The Life of a World War II German Soldier

Bethany Herold

Professor Greshka German-Stuart

HIS 102 C11

28 November 2014

The Life of a World War II German Soldier

Küstrin, Germany – July 1st, 1939

My name is Franz Juschkat, and I am 23 years old. A few days ago I was called up for service by an individual letter sent to me, requiring me to join Wehrmacht, the German army. I have since been placed in the branch Heer, and so far I have only been attending occasional training and exercises. Since Hitler came to power back in January of 1933, he has been creating a more unified nation. Back then, I too was swept up in the propaganda and thoughts of war, much like all my peers. But now, with war verging on the horizon, and my horizon at that, I am unsure as how to feel just yet. I do not know that I would have gone willing, and now the Adolf Hitler has reinforced conscription, it appears I do not have a choice. I hope we this will all be over quickly, and that we can restore pride to Germany as promised. I have heard rumors filter through our barracks, claiming that Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin have agreed not to invade each other’s borders. If this is true, it appears that our first destination will be Poland. I feel damp and cold as my bunk creaks underneath me, and sense the looming winter weather coming near. But perhaps this time, it is something more. I must go now and write letters to my family, and my betrothed, Ana. I want to let her know that this should all be over rather quickly, and that we can still plan to have the wedding late this year.

Majdan Tatarski, Poland – October 6th, 1939

I cannot believe that it has been weeks since we first invaded Poland. I can still hear the shots ringing out, with devastating cries to follow. I feel my feet stick to the earth below me, brought upon by the slowly drying blood of thousands. And I as I sit here at camp, the stench of spent ammunition and death is never ending. Our war became more involved with the joining of both Britain and France on the Allied side on September 3rd. As for our invasion, the Polish people put up what fight they could, but they were still defeated in a matter of weeks. They finally surrendered on September 27th in Warsaw. I am currently camped at Majdan Tatarski in Poland. Like the others, I was exhilarated with the seemingly flawless ease with which we captured Poland. If we continue to be successful, I pray that this war will come to a close much more quickly than we had even thought. My love for my country can only carry me so far, and I long to return home to my family and Ana. I was recently informed that we will be keeping many prisoners here in camps soon enough, particularly those of Jewish faith and descent. It serves them right I suppose. They cannot help being an inferior race, but they certainly do not need to cling so tightly to a hokey religion. I have received orders to march on to one of the Allied countries tomorrow. I must rest now, for we leave at dawn.

Moscow, Russia – September 24th, 1941

I’m sorry I have not written in quite some time. Much has gone on since my last journal entry. First off, many of our soldiers marched off to Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. Our Blitzkrieg overwhelmed them. I myself was sent to Belgium, and though it was much more strenuous than Poland, we succeeded still. We then marched towards Paris to attempt to take a vital Allied city. We ultimately captured Paris, and France surrendered to the Nazis. This was monumental for us, and I’m sure Hitler was very proud. We then sought to march on Britain itself. There was, I believe, a three-month battle fought in the skies over Britain. There were many destructive bombing raids on London and other cities. However, England finally prevailed, and towards the end of October of 1940, we were given our first defeat. We have since postponed our plans to invade Britain. Although the Americans have yet to join the war, their president, Roosevelt, sides with our enemies. He recently even froze our German assets in his country. Our most recent conquest took place here in Moscow. Operation Barbarossa was fought on land through infantry attacks and artillery bombardments, and also in the air with bombing raids. I have spent many a night without sleep, and our rations are constantly thinning. Being infantry, I have watched countless brothers around me fall. Many were lost in battle, but many have also perished due to weather conditions and lack of supplies. I am beginning to lose faith in the conquest. Is this truly bringing Germany pride? I could be executed for thinking such things, but my heart does not lie. We had planned to capture this city within four months of beginning battle, but it is no longer looking like success favors us. I do not believe we will be able to go on as planned. As for me, I have just received orders to return to Poland. It appears that one of our camps there is in need of men to help to contain the unruly Jews. I have no desire to go back, but no voice to oppose. As commanded, I have packed my bags and will begin the journey back tomorrow.

Majdanek, Poland – February 18th, 1942

Since I have last written, I have been subject to some of the worst months I believe I shall ever experience in my life. It did not take long for me to realize that I had been sent to both a concentration and extermination camp. Now, what must be done for Germany’s success must be done. But I had no initial desire to take place in the slaughters. It was one thing to shoot another armed man, but something unearthly different to take the lives of the unarmed, starving, weak, and tortured. We force the prisoners to work the Steyr-Daimler-Puch weapons and ammunition factory. It is hard work for a healthy man, much less a dying and weak people. They receive little sleep, hardly any food, and work from dusk till dawn. Many other soldiers partake in the physical torturing, abuse, and rape of these people. I cannot hardly bear to even watch such things. I am a man, not a monster. But I also allow this to happen day in and day out. I force the Jews to sort the property and valuables taken from the murder victims, their kin, located at other camps. I have sent many a baby to its death, knowing the mother has only weeks left to survive. And when commanded, I even line these poor people up along the barbed wire fence, and pull the trigger when told. Even through it all, they seem to look on me, and the rest of us, with only pity and grace. So perhaps I am as monstrous as the rest. I do not see or feel all the things Hitler once promised us prior to the war. And I am beginning to realize that it might not ever come. I have no honor now, only guilt and nightmares to keep me company. I cannot forget these events now, no matter where life takes me.

