Red Army boys attack on the Eastern Front

A publicity shot of a German soldier in a snow lined trench somewhere on the Eastern Front sometime in early 1942.

On the eastern front in Russia Hans Roth was fighting with the Wehrmacht. They were defending the German lines against repeated Red Army attacks – sometimes three or four a day. There were regular artillery barrages preceding each attack. The temperature was always sub zero – sometimes as low as minus 35 C. This made the preparation of defensive trenches very difficult because of the rock hard ground. A further hazard was that incoming shells would hit the frozen ground – throwing up solid blocks of earth “the size of a table” which would be sent flying in all directions.

For the period beginning the 8th February he made a long entry and records a new tactic used by the Soviet army:

There is not a single day or night without three or four vicious storm attacks from the Reds. Four hours on end, their racing drumfire battles our meager covers. We fear this relentless hammering from the Bolshevik armies; the mass attacks of the Red infantry do not scare us as much. These are mostly poorly and hastily trained men, who walk upright and stoically into our defensive fire.

The extremely heavy tanks that accompany the attack are much more dangerous. Our defense, including artillery as well as tank fire, is virtually powerless against these rolling monsters. Tank shells in addition to special ammunition are deflected without effect from the heavy armor. Without obstruction, the Red fighting vehicles criss-cross over rubble and our positions.

On deck at the very top are eleven to twelve boys, who have in their pockets tins of our “Schoko-Ka-Kola” [chocolate provided to German soldiers – captured by the Russians], and in their fists hand grenades which they are throwing into our defensive lines. At first we did not take them seriously, these hoodlums, but soon we come to know better. Tough and agile like cats, they make us suffer considerable losses.

They have a whole company of these dangerous children, the “Proletariat Young Guard,” over there.

I struggle to describe in detail the horror of the hand-to-hand fighting with these children. Anyone who has not been here will never be able to understand what unfolds here. Grown men, many of whom have sons who are the same age, have had to engage in brutal, bloody fights with the children! I will not be able to forget these horrible scenes for a long time.

The diary describes “eleven to twelve boys”, it is not certain if this was intended to be “eleven to twelve year old boys”, which would fit the context of the description as well.

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

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Eve Glasspole November 27, 2012 at 12:07 pm

Hi I read this with great interest. My two uncles were in the Wehrmacht and lost thought killed during this action. They were young men. I have been trying to find any record of units that they were in. My father married their sister after the war and lived in England. They were called Sandhop and I would love to hear of anyone who could give me any clues as to where they could have perished. I am trying to research my family tree.

Chuck Halverson February 8, 2012 at 8:32 pm

I finally bought the Kindle version of this book and am looking forward to it….

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