Flakhelfer to Grenadier - Memoir of a Boy Soldier, 1943-1945, Karl Heinz Schlesier

Flakhelfer to Grenadier - Memoir of a Boy Soldier, 1943-1945, Karl Heinz Schlesier

The author of this memoir came of age during the last years of the Second World War. Like so many Germans of his age this meant that he served as a flakhelfer, helping to man anti-aircraft guns, before coming of age just in time to take a brief part in the final defensives battles in Germany.

The author's anti-aircraft service was split into two halves. During the first he operated a medium AA battery close to his home town, and played an active part in the battle against British night raids and American daylight raids, with reasonably frequent trips home where he could see the damage being done. Inevitably he wondered why cities were being bombed frequently, when everything looked to have been destroyed, and worried about his own family and friends, although when he did lose relatives it was at the front. In the second part he manned a light AA gun at the Hüls chemical plant, where he almost never fired his gun in anger. Hüls was the target of two large Allied raids, but these came on 22 June 1943 and 8 March 1945, before and after his time there, and while he was there he wondered why such an obvious military target wasn't attacked.

After this spell he came of age and was summoned into the army. After a short period of training he was sent to the western front, but almost immediately captured, so the training had more impact than the brief front line service.

The final section of the memoir, covering the author's time as a POW makes for uncomfortable reading. Soon after surrendering he was witness to a war crime, when a US sergeant murdered a group of his fellow prisoners. He then entered a series of American run POW camps, where food and shelter was scare, and the prisoners were treated very poorly.

This is a fascinating memoir, providing a view of the decline and fall of Nazi Germany as seen by someone on the inside. 

1 - Going Home
2 - Flakhelfer, Reisholz: June 10 1943-January 18 1944
3 - Flakhelfer, Hüls: January 18-September 22 1944
4 - RAD Man: September 27-December 15 1944
5 - Interlude: December 17 1944-January 5 1945
6 - Grenadier: January 5-March 28 1945
7 - POW: March 28-Septemner 24 1945

Author: Karl Heinz Schlesier
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 184
Publisher: Helion
Year: 2014

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