Monday, 18 July 2011

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Wilhelm 'Willi' Hübner - One of the Youngest Recipients of the Iron Cross

As casualties mounted during the Second World War, Germany was forced to call up ever younger conscripts to fill the ranks of the Wehrmacht. So dire was the situation at the end of 1944, that boys born in 1928 were called up to serve the Führer. They were 15 or 16 years old and had grown up in the shadow of Nazism. Each would have spent their teenage years in the Hitlerjugend (Hitler Youth) preparing them for military service.

The net result of this was a cadre of youths that grew up surrounded by Nazi propaganda and were called up to serve the Vaterland they had been raised and trained to defend. In many cases they fought bravely against overwhelming odds, but the lives of thousands of these youths were wasted by throwing them senselessly into battle with the Allies when the war was already lost.

Today's subject is Willi Hübner, a 16 year old messenger with the Führer Grenadier Division. At the beginning of March 1945 the Führer Grenadier Division was part of a counterattack to retake the Silesian town of Lauban. After 8 days of fierce fighting the town was secured, and cameras from Die Deutche Wochenschau were there to capitalise on this success for propaganda purposes.

Willi Hübner was awarded the Eisernes Kreuz 2. Klasse (Iron Cross 2nd Class) for his service as a messenger during the battle for Lauban. At 16, he was one of the youngest recipients of the award.

The picture below shows Hübner being awarded the EKII, if anyone can ID the General in the photo then please let me know.

Click the images to view them full-size.



Dr. Goebbels, Reichsminister für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda (Reich Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda) visited Lauban shortly after the liberation with the camera crews of the Wochenschau in tow. Below is an extract from the 16th March 1945 edition of the Wochenschau, where Willi Hubner can clearly be seen being congratulated by Dr. Goebbels.



On 20th March 1945 there was an award ceremony in the gardens of the Reichskanzlei in Berlin for members of the Hitlerjugend who had distinguished themselves in combat. The footage from this event is very famous, as is the last known footage of Hitler to be recorded. Willie Hubner was present at this ceremony and can be seen in the below Wochenschau video.



Hübner survived the war and was interviewed for several documentaries including 'V Was for Victory' and 'The World at War'. The following video is from 'The Fatal Attraction of Adolf Hitler', where Hübner talks about his experiences.



The original photo is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany license.
Attribution: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-G0627-500-001 / CC-BY-SA