|The Battle of Jebsheim,
France - from a French
point-of-view. Page 17
| A TRAGIC BALANCE SHEET
The loss in human lives in the fighting units were enormous on both sides. The exact number
will never be known and can only be estimated.
500 German corpses, cited in the first official communique, nearly 200 French soldiers killed
and at least as many Americans dead, add up to nearly one thousand dead.
(WEBMASTER'S NOTE: ACTUAL AMERICAN DEAD WAS SIXTY-SIX FROM THE
254TH INFANTRY REGIMENT). To these must be added more than a thousand
wounded, many of whom died in the ambulances and hospitals. For example in the 3rd
Company of the Medical Battalion, from 27 January to 3 February, 602 wounded were
treated, 29 of whom died while waiting treatment.
If the Allied soldiers killed at Jebsheim were moved very quickly towards the rear, this was
not the case with the German dead. A routed army does not have time to carry away its
dead; everyone is trying to save his own skin and if flight is no longer possible, they can only
die or surrender.
The occupation authorities were no longer here and those named by the new government had
not yet arrived. And so, for a long time, the bodies of animals and German soldiers lay in the
courtyards and gardens. It was only with the thaw when a pestilential odor began to spread
throughout the village, that groups of civilians were requisitioned to bury all the cadavers in
order to avoid an epidemic. The bodies of men and animals, the tattered remains and debris
of all sorts, were buried by men who were barely able to surmount their feelings of horror and
disgust, in heaps in the large bomb craters- one was as deep as a one-story house. It was
necessary to wait many years before the soldiers had a grave worthy of human beings.
During the summer of 1945 and even the following years, many bodies were unearthed in the
fields and neighboring forests, by plow and tractors. The last two German bodies were found
during the 1960s, when a gas pipeline was being laid to the east of the village.
DESTRUCTION AND CIVILIAN VICTIMS
In these numbers are included buildings destroyed in 1940
Destroyed: 46 Houses---56 Barns---54 various buildings--one Church--one Train
Station--one City Hall--one School--one Depot belonging to the Agricultural Cooperative.
Damaged: 72 Houses--45 Barns--73 Various buildings.
That makes a total of 118 houses, 101 barns and 127 various buildings that were hit by shells,
bombs, incendiary bombs, bazookas, mortars, machine guns and other weapons.
2. Civilian Victims:
Given the number of soldiers killed and the great destruction of buildings, everyone considers it
a miracle that there were not more victims among the 600 to 700 civilians huddling in
makeshift shelters throughout the battle.
Five were killed: Mr. Jean Herrmann--by bullets
Mrs Jerg (Hilda Cathel)---by fire
Mr.George Oberlin----by shell fragments
Miss Jenny Ziommerlin---by aviation bomb
Mr. Robert Herrmann----at the Neuf-Brisach bridge
Four were seriously injured.
And we must not forget the three inhabitants of Jebsheim, who died on the field of honor in the
French Army and the 13 inhabitants who were inducted by force into the Wermacht, and who
died for a cause that was not theirs.
ST MARTIN'S CHURCH OF JEBSHEIM:
During the hard fighting of January 1945 the gable of the Romanesque facade was damaged
again. It was not possible to complete the restoration of the facade until 1956. The tricolor
flag (The French flag) that floats proudly in the breeze over the church today was raised
immediately after the liberation by Mr. Albert Hild (Future Mayor of Jebsheim) and Mr. Emile
Scherer (Londoner). This is proof of the patriotism and also the courage of these two
inhabitants of Jebsheim.
THE ALSATIANS AMONG THE COMBATANTS
There is a popular saying that you cannot go anywhere in the world without meeting an
Alsatian. Since we know that an Alsatian was implicated in the attempted assassination of the
Fuher of such sinister memory, another in the escape of General Giraud into Switzerland and
an Alsatian was among the first men on the moon--Schweickhart, whose father was originally
from the Bas-Rhin, a Department of Alsace, it would have been astonishing had there not been
a group of Alsatians among the combatants of the two sides in the battle of Jebsheim at the
end of January 1945.
This also explains the completely justified anguish of those inhabitants who saw one of their
own forced to join the Wehrmacht, or volunteer, usually under a false name, to join the French
army of the liberation.
1. On the German side there are few names. It is true that the Wehrmacht never trusted
Alsatians very much. "They look French" they would say, and send them to the Russian or
Italian fronts or to the Balkans.
--A citizen of Colmar took advantage of the good fortune, at the moment they were
crossing the Rhine, to get himself taken prisoner at Jebsheim. He crawled towards a French
tank and ended the war with them, serving as an interpreter.
-- One of our fellow citizens who was forced into the Wehrmacht came home on leave,
hid out with some relatives and on 26 January introduced himself to the Americans who
furnished him with one of their uniforms in order for him to avoid reprisals, in case the
Germans came back.
-- Another inhabitant of Jebsheim who had been inducted into the Wehrmacht took
advantage of a leave to desert. Hiding out with some neighbors, he wisely awaited the
conclusion of hostilities before rejoining his family.
--Another of our fellow citizens who had been forced to join the enemy, came from
Marckolsheim with German reinforcements and advanced as close as 100 meters to the house
were he was born. At the last minute, he was unable to escape and had the misfortune to be
taken prisoner by some Americans who spoke no French. They took him to the other side of
the Vosges Mountains where he remained for three months.
2. On the side of the troops of the liberation: The tanks of the Regiment of African
Riflemen, the Shock Battalion, the French Forces of the Interior, all the fighting units without
exception who fought at Jebsheim had a number of Alsatians among them.
These men surprised the inhabitants by calling out to them in Alsatian, rekindling hope by
telling jokes in Alsatian dialect to the despairing civilians who thought they would never come
through alive. Our Alsatian soldiers were admired with envy by the women who had a son or a
husband far away and from whom they had received no news. Each year at the end of
January, these men come back to us, to the scene of their exploits.
--Heinrich from Mulhouse, Loessle from Colmar, Huss from the Bas-Rhin, all former
paratroopers who never miss an opportunity to be with us and to shake the hand of the former
leader, General Faure.
--Loos from Colmar with his tank-destroyer of the 6th CC. George Hitter from Colmar,
who died in his tank, the "Alsace."
--Jules Fleith from Jebsheim, inducted by force by the Germans, who deserted his unit and
returned with French troops to Henri Oberlin's farm.
--Chalot Selig from Jebsheim, who proudly introduced himself to his fellow citizens in the
uniform of the French Army.
--The Shock Battalion finally, the company of Lieutenant Durrmeyer, which counted 20 or
so Alsatians among them, all volunteers. And did you know that most of the men in the Shock
Battalion were former inductees by force in the German Army? That having deserted on the
Russian front, going over after enormous difficulties to the Russian side, interned in the terrible
camp of Tambow, taken to North Africa to be released as a result of the agreement between
General De Gualle and the Russians, these men then volunteered to join the Shock Battalion to
fight against those whose detested uniform they had been forced to wear the year before.
And last, a great sorrow overcomes us in evoking the name of our comrade from Colmar,
Francois Ehlinger, who, after the Russian front, Tambow, North Africa, the Alsatian campaign,
was seriously wounded as he advanced towards his objective and died just 12 kilometers
from the house where he was born and his city of Colmar that he had come to liberate.