18 November, 2017

Forster, Leo

I met Leo in Florida in 2003 on a tennis court. I recognized his accent as German so I asked him if he was German he said that he was so I asked him if he had been in WWII. He replied that he had been. We became friends over the next 6 years and had many hours of conversation about the war. Leo was born in Berlin in 1925. As a boy he saw Hitler as well as the other leading political leaders of German in the 30s and 40s. He also played with Herman Goring’s kids.

Leo’s father was from Russia where he fought on the losing side of the Russian Revolution. His uncle was executed by firing squad. After that his father took his family out of Russia. They ended up in Germany where Leo was born.

Leo went into the service in 1943 and was assigned to a Mortar crew and sent to Italy. In July 1944 he was by the Arno river in a cement bunker when it was hit by American artillery and collapsed. Leo was trapped in the bunker for three days and was the only man to survive. The other two were killed by the artillery round. Another memory that Leo shared with me was coming around a Mountain in Italy and seeing 200 German soldiers hung. When I asked who did that he replied that the SS did. He also told me that a German General had reason to fear an SS Lieutenant.

In early 1945 Leo went to officer’s training in Denmark. By the time he became an officer the war was reaching the end. Leo was sent on foot to go to Berlin. He was swimming across a river into Germany when an American P-38 fighter plane shot at him and one other man. Leo never saw the other man again, he assumes that he was shot and floated down river. Leo was wounded by the fighter. Luckily for Leo he never reached Berlin because very few men of the Wehrmacht (German Army)survived the battle for Berlin.

After the war her was taken by the Russians who tried to get him to admit that he was an English spy. What he was actually doing in the Russian section was black marketing binder twine that the farmers in the Russian section needed. He sold them for three bottles of Russian booze that he took back to the American section. He kept one and gave the other two to the farmer he got the binder twine from.

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