Hürtgen forest and the top of World Struggle II | Free Full DW Documentary

published on July 2, 2020

a tranquil forest in the Eifel region of

western germany a forest that harbors a

dark past with a legacy still visible in

isolated places


from a time when it was dubbed a green



in the closing stages of the Second

World War it was the scene of bloody

fighting between us and German forces

the path to the Western Allies advanced

from Belgium into Germany led straight

through the forest around the village of

Hilde Caen


for locals the battle is still a key

part of their history mystic in the room

become madam Timothy was while riding

around here on my bike as a teenager

that I really came into contact with the

history of the Hurtgen forest

I would suddenly come across ruins among

the trees massive concrete walls when I

asked my parents they told me they were

the remains of bunkers from the Second

World War and once you know what to look

for in this wartime landscape you can

also see bomb craters trenches and

foxholes if you really take the time you

can find a lot of these World War two

relics in the hood can forest for around

five months the forest was the scene of

successive bitterly fought battles

between the American and German armies

although the Americans had more troops

and were better equipped their attempt

to drive the Germans out of the forest

was a military disaster

progress was slow and costly as they

became bogged down in the treacherous


it was a nightmare I don't think there

can be a worst hell it was awful it was


and his ten shells they hit the top of

the tree and came down in thousands of

fragments that could kill anybody

I was in combat there for ten days often

at the height of the battle I was

trembling for practically the entire ten

days I knew I could die of course and I

was terrified an estimated 25,000

American and German soldiers died in the

forest so why the hurting forest was a


that's Here I am I don't know how I


the forest was a death trap for the US

troops they called it hurt can forest

after the small village that was at the

heart of the fighting the battle in the

Hurtgen vault was one of the longest and

deadliest battles on German soil in the

West it left a lot of scars not only on

the inhabitants and their descendants

but also on the landscape itself in the

forest and on local buildings for the

German troops the war was in effect

already long lost an adult even the

young soldiers oh those who could

reflect didn't believe in victory you

just wanted to survive to come home safe

and sound

but Nazi war propaganda portrayed a

completely different picture give a

fellow member Houston


thus the idea Tintin Creek Vineyard

concerts by then everyone knew the

Allies would win the war Alice was as we

hear everything that happened in the

hurt can Vaadin meant just a minimal

delay of the inevitable cooling Fujitsu

got wound us had endured sue by guitar

and it indirectly contributed to the

continuation of the murders in the

concentration and extermination camps

and in the prisons and other places

until the very last second of the Third

Reich since d-day in June 1944 the

Western Allied troops had been advancing

from Normandy through France and Belgium

towards Germany

in the process liberating Paris Brussels

and Antwerp from Nazi occupation



we were told to are ordered to take the

ground that they were on and take it

away from them and that's how we

advanced to win the war we were the ones

that gonna win not them

on September 11th 1944 the first us

divisions reached the Belgian German

border near Aachen more than three

months earlier than expected


one day later the third US Armored

Division crossed into Germany near the

town of Watkyn we just went through the

town and went on the other side then we

got into the real trouble with the first

sight of the Siegfried line

the ziegfried line was the defensive

wall built to secure Germany's western

border we saw steel gates on the road

and dragon's teeth it was the first

dragon's teeth that we had had seen


anti-tank obstacles were known as

dragon's teeth they accompanied a line

of bunkers stretching over 600

kilometres from the Dutch border down to

Switzerland for Western Allied troops a

formidable obstacle Siham Carnegie no

force Tyrone bassam's 'when they had no

precise idea what to expect at the

Siegfried line so the closer they got to

the actual territory of the Third Reich

the more insecure they became because

they thought they would still face

strongly fortified in heavily man

defensive positions

damas it's Vietnam the Nazi Allies had

been taken in by the Nazi propaganda of

the pre-war years this one's so far not

the American military's films use

excerpts from German propaganda films

showing the Siegfried line is an

insurmountable object to explain to its

troops what they were up against Ananas


as many as half a million men worked as

much as 20 hours a day to build 20 2014

positions on land we knew that the

Germans had built a siegfried line and

that they were hoping that that would

stop us that didn't happen could we

broke through the siegfried line we took

a hell of a lot of casualties but we did

it but we knew that the Siegfried line

