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True Soldier Stories

"Courage is the ability to move; when all around you are frozen in fear
and no one would blame you if you did nothing at all." Capt. Click. Phx. PD

My Name is Horst Kurt Hilbert

Taken from the book Think About it... for your reading convenience

Authors Note:

I gave a talk one day as a quest speaker in another ward. It was about liberty, our freedoms and our blessings from the Lord to this great country of ours. There was a portion of the talk that was about WWII and Nazi Germany and the role the US played in stopping that war. Afterwards, an elderly gentlemen with a strong German accent came up and began talking to me. He told me he was a German soldier during WWII.

As I listened to this old German soldier, I was reminded of the first and only other German Soldier I had ever met. He was my scout master when I was a fourteen years old. I not only knew he was a former German soldier, but I knew he was not particularly liked by many others. Not because he was a bad person, he wasn't, in fact he was a real good person with extreme integrity. But because he was a former WWII German soldier and the war was still fresh in the minds of so many of his and my neighbors, he was not well liked. I was too young to really understand why, for myself, I really liked him and respected him.

Our troop went on a long bicycle ride one day and he told us to bring food, not money. But being the bright young, never experienced hard times and smarter than our scout master, all American boys we were, we didn't listen  ...we brought money! We stopped after about 8 to 10 miles. We were famished and there wasn't a store in sight. Our scout master, in his strong German accent and broken English said, "See are hungry!  I told you to bring food! You brought money instead! Now eat your money!" He wasn't trying to be mean, he was trying to teach us a lesson in life. It turned out to be a good lesson in proper preparation, I would never forget.

Now talking to Horst, I found myself drawn to him as I was my old scout master because of his experiences and because of his strength of character. He told me this story as we stood there and talked,

"One day we were clearing a small Russian village. I can’t remember the name, there were so many. We were going house to house. The unofficial order was to kill whoever we found, but not everyone followed that. (Authors note: I was watching the History Channel once, on Germany's invasion of Russia titled "The Road to War, USSR." They made this remark, "The Nazis made no distinction between soldier and civilian. There were villages where not a single man survived the war." Other accounts I read said that many of the women were raped or killed as well.) I came to a cellar door. I opened it and inside was a woman with her two children. She was trying to hide them from me. She was holding them behind her. Terror was on the woman’s face. Her two children had their arms wrapped around the woman’s legs and were peering out from behind her dress. In front of the woman was a half bottle of milk. The woman picked up the milk and offered it to me that I might take it instead of their lives. As I stood there, my rifle still pointed at the woman, I said,

                      Woman, your children need that milk more than I do.
                                          ...and I shut the cellar door,
                                                                      and walked on.”

I later asked if I could interview him and he said I could. From his words and from his personal diary, I learned and was allowed to copy the following stories from my second German soldier friend named;

Horst Kurt Hilbert

I was born July 10th 1919, in Leipzig, Saxony, Germany. I served in the 75th Infantry, 13th Company of the German Army during WWII and served on the Russian front. I was LDS then too. There were about 600 Mormons who were killed in Hitler’s Army in WWII. We tried to keep track of each other, but I never knew any others besides myself. I had a friend in my outfit that had a Jewish girlfriend. When the SS found out about it, they took him and told him he could either choose to die by shooting himself or they would hang him. I didn’t ask what the soldier chose!

Horst told me about a 17 year old LDS boy that was taken out of school by the SS and beheaded with an ax for speaking out against Hitler. That story is also documented in the book, Mormonism in Germany by Gilbert Scharffs, p102 and 103. "Hitler pushed us to the limit! Many soldiers had it up to here with Hitler." (His hand was leveled at his chin)

My division was transferred to Poland in July of 1940. We were stationed in the city of Lubin. I got 3 weeks leave and Irene and I were engaged. We were then moved to the Demarkation Line between Russia and Germany. I began to fear about the future. What was the purpose of amassing so many German troops there? The Russians and Germans had a treaty but going with open eyes through life, I could already see how much a promise of treaty was worth to this Adolf Hitler.

June 22, 1941 at 3:15 sharp, the German artillery started to pound the Russians. My unit crossed the river Bug into Russia. Climbing up the river bank on the other side, I looked back and saw many German soldiers moving toward the river. I said to my buddy,

                    "I just wonder how many of all those men
                             moving toward the river will be going home again."
              But this fellow was either drunk or a fanatic believer, because he said,
                                                    "You shut up or I will report you."

