1942

Dec

18

December 1942

Paulus refuses to make a breakout from Stalingrad

While the army commander was probably a better-trained tactician and a clearer thinker, it looked as if his Chief-of-Staff was the stronger personality of the two! And so the upshot of the talks was that General Paulus himself ended by pronouncing the break-out a sheer impossibility and pointing out that the surrender of Stalingrad was forbidden ‘by order of the Fuhrer’!

Dec

17

December 1942

United Nations Declaration on ‘German Barbarities’

From all the occupied countries Jews are being transported, in conditions of appalling horror and brutality, to Eastern Europe. In Poland, which has been made the principal Nazi slaughterhouse, the ghettoes established by the German invaders are being systematically emptied of all Jews except a few highly skilled workers required for war industries. None of those taken away are ever heard of again. The able-bodied are slowly worked to death in labour camps.

Dec

16

December 1942

New Russian tactics delay ‘Winter Storm’

Over and over again it became necessary for the tanks to wait or even turn back and assist, as the panzergrenadiers had to deploy to locate and identify an invisible enemy in combat on foot. The various enemy nests proved so well hidden in the steppe grass (which was brown like Red Army uniforms) that the only way to find them was actually to stumble across them. Usually some unlucky German soldier had been killed by a bullet before a nest was identified.

Dec

15

December 1942

Freezing on the Russian steppe hoping for a ‘Heimatschuss’

I know what he means. He is trying to tell me that unfortunately it does not qualify me for a Heimatschuss [literally a ‘Home Shot’ – a wound bad enough to get you sent home] I feel the disappointment – a hope has been dashed. And then I think how quickly human feelings and attitudes can change. It is only a matter of weeks since I was dreaming of glory and heroism and was so full of élan that I was almost bursting.

Dec

14

December 1942

Operation Winter Storm pushes on towards Stalingrad

Suddenly, there is movement there! Three – no, four,five, six Russian tanks, probably T-34s, slowly advance on our position echeloned to the rear. I sound the alarm for the two self-propelled guns. The crews huddle behind the thinly armored gunshield, the barrels turn toward the enemy. Apart from this, there is no movement on our side. Over there the slowly advancing tanks are followed by several waves of Russian infantry that can be clearly made out against the snow cover with their thick brown greatcoats and well-known hats.

Dec

13

December 1942

Conditions deteriorate inside the Stalingrad cauldron

he shelling gradually flattened our positions, which had to be improved. Where could we get building timber? For us and many others, the wooden houses in the suburbs were the only supply of wood, and only daily hunts, which also brought in many other useful things, gave relief; a packet of long nails, wire, and white flare rounds, which I traded for my cigarettes, ensured friendly faces in the position at evening.

Dec

12

December 1942

Operation Frankton survivors reach their target

We were lucky. We could have arrived to discover that the harbour was empty; there had been no way to knowing how many ships we would find until this moment, and we were satisfied. We chose four targets. We turned back towards the cargo ship and pulled up alongside. Her hull shrouded us in darkness. We could hear the crew singing. I wondered what they’d be singing in a few hours’ time. It proved an easy target. I attached my magnet-holder to the hull to prevent the tide from carrying us away.

Dec

11

December 1942

The Eighth Army advance reaches Agheila

They fought very bravely, and the crew of one gun allowed Tom’s tank to get within fifty yards of them before firing. Unfortunately for them, they missed him, only carrying away the ration boxes on one side of the tank, and he overran the gun, actually crushing one of the crew under the tank. In this action, the M.O. was badly wounded, and for a long time was in danger of losing an arm and a leg. But later we heard that he had managed to keep both, although they would never be 100 per cent useful again. His driver was killed outright.

Dec

10

December 1942

New work – in the Auschwitz gas chambers

We were lined up in front of the house. Moll arrived and told us we would work here at burning old and lousy people, that we would be given something something to eat and in the evening we would be taken back to the camp. He added that those who did not accept the work would be beaten and have the dogs set on them. The SS who escorted us were accompanied by dogs. Then he split us into a number of groups. I myself and eleven others were detailed, as we learnt later, to remove the bodies from this cottage.

Dec

9

December 1942

Embarking on a troopship – destination unknown

Each messdeck held about 100 men, and each man had a space at a long table each table having about 12 men grouped round it. There was some space around the tables and here all our equipment, blankets and bedding were stored. Hammocks were the order of the day, and they were slung on brackets over the tables and around the walls (or should that be bulkheads).