was a bad place to go to as official

psychologically the Siegfried line was

effective on both sides but it's

military value in the actual fighting

was very limited US troops succeeded in

breaking through the anti-tank barriers

near Utkin

but on the other side they met with

stubborn resistance from German troops

who were firmly dug in in the bunkers

and in the woods James cullin was

wounded in the fighting near the village

of what I got hit and do you know

trenches blow when I looked out and I

saw the blood pouring out right where my

heart was and I said god I'm not gonna

die here in a lousy German field because

look deadly a few weeks later Colin's

parents back home received the news that

their son had been wounded in action

after being hit by shrapnel he was away

from active duty for two months with

American troops progressing much faster

than expected supply lines were

stretched which in particular meant fuel

shortages for tanks the advanced ground

to a halt just behind the German border

that gave German forces time to rebuild

their lines of defense

until then the valmont had only

stationed isolated units in the northern

I phone

meanwhile preparations were underway for

the fourth storm old men and boys the

Home Guard for Germany's last-ditch

defense in the televised address

propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels

called on his compatriots determination

it's been an obstacle Oh as usual

Goebbels was lying of course he claimed

that the enemy was not yet on German

soil although they weren't and he tried

to mobilize any remaining forces it has

to be said that the German population

were all too happy to go along with that

they were tired of war and wanted it to

be over but they were also terrified of

what the Allies would do to them if they



the Americans wanted to advance further

into Germany and finally see the war

ended their aim was to reach the Rhine

and then the Ruhr industrial region but

ahead of them lay a dense forest almost

ten kilometers wide which blocked their

path the healthy invited in local

villages the war had been all to present

for several months especially due to the

Allied air raids on cities like on the

civilians sought refuge in air-raid

shelters there were constant air-raid

alerts and one day we came out of the

bunker and six buildings had burned down

during the night the cattle were

screaming the pigs were screaming the

people were screaming it was awful in

September 1944 the villages were

evacuated as the invading troops and the

frontline came ever closer one morning

our parents said we have to leave the

artillery shells were landing all around

we were the last ones left in Hoscheit

my parents said this is too much we're

going to leave to begin off instead of

going around the forest to the north the

American commanders decided to advance

eastward right through the middle where

they hoped German defenses would be weak

but they completely misjudged the

terrain with disastrous consequences

a first push in October 1944 ended after

just three kilometers it's not as if

forests are alien to Americans it's

always highly problematic for an army to

fight in wooded terrain sue Kemp Alice's

Canada Azul does even pants enjoyed wild

fun tanks can't just drive through

forests and over large trees mustard say

sheesh first you have to cut pass

through them with some s much niacin

bone the ground was also littered with

landmines and the Americans ran into a

chain of bunkers in the forest this was

where the Germans had dug themselves in

the Americans were able to destroy some

of the bunkers but after 10 days the

losses on both sides were so great that

the fighting died down for a while

shortly afterwards American forces

further north achieved a decisive

breakthrough taking on on October 21st

after fierce fighting it was the first

german city to fall into allied hands

but this was of little help to the

American soldiers in the nearby hurt

convite as the autumn rains began the

weather was worsening from one day to

the next the US troops were literally

bogged down plans for a second advance

had to be repeatedly delayed as 1gi

later said anyone who says he knows

where he'd been in the forest is lying

on November 2nd the Americans attacked

the village of FOSS anak and from there

they took the villages of commish IDE

and Schmidt via the Cal Valley but once

again they underestimated the difficult

terrain some of the hills they had to

cross were a hundred and fifty metres

high frenzy of anahulu Gerstein

when you reach the top of a hill you

immediately experience the phenomenon of

looking over the landscape from one

plateau to another but you have no idea

how deep and steep the valleys in

between are the 28 US Infantry Division

reached the village of Schmidt's

relatively quickly but then its supply

lines were interrupted

Benzie desired if you look at fossa

knack and schmidt with the valley in

between it's the only link between them

is a footpath that winds down into the

valley and then up again on the other

side of the unknowns out to be Dolph

striked and the fortune of my conscious

that the Americans thought this path

would be easy enough to drive and walk

along that they'd be able to move the

