I thought it may be interesting to see what others have collected....
Here is a few of my own;
This one was given to me by a Veteran (Will) (27th SS Volunteer Division Langemarck).
I also had the opportunity to have a lengthy talk over a few beers about this soldier in the photo (Jan).
It was his youngest brother, he had 5 brothers in the SS, he was the only survivor from them all, he himself was shot in his upper arm.
This is the youngest brother was killed whilst on a train to the Russian front, the train was derailed and gunned down. Will was allowed to go to the train where he took some pictures and buried him on the roadside inside a few zelts.
The picture of the train: ( I do not own it)
The Second is a story which was on here somewhere before of a GD veteran that lived beside me (Northern Ireland), unfortunately he passed away two years ago.
I visited him regularly before he passed away and was able to write down his story...
Memoirs of a Grossdeutschland Veteran
This is a personal account of Fritz Spitzer a veteran of Germany’s Elite Grossdeutschland Division in WWII.
Fritz Spitzer was born on the 14th July 1924 in a hamlet in the State of Baden that borders the east bank of the river Rhine in south western Germany. In the Great War of 1914-18 his father served as a bi-plane fighter pilot in the Imperial German Army during which time he was shot down and was forced to take emergency evasive action and crash landed behind friendly German lines resulting in a severe abdomen injury. While growing up Fritz attended a boarding school with around one hundred other pupils and had an ambition of one day becoming an actor. In his youth Fritz had a Jewish friend by the name of Holtz Soltzer Printzmien, a musician who would luckily survive WWII and later go on to be an Opera Conductor; both Fritz & Holtz were to meet up again in Munich after the war.
Following Hitler’s rise to power in 1933, Fritz did what most boys of his age did and joined the Bavarian Hitler Youth in which he became a Drummer Boy. In 1939 and at the age of 15 Fritz’s father died just before the outbreak of war from his old injury received in WWI. Sometime after his father’s death and the outbreak of the war in September 1939 Fritz and his mother moved to West Berlin where they lived with his new stepfather who worked for the Berlin Broadcasting Company (BBC). His stepfather would soon be conscripted into the German Army (das Deutsche Heer) and later transferred to the Waffen-SS as a War Correspondent (SS-Kregsbiricter). At the end of the war and with the influx of Red Army Soldiers sweeping over Eastern Germany his stepfather became a Prisoner of War (POW) to the Red Army and was incarcerated into a concentration camp that was previously built by the Nazis to hold Jewish prisoners.
On November 28th 1946 Fritz’s stepfather died in the camp due to maltreatment from his Soviet captures. After the war Fritz has since returned to the site where the camp once stood and laid flowers to all those, both, Jewish & German who perished in the camp.
In 1943 and at the age of 18 Fritz was dealt the same fate as his stepfather and became conscripted to serve his Fatherland being assigned to the German Army. During five months of intensive training in Cottbus, an area southeast of Berlin, Adolf Hitler came to visit his fresh recruits. Fritz went on to describe how he felt when the Fuhrer walked past him in a formal line up, “as Hitler walked past me in the line up, it installed fear into me!” Fritz then said that he believed “Hitler had hypnotic powers over people”.
Following the completion of his training where he learnt to repair and operate communication equipment Fritz was finally transferred to 19 Kp/. 5 Abt. Panzer Nachrichten in the German Army’s Elite Grossdeutschland Division and sent to the Russian Front. Fritz recalls how the k98 rifle that he was issued was very loud when fired but added, “I can live with a clear head as I never shot anyone!”, this mainly due to the fact that he spent most of his time manning communication equipment or repairing breaks in communication lines. I then asked Fritz did he have any happy memories of his wartime experiences and he replied, “My best and fondest memory was when we had a party on our last day of training, before we went to the Russian Front.” I continued by asking Fritz what he thought of his Russian enemy at that time, he replied...“Well after all they were our enemy, I did not hate them but I did dislike them at that time."
