From December 27, 1944 until the end of January 1945 was a very eventful time for us boys. The Americans did not let the village out of their hands. The artillery, which had fired on us just a few days before, had now advanced from Bilsdorf and Bondorf respectively to Bauschleiden and took up position not far from our houses.

Opposite our house stood the field kitchen. We boys ate, slept and practically lived with the soldiers. 3/4 of our house was occupied by soldiers. Tons of ammunition and gasoline lay everywhere. Clothes, shoes, cigarettes were available in vast quantities.

After only a few days we had mastered the loading and firing of the medium-weight cannons in the direction of Harlingen or Boewingen. Bertemes Jeng (Bertemes Alphonse, 3 rue de l'Etang) was often part of the "party". The Americans also showed us how to handle firearms and hand grenades, which probably saved our lives later when we were "independent" (left to our own devices).

Nevertheless, an accident happened to my cousin and me. In the straw barn next to our house we had - my cousin Gremling Jos, Lambinet Ed. (our neighbor boy, 79 rue d'Echternach L-6550 Berdorf) and me - our "Warehouse". A cave of about 3 cubic meters served as our accommodation. German and American weapons, ammunition, food of all kinds and much more we had accumulated there. One evening, around January 10th, Jos and I were on an "organization tour". In Wagner Hubert's (Diedrich Pier's father-in-law, 16 rue Romaine) garden, he had discovered a navy sack that was still full to bursting, half sticking out of the snow.

A few meters before that, however, we found an almost empty American 20-liter gasoline canister.

"We'll set him on fire," said Jos, and contrary to all warnings, he could not be dissuaded. He opened the catch, grabbed the matches in his pocket, a short movement of his hand, and he had already turned into a meter-high burning torch. I ran up to him, threw him into the deep snow lying on the side of the road, rolled him in all directions and struck the flames with my bare hands, but against the highly explosive "fuel" we had no success.

I don't know how it happened to us, suddenly an American "jeep" stopped in front of us. Two soldiers jumped out, one of them pointed an elongated bottle at us, a small hiss and we were both wrapped in a thick "cloud of fog". Within seconds the fire was extinguished. Without a word, they loaded us onto the back seat of their jeep, made a U-turn and at high speed we headed back to the village, towards Lann (op der Lann, field name, today rue du Lac). Our hands started to hurt and my cousin's face changed from minute to minute.
About 50m above the Melchior carpentry workshop (Molitor Lucien, secrétaire communal, rue du Lac), the cart turned left into the Gaspar Jos pens (Gaspar-Perdang Jos, 6 rue du Lac). There was a green tent about 20 m long and 10 m wide.

Our two rescuers lifted us out of the cart and led us towards the tent. We both had no idea what was hiding inside.

Since the front line was only 3-4 km away from Bauschleiden for weeks, the Americans here had set up an emergency hospital, also called "Verbandsplatz" (Bandage Place). Two overlapping tent tarpaulins served as the entrance door. Suddenly, we boys were standing among the severely wounded, lying in rows close together, barely 10 cm above the bare green meadow on primitive camp beds. A strong smell of chloroform, ether, medicine, coagulated blood and much more struck us.

A heavy stove in the middle of the tent created an almost tropical atmosphere in the hospital tent. But the excessive, sultry heat was probably felt to be soothing by the grumbling, whimpering, almost half-dead young soldier lying on the ground.

A second "so-called door", which was usually half open, was located in the rear part of the emergency camp, where we were also led through. Here was the "OperationssaaI" (Operating room). A raised stretcher served as an operating table and a large kitchen lamp provided the necessary light.

Two doctors were busy with a stomach injury when the jeep driver approached them and explained the situation. A quick glance, a head waving and we were both placed in the category "slightly injured", which meant waiting. We squatted in the corner of the "O.P." room and hardly dared to move. After about half an hour, which seemed like an eternity, we were carefully looked after by a paramedic. I was bandaged with both hands and Jos was also bandaged with the whole head. Small openings for eyes, nose and mouth were still left and visible. It was like that that we were driven home by the soldiers.

The horror of our parents in their face when we were delivered home in this condition needs no explanation. "Until tomorrow" the "G.I.'s" made us understand and disappeared. During 3-4 days the same soldiers came to pick us up again and again. My cousin's injuries required 4 more days of additional treatment.

New wounded people were lying in the tent almost every day. Those who survived were driven south, I suppose to Ettelbrück, in the Red Cross wagon. But for many of my fellow sufferers Bauschleiden, just a small dot on the map, was unfortunately the last trip.

Our wounds healed visibly and no scars remained "visible". Only because our injuries became smaller and smaller, our waiting times in the military hospital became longer and longer.

How many injuries and amputations I witnessed in these days I cannot say anymore. But of all the operations, the most cruel thing I remember most are the severe facial injuries. Up to that time I, a boy of almost eight years, had equated the word "war" with a kind of "game". But the game became crude reality after these visits to the emergency hospital in January 1945. The word "child" no longer suited me either.


January 1945

At the end of January 1945 the Americans left us. They went down in history as victors of the Rundstedt offensive. Many a veteran returned to Luxembourg after years as a tourist. The community of Bauschleiden always offered them a warm welcome. Even correspondence continued for decades, for example with "my American":

Bus Gimblet
North Little Rock
Arkansas, 72115

Zolver, February 2001


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