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(from Chapter 2, The Withdrawal from Ukraine to Romania)
"...Back to the front. I was with my regiment again, south of Kiev in the Ukraine, in the vicinity of Kremenchug and around the Dnepr River. Fighting went on daily, in great, confused battles in which terrain was lost, regained, lost, and taken back again. General von Manstein directed the German armies and the Russians were led by Generals Koniev, Tolbukhin, and Malinovsky, all highly decorated and capable.
There were repeated battles around the city of Krivoi Rog, with heavy losses on both sides. The winter was beginning to close in.
It was during this period, when defeat began to loom over us for the first time, that Leopold Poschusta demonstrated his great strength of character and courage. When I first met him, before Kursk, he was a Gefreiter, and we talked a lot about Austria, our friends, our parents, and the good food. This calm, reliable, trustworthy man became my good friend. We liked to play an old, simple Austrian card game, and we played it every free minute because it took our minds off of the grim day-to-day war. The game was called Schapsen and is still played today. Poldi liked to win, but did not lose his temper if he lost. He merely said, "I will win the next one," and then proceeded to do so.
He was always helpful with deeds and advice, having been at the front for some time already. Our whole group looked up to him, because of his cool handling of many tight situations and for keeping our spirits high by his words and actions.
After one such action near Krivoi Rog, around an old airstrip, where his initiative helped to keep a strong Russian attack at bay, he was promoted to Unteroffizier and subsequently was assigned as a Zugführer (platoon leader). Rumors flew that Poldi might be awarded the Ritterkreuz. Later, they proved to be true. How proud we were to be part of his group. According to what we heard, he was to be pulled out of combat for awhile and be presented to new GD recruits in Cottbus and Guben to boost morale!
One day during only desultory fighting, the word spread-"Poldi's been killed." It was true; he was actually killed on his birthday. We were in shock, our hero and pillar of strength was gone! His award of the Ritterkreuz was posthumous.
I always remember this gentle, heroic
Austrian friend I had for a few months in my life. Years later, back in Austria
after returning from prison camp, whenever I heard over the radio the song
"Ich hatt' einen Kameraden," I thought only of Poldi
Poschusta. What an impression he had made on me, this teenaged warrior. My eyes
always became wet when I heard this haunting melody and sad words:
The Good Soldier
From Austrian Social Democracy to Communist Captivity with a Soldier of Panzer-Grenadier Division Großdeutschland
by Alfred Novotny
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New! Audio Version of The Good Soldier
Read by the author, Alfred Novotny
Even more than they do in the book, the Eastern Front experiences of the former Panzergrenadier now come alive against a background of combat sound effects and period music that provide an entirely new experience for those seeking a more intimate familiarity with the author's story.