Part 27: Observations At The Airfield 

Father urged us to leave, the fear and tension increased to an unbearable level. Two Nazis were in the house, and the Americans were waiting. The next morning artillery fire began.

The shells howled over the settlement, and from the center of town one could hear the muffled impacts. The front seemed to be moving. Still in the night I had tied the discarded uniforms, including the boots with the leather belts, into tight bundles and thrown them out of the window into the bomb hopper. Under cover of darkness, I hid the things as best I could among the junk that had accumulated in the hopper over time. One by one, the men left the apartment into the unknown. We never learned how they fared. Even after the war, no one came forward. From the captured barley from the pillowcase, Mother had cooked a few pots of thick soup, but only with water and salt and some margarine. She did not want to send people off hungry into the unknown.

Finally, the apartment was empty again. Relief for everyone. Vigilance in the house had fallen victim to the exciting events of the last few hours. But the Nazis locked up in their apartment kept quiet as mice; obviously, the will to survive had triumphed over loyalty to the Führer. Hoping to finally see advancing American troops, father and I watched the flak position and the airfield. The Americans had to be attacking from there. But still no movement. The road from the west toward the city ran parallel to the wire mesh fence of the airfield. The dense, meter-high bushes along the fence blocked the view of the road and the terrain behind it. Suddenly, two American tanks emerged from the cover of the hedge and came into the flak battery’s field of view.

Immediately the guns opened fire. The first tank was hit and remained motionless, the other escaped into the shelter of the hedge. It was impossible to tell from the window whether the crew had managed to escape from the burning tank because dense black smoke blocked the view. After a short exchange of fire, nothing more happened. It remained quiet for a long time, but then a squadron of fighter-bombers approached in the sky. Flying low, they attacked the heavy guns, which were completely unsuitable for defending against the low-flying planes.

The Jabos dropped fragmentation bombs and fired from all on-board guns. The bombing caused enormous quantities of the anti-aircraft shells to explode, making the inferno even worse. After the attack, none of the gun crews were alive; only smoldering debris and burned human bodies remained. Days later, the bodies were recovered, or what was left of them. When the dead were recovered, it turned out that literally at the last-minute flak helpers had replaced the deserted soldiers. How many of the teenagers died in this senseless slaughter remained unexplained, because under the circumstances it was impossible to identify the bodies with certainty.

After the flak battery was put out of action, the Americans turned their thrust to the large military complex on the southern flank of the airfield. The extensive complex of barracks, training buildings, firing ranges and aircraft hangars was used by the German Air Force to train aircrew. Obviously, the Americans expected strong resistance there. But all military forces had been mustered to defend the city.

With no significant opposition, the Americans were able to concentrate on taking the city. By the following day, the U.S. Army was already expert in the old, historic residence. Our city outskirts had been spared from the fighting. The two Nazis would not have had to be disarmed and imprisoned, for there was no opportunity to fire on opponents. Much excitement would have been spared to the inhabitants of the house. After the capture of the city, American and Soviet soldiers shook hands a few days later the Elbe bridge near Torgau. For us, the war was finally over. 𝓣𝓸 𝓑𝓮 𝓒𝓸𝓷𝓽𝓲𝓷𝓾𝓮𝓭

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