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Adam Grolsch

Adam Grolsch



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Adam Grolsch was born in Krefeld, Germany, in 1920. He came from a Catholic family. His father was a strong supporter of the Nazi Party. His mother was also a devoted follower of Adolf Hitler. "I was thirteen when Hitler came to power, and I have to say that as a thirteen-year-old, I knew little about politics. My father died in 1933. He was unemployed at the time and was actually for Hitler. That's nothing new to you, though. Everybody will confirm it for you. Hitler had gotten the unemployed off the streets.... My mother was a woman for whom Hitler was a god... The Führer could do everything. And she wasn't alone. Everybody else in the neighborhood, especially many, many women (agreed with her). What the Führer said was both just and the real truth and it had to be that way... So when you hear as you often do today how they had all been against him, that is absolutely not true. I can't at all remember that the masses were against Hitler. But I come from a home and a neighborhood where we were all mostly for Hitler, especially because of the jobs he created, the autobahns that were built. That is all nothing new is it, that the masses were in fact for him?"

In 1933 Adam Grolsch joined the Hitler Youth. "You automatically became a member. At school those who were not in it were looked at funny. More than anybody, the teachers immediately did an about-face (and embraced Nazism). It is rather amazing from today's point of view that Hitler was so strongly supported by the teachers and the German middle class. This was not the case, however, when he was still struggling, not before 1933. They were all against him then. But after 1933, (they discovered that) he was actually just what the country needed." (1)

Grolsch welcomed the fact that members of the German Communist Party (KPD) were sent to concentration camps. He argued that this gave non-communists, like him, more freedom. "What I often heard was, Finally, you can go out once again in the evening on the Gladbacher Strasse. Previously that had been the red section of town. At one time, there had been five or six sections of Krefeld where no upstanding citizen, above all no woman, would have dared to go in the evening. That was because of the criminals and also because of the way it was in general in these places. You'd be abused there. And everything was red there, blazing red. Red, of course, means the German Communist Party. And if anyone they recognized as a non-communist went through there, he would be beaten up. It was that bad in those days. But when Hitler came to power, it suddenly got quiet. As we now know, of course, he did this by sending them all off to concentration camps." (2)

Adam Grolsch joined the German Army and on the outbreak of the Second World War he was a trained radio operator. He took part in Operation Barbarossa in June 1941. "I was among the first ones to go over the Russian border... I was there from day one. And I was outside of Moscow in the winter campaign... I was assigned to be a communications engineer. I received a special rank and was attached to the high command of the Wehrmacht as a specialist for radio equipment." (3)

In 1942 Adam Grolsch was based in Pinsk and witnessed large numbers of Jews being executed: "Back then, the Ukrainians and the White Russians didn't like the Jews either. They hounded them and hated them just as much as the Nazis did, just not in this way. In short, I then set out with a friend, and with my own eyes saw how the people there were slaughtered; in two days, 25,000 men, women, and children, and in the most beastly way. I saw how they had to undress in front of the tank traps and many other things. And the absolute worst thing I saw was how this man took a screaming baby and beat it headfirst against a wall until it was dead."

Of course, the Germans were the ones who ordered this, but the ones who carried out the orders were mostly.... Lithuanians, Latvians, and Estonians, and they carried out the worst jobs for us, the dirty work. They did everything they were ordered to do.... but that doesn't relieve the Germans of responsibility... And then while I was standing at the edge of the pit, suddenly they saw me, just as it is shown in the film Holocaust. That was no exaggeration, as it had been just like that. And then they saw me standing there with another guy who was with me - both of us were wearing uniforms - and then a number of them suddenly came up and grabbed us and took us under arrest. And then standing just near to us was the local commandant, who was an officer and the local commandant for the city of Pinsk. He suddenly saw us there as well, and, in short, if he hadn't been there, we also would have ended up in the pit because that was all top secret. Nobody was supposed to know what was being done there."

"Afterward I went into the buildings (where the Jews had been kept), and it was horrifying.... This undressing, this standing there stark naked, and those ditches, and then when you saw those guys, who were mostly Cossacks, standing there behind them and shooting them all down with their submachine guns! And then they would hand back their submachine guns and get new ones fully loaded. I have always said that if there were ten or fifteen guys standing up there, let us say twenty, then each one must have shot more than a thousand people in this short period. It was utter insanity!... Afterward we got to know them. They were always drunk. There was no other way to do it. They were running around drunk all of the time, those guys. And their boss was an officer from Düsseldorf He was in the SD (Sicherheitsdienst). But among those people who did all that, this Holocaust there, only the bosses were Germans."

