12. Mai 1945
Onward march. A truck is provided for marching sick people. Amazing! I climb aboard, even though I'm not footsore at all. There are only eight of us. After an endless wait - the column had long since marched off - we set off with a Russian driver and a sergeant. After a while he suddenly turns off the country road into a dirt track, drives to the edge of a forest and stops. The Russian sergeant lets us get off, lines us up at the edge of the forest and pulls his submachine gun from his shoulder. He waves it around and declares that he will shoot us. I am unmoved and completely calm.
Since the surrender, I was prepared for the worst anyway. How many German soldiers were shot in those turbulent days after the surrender remains an eternal secret. After all, many of them had left the troops. Individuals, small groups or whole companies. Some just wanted to flee, others continued to fight on their own. Their fate will never be clarified. At the time, our lives were not worth a rush. The fact that I remained so unimpressed by everything is perhaps due to my unshakeable trust in the Blessed Mother and my guardian angel. Or simply because of the Christian faith, for which death is only the transition to eternal life. Or because I am "of a slow excitable disposition" at all, as I was once told in my youth. I didn't give it much thought at the time. In any case, I was cool and calm.
Now the Ivan raises his MPi and points the muzzle at us. The soldier next to me clutches his fingers in my sleeve. Another turns and runs into the forest. Several rush after him. I am the only one who remains standing. I probably didn't switch fast enough. Eventually I too run after the others. That's all the Ivan wanted to do. He jumps onto the truck and takes off, along with our few belongings that were lying on the vehicle. He disappeared never to be seen again. Poor Ivan! A few half-empty haversacks and a few cooking utensils already made him happy! The only annoyance was that we now had to follow the column on foot. They had an hour's lead. And it was dangerous that we were now walking without guards and were suspected by the Ivan to be escaped soldiers.
After some time, we joined the large column. It consisted of closed companies, just as they had surrendered in battalions. For days the column marched north, towards Riga. But there was hardly any rations. People lived on the rations that had been issued shortly before the surrender or that they happened to still have. The rations that the field kitchens still had with them were given out in tiny portions. Schnack and I had nothing left. We couldn't take part in the rations issued by the field kitchens because we didn't belong to any of these units. So for days we begged our way through the comrades (of the corps medical company?), sometimes asking one, sometimes the other for a piece of bread. Not all of them gave it gladly, as you could see from their expressions, but no one refused us, even though they themselves had dearly little.
The Russians operate very skilfully. They let the endless columns march through Courland for days with relatively little guarding, let them camp on meadows and open spaces at night without anyone trying to escape. In fact, they spread the rumour that we would march to the ports and be shipped home from there. I never believed it, but (later) we are indeed marching towards Ventspils. And many a man, for all his scepticism, might have hoped in silence that we were heading home. The Russian never took away our hope. "Skoro damoi," soon it will be home, was his constant saying even in the fourth year of captivity. And even then he was successful, because hope is the only thing an unfortunate person can still cling to.
II. Camps in Courland
On 12 May we arrive in Kretinga.
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- This column marched south, towards Kretinga. On 3 June, or a little later, the author, in another column, marched north, certainly the same way, towards Riga, actually to Ventspils.
- Скоро домой