|The Battle of Jebsheim-
From a French Point of
|A few months ago, I obtained a copy of the wartime history of Jebsheim,
France and in particular the villagers' account of what happened during the
Battle of Jebsheim from 24 January to 2 February 1945. As most of you
know, the 254th Infantry Regiment was the primary American Force during
that battle and the accounts of the battle from an American point-of-view
have been well documented and in fact are contained in the 254th Infantry
Regiment Pages of this Web Site.
I thought it would be interesting to those of you who have participated in
combat, to know what goes on with the civilians who are caught in the middle
of a terrible and deadly battle. So I have taken the liberty of reprinting in
these pages an English language version of the accounts of The Battle of
Jebsheim from the pens and photos of the citizens of Jebsheim, France.
Take the time to read it, I think you will find it interesting, particularly if you
were in the battle as I was. As you read these accounts, keep in mind that
these are eye witnesses to a battle underway right in their own backyards.
You will see some favoritism toward the French soldiers, but that is to be
expected since these were soldiers from their homeland; soldiers liberating
them after 4 1/2 years of Nazi oppression.
Although the French version of these accounts have photos included, I do not
now have the photos, but will add them as they become available.
So, sit back and go back over 54 years to Jebsheim France.
| THE BATTLE OF JEBSHEIM
This work does not pretend to be complete. Surely everything has not been said, notably
concerning the military operations. Many important facts have never been known, errors of
geography and times are always possible. Due to the great numbers slaughtered in battle,
many of those who might have been witness to the most heroic actions did not live to narrate
these events. There were many units that deserve remembrance for their bravery or their
sacrifices whose accounts have not come down to us. ( This is notably the case with the
American 254th Infantry Regiment.)
The perspective of our German adversaries on the different phases of the battle would have
been useful. Unfortunately nothing of great interest has been sent to us. It is true that an
army in flight is never very loquacious and, it must be said, few of their combatants at
Jebsheim returned to the homeland.
Before talking about the military operations of 1945, we must first relate briefly the
temporary evacuation of the village in 1940 and the destruction that took place at this
period. We must do so if only to explain the mistake made by the Allied troops on the
evening of January 27, 1945 when they announced the taking of Jebsheim. The "neighboring
village" they spoke of was actually the center and southern part of Jebsheim, which had been
cut off from the rest of the village by a no-man's land, the result of German artillery in 1940.
After plans for publication of this work had already been made, it happened that in the
summer of 1982, some residents of Jebsheim were watching a television account of the
murderous combats in Beirut. A paratrooper who, wishing to stress the severity of the
fighting over there, said twice: "As it was at Jebsheim." This caused remembrance among
those who understood the reference and created many questions from among those who
did not know. This work intends to answer those questions.
Without pretending to be an irrefutable historical document, this work constitutes for the
population of Jebsheim a written memory of that dark period and a document for future
generations who have the right, the duty even, to know the fundamental role played by the
battle of Jebsheim in the hard fighting of the Pocket of Colmar; to know the glorious deeds
and the enormous sacrifices on the part of the Allied troops and to know about the painful
life of the inhabitants of Jebsheim who survived that hell.
Yes, indeed, "As it was at Jebsheim"
(NOTE: THESE ACCOUNTS WERE WRITTEN SOMETIME IN 1984, AGES
SHOWN, EXCEPT WHERE INDICATED OTHERWISE, ARE AGES AT TIME
OF WRITING THE ACCOUNTS.)
More than 40 years have passed since the events of January 1945. Many of those who
lived this tragedy are no longer alive and time has erased many memories and the precision
of facts to be told has suffered as well.
But on the other hand, time has also healed wounds, appeased hatred, rebuilt a village that
really needed rebuilding and given back to its inhabitants the taste of work and hope.
Today, now that former enemies have shaken hands, and everywhere people speak of the
slow movement towards a fraternal Europe, this work does not want to reawaken hatreds
nor arouse ideas of vengeance. It has not been written therefore in the same spirit as if it had
been conceived in 1946 or 1950.
If the military operations have often been related on the occasions of commemorative
holidays and by newspaper articles, what has never been told; what must not be forgotten, is
how the civilian population spent these dark days of January 1945. Life in the cellars,
stables, and bunkers, while the battle was raging; the mad flight from houses on fire towards
other places of refuge that were being bombarded in turn; the struggle against hunger, cold,
the lack of hygiene: finally the contact with soldiers who, depending on the attack or
counteroffensive, might speak German, American, French and Alsatian; soldiers there to
protect, bring aid, or perhaps threaten, who considered civilians as enemies or even at times
RELATIONS BETWEEN CIVILIANS AND SOLDIERS
Considering the large number of soldiers killed or wounded and the tremendous damage
done to buildings in the village, it is a miracle that there were not more civilian casualties
during those tragic days!
At the end of January 1945, there were more than 600 inhabitants hiding in cellars and
stables in Jebsheim. (Webmaster's Note: All the time I was in Jebsheim, about 4 or 5 days I
don't recall seeing one civilian). To those, we must add the refugees from Ostheim and
Illhaeusern who had fled the combat zones near them. In fact, the Allied offensive had
stopped in the autumn of 1944 at the Ill and Fecht Rivers and more than 100 civilians living
east of the Fecht at Ostheim and east of the Ill at Illhaeusern had been evacuated to
Jebsheim where they were staying with friends and relatives.
Often changing places after a bombardment, leaving one safe place for another after a fire or
a breach had been opened by shelling, the civilians regrouped little by little (like a herd of
cattle in danger) in the most solid buildings in the village. Some were in groups of more than
20, while others were in groups of more than 40 as is shown by various accounts we have.
Windows and vulnerable spots were fortified with planks, beams, sacks of grain,
manure....Provisions and hygiene were very limited.
Even the combatants had not realized, as they advanced through the village that there were
many civilians, hiding throughout the area; thus the soldiers were astonished when having
surrounded a building and gotten down on their knees, their fingers on the trigger, to see
dozens of civilians come out with their hands in the air!
|For those of us with failing eyesight, a larger print version can be seen by clicking