Memories of Alexander Stahlberg,
marshalls Erich von Manstein orderly
First time in Wolfsschanze.
“[…] Field Marshal Manstein was summoned on February 6, 1943 to appear in the Wolf’s Lair. Hitler sent for him his private plane, the four-engine Focke-Wulf Condor, which, returning from the front, first landed at the Kętrzyn airport. From here, we were taken by car to the magnificent guest house of the supreme command of land forces in Mamerki, which until 19 December 1941 served as the residence of the dismissed Field Marshal Brauchitsch.
The evening council with Hitler usually began between 21.00 and 22.00. In complete darkness we got on a two-car train, which was supposed to take us within 15 minutes. We were joined by General Zeitzler and Adolf Heusinger, a colonel in the general staff, and we went into the dark. The journey had something weird: When the train stopped at Wolf’s Lair, we got off carefully because it was terribly dark here. After being greeted by Hitler’s adjutant, General Schmundt, we went to Hitler’s shelter. The participants of the meeting stood around a brightly lit table with spread out maps. Hitler’s place in the middle of the side wing was not yet taken. Only gold-rimmed glasses prepared for him lay there. General Schmundt left us for a moment to appear again in the door and declare loudly: “My lords, Führer”. The conversations of those waiting were silent, without a word Hitler greeted everyone with a bent hand. He looked at the audience, and only Field Marshal Manstein was greeted with a shake of the hand. I was curious how Hitler, four days after the surrender at Stalingrad, would turn to the supreme commander of a group of land forces “responsible” of the 6th army defeat by. What I heard at the time was Hitler’s masterful psychological pull: “My lords,” he began, “I would like to say a few words about Stalingrad first. Personally, I am solely responsible for Stalingrad. And now – turning to General Zeitzler – I am asking you to report on the current situation in the east. “
I have to admit that I never expected this interpretation of the facts from Hitler. I have heard a lot about the tense relations between the command of a group of land forces and the command of the land forces, or Hitler’s Headquarters. The course of this conference contradicted my previous ideas about Hitler. I never imagined he could plead guilty!
There was a moment of embarrassing silence. Manstein, like Zeitzler, was clearly surprised by this. Manstein mentioned this scene in his memoirs, describing Hitler’s words “soldierly.” Years later, I perceive the Führer’s behavior at that time as a clear proof of his calculation, which with these words he wanted to positively dispose of his listeners during the next part of the meeting. He knew that he agitates most effectively when he tells his listener what he secretly wants to hear. “
A nice adventure, or how Rommel met Manstein.
“[…] On July 12, order came from Hitler’s Headquarters to field marshal Manstein and field marshal Kluge, commander-in-chief of the Middle Army, to attend a southern congress at the Führer in the Wolf’s Lair. Manstein was furious: “It is not God’s time for the front commanders to go on a journey to East Prussia during the climactic phase of the battle.” When we arrived with the field marshal from the Kętrzyn airport before noon on July 13 to the Supreme Command of the Land Forces (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht = OKH) over Mamry lake, General Schmundt reported to him by phone that the meeting scheduled for noon hours in the Wolf’s Lair was postponed to the evening hours.
What were we supposed to do eight hours? “Do you know what we will do now? – said Mannstein – we are going to take a bath!” “Great, field marshal,” I replied, “but I didn’t take my bathing suits.” We will undress in our rooms, and then we will cover ourselves with raincoats.” We left the guest house and entered a wide wooden bridge, cutting into the strip of coastal reeds of Mamry Lake. On the way we didn’t meet anyone and soon we were swimming, as God created us, in the middle of the lake.
– Only those who know the beauty of Masurian lakes can know how we felt then. Water and forests around, no village, no house!
After swimming for some time, we turned back. Our bridge was visible in the distance. We were about two, maybe three kilometers from the destination when I saw people on the bridge. Field marshal asked if there were women among them. I couldn’t answer that question – we were still too far from shore. When we came a little closer, I reported that I could see officers on the bridge, while I could not see the “skirts”. In a moment I added that I see several pairs of red pants. “What red?” He asked. I replied: “Both reds!” (Generals and general staff officers). We soon reached the platform ladders. I tried to figure out if I personally knew anyone on the shore. Indeed, among many faces, one seemed familiar to me. “I think, Field Marshal, Field Marshal Rommel is there!” – At that moment we heard a voice from the shore: “You are right, my love, this is Field Marshal Rommel!” A loud “Hello” flowed from above and below, and Manstein exclaimed: “We finally met!” Indeed, Manstein and Rommel did not know each other so far: one of them was a staff member, the other a distinguished front soldier – two completely different professional careers. Rommel spoke from the shore: “My gentlemen, why aren’t you leaving?” Manstein replied without hesitation: “Why not?” In Adam’s costume, we climbed the ladders and stood as God created us, before completely uniformed officers. Before I stood on the platform, I noticed that our coats … were gone! However, I was fed up with jokes and scolded one of Rommel’s younger officers to hand over our coats immediately. Rommel, on the other hand, continued to play the scene, pretending he had not noticed my “interpellation” and was already preparing to introduce his officers.
