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A story of three cousins

by ROGER GREGORY / Contributing Writer
| January 31, 2024 1:00 AM

This quip is a little bit of a history lesson from World War II.

Hitler had conquered and taken over many countries, like Austria, Yugoslavia, etc. Also included were Hungary and Romania.

Hungary had an abundance of grain, oil and bauxite, which was an ore used in the production of aluminum, which was essential in the production of airplanes for Hitler's Luftwaffe. Both countries bordered Russia and were needed for Hitler's plan to invade Russia. Romania was never occupied, but Hungary would supply about 400,000 fighting men to the Reich to fight on the eastern front against Russia. Of the 400,000 who were sent to the front, only about 60,000 returned. The sad thing about this is that meant that 85% were killed.

For my family, my dad came from Austria in 1907, so I had relatives there who were made to fight for Germany in the war on the eastern front. Of the three of whom I know about, one was killed, my cousin Herbert was captured, and my cousin Joseph was shot in the leg a week before the war ended. The Russians amputated his leg and sent him home. But Herbert was among 105,000 Germans and Austrians in Russian POW camps. He was not released until three years later in 1948.

Of the 105,000, only 6,000 survived. Roughly 90% died of malnutrition, disease, etc. The 6,000 who survived, such as my cousin Herbert, had a trade and were used for slave labor so they were fed a little bit better. Herbert was 6 foot, 2 inches tall, and weighed 185 pounds before the war. When he was finally released, he weighed just 105 pounds.


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