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12. 10. 2013
Interview: Veteran Anton [EN]

» pokračovať na slovenskú verziu Interview: Veteran Anton [EN]

During the Saturday 10/12 2013, we meet for visiting one Austrian World war 2 vet. This very sympathetic and merry man is living in town, just few kilometers from our borders, named S…, for nearly 90 years now. He dedicates his time growing vine, from which he makes fine wine. He was very helpful and agreed to tell us about the period of his life, which we so wanted to hear, about his years in army during World war 2. We eventually made more than 2 hours of interview.

Interview: Veteran Anton [EN]

Anton was born in 1925, he had 7 siblings, brothers (1905, 1908, 1910, 1919) and three sisters. His father died before the war and mother right before him joining the army. He was a good student, and as he said “teacher used to say that I will make a difference”.

When he was 16, he studied at business school, when he had an opportunity to enlist at army school for non-commissioned officers, however his mother did not let him, because her other four sons had already enlisted and some were even gone to the eastern front. One of his brothers had wall-eye, so he joined POW (prisoners of war) wards. Another was injured near Kaluga, Poland. After death of his mother, he enlister as a 17-year-old, and was put in Hindenburg barracks in Olomouc. His training lasted 6-7 weeks.

During the winter of 1943/1944, he was placed in Norway, where he spent his first army Christmas. In Norway he had also basic training with MG, he also recall training with grenades. His duty for hal a year was guarding (munitions) depots. About people there he says “Norwegians liked Austrians more than Germans”.

After the training he got furlough, when he returned home. During his stay, attempt to assassinate Hitler took place. “If it was successful, war is over – this way they only canceled our holidays and we had to go back to the front.” They’ve gone right to the eastern front – to Lithuania. Their first mission was rescuing of German company from under the siege. His role was MG-Schutze 1, as the youngest member of a squad. Right during their first deployment they had great loss. After recuing that company, Russians pushed then to Memel (Klaipeda today). He recalls assembling of Volksgrenadiers from different army sections, even Luftwaffe. He lists weapons they used: MG42, MP40, P08, signal gun (flare).


What flares did you use? Red, green? Did you use them to guide the way?

Red. We used them, when Russians started attacking, as a guide for the artillery. Their positions were marked always in advance.

Second Christmas he spent in Memel, where they’ve built an emplacement. It was during the cease of fire, they had warmth, alcohol and women. Holidays lasted more than usual, because two weeks after theirs, Orthodox started to celebrate. After Christmas it started to freeze and the Russians started to attack. Russians had their supplies imported by the frozen river. Non-commissioned officer from his squad (“commander looked over MG-Schutze 1 and he protected the commander”) was from Prussia, so he knew these woods. They run away together from the forest, where the attack was headed, which eventually totally crushed German lines. After that they joined different unit, which brought them to Prussia, near Masuria lakes. He recalls also fallback of Hungarians and Romanians in this area.

This is where war ends for him, because Russians captured them near ...?. Due to bad infrastructure, they didn’t know what to do with POWs. Eventually they transported them by cattle wagons to Nikolaj, where they starved them for 12 days. In one wagon, there was about 20-30 people. Their first meal was sugar from near factory. Here they then worked as prisoners in a quarry, where he eventually got very ill. They let him not to work, but his bed was among very ill and dying prisoners. This is when he found his inner will to survive. From February of 1945 to September of 1945 he was laying in illness. He remembers that boys from the city lasted less than others. This is also the time, when Russians started to think about Austrians as “not the bad guys” and that it should be considered. So they let 150 ill prisoners to return home. His eyes started to shine: “I was number 148.” October 13th 1945 is the day he celebrates as a homecoming. In very bad shape (20-years-old and only 46 kilograms), but alive.


He recalls injury by the grenade under the eye.

Shrapnel from the grenade hit him under the left eye. He was recalled and treated in the field hospital. After few days he started to see again and he was sent back to the front immediately. Shrapnel is in his body to this day. In Russia he got second class Iron cross. He didn’t specified his medal for injury.


He remembers eastern Prussia.

They’ve seen rich livestock’s, usually few thousands of cattle. They could take goods from locals. In case of Schnapps,  only into canteen. When Russians came, they took over everything, but they couldn’t handle it well.


Question if they fought in Stalingrad.

“We didn’t, we were, however, backup group.” They needed them elsewhere.


Were there any differences between Austrians and Germans in the army?

“Austrians were not let between the high ranks.” Those were for Germans.


How was supply?

In Norway, during his munitions depots guard duty, supply was good. As a non-smoker he traded cigarettes and scarce commodities to Norwegians.


Did you try to communicate with your brothers on the front?

“We didn’t even think about it, it was not common.”


What type of uniform did you wear? Wool, working or anything else?

“I had of course wool, green uniform. Drillich, nor the walking uniform, we didn’t have.”


Did you use canvas or camouflage coveralls?

“We had canvas. Coveralls too, but only on the front. It was camouflage with unclear pattern.” Allegedly Sumpftarn muster.


After we showed him Erkennungsmarke and Soldbuch.

He smiled and said: “I had those too, but thrown it away. Also the book. Russians would have taken it from me anyways.” He has gone with his hand right after the mark as if he would read his own “Volksgrenadier Division 13, 14, 15”. Specific designation he didn’t remember. After looking into Soldbuch (army service book) he said “Young and beautiful, we were like that too!”
(Anton probably served in 551. VGD., Grenadier-Regiment 1113, 1114, 1115.)


