“Ich hatt’ einen Kameraden”

Gefreiter Hans Brasser was born on 20 October, 1917 in Aulhausen (near Mainz). He served in 4. Kompanie, Panzerjäger-Abteilung 33 of the 33. Infanterie-Division. On 17 June, eight days before the end of the Battle of France, he and some other soldiers were killed in action in Loury, just northeast of Orléans. He was 22 years old, and that’s all we know about him. His relatives might know about some grand-uncle who died in the war, but nothing more. At of his funeral, his comrades probably sang “Der gute Kamerad“.

The song “Der gute Kamerad” (“The good Comrade”) is the traditional lament of the German armed forces. The text was written by Ludwig Uhland in 1809, set to music in 1825, and has been translated to several other languages thanks to its universal nature.

I once had a comrade,
You will find no better.
The drum called to battle,
He walked at my side,
In the same pace and step.

A bullet came a-flying,
Is it my turn or yours?
He was swept away,
He lies at my feet,
Like it were a part of me.

He still reaches out his hand to me,
While I am about to reload.
I cannot hold onto your hand,
You stay in eternal life
My good comrade.

In foreign soil

Here, outside the small Russian town of Pillovo, are the graves of some of the men of the 2. BataillonInfanterie-Regiment 220 of the 58. Infanterie-DivisionGefreiter Wilhelm Masa was 22 years old when he was killed in 1941, Schütze Henry Gramkow from Hamburg was 31 years old when he fell, Schütze Heinrich “Heino” Schneider had just turned 21 three weeks earlier, and Gefreiter Heinrich Viet was 22 years old. They were all killed in fighting on 25-26 August, 1941, a week after the division had taken Narwa.

The war went on without them. Their division took part in the long and cruel Siege of Leningrad (modern-day Saint Petersburg). Eventually, the Red Army broke the siege, and the division and most of the other units in Army Group North were encircled in the Courland pocket. Three years after taking Narwa, the division was back in the city, this time as defenders. It then retreated towards Königsberg (Kaliningrad). Small elements of the division were evacuated by ship, but most of its men went into Soviet captivity.