Ferdinand Maneth

* 1923  †︎ 2014

  • “I had a canvas bag with food. It was a sort of a reserve that every soldier was supposed to have. The others threw theirs away and I collected them. I came to the bridge and saw that the others were trying to swim across the river. Well, I had never been a good swimmer. I hadn’t gone through a proper swimming course either. I watched the others and did the same thing as they did. They got undressed and put their uniforms in their backpacks. They swam across the river with the backpack on their backs. It seemed so effortless for them. So I tried to do the same thing and put my bag on my pack and jumped inside the river. As I said, I’ve never been a good swimmer so I had a real problem swimming across the river. The water dragged me downstream for some two kilometers, I nearly drowned. Eventually, I somehow made it to the other bank. There were a few of us who made it to the other side. But what were we supposed to do now? We had lost our guns and had nothing, except for our lives.”

  • “It took place between September 1st and September 10th. They occupied the Sudetenland, the borderlands of Czechoslovakia. I don’t remember anymore if Úsov was predominantly German or Czech. But I remember its occupation on the morning of September 5th. There were rumors of the occupation spreading in the morning but we had no idea what was going to happen. We were curious kids and so we went to the main square to see for ourselves what was happening. We saw the Czech soldiers retreating. They were abandoning the fortresses and retreating to Olomouc. They went to Olomouc because Olomouc was the seat of a major military garrison at that time. It was about 9 o’clock in the morning when they left. About an hour or maybe two hours later, the Germans arrived in Úsov. So they really came just shortly after the Czechs had withdrawn. They came on horseback and on motorcycles. They had all sorts of equipment and armaments. They came to occupy us. It was a significant event for Úsov.”

  • “It was already dawn and the column wouldn’t move on. We were still stuck at the same place. Suddenly the gunfire started to thunder behind our backs. We were retreating and the Soviets were at our heels. They attacked the rear of our retreating column, opened fire and hit a large number of the horses that drew the cannons and other military stuff. The wounded horses went wild from the gunfire and came running our direction from the back, trampling anybody who would get in their way. It was like a steamroller coming your direction. I said to myself ‘Jesus Christ’, this is really bad. So I turned around and ran head over heels like all the others who were reasonable and wanted to save their lives. We left everything standing there and ran to the bridge ahead of us that we were supposed to cross. We didn’t know that it had been blown up.”

  • “It was a trap, we were lured in an ambush. They knew the place and they knew that we had to come this way. It was a narrow pass, cliffs on the one hand and a lake or a river on the other. So they knew that we had to pass through this narrow whether we wanted to or not. The Russians were already waiting for us and once we were all in the pass they opened fire at us. This is where I was wounded. I got hit by a huge piece of shrapnel in my leg. It was a ferocious blow. It totally knocked me down. It was as if someone had hit me with a heavy hammer. The interesting thing was that it didn’t bleed at first. I didn’t know that the shrapnel had cut through my leg because there wasn’t a single drop of blood.”

  • “There were good people as well as fanatics among the Russian soldiers. I remember one incident. There was a wounded German officer who lay a little farther away from us on a cart. One Russian walked past him and noticed his officer's uniform. As I said, this Russian was one of the fanatics. He noticed the wounded German because of his uniform. It was the uniform of a higher officer, not a rank-and-file soldier. So that Russian came to him and asked him: ‘Hitler kaput?’ He wanted an answer from the German officer. He wanted him to say that Hitler was finished. But the German wouldn’t speak. He could either not speak because of his injury or maybe he didn’t want to say it, I don’t know. So the Russian shot him before our eyes. He shot him just for not saying that Hitler was kaput.”

  • “They carried me away on a stretcher. It was my turn and so they took me to the waiting room. When I saw the equipment of the hospital I was completely carried away. It was of a very high quality, I had never seen anything like that before. They had at least ten surgery tables in a row where they carried out amputations. An amputation of a limb is a disgusting sight. I saw how they amputated one poor fellows arm and it was still moving after they cut it off. The arm was still moving in that bucket where they threw it away. I thought: ‘Jesus Christ, this is it’.”

  • “It took place at night. When we woke up in the morning, the train was standing at the railway station in Brno. We could say that the whole train was surrounded by armed militia men. I don’t exactly remember whether it was a regular military force or not. They were wearing uniforms and they were armed. I think they were members of the national guard, something of the sort of a militia. We had to get out of the cattle cars, line up and we were led away from the train station. We walked through the city to Pisárky. It was a terrible experience. The local people in the city hated Germans so they would yell and spit at us, they despised us. It was not a nice welcome for sure.”

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    Rohle, 01.03.2012

    (audio)
    duration: 04:34:14
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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On the eastern frontline

Ferdinand Maneth - 1940
Ferdinand Maneth - 1940
photo: archiv pamětníka

Ferdinand Maneth was born in 1923 in Úsov u Mohelnice in a family of mixed ethnicity. His father, Ferdinand senior, was German and his mother, Eleonora, was Czech. At the age of 19, he was drafted to the Wehrmacht. Originally, he was supposed to become a radio operator in the Afrikakorps which was headed to the African continent. Then he was transferred to a school for interpreters in the town of Meissen. Eventually, however, he served as a radio operator on the eastern frontline. He suffered severe injuries in the operation “Bagration” while fighting on the Daugava (Western Dvina) River in the north of Belarus. He ended up in Soviet captivity and had to be treated for a very long time in a hospital in the Kirov area, which is located several hundred kilometers east of Moscow. His knowledge of the Russian language saved his life on many occasions throughout the war. His leg was nearly amputated and today it is 12 centimeters shorter than the other one. Shortly after the war, he was taken to Brno together with a group of Austrian prisoners of war. Until the fall of 1947, he was held in a number of internment camps in the region of Morava before he was finally released and could go home. These camps were located in Brno, Kuřim, Kutina u Újezdu u Tišnova, Olomouc-Hodolany. In 1957, he married Gerlinda Kembitzk, a German, and moved to Rohle in the region of Šumpersko, where he had lived till the end of his days.