by Eric Tobey
interview was taken from the Die Neue
Feldpost newsletter & was done
so with permission of the publisher.
We would like to thank him for his
generosity as well as thank all those who
have contributed to this article. It
is with their efforts, we are able to share
this valuable research with the rest of you.
following interview was assembled from
passages used in a German Social Science
text-book called "Studien und Texte
zur Sozialgeschichte der Literatur (Vol. 37)".
In order to preserve the color and feel of
the veteran's recollections, the interview
itself is heavily laced with that strange
German dialect called Plattdeutsch,
exactly as the Hamburg native spoke.
It may have been quaint to a German reader,
but a headache for the translator; we have
tried to preserve the flavor of the
interview without obscuring the meaning.
The interview was conducted in 1978.
Weber was born in 1920 in Hamburg-St.
Georg. His father was a musician who
had been blind since the age of 30.
August attended the Volksschule, was a
member of the Sportverein and the Hitler
Youth. He fulfilled his one-year
Landjahr obligation. He was an
apprentice machine fitter by trade.
did you think when the war started?
Oh yeah, we had just got going when
unfortunately 1939 came along. It
arrived, and suddenly the war broke out.
I don't know, as I see things today, at
least I didn't notice much, you know.
War, war. There were entire histories
- you could learn about Sedan and von
Bismarck, all of that. One could learn
about the past in history. And the
wars of 1871 and 1914, you heard plenty
about that. But what was war, really?
So at that particular time it wasn't
intimidating for me. And why war, one
naturally asked. Oh yes, then in '33
we got Adolf, the Nazis, and then we began
to hear things like "we must free this,
free those now, liberate that", oh,
yes. Hey, I was still young, 19 years
belonged to those men who were not
immediately called up (his draft
classification was "u.k.":),
and was employed in an armaments
industry. Of great impart
was the fate of a friend who was
killed in Poland. Unlike
certain other changes, like food
rationing, this death struck home
the fact that the war was real.
When Weber was 22, he entered the
German Army and sent to Denmark
for basic training; it was 1942.
He enjoyed the memories of his
3-month training period,
especially with regards to the
ration scale when compared with
that in Germany.
would get our mess kits, and get in line -
into the kitchen, get mashed potatoes and
then, maybe, a bratwurst or goulash or
something. Zoom, zoom: that was the
way. Then we were off to the Kantine
(German PX). Ten Schlagsahnstücke
(cream puffs?) which cost 16 Öre, or 1,60 Krone.
Fifteen minutes away, a half-liter of milk
cost ,20 Krone. Everything for
1,80 Krone. Every ten days we got 20 Krone,
which we could exchange. The rate at
the time was one Mark for two Kronen.
And our regular pay - I can't say anymore,
what that amounted to. At least you
could save, including the money sent from
home once a month and the 10 - day payment,
you could save, perhaps, I think 50 or 60 Kronen.
You could get along pretty well, you know.
And 10 cream puffs a day and a half-liter of
milk after noon; my how I swelled up, just
like a yeast cake.
mean, it was a wonderful time, for sure,
after all there was a war going on and
Denmark was an occupied country. We
were constantly allowed to leave the
barracks more often, but never alone.
This was during the basic training period -
the first six weeks, we couldn't go out at
all and had to stay in the barracks.
And the first time out, I remember, we went
with an instructor. And so we went out
- we were already 22 years old at the time,
after all - for the first time with a Korporal
and sneaked into a café. Ach.
We were glad, when afterwards we were
allowed to go out by ourselves.
was in Odense, where I did basic training,
and those Danes in the cafés were not
friendly to us if I remember correctly.
Today I understand this. But at the
time, I was a new soldier in training, I did
not understand why the people were so
Weber: Yes, you were not very welcome.
but we were told that Denmark was not an
enemy country. That's what I
understand. More of an allied country.
But, it was indeed an occupied country.
memories of Denmark were filled
with thoughts concerning food.
Weber gained 30 lbs in 3 months,
and had the opportunity to bring
quantities of scarce foodstuffs
back to his relatives when he went
home to Hamburg on leave:
stuff) I dragged out of Denmark, you know!
