3rd Company, Regiment 1056, 89th Inf. Div.

Fritz Tillmans

Schleiden - Fritz Tillmanns wondered to himself: "I would not have thought that I would be standing in the same place again 70 years later.“ At the age of 21, the 91-year-old former locksmith, a native of Solingen, had been taken into American captivity at the Forsthaus Wolfgarten on March 3, 1945, after several years of front-line service with last hard fights in the Hürtgenwald and in the Schleiden area. And now, 70 years later, he was standing in the same place and chatting cheerfully with the forester Gabi Geitz, who lives in the forester's house.

The mentally still top-notch widower, born in 1923, described how he had fared at the end of the war. In the spring of 1942, he was drafted into the Wehrmacht and, after a short training, was assigned to the Eastern Front. He suffered several serious wounds during the losing battles, with subsequent hospital stays.

On September 4, 1944, his unit was transferred to the Eifel: "At noon we arrived in Kall by train, then we went via Gemünd for a few days to Wollseifen and finally on to Monschau.“ Two days after his arrival there, the Wehrmacht withdrew from the rural town, in return US troops occupied the place. After that, we went to the Hürtgen Forest, where the unit took part in fierce battles.

Disabled tank on the Kall Trail

On November 7, 1944, in front of the town of Kommerscheidt in the heart of the combat area, Tillmanns observed how nine out of ten American tanks of the 707th US Tank Battalion were destroyed right in front of him in quick succession. Only one managed to escape. In one of these destroyed US tanks, Tillmanns crawled into one of these destroyed US tanks to protect himself from artillery fire..

Inside, he found an American tin of peanuts in a compartment. Decades later, when he told this story to a German author whose book also reached the veterans in the USA, Tillmanns was surprised to receive a parcel from America: it contained several packets of peanuts and an accompanying letter from an American veteran of the Hürtgen Forest battle.

Fritz Tillmans wearing 28th Inf.Div. helmet

The peanuts found by Tillmanns at that time would have belonged to this American veteran. After knocking out his tank, he drove backwards with the only remaining Sherman tank. The story made the rounds in veteran circles in America, where Tillmanns, who lived in Nideggen-Berg, is known in the specialist literature as "Peanuts-Fritz". Until the time of his passing, there were good contacts between US veterans and the former Wehrmacht corporal.

At the time, Tillmanns belonged to the 3rd Company of Regiment 1056, although this was only a company on paper, which normally comprised around 100 soldiers. This group had shrunk to 40 men. At the end of November, the lance corporal was wounded and sent to military hospitals in Mariawald and Urft, and later to Bonn.

From there, after being discharged, he walked from Euskirchen to the front in the direction of his unit. Near Bürvenich, he met the remnants of the company: a dozen men. However, he was even more impressed by a young woman named Maria Scheidweiler, whom he met in Bürvenich. In 2008, Tillmanns was able to celebrate his diamond wedding anniversary with her.

The corporal soon joined a unit under the command of a policeman: "In any case, he had no idea about the war," said Tillmanns. On New Year's Eve, they went to Schleiden-Oberhausen to the Degussa factory there, which later became the glassworks. In mid-January, the group was in the Losheim-Büllingen area. At the end of the fighting there, only Tillmanns and one other comrade were left of the unit.

Tillmanns then made it back to Olef via Udenbreth with a "Kampfgruppe Bertelsmeyer", where the soldiers occupied one of the empty bunkers. On Friday, March 2, the remaining men moved out there and arrived at Wolfgarten the next day. They had no idea that almost a dozen civilians had been hiding in the basement, just as they had no idea where the Americans were. They suddenly arrived at the forester's lodge. "The Americans are coming", they said, and a little later the windows were shot out.

The situation was hopeless, so Tillmanns and the other people surrendered from the house. With the exception of one woman who had just given birth to a child, everyone was taken away to the hinterland with "Hands up". Tillmanns eventually arrived in a prison camp in France, from where he was released to Solingen after two years of internment.But there it did not stop him: in the Eifel his Mary waited for him.


In remembrance of Fritz Tillmans

FRITZ TILLMANS IN 2013 June 14, 1923 - † October 14, 2019

Top of Page