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Eberhardt Von Machui


Interview by Eric Tobey, edited by Jonathan Bocek
 
 


Eberhardt Von Machui


Machui Brother

      Lieutnant der Reserve Eberhardt Von Machui served in Artillerie Regt. 28, 28 Jäger Div., Wehrkreis VIII (28th Jäger was also known as the "Iron Cross Div.").  Lieutnant Machui was in the RAD in Breslau area of Silesia before volunteering for the army on Oct. 1939.  Commissioned a Lt. in April 1940 after he attended basic training and officer's school.  His family were all soldiers and had been for generations.  His father knew Field Marshall Von Kleist whose estate was close to the family home.  Lieutnant Machui's brother was a Knights Cross holder (see below left pic) who was wounded 14 times before being killed in Kurland.
 

Describe Marketenderwäre.
This is the German equivalent of the PX, where the German soldiers could purchase items which either were not supplied by the army, or if the army supplied it, it left a lot to be desired.  Items which could be purchased included combs, razor blades, cigarettes, toothpaste, paper, pens, etc...  Evidently the army supplied soap, but it was the most awful quality and only good for scrubbing clothes.  This was set up at Division HQ and was usually run by a Zahlmeister.  The Zahlmeister(s) would usually come in for a lot of ribbing as no one really considered them real soldiers.

How did he discipline his subordinates?
Lt. Machui couldn't give me any personal examples of this, he said that the 28 Jäger Div. (former 28th Infantry Division) was an old division with a long and strong military tradition.  Its men were all Silesians and were a close knit and efficient unit.  Infractions of discipline were rare and he could remember none.  He went on to say that law and order in his unit was very strict and that he couldn't believe the rowdiness of the first US troops he encountered.  Penalties were also severe, for instance, the penalty for rape was death and this, he knew, would be enforced.  Anyone found sleeping on sentry duty would, if the commander ordered it, be sent to a straf (penal) battalion. These troops cleared mines, drew enemy fire, and were otherwise given hazardous duty.

Was there any difference in quality in soldiers from different status in Germany?
Germans from Alsace-Lorraine were considered appalling soldiers, they were from an area that had changed hands several times over the last few hundred years.  This had a diluting effect on there military prowess.  This was felt about Alsace-Lorrainians throughout the armed forces.  He said that the Silesians made good soldiers although he admitted to being a little biased.  East Prussians also made good soldiers.  He also at this time, as well as at several subsequent junctures in the interview, stated that the Russian soldiers were the best he had ever seen.  They were skilled and tough in close combat and at home fighting on the steppes or in the towns.  He was involved in street fighting in Smolensk in 1941, and as then artillery was still to the rear, he led an assault group in street clearing.  The Russians had to be killed killed as they would not move or surrender.  The few prisoners taken were either badly shot-up or unconscious.  This had a sobering effect on him and his men as previously they had killed at a great distance.  West of Smolensk, before entering the city, he had passed the scene of a Russian human wave attack that had been repulsed several days earlier.  His men passed this medieval scene in shocked silence.  He summed up the ordinary Russian soldiers as someone who despite poor leadership, can exhibit amazing bravery, and can live on almost nothing.

Did you ever get a Führer Geschenk?
Yes, these were parcels (Führer presents) given to soldiers going on leave.  They were handed out at the railway stations and contained food for the soldier's journey (sausage, hard biscuit, cheese, etc...).  He didn't know if this went on during the entire war, but in 1942, when going on leave from the Crimea, and in 1943, on leave from Beylorussia, he received these parcels, they were always well received as everyone always seemed to be hungry.

Describe your basic training.
Took place in Schweidnitz (Selesia) which was the garrison area for 28 Jäger Division.  Trained from October 1939 to March/April 1940.  Was in 28th Artillery Regt. and used the 15cm Skoda gebirgs haubitze.  The basic training was no honeymoon but he remembers one Wachmeister (artillery) who told them, somewhat kindly, that the more he could teach them the better their chances if survival would be.  Some further training was done in France, after the conclusion of the French Campaign, at Bordeau.  Later in the war, some replacements for 28th Jager were trained in France, by this time training was reduced to two monthes and these soldiers arrived at the front poorly prepared.  

