newspaper reporter who finds himself on the edge."
The war, officially, is over.
Why are we still fighting?
We've been a weak appendage to the Schutzstaffel unit in the nearby meadow here near Ostrov.
Why is this German unit in Czechoslovakia? And why is it not racing back to protect its all-but totally destroyed homeland? Maybe one reason is because it is rumored that the German command in Berlin surrendered unconditionally to the Allies today -- May 8, 1945.
But this SS unit keeps on fighting -- not just in the western-most Czech lands, but in Moravia, Czechoslovakia's interior central state. The SS won't and emotionally cannot accept the Allies's "unconditional" demand. Yesterday morning it tried to shoot down a tough-and-tireless American unit before withdrawing deeper into Czechoslovakia. Now the exhausted German battalion will soon face an oncoming, ruthless Soviet force known for its surrender-or-else-die-you-Nazi-swine demeanor.
We (our ragtag group of survivors) have been fighting for Germany ever since this whole conflagration started oh so many years ago. We are tired. Yes. But a better description would be: played out, ready to drop, fatigued, and ashamed of the way the Germans have acted. I am not German, but Slovak, and born in Rumania, I have been told by parents. I was conscripted into Nazi forces back in 1940, soon after German troops took over the Sudetenland, and then the rest of Czechoslovakia. I just let it happen and because at the time I reluctantly embraced the Nazi credo. Well, that ended a long time ago. But jammed into the German army we were and still are, and we have fought on -- for Germany.
We have got to separate ourselves from this SS battalion which now faces certain death. Why it fights on, I don't know. Perhaps it has been doing so because it cannot accept what is happening, and because of the atrocities such SS units have committed against civilians and soldiers alike over the last 5-6 years. Our adjacent SS battalion doesn't know what else to do.
As Germany was being overrun by aggressive Allied forces we at first stuck next to this Schutzstaffel battalion because it performed a measure of protection.
But now the situation is just the opposite. Further association with the SS would bring disaster. What do we really care about Germany anyway? All it has done is bring misery to Europe. Most of us are in tatters and have not been home (wherever it might be) in four years or longer. We have not supped at the Lord's table since before I can remember. Nor have we eaten at all for two days.
We are near the small city of Ostrava in the Moravian (central) part of Czechoslovakia. Moreover, the German SS unit seems to be determined to stay here. One report we have received is a that a Soviet commander sent a surrender-or-else trio to talk to the SS. The SS response to the Soviet surrender demand was a savage act: A Nazi vice commander shot the middle man of the Soviet trio, and exclaimed "Lassen Sie dass ihre Antwort sein!" ("Let that be your answer!")
We shuddered when we heard that.
Meanwhile, we're conscious of the fact that lots of vengeful Soviets are coming and we don't want to encounter them in any way.
Everyone in this ragtag unit knows the situation. We are on the burning steps of the crack of doom. Most of us here are not German, but the Soviets won't care, because most of us are in German uniforms, and have fought for the Third Reich all through the war. They probably know it and we know it.
That's why we have to keep moving... probably eastward toward Beltzen-zag. Huh? That will be difficult because large numbers of Soviets are approaching from that direction --all sides of us really. And they are burning villages and executing people quite often. They do not ask much in the way of questions, and are not in the mood to send us to Siberia as prisoners. For the most part, these Soviets are Asiatics, and not relatively disciplined Russians from Leningrad, Kiev, or Moscow. They are cutthroats, and wild, vicious killing is their way.
Capt Fred Fredertz -- he himself is not German either but I don't know his nationality -- has issued an order that we should go east, keeping to the snow and trees, skirting right past Soviet units. Fredertz has intestinal fortitude, however, as he acts German, looks spiffy in a Nazi officers' uniform, and speaks the German language like a native Schwablander. Plus I think he was born in Stuttgart. He is fearless. If caught and the Soviets find out where he was born, things will not go well for him. Probably torture and death. Yet he vows to keep going east. Crazy? 'Tis hard to tell, except trying to evade Soviets in any other direction would probably be equally disastrous.
We saddle up and begin trudging through the dirty, melting snow that you find still lingering here in these Tatra mountains even though it is May. Trees line the meadows, and thus keeps us in the shadows and the snow. We, of course, keep to the edge of the trees. There is no trail here, and the snow is still deep in shadowed pockets. It is awkward going, but we must keep to this dismal, cold terrain, even though we can see greener and warmer pastures below in nearby valleys and villages. However, small animals apparently go this way. Just now a rabbit, terrified of something, hops through the snow followed by another. Surprised and disrupted, no doubt, from their rabbity routine.
We are ordered to keep quiet as possible. And although, we are clad in well-worn but reasonably warm German army winter uniforms, we have been able to elude Russians. Because they are not on the cutting-edge front just yet, and because they like to avoid the snow that forever makes life miserable at home, they are not on lookout for stray enemy soldiers and units just yet.
No talking, no rattling of canteens, and staying alert, we are somewhat prepared for a confrontation or ambush. We have weapons, like the Walther pp, German Panzerfaust (10mm rocket), and other anti-tank weapons such as the Raketenpanzerbusche 43 (an enlarged version of the American M1A1 bazooka), a Raketenpanzerbusche 54 (an improved version of the Raketenpanzerbusche 43, (it has a blast shield), and quite a few machinepistoles, a couple of Russian AK-47s, and Soviet aftomats (plucked from dead Russians). But we are lucky we have no motorized vehicles. We are happy about this, because keeping quiet as possible is essential to our survival.
But where are we going? The farther east we go the more Russian things are. If we keep going, eventually we'll enter the Soviet Union itself.
After plowing through one snow drift after another, we are cold beyond exhaustion. Going east of Ostrava in the Tatras and bending south while avoiding Bielko-Biela, Zilna and Kosice, we finally after two days, come within view of the hamlet Beltzen-zag. Trails depart from this clearing. If we are to split up and declare every man for himself, this would probably be the time and place to do it.
Actually we have little choice. The war is over. Soviets are everywhere. And we are on a huge downer. We have eaten only once since we left Ostrava. We will do it here and depart.
But what about food and lodging... where will we individuals find that? "Can't help you there," said Capt. Fredertz. "This is all we can do. After we eat our hard tack, every man will scramble for himself. You have fought well. God bless. Good luck."
I pick a trail that looks vaguely familiar, and I go a little way and then stop, stunned. Before me the trail dodges around a boulder. I recognize it! I'm close to my birth home. But I don't know what country I'm in. Just beyond the rock is a crude wooden plank on which is scrawled, "Bine ati venit in Romania" (Welcome to Romania) I'm in the Carpathians! I vaguely remember this area.
But wait a minute! To my right is a rise of ground, with a brilliant white light illuminating it. There's no trail. But the burnt-tree-studded hill looks negotiable to me in my worn-shoddy shoes. I am quite dizzy but can see down below the hill flowers and lush green pastures. Happy-appearing, well-fed people appear to be congregating ore waiting below. Maybe I should go that way. I pause, debate, and as I finally decide to try the hill, I stumble, hit my head on a tree branch, and fall to the thin snow. As I lie there I am ghostly conscious of somebody up ahead.
Awwwk! It appears to be a Soviet soldier! Through my bleary and branch-bloodied eyes, however, I can see he has no weapon, and no insignia, even though it appears he is wearing a Russian tunic. He beckons to me, "This way. You are famished. Are you thirsty?... "I have for you Living Water..."
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