Of course, the coats were on hand so we could immediately cover our nakedness. After this fun adventure a very casual conversation between field marshals took place.”
Memories of Dieter Wolf von Schenk zu Tautenburg, former owner of the property in Parcz and officer of the Wehrmacht in the supreme command of land forces in Mamerki
“My ancestors had lived in Parcz since 1529. Exactly 400 years later (in 1929) after the death of my father, the property was transferred to me as i was the only son. Until I came of age, the estate was managed by a “general inspector”.
In 1939 I volunteered for military service in the 2nd cavalry regiment in Węgorzewo. I took part in the campaign against Poland, the Netherlands and France. Later, being the elew of the officers’ school in Kampnitz, I received a letter from my mother informing me that in the Kętrzyn forest and in the partially requisitioned area of our property, the Todt Organization began to construct some mysterious objects.
In the autumn of 1940, after graduating from school, I was delegated to the regiment stationed in Poland, and from there to work as a customs officer on the Russian border. From the first days of the war, I fought with the Soviet Union on the Eastern Front, where I was wounded twice in the summer of 1941. After curing myself in one of the Viennese Lazarets, I was sent to work in the Supreme Command of the Land Forces (OKH) in Mamerki at Mamry lake. Here I checked with general von Bernhut. I accompanied him during his numerous business trips to Finland, Romania and Hungary.
At OKH, I met more closely the then major Claus von Stauffenberg and his close friend, Major Mertz von Quirnheim (after the assassination attempt of Hitler, both were shot in Berlin). They both had a great sense of humor and felt at ease in the company of senior officers and generals. Stauffenberg invited me several times for horse rides through the old Mammoth forest. He made it clear that he was not happy with the situation on the fronts. I remembered that he clearly mocked the riding skills of the Reich Marshal Göring.
In the spring of 1942 I was sent to serve in the operational department of the supreme command of land forces. Here I belonged to the “South” working group. Our group dealt with the preparation of data on the situation on the front of the South Army Group and putting them on the staff maps. Every day a working meeting was held at General Heusinger’s at 9.00. In the afternoon hours, the collected information and updated data were discussed at the main meeting in the Wolf’s Lair – Hitler’s Headquarters 20 km away. In these trips I often accompanied General Heusinger and the head of the Supreme Command of Land Forces, General Zeitzler. Personally, I have never participated in consultations. My prosaic task was to prepare staff maps before the start of the main conference. The head of Hitler’s adjutant, General Schmundt, always gave me to understand that after performing these uncomplicated duties, I would leave the meeting room. I used this opportunity to go to an old tea room, where I could organize for myself and my colleagues cheap and relatively good Sumatra cigarettes.
I often came to the Wolf’s Lair in the company of Wehrmacht officers, who were awarded orders by Hitler. I remembered how some of them, while driving to Hitler’s headquarters, promised to tell the Führer frankly about the real situation at the front, about the catastrophic supply or strategic mistakes made. I have never attended award ceremonies. Those who personally received this honor, told me during their return trip to Mamerek that Hitler, as if sensing which course the conversation might go on, did not give them the opportunity to express their opinions, – not all that, after the visit they returned in an optimistic mood, being internally convinced that the difficulties on the fronts are temporary, that the war will be successful. To this day, I’m wondering about his phenomenal ability to convince listeners.
I have accompanied Kluge and Küchler front generals many times during their visits to Hitler’s headquarters. On the way back I found out what they really thought about “our Führer”. All requests, suggestions and factual arguments and insistence on regrouping, withdrawal of some section of the front, strengthening with additional divisions, etc. were most often met with Hitler’s uncompromising attitude. Instead of dealing with important strategic problems, he often tried to delve into the secondary details of the actions of a battalion or company, while making completely wrong decisions. Few could afford express opposition. One of the few – I learned about it from later accounts – was General Jodl.
Once, and it happened just after the Stalingrad defeat, I loudly expressed my indignation about Hitler’s ineptitude: “Will there finally be someone who will get rid of this this pig!?” … Everyone fell silent, there was consternation. After years, often thinking back to that careless speech, I realized to what danger I put not only myself but also my friends. I have to admit that there was a great atmosphere among the officers in the main command of land forces. We understood each other well, we were very close, we liked each other. I think that we owe this to a large extent to our boss, General Heusinger. For us he was not only a boss, but above all an honest man, a faithful soldier. We were convinced by his factual, devoid of pomposity, arguments, precisely formulated thoughts and the ability to soberly assess events. At the same time, warmth radiated from him, a fatherly attitude towards subordinates and a subtle sense of humor.
In March 1944, I was called to a brief training of company commanders in Tours (France). From there, I was to be directed to the 1st Cossack Division fighting in Yugoslavia. I spent a short vacation, planned for a few days in my hometown of Parcz. July 20, around noon, reading “Berliner Lokalzeiger”, I heard an explosion in a nearby forest. I thought that the detonation could have been caused by forest animals entering the minefield. Mine fields separated the second and third security zones of Hitler’s quarters and ran through arable land and meadows belonging to our property. After about 2 hours, an inspector (manager of my estate) appeared and informed us that our French prisoners working in a meadow by a hay wagon were detained.