Town surroundings.

“You can still dig up some shells. Right by the borders, the Russian convoys had marched, so the artillery troop deployed right above the town was messing them up. There is about 1000 Russians buried around the village. This church was properly reconstructed only 15 years ago. During the war, its tower was considered a lookout so they destroyed it.”


Interview: Veteran Anton [EN]

What was your rank?

“Lance-corporal. In Norway I was Obergrenadier and after that Gefreiter, MG-Schutze 1. From Obergrenadier to Gefreiter it took about 7-8 months.“

Do you remember shoes? Did you have lace-up shoes or boots or...



Did you wear only helmet in combat or also something else?

“Yes, during the combat we used helmet. It was heavy and uncomfortable. We also used caps and fur-caps.”


Did you use coats or padded clothes?

“Coats, we didn’t have anything else.”


Did you have backpacks or anything else? Where did you put your stuff?

“Well, backpacks… we had Sturmgepacks (A-frame). We didn’t own many things, we used to move back a lot.”


Did you have Esbit, butter churms? For butter, jam...

He didn’t even know Esbit: “we didn’t have those, but butter churms yes.”


Did you see some HIVIs? Local helpers?

“No but we know Russians were killing those when they found out.”


Did you see some female military helpers, buzzers, “Blitzmadels” in Norway?

“No, in Norway we were situated near some fjord. Nothing was there. It was near Swedish border however, so some tried to escape.”


How was moral and mood on the front?

“We used to tell ourselves “we got to get home!” all the time. Commander was from Prussia, and when we were coming back trough his village, he showed us – there I had a girl, etc. Even during fallback they kept very good evidence of injured and dead, so it wasn’t easy to escape. We knew that Hitler couldn’t win because the battlefield was just too big.”


Memory from POW camp (about lice)

“There were those that used to scratch themselves all the time, because something was biting them, but there was one that was immune. His blood was different, lice let him be.”


How did you move? By cars?

“No, by bicycles. In Norway, there was whole Fusilier Battalion.”


How often did you get your salary, in what currency?

“Salary was in German marks. We used to get coupons, which could be used to send money home to family. It different for everybody. For Obergrenadier it wasn’t much, but for a Gefreiter it was much better.”


Did you use panzerfausts and grenades?

“Oh yes, panzerfausts” – he indicated movement during the launch – “I didn’t have one, as a machine gunner, but one my good colleague had about 6 or 7 shotdowns with it. He died 15 years ago.”


Did you sing?

“Yes” – he started to sing – “Westerwald and others. We learned German songs. When we sang our own, they alerted us.”


Where in Norway did you serve?

“40 kilometers from Narwik. We were transported from Wilhelmshaven port, 2500 soldiers with convoy. In half a way we had submarine alert and we had to use lifevests.”


How did you spend your time between deployments? Did you rotate between moving and deploying on the front?

“We were on the front all the time, without a break. Up to the point where the squad wasn’t valiant or had so many losses it couldn’t fulfill its duties. At the beginning we had small loss.”


How many men were in your squad?



How was it to operate machine gun? Did you use bursts, or?

“When Russians attacked, they were drunk and yelled “Urá, urá”, until I started to shoot from machine gun. Then they run away.” – he also remembered the difference between the cadency of Russian and German machinegun, he indicated “ra-ta-ta-ta and ratatatatata”. “Russians had also a commissioner behind them that shot.”


Did you use a tripod with machinegun or only a bipod? How about magazines?

“We’ve thrown away the stand it was too heavy for carrying. We used Trommeltrager, but more often we wore the belts around our necks. Munitions were carried by three people. Due to the bad supply we shoot only during the attack and we didn’t shoot individual targets.”


Did you use captured weapons?

“Russian weapons were much worse, we did not take them.”


Memory of Katyushas.

“Katyushas were dangerous (he mimics the sound of launches and hits), after that I didn’t hear a thing for a while. Other time we heard an amplion (he mimics Russian propaganda in German), they promised food and healthcare. If nobody surrendered they announced we will hear Stalinorgel...” – Stalin’s organ.


Remembering the POWs.

“Once we saw a 14-year-old Lithuanian among the POWs. Russians gave him a rifle right after they “liberated” his village and sent him to fight to Prussia, where he surrendered to us.”


Did you meet some war photographers – Kriegsberichters?

“We had war propaganda, yes, but I didn’t see any war photographers. In Norway there was peace, so no.”


Interview: Veteran Anton [EN]What about women?

“In Norway we had once a ship with Kraft durch Freude incoming. They used to make a shows for us. Then once right before Russia we had a walk. We were walking in Oslo and we saw a long line of soldiers. We joined the line and then found out there is a house with women in windows at the beginning of it. When we got there, we got in. Owner checked our money and let us in. They used to say Hitler arranged easy French girls for us.”


Were you housed among the families in Norway?

“No, in wooden barracks.”


Life after the war?

Since 1945 he was missing, so after homecoming he found out his brothers divided the property. He lived with one of them until 1949 when he married (until 2012). He worked in sugar mill, he managed the supply. In 1984 he retired and dedicated his time growing vine. He still lives in his hometown.



Thanks to Lukas Tomasek for translation of original article Interview: Veterán Anton.

Informácie o článku

Počet slov: 2007
Počet zhliadnutí: 8105
Autor: August
Vytvorené: 22. 10. 2013
Posledné zmeny: 25. 04. 2015