Another perspective 

After publication of Boy Soldier, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a letter from Hanns Neidhardt, Colonel, Austrian Bundesheer (ret.). He wrote that he well remembered the Jauer boy soldiers because of our voracious appetites. He recorded his memories of the last offensive combat activity in County Jauer in his own book Mit Tanne und Eichenlaub, Kriegskronik der 100. Jäger-Division, vormals 100. Leichte Infantrie Division, Leopold-Stocker Verlag, Graz-Stuttgart, 1981. The 100th Jäger was composed of Austrians, Silesians, and Belgian Walloons in roughly equal portions; the remainder consisted mostly of boy soldiers and a few old men from the local militia (Volkssturm).

In translation, part of his letter reads:

Very honored Mister Thamm, dear combat veteran!

… You were with the 54th Jäger Regiment, and not too far from my last [artillery] observation post. My battery managed to fire sparingly the few rounds in our inventory. I was lucky to have avoided Soviet POW camps. The Soviets caught me and my three companions four times in the first 48 hours [after capitulation], and we escaped each time. After a month of walking through Czechoslovakia, we arrived in Vienna, our hometown.

I obtained a copy of Neidhardt’s book and read with fascination his account of the military actions that surrounded me and the area I was trying to defend as a boy soldier. Here is my translation of his account from his war chronicle of the 100th Jäger Division and the last offensive combat activity in my town:

The first phase of the final assault by Soviet forces during World War Two started on 14/15 January 1945 when the Soviets broke out of the Vistula River bridgeheads and attacked westward. The Soviets reached the Oder River at Steinau-on-Oder on 23 January 1945. Steinau was defended by NCO Academy (Unteroffizierschule) Jauer. A nun fleeing from the cloister Steinau and rescued by the boy soldiers defending Combat Sector Jauer told us, “When the boys from the NCO Academy Jauer died in the ruins of Steinau, there was not one stone left on top the other.” [Thamm note: Steinau was an important Oder River crossing.]

The second phase of the assault started on 8 February 1945 when the Soviets annihilated Bridgehead Steinau and decimated NCO Academy Jauer. The Soviets overran Liegnitz on 9 February, captured Bunzlau on the 11th, Jauer on the 12th, Goldberg on the 13th, Sagan on the 14th, Naumburg on the 15th, and Löwenberg on the 16th of February. Soviet forces had thus captured the entire Lower Silesian lowlands. They then attacked westward toward Saxony. The attack was briefly halted, even repelled, at Lauban on 3 and 4 March by recently deployed German Panzer elements. The Lower Silesian front stabilized and anchored along the line Penzig – Lauban – Löwenberg – Goldberg – Jauer – Striegau – Zobten Mountain – Strehlen [Upper Silesia]. One fourth of Lower Silesia remained in German hands until Germany capitulated. The desperate struggle by diverse German fighting elements enabled most of the refugee treks to escape what British historian Albert Seaton described as, ‘the most fearful barbarity and atrocity,’ and to reach Saxony and the Sudetenland [Czechoslovakia].

Until the 6th of May 1945, the main line of resistance in Combat Sector Jauer extended from Häslich (County Schweidnitz), over Dornberg, Poischwitz, the southern reaches of Jauer, Peterwitz, Herrmannsdorf, Seichau, to Willmansdorf (County Goldberg). The foothills of the Sudeten Mountains remained in German hands until just before Germany capitulated. The brave soldiers of the 100th Jäger Division, 54th and 227th Jäger Regiment, with the 17th Infantry Division on the left flank, and the 208th Infantry Division on the right flank defended this combat sector.

According to then-Lieutenant Hanns Neidhardt, 83rd Artillery Regiment (100th Jäger:

… When the second phase of the Soviet onslaught commenced on 16 April 1945, the division staff was directed to recommend aggressive combat actions. Initially the regiments reported lack of ammunition and men, insufficient artillery support. The regiments even had difficulty launching small-scale assaults because the Soviets had laid large minefields in front of their positions, and had constructed elaborate barbed wire obstacles. After many reconnaissance forays a gap was finally detected just west of the Breiteberg hill between the 54th and the 27th Jäger Regiments. The division CG ordered the 54th Jäger to capture Breiteberg hill and the village of Bremberg. At the 54th regimental command post an assault was planned in a sandbox for Assault “Wütende Neisse.” On the 24th of April elements of the 54th Jäger moved from Combat Sector Poischwitz-Alt Jauer and was replaced by several remnant unit elements.

The following day combat elements of the 54th Jäger infiltrated the wooded area southwest of Herrmannsdorf and reached the assault position southwest of Breiteberg hill after dusk. Shortly before dawn an assault company, supported by flame-thrower troops, attacked and captured the Soviet position in close combat with fixed bayonets. The 2nd Battalion, 54th Jäger, continued the assault, entered Bremberg and cleared the village of Soviets in house-to-house fighting. When the attack commenced, tanks of the 1100th tank-hunter company drove from Poischwitz over Moisdorf, Kolbnitz and Herrmannsdorf to Bremberg through a recently cleared gap in the minefield and participated the capture of Bremberg.

Once behind the Soviet lines, the 1st Battalion, 54th Jäger, made a right turn and attacked southeastward along the Wütende Neisse River until it reached the reservoir wall, then crossed the river and eliminated weak Soviet elements north of Wacheberg hill. By 0600 hours the area between Bremberg and the Brechelshof estate was in German hands. In the village the Jäger troopers made a shocking discovery. They found two farmers nailed to a barn door; they also found several slain, half-naked women in one house, their breasts cut off and their genitals mutilated – they found no survivors. Only the immediate actions of their offices kept the totally disgusted soldiers from executing their Soviet prisoners.

About 0900 hours, as the 2nd Battalion, 54th Jäger crossed the Jauer-Liegnitz railroad tracks, supporting artillery fired smoke, and the 8th Company, 54th Jäger, captured Brechelshof railroad station. The remaining elements of the 54th Jäger continued their attack toward Malitsch. However, the 54th Jäger commander ordered them to discontinue the assault and to prepare defensive positions between the Brechelshof estate and the railroad station to repel the anticipated Soviet counterattack. German losses up until this time were 2 KIA, 21 wounded; Soviet losses were 80 KIA, 200 POW.

Soviet counterattack commenced at 1100 hours with heavy artillery and mortar fire. Forty tanks with mounted infantry attacked from direction of Reppersdorf, Malitsch and Triebelwitz. Although German losses increased, the Brechelshof railroad station and estate continued to remain in German hands. The 8th Company, 54th Jäger, contributed significantly to the defense of this area. Although wounded, Lieutenant Borowsky, CO 8th Company reported “… 8th Company holds railroad station; battle strength 30 men, among those are 14 wounded who choose to remain with the unit.” During the night of the 27th of April, the company withdrew successfully to reinforce the line at the Brechelshof estate. Beginning before noon on the 27th, Soviets attacked the line of the 54th Jäger several times. Initially they were repelled, but overwhelming enemy forces maintained the pressure. Although sharpshooters harassed the enemy, our own losses increased from hour to hour. At dusk the first houses of the Brechelshof estate were lost. The Soviets summarily executed Jägers they had surrounded and captured during that skirmish. After dusk the 54th Jäger pulled back to the southern embankment of the Wütende Neisse River and both battalions returned to their former positions. Our own losses were 80 KIA and MIA, and 320 wounded. The average battle strength of each Jäger company consisted of 15 men.

This was the last offensive action of the 100th Jäger Division during World War 2. The 100th Jäger had demonstrated its fighting spirit that it still was able to defeat the enemy two weeks before the end of the war in Europe.

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