On the Bright Side: German and American Forces Joined Together

“Well, it was just the damnedest thing.” – 1st Lt. John C. “Jack” Lee Jr., 1973

May 1945, one of the last, and strangest, battles of World War II took place at Castle Itter in Austria. As French VIP[1]POWs bickered over policies in the castle-turned-prison, the Allies were making headway, crushing the Nazi German front. According to Harding The VIPs didn’t get along, they were all French but all very different in their views.

“One can only imagine the heated exchanges that must have occurred among these once-powerful, still resentful personages, and the perverse joy their captors must have taken in their internecine squabbling.” [2]

As the war came to an end, the castle was used by prominent SS officers from Dachau and their families to escape the advancement of the Allied forces. Knowing this to be the end, and acknowledging that fault would be placed on him, Eduard Weiter, the “butcher of Dachau,” whom had sent thousands of prisoners to their deaths, was ready to take his own life. After Weiter’s suicide, Sebastian Wimmer, charged with guarding the castle, fled, forcing the rest of his guards to flee as well.[3]

After being told of the trapped POWs surrounded by SS, [Maj Sepp] Gangl, leader of an anti-Nazi Partisan group in Austria, took with him a white flag, and met up with the closest American unit, the 23rd Tank Battalion of the US 12th Armored Division, led by Capt Jack Lee.[4]

It was a hard won battle with only one casualty: Major Gangl. He was laid to rest in the woods near the castle as the prisoners and the strange German-American unit of soldiers walked away from the shadow of Castle Itter.

 

I encourage my readers to check out Stephen Harding’s book The Last Battle, and/or his article about this battle on historynet.com (http://www.historynet.com/the-battle-for-castle-itter.htm)

 

Featured Image: Bethany Bell, France’s Gen Maxime Weygand (right) and his wife leave the castle, Nazis Lost to German-US Force, BBC News, (BBC: May 1945), Web.

#GoodNewsTuesday #OntheBrightSide #WWII #history #CastleItter #Austria #SS #MilitaryHistory #TheLastBattle #StephenHarding #germansoldiers #americansoldiers

[1] Bethany Bell. “Nazis Lost to German-US Force,” BBC News, (BBC, 07 May 2015), Web; “prominent politicians and military figures that the Nazis wanted to use as bargaining chips.”

[2] Stephen Harding, “The Battle for Castle Itter,” HistoryNet, (HistoryNet.Com, 21 June 2016), Web.

[3] Harding.

[4] Bell.

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