“I was the youngest soldier on the entire front in Lithuania”
Alphonse Hueber from Alsace, France, was incorporated by force into the Wehrmacht, but escaped from the German army to the Soviets.
“Our region was literally annexed by Germany. Later in the war, Germany was suffering setbacks, especially in January and February, 1943, in Stalingrad. Of course we rejoiced over that, because that meant that Germany was going to be defeated. But the downside of it was that Germany finally declared forced conscription,” he recalls.
“I was sent to the Eastern Front on August 15, 1944. I was the youngest soldier on the entire front in Lithuania. When, six weeks later, I escaped with a friend of mine to join the Russians, we were very well-received. We told them we were French and gave them information about Germans. I drew some sketches and maps for them – I was a draftsman at the time.
Two weeks later, they took us to the general who was in charge of this entire front, the Russian General Rokossovsky, a very well-known person – later he was promoted to marshal. The first thing he asked was what we really were. I told him we were French – of course, we had to explain why we were wearing German uniforms.
He asked us to show on the map where exactly we came from. I showed him where [I was from], Colmar, and my friend Altkirch. He told us that our region wasn’t liberated yet. We told him it didn’t matter. Our reason had nothing in common with that. I’d like to emphasize – because this is historically accurate and in fact the Russians have confirmed this – thanks to the maps we drew, they were able to prepare the first local offensives. And on October 16, 1944, they first entered the territory of Prussia.”
For Briton Lidia Portsmuth, memories are still fresh about the evacuation of women and children:
“Most of the men got called up for the army and left the women at home with the children. And then we had to be evacuated – all the children – because there was bombing. They evacuated us from our school.
“We went to the school and they put labels with our names. And we got in a coach and went to the railway station. Then we got on the train. We did not know where we were going. I think it was Leeds where we first stopped and they took us to a big hospital. They showed us beds and gave us a drink. The next day when we arrived in the village we went into the school and people who wanted us were picking us out.”