Every once in a while, when deadlines loom and Lee and I are having a “Hurtgen Forest” Moment (each wishing to kill the other, but each too mentally and physically exhausted to lift a finger), it is inevitable that information comes to light that can only seem tangential to the subject matter at hand, and it gets the boot. This happened when I was grasping for verbiage to fill out the captions on the Jagdpanthers on pages 6 through 8 of PW18. I had overlooked the mention of “Wittingen” on the reverse of one of the photos. Searching the internet turned up one slim lead:
From page 433 of “Tainted Blood? Memoir of a Part-Jewish Girl in the Third Reich 1933-1945,” by Margaret Baache, Ph.D., regarding events she witnessed in Wittingen, circa 13 April 1945, the author records:
“More injured soldiers were admitted to the hospital [a converted school building]. So fighting was going on around Wittingen. Then we heard the sad story of a twelve-year-old [HJ] boy who tried single-handedly to crack an American tank with his bazooka. He failed, and was killed… I also heard about one German SS tank crossing a field. Were the SS men inside the tank lost? Or looking for their unit? Or were they fighting to the last man? Or perhaps trying to hide in a nearby forest? The tank was shot aflame. A farmer brought three badly burned SS men in his horse-drawn farm vehicle to the hospital, their hands and faces burned to a deep black, like unrecognizable masks. One of them died the next day, another soon afterwards. Only one man survived, suffering excruciating pain.”
Could they have been connected to that Jagdpanther? In any event, we should always be cognisant that there were men behind the metal.
Since then I have discovered that the author moved to the U.S. after the war and taught German to university students. Her writing style was such that I ordered a copy of her book. To write well, you must read well.