The first days were not too much trouble. The population was happy to get rid of the communists. In August, 1941, I came to the outskirts of the city of Kiev, the capital city of the Ukraine.

In the night of August 24 or 25, I had to go into the no-man's land to get some timber. We must have made some noise because a gun started to shoot and I got shot through my left arm. It was not serious, 10 days later I was back on the front line. On the 19th of September I entered the city of Kiev, a city of old and beautiful churches. I had a chance to look at the Lavra Monastery. I building of breath taking beauty. After 10 days, I had to move on to the east again. In Sumy I was quartered in a house, in which an old man lived who had spent 12 years in New York. We talked about America, and how we both liked to be able to be there.

In the area of the city of Tomarkowka I came to a village where our officers told us to go into houses and ask the people to give us oats for our horses. We were supposed to give them a receipt so they could get compensated for it later. When I came into one house, I heard much wailing and weeping. And I saw the cause of it. A young woman had tried sometime ago to start a fire in a big stove. Stoves in Russian houses in rural areas are built of mud and fill a big part of the house. The flame had struck back and burned the woman's hand. I looked at it and saw the bones of the fingers laying bare, the flesh gone. At the wrist the color of the flesh was dark brownish. I asked the man of the house why he did not take her to a doctor.

                                      He said,
                         "Sir, we cannot go from one village to another.
                                             We will be suspected to be agents or guerillas,
                                      and will be in danger to get shot as such.

                                    I said to him,
                        "I will write on a piece of paper that you are not an agent,
                                                          and the women needs help.
                                          If you misuse my trust, I will be shot also."

The man promised not to misuse my trust, got his sled ready, put the woman on it and drove off hurriedly. Every minute counted for this woman. My way did lead me further east, so I could not hear the results of the woman's treatment. But I hoped she would live out her life.

In December of 1941 it got very cold. My unit had to march to the village of Melichowo, 30
kilometers north of Belgorod. There we had to establish an outpost and hold it. That day, December 6, the temperature dropped to about minus 45 degrees. I did not have any gloves nor warm underwear, only a summer coat. Many soldiers got injured by frostbite or even worse. They lost their ears if not their legs. My buddies demanded of me to drink alcohol to keep myself from getting sick. I asked for one more day to stay away from alcohol, and the next day they were sick and I was still healthy. They quit trying to force me to drink. And I did not have to break the Word of Wisdom.

We came to Melichowo and started to build a defense perimeter around the village. We were 200 German soldiers and whenever the Russians chose to pay us a visit, it was either fight for your life or die. To be taken prisoner by the Russians was not a very inviting prospect. The Germans did not treat the Russians kindly and a German soldier could expect to be treated accordingly.

One early morning, the 6th of January 1942, I had to stand guard duty with a buddy, Hans Plank. We were standing beside a little shack, the straw roof covered with snow. A Russian machine gun started to shoot at us. I could see the tracers hitting the ground before my feet, skipping off to the sky. Other rounds hit the straw roof and I could see the bullets hitting rows of holes making the snow coming down like sugar coming out of a bowl. I was very afraid and since I was forbidden to leave the post, I wanted to pray.

                      I could feel the power of the destroyer.
                               But I could not utter one word of prayer.
                                            My tongue felt like paralyzed.
            To think, that the first words in my life were prayers on my mother’s lap.
                                                                  All I was able to say:

              “...if my mother could pray for me right now,
                                  so the Lord might hear the prayer of a righteous woman!”

With this thought I looked to the east and felt prompted to look north. When I did this and turned, a bullet passed and in passing hit the coat at my stomach. Had I not turned, it would have struck my stomach. After this incident the shooting stopped. Some days later I received a letter from my mother. In this letter she wrote me, that in the night of January 6, she woke up hearing me calling her "Mama," also she heard the sound of shooting. She got up quickly, woke up my four sisters and said:

            “We have to pray fast, Horst is in mortal danger and needs our prayer!
                       The five women knelt down, and my mother pleaded with the Lord
       to keep His protecting hand over me. After the prayer my mother told
                     my sisters to go back to sleep and be of good cheer.
                                  Horst has been in danger, and the Lord has helped him.”

In Besdrick the war was kind of quiet, the Russians were regrouping and preparing for their next big offensive. We had to man an observation post in a house outside the village, on a hilltop. I got a turn of two hours a day. An old man was living there. He looked like a patriarch. Old with long whiskers and his appearance was of noble design. One day he took a Russian printed Bible from a hiding place. It was forbidden to the Russian people to have a Bible in their possession, or at least they faced insult and ridicule. So the old man read in the Bible, and he came to me, tears in his eyes, and showed a passage to me. I could not read it, but my heart was moved by so much faithfulness.

