Günther Kegler at the Brink of a Mental Breakdown
The Boys and the Old Men – Cannon Fodder
January to May 1945
On September 19, 1944 Günther Kegler became leader of the military registration offices at Sangerhausen and Querfurt, Thuringia, about an hour’s drive northeast of Gotha, Biene’s place of birth.
As he could clearly see the imminent collapse of his beloved country on the horizon, he did everything in his power to save what was in his mind the only resource left after Germany’s defeat. To spare young boys from the draft was foremost on his mind. After January 1945 even the diehards of the regime could see the writing on the wall. But instead of preparing for a quick surrender, which would have saved tens of thousands of lives, they obstinately clung to the glimmer of hope for final victory. Goebbels’ relentless propaganda machine fueled a patriotic fervor, especially among boys. Men capable of carrying a rifle or an antitank weapon were to be conscripted.
The leader of the NS district Querfurt started to meddle in Lieutenant-Colonel Kegler’s realm of authority and insisted that 16-year old boys be included in the draft procedures. They were to fill the gaps of the dwindling forces of the war machine. Against this directive Günther Kegler put up as much resistance as was in his power. But the constant pressure and harassment from above wore him out. Then he heard about Himmler’s horrific order of his court martialed brother General-Lieutenant Gerhard Kegler being demoted to a private and slated to be executed after the final victory. (His amazing story will be published at a future post.) Günther Kegler broke down under the burden of these fateful events and was admitted to a sanatorium at Erfurt on April 1, 1945. He stayed until May 31, 1945 and recovered sufficiently to allow him to return to his family at Nonnenrain Street, Erfurt.
Unfortunately, his ordeal was far from over. By prior arrangement between the US and the Soviet Union, the American occupation forces withdrew from Thuringia and handed over the administration of the province to the Russians. Arrests, interrogations mostly conducted at night, closing of savings accounts and all sorts of other chicanery followed in quick succession. As my uncle stated in his family chronicle, it was the fate of countless other German officers in the Soviet Occupation Zone.
To be continued …