Missoula Professor’s Heartbreaking Story of His Grandfather in Ukraine
On a recent Talk Back, Forestry Scientist Dr. Peter Kolb was the in-studio guest. Dr. Kolb is the Montana State University Extension Forestry Specialist and an Associate Professor of Forest Ecology & Management, housed at the University of Montana in the Department of Forest Management.
Before he began answering questions from listeners, Dr. Kolb shared part of the memoirs written by his grandfather, an officer in the German army during World War II who was stationed in Ukraine, that his grandfather believed that he was liberating from the Russian communists.
“I brought with me volume three of his memoirs,” said Dr. Kolb. “I showed it to Peter, because you have to see it to appreciate it. He wrote 700 pages of single-spaced typed memoirs, and a large part of that is devoted to the two years that he spent in Ukraine. Because as a school teacher and author, he was in the reserves, and so as the German military occupied Ukraine, under their understanding that they were liberating the Ukraine (from the communist regime).”
Kolb said his grandfather experienced the monstrous cruelty of the Nazi regime in Germany.
“Unknown to the military people, my grandfather included, he was there for two years,” he continued. “Then after two years, he was granted two weeks leave to go home to Germany to visit his family. As a schoolmaster, he saw that there had been a lot of displaced children in this war, so he created an orphanage in the Crimean peninsula, with about 500 orphaned kids in there. Then he left for two weeks. He came back after two weeks and all the kids were gone, and he asked ‘what happened to my kids?’, and nobody would tell him anything. Finally someone whispered to him to go down a road and he would find out for himself.”
Dr. Kolb described his grandfather’s grisly discovery.
“He requisitioned a vehicle and went down the road about 10 miles,” he said. "There was an old gravel pit and all the kids were in the gravel pit dead. While he was gone (on leave), the Nazi Secret Police had come in, and because they viewed the Slavic people as underlings and racially inferior, they took all these orphans kids, put them in the back of trucks and gassed them; killed them.”
Kolb said his grandfather was outraged and attempted to have the Nazi officers prosecuted for a war crime.
“My grandfather was just horrified by all this and he started a military inquiry and tried to prosecute the Gestapo that done this,” he said. “He was told, and he writes this all in his memoirs, that you will either stop this or you will be court martialed. To be an officer, of course he had to join the Nazi Party. But at that point he wrote my grandmother and said ‘burn my party uniform burn my papers. I want nothing to do with this criminal regime that is doing this’.”
Kolb went on to say that many Russian soldiers now invading Ukraine are having the same regrets now as the regular German army soldiers had in that same country.
Dr. Kolb plans to publish his grandfather’s memoirs.