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Chapter 14: Sennozero

...It was a week after summer solstice when the Russians finally launched their offensive.

       At first, we heard the faint rumble of artillery fire up at the North Flank. Then an artillery barrage came down on the positions of SS-Mountain Infantry Regiment 12, our neighbor to the left. It was of such tremendous energy that in the following attack, strong Russian forces actually broke into the regiment’s forward positions. They nevertheless were thrown out in the ensuing counterattack. Under the cover of more artillery fire, however, the Ivans managed to dig new positions dangerously close to our front line. We answered with a massive artillery bombardment using all the howitzers and heavy mortars at the division’s disposal. In the end, the Russians withdrew.

       Even with all the casualties this operation had cost both sides, it was only a harbinger of greater events to come. The thunder on the North Flank continued to worry all of us for the next few days. The first rumors came in: the brave Norwegians of Ski Battalion “Norway” had been overrun and driven from their outpost; other strongpoints seemed to have been abandoned, among them the one from which we had started our mission to the lakes in March. The thought that Mannhard was somehow involved in what was going on added to my uneasiness as I listened to the constant rumble. Had he been with the outposts that had been overrun? Was he still alive? Over the days the thunder had increased rather than lessened. It didn’t stop at night, but there were no nights anyway. They said even Stukas were employed. Something big was going on up there.

       Then, for the first time, we heard the name of Sennozero, the most northern of our strongpoints, another lake, in fact, with a few huts and some hills, a point from whence a flat, impassable region of water, bogs, and thin ribs of land extended over a boundless distance to the north. Here, as we were soon to discover, the Russians had employed a task force of seven battalions, determined to open the way for a thrust into our division’s rear area.

       We were alerted on one of the first days of July. Schaper rushed into our bunker at seven in the morning. The battalion was to leave its positions within twelve hours, in full combat gear.

       In the rear, we found the regimental command post bustling with activity as the battalion assembled. Sergeants major were directing different units here and there. Equipment was being replaced and completed; rations for several days were issued. Finally, our platoon stood in line for an extra item—handed out from a desk standing under some fir trees—a round, tin box of Schoka-Kola for each of us. Such charity was an unmistakable sign that things were getting serious.

       I remember clearly the scene I was watching. There, for the first time, I saw the men of our platoon all together, chatting, relaxed, clad in their camouflage blouses, their caps taken off for the light breeze that kept the mostquitoes at bay, their faces tanned from the sunny weather of the recent weeks. I saw Bing, the ever-reliable one, with his machine gun resting on his shoulder; Stricker, with his blond shock of hair; Polzer, the other South Tyrolean of my gun crew, red-cheeked and strong as a mule; Berger, with his good square worker’s face; the Alte and his men, laughing about one of his jokes; Schmidtchen, the most easy one to entertain; Bäumer; and next to him, Heinrich, with his machine gun on his shoulder, showing a wry smile. I suddenly felt pride and confidence in this unit, in the battalion as a whole which, at that moment, seemed to me invincible...


  Black Edelweiss
A Memoir of Combat and Conscience by a Soldier of the Waffen-SS
by Johann Voss
  • 8 Maps
  • 22 photos
  • 224 pages
  • Softcover, 6" x 9" format
  • ISBN 10: 0-9666389-8-0
  • ISBN 13: 978-0-9666389-8-1
$19.95 Retail
+ shipping (see How to Order)

Members of the 45th Infantry Division Association, 157th Infantry Regiment Associations, 70th Infantry Division Association, the Traditionsverband of the 6th SS-Mountain Division and their family members:
$17.50



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