Ham, cheese, eggs, Danziger Goldwasser
(a liquor with small flecks of real gold in
it), the liquor, ...ahh! I couldn't
carry it all. Every 50 meters I had to
turn around and retrieve something all the
way to the train station. Yeah, you
could bring along whatever you wanted, and
could save for. Oh yeah, and then when
I came back here, in 194... when was it?
Yes, I was called up at the end of 1942, so
it was 1943,... the beginning of 1943.
Oh yes, they were having quite a time here,
believe me, with everything bought on
coupons. So when we bought back a big
roll cheese, and a bottle of liquor and
another bottle of liquor... I know that I
brought all that back.
completion of training, Weber was
sent to the Eastern Front,
probably assigned to the 30th
Infantry Division. The
following were his impressions of
his trip to the front:
I had become a soldier and went to Russia.
It was 1943... I really have to think about
this. Was it October of 1942, or March
of 1943? I can't say for sure.
So anyway, I went to Russia. It
took seven days. It was probably the
hardest time in my life up to that point.
Seven days you know, in a cattle car, doors
closed, only straw inside.
Yes, well... we had a stove. These
railroad cars were all made with a stove
inside and a smokestack going out but the
doors were always open a bit. And we
went deeper and deeper into Russia - it must
have been February of 1943. It was
cold, ice-cold in Russia, ice-cold.
This is a very unpleasant memory.
then came summer, and that was a little more
fun for me. We went to Staraja-Russa
and into rest positions. Here the
Russians were holed up, and we Germans were
holed up too. There had always been
fighting in Staraja-Russa... first them,
then us. And then we holed up, in
1943. And we stayed there for
half or three-quarters of a year. And
it was really peaceful and nice. You
know, as if the war wasn't going on - so the
land was magnificent. We ate, smoked,
and drank. So it was real nice.
And now and then there was a little bit of
shooting. I didn't... you won't
believe it... I didn't see a single Russian
in these 9 months. But where someone
was always shooting, so I also fired:
"they must be over there", and we
shot back. But never saw a Russian.
Never saw one.
yeah, then one day in 1943 the Russians
started in with their Stalinorgeln
(rocket launchers), and we knew what was up.
The attack was coming. And Trommelfeuer
(barrage) fell on our position for 4 or 5
must say that I am not, shall we say, a
strong believer. You know, my parents
were evangelists, and I am too... my parents
were very, ah, shall we say gottgläubig
(strongly Christian). More than we
are. Maybe conditioned that way.
I was raised gottgläubig as a child anyway.
We said our prayer every night before we
went to bed. But in the war we got a
little hardened, and didn't care to believe
anymore, simply because we saw too much
misery. We didn't believe that such a
god would let this happen, if he really
ruled. Anyhow, I must say again, as
long as we have come to it, that that's the
way some felt, who were afraid. That's
the way it must have been anyway. You
see, the people who felt this way were
afraid. And everyone who had this
fear, everyone that I knew, also became
casualties. One of these was also my Gewehrführer
(gun commander, at the time, Weber was on a
heavy MG) and Schütze Eins (gunner).
I was already a Gefreiter, and had a heavy
machine gun. When I was on watch,
there was shooting. The other guy
pulled his head down, not me, I never
lowered my head. I had an inner peace
to everything. So I wasn't jumpy, no
fear of anything. Yes, and those who
had the fear, or those who had a premonition
that something was going to happen, they
also became casualties.
course, I know that I wasn't a hero. I
only got the Iron Cross, Second Class,
Assault badge, and wound badge. But
you know, it was almost a sport for me.
Once, when we had to make an attack and
everyone was still down under cover, I was
thinking to myself: man, why aren't they
coming up now? Then I go up, get on a
gun, and fire away. Then the Hauptmann
says "come back down, Weber!"
I had to go back down. I'm thinking
man, why don't they get their asses up and
make the attack now?
I will only say that I never had the fear
that something could happen to me.
Consequently I didn't see everything in such
a horrible light. On the other hand,
looking back at it, it was really frightful,
it was terrible. When I think about
it, those things... it all started, as I
said, in Staraja-Russia, at first it wasn't
bad. It was actually splendid, I'd
like to say. But then, when the
retreat started and you would see the dead
all over... here were guts hanging out, this
one missing an arm, and they... they cried
our "Kamerad, help", and you could
not help, because nothing would have helped.
