Red Army assault on the German lines

A German soldier keeps watch from his trench with a Panzerbüchse - an anti tank rifle - at the ready.

The fighting on the Eastern front continued. It was gradually becoming apparent that the German expectation that they could just ‘kick in the door’ and the Soviet army would collapse was an illusion. However crude their tactics, however wasteful of men, the Soviet army continued to mount a fierce resistance in many areas.

One German was keeping a diary of his experiences with the anti tank battalion – the Panzerjagers – of the 299th Infantry Division during Barbarossa. Once again Hans Roth found himself in the very front line under artillery fire.

6 September

Changing guard at B-position at 0300 hours. Six men move into the lonely position. It is quiet despite our expectations. Well, at least what we call quiet: sporadic shell fire and the rattling of a single machine gun.

Wet fog hangs over our positions, it is abysmally cold. At least it provides good cover; the enemy is unable to see us walking through the barbed wire barriers as we carefully and slowly crawl through the minefield. Thirty minutes later we reach the forward trenches of B-position.

The fog lies in thick banks in the valley. The enemy might attempt to breach our position’s front line under the cover of this fog. We are the eyes of our division and as such, we see the first waves of enemy fighters approach within half an hour.

Our protective artillery fire lands well and eliminates the first two waves, but more masses are clashing against our section of the front. If it continues like this, we may have to retreat to the primary position. No one says this aloud, however; German soldiers do not retreat that quickly.

Our observation post is quickly altered into a defensive posi- tion. The camouflage tarp is removed and a step is dug into the wall in order to bring the machine gun into place. Hand grenades are lined up, ready to be used. The bayonet is attached to the rifle to prepare for one- on-one battle.

The Reds have managed to break through to the right of our position. Quite a few are torn apart by the mines, but the Red devils don’t mind a few hundred casualties. The Bolsheviks have understood the importance of our defensive position and bring more and more reinforcement troops.

Their masses attack non-stop. Their artillery fires without a break, and from a great distance, directly into our trenches. The fog is long gone. The sun is beating down on us and driving us crazy.

Terrible one-on-one fights have erupted in several sections around us. It means nothing to ask for heroic individual actions. Everyone is a hero here; everyone simply fulfills his duty to the best of his ability. The Bolsheviks are finally pushed back and retreat around noon.

See Eastern Inferno: The Journals of a German Panzerjager on the Eastern Front, 1941-43

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