Alfred Zech

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Alfred Zech
Zech pictured in 1945
Zech pictured in 1945
Born (1932-10-12)October 12, 1932
Goldenau, Upper Silesia in the Weimar Republic
Died June 13, 2011(2011-06-13) (aged 78)
Other names Alfred Czech
Known for child soldier
Political party Nazi Party (to 1945)
Polish United Workers' Party
Awards DEU EK 2 Klasse BAR.svg Iron Cross, 2nd Class

Alfred Zech, also known as Alfred Czech[1][2] (October 12, 1932 – June 13, 2011),[citation needed] was a German child soldier who received the Iron Cross, 2nd Class at the age of 12 years.

Early life and military career

Zech was born in Goldenau, Upper Silesia (Złotniki, Opole Voivodeship, Poland) and, as a boy, joined the Deutsches Jungvolk. In early 1945 Goldenau was under attack by advancing elements of the Soviet Red Army. Zech, then aged 12 years, witnessed a dozen German soldiers injured by a hand grenade. Against the wishes of his mother, he commandeered his father's farm cart and drove it to where the wounded men had been pinned down by Soviet fire, ferrying eight of them to safety. Zech then made a return trip to rescue the four men left behind.[3]

According to Zech, a German general appeared at the family farm several days after the incident and invited the boy to travel to Berlin for an audience with Adolf Hitler. There, on April 20, Hitler's birthday, he joined a number of other Jungvolk members from across Germany and was decorated by Hitler with the Iron Cross, 2nd Class.[1][4] At a celebratory banquet held that evening, Zech was asked if he wanted to return home or join German military forces at the front. According to Zech, he volunteered for frontline service.[3][5]

A photograph of Zech being inspected by Hitler was captured by Buro Laux, the German Foreign Ministry photo agency, and later – via Pressens Bild – distributed to the Associated Press.[2]

Following an accelerated training program, Zech joined a German unit fighting in Freudenthal in what is currently Czech Silesia. He was shot and wounded in combat and made a prisoner of war, but was released in 1947 at the age of 14 years. After release, he walked the nearly 400 kilometres (250 mi) back to his family home, on arrival learning that his father had been killed while fighting in the Volkssturm during his absence.[3]

Later life

As an adult, Zech joined the Polish United Workers' Party in order to receive leave to emigrate. In 1964, he settled in West Germany where he worked as a laborer.[3]

Personal life

Zech was married and had ten children.[3]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b Field, Jacob F. (2014). D-Day in Numbers: The Facts Behind Operation Overlord. Michael O'Mara Books. pp. 138–139. ISBN 1782432396. 
  2. ^ a b Crary, David. "Associated Press releases in-depth review of its coverage of Nazi Germany". Chicago Tribune. Associated Press. Retrieved June 9, 2018. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Paterson, Tony (April 25, 2005). "Downfall: The story of a Nazi boy hero". The Independent. Retrieved May 29, 2018. 
  4. ^ Kater, Michael (2009). Hitler Youth. Harvard University Press. p. 223. ISBN 0674039351. 
  5. ^ Groenewoud, André (April 2006). "Was macht eigentlich ... Alfred Czech?". Stern (in German). 

External links

  • Newsreel of the ceremony at which Zech received the Iron Cross
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