necessary troops vehicles heavy weapons

and other supplies along comes with

everything wouldn't it does but that was


the remains of tank tracks are a stark

reminder that the battle for a fossa

knock and Schmidt ended in disaster for

the Americans the invaders retreated in


only for German units to cut them off

down in the valley tanks crashed down

the slopes and many soldiers collapsed

from exhaustion the battle in the kal

Valley which the Americans subsequently

referred to as Death Valley claimed

countless lives on both sides a few days

after the defeat General Dwight

Eisenhower came to the hood convite to

meet his troops on the ground and assess

the situation

neither the Allied supreme commander nor

his officers had expected so many

casualties the mood was despondent

the autumn of 1944 remained unusually

wet and cold and the terrain became more

and more impossible every day the

Americans hopes for a quick victory were

fading they had already spent two months

in the hood convite the forest they had

hoped to cross in just a few days in

mid-november 1944 the Americans launched

a third offensive this time they tried

to advance by going further north

passing through the villages of Klein

Howe and goes howl and then heading east

during the fighting a 22 year old

Italian American from Pennsylvania

arrived in the hood converted in his

youth he had hoped to become a

photographer we were there I would say a

month a month in the war is a long time

the German artillery wasn't it just

never stopped

they really bombed us yeah the days

followed the same pattern it began with

heavy artillery fire from the Americans

then tanks were deployed Sherman tanks

which advanced on a broad front lines of

funds and then of course you could hear

the shells and machine guns that was the

actual moment you realize there were

other people nearby who were shooting at

you geez Powell Fair bake was sent to

the hood convite with other young

recruits in mid-december

to lay anti-tank mines

the US forces were constantly getting

reinforced with more men and more

vehicles and equipment but they were not

prepared for the extreme weather

conditions in the Eifel whenever they

got stuck in the forest they dug in

but foxholes offered little protection

against the German artillery and the

cold onset of winter


it would rain sometime or the snow would

melt and the foxhole was always filled

with water I was fortunate to have this

camera with me and I if you look at my

pictures I have hundreds and hundreds of

pictures of officers I didn't take those

because I liked it I took them to make

them happy so that they would give me

freedom to take more pictures here no I

tricked all of them – like little boys

both the Germans and the Americans spent

most of their nights in their foxholes

in the woods poorly protected from the

cold and wet with makeshift tarpaulin

shelters I transformed the nature around

me into a dark room I would ask three of

my best friends to let me use the metal

part of the helmet and those became the

trays for my dark room at night I would

mix my chemicals mostly eyes were all


I was working because the dark room was

only the night the the earth was the

dark room you see

Tony Vacarro took hundreds of photos in

the Hurtgen diet although he waited over

fifty years before publishing a

selection of them


all I want to take was photographs

photographs photographs that's why I am

here today otherwise I order gotten

killed a long time ago some of the

fiercest fighting took place in a valley

west of Klein house in the heart of the

forest in mid-november author Ernest

Hemingway was witness to the bloody

battles there in his later novel across

the river and into the trees based on

his experiences he wrote it was a place

where it was extremely difficult for a

man to stay alive even if all he did was

be there in December Toni Vacarro also

photographed his comrades preparing for

the Christmas season


gift packages with canned food from home

arrived for soldiers who had long since

perished they began to give this food of

dead GIS to the local people to the


on December 16th 1944 a hundred miles

further south in the our den the Germans

launched a final surprise offensive

once again the Allies were hard pressed

in this likewise heavily forested region

and had to bring in reinforcements at

short notice to stem the German advance

many from the hood conveyed

aqua and identity kempt even during the

Battle of the Bulge there was fighting

here but both the vemma and the Allies

were very busy with the offensive

further south I knocked over a chef dish

so to speak here as one of has aha that

meant there was a period of two or three

weeks without any major combat then the

war returned to the hood convite in the

course of January 1945 the Americans

managed to advance in the face of

weakening German resistance the defeat

in the Ardenne counter-offensive had

cost the defenders their last reserves I

particularly remember the first time I

saw the Americans as prisoners of war I

was amazed at how well fed they were and

they were clean and tidy including their

uniforms while we were a life's ridden

dirty rebel once the Americans reached

the roar not to be confused with the