"There was already snow on the ground, a light powdering of snow. And then there was an endlessly long and wide procession of people and there were guards escorting them with carbine rifles and submachine guns. Oh, man! Let's say there were five hundred people on the road. They were sent out in batches, not all at once. There were perhaps ten guards for these five hundred people. We said to ourselves: Good heavens! If they had all run at once, those ten men would have been able to shoot only fifty or sixty at best. The others would have made it into the forest. It wasn't that far away. They would have been in the woods. And the Germans wouldn't go into the woods. That's where the partisans were. They didn't go there. It was too dangerous for them. But the people went submissively to their fate and trotted along, and they knew exactly what lay before them. They were about two or three kilometers away."

I was thirteen when Hitler came to power, and I have to say that as a thirteen-year-old, I knew little about politics. Hitler had gotten the unemployed off the streets. He understood that first and foremost. My father didn't get to experience this. But that is what his expectation was. "None of the others is doing anything. Hitler will take care of it. He will give the unemployed something to do." Today I understand this, but I didn't understand it back then as a thirteen-year-old, that this was only possible to do by creating jobs that could eventually only exist by going to war.

My mother was a woman for whom Hitler was a god. For her, Hitler was the Lord God. Everything he said was right. What the Führer said was both just and the real truth and it had to be that way. I lived at the time in a suburb of Krefeld, in Borkum, but I heard basically the same things from many of the people I knew. That is all nothing new is it, that the masses were in fact for him?

But what I did not like personally was that the free youth movement, which I had joined when I was still a youth, was banned. I had been a member of the Kittelbach Pirates and then after that the Nerother and the Path Finders. After 1933, everything was banned little by little, but that's another story. But, back then, I still went on a lot of trips with these youth groups that were strictly forbidden. But then, at the same time, I also had to join the Hitler Youth.
I think I was first in the Young People, then in the Hitler Youth. You automatically became a member. More than anybody, the teachers immediately did an about-face [and embraced Nazism]. But after 1933, (they discovered that) he was actually just what the country needed.

If you weren't trying to make waves, like in politics or something like that, you didn't feel threatened. To the contrary, I have to say. What I often heard was, "Finally, you can go out once again in the evening on the Gladbacher Strasse." Previously that had been the red section of town. And if anyone they recognized as a noncommunist went through there, he would be beaten up. As we now know, of course, he did this by sending them all off to concentration camps. But, at that time, people thought, "Good, you can finally go out here again."

Back then (in 1942), the Ukrainians and the White Russians didn't like the Jews either. And the absolute worst thing I saw was how this man took a screaming baby and beat it headfirst against a wall until it was dead.

Of course, the Germans were the ones who ordered this, but the ones who carried out the orders were mostly Lithuanians, Latvians, and Estonians, and they carried out the worst jobs for us, the dirty work. They did everything they were ordered to do. And that was something I experienced.

And then while I was standing at the edge of the pit, suddenly they saw me, just as it is shown in the film Holocaust. Nobody was supposed to know what was being done there.

They had dug it all out and there were all of these corpses. Then they (the Jews) had to undress. Mothers were still carrying their children, usually in one arm. And then they would have to go up there, and they shot them. I saw everything, everything.

Afterward I went into the buildings (where the Jews had been kept), and it was horrifying. There were still people who were standing down there in the toilets, in the sewer trenches where the feces were. They were hiding, and they had only stuck out their heads and peered out and they thought they had gotten away. But then the Poles came along and stole everything they could. This was not like the Germans would do. And then they said, "There's another one in there. There's another one down there." And then they shot them all. It was horrifying. What an experience that was! I just thought to myself, "something like this just can't happen."

This undressing, this standing there stark naked, and those ditches, and then when you saw those guys, who were mostly Cossacks, standing there behind them and shooting them all down with their submachine guns! And then they would hand back their submachine guns and get new ones fully loaded. It was utter insanity!

Afterward we got to know them back at the radio post. But among those people who did all that, this Holocaust there, only the bosses were Germans. The others were Hiwis. They did the dirty work.

There was a loud noise. I was living right next door to the ghetto. I'd been there for six days and I remained there after that. That was my base of operations, where I was living and where I continued to live for quite a while after that. And then one morning there was a loud noise, and I thought to myself, "What is going on here?"

There was already snow on the ground, a light powdering of snow. We said to ourselves, "Good heavens! If they had all run at once, those ten men would have been able to shoot only fifty or sixty at best. It was too dangerous for them."

But the people went submissively to their fate and trotted along, and they knew exactly what lay before them. They were about two or three kilometers away. Later, when it was all over, we went there once again. We often had to drive out there because there were disruptions, problems with the lines. They had already fixed everything up; it had all been neatly graded. One couldn't see anything anymore. Everything was flat, done with extra care so that you wouldn't notice.

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(1) Adam Grolsch, What We Knew: Terror, Mass Murder and Everyday Life in Nazi Germany (2005) page 230

(2) Adam Grolsch, What We Knew: Terror, Mass Murder and Everyday Life in Nazi Germany (2005) page 231

(3) Adam Grolsch, What We Knew: Terror, Mass Murder and Everyday Life in Nazi Germany (2005) pages 228-229


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