Hey Reddit,

We’re sitting here with our Opa for the next two or three hours to hopefully answer some questions from you about his time during and around the second world war.

We asked him to do this AmaA because for us it is very important to archieve the important experiences from that time and to not forget what has happened. He is a very active man, still doing some hunting (in his backyard), shooting game and being active in the garden. After our grandmother died in 2005, he picked up cooking, doing a course for cooking with venison (his venison cevapcici and venison meat cut into strips are super delicious) and started to do some crafting.

Our Opa was born in 1927 in a tiny village in Lower Saxony near the border to North-Rhine-Westphalia. He was a Luftwaffe auxiliary personnel in Osnabrück with 14/15 years for 9 months and helped during the air raids against Osnabrück at that time.

Afterwards he had 3 months of Arbeitsdienst (Labour Service) near the city of Rheine. Following that at the end of December 1944 he was drafted in as a soldier. He applied to be a candidate reserve officer which meant that he was not send to the front line immediately. He came to the Ruhr area for training and was then transferred to Czechoslovakia for further training. His life as a soldier lasted for half a year after which he was caught and send to Romania and then to Rostov-on-Don for four and a half years as a prisoner of war. During that time he worked in a factory and he had to take part in political education in a city called Taganrog where they were educated on the benefits of communism and stalinism. They had to sign a paper that they would support communism when they would go back home.

He came back home in 1949 and went to an agricultural school. During his time on the farm where he was in training, he met our grandmother. They married in 1957 despite her mother not being happy about the marriage. He didn’t have enough farmland, in her opinion. They had six kids, including our mother, and nowadays 13 grandchildren.

Proof: http://imgur.com/gallery/WvuKw And this is him and us today: http://imgur.com/TH7CEIR

Please be respectul!

Edit GMT+1 17:30:

Wow, what a response. Would've never thought this Ama would get this much attention. Unfortunately we have to call it a day for now, thank you all very much for your comments, questions, personal stories and time. We'll be back tomorrow afternoon to answer some more questions.

Have a nice day!

Comments: 3721 • Responses: 18  • Date: 

bawceofsawce2802 karma

Was the news of Hitler's alleged suicide a feeling of relief or despair?

You say that you believed in the war effort, but at the same time you had to see the momentum shifting in the waning months of the war toward the Allied powers. I'm curious if German soldiers were starting to lose their morale and wanted the war to just be over, knowing that Hitler's death or a Wunderwaffe was the only way to achieve this.

german_ww2_veteran3772 karma

About Hitlers suicide he says: "Then we knew that the war was over and that we had lost it. It was more of a feeling relief." He mentions the assassination attempt of Stauffenberg and says: "It was really a shame that it didn't work. If that assassination had worked, then a lot of things would have been better." It was his opinion back then already as well.

Him and the other soldiers believed in the war until the last days. THey believed in the Wunderwaffe, there was not a loss of morale in a way.

I-Eat-Pop-Tart2196 karma

Hi, how was it to be a prisoner during that time? How did you deal with everything mentally when the war was over?

german_ww2_veteran3615 karma

"I went through everything. Hunger, thirst, cold, heat. Th worst thing was home sickness, with 17 1/2. Only after two years were we allowed to write our parents. They didn't know where I was for two years. I had to work for what the Germans did to the Russian people. We worked four years for that without receiving the pay that they told us we'd get after we would be released. The Russians told us at least that it would be kept for what the Germans did to the Russian people."

"I didn't talk about it at all afterwards. Only some rare times." (Nowadays he talks about it some more though).

Zdw231997 karma

What does he believe would have happened if they won?

How does he view his time serving his country now?

german_ww2_veteran3194 karma

"Many more soldiers would have had to stay in combat and in Russia." He doesn't talk about other things that would or could have happened in Germany.

"I wasted five years of my youth there." He is very negative about it now, obviously.

thesseusisback1180 karma


Could he tell us more about the propaganda that went around the time that made him believe it was the right thing to do? Also what gave the soldiers hope towards the end of the war? How was it to come back in Germany? How much did it all change?

german_ww2_veteran1667 karma

About the Propaganda he says: " As a 16 year old, you can believe in a lot. I was in the Hitlerjugend, in the Jungvolk. We did excercises on training grounds. Also when we got a new gymnasium, Göring was there for the inauguration and we all had to attend there. Back then we found it great, it gave us hope.".

About the hope of soldiers at the end of the war, he talked about it in another comment. There was a rumour of a secret weapon that would turn around the odds for the Germans in the war again."

About coming back and the drive back from the prisoners camp in Russia he says: "We were brought to Friedland. There was a camp for us where we got registered. From there we could take the train back home. All of it took a couple of days. I traveled with people from other camps as well. We were all very happy to be on the way back."

dmt477159 karma

What was the education in Jungvolk, HJ, etc...about? Did they ever focus so much on race theory and how Germans were the master-race, as is often said today by historians?

