" Without my wife
I have not grown so old"
Erich Bach was just 18 years old when he was sent to Russia. Injured in the thigh while laying mines. After the war, he marries Anna, who is still there for him today.
Whether he ever thought he would live to be this old, I would like to hear from Erich Bach, who died on 4. has reached the age of 95 by June. His wife Anna, sitting next to him, touches him tenderly on the shoulders and repeats the question, speaking slowly and loudly in his ear. His face brightens up and he answers: "Without her, I wouldn’t have lived to be this old. Without her I would be a zero ".
In front of them is a picture of young Erich, in Wehrmacht uniform and a wounded man’s badge on his chest. But what is most striking is his mischievous smile. They met at the Geisler furniture factory in Eiweiler and married in 1954. 63 years together lie behind them. In the meantime he hears and sees only badly. Anna, eight years younger, helps him wash and get dressed.
Every morning she makes him oatmeal porridge, because his stomach, Erich says, is broken from the war in Russia. There it was so cold that the soup or bread on the way from the field kitchen back to the position near Leningrad (today St. Petersburg) are frozen. With the spoon they had to break the ice, at minus 30 degrees. Fortunately an officer, to whom he often slipped cigarettes, left him his fur coat when he went on home leave.
Always in mortal danger
What Bach saw in Russia, he can hardly describe. "This poverty, this filth, it’s unimaginable. " And the brutality and the dying. Near Sevastopol in the Crimea they come to a house with a veranda. A soldier sits down on the parapet in the sun, the others try to stop him. "I do eye care, he said. They were his last words. Then a bullet hit him right in the head," recalls Bach. He shoots the shooter.
Bach has countless memories. "Once I was standing by a tree in camouflage and a steel helmet when a heavy gun hit nearby. A splinter went directly over my head in the tree. If I had been a head taller, the head would have been gone ."
Moments of humanity
But there are also moments of humanity. Once a Russian soldier, probably from Mongolia, gets lost in the German position and meets Erich Bach. "He was shaking because he thought I was going to shoot him. But I just took a cigarette out of his breast pocket and put one of mine in it. I, you, comrade, I said. After that I let him go ."Bach learned one thing: "No matter where you go, you’ll meet decent and good people and bad and criminals ."
When he has to lay tank mines, he gets a package with four mines, several kilograms of high explosives, strapped to his back. "If a bullet had hit me, everything would have blown up. To powder! " he remembers.
Erich was wounded in the night of 7 September. to the 8. May 1944 while laying mines near St. Petersburg. Suddenly, flares light up the sky, and Erich is hit in the thigh. He owes his life to a catholic chaplain and his friend Josef Himbert from Kollerbach. " They pulled me out of the minefield ."
Erich Bach goes to a hospital in Riga and from there to Poland, where there was only fish to eat. "Once he tried a meatball, but even that was made of fish. He was so disappointed," Anna remembers and laughs. Back in Germany, after his recovery, Erich trains as a non-commissioned officer young high school graduates, " who had to volunteer ". Erich had also volunteered at that time – "out of stupidity," he says. " You are not quite kloar ", his father answered him, who was a soldier in the First World War. " It was like that at the time ", says Erich. When asked about his opinion on the war in Syria, he taps his head.
In Germany he is arrested by the Allies and sent to St. Petersburg. Etienne near Lyon brought. "All the war I was in Russia, and then I’m a prisoner of war in France !" he marvels. Fortunately in a closed wagon, because during the journey through France the German soldiers are pelted with stones and other things – many die in the process.
Since his wound does not heal, he comes to Marseille in the American occupation zone with the help of a woman doctor. " There was everything. So much to eat. We thought we were in heaven! Like in the land of milk and honey. "Later he is discharged, comes to Goppingen and returns to the Saarland via the Rhine.
Struggle for compensation
After the war Erich Bach works as a plumber. His wound hurts to this day. Initially, he only receives a "severely war-disabled person’s card," which allows "preferential check-in" at offices and reduced admission prices at cultural events. With the VdK, whose local association Walpershofen he co-founded, he fights for compensation.
The VdK was well known and familiar in the villages back then, says Erwin Sander, chairman of the Walpershofen local association, which Erich Bach headed for years. " Everybody knew everybody. They advised and helped each other and fought for pensions and housing allowances. Especially for the war widows, who were destitute. Today, people come in with problems and want to leave when the problem is solved. We would not have dared. We were like a village community ", says Erwin Sander.
Today Erich and Anna Bach look back on an eventful life. On VdK trips, vacations with a Swiss family where there were good schnapps, and Volkswanderungen that kept them fit. " I walked 10 kilometers and he jogged. 1000s of kilometers he has traveled. That has done him good, in this time he was never ill ", says Anna. " We had good times, we never forget them ."