Kurt Hummel

by

Sean Geary


On my recent trip to Austria to visit my brother, I met a man by the name of Kurt Hummel. Kurt is the relative of a family friend. When I met Kurt he talked a little about his experiences in World War II, and what it was like fighting for Hitler. The only difficult part about talking to Kurt was that he only spoke German. So I decided to have my brother interview him in German, and translate his story into English.

 

Kurt

Beginnings

Kurt Hummel was a resident of Vienna, Austria all his life, and after high school he was called upon to serve in World War II for the Nazi party after the Anschluss in 1938. Kurt entered the military in the fall of 1939 and recalls, “Some friends from my youth were there as well, and we waited for what would come. Some officers and sub officers came to us and immediately made us aware that we were soldiers now, and to be obedient.” Kurt spent eight weeks in basic training, and then after the Christmas of 1939 he marched 45 kilometers to Wishau in the Czech Republic around the time when Hitler took over Czechoslovakia. After a short time in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia  Kurt was once again marching deep into Slovenia and there he became a field troop.
  



Life as a German Soldier


In February of 1940 Kurt took a train from Slovenia to the western front near the French border. After ten days of fighting, Kurt marched through the Black Forest down to the Swiss border. After learning sharpshooting at a training facility , Kurt was once again on a train to western Germany to the town of Karlsruhe. From there Kurt marched through Luxemburg, into east Belgium, and up to Namur. “The war had been going on for some time already. Here in Namur we were confronted with the horrors of war. We found destroyed towns, dead cows and horses, and scared people.” “All resistances that were insurmountable in World War I, were destroyed by us with tanks.” After Kurt's time in Namur he marched into Lorraine, a region of France. Kurt lived in a small village in Lorraine, and ended up spending the summer there. “Finally we could wash ourselves and take care of ourselves. A soldier is always hungry and has tired eyes. In a garden nearby there were strawberries, peaches, and vegetables growing. During the night we would crawl through the fence and steal what we wanted."  After the summer in Lorraine, Kurt hiked 150 km to Kehl, an area near the Rhine river, and then was once again on another train this time to Bavaria. When Kurt arrived in Bavaria all the troops were given a 14 day vacation. In early September of 1940 Kurt reported back to the Bavarian Alps after his two week vacation, and was then sent to Ruhpolding where it was peaceful into February of 1941. At the end of February Kurt was sent to the Atlantic Coast in the direction of Brest to watch the coast. Kurt received more training in Le Mans, France, and then once again, he was marching down through France close to the Spanish border. “In France everything was great for us. We had little to do, a view of the ocean, and could swim until early October.”
 

    


Battle Wounds


“Suddenly vacations became forbidden, and we had to be in a state of readiness. That’s when we knew we were going into Russia.” Once again Kurt packed up and was on a train to Pleskau. From Pleskau Kurt marched towards Leningrad. “Everything was broken, no heat, and things had been burned away. Despite one meter thick of ice/snow, we were ordered to dig bunkers. But luckily we found a manure pile which we dug out and made a bunker out of.” On Jan 30th, 1942, Kurt explains that the Russians had them completely surrounded, and the war became a reality. From seven in the morning until one in the afternoon there were one thousand bombardments nearby.  Kurt stayed in Leningrad into March and then departed to Tosno where there was combat. “There were plane attacks, 50 meters away from us there were holes as deep as houses. I was lightly wounded in the face.” The fighting continued in minus 30 degree celcius temperatures, until Kurt recalled. “My luck was that two shots to my head were blocked by my helmet and only a splinter penetrated and went into my head. It’s still in there today.” Kurt was sent home after that and after a short time at home he returned to his old company, but found only 40 soldiers there, 160 soldiers died. “After a while I was wounded again but worse. I took a bullet to my lung and a shot through my lower leg. Then it was like before, I was taken to the field hospital in Estonia, and then sent back to Austria and was discharged from the army on February 2nd 1945.
   

 

Kurt's Trip...

Kurt's Trip


In the End...

  
 “As an Austrian who had nothing to do with the Nazis, I had completely different plans for my life. I never wanted to be a soldier. From the age of 19 to 25, my whole youth, I was in the military. How often did I think, “What am I doing in a bunker in France or in a hole in the ground in minus 40 degrees celsius weather in Russia?” Whoever didn’t carry out the nonsensical orders could expect the worse. A soldier might be given a flag and told to run away. Here he’d be shot or hung on the next tree. I, like so many other comrades who survived, didn’t rue it, but didn't deplore everything.”