|Lothar Kuntz was nine years old that day, playing war with his friends on a sandstone
outcropping in his village called the "Juchhee". It was about noon on 14 March 1945, with the
end of the real war imminent and the American ground troops only days away. Nevertheless,
the preceding day had brought an air attack in Landstuhl that killed 18 people. It wasn't over
yet. The group of seven or eight boys stopped to watch four planes circling high in the sky,
"way high", emphasized Herr Kuntz, for maybe ten minutes. Their little war continued as the
boy pointed wooden rifles at the distant fighter planes. Then the planes disappeared. And
soon the nightmare began.
|Two Fire-Spitting Planes Hunted Us Down:
A Spitfire Attack on Huetschenhausen
The planes continued northeast, firing "hundreds of
shells". Disaster struck 500 meters from the
Juchhee, as 18 year old Katharina Westrich and her
father walked with a team of cows and wagon to
their field work. Her father was able to make it to
the stone entryway, but Katharina was hit in the
chest. She bled to death in the dirt road, her blood
mixing with that of the cows.
"It was instinctive - something whizzed past my head and
I dropped. Completely instinctive". Two British Spitfires
roared in from the south, pounding out shells that were
"about half a meter" long, said Herr Kuntz. The boys
scattered for cover. Herr Kuntz ran downhill and threw
himself behind a stone wall. As he landed on his back he
clearly saw the faces of the pilots - a memory he has
tried to forget. "What was going through their heads to
shoot us? They'd be over 90 years old now..."
Herr Kuntz's grandmother and aunt lived across from the
Juchhee, and screamed in terror at the attack. As he ran
across the street to their house he stumbled and fell on the
steps. His aunt yanked him inside to safety.
What's left of the "Juchhee today.
The 30-40 meter hill has been
removed and a barn built on it.
Herr Kuntz took cover behind this wall. The
Juchhee was on the corner of Eckstrasse and
Berlinerstrasse, and the yellow farm in the
background is on the main street. Looking south.
Herr Kuntz's aunt and uncle's house, where his
Oma also lived. The Juchee was on the left
where the barn is now.
(L) The Kuntz house, now a bakery, across from
The cemetery building is new, but the location is
the same. The memorial plaque is by the entry.
Herr Kuntz points to a memorial to Katharina
Westrich which reads "Here died Katharine
Westrich in an air attack on her way to
peaceful field work. 1926-1945" Herr Kuntz
said "It was important that this be placed to
remember her and what happened". Yes, the
village was in chaos that day, he said, but his
wife explained with a shrug and sad smile, "It
was a war".
About 4 PM that day, curiosity got the best of
Herr Kuntz and he snuck out of the house.
His school friend Arno was out on the street,
too, and revealed "A woman was killed by the
cemetery". On the way, they picked shells out
of the dust - taking home over 300 casings.
The cows had been taken to the butcher
Metzgerei Kurz, and fresh sand covered the
bloody evidence. Now, "I never see a plane
that I don't think about it."
The Kuntz house was no stranger to the horrors of
war. Herr Kuntz's father was killed in Italy 6 Dec 1943,
leaving a widow and four children, the youngest only
one year old. The night he died, St. Niklaus night, a
flock of doves hit the rolladen and dishes crashed from
the open doors of a cupboard. When the photo of Herr
Kuntz's father fell to the floor as his mother cleaned up
the dishes...she knew, though official death notification
didn't come until January. Then there was the hunger "I
woke up with it, I came home with it, I went to bed
with it." His mother went to work for a farmer and the
family lived on bread crusts and potato peels. "All day,
"I was the last German prisoner taken in WWII - at age 9!"
Herr Kuntz tells an amusing but poignant story about the GIs
who occupied Huetchenhausen in July 1945. American troops
first came through in mid-March 1945, followed by several
months of "unpleasant" French occupation. Then the GIs took
over again in mid-summer, working with the Burgermeistser and
using the school as their HQ. Herr Kuntz and his friends enjoyed
the US soldiers, and especially appreciated their generosity in
feeding the hungry kids in Huetschenhausen.
His memories of the French commander and his son, Pierre, were not so positive. Pierre
tormented the younger boys during those few months, and finally they ganged up on the teenager,
beat him up, and dumped him in the brook. Shortly after, the commander packed up and moved
his HQ to another village. One day Herr Kuntz and his friend Arno decided they needed a mess kit
for their soldier games. As they picked two out of a stack, 4 US MPs surprised the kids with rifles
drawn. The two were marched off to the school and put in the basement with an armed guard for
three days: "I was wearing German uniform clothing, including a cap, and they might have thought
we were part of the Volkssturm. In some places they had shot and killed GIs". But once the GIs
brought them sausage, white bread, and beer to drink they decided imprisonment was not so bad!
"It was the first time I could remember that I could eat all I wanted", mused Herr Kuntz. They
were well cared for by these "Yankee gangsters" who eventually let them go home.
A litttle west of Huetschenhausen (on
Taubenweiherweg) was a camp for about 20-30 Russian
prisoners, used as farm laborers. German soldiers
maintained the camp and, according to Herr Kuntz,
mistreated and beat the POWs. The boys had become
friendly with the Russians and the POWs carved
wooden toys for them, so Herr Kuntz and his friends
threw rocks at the Germans, shouting "Stop doing that
to the Russians". Nearby was one of the 3 or 4 bunkers
in Hutschenhausen where people sought safety during
Above is the Shooting Club, where the Russian POW
camp was located. At right is the view from the top of the
bunker ruins, also adjacent to Taubenweiherweg, looking
SE toward Hutschenhausen. Gas line construction has
recently exposed some of the cement. Herr Kuntz
remembers people dressing and walking to the bunker in
the middle of the night when air raids were expected.
Links to More Information:
Special thanks to Edith Ulbert for her help in interviewing Herr Kuntz