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65
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The Dominafuhrer - MISS SPITEFUL'S WAR

Episode 24 - City Under Fire

April 1945

“The guns are closer today.” Miss Stiletto’s Bavarian accent had got stronger as she became more stressed. “I’m so frightened, Ingrid.” We were standing outside Gestapo Headquarters at 8 Prinz Albrecht Strasse, a former Arts and Crafts college, listening to the sounds of battle in the distance.

Five days before, two and a half million Russian soldiers of the First Byelorussian and First Ukranian Fronts had launched their assaults across the River Oder, with the seizing the capital city of the Reich as their objective. In defence of Berlin, with its four million citizens, refugees from the east and foreign workers were less than fifteen thousand servicemen and eighty thousand armed paramilitaries such as Police, Labour Corps, Railways Workers, Postmen and the Volkssturm. The latter, mainly old or infirm civilians or boys were lightly armed with old rifles, hand grenades or Panzerfaust anti-tank rockets.

Although we did not yet know it, the city had just suffered the last air raid from the western allied air forces. The Russian Armies were too close and, from now on, the terror falling from the skies would be the bombs of the Red Air force or Russian rockets and artillery shells. The first shells had landed in the north western suburbs the day before. But, despite their overwhelming strength, the main Russian assault to the north of the city had not progressed as well as they had hoped and it was the southern arm of the pincer movement that was already in the south western suburbs. I had expected them to go straight for Tempelhof Airfield, near to my home, but for the moment, they were intent on driving west to complete the encirclement of Berlin.

I had walked to work that morning as the Trams had been overturned and filled with stones to be used as street barricades, the buses had run out of fuel in January and the trains only ran in short sections. I had followed the railway track of the S-Bahn to Anhalter Bahnhoff which had been bombed out of use in 1943, stepping over refugees using the platforms and tunnels as shelter from the bombs and now the shells. I would have preferred to use the massive Government tunnel that ran from Tempelhof to Wilhelmstrasse, one of many under Berlin, but they were still restricted to official business only. On my one permitted journey I had had to jump out of the way as Hermann Goering had roared past in his limousine.

The day before had also been Adolf Hitler’s 56th birthday and buildings were still adorned with flags and banners but, this year, the crowds had not turned out in celebration. People only used the streets for essential travel. The defenders were turning the city into a citadel but despair and defeat was already written on their faces. On the way to the station, I had passed one unit of the Volkssturm moving south. Mainly old men in soft hats and overcoats with armbands, although some wore British battledress tops, German sidecaps or 1918 pattern helmets, relics of the last war that they had fought in. To a man, their faces were set and grim with fear, not determination. Following them were a unit of Hitler Youth on bicycles, each with one of the Panzerfaust rockets on their handlebars, ringing their bells and grinning as they rode off to their great adventure. Less than ten years ago, I would have been one of them, patriotic and proud of my uniform. I knew better now.

There were also columns of tired and bedraggled refugees on the streets, their possessions piled on carts or in prams and endless queues of Berliners waiting at standpipes for water or outside shops for food, fuel or cigarettes. But the most chilling scene had been while I had been passing Viktoria Park where a Luftwaffe Flak unit were drilling new recruits. The oldest was probably no more than sixteen and the youngest looked twelve, their faces pale and tearful as they stumbled around in uniforms far too big for them, clutching shell cases in their arms. What made a cold ball form in my stomach was the anxious parents lined up a short distance away, some silent but many crying as their sons trained for war.

It was not only their enemies that the citizens of Berlin had to fear. The paranoia of the dying Reich had sent execution squads of SS and Feldgendarmerie onto the streets. An accusation of desertion, treason, defeatism, looting or just not having the right document would result in arrest, the flimsiest of trials before a Flying Courts Martial, sometimes not even that, and then instant execution. The trees and street furniture of Berlin now bore a grisly crop of bodies, men and women, swaying in the wind, each with their alleged offence on a placard round their necks.

“I wonder what Crapface wants with us today?” Miss Stiletto asked.

I looked up the leaden grey sky where the black smoke from paper bonfires was rising to meeting the rain heavy clouds. “It can’t be much worse than what is out here.” I replied, not knowing just how wrong I could be.

To continue this story, click The End Of The Unit


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