There is an entire culture of people who are obsessed with all things to do with Nazi Germany, and who will scour the internet (and other, seedier avenues) in search of memorabilia – anything and everything from weapons to cutlery to correspondence.
It’s through such an individual that these two fragments made their way to me. I have been assured of their authenticity. As individual scraps of correspondence they are a curiosity, and worth considering. Put together they elicit in me the bone-deep chill of certitude.
The image of an entire company of these creatures assaulting their still-living comrades is enough to chill the blood, for certain. And the response to the attack was ruthlessly effective in a way of which few but the Nazis would have been capable.
But of greater concern to me is the final fate of the wounded private from “I” Company. Did his “ferocious wound” eventually kill him? If so, did he remain dead? The SS report indicates that all evidence of something was meant to be erased by massive shelling – to the extent that even the evidence of the shelling was covered up.
Document #1: The first person account of the event. Original document is in German so a rough translation has been done.
Combat Report of 30 January 1943
76th Infantry Division, 2nd Battalion
Hauptmann Hans Reiniger
The withdrawal of the remaining troops of the 76th Infantry Division, 2nd Battalion from the surrounding area of Stalingrad began on 30 January 1943. Company “C” in 2nd Battalion was still unaccounted for. They had seen the most action in Stalingrad over the last 60 days and communication with them had slowly deteriorated over the last 7 weeks.
Reports said that “C” had slowly made their way to the village of Kalach. Orders were given to Company “I” to cross 1 kilometer open field, enter the village and extract “C”. Company “I” was observed at approximately 1600 hours entering Kalach. Light Russian gunfire was repelled and the push through the village began at 1700 hours. They radioed in that they had spotted Company “C” walking through the village very slowly with no weapons and tattered uniforms. By late evening both companies had still not returned, and darkness halted any backline observation of the withdrawal effort. By 1800 hours, all communication attempts with Company “I” had failed. Troops were told to find shelter for the night and prepare to continue the operation at first light.
At 0700, HQ observers spotted “I” meeting “C” at an intersection. The exchange of thanks and embraces were substituted with grotesque soldats reaching out toward their liberators with malice. Another observer dropped his field glasses and turned ghostly white. He was asked what he saw and replied a “C” soldat gnash his teeth into the neck of another, ripping out his throat.
A lone soldat escaped the attack, and was quite shaken up. He told us that “it was brutal, no weapons could stop them. The sounds they made were not of this earth, incoherent ramblings from the shells of German men." He was all that was left of his team, but he did not escape unharmed. He ripped open a his bloodied jacket and revealed a ferocious wound on the back of his arm.
Almost as the last word came out of the Private’s mouth, a cadre of Schutzstaffel men arrived on scene. A Lt. Col (Oberstleutnant) stepped out of the vehicle, and ordered our .88 mm guns to be fired on the village, all artillery was to be exhausted.
This order came as a surprise to me. I have been serving the Fuhrer since 1939, and have carried out every order to the letter, but never to fire upon my fellow Germans. Some were my friends. Would carrying out this order damn me to a fate similar to this company?
Artillery squads turned the three remaining .88 mm guns toward the town, and fired all remaining .88 mm rounds into the oncoming force and town. Shelling lasted for nearly twenty minutes and ended at 0745.
Withdrawal of the remaining 76th Infantry Division continued at approximately 0800. The last few days since Kalach have been difficult. We do not speak of Company “C”.
Document #2: A stray SS document detailing how the incident was handled. Original document is in German so a rough translation has been done.
FROM SCHUTZSTAFFEL TOP SECRET FIELD REPORT: 30 JUNE TO JULY 3 1943
30 June: Forward observers radio no threat, Russian or otherwise, and allow us into the field just outside the village of Kalach. Initial inspection of battlefield showed almost no change from 30 January shelling of Company “C”. Kalach was also still deserted. Second unit with hazardous safety equipment arrived at 1900.
1 July: Rifle and mortar units took defensive positions surrounding field, and the special inspection unit entered field for first investigation. First report: two torsos with heads attached found in state of morbid decay, both with black eyes in sockets and large teeth with what appear to be bloodstains. Tissue samples were taken and both corpses were placed in secure tank. Later report indicated a direct hit on four victims; remains of feet and arm bone/flesh secured.
2 July: Investigation unit found three bodies still almost intact, and evacuated area for mortar unit to send in artillery. Unit was sent back in to collect remains. Tissue and appendage samples placed in secure holding tank, and marked with different tags. Reports were that these could have survived the January shelling.
3 July: Final sweep of field yields mostly hands, fingers and uniform remains, including belts, buckles and dog tags. Colonel Köhler ordered ground fire treatment where all corpses were found, and any remaining artillery craters filled. Köhler radioed back to Division to deem experiment a failure, and ordered all documents to be destroyed. Unit withdrew from Kalach at 1500.
4 July 1943
A single zombie in Nazi hands would have been a seed waiting to be sowed. The iron will of Hitler left no room for conscience, and he would have undoubtedly sought to reap the benefits of an unkillable army.
As it stands, all further records seem to have been lost in the Nazi flight from Eastern Front. The human race may owe its continued existence to the icy will of the Russian winter and the tenacity of the Red Army.
But for how long? Considering the rapid changes in the global environment, a frozen corpse long buried might soon be made to thaw after decades on ice. And if that corpse happened to be an undead soldier of the Third Reich? What then?