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MY MEMORIES OF ARNHEM 1944

Name: Erwin Heck
Rank: Lieutenant
Unit: Unterfuhrer Schule Arnheim
Regiment: Westgruppe - Frundsberg Division

 

I had been serving in Holland from 1941 to 1943. Then I was send to Russia were I was wounded and send back to Germany. When fully recovered from my injuries I was send to Holland in may 1944 to serve at the Unterfuhrer Schule Arnheim (USA). By then I was 24 years of age.

I had to report at the Saxen Weimar Barracks at Arnhem but it seemed to be closed and I traveled to Wassenaar were I served as Ordonans for the airfield at Ypenburg. On the morning of 17 September I was near Leerdam. There I witnessed the numerous waves of airplanes flying over to Germany. When we heard that there was something going on near Arnhem I phoned someone there who just told me that there were landings near Wolfheze and Deelen.

At 17.00 hrs I got orders to travel to the 'Grebbeberg' at Rhenen to deliver a message to the commander. The message was: 3 companies of the the USA are on the way but will not arrive before midnight because they have to cover the distance mainly by bicycle. On my way I had to stop my motorcycle several times because of British fighters attacking the roads.

On 18 September we (Westgruppe) already made our first attacks on Renkum to try to push back the enemy. We made good progress and formed headquarters for Colonel Lippert in a doctors house at Heelsum were we also assembled the first prisoners. From there we fought our way into Kievietsdel and Wolfheze. Suddenly we found ourselves surrounded by British forces. The fighting was terrible and the closer we got to Oosterbeek the harder the fighting became. Advance became difficult because of the wooded terrain.

Once arriving at Oosterbeek we fought man to man, house to house and in some occasions we occupied one floor of a house and the enemy another. In many occasions we just had to fight with pistols because of this man to man situations. We did not get any rest.

On September 21st we became part of the second Panzer Division and because we could not advance any further at that time we established a defense line in Oosterbeek west at 'Koude Herberg'. This line we held until the withdrawal of the British.

Looking back I have to agree with Bittrich who said, 'winning at Arnhem was the worst thing I did in the entire War'. We won the battle but because of that the war went on much longer then needed. Resulting is many more casualties and the splitting up of my country.

Anyway, is there really a winner when so many brave soldiers on both sides lost their lives?

Erwin Heck

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