Lance Corporal Martin Schlörith and I joined the 6th Company, ParaReg 8 straight from the 3rd NCO school of the Luftwaffe. The company was put together solely from remainders form other units. We were deployed northwest of Düren in late November 1944. It was our first baptism of fire. Whenever a special mission had to be done the guys form the NCO school had to do it. Martin and I both had a MG 42 but we belonged to different groups.
In the night of November 30, 1944, we had to leave our main-combat line. It was the one-tracked narrow-gauge railroad for the lignite opencast working. It came form Konzendorf, bypassed Geich to the southwest, and led to Luchem. We were supposed to take up new positions in the chain of advance guards west of Stüttgerhof-Ölmühle-Mettlermühle. Just as we were ready to leave Sergeant Schwierer gave the order that a second MG had to be taken along. This is how my friend Lance Corporal Schlörith joined us. While we sneaked forward, Martin said rather joyfully: "I had to come, something will happen for sure."
Martin went to the Ölmühle with his MG 42 while I took up a position to the right, at the Wehebach. The area looked pretty beaten-up already, shell holes all around. The 1st Platoon that had been positioned here and that we were relieving, had nearly melted away. The whole night went by rather quietly. As they always say, "the calm before the storm," and it was right. Not a single shot fell and noon was already approaching. It must have been about 1 p.m. when pointed artillery fire hit the Ölmühle. It was so heavy that we thought the end had come. After half an hour we could see the red star shells above our heads. The Americans were attacking. I could distinctly hear Martin's MG 42, it fired without a break. The nightmare lasted for a quarter of an hour, the Amis lay on the ground and their artillery nailed us, even heavier this time. Sergeant Schwierer and three other comrades were wounded in this barrage. Rifleman First Class Alfons Faul, the deputy platoon leader, came running behind the farmhouse when the barrage had stopped and he shouted: "We have to retreat!" I could see that the Sergeant was still bleeding from several wounds and him and six comrades ran for the rear while Martin was still firing with his MG. While my 2nd gunner called for him, I changed locations, about 20 meters further back into a shell hole. My 2nd gunner, Lance Corporal Willi Knapp from Essen suddenly lay next to me and didn't move anymore. Only two of the other men retreated. The rest lay on the field and didn't move. Our artillery didn't fire as single shot, which is why the Ami continued the attack.
It was silent now in the Ölmühle. Shortly afterwards, Martin came out of the door with his MG, he was alone. He dropped the gun right in front of me, stumbled, and said while falling: "My leg – stay with me – I can't go on." When I opened his pants I could see that it was a stomach wound that caused him pain. He had been hit opposite of the appendix, the bullet had gone out above the buttocks, one of the main arteries had been hit in the process, very fast and heavy bleeding! The shell hole was halfway filled with water. It gave me a hard time to put on a makeshift bandage while standing in the water. I had eased Martin on an assault pack and this stopped him from sinking. For a bandage I used a white shawl but it couldn't stop the bleeding. Martin was quiet, told some story but when the Amis approached he solemnly begged me: "Leave our the will get you, I will be gone soon anyway, only leave me a hand grenade." But I didn't leave. If Martin was to die soon I didn't want to go back. My depression ran deep, therefore captivity?
Then the first Americans reached the shell hole. One of them fired; I raised my hands up in the air and two of them pulled me out. The left Martin behind despite me pointing at him.
Our men now fired form the main-combat line into our advance-guard chain. I was dragged into the Ölmühle and had to take cover alongside the Amis behind a wall when our artillery targeted the farmhouse. The Amis suddenly ran and left me be. I turned around and jumped back into a water-filled shell hole. I lay in the water until night had come. What a terrible wait, cold, sleep.
When it got dark I crawled out o the hole. I didn't dare to get on my feet because star shells lightened up the area again and again. Crawling I came by the hole in which Martin was still lying. I crawled toward him, shook him, and only now realized that he had already died. This was incomprehensible to me. I just sat there and thought about the time we had spent at the NCO school. Martin had been my roommate, always happy, had advice for all situations, helped wherever he could. Now he was lying there, incredible but it was the naked truth
From then on I don't remember much. I wanted to get back, stayed, wanted to get back, didn't know what I wanted. When I woke up I was in a basement that served as aid station. One of our reconnaissance groups, searching for wounded during the night, had found me and Rifleman First Class Hans-Udo Blancke. Blancke had suffered two hits in the thigh and had lost a lot of blood. Only now I realized that I had been wounded myself. Blancke and I were taken back a few villages. I remained there and was declared "ready for combat" 14 days later.
When I arrived back at the company on 12/13/44, only 19 veterans of the old company were left. We were somewhere in a factory near Hoven.
The grave of Martin Schlörith is situated on the Ehrenfriedhof (Cemetery of Honor) in Lucherberg. The field-graves of Sergeant Alfons Faul, Sergeant Heinrich Schäfer, Rifleman First Class Anton Kentenich, and Lance Corporal Stephan August are probably still somewhere between the Ölmühle and the Stüttgerhof.
The Deployment of 3rd ParaDiv in the Düren area between the end of November and mid-December 1944
On 11/22/44 headquarters of Heeresgruppe B requested that the 3rd ParaDiv, already in transfer to the rear should be redirected closer to Düren. The reason was the serious danger to the front due to the resuming allied attacks against Jülich and south of the city as well as due to the planned retreat form the bridgehead Venlo. Army Supreme Command (OKW) and the Chiefs of Staff of the Wehrmacht approved of this redirection but ordered the division to remain east of the Rur. On 11/24/44 the two battalions that had disembarked first were deployed as guards on the eastern bank of the Rur between Niederau and Üdingen. The same day, at 7:30 p.m., OKW ordered the deployment of 3rd ParaDiv in the Düren area as replacements for 12th and 47th VolksGrenDivs (Group Engel).
Enemy forces, the 9th and 1st U.S. armies had resumed their assault in the greater Aachen area against our 5th Tank Army and the right wing of 7th Army with full steam on 11/16/44. The border between the two German armies ran roughly along a line from Düren-Süd to Stolberg-Süd. The clear objective of the enemy in this "Third Battle of Aachen" was to clear the Rur-area and to breakthrough to the Rhine. The enemy assault was directed most heavily against the Lindern-Linnich section of XII. SS Corps, the Rur bridgeheads Jülich and Düren of LXXXI. Corps, and the northern flank of 7th Army – LXXXIV. Corps south of Düren.
According to German intelligence there were four additional armored divisions and two infantry divisions held back behind the front. They were surely meant to be the key reserves to force a breakthrough across the Rur to the east.
West of Düren, between the sectors of 3rd Armored GrenDiv and 344th InfDiv, 12th and 47th VGD defended the bulge in the front (to the West) from Lammersdorf via Weisweiler to Merode. The two VGDs had been combined under Group Engel under the command of the CO of 12th VGD. Both divisions had suffered extremely heavy casualties in previous constant combat. Fresh troops absolutely had to be brought in as replacements. Group Engel formed the southern flank of LXXXI. Corps with its combat post in Etzweiler, which included Group Manteufel, the cover name of AOK 15 under its commandeer, General of the Infantry von Zangen.
11/26/44 was another day that brought heavy casualties for Group Engel. Resuming its attacks from the previous day, the enemy assaulted the front-line between Lamersdorf and Jüngersdorf. In the afternoon the enemy gained ground on both sides of Frenzerburg due to support from about 40 tanks and 150 fighter-bombers. The town itself remained in German hands. The enemy took Height 203 south of Langerwehe in an attack from southwest. The already thin German front-line was weakened by a gap northwest of Merode. They tried to close it with counterattacks from the north and east.