Through Hell for Hitler: reminiscences of a WW2 German soldier

Harpal Brar interviews Nazi soldier turned British communist Henry Metelmann about his life and what brought him to join the struggle for socialism.

Henry Friedrich Carl Metelmann was born on 25 December 1922, the son of a socialist railway worker in Hamburg, Germany. As a lively and active boy, he joined the scouts, and later his group was merged with the Hitler youth. With Hitler’s rise he was seduced by the fascist movement, in particular by the experiences and privileges it bestowed on a poor working-class boy.

On leaving school, Metelmann fought with Von Paulus’s Nazi sixth army at Stalingrad and was captured, spending the remainder of the war as a prisoner. Through his experiences he came to reject fascism and capitalist imperialism, settling in Britain and becoming a communist, a railway worker, a groundsman, a writer and a peace activist.

He remained a member of the Communist party of Great Britain until its break-up in 1991. He died on 24 July 2011.

In his later years, Henry Metelmann was keen to talk about his experiences, especially to the young. He equated the invasion of the Soviet Union by an oil-hungry Nazi Germany in 1941 with the Anglo-American assault on oil-rich Iraq in 2003.

In 2003, he delivered a powerful lecture to the Stalin Society in London, which sadly was not filmed, but shortly afterwards Harpal Brar, soon to become the founding chairman of the CPGB-ML, conducted this interview with Henry at his home in Godalming.

It remains as moving, compelling and relevant as on the day it was conducted, for it helps us to understand German (Nazi) imperialism not as something exceptional, uniquely evil, incomprehensible and never to be repeated, but as the entirely predictable result of imperialism in the context of a deep economic crisis and fierce class struggle.

What conclusions did Henry draw from his long, full, active and historically rich life? That there can be no peace while capitalism still exists: we must overthrow it, or perish.

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Read More: A personal account of experiences in the German Panzers at the Battle of Stalingrad by H Metelmann, Stalin Society, February 2003.