Veteran Stories:
Helmut Lemke

Army

  • Mr. Helmut Lemke in 1944.

  • Mr. Helmut Lemke in 2010.

  • A young Helmut Lemke as a member of the Hitler Youth in the 1930's.

  • Mr. Helmut Lemke with his sister in 1944.

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"But it was, I felt very sorry for them. It was something that I won’t forget anymore, their cries for life."

Transcript

We went to the part of Germany where the Russians had entered and we got into a new position there. It was at the end of a forest and it was kind of a little hill. So we had a better view of the situation and I thought, well, if we have to do it, I don’t think we will ever keep the Russians out, but if we have to do it, this is a much better position. And we got a spade and a pickaxe, they must have come from an old museum and it didn’t work too well but we worked all night. The courier that brought the food, he missed us, so we didn’t have anything to eat during that period there. And we just got a, because the ground was frozen completely and we had just got deep enough that we could lie down for cover. We could not stand in it, in the foxhole there. And then we were expecting combat. And when it became a little lighter, I saw in the background, I saw, there were sixteen dark points moving; they came closer and I noticed they were Russian tanks. And I also noticed in a bush below there, there was something moving there and I wasn’t quite sure what. My comrade who was with me, he went back and there was a cow - we heard a cow there - we had nothing to eat so he was going to milk the cow and bring some milk and put it in my container there. And he said, well, I’ll see if I can get some more food for us. And I wasn’t quite sure if that was the reason or if he wanted to be out of the problems there. And I noticed right beside us, another unit was supposed to dig in but they had left. So my foxhole was the last one and there was nothing else beside that. When it was getting a little lighter, I wanted to finish my milk from my metal container there and all of a sudden, I heard a click and I noticed there were two Russian soldiers that had moved in behind the bush there and they were shooting at me. And so I looked at the situation and I say, well, you wouldn’t keep anybody out here, now is it right for a German soldier to leave, retreat there without fighting and my reason said there’s no fighting here, you can’t do anything, you. So I jumped out of my foxhole and immediately I noticed they were, the two Russian soldiers had seen me and they shot at me and the bullets were hitting the ground beside me. Now, I was trained with that experienced soldier, how to behave in that situation. So I got out of it, out of their reach there and went into the woods there and reported to the command. Then I saw a Panzerfaust [German anti-tank weapon] and a tank missile. I think the Germans invented those at that time. And I had never used one, so I took them and I said, well, I’ll see if, where the tanks are. So I went through the woods, my gun was in my way there so I hung it on the tree and just went with my missile towards the end of the woods there. And all of a sudden, I hear some talking there and I notice three Russian soldiers come towards me. I think they had left the tank and were trying to find where the Germans were. And there was nothing to hide actually from them, I don’t know how that happened but I stood very still, I didn’t move at all, only my eyes I moved and I saw the Russians maybe 30 metres away from me, moving towards the woods there. And when they were gone, I went on to the end of the woods there and I saw there was their tank there. And I used my missile and blew up the tank and went back again. And some of the other ones were going again to find where the Russians are and I said, okay, fine, I come with you. And we went out again, we saw another tank there and the Russians had noticed that the tank missile was deadly. So when they saw us coming, they opened their lid and jumped out and ran. And I used my hand grenades, throw it into the tank there and I don’t know what happened there. I noticed all of a sudden, I was hit by a tank shrapnels, ammunition there, and I blacked out and fell down in the snow. One of those shrapnels hit my head and one in my shoulder. When I gained conscious again, he bandaged me and I went back into the village there and into the field hospital, not a hospital but, the first treatment there, first aid. And I was so weakened, I slept on a pile of potatoes there and all of a sudden, the medic woke me up and said, okay everybody who can walk, get out here, out of the basement, the Russians are close by. Yeah, when I left and I was glad that I could walk, I heard the other ones, the crew were badly wounded, I heard them tell the medic, “Medic, take me along, medic, take me along” and he said, I have no way of taking you along and I’m sure that when the Russians came in, they would have shot them. There was no way of dealing with them. Or maybe they shot themselves, I don’t know. ♠
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