His brother was one of these soldiers (see picture at right) who was sent to the front and presumed killed soon afterwards on the southern front.  He was patrolling and his patrol was ambushed by the Russians.  The bodies of the patrol were found but not his, a few days later a Russian C.P. was overrun and his Soldbuch was found.  However, no trace of him!

     


Heinrich Machui
(missing in Russia)

Do you remember any army jokes?
Didn't know any, he said they were a serious outfit and that humorous incidents were few and far between.  They had a few humorous nicknames e.g. Clubfoot Goebbels.  There were many funny stories and jokes about Reichsmarshall Herman Göring, however he can't remember any of them.

Do you remember any army slang?
He didn't know very much slang.  Goulash Cannon, Kettenhunde, knobelbecher, that was all he could remember.  He discussed the goulash cannon for some time.  Every company/battery had one, they were chiefly used to prepare massive stews or soups, however meat could also be fried on them, as well as sausage.  There was also an oven as well as the boilers.  He couldn't remember any more detail.

What were some of the popular songs you sang as a soldier?
There were few singers in his outfit.  Lili Marlene was very popular.

Describe your food in the field (Iron Ration).
Every soldier was issued an iron ration which he kept in his breadbag.  This could not be eaten without the orders of the C.O. and was for emergencies only.  He never had to eat one but it contained hard biscuits and bully beef.  If a soldier could obtain an extra one he would keep it in his gasmask container after throwing away his gasmask.  Lots of masks were thrown away in his unit, although the punishment for this was harsh i.e. extra guard duty, deductions from pay for lose of mask.  I never used the gasmask during the entire war, the artillery unit had gas shells in stock, but these were never used.

How did you win your EK2?
He had the spotting binoculars and a two man radio team.  He was directing artillery fire at battalion level & broke up a heavy Russian attack.  For this he was awarded the EK2 in 1941 before Moscow.

In 1942 before Sevastopol in Krim, 3 previous artillery observers had been killed by searching fire at this particular spot.  Directing fire again against a Russian attack at battalion level, he was awarded the EK I by the Division commander general der infanterie Sinnhuber.

Describe the wear of Flußlappen vs. Socks.
The German army socks were made of poor quality wool and did not wear well.  He had good socks sent from home so he did not have to use flußlappen.  He described the flußlappen as being linen or white cotton & were warmer as they were layered.  They also didn't wear out as they could be rotated and the soldiers put newspaper sheets between the flußlappen and the mountain boot to soak up any moisture etc...

Final comments:
Lt. Muchui remembers it being very cold before Moscow.  His unit was taken from the front line in November 1941 to be rested and refitted.  Shortly before it was taken from the line, he suffered a head wound when a rifle bullet penetrated the rear skirt of his steel helmet.  There is an old 1st War saying, "never light more than two cigarettes with one match."  He lit three and was shot for his pains.  He spent several months in hospital before returning to the front before Sevastapol.  He was billeted in the LIVADIA Castle (Yalta 1945) and was much impressed with the opulence of the building.  His unit took serious casualties in the Kerch area (eastern Crimea).  So Crimean tartars were used as auxiliaries.  These men were very dependable and brave.  They also, hated the communists.  Muchui had limited duty during 1943-1945 due to problems with balance because of the head wound he received in 1941.  He went to Breslau hospital in January 1945 for an operation.  There were two armed sentries just inside.  He asked what was going on, the sentries said that the Russians were 30km away.  This was a special hospital for head wounds with 2000 patients.  He decided his operation could wait and returned to the family home to arrange passage west.

 

Lt. Von Machui on the far left (Krim 1942).

 

Lt. Von Machui outside Sevastapol 1942.
 Forward artillery observer.

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