One door closes, Another opens. Mettmann was such a place.
The door had closed for the over 300,000 German troops in the Ruhr Pocket. It closed on April 17, 1945. A huge open field with a nearby wooded area near Mettmann was the place. There are many stories written about how the German commander, Field Marshal Model refused to surrender, and left the job to his subordinates. Model might have refused but the German forces surrendered that day.
By some miraculous act of fate, I was there and present at the actual ceremonial signing. It was another of those damp gloomy April days when I received the word that we would be proceeding to an area where all this was going to take place. It was welcome news. I was excited, but didn’t know yet how exciting my day would turn out to be.
We were taken to an open field area where we saw an endless number of German soldiers. We were told to supervise their stacking of weapons and keep watch until they could be taken to their ultimate prison locations.
April 17, 1945
The Surrender of the German Forces in the Ruhr Pocket
Here we were talking to, and hosting guys who were trying to kill us yesterday. A bizarre scene, to say the least. Bizarre maybe, but one that would set the stage for the future. Those men were going to places where they would no longer be at war. We, however, while shutting the Ruhr Pocket door, had another door open for us. We would be entering the final door of the “Fall of the Third Reich,” and the demise of Adolf Hitler. And, we would be on our way to his birthplace – Braunau, Austria. He died on nearly the same day the 13th Armored Division captured it.
To further amplify the miracle of my presence at that event, I happened to be stationed nearby the wooded area where the actual surrender would be taking place. It didn’t take me long to realize that this was a big deal. All kinds of newsreel cameras and Generals with lots of stars on their collars were gathering under a tree nearby. My hair-trigger brain figured there must be something exciting going on, so I drifted close a place to where I could perceive the action and sure enough, there they all were signing lots of documents in front of lots of cameras.
The guys with the stars were signing the documents with a bunch of German guys with fancy uniforms and lots of decorations. Their stars and colorful clothing reminded me of the glittery GAR parades my granddaddy used to take me to see when I was a child. I had to get some of this action myself, so I got as near to where the cameras were pointing as I could. I even took extra pains to see that I was always positioned where they were pointing. (I have checked every archival record of that event but have never found that newsreel, but I know I did all I could to get myself into the pictures.)
As observed in these 13th Armored Division stories, our German brothers are becoming more like us every day. I am not sure that some of this coming together is all good, but I do know it’s heading in the right direction. We still have lots of work to do, however.
As an example, I have included a picture Steve took in downtown Mettmann of a tattoo parlor. It speaks to how much we are becoming more connected. As with the graffiti in Wuppertal, our tastes are merging. We could be doing more to improve them, but at least we’re not shooting at each other anymore.