" Think About it..."
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True Soldier Stories
"Courage is the ability to move;
when all around you are frozen in fear
My Name is Horst Kurt Hilbert
Taken from the book Think About it... for your reading convenience
I gave a talk one day as a quest speaker in another ward. It was about liberty, our freedoms and our blessings from the Lord to this great country of ours. There was a portion of the talk that was about WWII and Nazi Germany and the role the US played in stopping that war. Afterwards, an elderly gentlemen with a strong German accent came up and began talking to me. He told me he was a German soldier during WWII.
As I listened to this old German soldier, I was reminded of the first and only other German Soldier I had ever met. He was my scout master when I was a fourteen years old. I not only knew he was a former German soldier, but I knew he was not particularly liked by many others. Not because he was a bad person, he wasn't, in fact he was a real good person with extreme integrity. But because he was a former WWII German soldier and the war was still fresh in the minds of so many of his and my neighbors, he was not well liked. I was too young to really understand why, for myself, I really liked him and respected him.
Our troop went on a long bicycle ride one day and he told us to bring food, not money. But being the bright young, never experienced hard times and smarter than our scout master, all American boys we were, we didn't listen ...we brought money! We stopped after about 8 to 10 miles. We were famished and there wasn't a store in sight. Our scout master, in his strong German accent and broken English said, "See ...you are hungry! I told you to bring food! You brought money instead! Now eat your money!" He wasn't trying to be mean, he was trying to teach us a lesson in life. It turned out to be a good lesson in proper preparation, ...one I would never forget.
Now talking to Horst, I found myself drawn to him as I was my old scout master because of his experiences and because of his strength of character. He told me this story as we stood there and talked,
"One day we were clearing a small Russian village. I
can’t remember the
name, there were so many. We were going house to house. The unofficial order was
to kill whoever
we found, but not everyone followed that. (Authors note: I was watching
the History Channel once, on Germany's invasion of Russia titled "The
Road to War, USSR." They made this remark, "The Nazis made no
distinction between soldier and civilian. There were villages where not
a single man survived the war." Other accounts I read said that many
of the women were raped or killed as well.) I came to a cellar door. I opened it
and inside was a
woman with her two children. She was trying to hide them from me. She was
holding them behind
her. Terror was on the woman’s face. Her two children had their arms wrapped
around the woman’s
legs and were peering out from behind her dress. In front of the woman was a
half bottle of milk. The
woman picked up the milk and offered it to me that I might take it instead of
their lives. As I stood
there, my rifle still pointed at the woman, I said,
I later asked if I could interview him and he said I could. From his words and from his personal diary, I learned and was allowed to copy the following stories from my second German soldier friend named;
Horst Kurt Hilbert
I was born July 10th 1919, in Leipzig, Saxony, Germany. I served in the 75th Infantry, 13th Company of the German Army during WWII and served on the Russian front. I was LDS then too. There were about 600 Mormons who were killed in Hitler’s Army in WWII. We tried to keep track of each other, but I never knew any others besides myself. I had a friend in my outfit that had a Jewish girlfriend. When the SS found out about it, they took him and told him he could either choose to die by shooting himself or they would hang him. I didn’t ask what the soldier chose!
Horst told me about a 17 year old LDS boy that was taken out of school by the SS and beheaded with an ax for speaking out against Hitler. That story is also documented in the book, Mormonism in Germany by Gilbert Scharffs, p102 and 103. "Hitler pushed us to the limit! Many soldiers had it up to here with Hitler." (His hand was leveled at his chin)
My division was transferred to Poland in July of 1940. We were stationed in the city of Lubin. I got 3 weeks leave and Irene and I were engaged. We were then moved to the Demarkation Line between Russia and Germany. I began to fear about the future. What was the purpose of amassing so many German troops there? The Russians and Germans had a treaty but going with open eyes through life, I could already see how much a promise of treaty was worth to this Adolf Hitler.
June 22, 1941 at 3:15 sharp, the German artillery started to pound the Russians. My unit crossed the river Bug into Russia. Climbing up the river bank on the other side, I looked back and saw many German soldiers moving toward the river. I said to my buddy,
"I just wonder how many of all those men
The first days were not too much trouble. The population was happy to get rid of the communists. In August, 1941, I came to the outskirts of the city of Kiev, the capital city of the Ukraine.
In the night of August 24 or 25, I had to go into the no-man's land to get some timber. We must have made some noise because a gun started to shoot and I got shot through my left arm. It was not serious, 10 days later I was back on the front line. On the 19th of September I entered the city of Kiev, a city of old and beautiful churches. I had a chance to look at the Lavra Monastery. I building of breath taking beauty. After 10 days, I had to move on to the east again. In Sumy I was quartered in a house, in which an old man lived who had spent 12 years in New York. We talked about America, and how we both liked to be able to be there.
