What do real soldiers think of impersonators?
End of the war 75 years ago : The surrender of Berlin
In 1948 the novel "Finale Berlin" by Heinz Rein was published by Dietz Verlag Berlin under license from the Soviet military administration in Germany. It takes place in April 1945 - with an epilogue on the surrender of Berlin on May 2nd. "The unique, unforgettable atmosphere of dying Berlin in April 1945 is reproduced by an eyewitness," says the blurb of the 1948 edition. "Nothing is exaggerated, no hatred consumes the presentation. It is a book of facts. The author left the events speak - it is up to the reader to draw the conclusions, "it says at the end. The press in East and West celebrated the novel in 1948. "The Berlin that awaits its finale is described as horribly real," said the Berlin Night Express on June 3, 1948.
In 2015, on the 70th anniversary of the liberation, the publishing house Schöffling & Co reissued the book. "You have to read this book, which oscillates between document and colportage, in order to understand all the force and cruelty of those weeks", wrote Christian Schröder about the new edition in the Tagesspiegel. With the kind permission of the publisher, we are printing the epilogue of the novel, which describes the surrender of Berlin on May 2nd. Rolf Brockschmidt
[From: Heinz Rein - FINALE BERLIN. Copyright Schöffling & Co. Verlagbuchhandlung GmbH, Frankfurt am Main 2015. 760 pages. 24.95 euros.]
"From here and now there is a new one
Epoch of world history, and
you can say you are
Goethe after the cannonade by Valmy (1792)
It is 5:30 a.m., the rays of the rising sun pierce the wall of clouds, which stretches gray and desolate over the destroyed city. In Vossstraße, the connection between Wilhelmplatz and Hermann-Göring-Straße, a massive ceiling slowly moves upwards, it rises heavily and reluctantly like a drawbridge that gives access to a defeated castle. This concrete ceiling, which is pressed up in Vossstrasse by hydraulic force, opens the entrance to a cave, to the last command post of the last Berlin combat commandant. It is surrounded on all sides, a detachment of Russian officers has taken up positions in front of it, they raise their safety pistols
and bring them to bear at the entrance to the bunker, but they do not need to use their weapons, for the first to appear is a soldier, unshaven, ragged, emaciated, and he wears a scrap of white cloth on the tip of his bayonet. Only then do the others appear, General of the Artillery Weidling, Commander-in-Chief of the Defense Area in Berlin, in impeccable uniform, with a high-necked collar and knight's cross, golden armpit tabs with two stars and medal buckle, and only the untidily folded gauntlets reveal the particular hurry with which he put them on has, Ministerialdirektor Hans Fritzsche, Goebbels' young man and impersonator in word and tone, in an elegant suit with an impeccable fit and sharp crease, and finally the chief editor Dr. Otto Kriegk, intellectual mood and agitator of the Hugenberg Group, in the olive-gray uniform of a labor service leader with silver-braided shoulder pieces. They stand still for a few seconds, blinking like night birds into the light falling over them, then they clumsily climb into an armored car that is waiting a few meters away. The doors are closed, the tank pulls up, turns into Hermann-Göring-Strasse and crosses Potsdamer Platz, it shouts its hoarse signals through the shattered streets, rushes through Saarlandstrasse, past the gruesome skeletons of the Potsdam and Anhalt station, dashes through the Hallesche Tor and the hill of Belle-Alliance-Straße up to Tempelhof. The tank drives ruthlessly over rubble and through potholes, it shakes its occupants into confusion and pushes them against walls and ceilings, but nobody says a word, they have their lips tightly closed and their eyes half closed, the general takes off his glasses every now and then and rubs it bare, the broadcaster nervously fiddles with his tie, the editorial smear has slumped completely.
Then the car brakes hard, the doors are thrown open, General Weidling, Fritzsche and Dr. Kriegk get out, they are standing in front of a house on Schulenburg-Ring, one of the many streets in Tempelhof where the new buildings are lined up in a monotonous way. You slowly climb the stairs, an unpleasant, damp and cold wind is blowing through the empty windows of the stairwell, the sun has disappeared behind gray clouds, a fine rain begins to spray down. The general glances down the street, then enters an apartment on the first floor, is led through a corridor and stands in a room. It's a middle-class gentleman's room with a desk and bookcase, leather sofa and a still life above it, a couple of chairs and a folder, a middle-class gentleman's room, but there is no plain citizen sitting behind the desk, there is a medium-sized, strong, stocky man with a broad, flushed face, light, short bristly hair, water-blue, determined eyes: Colonel-General Zhukov, the conqueror of Berlin. He gets up briefly, points to a chair and sits down again. General Weidling puts his hand correctly on his cap and takes it off, sits down tiredly and looks furtively in the face of his counterpart. This Zhukov, he may now think, is not a general of blood, education and privilege, he is a broad, almost sedate peasant who wears a general's uniform, a person from that incomprehensible country, he is now sitting in this small, almost bourgeois apartment Berlin-Tempelhof behind a desk and at that moment pushes the document of surrender over the desk top. The desk is otherwise completely empty, nothing interrupts its smooth, light brown grain, only this white sheet lies there.
General Weidling swallows hard a few times, rubs his glasses bright again and unscrews his fountain pen, his hands trembling a little, he starts to sign, but he pulls the pen back again, it must have occurred to him that he was indeed reading the contents the document, but does not know its text, skips it and lowers the pen again on the paper. It is six o'clock in the morning and very quiet in the room, the typist at the window has interrupted her work and turned around, the Russian officers bow their heads, even Fritzsche and Dr. Kriegk cannot escape the tension of the moment, only Colonel-General Zhukov sits quietly, leaning back, his eyes resting on the German general's hand, which is holding the fountain pen. The general seems to feel the looks, he lifts his eyes for a second and then looks himself at his hand, which lies in front of him with the pen half closed like a worm-eaten fruit, then he wets his lips and writes his name resolutely under the deed. Berlin has capitulated.
Only a few words are exchanged, then the general leaves the room, he goes quickly down the stairs and doesn't bother about his companions, he still has an assignment that he wants to get over with as quickly as possible, and he gets back into the armored car. This time the door is not completely closed, the general can see the streets through the open gap, and he sees the endless columns of marching Red Army soldiers, packs of tanks, batteries of deployed artillery, bivouacs and the long lines of the defeated, who trudge stupidly into captivity, he also sees the steaming field kitchens that are being surrounded by the population, and the trucks, to which their hands no longer reach out to greet the leader, but to bread that the soldiers of the victorious army distribute. This time the trip goes to Johannisthal, in a former film studio the general is standing in front of a recorder, and here he speaks his last command on a wax matrix:
"Berlin, May 2, 1945
On April 30, 1945, the Fiihrer welcomed us, we were loyal to him
vowed to fail. At the order of the Führer
do you still believe that you have to fight for Berlin,
although the lack of heavy weapons, ammunition and the
Overall situation make the fight seem pointless.
Every hour that you fight increases the terrible one
Suffering of the civilian population of Berlin and our wounded.
In agreement with the high command of the
Soviet troops, I therefore urge you to immediately remove the
Defense area Berlin. "
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