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Horst


Interview by Brad Hubbard

Horst, a pen name used by the veteran for personal privacy, is a veteran of 12.SS-Panzerdivision "Hitlerjugend" and a personal friend. Awhile back he shared his experiences on the Wehrmacht list on the Reenactor's net. The spelling has been corrected as best as possible as his computer English is still coming along. Horst is currently writing a book about his extraordinary life.
 
Horst was born March 1926 outside the town of Stettin which was in Prussia, Pommerania (Eastern Germany). He attended public School, junior college and then the Adolf Hitler School (NAPOLA) Military Academy in Bad Toelz, Prague, Berlin, and Lichterfelde. He graduated in 1943 and began training in Sennelag on Panthers and later on the Tiger II (better known as the "Koenigstiger") Horst's first action was in Ploesty against Russian T-34's then in the Battle of the Bulge (Wacht am Rhein). He regrouped in Sennelager and was sent to Hungary and fought in Stuhlweissenburg and later the battle of Budapest. He retreated to Vienna (Wien) where he fought his last battle against General Patton's 3rd Army in Czechoslovakia. He was in a prison camp until 1946 and moved to the United States in 1956. 
 
On the issue of Italian Camoflage and equipment storage and loss:
Yes, it was only given to the 12 SS Hitlerjugend Division. But by the end of 44 and the beginning of 45, you had no choice of what you were given, things were scarce. As a tanker we did not have much contact with the Infantry, only Panzergrenadier and they wore anything they could get their hands on. As you know the Panzers had a box behind the turret, the so called Rommel box, In some firefights we would lose them, in there was spare uniforms and so on. When we came back, we had to sign a paper, [saying] that we lost it in battle, or the Quartermaster would not give us our uniforms. We had to take whatever was in stock. When you see some pictures [of] soldiers having all kinds of uniforms, they were remnants from other units. There is so much to write about, of what went on. 

Did you ever wear your HBT uniform in combat? 
If by HBT you mean the Summer uniform, yes, weather permitting.

Why did some dog tags lack the blood type?
I never seen one which did not have the blood type on.

Did you carry your soldbuch in the field? 
You carry your Soldbuch ALL the time, and everywhere.

What songs did you sing?
Most all of the German marching songs there are too many to name. 

Describe how a squad was organized.
A squad normally are 12 men, but if it is a heave machinegun squad, there are 14 men. If it is a MG44 [I believe he means 42] there is #1 the gunner #2 the holder of the belt, #3 the extra man with ammunition, because of the high rate of firing of the 44 [again, I beleive he's referring to the MG42] You have a squad leader, mostly a NCO with a MP38 or 40 and the rest are riflemen.

Describe Markentenderware.
They are goodies sent from home, or from your Quartermaster extras for the troops like Zigaretten, Zigarren, Candy and all the goodies a Soldat dreams about.

Describe the wear of Fusslappen. 
Fusslappen are pieces of soft cloth, to wear with or without socks. There is a special way of putting them on, you only wear them with boots or as we called them Marschstiefel.

Horst's Basic Training:
The day finally came, I had my Stellungsbefehl (my draft orders). I had been accepted in the SS Armour Units, and [was] to report at once to Paderborn Sennelager. (Gott schuf in seinem Zorn das Sennelager bei Paderborn) God created in a mad moment, the training camp at Paderborn. On the way, in the train soldiers were asking, where are you going, so I told them. YOU WILL BE SORRY. I was only smiling, what could happen, I went from Adolf Hitler Schule to HJ to preliminary training. [We were] 17 years old, we knew it all. At the arrival at the camp, at the rail station 2 NCOs picked us up, by now we were 75 guys. [As] soon as we came to the gate, all hell broke loose. You idiots, you assholes, those were the nicer words they used on us. We had to crawl with our suitcases in front of us through the gate. After we got squared away, we asked when do we eat? This is now 4 o'clock in the afternoon. Were we sorry we asked that question, here we learned more of the finer words [the] drill seargent knew. It was 8 o'clock that night we got our first meal. After that we were alowed to go to bed. That was day one. 

