INTERVIEW with a German soldier – memories from the other side

A GERMAN soldier who was stationed in Guernsey during the Occupation has said the island is his ‘second home’.
Werner Kruger, 89, has made the journey from Berlin to Guernsey for Liberation Day most years since 1971.
Mr Kruger was born in Berlin in 1925 and was sent to Guernsey when he was only 18 years old. Following the war, he spent three years and seven months as a PoW in England before eventually returning to Berlin.
‘Guernsey saved my life,’ he said. ‘I had been fighting for the German army in Russia for the three months before and the conditions were terrible.
‘I hated Hitler and refused to say ‘‘Heil Hitler’’ even though we were told we had to. He stole almost six years from my life.’
Mr Kruger stayed in accommodation near Cambridge Park, which he described as ‘beautiful’. ‘My duties varied little and normally revolved around day and night exercises in preparation for the expected Allied landings that never came. Rations were good until after the fall of France in 1944, after which our rations reduced quite substantially.
‘Then we only had one slice of bread a day and cabbage soup.’
Mr Kruger said he did not have too much contact with islanders, but that he did form a close bond with a local farmer. ‘His sister was living in Berlin at the time and he was so worried about her. I wrote to my mother, who was still living there at the time, and she found out that she was safe. After that, he would give me a little extra food such as eggs, carrots or tomatoes here and there.
‘I can remember a lot of things, some good, some bad. I remember one day, I was patrolling the bunkers, checking everything was OK, when I saw a German solider walking across a minefield.
‘I chased after him and called for him to come back to safety. I remember it like it was yesterday, it was very scary.’
After the war ended Mr Kruger was transferred around various locations across England as a prisoner of war. He spent time in Hull and in various places across London, before spending the last seven months as a free worker at a holiday camp in Epping.
‘When the war ended, it was a strange feeling. Guernsey had become my second home and I missed it very much’ he said.
Mr Kruger eventually found his way back to Berlin, where, until 1953, his job, like so many other returning soldiers, was employed to help clear the city which had become a pile of ruins.
‘I was paid 37p an hour to do that job. After that I worked for the postal service. It was not a nice feeling to go back to Germany – things were a mess.’
Mr Kruger returned to Guernsey in May 1969 with his wife Ruth and from 1971 to 2005 he came every year to either Guernsey or England. ‘Since 2005, I have returned every year just to Guernsey, which my wife and I still love to this day.’
‘I have lots of friends in Guernsey now and my wife and I, who I have been married to for 57 years, have lots of fond memories of the island. We plan to return many times in the future.’

This article originally appeared in The Guernsey Press on 13th May 2015.

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