The German Guides

When the Germans blew up the Saale-Bridge at Gemünden, the direct route to Hammelburg was blocked. The only way to bypass the town was to follow the Sinn-River to the north and find a bridge and a road to Hammelburg. Captain Baum's 1:100.000 scale maps ended at Obersinn 20 km ahead. The terrain was difficult, there were a lot of small roads, so he needed urgent a local German guide.

The first man, who was picked up, was Anton Brückner. During a stop in Rieneck, he was forced to accompany the column. He was an elderly man. It is still under research, what had happened to him.

The second man, who was taken captive was the 24 years old Luftwaffen-Unteroffizier (Air Force-NCO) Friedrich Stübinger.  Unteroffizier Stübinger was stationed at the Langendiebach airfield, and escaped with other comrades to Burgsinn when his base was approached by US troops. On 27 March 1945, the population of Burgsinn assembled at the town hall, because they heard the news of the approaching US column.

Friedrich Stübinger

(Photo: Edith Wolf)

A German Army General, who was accidentally at Burgsinn, ordered Unteroffizier Stübinger and a Lieutenant from his staff to make a reconnaissance. Unteroffizier Stübinger and the Lieutenant drove a motorcycle towards Rieneck to find the position of the Americans. When they came over a hill near Rieneck, they were captured by the Americans. Unteroffizier Stübinger had to sit on the first tank. The Lieutenant was taken to another vehicle. All his assertions that he didn't know the area were ignored. He stayed with the column until it was scattered the next morning.

 

Franz-Josef Bechold 1942

(Photo: Richard Bechold)

Just before entering the town of Burgsinn, they picked up another German man. Franz-Josef Bechold, 36 years old, had lost his right arm at the Eastern Front. He watched the column when a machine gun barrel invited him to accompany the Force. In the center of the town the tanks mangled over the motorcycle of the local police officer. Through the fact that Franz-Josef Bechold spoke no English and had only on arm, he was relieved in Burgsinn and could go home. 28 March 1945 he was arrested by SS-troops and was accused for helping the enemy. He was arrested in the local jail for one day and could go home after the SS left the town.

The third German, who had been captured, was the 21 years old Fähnrich (Officer Cadet) Karl Kessler from Burgsinn. Fähnrich Kessler was a engineer who was on convalescent from an arm wound received at the Eastern Front. He was sent towards the US armored column by the mayor to tell the Americans that Burgsinn had no German troops and was undefended. At the edge of Burgsinn he met the Task Force and told Captain Baum about a small bridge in Burgsinn and the road to Hammelburg. He was forced to sit next to Unteroffizier Stübinger on the same Tank to show the route.

Fähnrich Karl Kessler 1945

(Photo: A. Kessler)

In Burgsinn, the Americans also captured the German General.  Karl Kessler and Friedrich Stübinger guided the column to Gräfendorf. The road between Burgsinn and Gräfendorf was narrow, unpaved and steep. The two men were afraid the Americans would think they showed them the wrong way. Between Bursinn and Gräfendorf, the column liberated about 100 Soviet POWs. After what seemed 15 endless kilometers, they reached Gräfendorf.  Fähnrich Kessler told Captain Baum that his wounded arm was hurting badly, and so he was relieved. He had to hide a few days, because the SS were looking for him. 10 days later Fähnrich Kessler was a POW of the 14th Armored Division, and transferred to a POW Camp near Marseille/France.

In Gräfendorf the column stopped in the center of the village near the Schondra-Bridge. The inhabitants of Gräfendorf came to see the Americans. Captain Baum requested a local guide from the mayor to show the route to Hammelburg. The mayor asked Anton Försch a 57 years old shepherd to show the way to Hammelburg. Anton Försch didn't like the Nazis and was known in the village as a notorious grumbler. This could be a good opportunity for the mayor to get rid of this man.

Anton Försch 1950

(Photo: Maria Schmelz)

Anton Försch was placed on the leading tank and the column continued its march towards Hammelburg. They came through Michelau and passed another tiny bridge across the Saale-River. Anton Försch was thinking about his faith. If he shows the way to Hammelburg, the SS would kill him, if he would miss lead the column, the Americans would kill him. Before the came to Weickesgrüben, the Americans were asking for "Oschenstall" (Ochsental). That was the chance for Anton Försch to get out of this trouble. In Weickersgrüben he guided the column to the north into a dead-end road. He said he never came out of his small village so far and don't know the route any further. Before the road turned into a trail, there was an inn - Grüner Baum (green tree). Anton Försch knew the landlord.

Karl Stürzenberger 1998

(Photo: Artur Hurrlein)

The Americans went into the inn and requested Karl Stürzenberger to come out and show them the route to Hammelburg. He told them that his wife was in puerperium, becaus she have birth to his son a day before. The Americans was unimpressed and he had to accompany the column. Anton Försch told the Americans that he was of no more use and they relieved him with an army blanket. The next night the SS came to his house and wanted to arrest him for helping the enemy. Anton Försch told them he was ordered by the mayor.

Karl Stürzenberger guided the column to the junction of the Reichsstraße 27. He told Captain Baum, that the road down the hill would lead to Hammelburg and the small trail across the Reichsstraße 27 would lead directly to Camp Hammelburg. Captain Baum decided to follow the R 27 - right into a heavy tank battle. Karl Stürzenberger was relieved but had to hide a few days because SS-troops were looking for people who had helped the Americans or hung out white flags.

 

2002 © Copyright Peter Domes -  Date of last change: 2006-10-13