Elbenau in the Second World War

A Synopsis of Narratives from Residents of Elbenau

When the German Army took just a few days to conquer Poland in 1939, everyone believed and hoped that it would be a short war that would be over in the shortest time. However, it lasted 4 and a half years and exacted many sacrifices. The town of Elbenau and its residents had to endure severe reverses during and immediately after the end of the war.

In order to protect some inhabitants of the Saar area from hostilities they were evacuated. Individuals and families from there found the most willing reception and support. Married couples with children found accommodations in the Children's Recreation Center, others were taken in by local families. In the course of the summer of 1940 the Saarlanders were able to return to their homes. But since the Rheinland was also in danger because of the war, people living there were forced to abandon their homes and find refuge in central Germany. As it happened, some Rheinlanders moved to Elbenau where they remained until the end of the war.

Elbenau suffered considerable war damage. On January 21, 1944, an air raid that missed the target was catastrophic. American pathfinder units had dropped their so-called "Christmas trees," which identified the target area, over Magdeburg. These were driven off track by the wind and ended up over the Elbenau area insted.* Even though there were no direct hits on Elbenau itself, the bomb bursts were of such magnitude that the concussion blew the roofs off of houses, barns and stables. Incediary bombs set some buildings on fire, causing them to burn down, as well as barns on the Stiehle, Drager and Krause farms. These buildings were replaced by the state. Workers from the "Todt Organization" put up makeshift roofs in just a few weeks. However, some burnedout buildings remained, including, unfortunately, the thatchroofed dwellings and stables in Egerland.
The end of the war brought more hardships and harassment to the people of Elbenau. In order to halt the advance of American troops, German units blew up the Schonebeck bridge over the Elbe. As a result, it was necessary for a tank with a fording kit to carry the troops over the river from Schonebeck to Grunewald. When the forward units reached the east bank, German soldiers attacked them with antitank grenades. Thereupon American tanks emplaced on the riverbank in Schonebeck opened fire. On the 13th and 14th artillery batteries in the vicinity of Friedrich Street and Salzelmen took Grunewald under fire. The residents of Grunewald fled to Elbenau, They sought shelter in the basement of the Children's Recreation Center and with local families. When the artillery barrage was lifted, some people tried to go back to their homes in Grunewald, but then the barrage began again, causing injuries (young Horst Vogel lost a leg) and deaths. Some shells landed in Elbenau and hit several buildings, with the result that horses and other animals were injured, some fatally. Several sheep were burned to death in a stall that caught fire.

In order to break German resistance, American units established a line of attack west of the Elbe near the Frohs Mountains. From there the artillery barrage was renewed on Elbenau. As a result, the following people were killed:

From Elbenau: Emma Musche, Karl Dockhorn, Ernst Butz, Wolfgang Kramm, Christa Bergmann and Frau Hermine Kunze.

From Griinewald: Frau Spoerke and Herr Taeger.

An American tank had taken a position behind the Lehmann Lacquer and Paint Factory. It was not known whether this unit was actively engaged in operations. After German defensive forces had killed the tank commander, the tank abandoned the position. Hardly had the latter withdrawn than a German tank took a position behind the factory. How lucky for Elbenau that it did not shoot at anything. When it finally decided to move, a German soldier had to crawl down the 'New Street" to check and see that the area was free of American soldiers. Near the Wolter estate the enemy saw him and killed him. Nevertheless, the German tank ventured to pass through the town a short time later. In order to prevent being ambushed, it fired several salvos with its main armament. For further defense of the town Captain Reichelt of the Home Guard had gotten together a few ablebodied men along with a truckload of boy-soldiers. They captured a few Americans. Then the Americans attacked and 16 Germans were killed. Their funerals were held on the spot in the Elbenau cemetery.

The Home Guard erected a tank barrier on the street opposite the church. However, when it became apparent that they would have to contend with the approaching Soviet combat units, Captain Reichelt and his men ran away. A Red Army tank that arrived soon after ran effortlessly over the tank barrier on its way to Gninewald. A carriage followed with Russian officers who chose to quarter themselves in the home of Puder the blacksmith. Russian soldiers in their "russky" wagons appeared at 7:00 a.m. on 5 May and took up residence in various homes. As can be gathered fiom an Elbenauer woman's diary, Elbenau residents were in for some hard times. Girls and young women tried to find hiding places. Homes were ransacked and a lot of things were stolen. It is easy to understand that everyone breathed a sigh of relief when it was learned that the Russians would be leaving. You can read in a diary that came to light: "A hog was slaughtered for the commandant. At the smith's and at the cartwright's they had to work as fast as possible. Everything had to be done in a hurry. So, horses were reshod and those old "russky" wagons were repaired." New wagons loaded with large crates rolled down the streets. The Thum family had to give up their carriage and horses from Korner's stables were hitched to it. This gang left our town on the 6th of June.

Elbenau had become a war zone. Cellars were often the only safe places for adults, children and the elderly. A German officer named Salvitter offered the town of Rosenkrug near Altengrabow as a place of refuge, since it had not up to then been subject to attack. Some families in Elbenau took the opportunity to load up the most necessary items for a short stay in horse-drawn wagons and went there. After a few weeks they returned home again on their own. A so-called Technical Emergency Unit that had arrived from Peine was disbanded on a forest path between Elbenau and Griinewald. Some Elbenauers removed abandoned equipment and tools from the site.

At the Potsdam Conference in 1945 the Allies established the Elbe as the boundary between the eastern and western forces. The Americans withdrew from the Elbenau area, which became, for the time being, a no-man's-land.

Elbenau soldiers who fell in this fascist was are listed in the appendix.

Able-bodied men from Elbenau were taken on a forced march to Furstenwald. The following died as a result of their suffering: Friedrich Paul, Walter Dockhorn and Friedrich Ohle.

Another group of Elbenau men were taken to the fascist concentration camp at Muelberg. The following died there: Otto Meyer, Adolf Pickier, Edmund Tuch, Gustav Krause, Emil Hasse and Herman Tuch.

So, Elbenauers had to suffer in this 2nd World War, and still have the scars to show for it.

Therefore we mobilize all peace loving powers so that the sword of way will never again threaten our beloved land.

Translated by William F. Hardin