Zech pictured in 1945
October 12, 1932|
Goldenau, Upper Silesia in the Weimar Republic
|Died||June 13, 2011(aged 78)|
|Other names||Alfred Czech|
|Known for||child soldier|
Nazi Party (to 1945)|
Polish United Workers' Party
|Awards||Iron Cross, 2nd Class|
Early life and military career
Zech was born in Goldenau, Upper Silesia (Złotniki, Opole Voivodeship, Poland) and, as a boy, joined the Deutsches Jungvolk. In early 1945 Goldenau was under attack by advancing elements of the Soviet Red Army. Zech, then aged 12 years, witnessed a dozen German soldiers injured by a hand grenade. Against the wishes of his mother, he commandeered his father's farm cart and drove it to where the wounded men had been pinned down by Soviet fire, ferrying eight of them to safety. Zech then made a return trip to rescue the four men left behind.
According to Zech, a German general appeared at the family farm several days after the incident and invited the boy to travel to Berlin for an audience with Adolf Hitler. There, on April 20, Hitler's birthday, he joined a number of other Jungvolk members from across Germany and was decorated by Hitler with the Iron Cross, 2nd Class. At a celebratory banquet held that evening, Zech was asked if he wanted to return home or join German military forces at the front. According to Zech, he volunteered for frontline service.
Following an accelerated training program, Zech joined a German unit fighting in Freudenthal in what is currently Czech Silesia. He was shot and wounded in combat and made a prisoner of war, but was released in 1947 at the age of 14 years. After release, he walked the nearly 400 kilometres (250 mi) back to his family home, on arrival learning that his father had been killed while fighting in the Volkssturm during his absence.
Zech was married and had ten children.
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- Crary, David. "Associated Press releases in-depth review of its coverage of Nazi Germany". Chicago Tribune. Associated Press. Retrieved June 9, 2018.
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- Groenewoud, André (April 2006). "Was macht eigentlich ... Alfred Czech?". Stern (in German).