Horst's Training (cont):
Here we go for day two of Basic:
At 6 o'clock they woke us up. Not very gentile as you can imagine, [using] whistle and other noise makers. We almost fell out of bed. We did not have a chow hall, so 2 guys were selected to go get coffee and our morning ration of bread and jelly and bring it back to the barracks. I still don't know why they called that "coffee", it was black and hot. Then everybody fell out to get our uniforms and gear, They did not trust us with a rifle. We got three complete uniforms: camo, a grey, and our black Panzer uniform, but being told,"do not touch the black, but it in your locker". Then we were looking at the bulletin board [to see] what the day will bring for us. Today was marsching and close order drill. We did not know we had two left feet and two left hands, we could do nothing right in the eyes of our drill instructors. I will spare you the choice [of] words he was using, we did not that was German to the lowest form on Earth [??] was one of the gentle ones, Scheisskopf [and] Arschloch were already more severe. At noon time we had lunch; bean soup, 3 boiled potatoes, and a piece of bread (kommissbrot). We had a metal bowl for our soup. Since we did not have a mess hall, you had to find a place where you could eat. Imagine, 1 bowl of soup, 3 potatoes and a piece of bread, and you only had two hands. If you dropped one or the other, which was easy to [do], our lovely drill sergeant was right there and said you A and more choice words follow. You don't want the food? Go dump the rest next to it. So you go hungry until the night meal. We had one hour lunch period. In the afternoon we had classes about weapons, tactics, and for sure Nazi doctrine-what a good Nazi is all about. 6 o'clock the day was over as far as classes were concerned. You had free time until 10 o'clock when it was bed time. Between 6 o'clock and 10 o'clock you were not allowed to go near your bed or leave the barrack. Finally it was 10 o'clock [and] we could go to bed. 

On infantry riding on tanks:
In the early war years in Russia, riding on tanks was good, because of the long distances infantry had to travel. But in 44 in the West, nobody wanted to ride on the tank anymore, because of the air [being] completely taken over by American and English air forces. When there was a chance you could get 15 to 20 men in a Tiger II [and] on a Panther about 15. The Russian tanks were more in the roll of infantry support. They had handrails welded on their tanks, mostly on the KV1 and KV2, not so much on a T-34. Most of the infantry was saying 'I am not riding on that death trap'. There is a bit more to it, but this should answer most questions. 

What was "Putz und Flickstunde"?
A time set aside to clean your weapons, rearrange your locker, mend your uniform, and get ready for inspection.

What was Checked during Appel?
Everything! In the barracks you locker, your bed, your uniforms. Outside your weapons, combat gear, sturmgepack. [You must] pass uniform appel for a pass into town!  Uniform, comb, handkerchief, wallet, Soldbuch, money, and make sure you have a rubber in your wallet, and your pass. Clean hands, sparkling boots, and proper haircut, and then they let you loose.

Was there differences between troops from various regions in Germany? 
The guys from the east and north did not like the guys from the south (sound familiar) After basiks, if possible they put people from the same region in the same company.

How where you paid? What kind of currency? 
Always in German Marks; if you were in occupied countries, you could exchange monies by the quartermaster. You get paid every 10 days, you only get a portion of your pay, the rest goes to your family.

Describe a typical role call.
The company would go to the parade field; the Squad Leader would report to the Platoon Leader and the Platoon Leader would report to the Company Leader: Example: First Platoon with 42 men; 35 present, 3 men out sick, 4 men on guard duty. After that, you will get the orders for the day. 

Did you ever get a Führer Geschenk? 
Yes I did. When you are going on leave from the front line, at the next bigger railroad station in Germany you have to show your papers and they will give you a big packet, with all kinds of goodies in it like cans of all kinds of meat, coffee, sugar, marmalade, bread, cake, cigarettes, and all kinds of goodies you always dreamed about, heard about, and never have seen.

What were your relationships with the local civilians? 
At home and German friendly countries: very good. In occupied countries it was forbidden to mingle with the civilians and like France, Poland, Russia, but most of the time noone gave a damn. We were thousands of kilometers away from home.

How were your uniforms laundered in the field? 
I had to laugh when I read this. Imagine you are in the field fighting. Your gear is 100 kilometers behind you, you only have the bear stuff with you. You make sure you have plenty of ammo with you, let alone cloth, but when you get back to the rear you exchanged your cloth to the quartermaster, if he had the guts to come that close to the front lines. Otherwise you find some water, dip your clothes in it and hope the lice will drown, running around bare ass until your stuff will dry. Or, if you were in possession of a spare uniform, you out that on. As a tanker we had it better - after the battle we always came back to our place where there was ammo, gas, food clothes, and meat. 

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