Extract From “Vergiss die Zeit der Dornen nicht”, by Günter K. Koschorrek; v. Hase & Koehler Verlag, 1998.


The combat re-supply in the combat area of Stalingrad.
 (by Günter K. Koschorrek / 21st Panzer Grenadier Regiment / 24th Panzer Division).

"During a pause in the fire we’re off. Together with Küpper we’re carrying three oval food containers, whose tops have been screwed shut. Everybody carries a smaller one in a hand, and the heavy container we carry together by the handholds. We follow Einter, the medic and a driver, who also have been loaded with ammunition boxes and cold food. The other driver is guarding the vehicles. In front of us there are shell holes, slabs of stone, mounds of rubble, surmounted by the screaming of shells and the roar of impacts. At every impact the skin on my back and in my neck crawls. We move in a zigzag pattern, crawl across stones and beams, stumble, lie on the ground stand up and hurry onwards. “Stick close together” Winter groans. He is sitting on a steel mast that has fallen and is breathing heavily. All of us are suppressing our coughs. The wind is pushing concrete dust from an impact in our face. Thick smoke from a half doused fire makes our eyes water.

In the flickering light of fires I see some shapes run - some hand grenades are exploding. We press ourselves close to the ground and wait. My nerves are shaking - the fear rises to my throat and throttles me. Küpper is lying beside me and is breathing heavily. In the flickering fires his face is looking like a jerking grimace. From the left a slight rattle of metal is approaching. Some bent-over shapes pass us by. Winter stands up and addresses them. I recognize an officers uniform “We’ll have to go further right” he says afterwards. “A few hours ago they threw Ivan out of here. Now the situation is tense, as he wants to take it back”. Carefully we sneak for­ward, and then we come to a piece of open ground. Ploughed up earth and concrete blocks, in which iron beams hare stuck. Possibly a former bunker that was destroyed by our bombs. A long wall stretches away on the other side of the field of ruins. Three pillars still stand upright. “They should be somewhere over there”, Winter says, pointing at the wall. We can’t get ahead. Ivan is firing like mad at the ploughed terrain, which we have to cross. Whether he has noticed us? We lie behind pieces of stone, but the impacts get so close, that I feel the hot fire in my face and the muscles on my back contract again spasmodically. In front of us flares rise up, rifle salvoes and machine-gun fire. Is Ivan attacking? The shooting slowly dies down. “Forward, now on to the wall!”, Winter is shouting mutedly. We run through the maze of stones, wire and iron parts. None can be seen. We sneak along the wall - come to the entrance to a cellar. “Who’re you?”  a voice asks from the dark. “Food and ammunition” says Winter, who is kneeling in front of us. “Fine, mate, we’re getting hungry, come on in.” Winter disappears below, but comes up straig­htway. “They’re not our own. We have to get back and to the other end of the wall”, he says irritated. “Shit”, Küpper says, and I agree. At the end of the wall we find some infan­trymen. Again, not our own people. We crawl onwards. From a hole a bearded head with a pulled down cap rises. “Who’re you looking for? - Regiment 21", the medic this time says. “Since this morning they are far more ahead in the ruins”, the bear­ded one says and with the hand indicates a point. “How far still?” - “About 200 meters”, he says.

