Friday, July 22, 2011

Occupation And Captivity, Aachen, 21 October 1944: The Very Old And The Very Young

The first city on German soil to be captured by American soldiers in World War II was Aachen. After a heated three-week battle, Americans routed Aachen’s defenders and occupied the city on October 21, 1944.

Most of the city’s populace had been evacuated before the fighting began. However, the famous photograph below shows an elderly Aachen woman wandering the streets of the ruined city as American soldiers, taking little notice of the woman’s distress, file past her.

Thousands of German soldiers became prisoners of war after Aachen was captured.

In the photograph below, German soldiers are marched through the streets of Aachen en route to captivity.

The soldiers in the photograph appear to be eighteen and nineteen years old.

Captured German soldiers were to remain in captivity until August 1945, three months after the war’s end, when most were released and allowed to return to their homes.

The soldiers in the photograph were the lucky ones.

Over half of the German soldiers defending Aachen did not survive the battle.

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