So you had to move on. I remember an
officer lying there...
they made me a Zugmelder (platoon
messenger). First I was only a platoon
messenger. That was in Staraja-Russia.
And then I was a Kompaniemelder
(company messenger), and after that a
battalion messenger. So I slowly
advanced myself. But it was, I feel,
more dangerous as a messenger. And I
always saw a lot more. I felt safer up
at the very front than a ways back with
Company (HQ). Or... well, Company
wasn't that far back. It was only 50
meters back. If you imagine the front
as a line - the forward trenches, that's
what we called the front. And we had
bunkers there. The platoon leader was
also up there in a bunker. But the
company CO, a Leutnant or Oberleutnant, was
50 or a hundred meters back. Battalion
was 500 meters farther back. Yeah, and
I was on these routes all the way from
battalion to the front, as a messenger.
At first I was a little flattered: as a
messenger, first to the commander, then on
to regiment, and always farther back.
But it wasn't a fun time, you know, I often
got lost, I must truthfully say. This
is despite what everyone thinks now, that I
am a person with a good sense of direction,
which I still have today. Sometimes it
is so obvious where you are, I would like to
say, "Man, you'll never manage.
Where are you now?" But try to
imagine: woods everywhere, pitch-black
night. Two, three, four places to go:
"oh yes, they are over there right now,
over by the weird fir tree. Turn
around, you have to go there. Or, here
is a detachment, so you have to go there,
too." And then I finally arrive
at battalion or regiment to make my report.
I had to work in two directions, you know...
from battalion to regiment, and from
battalion forward to company. Once
going forward, then back again.
later, as I remember it, when we had
re-entrenched, I had to go through it all
again. Over a sketch in a bunker...
"these guys are right here, Mr.
Weber," ...what's this Mr. Weber? ...it
was Gefreiter, anyway... "they are here
in this sector... and these are in that
sector" "Yes, yes"
"Listen now, you go there... you have
to..." "Yes". And
then it is dark. Now I take off.
Thank God, it's not as dark as the first
time. There are a few stars out.
But I never had a fear of being shot at.
Not even when I saw other people hurt or
when it thundered. I
never was afraid of that. But when I
was all alone in the woods, when it was
dark, and when I had to go out... then I was
afraid, oddly enough. I was not afraid
of being shot down or that something was
going to happen to me. But I had this
fear, so I guess something or other snapped.
So before I went I always had a little case
of cold feet.
yeah... I was a (battalion) messenger.
And on a message trip I was wounded. I
was forward at company, and then I was
supposed to report back to battalion.
An Ari-Überfall (artillery barrage)
came down, and we threw ourselves to the
ground. And in that instant that I
threw myself down, I felt like something was
sticking in my back. The shell came
through the woods, we were in the woods, you
see. Then I wanted to stand up, and at
first I couldn't get any air. Then I
was able to go 50 meters, then 100 meters,
and then I couldn't breathe anymore. I
had myself carried back to battalion, and by
then I was nearly gone. Then I was
taken in a Sanka-Wagen (ambulance)
and given a shot.
woke up again in the Hauptverbandplatz
(regimental dressing station). I had a
sucking lung wound and a thigh wound.
did you feel... the lung or leg wound?
Right when I was wounded, neither one in
perceived nothing in particular.
Not at first, somewhat later. I
woke up and the effects of the first
morphine shot had worn off. Then I had
pain. Then I had...
pain in your leg, or your lung?
In the lungs. I didn't realize I
had one in the leg at all. I was told
about it before I felt it. There was a
hole in the lung. It was always like
this: ha--a--a--a, it was always like this,
you know. And the leg I didn't know
about. I was in the Hauptverbandplatz,
sitting up, then I hollered and got another
shot. You know, morphine must be a
devil's tool. It is wonderful, but
must be a devil's tool. I was so badly
wounded that I couldn't stand up. Next
we were lying in a large assembly hall, I
remember. And then there was another
room, that was the operating room. We
were lying close together. It was a
school or something. There were a
hundred men there, all wounded, one
hollering as much as another. There
was straw on the floor with a wool blanket
on top of that, with us on top of it all.
