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Mindset of 1945
By Jeff Johannes


One thing we tend to overlook in this hobby is that of the actual soldiers mental state. In other words, we sometimes become so enamored with the uniforms, gear, weapons, etc., we tend to forget or overlook other equally important aspects of our impressions; lets face it most of us are here because we all think something about the WWII German Armed Forces is "cool." One thing that I think we sometimes forget to focus on is who is under that Stalhelm, or beneath that tunic or camo smock, or who is behind that FLAK or PAK gun? We need to incorporate our overall knowledge of not only the right gear for this scenario, but also the right mindset. Having the correct period mindset, and utilizing it for events will not only help you but also your fellow living historians gain our own snapshot in time.

The following is a synopsis based on several German accounts or from quality historical studies concerning the situation of the German soldier's mindset in early 1945.  Please note:

- This not a formal study but rather an informal collection from various works and sources focused for this event.
- The works/sources used in this informal study are referenced at end of this article.
- When the term "German soldier" is utilized in this message, it is meant to encompass the Wehrmacht, namely Heer, Waffen-SS, and Luftwaffe ground elements who were fighting on the ground in early 1945.

 
Dedication to duty

Overall, the German soldier was still dedicated to fulfilling his duty as a German soldier. No need to go into all too familiar information of what motivated the the German soldier to fulfill his duty, we should all know this by now. However, at this stage of the war, the motivation for fulfilling duty and obligation appeared to be one of or a combination of the following:

- dedication to living comrades in the unit; "we fight for each other"
- dedication to good, admired, and skilled Officers and NCO's
- dedication to honoring the memory of those who have fallen already in the conflict, i.e. make sure comrades did not die in vain
- fighting for Germany itself....not the government or its leaders but fighting for the integrity of the country and its people

 
Wanting to Live/The War is almost over
Many soldiers realized that the war was at an end and that, as in all wars, they do not want to be the last soldier to die on the last day of the war at the last hour. For the most part, even the most ardent and dedicated soldiers of the Third Reich, if there is chance to live then they will opt for survival. One means of survival is surrendering to the enemy, and for the German soldier on the Western Front, he was more prone to surrender than his counterpart on the Eastern Front. Again, not to repeat on some common knowledge of WWII, the Western Allies accepted and humanely treated German POW's more so then the Russians. Therefore, the German soldier would, if the opportunity arose, to surrender then fight to the death or even put up major struggle.

Its very historically correct to surrender at this time of the (and at any other time of the war for that matter) war. Not all German soldiers decided to fight to the last man and die for their country. Since we are not being engaged by live ammunition and artillery, we often decide that dramatics will win over common soldier sense. Even the most ardent soldiers of the Third Reich, chose to live for another day, or in their case, for a post-war Germany. How do we know this? Simple - look at all the massive amount of German post-war veteran accounts and interviews we read and study for our hobby.
 

Overwhelming odds
The American and British Armies facing the German Army in 1945 were quite a formidable foe. Almost fully mechanized, well equipped, excellent artillery, and total air superiority. By the time period of 1945, the German solider had come to realize that at almost every recent engagement he fought in, he was outgunned and out supplied. This was to much too comprehend anymore so why fight a such a daunting foe? One soldier realized how can they fight an army that even equip's their men with rubber soled shoes while they don't even have enough rubber for vehicle tires anymore.


Fear
Another reason to fight, and a very common one was fear of being labeled as a deserter and executed. Also the fear of repercussions that would be brought upon their family if they did not fight. This "ancient" tactic of fearing your superiors (namely the Feldgendarmie) more than your enemy was surprisingly effective at this stage of the war. Plus, the sights of comrades being hung as suspected deserters kept many a landser or grenadier on the line.


Anger
Some soldiers had thought of the American and British adversaries as criminals and cowards for their bombing campaign against civilian targets. Many have already lost their homes and/or their families, so why not fight for revenge and anger?


East vs. West
Many German soldiers began to question why they had to fight the Western Allies when the Russians were destroying lands and the populace in Eastern Germany. One common question among German soldiers, "Didn't the Western Allies also hate Communism too?" Some soldiers thought it would be best to simply either surrender or "get out of the way" of the Western Allies so they can beat the Russians to Berlin and save Germany. They also knew that the Americans and British would treat their land and families with some respect and generally follow the Rules of War/Geneva Convention, therefore why should we delay them any farther?


Morale
For the most part morale was low. The only two notable exceptions was the Ardennes Campaign and the Offensive into Hungary (to relieve Budapest) in early 1945. The units we are representing in this campaign did not participate in either; the most recent offensive campaign for them was Operation Norwind.


In Summation
Again, this is not a pure study as compared to experienced historical works, but rather a living history centric tool that is directed to enhance our mental impressions for the Germany '45 event. It is hoped that, as students of history, that we integrate our overall knowledge into this event so as to enhance everyone's experience. You might have the right gear and the right weapon....but do you have the right mindset? That is just as important to the men we attempt to portray...on both sides of the war.

  


 
Sources:
"Victory Was Beyond Their Grasp" by Doug Nash
"Through Hell for Hitler" by Henry Metelmann
"Blood Red Snow" by Gunter Koschorrek
"Loyatly is my Honor" by Gordon Williamson
"With Our Backs Berlin" by Tony Le Tisser
"Death Was Our Companion" by Tony Le Tisser
"Seven Days in January" by Woelf Zeopf
"The Battle of the Bulge in Luxembourg Volume I: The Germans" by Roland Gaul
"Twilight of the Gods" Edited by Thorolf Hillblad
"The Last Year of the German Army" by James Lucas
"Last Laurels" by Georg Gunter
"Five Years, Four Fronts" by Georg Grossjohann


   
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