I went to the guardhouse by motorcycle. There were already three off-road cars there. In the guardhouse building I saw Ribbentrop and Göring. I thought something extraordinary must have happened. (Göring’s headquarters was located in the Romincka Forest, 80 km away, while Ribbentrop resided in the Sztynort Palace). What could bring back these guests? Why were they waiting in the guardhouse? I learned from one of the officers that my French workers could not be fired at the moment, and I would be informed about the reason for their detention in good time. In the evening I learned from the radio that an unsuccessful assassination was carried out on Adolf Hitler and that the Führer would speak to the German nation at night. The speech was given about one o’clock at night. We learned that the bomber was Colonel Stauffenberg. My mother and I looked at each other in horror – after all, Stauffenberg was a very frequent guest in our home.
– The next day we were waiting for further developments. In the evening a car drove up to our house, from which a civilian man got out, introduced himself as a Gestapo agent and asked to speak with my mother. After a short exchange of opinions, he announced that my mother was arrested for interrogation in the Gestapo facility in Kętrzyn.
That night I did not sleep. The next day in the morning I visited my mother in custody. She came out very pale but calm. I learned that she was primarily asked about guests visiting our home. This confirmed the legitimacy of our anxiety.
On the way back, I wanted to visit the wounded General Heusinger and Colonel Brandt, who were in the hospital after the assassination. There I learned that any seeing of these people is prohibited. After returning to Parcz, at the ramp in front of my house, I saw an off-road car and several SS-men. I was taken from my weapon and arrested. After a short interrogation in Wolf’s Lair, which was basically limited to writing down my personal details, I was taken to the station in Kętrzyn. On the platform, waiting for the courier train to Berlin, completely surprised I saw my mother assisted by Gestapo officers. A common compartment was reserved for us, strangely separated from the corridor by newsprint. During the journey, which lasted about 10 hours, we could not exchange a word with each other. We arrived in Berlin early in the morning. The bombed city made a terrifying impression. We were taken to Prince Albrecht street, where there was a heavy political prison. In a large room with a long table and about 20 chairs, we were received by a high-ranking SS man whom I recognized years later in photos under the name Gruppenführer Müller. My mother was taken to the next room, while I was interrogated by that Müller. He was interested in the course of my professional career in the operational department of the supreme command of land forces. During the interrogation – this is what I remember the most – there was a howl of alarm sirens. In the face of the upcoming air raid, we went to the basement. Here we met many handcuffed generals.
After the raid, I was again questioned by a civilian official. He asked me many times if I knew people who expressed their critical remarks about Hitler. He particularly insisted on Colonel Brandt, who was fatally wounded during the assassination, who was considered one of the most active figures in the plot against the Führer. Insomnia tormented us, as we were more and more tired and depressed by the situation. Some of the prisoners could not stand it. I saw several officers, in order to shorten their suffering, shards of glass cut through their veins (shards of window glass fell inside during constant air bombings). To prevent this, we were ordered to lie down, night and day, arms outstretched and arms outstretched. Our cells were constantly lit so that the guards watching us could keep an eye on our behavior.
At the end of October, due to lack of evidence of my belonging to the conspiracy, I was released. I received the Reich Main Security Confirmation that from 22 July to the end of October I was employed in provisioning. After being released from prison, I was sent to the Grenadier Division in Różan. Later I was wounded by a fragment of a grenade in one place in Silesia until January 1945. From there I was taken to Erfurt. There, I met with great joy – I saw my mother and my grandmother who was still alive. There were only a few months left until the end of the war. “
Account of prof. dr Marlis Tolksdorf, member of the German organization BDM (Bund Deutscher Mädel) “Association of German Girls”
Memoirs of April 1991.
New Year’s visit of the Führer.
“At that time I was a student at the Hindenburg High School for Girls and Boys in Kętrzyn (currently Elementary School No. 2, author) and served as a substitute in the Association of German Girls.
[…] In the winter of 1940 donations – money or clothing – were collected in the Third Reich for the benefit of the poor. I think I showed myself, like many of my colleagues, a lot of zeal. As a reward for work, we were able to visit our Führer on December 24, on Christmas Eve we were brought by windowless cars to Hitler’s quarters in the Kętrzyn forest. Another car brought our boys from Hitlerjugend. Here we waited for quite a long time for Führer and other people from his surroundings. It was unusually cold. Finally, he appeared with her entourage. President of our union branch Anneliese Buchsteiner approached him and reported: “My Führer, every youth wishes you a Merry Christmas” and handed him flowers on behalf of the youth of Kętrzyn.
Hitler responded: “Thank you children” and he gave everyone a hand. He exchanged a few words with the boys, he didn’t say anything to us girls, if I remember correctly. I was quite nervous, so it’s possible that my memoriesdoesn’t quite match the reality. Then he asked us for a Christmas meal and left. I remember that we had dinner with several officers in a wooden barrack. Some vegetarian dishes were served. Extremely modest, I thought to myself. On this our visit to the Wolf’s Lair came to an end. We were taken home early in the evening. I admit: I was proud that I could see Hitler and shake his hand.