My Grandfather was an Army Official in Austria. He and other soldiers were tasked the impossible for their mission was to conquer Stalingrad. As we know from history books, this battle was very one-sided and thousands of valiant soldiers were killed. The offensive was launched on the 23rd of August and ended on the 3rd of February in 1943. Both sides lost almost around 900,000 men throughout the 3 month battle. Toward the end of this almost all axis soldiers were either killed or captured by soviet forces. This story was told from his point of view and how he dealt with this challenge.
It was November 12th, 1942. I was marching in the never ending fields of Warsaw’s outer city. My battalion, 500 men strong, took a heavy defeat in the fronts of the main stronghold in Warsaw. We were retreating to Krakow, our nearest station, and our resources were starting to deplete. Men started dying on they way from frostbite and malnutrition. However, my whole battalion needed enough food and medication to make it back to camp without too many casualties. The lack of sleep hit us on day three of trekking through the heavy snowfall. From within our battalion a friendly scout approached me with our customary handshake, raising an outstretched arm, as common in the 3rd Reich:
“Can we take the alternate route so that we can spare the march through the city?”
I gestured to him that his suggestion was taken into consideration. So we made our way to this alternate route and continued our march; as it turned out we got there even earlier. Whilst arriving, my battalion witnessed a speech of a fellow army man directed toward all soldier attendant. His statements were unclear from my standpoint. All I heard was that he said, “Soldiers needed for Stalingrad”. Naturally I wondered what the meaning of this was. The other soldiers told me that they had already signed up to go to Stalingrad. They told me that it would be a great deed to my country volunteering for Stalingrad.
Dawn was upon the camp and I was so physically exhausted, I could barely sign up for Stalingrad. Therefore, I took the evening off with no other shifts to rest upon the upcoming day which ought to be a tough one. That night I had dreamt of horrible things involving a variety of possible upcoming events. In the dream, I was on the battlefield of Stalingrad and my battalion had been struck from behind. I was being advised to fall back, however I proceeded with the order given, to slaughter of thousands of soldiers. Blood was spilt all over this small city until the last man had fallen and around hundreds of soldiers surrounding me. I sprung up. The skies were still dark and everyone, but the night shift, were sleeping. My visions, were they real? I asked myself questioning my consciousness. The thought of such a defeat on an important battlefield caused me to cower for I never had the intentions to lose. To release my negative thoughts, I had decided to take a walk around camp to see how preparations were going. The night guards had already shifted and the sound of snoring echoed throughout the camp. I stood still for a moment thinking upon going on this trip.
My head roared with the excitement of leading this battalion to victory. Sadly, I would have to be second in command only because Commander Stahl had taken the role of leading. I cast the last cigarette butt into the rough dirt and headed off to bed. I lay troubled in bed still thinking about this occurrence of a dream. Wondering if it would happen and that it could be the end of me.
I said, “Scheiß drauf, morgen ist ein neuer Tag.”
The same dream haunted me once more. The same things happened; blood and corpses everywhere you looked. The end of the Reich and unser Führer as we know it.
I suddenly awoke and collapsed onto the floor; sun shining into my eyes. I could not comprehend what was going on. Where was everybody? I asked myself. As I tumbled out of my tent I saw many army buses leave the camp. What had happened in my absence? I wondered. Finally I had realized what was going on, I had been too late and missed my opportunity to go to Stalingrad. Commander Stahl and the battalion were already on the move. I jumped, waving my hands in the air.
“I'm supposed to be on that bus,” I screamed clenching my dusty uniform stating I was an army official, trying to alert the soldiers driving by. I had been too late for the departure of Stalingrad. The worst ‘defeat’ and humiliation of my life. I was heartbroken because all of my men left without even the slightest remark of at least telling me to wake up. Later that same day, I reported into HQ stating my problem. A stern lady had told me that the battalion that left my camp had been vanquished in a matter of minutes at the 6th day of the Stalingrad standoff. All 500 men, even some boys, had been killed before they could even come home to their families. My nightmare of blood and death had become a shocking reality; I had missed the ‘one way ticket to hell’ through the sheer luck of a late awakening, saving my life. The 3rd Reich soon ended after this obvious defeat, thus marking the finally loss of Hitler’s power over Europe.