James Lucas - Experiences of War - The third Reich
On Friday, 1 September 1939 the Germans invaded Poland and the fighting spread to become, first a European conflict and eventually a world-wide struggle. In Europe the Second World War came to an end on 9 May 1945. It was a conflict which opened with armies using weapons of types that would have been familiar to soldiers of the Great War. It ended, in Europe, having seen the employment of giant, long-range rockets and of fleets of bomber aircraft whose raids killed thousands upon thousands of civilians.
This war touched every German family in some way. The men, seventeen million in all, served in the armed forces. At the war's end the civilians in Germany's eastern and southern provinces, who had been spared much of the terror of aerial bombing, suffered rape, pillage and worse at the hands of the Red Army and of Tito's partisan forces. Every German was affected by the war; millions of them were killed. The purpose of this book was to obtain and record the stories of ordinary Germans who served in the armed forces. The first avenue of approach was, of course, correspondence with friends in Germany and Austria. The second was through the editors of several ex-service journals who published my letters asking for material. Personal interview was a third' source of stories as were the reminiscences of those who attended old comrades' reunions in Germany. In addition to those anecdotes which were written for this book, there were some that had been received too late for publication in books that I had written previously: The Last Days of the Reich, The War Through German Eyes and Kommando.
Then, too, there were certain battles for which no direct personal contributions came in and to cover those another source was sought. During the War German servicemen were encouraged to write for divisional or corps journals. Some of these stories were then reproduced in books published by the Reichs Propaganda Ministry. Men who claimed to have no story of their own service to report sent me photostats of many such official articles in the hope that these might be interesting enough to be included in these pages.
Finally, there are a few letters or anecdotes which have been taken, with permission, from post-war military histories. Inevitably, despite the several avenues of approach, there were some battles for which no stories or accounts were received. In Germany many felt themselves to be too old to write an accurate account, and death has taken many who might have contributed. Nothing at all came in from the Russianoccupied zone of Germany, but sufficient material has been gathered to produce a view of service in the German forces written by the men who experienced it. In addition to the stories from the armed forces I have included a few civilian accounts which serve either as a supplement to the military events or as a cowfter-point to them. To all those who have contributed to this work I send my most grateful thanks, as well as to the editors of German service and ex-service journals, magazines and publications through whose columns I gained many contacts.
What are written here are stories which could have been duplicated in the armed forces of any great nation that fought in the war, for service is the same in all of them. The difference is that these are German accounts; the stories of our principal opponents. These are anecdotes of victory and of defeat, of bravery, of boredom, of service life in barracks and of battle.
They are the story of Everyman in uniform.