On November 26th 1944 while he and his division were holding an area in Ukraine called Kryvyi Rih, (now called Krivoy Rog) the Red Army attacked and successively pushed the division some distance west and almost succeeded in encircling them. Sometime later the Germans counter attacked reversing the earlier Russian advance and after the battle Fritz was sent to work repairing broken communication lines. Accompanied by a fellow comrade, Fritz and the other soldier both set off through a vast sunflower field tracking a communication cable looking for a break. After sometime they stumbled upon the broken link and Fritz knelt down and successfully repaired the damage which brought communication back to the division. Shortly thereafter and before Fritz had risen to his feet a shot rang out from a Russian sniper and the bullet entered the back of Fritz’s head near his left ear and exited through his right cheek bone leaving fragments of bone & bullet remaining in his face to this day. Fritz claims there must have been a few Red Army soldiers that remained hiding among the vast expanse of sunflowers and believes it was a miracle that he survived the attack, after which he regained consciousness over a month later where he awoke to the image of a Christmas tree in a Dresden hospital. For his injuries sustained in the attack Fritz was awarded the Wound Badge in Silver,which he unfortunately later lost. Fritz also remembers going through several operations in various hospitals to rebuild his face while the Russians were continuously advancing from the east, each time they got nearer he was moved to another hospital further west. During Fritz’s many months in hospital he learned to play chess and enjoyed long walks while recuperating.
On May 8th 1945 while in hospital in Austria, Fritz learned that the tide of the Red Army’s advance was a mere 60km to the east and that the American Army had advanced 40km to the west. On learning this Fritz was then told, “if the Russians get here they would kill him and any other Grossdeutschland soldiers in the hospital”, at this point Fritz made the wise decision to remove his Grossdeutschland cuff title from his right sleeve and get rid of his army identification papers (Soldbuch), which were two things that could clearly identify him to the advancing Russians as belonging to the Elite Grossdeutschland Division. While being faced with the danger of being captured by the Red Army, Fritz and his fellow comrades made the decision to leave the hospital and set out on a journey in a westerly direction toward American lines. When Fritz and his comrades finally reached the American front lines they were placed in a prisoner of war camp that housed many captured German Soldiers. On Fritz’s first day in the camp he remembers being told by an American guard to lay his blanked on the ground and place all his personal belongings on top, after which the guard picked out a book that Fritz was carrying called, “Faust” written by the famous German author Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe. Not knowing what the book was about the guard began shouting at Fritz with the question, “Is this Nazi propaganda!?” “Is this Nazi propaganda!?” finally Fritz convinced the guard that the book only contained German literature and he was allowed to keep the book.
Looking back over his time on the Eastern Front before being shot, Fritz recalls the vastness of the Russian countryside by exclaiming, “Russia is so large & vast that you could walk all day in one field!” He also remembers walking with his comrades for hours through a field full of melons which he said were really refreshing to eat. Fritz also recalled the bitter cold of winter and said that all the German soldiers had head lice and were constantly scratching their heads. When asked his opinion on the Waffen-SS he replied, “that some Waffen-SS were ruthless and that they had no thought for life and he does not know how they committed such crimes”, he also exclaimed ”they were so badly brain washed they had no conscious mind.” On the Holocaust Frits said, “ I must say I felt ashamed with what we Germans had done, when people spoke of the Jews I explained that I was just a soldier and done nothing wrong! I had no problem with Jewish people.”
When I enquired about his uniform and what happened to it when the war ended, he said, " I didn't have any money and I wore it for a number of years after the war without insignia until i could afford new clothes".
Fritz then went on to explain how he still finds it very difficult even today watching a bonfire which he says takes him back to unpleasant memories on the Eastern Front where German Soldiers were ordered to carry out Hitler’s 'Scorched Earth Policy' and burn everything in sight as they retreated. After Fritz’s release from the American POW camp he returned to Germany where he lived until 1952 then emarginated to Switzerland until moving to Britain and finally onto Ireland where he married and still lives to this very day.
As I left Fritz following my interview on that bright sunny day and reflected on his answers to my questions it truly was, in Fritz’s own words, “a miracle that he survived”.
Interview by Jonny 2008