The following was sent to me by a German friend who wished to share a portion of his grandfather’s personal testimony, along with some photos and documentation, regarding his grandfather’s post-war captivity in Austria, outside of Linz:
My Grandfather was Karl Matter. His division fought on the Hungarian border before surrendering to US forces. They fought a narrow line between the Soviets and the US and surrendered to the US side after running out of ammunition on May 9th. His Division, including others of about 20,000 men were held in an open field compound outside of Linz Austria (likely at Gallneukirchen). It was a large muddy compound just like the Rhine Meadow camps. I can assure you there were a lot more than 188 such camps that are acknowledged in the documentary.
What happened in the field is a story that I was told as a young man which I’ll never forget:
They were placed in a muddy field with no tents, no food and no clothing, packed together for a week living in their own feces, surrounded by an enormous circling wall of hundreds US vehicles, and thousands of men. Once in a while for fun, a US guard would target practice on indiscriminate prisoners. That was a common event I later learned, because many US soldiers never had the opportunity to claim “a kill” until after the war.
After a few days they began drinking their our own urine and eating leather. After one week with no food whatsoever, a US transport plane flew over the compound of these emaciated POW’s and dropped large Red Cross packages of butter, but nothing else. Just pure butter. Those that ate it died, because it greased their insides, causing diarrhea, and thereby, to lose whatever remaining fluids were still in their bodies. Grandfather refused to eat it, but they lost a lot of men that way. Then, the following day, a transport flew over again and dropped the Red Cross bread! That meant, that these surrendered soldiers were deliberately refused food, which was available, for one whole week!
I later learned from my own research that local civilians were ordered not to feed them, or they would be executed as non combatant partisans aiding the enemy. The facts of the butter and bread story confirmed to me that it was an intentional, cruel and deadly plan. The provisions were intentionally withheld for reasons of vengeance, or it was someone’s sick idea of a joke, and it was no different than the guards taking pot shots at them ‘just for fun’.
Afterwards, of those who survived the initial ordeal, the entire remaining Division, which had consisted mostly of Germans and some others from Baltic countries, was then handed over to the Russians, who executed all of them, and all within hearing distance of the US military which had transported them back over the border. But Grandfather survived because his “Soldbuch” showed that he was born in Yugoslavia, which made him property of Tito, and not the Russians, so he was sent back to an American labor camp, but due to illness, was unable to continue working. Eventually reunited with his family and they escaped Tito’s concentration camps, via the Red Cross after a year or so. Perhaps closer to two years.
There’s also another vivid account of from my Grandfather which never made any history books, regarding the retaking of Kharkov as part of I SS Panzer Korps and the incredible war crimes that the Soviets committed on the civilian population there. It’s very sad! The story of the 3rd Waffen SS Division is not widely published and only very few survived captivity, so there were only a few autobiographical accounts. One book is “Wie ein Fels im Meer” by Karl Ulrich, the commander of one of the three regiments that made up the Division; my Grandfather’s Regiment was #3. In fact, there’s a photo of my Grandfather in that book! It well describes the final roundup of the Division like no other book, which is only available in German, but I recommend it!
Source: Ray Matter (who is also a long time and very dedicated war crimes researcher)
Thanks Ray for sharing it with me and for permitting me to publish it. I would certainly welcome further submissions of this sort from my readers. Please e-mail them to me!