We go in this direction again across rubble and burned planks, get caught in the brightness if flames and from somewhere are fired at with machineguns. Küpper nearly wrenches my arm out of its socket when he’s running behind a block of rubble. I hang on to the container and run behind him. The heavy burden slowly is becoming a torture, sweat is running down my eyes and my shirt is sticking to my skin. Although it is beastly cold. As soon as we have to lie down somewhere I begin to freeze. Where is the front over here, the so-called MLR, main line of resistan­ce? Shouting comes from everywhere, or are they just ricochets, which are humming round the ears like bees and bounce back from the stones? In the mean time flares are hissing up and illuminate everything with cold light. “How far we still have to go?” I ask the driver, in order to make conversation. “Have gone along today for the first time” he says, and I can hear that his voice is trembling. Then all of a sudden a shout from somewhere, like from a grave. “Oi you, get away from here! You want to call Ivan down on us?” I see a steel helmet rise up from the ruins. “We’re looking for our unit”, I hear Winter say. “Which one?” - Winter tells him. “No idea, we do not belong to that lot. But when they’re those who beat out Ivan this morning, they’re laying less than fifty meters on to the right in the large factory building. But get lost, we’re glad that it still is quiet here”. The head with the steel helmet disappears again. He actually calls this quiet, I think, whilst we barely dare to lift our faces out of the muck. During a short pause in the fire we stumble on, beneath out feet broken glass is crackling. Shadows jump up. Immediately flares hiss up, together with them machinegun salvoes rattle into thee ruin of the wall. We hurry on, food containers drag against slabs of stone. Next to us a shadow rises up. “Are you the food carriers from the 1st Squadron?” the question comes from the dark. “Is it you, Domscheid?” Winter asks in reply. “Yes, I’ve been waiting here fore more than two hours for you and I’m to direct you”. A stone falls from our hearts. Dom­scheid is corporal 1st class. He tells us that the carried out a counterattack this morning and now are a ways further for­ward into the factory. “How the devil should we know this place”, Winter curses. “Every time you’re somewhere else. Someday we’ll cheer up Ivan with our food”. - “That’s already happened”, Domscheid replies. “Last night four men of the 79th Infantry Division with food and ammunition ended up straight with Ivan. In our counterattack this morning we only found the empty containers, no trace of the grunts”. We sneak behind Domscheid, in the meantime flares rise up from both sides at intervals. I stumble and hit my container against a metal beam - a loud noise. Immediately a Russian machinegun rattles in the nearest vicinity, some flares light up the night. The Ivan at the closest of ranges! We lie flat; the rounds go over my head and hit the concrete block. The gavel crawls into my collar and mixes with my sweat. I roll forward and pull both containers behind the block. Küpper also has let go of his container and pulls it into cover. He lays a few steps onward by the covering wall. I want to go to him and make a step forward  - but I fall into the void, into a black hole. Hands grab me and get me on my feet again. “Not so fast”, a deep voice says. And then: “Where are you coming from all of a sudden? We were about to fire on you, you’ve been lucky”. Domscheid tells him. “Man, do you have to use this road here? Ivan is breathing down our necks here”. - “Two hours ago I passed this place and Ivan was far more forward”, Domscheid says. “True, but since one hour not any longer. Max, do you have your gun ready?” the deep voice asks. “Yes, as always,” is the answer. “Good, then we’ll give you covering fire. Behind us across the road you can make good progress. - Off you go then!”

With the first bursts of fire we start running. Küpper is quicker and drags me along with the arm, with which I hold the food container by its other grip. Ivan is firing back like wild. Then the artillery opens up with its heavy packages. In-between I hear the “pop” of mortars being fired. The shells come howling in and explode all around us. The bombardment falls on us like a tearing animal, and we crawl and hide in a cellar that half has been bombed away. At every impact I duck and think that the cellar is collapsing and buries us. The earth over us is vibrating. An earthquake should be like this, I think. My nerves are fluttering. I never had imagined that I could have feared so much for my life. But it is for the best, because one is sitting here in the building like a hunted rabbit and waiting. One can do nothing, nothing at all. The only possibility is to go out and walk. But where? At most death comes a little quicker. Dammed, in the Wehrmacht communiqués they always spoke about proud, successful advances. But here in Stalingrad I have seen nothing of it. I only see that everybody has crawled into the ruins like rats and fight for their lives. But what else can they do with this insane supe­riority of the enemy? Next to me sit the driver and the medic, on the other side sergeant Winter and Küpper. Küpper is white as a sheet. And all of us are staring up to the ceiling, which already had a lot of rips. Domscheid has the best nerves; he is standing near the entrance and now and then looks out. For Küpper and me these few hours in Stalingrad clearly dampen our imaginations of the war, and we even haven’t many our own contact with the enemy, as it is said. My thoughts only are focused on how and when we can get out of this in one piece. In this doomed city of ruins we have been under way for hours and we even haven’t reached our own unit yet. I hear Domscheid saying from the entrance that Ivan is firing heavy packages at even the smallest movement. When our machineguns opened up he must have thought of an attack that he wanted to nip in the bud. “If he knew that at this time we would be glad to remain down with our faces until we get reinforced”, Domscheid says and a little later adds: “We were to be relieved by fresh troops soon, our sergeant said”. “Those who believe will become holy”, the medic mutters. Then finally there is a pause in the fire “it seems to me to last an eternity”.

(From “Vergiss die Zeit der Dornen nicht”, by Günter K. Koschorrek;, v. Hase & Koehler Verlag, 1998).



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