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June 12, 2013

Little girl with a hand grenade….the liberation of Hadamar by American soldiers (updated)

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, World War II — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 3:07 pm

Update June 14, 2013:

German Steilhandgranate (stick hand grenade)

German Steilhandgranate (stick hand grenade)

I talked to a friend of mine who knows a lot about hand grenades, and he told me that the German stick grenade was known to Americans as a “potato masher.”  As the photo above shows, it does look a bit like an old fashioned wooden potato masher.

German soldier throwing a "potato masher"

German soldier throwing a “potato masher”

I looked up hand grenades on Wikipedia and found the photo shown above, along with this information:

German stick grenade
Section of the Stielhandgranate Model 24.
Main article: Stick grenade

The German Model 24 Stielhandgranate stick grenade was introduced in 1915 and the design developed throughout World War I. A friction igniter was used; this method was uncommon in other countries but widely used for German grenades. A pull cord ran down the hollow handle from the detonator within the explosive head, terminating in a porcelain ball held in place by a detachable base closing cap. To use the grenade, the base cap was unscrewed, permitting the ball and cord to fall out. Pulling the cord dragged a roughened steel rod through the igniter causing it to flare-up and start the five-second fuse burning. This simple design continued to evolve throughout the First and Second World Wars, with the Model 24 grenade (popularly known as the “potato masher”) becoming one of the most easily recognized of all small arms, and synonymous with the German soldier.

Continue reading my original post:

With nothing better to do on a lazy Summer day, I got out my copy of David L. Israel’s book The Day the Thunderbird Cried, Untold Stories of World War II.  I read this book, which was first published in 2005, when I was doing research, a few years ago, on the liberation of Dachau by the 45th Thunderbird Division of the U.S. Army.

The first chapter of The Day the Thunderbird Cried, tells about the liberation of Hadamar, an institution where mental patients were put to death during the Nazi era in Germany.  According to the story, as told by David L. Israel, when American soldiers approached Hadamar, they saw a little girl, about 5 years old, talking to some German soldiers.  The Germans handed something to the little girl, pointed to the Americans, and told her to take this “Gift” to them.  As it turned out, the “Gift” was a hand grenade that the Germans wanted the little girl to give to the Americans.  At the last minute, the little girl tripped and the hand grenade exploded, killing her, and the American soldiers, who had refused to fire at the little girl, were saved from certain death.

Painting of a little girl with a handgrenade

Painting of a little girl with a hand grenade

Did this really happen, or is this just a fictional story to illustrate how the German soldiers were heartless and cruel, but American soldiers would not shoot a little girl, even if she was holding a hand grenade, and their lives were in imminent danger?

The book does not specifically say that this incident happened to 45th division soldiers.  In the front of the book, it is mentioned that the information in the book came from interviews with soldiers in the 42nd, 45th, 99th and 106th divisions of the American army. Perhaps this story was told by a soldier in the 99th division or the 106th division.

According to Wikipedia, the Hadamar Euthanasia Centre (German: NS-Tötungsanstalt Hadamar) was a psychiatric hospital in the German town of Hadamar near Limburg in Hesse.

It was used by the Nazis as a site of the T-4 Euthanasia Programme, which performed mass sterilizations and mass murder of “undesirable” members of German society, specifically those with physical and mental disabilities. The programme started in 1939 and lasted until the German surrender in 1945.[1]

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website states that Hadamar was liberated by the 2nd Infantry Division.  This quote is from this page of the USHMM website:

As the 2nd Infantry Division marched across Germany, it uncovered several sites of Nazi crimes. In early April 1945, the unit captured the German town of Hadamar, which housed a psychiatric clinic where almost 15,000 men, women, and children were killed between 1941 and March 1945 in the Nazi “euthanasia” program.

In any case, the image of a little girl with a hand grenade seems to be a metaphor for something, but I don’t know what.

Painting on side of building in Washington, DC  Photo Credit:  Photo Credit: DC Street Speaks

Painting on side of building in Washington, DC Photo Credit:
Photo Credit: DC Street Speaks

Note that both photos show the same blonde girl, probably with blue eyes, who could be the little German girl who was bringing a “Gift” to American soldiers when she accidentally blew herself up.

I have searched and searched on the Internet, but I have not come up with any proof that the story of the little girl with the hand grenade is true.  I am relying on the vast knowledge of the followers of my blog to explain the story of the little girl with the hand grenade.