more famous similar-sounding Valley

further north their way to the Rhine and

cologne was finally clear


the Germans tried to blow up the dams to

flood the valley and halt the us

advance but by now the end of the war

seemed to be fast approaching in

February 1945 US troops liberated Soviet

prisoners of war and forced laborers in

the unknown Spiner concentration camp

near Doolin many were also held under

inhuman conditions at a second camp near

Haute convite

over 2,000 inmates of these camps were

later buried at the Soviet War Cemetery

in Zima hot most of them had died of

hunger and maltreatment

most of the towns and villages in the

hood convite were barely recognizable

after the fighting the Allied troops

pushed on and within a few weeks had

conquered the Rhineland and the

industrial Ruhr Valley as they advanced

towards Berlin the evacuated residents

now hoped to be able to return to their

villages I'll steer

when the Americans pass through one of

them asked us where we were from we said

we were from Schmitt he said he had

fought there and we shouldn't go back

there because the whole place was in

ruins and the village had been mined but

we said we're going home maybe in the

house in the house the fighting in the

Hurtgen forest was over but the war had

left a trail of destruction a ravaged

landscape whose scars are still visible


American soldiers began clearing the

mines that were buried everywhere German

prisoners of war were forced to help

them but they could only remove a small

number of the deadly devices again and

again we'd hear this huge bang and

another person flew through the air so

many people lost their lives and one

little girl had been playing with a hand


she thought it had perfume inside the

hand grenades had rings on them and when

he pulled them you had to throw them

away very quickly the girl's hand was

blown off and the guns

Sinhala Specht it's a very central

aspect of the post-war experiences of

people living in the iPhone was that

they actually had to rebuild their lives

on a former battlefield and in Kingdom's

name becomes and children died because

they played with munitions it was

dangerous to plow and cultivate the

fields it took decades to clear the most

severely affected parts of the forest of

ordnance debris and the dead who'd been

left there so important it would take

the forest decades to recover at the

same time nearby towns had been

destroyed by air raids in September 1945

August Shaw returned home from the war


after being demobilized me and another

guy arrived and duvan on a freight train

from Bonn at the beginning of September


we looked at each other and I said

Martin is this really duvan sure he said

there's the signpost was a bit lopsided

but it said Doolin and then we looked

across the old town it was one big pile

of rubble you couldn't see a single

building still standing and the really

depressing thing was this eerie silence

he continued to his home village of

course how on foot it had been almost

completely destroyed during the fighting

the locals resorted to scavenging

amongst the wrecked American tanks rusty

Americana some the Americans left behind

lots of canned food canned corned beef

was one of the main meats there were

also soups and other kinds of meat but

these tins of corned beef were big

enough to make a huge pot of soup for a

large family so temporarily they helped

us to get more or less enough to eat in

the first summer after the war large

parts of the woods that had survived the

fighting would suddenly catch fire

during the fighting the Americans had

used phosphorus in their ammunition

which ignited very easily in the heat

the Hilton might buy a set sodomized

Coon huntin on blue ticks and slash

trade and Elliston clicks fasten these

artists orders via phone in Zodangan

unfold invite own about conan on a four

girl nest only reason it's no homage to

her I don't even then he of our booth

sleeplessly Demeter does mean and

physician and a doctor meaning zoo

catalog is not yet it's my Yara not in

boffin stood stunned

amid / safety the scale in Davidovich

able to Muhammad about Rita's knee beta

the bower comes from Vita links albums

an affair Duberstein meant after totin

Baumer no longer and estate industry

goes in and via the locals repeatedly

found the bodies of dead soldiers in the


I'm gonna phone have yourselves for

happens I'm I buried myself and I don't

need to explain what half lawton dead

people look like you have to take a deep

breath mentally to when you do something

like that

the first war cemetery in the area was

built in fossa knock several years after

the war

many of the dead were recovered by

former German army captain

Julius cosmos who dedicated the rest of

his life to searching the forest for

fallen soldiers I suppose if we feel

mentioned Hamza Gabon Shabet thousand a

thousand the toad the fondant on 1600

have decided to heal the bargain on tier

Beyazit this is a meteor – bye – said

here is the Spanish team against India

Farish husband here muffin must've about

the harvest wind in aqua farm he shot

new taiga danke and the onion vida that

Soviets woman our house again

then under her knee and he gave it such

