Joseph Goebbels awards the 16-year old Hitler Youth member Willi Hübner the Iron Cross for the defense of Lauban, photo taken on March 1945.
Despite the extremely limited nature of the victory, the recapture of Lauban was presented as a great success by German propaganda, with Joseph Goebbels visiting the town on 9 March to give a speech on the battle. The counter-attack operation at Lauban has generally been considered the last German victory of World War II.
As Germany suffered more casualties, more teenagers volunteered and were accepted, initially as reserve troops but then as regulars. Their Soviet foes, who had marched over the corpses of 27 million Russians from Stalingrad to reach Germany, had little mercy for their opponents – and even less if they were dressed in SS uniforms. The children were slaughtered in thousands.
Lewis D. Eigen, in his article on the history of the normality of the use of child soldiers, observed: The Germans equipped an entire SS Panzer Tank Division and manned it with 16 and 17-year-old boys from the Hitler Youth brigades. As Germany suffered more casualties, more teenagers volunteered and were accepted, initially as reserve troops but then as regulars.
The German ethic of the boy soldier not only encouraged such service but towards the end of the war, the Germans even drafted boys as young as 12 into military service. These children saw extensive action and were among the fiercest and effective German defenders in the Battle of Berlin.
From July 1944 to April 1945, there were 350,000 casualties a month (in the German army), dead, missing, and captured. – Ian Kershaw, The End, the defiance and destruction of Hitler’s Germany (1944-1945). Now the name of the city is Lubań, the Poles renamed it after they expelled the German population and annexed the territory.
(Photot credit: Bundesarchiv).