Did they push people to have kids very soon with girls, be promiscuous, with the idea of a Germany with high population? (Considering he had many kids, that may have had a part in it)

german_ww2_veteran338 karma

They did talk about race theory and such things in the Hitlerjugend.

He went to a Wehrertüchtigungslager (paramilitary training camp) with 15. They had to learn how great the war is and had to crawl through a field with gas masks on, while it was raining. When they would come back to the shack which you were living in with 10 people, all their clothes were thrown on the floor from their lockers. Then they had to sort through all their clothes and after half an hour there was roll call and everything had to be clean. The supervisor came in with white gloves with which he checked all the doors and stuff for dust.

When he was a soldier there was this thing called Selbsterziehung (self-discipline). If someone stole, then everyone had to suffer from that. In the night the Holy spirit would come into the shack and the person who stole didn't know about it. He would get a blanket over his head and then his trousers would get dragged down. Then he'd get hit by the leather of a belt and afterwards get black boot polish rubbed on it. In the morning for the Roll call he had to be clean again then. This was called self-discipline.

optkk801 karma

How do you feel when young people say things like "___ is literally Hitler"?

How do you feel about comparisons drawn between modern politics and those of Germany in the 30s and 40s?

You were young when Hitler came to power and still young when the war broke out. How involved we're you in politics? How much did you understand?

Thank you for doing this AmA. I agree with your grandchildren that it is important to preserve the memories of our elders, regardless of whether we agree with what they did, or not.

EDIT: I didn't allow for Germany having different social norms. It makes sense that they don't refer to Hitler in such flippant ways.

german_ww2_veteran1542 karma

  1. "In itself I don't like it if people do this comparison. But with the new american president it is difficult not to draw the parallels" (He had some difficulties really grasping what you meant with this question, I think. I don't think he meets a lot of people who throw these comparisons around so easily (maybe it is more of an internet thing)).

  2. He doesn't see the comparison between modern politics and those of germany in the 30s and 40s. At least not in Germany itself. Other places might be different though.

  3. "We were raised to believe in it. I was in the Hitlerjugend and afterwards we had to join the party. I was 16 when I joined the party. But I was too young for politics. We only believed in what they told us."

Hoyt_Platter762 karma

Good morning! Thanks for taking your time to answer questions. What was your daily routine as a POW? Do you remember ever feeling a sense of "normalcy" during your time as a POW?

german_ww2_veteran1559 karma

"We had to work for 8 hours a day in 3 shifts. We couldn't do much in our free time and were just happy to lay down and rest. From time to time i could help out at the theatre in the camp and moved the backgrounds. There were also some real actors.

Especially Paul Streckfuß (Note: who became an actor in the GDR after the war) was a good friend of mine during that time, but he was more of a regisseur director in the camp and he was a true communist. He also was the negotiator for the german prisoners, despite being a prisoner himself. When the actors practiced or had a show, they would get extra food from the kitchen afterwards, which i got too, as i was helping them.

The food was basically the same every day for months. It was mainly white cabbage soup.

We got loose tobaco once a week which was smoked with the "Pravda", the russian newspaper. I always exchanged it for bread though and i didn't smoke a single cigarette in my life"

german_ww2_veteran1039 karma

"The beds were just made of iron and wood and were infested with bugs. It smelled really bad. Once a month our clothes were taken into a big oven to kill the flees with heat.

I was fortunate enough to get a bed on top since the bugs used to fall down from the spaces between the iron and the wood. "

TheBitterBuffalo45 karma

I congratulate you on not ever smoking especially in a time where it was basically deemed healthy, thats a huge accomplishment and, this might sound offensive, but it is probably the main reason you are still so active today compared to others your age. Not to mention you probably got made fun of for it/peer pressured into it all the time in the military, since thats about all there was to do on your down time. My grandfather died after 10 years mostly stuck in the house on oxygen and my father (60) has COPD, so I've always decided against cigarettes.

german_ww2_veteran125 karma

He thinks the same way "Many of the smokers died because they did trade in their food for tobaco. Thank you for your answer"

SpectivTech757 karma

Hi, what was your opinion of the war during that time? Like who did you think was right or wrong?

german_ww2_veteran1523 karma

"It was wrong but we did believe in it. Back then though, we didn't find it wrong. Back then there was the hope of a Wunderwaffe (wonder weapon) that would still win us the war. That was a rumour going around. My view changed when I was a prisoner of war. Then I realized that it was wrong."

VictorAnichebend450 karma

What was it specifically about being a prisoner of war that made you change your view? Were you just given the bigger picture by the guards etc.?

german_ww2_veteran872 karma

" We got political education during my time as a prisoner of war. But there we were educated on the great things that communism does. I did everything that was asked from me. Hitler and the dictatorship, communism as a prisoner of war and afterwards democracy. Only when I came back from Russia did I see the good of democracy." He's having difficulties being able to describe what made him change his views and understanding the question. But he says: "First of all we lost the war. And then we saw how everything got better here in westgermany." So I guess that gave him a change of heart?

