By Alex Jones
RARE WARTIME photographs show the desperation and fear in the eyes of the combat-fatigued Nazis who were ultimately defeated by the Allied forces in World War II.
In 1944, it became apparent to many German soldiers that their defeat was all but inevitable.
Overstretched and undersupplied, the Nazi forces in western Europe – many of whom were inexperienced teenage conscripts – faced the onerous task of defending against the overwhelming strength of the allied forces.
Incredible images from the latter stages of the Second World War show an exhausted German soldier looking tormentedly to the camera, ranks of Nazi POWs being marched through the bomb-ravaged streets by their captors, and a young teenage soldier stretching out a Swastika in the forlorn hope the vastly diminished Luftwaffe would see them and provide aerial cover.
The striking images are included in Hans Seidler’s new book Images of War: Hitler’s Defeat on the Western Front 1944-1945, a compelling account of the Nazis’ ten-month struggle against the overwhelming Allied military might on the Western Front.
“The opening months of 1944 for the German soldier was an ominous prospect,” explained Seidler.
“Out on the Russian and Italian Fronts they had been fighting desperately to maintain cohesion and hold their meagre positions that often saw thousands perish.
“By May 1944 on the Eastern Front the Wehrmacht were holding a battle line more than 1,400 miles in overall length, which had been severely weakened by the overwhelming strength of the Soviet forces.
“To make matters worse, during the first half of 1944, troop units were no longer being refitted with replacements to compensate for the large losses sustained.
“Supplies of equipment and ammunition were so insufficient in some areas of the front that commanders were compelled to issue their men with rations.
“As a consequence, many soldiers had become increasingly aware that they were in the final stages of the war, and this included battle-hardened combatants.
“They had also realised that they were now fighting an enemy that was far superior to them.”
In Hitler’s Defeat on the Western Front 1944-1945, the reader witnesses the intensity of the fighting from the Normandy beaches, through France and the Low Countries and finally into Germany itself.
Despite demoralising defeats the Wehrmacht, Waffen-SS, Hitlerjugend, Volkssturm with many barely trained conscripts, continued to fight tenaciously inflicting significant losses on the advancing Allied forces as well as an audacious but ultimately futile counter attack during the Battle of the Bulge.
The graphic images clearly demonstrate the exhaustion on the faces of the Third Reich soldiers as defeat became increasingly inevitable.
For Seidler, the war was lost after the Allied Forces launched the D-Day assaults.
“[Already battling a huge Soviet force in the East], the German soldiers had the added worry of an imminent threat of invasion from the west, which would drain resources from an already depleted Eastern and Southern Front,” he explained.
“In a drastic attempt to pre-empt an invasion Hitler had ordered the defence of North-West Europe.
“During the first half of 1944 along the vast sandy beaches of northern France, beach obstacles and heavy fortifications were erected.
“By late May there were an estimated 600,000 beach obstacles laid in Normandy and Calais with thousands of troops moved to coastal areas, or what was known by the Germans as the ‘killing zone’.
“Yet, despite the build-up of forces, the Germans that arrived in these areas were either worn out and under strength from years of continuous battle or undertrained conscripts hastily drafted in.
“These men were now expected to defend northern France from the largest amphibious invasion in history.”
Hans Seidler’s Images of War: Hitler’s Defeat on the Western Front 1944-1945, published by Pen and Sword Books, is released at the end of the month. Pre-order here.