The closing days of the war, from Finland to POW.
First hand account of a member of the 7th Gebirgsdivision. I figured I would simply transcribe his own words as he sent them to me, rather than my edited version. Keep in mind, English is not his first language.
“We were first to go to Stalingrad but in war plans change and I am glad of that. We were taken up to Suomi to help the army of Finland to keep the Soviets out of Karelien. For all accounts, we were very successful, fighting along side our Finnish brothers. Of course, we were very disappointed when they turned their weapons against us in 1944. We left our lines in Uchtua in the middle of September and we went via Pudasjaervi, Ranua, Rovaniemi, Tornio and Karesuando to Narvik, always fighting, the entire way down, but they did not follow us into Norway where we arrived in February of 1945.
Now we waited to be shipped down to Germany to fight against the invasion from the west. Cargovessels started in April, loaded with soldiers and equipment, but most of the ships has been sinked by the English submarines and we lost so many comrades in the „last hours” of the war.
Germany surrendered at May 8th. We informed us by watching Radio. Nobody took care about us. We never been caught in action. Our voyage started May 10th, two days after ceasefire.
A couple of days later they loaded us on a brandnew freighter called „MS Leuna” and we shipped along the fyords (=Hurdyline) down to Oslo. At this time we were still under German command.
After arrival, we had to be in „reservations” no POW-camps, but under American command. They conviscated our army-equipment, including the guns.
About a week later they put us on another freighter called „Wischhaven.” The voyage was a nightmare because of all the sea-mines. I still remember their horns and our freighter had to zigzag, not to be hit in the last moment. So we arrived in the south without any troubles.
After all we arrived in Bremerhaven and were taken into a large field, surrounded by barbed-wires. After a month in peacetime, we really were POWs.
A couple of days later, the Americans put us on an open cargo train and told us to be released from the German Army around Frankfurt. The train in front of the River Rhine we had to sit up and were driven over by a bateau bridge and on the other side of the river, the French waited for us. We stumbled from one captivity into the other.
After being in a war for 5 years and transfered into French imprisonment was the biggest disappointment in my life. We got almost nothing to eat and to drink for weeks. There was one faucet for water for thousands of us, but a sign was hanging over it to tell everybody: „DO not drink any unboiled water! Danger of Typhus!.” Can you tell me, how to boil water without any inflamable material?
At the end of 1945 I was kept in Baden Baden (French-occupation-zone). We did not die from starvation anymore, but we always were afraid that the French would take us to their country for compulsory labor.
I used the first opportunity to undertake a successful escape. The last POW came home in 1948.
At home, I could not go to the city administration for ration-cards and making some other formalities because I had no papers to be released from the German Army because I had escaped. So I went to an American garrison in Ansbach to get my documents. Beyond the turnbike I used to be an American POW again, but for 2 days only. Then I got my certificate of discharge. I was realy at home.”
Thats all for now. Hope everyone enjoys!!
Just received a letter from a friend of whom was in the 7th Gebirgsdivision. He fought in Finland, Narvik, Karelia among others. Debating sharing some of his stories. A great guy. At one point he actually escaped a French POW camp!
He also told me “The Gebirgsjäger-uniforms on your photographs are more true to original than those I saw in many moviepictures.”
Needless to say, this is quite the ultimate compliment for a reenactor.
If you people are down for reading, not just pretty pictures, let me know.
The ultimate compliment indeed, makes me proud of what we do.