And I think that I received and old field
bed because I was hollering for the lack of
air. They sat me up. When I lay
down, I hollered, and when I was upright I
could get more air. I remember this
yes, I came through thanks to morphine.
And when I hollered, I got a shot... what
was I supposed to know about morphine?
I knew basically nothing. I knew more
after the doctor told me. It had to be
a devil's tool. The second shot, yes,
the second one I got in the
Hauptverbandplatz. I came around for
the first time then, they were working on
me: "...lung wound, nope, we can't do
anything about that. But down here...
we want to extract that one." No,
I was not even aware. And then they
pulled the splinter out...
were not aware due to the morphine?
Yes, exactly. And they pulled it
out. I had another one in my lower
leg, only a small fragment. They
pulled that one out, too, I wasn't even
was only a flesh wound, one that healed
Only a flesh wound. And the lung
wound, it was because of that one that I was
sent back. And then even farther back
- I don't know. I was wounded in
Estonia, you see.
the Baltic States.
So it was during the retreat.
was 1944 already.
Already 1944. I got on a ship in
Pernau. Emergency disembarkation at
Danzig-Neufahrwasser. I had to be
least, as I have said, morphine must be a
devil's tool. I had those two shots,
and when I was on the steamship I hollered
for another. I had two before.
And then we came...
you were in pain?
When the effects of the first two
...wore off, then I was in pain.
But wore yet was this lack of air.
that's clear. You wanted the pain to
go away. For this reason. But I
don't think you were addicted after two
I know, yes.
already know, yes.
I know, yes. But the craving was
there. I had the feeling that the pain
was not so great when I was wounded and also
when I got back to battalion HQ... it was
bearable until I got the first shot. I
was short of breath. They put an
adhesive bandage on my back to seal off the
air. It would not allow air to pass
through the wound. It was only a small
wound, however. It was only as big as
a fingernail, like your little fingernail.
It was a shell fragment.
it was already out by then?
Nah, it was still in the lung.
is it in there today?
It is still there. It was in the
lung, and I must say, it was more of an
inconvenience than a pain, because I could
not breathe deeply.
seems to have been a mistake to give you
Yeah, they heard me moaning...hah-a-aah-ach-ha-a,
and then saw the wound, then gave me a shot.
Therefore, at the main dressing station, I
would have been able to stand up. I
would have been able to stand, run back
home, or could run back to the front.
I have that feeling about this. Then,
with the lung wound, I was ordered farther
back, to Pernau where I was put on a ship,
and got underway. I only remember the
part about being underway. I was
hollering for another shot. Then the
doctor came by and he thought, I think, that
I was talking in a feverish delirium.
I don't know, perhaps I did have a fever.
I can't say for sure today. I do know
that I wanted another shot. "I
gave you a couple pills." he said.
I said "the pills don't help. You
can keep them, save them. What am I
supposed to do about this shit?"
Then he says to me, "don't talk so
much." "I'll talk as much as
I want to," or something like that.
I can only remember so much.
then I was taken off in Danzig-Neufahrwasser
in an emergency disembarkation. There
were Sanka-Wagen to spare. They were
loaded. And I clearly remember the mad
drive to another place. I was on a
bench. I couldn't lay down, only sit
up, so I could breathe.
That hurt and I hollered. Then I
was happy as were unloaded - I can't
remember if it was a hospital or a church.
It was set up as a hospital, anyway.
And then I knew I was being carried up the
steps... it must have been a school.
We got up there, and I sat up so I could
breathe. And then I was in the OR, in
a hall, there were a lot of doctors there.
I says, "Hach, Herr Doctor, give me a
shot, give me a shot." "Yo,
yo, my boy. You'll get a shot soon,
you'll get one soon. We'll see to
it." Then I was put on a table,
and held fast... whether it was two doctors
or two nurses, I don't know anymore.
Then I got a shot in the arm.
"And now, you will feel a peck in your
lung." And then I was pierced.
And it was horrible, believe me.
Without anesthesia, like you get today.
Today it is painless. But it was not
painless for me. They stuck a syringe
into me, it was half as big around as your
little finger. They stuck me three
times, between the ribs, and three times I
screamed. I remember that exactly.
And they drained off the blood that
collected in my lung. There was, I
don't remember, 200cc of blood and
everything that had bled into my lung.
