Читать онлайн "The Korsun Pocket: The Encirclement and Breakout of a German Army in the East, 1944" автора Zetterling Niklas - RuLit - Страница 69


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Except for offering harassing fire, Soviet forces made little effort to disturb the crossing of the Gniloi Tikich River. After about an hour, some armored vehicles from SS-Wiking appeared, shortly followed by a Soviet tank, which charged into the bridgehead and fired on some of the German baggage vehicles. It soon drove into a deep gully and was immobilized. At about 08.30hrs Siegel gave orders to his men to cross the river, since the flow of men from the pocket increased without any signs of enemy attacks.685

As Siegel came within sight of the river, which was about 20–30 meters wide, he saw no bridge or any other means of crossing. Attempts to push panje wagons into the river to create a makeshift bridge were futile because the current was too strong. The men tried to cut down trees to form a bridge, but in vain. There was no resort but to swim in the ice cold water. At about 09.15hrs, Siegel had crossed the river and most of his men made it too, although a number of them succumbed to the cold water and swift current and drowned.686

The soldiers who reached the southern bank of the Gniloi Tikich River had brought little else than their soaking wet clothes. Many small arms weapons, as well as all heavy equipment, were lost. A determined Soviet attack would have wrought havoc among Siegel’s wet and freezing men. They walked some two or three kilometers and reached Lisyanka, suffering few losses along the way, despite being subjected to Soviet fire. Probably the deep snow dampened the effects of the exploding shells. Siegel recalled that one soldier who was wounded, not far from Lisyanka, was helped by a Russian woman, who had served as a HiWi at a field kitchen and taken part in the breakout. She received a decoration for courage.687

At Lisyanka, Siegel became aware that he had already been reported as killed. He was able to prove otherwise, but his case was far from unique. It was many days before the Germans had an accurate picture of how many soldiers had escaped, and in what condition.688

Most of the 72nd Division, which assembled about 4,000 men for the breakout, made it to Lisyanka. Probably around 90% of its personnel got out of the pocket, despite the fact that the majority of them had to diverge from the planned route. The loss of equipment was almost total, much of it east of the road between Dzhurzhentsy and Pochapintsy, where the terrain was very difficult.689

Some of the German soldiers had made only narrow escapes. One example is Sergeant Peter Reisch, who served with the 4th Company of the 266th Infantry Regiment. He was only about one kilometer east of Shenderovka when he was severely wounded in the leg by shrapnel from Soviet mortar fire. He was unable to walk and quickly concluded that he could only be saved by begging or threats. After Captain Ochten and Major Siegel had spoken to him, a medical orderly came and cut off his trouser leg. Reisch received a bandage and was told to attend himself, while the medical orderly went to find somebody who could help to carry him. The orderly never returned.690

Helpless, Reisch lay in the snow, watching the flow of vehicles, panje wagons, and soldiers heading southwest. None made any effort to help him until a signals unit had to halt due to traffic jams ahead. After some discussion Reisch was loaded onto one of the wagons. He was cold and in severe pain, but at least he got closer to the III Panzer Corps. In darkness the transport proceeded slowly but steadily until dawn, when a traffic jam blocked further movement. Reisch was moved to a covered wagon, which was more comfortable, but he could not orient himself as he could not see anything of the surroundings. He was not alone in the wagon; two other wounded soldiers were there too.691

The wagon remained immobile for a long time and Reisch began to wonder what had happened. A traffic jam would not have caused a complete standstill for such a long period of time. He and the other two wounded soldiers began to shout, but received no reply. Reisch crawled forward and cut a hole in the fabric to see what had happened. To his consternation he discovered that there was no horse harnessed to the wagon.692

Reisch’s wagon, which was situated in a depression, was bypassed by an artillery unit from the Waffen-SS. Its guns got stuck, and to Reisch’s relief, some of the horses were used to harness his wagon. However, after a while the men who attached the horses began to try to persuade Reisch to give himself up as a prisoner to the Red Army. Reisch did not listen to them. He was desperate to get out of the pocket or die, even if it would take a shot from his own pistol. Faced with such determination, the SS-soldiers lifted Reisch from the wagon and placed him in the snow.693

That was all the help he got however, as he soon found himself deserted. Other German soldiers had fled the field due to Soviet fire. With his wounded leg he could not walk, so he decided to crawl toward a forest. En route he encountered another wounded German soldier, trying to do exactly the same thing. For a while they joined in their efforts to crawl forward, but after a while the other soldier lagged behind and soon Reisch did not see him anymore. At last Reisch reached the forest, where a muddle of vehicles was trying to avoid Soviet tanks.694

Luckily Reisch found a horse-drawn staff vehicle, which he could accompany by sitting on one of the horses. To get out of the forest was difficult because there were Soviet tanks nearby, but when these moved away, Reisch asked the officer of the unit he had encountered to let more wounded follow in the wagon. Together with some other wounded soldiers Reisch was placed in the wagon. As the horses toiled, the wagon bumped over the rough ground, causing the wounded to cry with pain. When the wagon reached the road running south from Dzhurzhentsy, rounds from Soviet mortars exploded and the wagon crashed into a ditch. The driver unharnessed the horses and rode away, leaving the wounded men in the wagon to their fate.695

Reisch was helped by some SS-soldiers, who took him on board their panje wagon along with other wounded soldiers, but he did not get far. The road was blocked by wrecks, and again the driver lost his nerve and rode away on the horse. In a little while, two doctors walked past and Reisch asked them to harness the wagon. In their haste to continue on their way they refused, but Reisch pulled his pistol, pointed it at them and said: “If we don’t get away from here, neither will you.” The threat had the desired effect and the doctors shouted to some passing soldiers, who cleared the road and harnessed the wagon once more.696

Reisch and the other wounded soldiers on the wagon continued on their journey. Not far from hill 239.0 Reisch saw a general, possibly Major-General Kruse, who was directing soldiers near the forest south of hill 239.0. Reisch’s wagon continued south, but soon got stuck in a marsh. Reisch was transferred to another wagon, but could only get a place to sit, not lie down. As the wagon shuddered over the bumpy terrain, the movement caused horrible pains to his wounded leg. When Lisyanka came within sight he even asked that he should be placed on the ground to crawl the final distance, but nobody listened to him. He had to remain in the wagon but he reached Lisyanka alive, to his immense relief.697



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