Wednesday, 8 May 2013

The last stand of Inge Dombrowski


Yelena Zelenskaya portraying Inge in "Downfall"

As the Third Reich collapsed and the Red army cut through the German heartlands horror stories drifted west and filled the civilian population with dread.

The territory of East Prussia had been mauled by the advancing Russians. Civilians had been murdered, the weak, elderly, women and children. Women were gang raped by whole squads of Russian soldiers others raped to death. POWs were like wise shot, tortured or marched off to the East never to be seen again.

The Wehrmacht couldn't protect the civilians, either they were too busy fighting for their lives or using their arms to steal transport west or food. The organs of the state were similarly wreaking vengeance upon those who were seen as traitors or trying to save their own wretched hides and ill-gotten loot.

Scarily, these horror stories were true.

Anarchy and fear shook Germany to its very core. Many fled the red tide as it swept west. Others wouldn't flee preferring to fight on to buy the others time or to preserve Germany. Many could not leave for fear of retribution, lack of transport, physical inability or because they'd heard of refugees being murdered on the road or shot up by Russian aircraft.

The home front had gotten all the more desperate as time went by. As men of fighting age were quickly issued Karbiners, MP-40 or Panzerfausts and pushed towards the lines so the elderly, young boys and even young girls of the Deutsche Bunde Mädel filled in the gaps on second line positions. This included aiding the similarly aged Luftwaffe Flakhelfer.

As the Air war turned against the Luftwaffe in the skies above Germany's cities priorities for defence turned to Anti Aircraft guns over fighters. Great Flak towers were constructed and batteries of 88 mm guns were deployed. The 88 was a superb AA gun with the added bonus that it was mobile and could punch a hole through a medium tank quite easily. Like they had been on the front the 88s were deployed in the streets of Berlin at choke points to hold back the tide of Russian armoured vehicles and their barrels lowered.

In the centre of this storm and grim defenders was a teenage girl, Inge Dombrowski, a member of the Deutsche Bunde Mädel who served in the crew of one of the tank traps. There would have been shortages of ammunition, battle fatigue and somehow the knowledge that the war was coming to a close.

As a young girl, Inge would have been indoctrinated fully into the notions of National Socialism and the three Ks of the female Doctrine; Kinder, Kirche, Kuche. (Chilren, Church and Cooking.) Whether or not she was a strong believer or not can not be confirmed or denied but Nazism as a doctrine would have been drummed into her at school and at the BDM meetings etc.

The stress and the noise would have been horrendous as waves of Russian soldiers probed up the streets with heavy fire from Soviet Artillery regiments being rained down on targets the knowledge that they were only holding and unable to stop the Soviets nagging at them as they kept up a rate of fire on anything that appeared in the street before them never knowing when their last shot would be. The whole defence was an act of futility but with orders from the very top to stand their ground and for the young and indoctrinated, an unswerving belief in the Fuhrer and the promise of secret weapons or relief from the IX army to the south it was carried out. Fear of capture by the Soviets or of execution by the SS or Civilian death squads who roamed the lines looking for "cowards" and "traitors" also kept them at their posts. Boys and girls who were still of school age manning Flak guns against a battle hardened Soviet army - Chuikov's rifles had been in Stalingrad two years before and were baying for vengeance.
The incident of her last stand was shown in Downfall but is referenced though I've only found it in one book so far;  Joachim Fest, Inside Hitler's Bunker, pg 73-74. As the 88s fired until they wore down or were taken out by aircraft or their crews were picked off by snipers and infantry fire the inexperienced crews and young lads began to falter and flee for their lives.

Inge, fearing falling into the hands of the Russians because of the stories from East Prussia and other captured territories and what might happen to her, or like Magda Goebbels she believed in the Reich and Hitler to the extent that she couldn't imagine life in the world with out it and begged her Leutnant to take her life.

He is said to have drawn his Luger and fired then wracked with guilt or afflicted from the same sentiment and delusions of Nazi indoctrination, he also committed suicide.

Inge's death was symptomatic of the chaos of the end of the Reich and the desperate measures many felt they needed to take in the wake of the Soviet advance and the chaos that ensued. It is highly probable that had she fallen into Soviet hands she would have been raped and or killed as was the case for many women civilian and combatant in Berlin and with the fear of the future and not willing for this to be her fate, I can understand her choice in this.

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