They drained it.
they stuck an adhesive bandage on me and I
says "Herr Doctor, the shot..."
"You already got one, yes, you get
another one. It will work."
and he gave me another one. Then I was
carried back into the hospital and into a
room. And now I waited... "A shot
now, must be now...", I had got two
earlier, and now another two. And I
was thinking "another is coming now.
It was so beautiful. Man, then you go
far away," and so on. And I
waited and waited, but none came. Then
on the next day, I was feeling a little
better. Then the Chief Surgeon came in
on his rounds, and read my chart and saw
that I was from Hamburg. "Hey,
Hamburger, how's it going?"
"Ach," I said, "Herr Doctor,
the shot that you gave me was
that?" "Both of the other
ones were so marvelous, that I wasn't aware
of a thing. But I had pain until this
morning." "I see, how about
right now?" "Ach, no.
The pain is better now. I am breathing
better." That was because the
blood which had been building up and
blocking off the air was gone.
"Yes," he said, "my boy, if I
had given you one more shot (of morphine),
you would have been addicted, believe
me." So gentle, like a father, he
was certainly old enough. Like a
father. You know, I was... how old was
I? 24 years old, yes it was 1944.
He was like a father to me. "Yes,
I think you were already a little addicted.
Where did you get the shots?"
"All right, I got one when I was there,
one when I got there, and one from
you." Yes, he says, "but the
one you got from me was something
was then transferred to a
Genesenden Kompanie (convalescent
company) located in Lübeck.
The following recollection dates
from this period:
I landed in an officer's mess... yes, I
wasn't giving out food to the peons below,
but to the officers above. But what do
you know, they acted just like the peons
when they wanted seconds. "Ach,
Herr Weber, do you have any more?"
"Ach, Oberst, I can't do that
now." Or, "Herr Hauptmann, I
can't do that now, everyone is sitting out
there. Come back in half an
hour." They were young lads, not
much older than I. We gave food to the
officers we were fond of. But the loud
ones... I think that the kitchen above was
better than the one below for the Landser.
(officer's) mess was somewhat better to
Look at this way: (in the barracks),
imagine that the kitchens are connected with
a big hose, so that everything that was
cooked was exactly the same. But in
the Gulaschkanone (field kitchen),
you couldn't cook a hundred or two hundred
liters at once. In the Gulaschkanone,
maybe only 20 or 30 liters. A hundred
liters would take 4 or 5 Gulaschkanonen.
So everyone did not eat from one trough.
And so the officers always get the best...
then more on officers:
got a new commander. Both legs had
been amputated. He wore a Knight's
Cross, I think...
did he get along, without both legs?
And without a cane. He walked on
two prostheses. Knight's Cross, German
Cross, Silver wound badge, Infantry
Assault... he had everything there was to
have. But when he came around and had
something to say... what a voice, believe
he a General, or what?
No, he was an Oberst (Colonel).
you liked him?
Yes, it was something... anyway, when he
was around. When it came to the
others, I never had much respect, so if I
saw one, I saluted like this (he
demonstrates). Not much respect, no
feeling. Once I got myself stopped:
"Here, come over here! Can't you
salute properly?" so when I
passed one of these guys, you know, I
saluted properly, even if I did not want to.
But when he came around, well,
you pulled yourself up inside, snapped your
hand to your head, you know, and saluted zackig
(smartly). It was wonderful, you
know, to hear him speak.
probably would not have done anything, if
you had given him the false salute. He
would not have gotten upset. He would
No, absolutely not! We had an
incident, you know, so I got to know what a
wonderful person and soldier he really was.
He was a soldier through and through, he had
absolutely nothing to do with politics and
absolutely nothing to do with the Nazis.
He was a wonderful person, was a swell,
swell, guy. Yes, we had this one
affair, when the war was almost over.
It was maybe 4 weeks before the end of the
war, when a bunch of SS came in on us.
There were maybe 3 or 4 officers with them,
they made themselves right at home in the
officer's mess upstairs (where Weber
worked). I had no idea what these SS
officers had in mind, why such high officers
would come in here. "What is
there to eat around here? Come over
here! What do you have to eat?"
