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From Chapter 6, The Battle for Bergstein

One survivor of the doomed counterattack of 6 December was Unteroffizier Hans Wegener of 14th Company, Grenadier Regiment 980. Assigned to the 3rd Platoon under Feldwebel Brockmann, Wegener and the other thirty-nine members of his antitank platoon had marched earlier that morning from the village of Abenden. Crossing the Roer at Zerkall, the antitank gunners, loaded down with Panzerschreck and Panzerfaust antitank rocket launchers, sweated profusely after climbing the slopes of Castle Hill. As the day slowly dawned, he and the others raced on foot from the wooded slopes of Castle Hill toward Bergstein while the tanks, assault guns, and the bulk of Rhein’s battalion advanced in the open field to their left. Wegener remembered the American fire as being harmless at first, but it became more deadly when they reached the eastern edge of the town. “Then came the inferno,” he recalled.

Tank against tank, hand-to-hand combat, tanks burning. . . . Feldwebel Brockmann shot at a Sherman with a Panzerfaust, but the warhead fell off in mid-air, rendering it useless. He was immediately killed by the tank . . . loud noise of duels between men armed with Panzerfausts and tanks . . . burning and exploding tanks, men falling everywhere. . . . My people shot up a Sherman, which started to burn. One of the crewmembers tumbled out and staggered beside his burning tank. I screamed don’t shoot! He is defenseless! Then I ordered someone to bring him to safety before the tank explodes. They brought him to me and he appeared unwounded, though he was blinded. Our forces had become too weak to take back the town so we had to retreat. . . .

 

From Chapter 10, The Interlude of January 1945

By this point in the campaign, chances for Germany’s ultimate victory appeared bleak to just about everyone. Not only had the Western Allies closed up to—and in many cases crossed over—Germany’s frontiers, but the Red Army was rampaging across East Prussia, Pomerania, and Silesia. What then, did the average German soldier think of all of this? How did he manage to find the strength to continue to fight so effectively while living in deplorable circumstances? One indication of the mind of the average Landser in the 272nd VGD can be discerned in the following passage written by an officer of Grenadier Regiment 980 in a letter home:

The icy cold creeps through the boots and into the feet of the soldier standing watch behind the machine gun, through his bones and underneath his overcoat. If only his feet had not gotten wet! A feeling of defeat comes over him. He reproaches himself because he knows that his feet always freeze whenever his socks are damp. But in spite of this he know that he still has to keep standing for another half an hour. Then his comrade will arrive to relieve him and he will be able to crawl back into his foxhole and get some sleep. It will then be his comrade’s turn to be alert, because the enemy has already reached the nearest hedgerow over there. Tomorrow afternoon it is the grenadier’s turn to pick up hot food for his squad at the company command post, located in a basement where there is a warm stove. All of his thoughts revolve around the cold and the longing for warmth. But until then, he has to stand here and hold out. For nearly four weeks his company has been in these positions. He will have to bear it a little longer. The company must continue to hold its position, so his company commander had said to him again the night before, as he crawled from position to position encouraging his men. The position must be held at all cost, he said, and the men must not go soft on him. One night not long ago Oberst Burian had also come by, since it was impossible to move during the day, and had asked each man if he could rely on him to do his duty. “Jawohl, Herr Oberst!” each of them had said. Then he passed out cigarettes, so that each man got at least a couple. After he had been relieved that night, the grenadier crawled into the bottom of his hole and smoked one, since if he stood up, the enemy would notice the cigarette’s glowing ember. If it wasn’t for this icy wind! he thought. But in Russia things were much worse. That was the only consolation. There, you had to pay more attention, so that you didn’t immediately get frostbite. Yes, the Oberst could rely on him, just as he had in Russia and in Normandy at Caen. His other comrades thought the same thoughts and silently carried out their duty. The only ones who understood what it was like in the front line were those who shared the same foxholes for days and weeks with the Grenadiers. There are no songs to sing and no words to describe the quiet, hard, and taciturn life of the infantryman in combat.


  Victory Was Beyond Their Grasp
With the 272nd Volks-Grenadier Division from the Hürtgen Forest to the Heart of the Reich
by Douglas E. Nash
  • 22 maps
  • 88 photos
  • 3 illustrations
  • 412 pages
  • Softcover, 6" x 9" format
  • ISBN 10: 0-9777563-2-7
  • ISBN 13: 978-0-9777563-2-2

$24.95 Retail
+ shipping (see How to Order)

 

 

Members of the 272nd Volks-Grenadier Division Traditionsverband and the US 78th Infantry Division Association: 

$22.95



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