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Josef Bieburger

Interview by Glenn MacPherson 

On the Monday evening of 28 August 2006 I was fortunate enough to be invited into the home of Josef Bieburger, and his wife, Elisabeth to listen to their memories of Germany during the Third Reich. Josef and Elisabeth were born and raised in Bayern, south of Munich. Josef was born in Ottobeuren, and Elisabeth was born in Memmingen. Although living just in the next town over, Josef didn’t meet Elisabeth until after he returned home to Germany in 1947. After the cordial introductions were made and glasses of Lowenbrau poured, we began our conversation in earnest when I asked Josef.

This is a composite of the Interview conducted with Josef. He and Elizabeth were glad to tell their stories, and share their memories. It was an honour for me, and I thanked them for their time and hospitality. He and his wife are gracious hosts, and made me feel very welcome for the outset of the evening. In fact, they were loath to let me go hours later and relented only after extracting my promises to return soon. 
Remember that Josef was 19 yrs old when the war ended, so it is remarkable he can provide exact answers to pointed questions referencing items pertaining to 21st Century Reenactors some sixty-plus years after-the-fact. Interesting that Josef made mention he visited his kameraden after the War, and traveled back to Germany to see family and friends several times. The fact that there were still kith and kin in Germany after the War surely gave him some comfort, because both Elisabeth and Josef lost immediate family members in the War in Air Raids at Home, and at the Front. 

