I have joined this page only a few days ago. My main aim was to post that part of my life story, which relates to my wartime experiences. After doing that, under the heading of The Story of a Reluctant SS-Pioneer, I spent some time browsing through other peoples' contributions. My impression so-far is that of one-sided reporting. This is not good for a site set up for the purpose of collecting research material for future generations. There isn't very much I can do about it except, perhaps, record some illustrations of humanity of the men – the Unknown Soldiers – on the other side. Here is my first "snapshot":
It was sometime in early March 1945. A tussle was being fought between the Red Army and German Forces for the possession of the city of Forst on the River Neisse. I was there with the Battalion-strength Kampfgruppe Frencken. We had already several days of street fighting behind us and a few still to look forward to, but at this point, in my immediate vicinity the situation was for a brief time static.
The Russians were occupying one of two rows of houses facing two parallel running streets and we took positions in the other row. A long line of fences separated the back-gardens. During the night, as ordered, in preparation for an attack in the morning, we have scratched in the frozen ground shallow holes, pushed up mounds of snow against the fence and lay down waiting for further orders. At daybreak, unexpectedly, out of the back door of the house which I and a half-dozen of my comrades were facing, walked out a Russian, still half-asleep, rubbing his eyes and stretching out his arms for a moment and then set out leisurely walking toward us.
One fellow nearby was getting ready to shoot. I don't know how serious he was about it, but after a whispered exchange between us he left the hapless Ivan to me. I was a trained marksman and even without telescopic sights at this distance I could hit the proverbial fly. But this young sleepy-head was unarmed, he posed no threat to anyone. What prompted him to walk out into the garden was the apparent fact that the only toilet in the house was occupied by another soldier and he could not wait. He came to within about 20 yards of us without noticing anything suspicious, and with his back turned toward us, dropped his trousers.
We, on the other side of the fence could barely keep from bursting out with laughter. As he then proceeded "doing what comes naturally", I took careful aim at the growing steaming heap in the snow between his feet. I don't know whether he was quite finished when I squeezed the trigger. The mess exploded in all directions and our "Closest Enemy" was suddenly wide-awake. Desperately trying to lift his trousers up from around his ankles and smearing the smelly stuff all over the bottom half of his body in the process, he ran, stumbling, back to the comparative safety of the house from which he had emerged.
I can only guess how he remembered the occasion, if he survived the war, but I remember it as one of the few moments of light relief that came our way during that difficult time.