Home leave in Germany

Under the new Armaments Minister Albert Speer, German war production was being stepped up.

Henry Metelman was given leave from the Eastern Front during this period and managed to spend a whole month at home in Germany. He was struck by the numbers of foreign workers who had become a sizeable presence in his home town, Altona near Hamburg. Germany was now moving to a full time war economy – a move which had been delayed until early 1942 – and was mobilising every possible able bodied man for the Wehrmacht.

Also “There were air raids at least three or four times a week.” – the RAF bombing campaigns were now beginning to have an impact. There were also numerous nuisance raids which were designed to set the air raid alarms off on a regular basis even if few bombs fell.

Nevertheless he tried to enjoy his leave as far as circumstances would allow:

Dancing was forbidden in the whole of the country throughout the war, and while very few places openly served alcoholic drinks over the counter, and cakes and such things were as good as unobtainable, there was not much point in hanging around in pubs or restaurants.

The rationing of food and clothes, though severe, was such that no one, as far as I could see was starving.

There was one area where Metelman had difficulty. It was impossible to speak openly about the war. He had previously been a fairly committed Nazi supporter, being a product of the Hitler Youth – which he had enjoyed. Now his experiences in Russia had made him more ambivalent about the regime – but he knew that he dare not discuss it with anyone:

Wherever I went, people were anxious to hear from me what was happening at the Eastem Front. Not because I had ever done any heroic deeds, but simply because I had been at a certain time at a certain place, I had received a number of medals, and on that strength alone my reporting of events was accepted as authentic. The last thing I wanted to give was the impression that Gennany could possibly find itself on the losing side.

Though I did not tell any lies, I did not tell the whole truth either, I kept the more negative aspects of my experiences to myself. It struck me that much of the questioning contained a measure of querying doubt as to the outcome of the whole war, – especially amongst those who had experienced the 1914-18 war – and I always ‘jumped’ on the querying questioner and made it clear that, whatever the difficulties, for me the final victory for our Germany could be in no doubt.

Then an uncle asked me what factual evidence I had for my total conviction, and trying to think of any, I sensed that I was talking myself into a corner and that I really had no evidence at all. It has to be borne in mind, of course, that my uncle and the many others who doubted on this matter could not afford to openly challenge me.

Needless to say, I would never have reported anyone, but we were all aware that the Nazi Party had ears and eyes everywhere and that many strange things were happening in Germany.

Henry Metelmann was to radically revise his views after settling in Britain after the war. See Henry Metelmann: Through Hell for Hitler

Women workers on a Panzer production line in 1942.

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