Could you please tell me about your early life; such as school, were you a member of the HJ? 
Yes, I was. My friends were, too. I was interested in Gliders and we built model Gliders. When I reached 13 yrs old I began my apprenticeship as a mechanic. Work 5 days a week with 1 day of classes. That was in 1939 when the War started. 
How did you come into the Service? Were you drafted? 
I was in the Reichsarbendienst in Olmutz. That was early in the War years. In January 1944 I was drafted and went into the Luftwaffe to train as an airplane mechanic. That was in Wischau, Czechoslovakia. We repaired Messerschmitts & Dorniers. My cousin – who was also in the Luftwaffe - advised me to train as a mechanic instead of a pilot as there was no gas for the planes! Then in the Spring of ‘44 they told us we would train as Infantry – the Luftwaffe Ground Forces. 
What was your Basic Training like? 
It was what all the recruits had to go through – drill, march, inspection... Our feldwebel was a good guy. He had a big belly, and liked to laugh. One funny story when we were training. The area we trained and drilled on has a hill - it was called “Idiots Hill” – and nearby there were cherry fruit trees. Our feldwebel was hungry this particular afternoon, and as I was the youngest and littlest of the Unit, sent me on a mission. He gave me his empty gasmask container and sent me into the trees saying, “Josef – there is the Enemy! Go and take them prisoner!” So, I returned with his gasmask full of cherries and he was happy. 
Describe your time as a landser. 
After the training as Luftwaffe Ground Forces we were sent to the Westwall, the Siegfried Line, as a Festung Sturmabteilung. That was in the Summer of 1944. We were in bunkers manning the Westwall near Zeebrucken, Belgium as reserve. It was around this time I remember seeing V-1’s launching at night. The flame from the tail lit up the night sky. Then whoosh, off it went into the night. One right after the other. It was incredible. Then in the Fall we were moved further down into France. We were at the southern end of the Westwall then. After the Von Rundstedt Offensive (Wacht Am Rhine-Battle of the Bulge) was over we were pulled back to the Rhine. We were on German soil with the Rhine at our backs. We were told that this would be the Front, on the border of Germany. That was in Feburary of 1945. 
You were in eastern France at the time of the Von Rundstedt Offensive - Did you take part in any Operations associated with it? 
No, we were further south and didn’t see any action then. We were a Reserve Battalion. We saw action later on, in the Winter. I do remember, around that time however, seeing hidden covered rows of tanks - Tigers and Panthers. They were the best tanks, but had no gas. 
What Forces opposed your lines – American, British, Canadian? Who did you fight against? 
I remember the Americans. They would come up at night and try to blow up the bunkers or the lines. We would turn the MG-34 on them and they would go away. Then it would be quiet for a while. 
Describe the Bunker you were in. 
It was big. It was connected by trench to the Command Bunker. Some bunkers were connected by tunnel. There was a telephone connecting us to the Command Bunker that could connect us to the other Bunkers as well. Our Bunker had a tower with a mounted MG-34 that could turn in 360’ degrees. Good field of fire. 
What weapons did you use? 
Besides the MG-34 we were all issued with a gehwer, Mauser k-98. We had a panzerschrek in our bunker as well. 
How often did you fire the k-98? 
Not very much. We used the rifles sometimes for hunting more than actual close combat. 
Hunting deer? Tell me about that, please.
We used to go hunting after we did the day’s drills and exercises. We would leave the bunker to hunt sometimes, and this would give us meat. Our bunker was pretty well supplied with deer meat at that time. This was in the forests away from most of the fighting you read about. We were in a quiet sector. The deer and animals would come into our area to get away from the artillery and fighting going on north of us. 
How were the conditions inside the bunker? What were the sleeping arrangements? 
It was good. The bunker had sleeping quarters for 10 men. Hammocks slung from wall. We had running water, and an outhouse out back. There was a wood stove we could heat the water to wash, or cook on. 
Didn’t you use esbit stoves to cook on? 
We used the woodstove in the bunker if we were going to cook. 
How did you get your meals? 
I was the one who went to the Command Bunker everyday to bring back the rations (soup or stew) and bread. I carried it (marmite can) on my back, like a rucksack. That was our rations for the day. Anything else we supplemented from our own stocks and we shared together. There was a farm nearby, close to our bunker in the woods, and we used to go milk the cow and bring some back for us. I don’t remember the farmer getting mad at us, we certainly did it! 
You got along okay with the locals then? Did you do any business with them? 
Oh sure, they were no problem to us and we got along fine. We bought what we could from them. 
Did you have a radio to listen to? What did you do for entertainment? Did you play cards? 
No, we didn’t have a radio. Sure, we played cards when we could. We did play Skat, yes. 
Did you have time for “Putz und Flickstunde”? 
Naturally, some of that, yes. 
What did you wear for headgear? Did you wear the feldmutze or stahlhelm? 
We wore the stahlhelm, of course. I also wore the Schiff. 
Did you wear your ID disc in a leather pouch? 
I wore the erkunngsmarke all the time, but don’t remember any leather pouch 
How about the soldbuch? That was on your person all the time. Where did you carry it? 
Yes, had it on me always. In my tunic pocket. 
Did you wear socks or Flusslappen? 
We wore socks. [Josef was surprised to hear the term again, and then demonstrated how a Flusslapen is worn by standing on a dishtowel and wrapping it around the foot up by the ankle] 
Did you wear winter felt boots? Do you remember what winter clothing you were issued? 
We didn’t have felt boots. We had jack boots. We were issued the regular wool uniform, and we had gloves. I did have a leather sheepskin jacket, though. That was plenty warm. 
It was winter time when you saw action, could you describe that? 
When we were in the bunkers at night we could hear the Americans approach our positions, then we’d let them have it with the MG-34. Shoot over their heads, it made a lot of noise and kept them away. Then sometimes we would be shelled with artillery which would be bad. You had to get down in the bunker right away! 
Were you under attack from the air? 
A Sure, the Jabos would come down low - so low to the ground! - and shoot everything that moves. Trucks, trains, cars. I came under attack from one when I was pedaling on bicycle! I foolishly dove under a plane during the attack! Luckily wasn’t hit. The Jabos were the most dangerous to us. 

Were you ever wounded? 
Did your Unit have a Sani, a Medic? 
We didn’t have one, but a member of the Unit was a medical student so we went to him if we needed to. 
Did you remember there being a Chaplain, a Kriegspfarrar visiting your Unit? 
Never saw one. 
How did things end for you? When did your Combat days come to an end? 
Near the end of February 1945 we were in a village on our side of the Rhine. The US Army was shelling the village we were in. We were in the cellar of a house off the square. Most houses had soldiers in the cellars. During a lull the woman of the house went to the well to get water, and the Americans came up to her and told her to have any soldiers to come out and throw down their weapons and surrender. She came and told us this, and we thought it best to do it now. An SS man was in our company, and grew angry at us we were giving up. He stayed down there and never saw him again. The rest of us came up and went out the door and surrendered to the Americans. I pulled the MG-34 and the other weapons in a wagon, and gave the handle to one of the US soldiers, all waiting for us. We were moved down the road under guard. That was it for me. Kaput.



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