This post is part of an after-action report of Unconditional Surrender! (Salvatore Vasta, GMT Games) and therefore entirely fictitious.
Diary entry of Victor Klemperer
Dresden, September 25, 1942
Shells do not discriminate. They fall on Christian and Jewish heads alike, they tear Aryan and non-Aryan limbs off just the same. Fortunately, I have not heard one for two days now. The battle of Dresden – if one can call it such, given how quickly the few Wehrmacht men with assistance of the local SS and Hitler Youth were overwhelmed by our Soviet liberators – is over. To Eva and me, it was deliverance.
I should walk the streets feeling free now, but even though we ripped off the yellow stars in the confusion and have left the Jew house for good, there are still people who know me from before the Red Army came. (When was that? – Three days ago. An eternity ago. Both statements are true.) For now, even the stoutest Old Fighters of the Nazis are cowered. But I hear murmuring in the streets that of course the Wehrmacht will be back, the retreat was just to lure the Soviets in deeper and defeat them sounder, the Führer will produce a miracle. They have not been fully exorcised of that evil spirit.
And who can say if they are not right? Munich has been taken twice in the course of the war, and yet the Wehrmacht has defeated the Italians and then the British and taken the city back. But for us that does not matter. Eva and I have offered our assistance in conversing with and educating the German people to the commander of the 1st Guards Army. If they hold Dresden, we will stay with them. If they leave, so will we.
Diary entry of Edelgard Traun
Dresden, September 26, 1942
Of course I have always known that Dresden might fall. When the Italians were in Prague, some of my more skittish friends – Helga, most of all – could not stop chattering about how we would be next. But in the end, nothing prepares you for it.
It happened very fast in the end anyway. In mid-August, the newsreels were still full of our men fighting in Bessarabia against Bolshevism. But maybe they weren’t – after all, Bessarabia is over a thousand kilometers away (I measured it in the atlas), and how would our army have retreated a thousand kilometers within only six weeks? But suddenly Mayor Nieland declared that our city was on the front against Bolshevism now, that all men were liable to serve in the defense effort and all boys over 14 as well in their Hitler Youth units, that all defending forces were under the overall command of Major-General Wosch of 14th Infantry Division. Since then, Nieland has not been seen in the city anymore, and word on the street has it that he made off to Berlin to „report“ – and save his skin in the process.
And now the Bolshevists are here. Some of the rabble are feeling emboldened now – one can barely imagine how many Communists and their fellow travellers of one or the other kind have come out from their holes. But most people keep their heads down. Fortunes in war change quickly. We of all people should know.
Report to 23rd Rifle Division
Written by Lt. Col. Georgiy Elisavetskiy, commander of 364th Rifle Regiment
Oświęcim, September 27, 1942
our regiment has taken the town of Oświęcim, or, as the Germans called it, Auschwitz. Close to it we have come across a camp that seems to have been reserved for prisoners deemed enemies of the fascist regime. The camp was run by SS units and deserted shortly before our arrival. When we entered, several thousand prisoners were still at the camp – most of them Jewish, Communists, or members of the Polish intelligentsia (three groups which, in the eyes of the fascists, are interchangeable anyway).
The liberated men, women, and children are shaken in body and mind. When we arrived, our men told them, „You are free, comrades!“ They did not react, no matter which language we used – Russian, Polish, German, Ukrainian. They kept their glances down, shifting uneasily as if they feared a trap. Only when I stepped forward and told them in Yiddish that I was a colonel of the Red Army, and a Jew, and we had come to liberate them, they seemed to comprehend how their fortunes had changed. As if a barrier between us had collapsed they rushed toward us shouting, fell on their knees, kissed the flaps of our overcoats, and threw their arms around our legs.
We have conducted some interviews with the liberated. According to their testimony, hundreds of prisoners have perished in the camps every day – from starvation and hard labor, but many also deliberately killed in a complex purposefully built for mass executions with gas. Our inspection of the camp has also revealed a crematorium complex to dispose of the bodies. The horrors are unimaginable. It can barely be fathomed how many lives have been saved by our speedy liberation of Poland from the fascists.
The regiment is ready to be on the move again by October. Until then, I ask for your assistance in supplying the liberated with the basic necessities of food, clothing, and shelter.
Lt. Col. Georgiy Elisavetskiy,
364th Rifle Regiment
Petition for assistance by Chana Rosen
Oświęcim, September 28, 1942
To the Commander of 23rd Rifle Division
I have been kept in the Auschwitz concentration camp as a prisoner for the last eight months. So have been my husband, Meir Rosen, born in 1908, as well as my children, Miriam Rosen, born in 1935, and Lejb Rosen, born in 1938, and my sister Rebeka Kwitecka, born in 1917. As we have been separated in the camp, I humbly ask you to go through your records of liberated inmates and bring me in touch with them, if they are with you, or let me know their whereabouts, if noted in the documents. Please help me find my family.
Your most obedient servant
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