Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Monday, November 16, 2009 2:41 am

“Everybody is very quiet for the rest of the afternoon.”

My brother Frank’s wife, Christine, is the granddaughter of a man who fought in the German Army against the Soviet Union during World War II. He kept a journal, which one of Christine’s brothers is having translated and is trying to find a publisher for. I learned about this at Frank and Christine’s wedding, and being a huge WWII history buff, I asked to read some of the journal.

It’s what I expected: appalling.

The combat on Germany’s Eastern Front was some of the most savage in a war unprecedented in its savagery. And while history has (correctly) placed the lion’s share of guilt and blame on Nazi Germany for what happened in Europe during that war, it’s worth remembering that, their propaganda to the contrary, the Soviets committed great evil as well. Two examples, both from near the end of the second month of the German invasion:

15. August [1941]

The entire division went out of the battle. The brave regiments march past us on the street. You brave and incomparable lads, where are all the comrades that went shoulder on shoulder with you towards the front when you used the street the last time? One approaches me on my stretcher to shake my hand. Why not? We have both bled in the drumfire of Kiev. Exhausted, he sits down next to me, drinks from my bottle, eats my ration, and has ten draws from my last cigarette. He then told me something from the last hours before they were retired from the front:

“Before we retreated we laid minefields. The Russians somehow found out. They then collected the sick and disabled from the mental and care homes. The infantry herded them then over the minefields before they followed. It was a great picture: naked as they had been when getting them our of their beds, they ran in lines toward our positions. Hundreds were torn apart by the mines.” Only these beasts could think of something so evil. And something like that is our opponent.

The numbers of losses slowly find their way to us. The I.R. 530 [infantry regiment] was almost completely annihilated and will be filled with the remainder of I.R. 529 and 529.

And, a few days later:

18. August [1941]:

I am without pain for the first day [since suffering a bad leg wound on 11 August] and leave my stretcher for the first attempts of walking. I witness the first interrogation of Partisans on the meadow. A troop of scouts arrested a group of people which they now interrogate. They are three young girls in the age between 18 and 20 and one lad around 17. They say they were workers of a textile factory which were let go due to the lack of work. Their passports are too new and the amounts of money they carry are too large for workers. They cave in after two hours of interrogation and confess to be Partisans.

Their mission is [from] the infamous [Soviet] Major Friedmann. They have the following orders: They should join a second group of Partisans near Wassilkow in the night to the 08/19. The second group will bring highly sensitive explosives. The girls shall find out the location of the headquarters here in Barachty and in Wassilkow. They are supposed to be blown up August 20. Wow, we are really surprised. We were going to be attacked. We also learn something about the hierarchy of their group. They work in mixed groups of boys and girls, mostly students. These groups are not larger than 5. Their tasks include the destruction of gasoline and ammunition depots, bridges, and roads. They lay out signs for the air force. They kill single outposts and motorcycle messengers (that means butcher, because even the girls are trained on the knife).

In order to ensure effectiveness, they have long established a wide ranged communication network. When the German troops moved in, competent Red soldiers, mostly commissars, stayed behind disguised as normal farmers in order to coordinate the work of the Partisan units. They work now hand in hand with these terror groups. The mess that has formed behind the front will give us headaches for a long time. Finally, the translator ask the girls how they got to the Partisans. What I hear deeply moved me. The murderer Friedmann summoned them one day and gave them the choice to either go with these orders through the German lines or witness their parents and siblings lined up at a wall and shot. Also, if they do not return, their relatives are going to be killed.

Nevertheless, the commander decides that the four have to be executed immediately. I can see how difficult it is for him to give this order. But it has to be!

The four are led away. Three young and fresh girls will die for these blood hyenas in Kiev. A group of soldiers with rifles lines up and the girls are blindfolded. That is nothing for us old guys who are used to fight with devil and death. But there are three girls of great beauty for whom we feel compassion. However, they are ordered to shoot iron projectiles into these young bodies. I cannot witness this. I retreat in the most remote corner. Finally after what seems an eternity, I hear the rifle salvo.

The war against civil[ians] is not for us ‘front hogs’. Everybody is very quiet for the rest of the afternoon.

I hope Christine’s brother is able to find a publisher. This kind of primary source material is invaluable, the moreso for coming as it does from a part of the war where the body count was so high.

And every politician, pundit and jackass blogger who is so eager to take this country to war, or to expand a questionable war in which it already is involved, ought to be required to read this stuff.


  1. […] wrote last year about my brother Frank’s wife’s grandfather, who kept a journal as he fought in the […]

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  2. […] II, which she and her brother edited, is now available for pre-order from Amazon. (Short excerpts here.) In addition to being a rifleman, he also was his unit’s cartographer, so the book is going […]

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