On February 11, 2010, Engelbert Schraudy died, probably Augsburg’s last eyewitness supporting the Freedom Movement (called Widerstandsbewegung) that came into existence in the final days of WW II in 1945. Its intent was the peaceful surrender of the city to the approaching U.S. troops. Therewith, historical hours are finally no more than a quiet reminiscence.
Different publications analyzed, related and recorded the actions of the Freedom Movement and its brave men and women. There are names like Anton Setzer (Director of Augsburg’s Institution for the Blind), dean Dr. Josef Hörmann, priest Alois Vogg of St. Thaddäus, Anton Kaiser (a wounded soldier and Engelbert Schraudy’s friend), Rolf Lang, head-physician at the Main Hospital (Hauptkrankenhaus), head-inspector Georg Achatz, court singer Friedrich Rüggeburg as well as the later teacher Hubert Rauch and the merchant Franz Hesse, who both showed the U.S. troops their way into Augsburg’s city from the west resp. the north. At the same time, there were other men with sound human understanding, who had nothing to do with the Freedom Movement, but acted decidedly at the crucial moment.
As the groups acted independently, later statements were not always identical – a correct historical evaluation was, therefore, not possible – the appraisal of history didactic Prof. Dr. Karl Filser hits the target: “Success has many fathers“. He resumes that all participants deserved well of the city’s preservation that therefore did not share the fate of Aachen or Heilbronn.
The consequences of a non-peaceful confrontation with the U.S. troops were clear for everybody: cluster bombing, low-flying aircraft, barrage and so on. “Because of Augsburg, we would not have sacrificed a single soldier!“ an American officer provoked Dr. Lang. Thus remained only white cloths and flags, secret communication with the American leaders in front of Augsburg and to ensure that Augsburg did not resist and the U.S. troops could safely reach the German Headquarters in the Riedingerbunker (air raid shelter). For this purpose, Alois Vogg met the village clergy in the west of Augsburg in the second half of April 1945, to advertize the resistance-free invasion of the American troops. According to Engelbert Schraudy, he had to ensure that the Senkelbach bridge as well as the Wertach bridge could not be blown up. The latter had already been damaged by American bombs anyway. At the beginning, the meetings of the secret actors took place at the unsuspected Institution for the Blind in Jesuitengasse 14. But as even blind people, when devoted to the regime, were a treason risk, the daring men relocated their activities into the protection of Maria Stern’s St. Elisabeth Cloister at the cathedral.
In the early morning hours before 06.00, April 28, 1945, the first American spear head with Franz Hesse reached the Riedingerbunker. City Commander Major General Fehn was arrested. Not much later, the second spearhead with Hubert Rauch (then twenty years of age) followed across the Wertach bridge. Augsburg was occupied in a peaceful manner. This was commented by the VIIth Army’s report: „The surrender of Augsburg in the center sector of the VIIth Army’s final Bavarian operation was one of the strangest accidents of the occupation of Germany“ (German translation). This was regardless of the crossing of the Lech east of Gersthofen, where German flak fire held up the soldiers of the 30th Infantry Regiment in a significant way.
What was the opinion of the actors themselves on their accomplishment? “Not a single word will be lost. We don’t need heroes“ (Dr.Josef Hörmann). This vow lasted for decades – until 1982.
How did American officials accept the cooperation with Augsburg’s Freedom Movement? When General O’Daniel, Cdr/3rd Infantry Div, heard of the mood in Augsburg, he stated: “I do not wish that there will be any firing at Augsburg, unless we will actually be under fire... watch out for white flags and other signs of surrender, because we have many indications for these“ (German translation), (Exerpt, War Report, VIIth Army). And Major John O’Connell, Btl Cdr/15th Infantry Rgt, who, early in the morning, caused the surrender in the heart of the city from the outskirts of Steppach ? Even he gave the city’s brave their chance – and it was good for Augsburg!
On May 3, 2007, the teachers Dr. Marianne Schuber and Engelbert Schraudy arranged an information evening about the peaceful occupation of Augsburg by the Americans in the “Oberhauser Museumsstüble“. Being probably the last testimony, Herr Schraudy read out the last war days’ experiences - in the Augsburg Freedom Movement’s sight and manner of acting. The following photographs show him while doing this. Next, the elevations of said cloister, where the (almost) non-bloody end of the war in Augsburg enfolded its further effect: Here, “America in Augsburg“ began its more than 50 years of presence that affected the city in many respects.