They were insolent. There was perhaps
seven or eight of them in all. I later
heard that one of them was Himmler's
brother. Brother or step-brother, I
don't know. They came in and sat down,
and we had to serve them. They wanted
to stay in our barracks.
then I hear this bupp-pubb, bupp-pubb,
on the stairs. That was our boss.
Two wooden legs. He was really tough.
And two soldiers, Unteroffiziers, with
he had them as bodyguards.
Both of them, both with rifles!
Helmets buckled on, feldmarschmäßig
(combat-ready). Him in the middle.
And he came in. I can tell you exactly
what he said to them. It got ugly, I
with him there?
Yes. The SS had not reported in to
him. He was the local commander at the
time. Everything belonged to him.
They had arrived unexpectedly and they said
something like "we are commandeering
this place" and "we are SS, I am
Himmler's step brother", or something
like that. He was something related to
Himmler. And it got ugly. Our
Oberst laid it all out: "Gentlemen, if
you don't get out of here..."
He... how did he express himself?
"I am the master of this house.
What I say goes! And you are now my
prisoners!" And then Himmler's
brother said to him, "Don't be stupid!
You can wind up on the gallows!"
Or something like this. Then our
Oberst says to his duo, I don't remember,
Gewehr an, or ab, I don't know, something
like that. And they brought up their
rifles. "Gentlemen! Either
you come along, or this will get
serious!" They got up and left.
So he took care of all of them.
was a person I would have followed through
thick and thin, you know. But these
others I met, those shits, not with them.
many had what it takes.
What came of all this, we never heard.
It was only 3 or 4 weeks before the end of
the war. But they never showed up in
our barracks again. Apparently they
couldn't get their way with him.
Nevertheless, the SS...
was in the right, though.
He was, yes, he was in the right.
And so we saw no more of the SS in our
barracks. I heard somewhere that that
bunch went and commandeered a hotel, or
I understand. But they didn't get
their way, at any rate.
It was great. I really remember
that one. I thought, "you
shits... first you are so puffed up, then he
comes with two soldiers, points the rifles,
and you fold up and depart."
and then the English came. It was
around April of 1945. The English came
quickly, and I will never forget: every
morning there was an Appell (inspection)
where we had to present ourselves to our
surgeon. And the English were almost
here, the enemy was in the Black Forest,
over the Elbe, and so on. The English
were very close. And then, in the
middle of the night: "Get up!
You... what do you have? Get going,
out, get out. You? Out!
You? Out! And you?"
"Punctured lung. This and
"No, Herr Stabsarzt," I
said. "What's that? What's
this about not going?" "Herr
Stabsarzt, if I run more than 100 meters
now..." I was prepared with my
point... we had been inspected like this
repeatedly before, by others. It was
now back to the front - I knew that I did
not want to go back to the front. We
realized that it was coming to an
it was. The war was coming to an end.
And the war was lost, we all knew it.
The war was lost, but they wanted to send us
back in! In the final hours... and I
had the feeling that if I went, that was it.
So I said no. "Ach, get
out!" he says to me. I said:
"I have a punctured lung, and I don't
want to be a burden for two other soldiers.
If I run more than 100 meters, I can't
breathe!" I exaggerated a bit.
"And two other guys will have to carry
me back to the rear. Then you won't
lose one soldier, you will lose three."
He looked me up and down: "Make a note,
professor, report tomorrow morning
anyhow." I would not have told
him, how it was in my nature to always be
there, even in war, and how I had
volunteered for the army... so that if I would
have gone, then I would have become a
soldier again. And I had the feeling
that I would never see home again. So
I didn't want to be effective
on the next day, it was a really great
doctor. I told him what had happened
in the barracks. "Don't
worry," he said. He was an
officer, but he had a private practice, and
had only been called up as an officer.
"...the war is over for you. You
are fit only for garrison duty (g.v.H.:
garnisons verwendungsfähig Heimat)
until August 1945. I'll give you a
letter for this." And he gave a
certificate. I went to the barracks.
The war was over in 6 weeks.
British came to Lübeck on May 2.
A few days before that, his
superior who was as "war
weary" as the doctor, in
light of the hopeless situation,
gave him his discharge papers (Entlassungspapiere).
He also gave him a number of blank
discharge certificates that were
officially stamped and notarized.
Weber was able to give these
necessary papers to other soldiers