                                       I said to him,
                             "Read the Bible, and the Lord will be with you."
                     Suddenly he knelt down and invited me to kneel down with him.
                              He first prayed in Russian and then I prayed in German.
                                          After this we got up and after Russian custom,
                                   he kissed my cheeks and called me brother.

In July 1943 it got hot in more ways than one. The battle of Kursk was on. In the course of two months the Germans had a casualty list of more than 400,000. The feeling of having been sold out, to be senselessly sacrificed, made itself known to many men. And yet, there were a number of fanatics who believed everything what the German propaganda fed them. On the evening of August 14, 1943, as we were moving to a new position, we found a wounded Russian soldier by the wayside. One fellow, his name was Hugo Panten, took his machine pistol and held it on the head of this Russian.

                           I immediately pushed the muzzle aside and said to him,
                 "This man is wounded, we are soldiers and not murderers."
           He said to me, "You and your sentimentalities will not win the war for us."
                       I answered "You and your senseless cruelty will not win it either."

Then I picked up the Russian. He begged for water, and I was sad that I did not have a drop with me. We went to the next road crossing where the field kitchens might come by and will help him. I said a short prayer for him and told him, that I have to go on.

I feel the Lord has seen it, for two days later I got the answer directly from this incident. On the 16th of August 1943 I was standing at an somewhat elevated railway track, talking to a friend, Otto Becker. Suddenly I saw a big flame to my right, maybe ten feet away. Then I felt like having evil smelling smoke pressed into my mouth and felt a hard blow on my right side. When I tried to assess my situation, I found myself laying on the ground with a terrible pain, all at the same time, in my head, right arm, shoulder, breast, stomach and hind part.

                             Blood was streaming all over me,
                                                   ...I had been hit by a mortar shell.

Otto Becker got one piece of metal in his neck, and was killed instantly. I got about 30 pieces, and I was luckier. But at that moment I did not know, whether I will die or be a cripple, or if the
Germans, who were getting ready to give up the position in a hurry, will take me with them or leave me. And what kind of Russian will I meet, one like Hugo Panten or a better one.

Two buddies put me in a blanket and carried me to a first aid station. There I saw rows of wounded soldiers and I figured, if they put me at the end of that long line, the Russians will be there before the doctors get there. So I said to the doctor when I was brought in, "Sir, all I need is a tetanus and a morphine shot. He gave me both shots, and put me on the next ambulance.

It was a bumpy ride and it hurt, but a check on myself and a feeling told me that I will be alright. Later we passed a dozen German tanks facing the Russians and then I could afford the luxury to pass out. Soon I came to a field hospital, was put on a table, and a doctor took several shrapnel out of my body, all without anesthesia. But I did not mind. Then I was taken to a hospital train, got a place on the floor, covered with straw and the train soon took off for a ride to Kiev. When I looked around me and saw the mangled bodies, I felt grateful that my injuries were not that serious.

When I met Horst for the very first time, though slowly, he was walking and moving around. He had all but completely healed from his war injuries. Irene told me that during those times the only two religions the government would recognize was the Catholic Church and the Lutheran Church. Everything else was called a sect and you had to have a permit for a "club" in order to be able to gather together. In order to get a permit for a club, you had to have eight sponsors from the Nazi Party to sponsor your club. She told me other things as well that she asked me not to repeat as they may still cause problems for others.

Horst then told me of an incident after the war while they still lived in Germany. He said, "One day after the war on a Sunday morning I was stopped by the Communist Police because they always saw me in a suit carrying a small bag on Sundays. They demanded to know what was in my bag. I gave it to them for inspection.

             They pulled out my Bible and in looking at it, they demanded;
                      “What is this good for?" I replied, "It is good for you to read."
                                          They tossed it back into my bag and told me to be off.

In the October Ensign magazine of 1978, there is an article about Horst's mother and family during the war in Berlin while Horst and his brother Arno were on the Russian front. WWI to the Russians is known as "The Great Patriotic War." They lost over 20 million people in that war.

Authors Note: Horst Hilbert is a friend of mine and has since passed away since he gave me his story. But when he was alive, one of the many things he told me was this about freedom.

                       “Freedom can be compared to health.
                                        If you have never been deprived of it,
                                you are in danger of losing the appreciation for both.”

                                                                                                 Horst Kurt Hilbert


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"Think About it..." mailed to your home for only $14.95   S&H included

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