a brilliant Borya lipsti verge of

engineers in Surabaya Zestra the war

cemetery infrasonic became the last

resting place for around 2,300 dead

soldiers and a meeting place for

veterans and relatives of the German

fallen another war cemetery was set up a

few kilometers away in neighboring Hill

taken in 1952

nearly three thousand soldiers are

buried there many of them in unmarked


since the Americans did not want their

soldiers buried in Germany the former

enemy many were laid to rest in the

Netherlands Luxembourg or Belgium at the

military cemetery of Ali Chapelle for



it was not until four decades after the

battle that the first group of American

veterans returned to the hood convert to

the place where they had fought as young

men the whole battle itself like like

the man said this morning it was it was

futile it was foolish but the fact

remains it was done to satisfy the whims

of a few superior officers that thought

it had to be done well I didn't enjoy it

at the time I don't mind being here now

because none of you fellows are wearing

uniforms so it's okay as far as that's

concerned but it was it was pretty

difficult the commemorative events

sometimes brought together American and

German veterans former enemies the

battle also left its legacy in the

forest itself

over the subsequent years bomb disposal

experts have frequently been called in

to remove bombs hand grenades and other

ordnance the dangers that lurk here will

continue to affect future generations in

the region even now 75 years after the

battle the war is still present in the

ground of the hilton forest Weber

Finland CEO I'm a pleasure this is an

area that is obviously not been Sirah

like so many areas on the hood convert

these who feel elation emotion right

here you might still unearth a grenade

by scratching away the topsoil sometimes

these things don't look like munitions

at all for example there's a German

grenade that looks like a cigar about

the same size minutes ago it I don't but

if it goes off you're a goner in the

first decades after the war hundreds of

tons of ordnance were found in the

forest every year this footage from 1984

shows the yield of a search lasting two

weeks one Musha for stone you have to

imagine that here by noon in a single

day in a single attack the Americans

fired about 12,000 grenades at Fox 5000

wolf cannot enforce mob 12,000 not 1,250

given the typical assumption that 15% of

these are duds then we have to assume

that there are about 1500 duds in an

area of three and a half to four

hectares for a number of years now

historical researchers have been

studying the hood convert using the

latest scientific methods they've been

able to reconstruct the course of the

battle in places where this wasn't

previously possible

the man he'd wish divided could be to

get and when you walk through the woods

here you encounter signs of the battle

at every turn in all the open spaces

however the former battlefield has been

completely cleared in other words we

always see half of the battlefield and

we can see that here we're standing in

what appears to be a completely level

green field with nothing to indicate

that we're on a former battlefield but

in fact we're in the middle of a highly

fortified section of the Germans second

line of defense many local people have

kept the memory of the battle alive in

addition to the German dead thousands of

Americans who had been sent to Europe to

end the Nazi terror perished here

although this is by no means clear

everywhere but in Tainan so much take

the memorial stones for American or

German soldiers for example the way they

are treated on equal terms is actually

quite questionable it ought to be made

clear that the Americans were fighting

for something very different than the

German soldiers but she find them dotted

around the landscape without any

commentary the forest is still

frequented by people foraging around for

relics of the battle even today the area

is a popular site among war enthusiasts

but many locals are annoyed by these

groups of individuals in American

uniforms repeatedly re-enacting scenes

from the battle

munch butan here zombie sing click now

it's kind of like replaying the war some

people even dig new trenches here they

don't leave this commemorative landscape

as it was of course they don't shoot at

each other with live ammunition but

people still find it fascinating I take

a critical view because there were so

many fatalities here whether it's fun or

not is beside the point

today there are now signs for walkers

and hikers in various places telling the

story of the Battle of the Hurtgen

forest they also remind us of its

importance for the Western Allies

advanced through Germany but the hood

convite will probably never be a normal

forest again certainly not now some 75

years after the battle


yeah I went back to the Herzl forest

maybe ten years ago I cried like a baby

because I suddenly remember my best

friends and they got killed in her

forest it was ugly ugly Furman kinda –

to have wars the trouble that mankind

makes is that he thinks his Italian his

chairman his Spanish we're all humans

and this beautiful paradise is our earth







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