He became a prisoner of war on the day that Germany lost the war, so during his time in Russia he was always aware of that fact.

exoticpickle664 karma

How do you feel about neo-Nazism and what would you like to say to someone who believes in it?
Thank you for answering these questions. Have a nice day!

german_ww2_veteran1204 karma

"They should go to Russia and see what happened there." He does not like people like that at all. Also I have to say that I don't think he met a lot of Neo-Nazis in his time. Our village thankfully doesn't have any, as far as I know.

sevensidedmarble444 karma

I too have a Grandpa that was captured by the Russians at the end of the war. He was an officer and had to wear a regular soldiers uniform to avoid being killed when he was captured. Once he got to the prison camp though, he said he was treated better because he was an officer. He never had anything particularly negative to say about the Russians and said he was treated ok. Does this reflect your experience? Were the Russians cruel to the German POWs in camp? Were captured officers treated any differently (my Grandpa said he was allowed to walk into the nearest town to buy things for the camp)?

german_ww2_veteran559 karma

"We were not really treated badly. Officers had to work as well in our camp. The Hungarian officers, they did not have to work.

There were camps that were not so good, but ours was comparatively okay." (He mentioned somewhere else that he liked the Russians more than the Americans in general).

He goes on to note that the Russians that worked with them often had it worse than the Germans. When they got money from work they'd spend it on vodka. And there is nothing really negative that he can say about them.

robot_worgen417 karma

It's always amazing to me that people find goodness, friendship and bright moments in the middle of terrible events and circumstances. Do you have any good memories from your time as a prisoner of war? What helped you get through that time?

german_ww2_veteran618 karma

"We were allowed to write short cards/messages home, that gave hope. He also says that "the Russians that worked with us Germans in that factory had it worse than us. We were treated less worse than them." I am not sure if that was a bit of hope for him (as macabre as it is), if he sees it positive. He mentioned it though. He also says that helping with the theater in the Camp helped.

anarrogantworm404 karma

Thank you for posting those pictures.

I had a good friend who was a German about your Opa's age during the war and was drafted into the labor army and later the anti-air auxiliary in Eastern Germany operating 20mm cannons. I like to imagine that somewhere in your pictures he might be there. Ever meet a man named Vern Morrow? He would have been about mid/late teens during the war like yourself and with a similar vocation, he was also a troublemaker :P worth a shot!

My actual questions:

  1. My friend told me that their gun crew was mainly captured Russians overseen by a couple young Germans. Was this the case for your crew as well? If so can you tell us a little about them or your gun crew's situation? My friend seemed to have forged quite a bond with his fellow crew members (despite obvious barriers to friendship) and was very sad to tell me that most fled the advancing Red Army as the war went on, fearing reprisals.

  2. What's your funniest personal story from that time? I know this sounds strange, with the war being such a heavy topic, but you were a young man and young men always try to have fun despite the circumstances. Soldiers tend to be a bit of a goofy bunch at times. My friend's memoirs are dotted with funny experiences during the war, mostly having to do with his many run ins with authority.

german_ww2_veteran391 karma

  1. He says that they had captured Russians for their crew. They had to carry the ammunition. In times of of bombardment, they would hide in the bunker and the german officers forced them to go outside again using their guns. They also had Russian gun carriages which had 8,5 caliber. They were extended to fit the German 8,8 caliber and after around 100 shots the pipes got so warm that they couldn't use them anymore.

His crew was mostly people from his class and from his village and from around the other villages.

  1. He can't remember anything in particular unfortunately. That weren't the times for it, he says.

VeryMuchDutch101366 karma

Good afternoon :-). I would like to know if your grandfather knew anything about the extermination camps and what was his response too it?

I know it is a emotionally difficult question. I am a Dutch guy living on the border with Germany and know many German people. The German side is often forgotten.. indoctrination is a thing that many people should read more about. And thank you for this AmA

german_ww2_veteran627 karma

"We didn't know about it before and during the war. Even in Russia we didn't know about concentration camps. Only after the war we got informations about it." He is laughing a bit about the question what his response to it was since it is clear to him how wrong such things are.

Dicios224 karma

During your time with the Soviets what was the hardest misconception they had toward you? I mean was there like a subject you tried to explain to them but they just didn't understand due to their own viewpoint.

german_ww2_veteran10 karma

He says that they were controlled every few weeks. "The Russians feared that we would make weapons out of nothing."

Other than that he remembers something that the RUssians did not like about the Germans during his time in the camp. "We Germans would fullfill like 500 percent of what we had to do in the factory and the Russian workers did not do as much as we did. And they didn't like that because everyone was payed by the norm."

Silverback_6183 karma

What is your opinion on the many European (and American) far-right populist movements that have become so popular in the last year - do you have concerns that what you went through may happen to your children's or grandchildren's generations?

german_ww2_veteran428 karma

He doesn't like these movements at all. There was a recent comment from Höcke, an AfD politician about the Holocaust memorial which my grandfather found awful. He says that Höcke should be send to Russia to a prisoners camp to experience what he experienced and then he wouldn't say these things. He says that these populists have no idea what they are talking about.