On 1 April 1945, an SS officer announced the founding of the militia Werwolf to schoolchildren in Altenberg located in the Ore Mountains. The youngsters had earlier been obliged to do military service.
“My schoolmates and I were victims of abuse”, Christoph Adam said about the last days of the war. Werwolf was aimed at spreading terror and this had certain consequences.
In the spring of 1945, Christoph Adam was 15. Together with his parents and three-year-old brother, he had experienced the horrors of the bombing of Dresden by the American and British Air Force.
They fled their hometown and eventually settled in Altenberg. It was there that Adam experienced the last days of World War II and witnessed the final Nazi horrors and the arrival of Soviet troops in May.
Child Soldiers for the Fuhrer
Earlier in March of that year, after fleeing Dresden young Adam started “regularly” attending school in Altenberg. On Sunday, 25 March 1945, a special ceremony took place at school – the admission of teenagers to the ranks of the Wehrmacht.
“From that moment, schoolchildren became soldiers”, 90-year-old Adam told Sputnik. The retired geologist now lives in Dresden, his hometown.
Shooting Lessons and Digging Trenches
According to Adam, 75 years ago, that “initiation” had a major impact on young people:
“For us schoolchildren, this meant three hours of school in the mornings and target practice in the afternoons. At the same time, we trained with live ammunition – there was no blank ammunition. And with each shot we felt a powerful recoil – we, feeble boys”.
In addition, they dug trenches north of the highway, between the station and the Hirschsprung area. Sometimes fighters flew over and fired at them:
“Those must have been English strike fighters. They were flying low above the forest west of the Altenberg station, firing everywhere”. The teenagers were literally in the open field; there were only a few trees and shrubs that protected the kids during raids, which were totally unexpected, since there were no longer anti-raid sirens.
It was Easter and Easter vacation was actually supposed to last until 4 April, but not for the young soldiers. Nevertheless, Adam “went away” for a few days to visit his friends in Glashütte and on Good Friday, 30 March, he even went to a church service with his mother and grandmother at the old church in Pinge, the mining area on the outskirts of town.
According to him, it was his first Holy Supper after confirmation. On Easter Sunday, Adam’s father arrived in Altenberg. He had been clearing the rubble in Dresden.
Werwolf Militia Announcement
According to Christoph Adam, on Easter Sunday, 1 April, the founding of Werwolf was announced in the town. On Monday during Holy Week there had been four pre-alarms, and the next day his father had to sign up for a people’s militia in Dresden.
On 4 April, a “military operation” started for young Adam; in fact, it was service in the Hitler Jugend, but only with target practice. However, when possible, he tried to “escape” from the training because after his father left he became the “breadwinner” and had to take care of his mother and younger brother.
Christoph Adam has never forgotten the day Werwolf was announced because on that day, a senior SS officer, Harry Schmidt, arrived in Altenberg from Berlin.
That officer confirmed that all local high school students were obliged to do military service. He also announced at a closed meeting that, according to special order, the teenagers had been assigned to a motorcycle detachment.
According to Adam, the other class was sent to Bohemia, and he never heard from them again. “Many probably died”, he said.
“We were still kids and didn’t really understand anything”, he recalls. “It was a complete mess, we had to rely on signs and what adults told us. We didn’t have radios, and we didn’t know what was happening at the front line, where Soviet troops were advancing; we didn’t understand what Werwolf was. We were told to believe in the Third Reich until the end and hold on. We were blinded”.
Adam had no idea what Werwolf was. That was a Nazi organisation aimed at engaging in terrorism during and after the war – just like Daesh* today. In other words, Werwolf members were supposed to help the Wehrmacht and engage in underground subversive operations.
“We, young people, were also supposed to take part in this. But many volunteered, because they were blinded and new only what they had told us. Just as now young people join the Islamic State [Daesh] and carry out terrorist attacks, thinking they are doing good. Back then, many young people were blinded and brainwashed. That was the instrumentalisation of children – that was abuse”, Adam believes.
Ignorant of the Looming End of the War
After all, young people didn’t understand the situation: “We didn’t know anything about the causes of the war; they had lied to us from the very beginning. You don’t understand much as a child, and, of course, parents didn’t dare to tell us what was really happening, otherwise, they would have ended up in a concentration camp. There was unimaginable pressure”.
“We believed all the propaganda nonsense, such as a miracle weapon; while General Field Marshal Schörner had already escaped, deserted”. Ferdinand Schörner, the last Wehrmacht commander, was also responsible for the retreat in Eastern Germany.
One of Adam’s friends said that Schörner had ordered a plane to Zinnwald and simply fled from the advancing Red Army, while many soldiers were still deployed in the woods having no idea about the approaching end of the war.
Terror in Altenberg
Werwolf continued operating in May when the war had already ended, Christoph Adam recalls.
On 9 May, the son of the burgermeister, Johann Hielscher, hid three anti-tank missiles. By that time, the Russians had long entered Altenberg, peacefully and without any resistance, although the burgermeister had made an incendiary Goebbels-style speech a few days earlier, announcing that the Führer had died a heroic death, and the Wehrmacht would continue fighting for Berlin, “and whoever dared wave the white flag would be hanged”.
He was still spreading hatred and fear among his fellow citizens. Even in the very last days of the war there were young people who voluntarily joined the Wehrmacht.
As a result, it turned out that after the armistice, the burgermeister’s son shot a Red Army tank by the town of Kahleberg, southwest of Altenberg, after which he was killed with minesweeper’s shovels.
But that was not the end: Altenberg was destined to turn into ashes, Adam recalls. “Red Army soldiers went from house to house, urging people to go into the woods for a day or two”. After that, the city, with its 142 houses, was doused with gasoline, burned, and then fired at from cannons. As a result, nothing but rubble was left of Altenberg.
“If the burgermeister’s son had not committed that attack, Altenberg with its beautiful little houses would still be standing, like before the war”, Adam believes.
Christoph Adam has never again picked up a gun since the end of the war in 1945. Now he is actively involved in educational activities, telling today’s young people about the horrors of war, so that they never happen again.
*Daesh [the Islamic State, ISIS, ISIL] – a terrorist organisation banned in a number of countries, including Russia and Germany