In the area of the city of Tomarkowka I came to a village where our officers told us to go into houses and ask the people to give us oats for our horses. We were supposed to give them a receipt so they could get compensated for it later. When I came into one house, I heard much wailing and weeping. And I saw the cause of it. A young woman had tried sometime ago to start a fire in a big stove. Stoves in Russian houses in rural areas are built of mud and fill a big part of the house. The flame had struck back and burned the woman's hand. I looked at it and saw the bones of the fingers laying bare, the flesh gone. At the wrist the color of the flesh was dark brownish. I asked the man of the house why he did not take her to a doctor.
I said to him,
The man promised not to misuse my trust, got his sled ready, put the woman on it and drove off hurriedly. Every minute counted for this woman. My way did lead me further east, so I could not hear the results of the woman's treatment. But I hoped she would live out her life.
In December of 1941 it got very cold. My unit had to march to the village of Melichowo, 30
One early morning, the 6th of January 1942, I had to stand guard duty with a buddy, Hans Plank. We were standing beside a little shack, the straw roof covered with snow. A Russian machine gun started to shoot at us. I could see the tracers hitting the ground before my feet, skipping off to the sky. Other rounds hit the straw roof and I could see the bullets hitting rows of holes making the snow coming down like sugar coming out of a bowl. I was very afraid and since I was forbidden to leave the post, I wanted to pray.
I could feel the power of the destroyer.
“We have to pray fast, Horst is in mortal danger and needs our prayer!
In Besdrick the war was kind of quiet, the Russians were regrouping and preparing for their next big offensive. We had to man an observation post in a house outside the village, on a hilltop. I got a turn of two hours a day. An old man was living there. He looked like a patriarch. Old with long whiskers and his appearance was of noble design. One day he took a Russian printed Bible from a hiding place. It was forbidden to the Russian people to have a Bible in their possession, or at least they faced insult and ridicule. So the old man read in the Bible, and he came to me, tears in his eyes, and showed a passage to me. I could not read it, but my heart was moved by so much faithfulness.
I said to him,
I immediately pushed the muzzle aside and said to him,
Then I picked up the Russian. He begged for water, and I was sad that I did not have a drop with me. We went to the next road crossing where the field kitchens might come by and will help him. I said a short prayer for him and told him, that I have to go on.
I feel the Lord has seen it, for two
days later I got the answer directly from this incident. On the 16th of
August 1943 I was standing at an somewhat elevated railway track,
talking to a friend, Otto Becker. Suddenly I saw a big flame to my right, maybe
ten feet away. Then
I felt like having evil smelling smoke pressed into my mouth and felt a hard
blow on my right side.
When I tried to assess my situation, I found myself laying on the ground with a
terrible pain, all at the
same time, in my head, right arm, shoulder, breast, stomach and hind part.
Two buddies put me in a blanket and carried me to a first aid station. There I saw rows of wounded soldiers and I figured, if they put me at the end of that long line, the Russians will be there before the doctors get there. So I said to the doctor when I was brought in, "Sir, all I need is a tetanus and a morphine shot. He gave me both shots, and put me on the next ambulance.
It was a bumpy ride and it hurt, but a check on myself and a feeling told me that I will be alright. Later we passed a dozen German tanks facing the Russians and then I could afford the luxury to pass out. Soon I came to a field hospital, was put on a table, and a doctor took several shrapnel out of my body, all without anesthesia. But I did not mind. Then I was taken to a hospital train, got a place on the floor, covered with straw and the train soon took off for a ride to Kiev. When I looked around me and saw the mangled bodies, I felt grateful that my injuries were not that serious.
When I met Horst for the very first time, though slowly, he was walking and moving around. He had all but completely healed from his war injuries. Irene told me that during those times the only two religions the government would recognize was the Catholic Church and the Lutheran Church. Everything else was called a sect and you had to have a permit for a "club" in order to be able to gather together. In order to get a permit for a club, you had to have eight sponsors from the Nazi Party to sponsor your club. She told me other things as well that she asked me not to repeat as they may still cause problems for others.
Horst then told me of an incident after the war while they still lived in Germany. He said, "One day after the war on a Sunday morning I was stopped by the Communist Police because they always saw me in a suit carrying a small bag on Sundays. They demanded to know what was in my bag. I gave it to them for inspection.
They pulled out my
Bible and in looking at it, they demanded;
In the October Ensign magazine of 1978, there is an article about Horst's mother and family during the war in Berlin while Horst and his brother Arno were on the Russian front. WWI to the Russians is known as "The Great Patriotic War." They lost over 20 million people in that war.
Authors Note: Horst Hilbert is a friend of mine and has since
passed away since he gave me his story. But when he was alive, one of
the many things he told me was this about freedom.
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