Salerno, Italy – September 18th, 1943

Please forgive my absence. I put away the pen and paper for quite sometime, unable to write any longer about the events that transpired at Majdanek. I have since received a small measure of grace, and was finally given leave of that hell on earth. Now, I must catch you up on the times. To begin, the American presence is continually growing stronger in Europe. Back in the August of 1942, we received word that our army once again had tried to invade Russia. This time we had attacked Stalingrad, and it went on for six months. Although there were many lives lost on both sides, we ultimately accepted defeat once again. Shortly after, a massacre of many Jews began at Auschwitz. I have only heard terribly stories surrounding that place, and am grateful that I was not forced to take part in it. Do to our growing losses, I was finally called back to the front. Battle seemed like a blessing, as I could not foresee staying any longer in that death camp. Upon arriving in Italy, the Allies had successfully placed strongholds in key areas. We put up a good fight, but in time lost our land. On September 16th, we officially drew back, a defeat none of us were counting on. Today as we march back, untold by our superiors as to what our next move will be, our hearts are heavy with all but the smallest glimmer of hope. I will write again once I receive note of what our plans are next.

Anzio, Italy – May 18th, 1944

We have officially lost Italy. The Allies continued to advance, finally landing at Anzio, in central Italy, in January of 1944. It was an unchanging campaign. We attempted to counter-attack in February. Throughout this fighting, and particularly after Allied bombing, we saw the devastation of the medieval monastery at Monte Cassino. Just days ago we began our retreat from Anzio. Rome will be liberated soon enough by the Allied forces. Italy seems somewhat barren as we leave, drained by the destruction that only war can bring. I feel so numb to it all now. The sunsets do not seem so marvelous, nor the air so sweet. I have not the time to write any more, but I will look for an opportunity soon enough.

The Ardennes, France – December 24th, 1944.

We have lost more land and bases than I can count. Back in June of 1944, thousands of Allied troops landed along our fortified French coastline, and fighting began on the beaches of Normandy. The landings caught us by surprise, and due to the sheers numbers of the Allies, we were unable to counter-attack with the necessary numbers, speed, and strength. We fought the best we could, and tried to leave many traps, but ultimately they took over the French port city of Cherbourg. Paris followed shortly after in August of 1944. During all this, the other half of our army was being attacked by the Russians. It was hostility on all sides, and the once winnable war was beginning to look hopeless. Our faith has been renewed though, even if it is ever so faint. The Ardennes, in France, has become the site for our counteroffensive. Hitler has sent out hundreds of thousands of troops out for this battle. American numbers are greatly dwindling, and they are our primary targets. We have even begun to advance in to Allied lines, pushing into their defenses. We are continuing to lose our own men though, and our armored forces seem like they are starting to deplete. Regardless, we are told to continue no matter what, and to hold them off from Germany for as long as possible. I must go now, for I hear gunfire drawing near.

Berlin, Germany – May 7th, 1945

It is with a heavy heart that I inform you, that as of today, General Dwight Eisenhower has officially accepted Germany’s surrender. Although we had gained many American causalities back in January of this year, we lost our hold in The Ardennes. It was only a few months before the Allied Forces pushed us further and further back, eventually climaxing with the American forces crossing the Rhine River and pushing us back into Germany. Just a month or so later the Soviets made their way into Berlin, causing Hitler to take shelter in a bunker. I have heard many a tale now as to his death, but it sounds as though he poisoned his mistress and then shot himself to avoid his pending doom. I know not what will happen to us now, and I feel I will deserve whatever is dealt to me. They will be rounding us up soon, and I cannot help but think that this was all for not. The country I loved and was proud to fight for has now made a permanent stain in history. If we turn this around, I doubt it will be in my lifetime. In case all goes south, I wish my family well, and hope my sweet Ana has found a better man to care for her. I vow to now spend the remainder of my days attempting to cleanse my soul for the afterlife. If anyone finds this journal, I pray that it would be used to change the course of history in the future. Bloodshed like this, so blind and selfish, should not ever be shed on such great a scale again.

Works Cited

Dahlkamp, Jürgen. “A Son’s Quest for Truth: The Last Battle of a German WWII Veteran” SPIEGEL ONLINE. Spiegel International, 29 Mar. 2013. Web. 29 Nov. 2014.

“Interview With World War II German Officer Siegfried Knappe.” History Net: Where History Comes Alive. World War II Magazine, 12 July 2006. Web. 25 Nov. 2014.

Kishlansky, Mark A., Patrick J. Geary, and Patricia O’Brien. Civilization in the West. 7th ed. combined. New York: Pearson Education, Inc., 2008. Print.

“World War 2: A Day in the Life of a German Soldier.” Guided History. Boston University Blogs, 23 Apr. 2013. Web. 18 Nov. 2014.

“World War II: Timeline.” United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. United States Holocaust Memorial Council, 20 June 2014. Web. 29 Nov. 2014.

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