Dawn breaks over the Russian battlefield

Motorcycle troops from the Waffen SS Deaths Head Division, operating in the north of Russia in 1941

In the south of Russia SS Battalion commander Kurt Meyer had been engaged in a night long battle:

The new day illuminated a macabre landscape. Burnt areas, craters, uprooted trees, mangled equipment and blackened farm ruins bore silent witness to an insane night. A 1-ton prime mover was in front of me. During the night it was a glowing aiming point, at this point it was a smoking wreck.

Thin smoke blew across the roadside ditch. The driver was sitting upright behind the steering wheel. His uniform had been burned from his body; only black ashes concealed his charcoaled chest here and there. The blackened skull with its empty eye sockets was still facing in the direction of travel.

I wanted to scream, to curse the whole insanity of war, but I tumbled into the next hole and returned the fire of a Russian who was lying behind a bush not fifty meters away on the other side of the road. Glancing at the prostrate, clawing humanity around me, the bloody fields of Verdun appeared before me in my thoughts.

My comrades and Russian soldiers lay dead in the foxholes; they had killed each other. The survivors threw out the dead; they wanted to live and were looking for cover.

Daylight had arrived. There was no longer a single living Russian to be seen; the battlefield was empty. Before us were flower-strewn meadows and rippling grain fields. Not a shot disrupted the silence of the morning.

My comrades sat up, initially with care and then without circumspection. The first one stood up, lit a cigarette, and took a look in the enemy’s direction. Everyone looked at the standing Kradschtitze [motorcycle trooper] in fascination. Nothing happened. Shouts of encouragement flew from hole to hole. Life had us in its grip again. It was asking for its share.

See Grenadiers: The Story of Waffen SS General Kurt "Panzer" Meyer

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