Poldi Meindl. Vancouver, British Columbia, October 18, 2010.Historica Canada
The crew of Luftwaffe Anti-Aircraft Auxiliary Home Flak, Battery No. 217, Luftwaffe Division 13, Air Defence District 17 (Hei-Flak, 217/13/17), Passau, Germany, September 1944. Poldi Meindl is in fourth from the left in the middle row.Poldi Meindl
Polid Meindl of the Luftwaffe Anti-Aircraft Auxiliary manning a 88mm anti-aircraft gun near Passau, Germany, early September 1944.Poldi Meindl
Poldi Meindl of the Luftwaffe Anti-Aircraft Auxiliary poses near an 88 mm anti-aircraft gun near Passau, Germany in early September 1944. Although posing near a gun, Mr. Meindl actually worked on the translator, a machine that translated radar data into gunnery data.Poldi Meindl
Poldi Meindl, aged 16, poses for a portrait in his Luftwaffe Anti-Aircraft Auxiliary uniform shortly after joining the service in Passau, Germany, August 1944. A close examination reveals that Mr. Meindl's coat sleeves were too long for him. Also - contrary to regulations - Mr. Meindl is not wearing his Hitler Youth armband on the left sleeve.Poldi Meindl
"As it turned out, the airplane which I was supposed to fly, test fly, program flying, was the piloted V-1."
I was a Hitler Youth [Hitlerjugend: a paramilitary youth organization of the Nazi Party] and at that time, I was a baker apprentice. There was this story drifting around in the clouds, in the wind, that they were looking for volunteers for the anti-aircraft artillery in the city where I was born [Passau, Germany]. I thought, well, might as well try something. So I raised my hand and in three weeks I received a letter, a postcard, which said to the effect that I have to go to the labour office, room so and so, to begin my activity as an anti-aircraft auxiliary [in the Luftwaffe (German Air Force)].
I started out in August of 1944 and by late October, our battery was dissolved because we had reason to believe that we had been photographed by a [Allied] reconnaissance pilot who got away; and our battery was more or less like a sitting duck. The authorities didn’t wait to get bombed. So the battery was dissolved and the helpers, the auxiliary, we were sent home on furlough until recall. But recall never came because the Americans came instead.
Of course, I was supposed to get called up, but somehow, we didn’t. But there were other interesting events going on. In early March 1945, when Germany was at least one-third covered with enemy troops, you know, Allied troops, we didn’t get to know that because the news didn’t tell us. In southern Germany, things were more or less normal. I was given an opportunity to take some more glider [DFS Einheitsschulflugzeug: basic flight trainer] flying training because I had to have previously taken glider test A, so I was given opportunity to fly [glider test] B and it went well. I did very good at that. The instructor said, look it, you’re very good at target landings. Why don’t you take on a career?
As it turned out, the airplane which I was supposed to fly, test fly, program flying, was the piloted V-1 [Fieseler Fi 103 (Reichenberg)]. The piloted V-1 was a suicide mission. I found out as I left the air force base because the air flight instructor, whom I was introduced first, he was a friend of my family. We knew each other, like nephew and uncle. And on the way back to the guard gate, he came with me to the gate and I asked him, "what kind of an airplane is this Fieseler 103?" because I was told no more than that. I thought it was some kind of a glider. He stopped in his tracks and he shook his head in unbelief and looked at me. He said, "didn’t they tell you? The Fieseler 103 are, to be precise, the piloted V-1." But he had been signed into secrecy. I said, "yes, okay; he didn’t ask me, I didn’t tell you, okay." I thought, if this things crashes, by the time my parachute opens, I’m below 400 metres, the shockwave is going to bust the parachute. So I figured, if I ever get to fly one of these, I will not activate the fuse and if possible, I will bail out prematurely, hopefully, I won’t get shot down.
The recall for the anti-aircraft artillery didn’t come anymore, the recall for flying the Fieseler 103, all didn’t come. Instead, during the last two weeks, I was encouraged to take Werwolf training [aka Operation Werwolf: German military commando units trained to infiltrate enemy lines]. Werwolf does not shoot people. The Werwolf sabotages the equipment and scares the wits out of the troops, to slow the war effort. [laughs] When the Americans are already coming in, they’re [the Germans are] slowing the war effort. [laughs] You know, we didn’t know all the progress, so we were still keyed up to be some, with something good, to have some effect.
Again, no actions with Werwolf, the Americans came instead. So in hindsight, at first, I felt sort of intimidated and ashamed because we lost the war, was conquered. But then I came to realize that I was actually liberated from National Socialism, and it took a while for this to sink in. So today, being in Canada, having sworn allegiance to the Queen, I live up to it and when I go among military people, I show my respect.
Interview date: 18 October 2010