Although the war caused these people a great deal of misfortune and hardship, the latter bore no comparison to the terror-bombing suffered by the civil population in Germany or what happened later on in Germany’s eastem territories. In any case, all the measures taken on the German side were conditioned by military necessity. One or two figures may serve to show what an immense technical achievement this withdrawal operation was. To begin with, there were 100,000 wounded to evacuate. About 2,500 trains were needed to shift German equipment and stores and requisitioned Soviet property. And the Russian civilians who had attached themselves to us alone numbered many hundreds of thousands.
The Russians had broken through all of a sudden.The operations of our division towards the south had to be called off. Panzergrenadier-Regiment 12 had to move as rapidly as possible, swinging out wide to the north, to be committed on the west bank of the Dessna, so as to prevent the Russian forces that had raced forward from taking the Dessna bridge in a coup de main. It was directed that all of the crossing points were to be blown up and the approach routes mined. Minutes before they wanted to set the charges, they saw us racing towards them like crazy men, directly towards the minef1eld.