Huffmeier’s Stand in the Channel Islands
On the other side of the English Channel were the only possessions of Great Britain to have been occupied by the Germans in World War II. They were the Channel Islands, which the Germans had captured in June 1940. There, the Germans had fortified the three main islands and established a garrison of nearly 20,000 men. As 1944 gave way to 1945, these men, who were down to quarter rations, were calling themselves “Division Kanada” because they thought that was where they would end up as British POWs. They had not reckoned with their commander, the “Madman of the Channel Islands,” as they called 46-year-old Admiral Friedrich Huffmeier, formerly the commander of the German battlecruiser Scharnhorst.
Huffmeier, tough, fanatical, and a convinced Nazi, did not care a bit about the wretched state of his starving men. He was determined not only to stick it out to the bitter end, but also to take the war to the enemy. On the same day that the U.S. 9th Armored Division captured the famous bridge across the Rhine at Remagen, a group of Huffmeier’s men raided the little French port of Granville, which only six months before had been Eisenhower’s first headquarters in continental Europe.
There, they caught the French garrison and the U.S. supply companies completely by surprise. They took some 90 GIs prisoner, looted the port, captured two small freighters, and returned to the Channel Islands as heroes. Huffmeier offered them the choice of a reward. Either they could have the Iron Cross or a spoonful of precious strawberry jam! They opted for the strawberry jam. It is not recorded if the Madman of the Channel Islands personally handed them their spoonful of jam for their heroic efforts.
Now in May, with Germany clearly defeated, Huffmeier was already planning another attack on the Americans in France. However, another hard liner, Admiral Friedrich Frisius, who was the commander of the 12,000-strong garrison at Dunkirk farther up the French coast, had beaten him to it. Ever since the British Army had fled Europe in June 1940, Dunkirk had been a thorn in the flesh of the British and later the Americans. For years, the big German guns located at a spot some 20 miles from the white cliffs of Dover, had pounded southwestern England. From Dunkirk the Germans had received the first warning of the great Allied air armada soon to descend upon Holland in September 1944 during Operation Market Garden.
In 1945, Frisius was not content to maintain a passive role, surrounded as Dunkirk now was by the exiled Czech Legion. Code-named Operation Bluecher after the great Prussian general of the Napoleonic Wars, Frisius launched a surprise attack on the Czech positions. The Germans advanced some 10 miles out of their fortified positions at Dunkirk. British engineers at Gravelines, south of Dunkirk, had to blow up the bridge on the River As to prevent them advancing any farther. The date was May 4, 1945, five days after Hitler had committed suicide!
Huffmeier Finally Surrenders
While Admiral Frisius rested on his laurels, not even having a German high command to which he could report his success, Admiral Huffmeier prepared to continue the fight, reasoning that if the Allied victors assumed he might attack again they would not expect him to do so once more at Granville. He did, wiping the port out completely this time. He assembled the fittest of his Division Kanada men, who were now living off boiled potatoes and nettle soup, at the local cinema and told them, “I intend to hold out here with you until the Fatherland has won back the lost ground and final victory is wrested from the enemy. We do not wish, and we cannot allow ourselves, to be shamed by the enemy…as commander of the defenses of the Channel Islands, I will carry out without compromise the mandate given me by the Führer. We stand by him, officers and men of the Fortress of Jersey.”
Then, he explained his plan. A group of volunteers would block the entrance to Granville harbor with a large freighter filled with cement. Next, the port would be looted, its installations destroyed completely, and the volunteers would escape in high-speed Luftwaffe motor launches. The date for the great attack, May 7, was one day after the German generals under the command of the Admiral Dönitz had surrendered to British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery.
The Madman of the Channel Islands was not fated to carry out this last attack in the name of Adolf Hitler, who had been dead for over a week. On May 8, two British warships appeared off the Channel Islands, and the surrender of Huffmeier’s garrison was demanded. Huffmeier would not face the British, but sent a subordinate to discuss terms. The British commander flushed a choleric purple. He told the weedy German naval officer that he had not come to discuss terms but to take the island’s surrender. The German officer pointed to the island’s shore batteries and said, “I’m to tell you that you and your continued presence here will be regarded as an unfriendly act.… Admiral Huffmeir will regard your presence here as a breach of faith and a provocative act.”
Fists clenched, the British commander told the sallow-faced German officer, who was obviously half starved, to “tell Admiral Huffmeier that if he opens fire on us we will hang him tomorrow.”
That same day, Lieutenant Loladze, the commander of the Georgian rebels fighting for their lives in Holland, was trapped by the Germans. He entered a burned-out cottage, perhaps to look for food, when he heard a twig snap behind him. He swung around. Too late. His stomach was ripped apart by a burst of schmeisser fire at close range. His death seemed to symbolize the end of the German resistance in continental Europe. One day later, Admiral Huffmeier agreed through an intermediary to surrender. He was too frightened of his own rebellious troops, who had sworn to kill him, to venture out himself. Later, in brilliant sunshine, the British started landing their troops. After nearly five years of occupation, the only part of the British Isles captured by the Nazis was free at last.
Still, some diehard Nazis, who believed they could continue the fight against the Western Allies despite Germany’s official surrender, continued to resist. Often, they were located in such remote places that the Allies were hardly aware of their presence. All the same, these small bands of tough Germans had played a key role in the secret war that Germany had waged against the West for months, even years.
The Secret Germans of the Arctic Wastes
Daring the winter of 1940-1941 that Britain, and later Russia, had become aware of the presence of some strange Germans newly located in the Arctic wastes. In all, there were 16 teams of radio and weather specialists who transmitted their findings to Berlin so that the German high command could plan its operations against the Russians, the British Arctic convoys and, in the end, the last great counterattack against the Americans in the Ardennes.
For four years, at varying times, Russians, Danes, Norwegians, Britons, Canadians, and finally Americans had sought these secret Germans. It had been a cat-and-mouse game, a small group of highly skilled and tough men on both sides hunting each other through the snow and ice over thousands of miles above the Arctic Circle. Every time the U.S. Coast Guard and the Danish sledge patrols were successful and thought they had finally eradicated the Germans, another radio station would commence broadcasting and they knew they would have to start all over again.
In September 1944, the Germans had sent out perhaps the most important secret team of them all. It was commanded by a Dr. Dege, a meteorologist, who was to set up a weather station on “the island of Nordostland off Spitzbergen,” as he explained later, “nearly 15,000 square kilometers in size and regarded as one of the toughest areas in the whole of the Arctic.”
Landed by U-boat, Dege and his team began to broadcast the raw weather data on which Hitler based his campaign in the Battle of the Bulge.
From mid-October 1944 onward, when they bid farewell to the sun until the following March, they would provide vital weather forecasts that would encourage Hitler to believe he need not worry about Allied aerial attacks in the coming months of December and January at the turn of the year 1945. The Germans called the conditions “Führer Weather,” ideal for the campaign to come—rain and fog and probably heavy snow for the last two weeks of December 1944. On the basis of this information, Hitler ordered the great surprise attack, which would commence on December 16.
On the whole, these “secret Germans” were correct in their estimates. The Battle of the Bulge commenced in that foul weather. As every student of that great battle knows, the conditions changed dramatically on December 22, and Germany’s last bold attempt to change the course of the war ended in defeat.